By Gloria Ellis
Last school year, my family of four had the awesome opportunity to travel North and South America for several months! I look back on that time with a sense of disbelief that, less than twelve months ago, we were living such dramatically different lives. Driving to a new national park and camping under the stars required nothing more than the idea and some gas in the tank. Aeromexico and Airbnb kept us exploring and connected us to new sights, sounds, and cultures every few days! Now, several months later, we rarely venture beyond our driveway. But, I am excited to know that being freed from physical ties to brick-and-mortar school and office buildings is allowing a whole new group of people to experience the excitement and the benefits of learning on the road!
If you’ve recently embarked on your own family road adventure, or just considering it for the future, know that road schooling can be an amazing experience! You don’t have to give up on the idea of education while on the road, but you might need to change your idea of what education looks like. Road schooling offers your kids opportunities to learn in ways that simply aren’t possible in the traditional classroom setting! Your children can be applying what they learn to real life situations on a daily basis.
In my experience, one of the most important aspects of successful road schooling is flexibility! I’m a planner, but I’ve learned that you will likely stress your entire family out if you try to schedule specific lessons at specific times while traveling. This does not mean that you should give up the idea of structured learning, it just means that you should expect to give up the timetable. Consider every activity, at any time of day, a learning opportunity. This means that each camp set up or hotel check in, each grocery run or load of laundry, every hike, museum trip, chat with a diner owner, and ranger talk is a learning opportunity to be acknowledged and embraced!
Additionally, you should search for good resources that can be used to educate your family on the history, science, or culture of every region you visit. The RoadTrippers app and books downloaded from the Core Knowledge Foundation provided us with a great combination of resources! Have your children document what they learn and pay attention to their core skills of reading, writing, and math over the notion that they need to learn specific content within a specific period of time. Your travels can dictate the content. Most importantly, pay attention and capture every opportunity to focus on the development of your children’s problem solving, social, and communication skills, because this is where the benefits of road schooling become most clear!
Everyone’s lives have changed in recent months. While we all want to get “back to normal” soon, hopefully the “new normal” reflects what we’ve recently learned about the value of slowing down, spending time with family, and embracing the responsibility of teaching our children the lessons that can only come from us. Hopefully, the not-too-distant future also includes opportunities for families to freely and safely learn through travel!