Roadschooling

We already homeschooled before we started to travel, so our kids have always had the same teacher — Mum.  Travel has changed our homeschooling a lot, though, as we’ve changed from a vague combination of what is known as a “Latin Centered Curriculum” and “Classical Education”, to just what suits our family.  If I had to choose a description of our homeschooling now, I guess the closest would be a cross between Charlotte Mason or another Literature-rich approach, and that term I hate so much — Unschooling.

Why do I hate the term unschooling so much?  It just sounds like we’re doing nothing.  Really, this has got to be one of the most parent-intense methods of teaching a child possible!   We follow our kids interests to follow the topics they are passionate about … which means when Peter asked me about which wars were about human rights, I had to go looking!  We could discuss the American Civil War, and World War 2 — after that, I had to go searching.  One of my favourite lecturers from uni suggested Apartheid regime.  We had many conversations if several revolutions and civil wars could be counted or not …

We put play above academics for our children before 7.  We prefer that they learn from play and exploring at this age, rather than formal book work . We teach cursive handwriting, phonemic awareness and phonics before this age, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes each day. Self-directed learning is stimulated by changing landscapes and environments to explore and play in while travelling. For older children, much of the work can be incorporated into or while travelling, though spelling, writing, and maths still need to be done formally.

The history, geography, science, and social studies that are learnt are gained from conversations with parents, each other, other adults, reading information at places we visit, and books. Peter is actively choosing to focus on listening to and reading biographies of famous historical characters. We have found and examined the clean-picked bones of a long dead kangaroo, observed various animals in their native environments, and watched the plant life vary as we travel along a single road. We’ve discussed geology when vsiting places such as Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Palm Valley, and the Great Ocean Road, and the association of quartz and gold, and the formation of gemstones. Aboriginal myths were a focus while visiting Uluru, compared to learning about the varying qualities of snow the lower temperatures reach at Mt Hotham. Peter, Susan, and Lucy are used to having every information sign read out loud to them by Mum, word by word. If Mum ever misses a sign, Peter or Susan will step up and take over the task of reading the sign out loud. There is not a time that a sign is ever passed without being read.  The following video we took as we walked around Kings Canyon.  The only intention was to have a good time, but looking back at it we realized there was a lot of natural learning.

 

 

Home School Methods

There are many different methods of homeschooling, and this has been discussed in so many places that it is not my desire here to describe them all. The various approaches that we are familiar with include unschooling, classical curriculum (including Well Trained Mind), Latin Centered Curriculum, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, and those eclectic homeschoolers who use a combination of what works for their family. A classical curriculum involves more formal bookwork, and except for a highly motivated child probably does not allow enough time to explore and travel. Unschooling such as advocated by John Holt would leave the most freedom and time for the explorations of travelling. However, that does not entirely suit our family. We chose a combination of Charlotte Mason and a Latin Centred Curriculum, which we consider to be a modernised version of Charlotte Mason.

Our children are self-confessed book worms, and when they are not reading they are usually listening to an audiobook. They have kindles and ipods as discussed in this post. Charlotte Mason’s ideas of learning through high-quality literature (living books) appeals to us. Charlotte Mason recommends that each book should be read slowly over a period of 10 weeks so that the child can live with it and absorb it. We have found that if the child enjoys the book, it is rarely possible to make a child wait for the next chapter in a following week. However, we have found that the books that are read slowly or those that are re-read are the ones from which the children retain the most information. We will often talk about the books that they’ve read or listened to, as someone recommends a book or discussing one we’ve all read. They’ve never been asked to write a book report, but most conversations and games between Peter and Susan revolve around characters, plots, and scenarios from books they’ve read.

Charlotte Mason advocates short, intense lessons to develop the habit of attention. This is such a wonderful trick, particularly with younger children and boys. This way, the child’s attention and interest is higher, and it leaves more free time to travel.

Copywork is advocated by Charlotte Mason, though only of ‘living books’. Some children tend to enjoy this greatly, and choose to do it for pleasure, whereas others will resist it. It is supposed to help with assimilating spelling and grammar, and practices handwriting. Susan will choose to do this for pleasure, though Peter has never enjoyed it. Peter has set himself a task of poetry memorisation and acquired a “Best collection of…’ style book of poetry from Project Gutenberg and is practicing reading poetry aloud and memorising it.

The philosophy strongly recommends nature studies. These also fit in very well for ‘roadschoolers’. It is almost impossible not to do nature studies when we change our location so frequently. In one year, we have been in desert, cliffs over the ocean, beach-front, gorges, riverside, forests, snowy high country, and towns. This is not unusual for travellers. In a year, we have been in many different ecosystems and habitats.

The handcrafts and skills that Charlotte Mason recommends are fairly easy for travellers to implement. The limited resources that can fit in to a campervan does not mean that these cannot be done. Travelling necessarily means a limited amount of clothes, and these may need to be repaired. Susan often finds mud or clay soil that she can use to make pottery.  Lucy  spends a lot of time starting projects with Kalina, and loves to draw. All the children enjoy digging caves and tunnels, making tee-pees and cubby houses, and helping Dad pile the sticks up to make a campfire. They have to learn more practical skills being away from the shops and in the bush than they would have in our urban house.

Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is a particularly useful educational method for ‘road-schoolers’. An audiobook can be loaded onto an mp3 player and played in the car. Mum, Dad, and the kids often can enjoy the books together, and it makes discussion about the book easier when all are listening together. Another benefit is that it makes the car trip more entertaining, and fits ‘school’ into that car time. Many of the books that have been recommended in Charlotte Mason resources are challenging books that develop the habit of following more difficult vocabulary, grammar, and plots. We have found that the kids have developed a more archaic grammar and vocabulary style from these books.

The internet can be used sometimes to look up resources, or questions that have been asked. We have such limited internet reception (as discussed here) that it just isn’t constant. This map This map This map of mobile reception will help you to understand why this can’t be relied upon for us. As Telstra says, coverage reaches 99% of Australians, but that doesn’t mean a lot of land mass. Unlike those living in a house, we just can’t rely on the internet for our schooling. Books (on the kindle) are very important still, just like in the ‘old’ pre-internet days.

For maths, we focus on learning the maths facts as the kids have demonstrated repeatedly that they understand the concepts. They do a maths facts drill in the car while we are driving, and keep this up to improve speed and accuracy. Map reading, coordinates, money, shapes, temperature, measurement, and many other aspects of maths are covered practically rather than during a maths lesson.

Books are a huge part of Peter and Susan’s education, particularly as they read a lot, and a wide range of various books. However, the places we visit, people we meet, things we see and do form an equally large part of their education.

 

homeschool road school education children kids travel

homeschool road school education children kids travel

 

 

homeschool road school education children kids travel

 

 

 

 

 

This is part of the Families on the Road blog carnival.

Travelling Australia in a campervan since 2009 with our four children aged 4, 7, 10, and 11. We are a family living on the road. Stopping to work in rural and remote towns as we need more money, we love this lifestyle. The four kids are homeschooled as we work our way slowly around Australia.

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About Amy and Jarrad

Travelling Australia in a campervan since 2009 with our four children aged 4, 7, 10, and 11. We are a family living on the road.
Stopping to work in rural and remote towns as we need more money, we love this lifestyle. The four kids are homeschooled as we work our way slowly around Australia.

Comments

  1. I’m so glad to hear we’re not the only family who’s learned by examining dead animals!!

  2. What a wonderful slice of roadschooling life you’ve shared with us here – thank you! You’ve given me some great ideas too.

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