Roadschooling: When School from Home Kids Call an RV Home
Whether you’re formally homeschooling or doing Zoom-schooling from home, there may come a time when you consider hitting the road; full-time or for extended road trips. You’re not alone. There are plenty of families who have done exactly this, trading learning at the kitchen table for the open highway with classroom time from the inside of an RV.
“Roadschooling” is the most common term for this way of life, and whether your family travels for a few weeks or a few years, there are things you should know before you embark on your journey. Read on to get the facts about this unique education plan and see if it’s right for you.
What is roadschooling?
Roadschooling is educating your children while traveling. Most of the people who do this are traveling in a camper or RV, but a few have made it work with tents or rentable cabins as well.
Roadschoolers (or “RV schoolers”) are a mix of those who homeschool independently of their local public or private school, and those who use the virtual school system to get a public education while on the road. If you teach your children while moving from place to place, you may just be a road schooler!
How to homeschool on the road
Every family is unique, as are their learning goals and their destination. Don’t expect a one-size-fits-all lesson plan for this life. You can, however, use these expert-approved tips to get started.
1. Determine your state of residency
Even if you visit 50 states in 50 weeks, you’ll need a place to call home. Your permanent address is also where you’ll file for any educational plans or homeschool permissions. If you use your public school’s remote learning program, you’re all set. Truly independent homeschoolers should contact their state department of education for rules and best practices for staying in compliance with homeschool laws.
2. Find your curriculum
Public schoolers will simply continue using the books and materials provided by your school. Homeschoolers should feel free to explore the wide variety of curriculum options available, settling on those that offer the most flexibility and time away from the computer. Since many homeschool resources use apps or computer coursework, consider if this will be viable with potentially spotty WiFi in an RV park.
Offline or asynchronous options are likely to be your best option here. Prioritize curriculums that rely on fewer physical materials, too, since you’ll be short on space. eBooks are a particularly amazing lifehack.
3. Buy the right tech
Laptops and tablets are the most attractive options since they don't take up much room and are designed for life on the go. If you share devices between students, look for models that have enough memory and processing speed to handle many programs at once. This may be the right time to commit to a laptop with upgraded storage, too. Storing files and programs locally, and not in the cloud, is ideal for those times when you can’t get online.
Consider the potential of a business-grade laptop, too, because it’s extra rugged and made for all the tasks desktops can handle – just in a smaller, powerful package.
4. Look for opportunities to learn along the way
It’s fine to have a generalized lesson plan with measurable goals. Your state may even require you to administer tests and maintain accurate records of progress. In addition to these more formal milestones, embrace the possibilities that will appear naturally within your travels. From historic landmarks and national parks to new species of plants, the continually changing landscape is rife with unplanned educational pit stops during the school year.
5. Expect technical difficulties
Your best bet is to not count on stable WiFi or data coverage when on the road. Picking a curriculum that fits within your limited bandwidth is best. If you are remote schooling or wish to partake in video learning, look ahead for destinations that offer more reliable internet.
If the RV park is crowded or particularly remote, be prepared to skip the online learning in lieu of books, downloaded content, or fresh air activity. Use your time in connected areas to save school work documents and other digital materials to make it available offline.
6. Check for understanding
Remember those milestones we mentioned earlier? They matter. How much they matter depends on the homeschool parents' style and your state’s expectations. Whether you opt for an end-of-the-year standardized test or choose smaller quiz opportunities along the way, you'll have to give your kids a chance to show you what they know.
A very effective yet informal measurement of learning is to have your kids keep a journal of what they encounter. Between writing essays and documenting with art, you’ll have both an idea of what they are learning and a keepsake record of your time together in the bargain.
Pros of road school
Does all of this sound incredible? It certainly can be. The perks of roadschooling are numerous.
- It is incredibly flexible: You set the schedule, the destination, and the day.
- Grow together as a family: Being in a small space can help you learn to cooperate, and the new experience creates valuable memories.
- Experience unique opportunities to learn: How else can you get a hands-on education by visiting the actual homes of presidents or seeing the animals from your textbooks in real life?
- Explore cultures and build respect for other people: When kids see people who look different, eat different foods, or speak differently than what they’ve known, they develop empathy and appreciation for others.
Even if you road school for just a few weeks or months, your kids will come away with an expanded view of the world and their education, in general. In fact, experiential learning is one of the oldest and most effective ways to learn. As Aristotle said, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." RV life can naturally support this sentiment.
Cons of roadschooling
Admittedly, roadschooling is not exactly the easiest way to live. You must be prepared to face the challenges that come with homeschooling in an RV. They include:
- Patience and flexibility: Do not expect to adhere to a rigid learning structure. Since your trip can include bad weather, flat tires, or an unscheduled Instagram photo with the world’s largest ball of yarn, you’ll need to expect the unexpected.
- Limited resources: You won’t have access to all the paperbacks, manipulatives, and texts of a traditional school. Space will be tight, especially with more than one child, and not every school resource you’ve grown to love will fit into your RV.
- Lack of peer-to-peer interaction: If your child misses baseball or debate club for this trip of a lifetime, expect some pushback or even hurt feelings. Ultimately, you are the driver of this incredible journey, but that doesn’t change the fact that your kids are trading time with friends for memories with family.
Roadschooling can be especially challenging for those who are new to both the full-time RVing lifestyle and home education. For that reason, it’s often best to work out the travel issues before you add things like learning language arts to the mix.
If you’ve never driven with a travel trailer or dealt with blackwater systems, the stress of learning the ropes of RV living can be overwhelming. Add in the jitters of homeschooling and helping your kids meet educational goals, and you may very well find yourself second-guessing your decision.
How to avoid the potential drawbacks
Does this mean you can’t jump into both at once? If you’re adventurous and adaptive, it can be the biggest adventure of your family’s life. Some ways to ease your burdens include:
- Take your RV out a few times before hitting the road full time. Get a chance to know its inner workings and proper maintenance, as well as how to deal with common problems.
- Have everyone try a couple of nights in the RV before you leave. Figure out what you’ll really need and what’s simply a wish list item.
- Travel closer to home at first; within your own state, if possible. By knowing the route and understanding where modern conveniences are located, you can avoid some headaches. Plus, you can always get back home quickly if necessary.
- If you’re homeschooling for the first time, pick just one formal subject to start, like math or science. Add in a half-hour of free reading to the day. Between travel experiences and adjusting to RV life, this should be enough of an education for the first ten days to two weeks.
- Connect with others in your same situation. There are many online RVschooling communities and blogs with stories and tips to share. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Traveling homeschoolers have a lifestyle that’s best suited for adventurers. If you’re game for new experiences and thrive on the wonder of never having the same day twice, you may find roadschooling to be the best way for your kids (and you) to learn the most important lessons life has to offer.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech@Work. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.