Road-tested homeschool tips for people who never planned to homeschool

Mar 25, 2020

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My husband and I never planned to homeschool our kids. We were always quick to proclaim we just weren’t “the type.” We thought we didn’t have the patience, the background and could never take that on. And then we found ourselves homeschooling our four kids while we traveled the U.S. and Canada with our family in an RV for more than a year.

It turns out, there is no homeschooling “type” and many of our fears were simply misconceptions. 

As many of us face long-term school closures while we practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, I have some advice for fellow reluctant homeschoolers. The good news in this awful situation is that these tips should work not only now, but in the future, in case you decide to try out some road schooling once we are all free to move about the country.

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Photo credit: Jill Krause of HappyLoudLife.com
We learned in the RV and out in nature during our road school years. (Photo by Jill Krause of HappyLoudLife.com)

You day can start at any time

If your family doesn’t like to get up at 7 a.m. and start the day by 7:30 a.m., no worries. There’s no early morning bus to catch anymore. You can start lessons at noon if you’d like. Or 5:30 a.m. if you are early risers. Kids can learn at any time of the day. Find your natural rhythm and don’t be afraid to adjust your schedule if something isn’t working. You don’t need to force something just because you think that’s what your day should look like.

This is your school — your rules.

Homeschool and traditional school are different

Homeschool and traditional school are markedly different in many ways. To me, the biggest is that it does not typically take seven hours a day to get through your homeschool lessons. We got through the educational portion of most of our days in two or three hours. Many weeks, we only devoted three or four days to our lessons. That gave us the chance to learn and enjoy where we were traveling around the country that week. 

When you are solely dedicating time to teaching lessons — and you don’t have to count transitioning a whole class from one subject to another, from the classroom to the lunchroom, etc. — work naturally gets done quicker. You also likely only have a handful of students (or less) and not the 20 to 30 that are in a traditional classroom.

Let your kids show you how they focus best

It may take a few days, but keep a close eye on which environments work for them. You may find that letting your tween do his work in his bed is a terrible idea, but that he does great on the front porch swing. Some kids may need a dedicated learning space, like a desk or table. Others may thrive being able to get up and change the scenery throughout the day. Homeschool can and should look different for everyone.

Home work in the RV
(Photo courtesy of Jill Krause)

Curiosity will lead to learning

While structure is important and needed for some kids and families, kids also learn plenty when left with their curiosity and some encouragement from you. Encourage deep dives into their favorite subject. Let questions turn into research projects. Even if kids are focusing on what seems like only one subject, they will still employ math, writing, research and reasoning skills. 

Also, it’s not the end of the world if on any given day they are only doing one subject. Think of it like getting toddlers to eat — the goal is mostly balanced nutrition (er, education) over a week or so. What happens on any one given day is just a part of that overall picture.

Online resources to use

Your child’s school may have plans in place to set up online distance learning. If not, here are some online resources we used for homeschooling on the road:

If you like printing out free worksheets for the younger grades (with answer sheets for you), K-5 Learning has you covered.

Bottom line

We homeschooled our kids for two school years while living on the road, and spent the majority of that time feeling like we had no idea what we were doing. Despite that, our kids tested back into public school this year at appropriate grade levels and they’ve been thriving. 

This is a really uncertain and scary time for all of us. Education will always be important, but it doesn’t have to be a major stressor for you and your family right now. Focus on keeping learning fun and creative. The rest will fall into place. 

Featured image by Rebecca Nelson/Getty Images

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