Homeschooling isn’t a new concept but with the rise of RV life and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, roadschooling has increased in popularity. People are combining their love of travel (and the freedom the remote age provides) with homeschooling. So here’s everything you need to know about roadschooling in an RV.
Many full-time RV families are looking into homeschooling their children as they travel. There are part-time RVers that prefer homeschooling over the traditional classroom for a variety of reasons as well.
Join us as we successfully plan, prepare, and progress through the RV roadschooling process. We’ll show you:
- Where to start your research
- Some great teaching methods many RV parents use
- How U.S. National Parks educational programs count scholastically
- Show you some great tips on how to set up your RV classroom environment
- Point out some excellent resources to refine your skills as a parent educator
Some Facts About Homeschooling
A significant portion of parents feels that homeschooling has its drawbacks. Specifically, their children will become those types of people that shun society because they can’t interact with other people, because they never developed the necessary social skills growing up; therefore, your child is going to end up living with you for the rest of your life alone, living on the internet, and eventually become that smelly person that everyone avoids which will make you a failure as a parent all because you decided to homeschool instead of sending them to a school…
Put the paranoid monster back in its cage where it belongs. We all know when we let our fears and worries dictate our decisions, we make decisions based on emotions instead of reasoned, thought-out choices.
Most homeschooled and roadschooled (homeschooled on the road) children grow up to become productive, well-adjusted members of society. Here are the facts:
- As of February 2020, over 9 million Americans have experienced homeschooling somehow.
- Homeschooling crosses all demographics, income levels, and regions.
- Academically, homeschooled students score 15-30% higher on standardized testing than public school students.
- Home-educated students perform better whether their parents had teaching credentials or not.
- Homeschooled students are being sought out more actively by colleges due to their higher grades, SAT/ACT scores, and various other life experiences.
- Research shows that home-educated children and teenagers score above average on social, emotional, and psychological development.
- Measurements include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, community service work, and self-esteem.
- 69% of adults with a homeschool background succeed, perform significantly better, and participate in their community more than those who’ve attended an institutional school.
What do you really need to know about homeschooling?
Your children are going to be okay. In fact, based on the data above, they’re going to be great. Living within the RV community allows children to learn how to make friends quickly. Like you, every campground you stop at, you end up making “campground friends” that you meet there for the first time. Some may end up becoming lifelong friends; others you may never see again.
The point is, the kids learn to adapt to the social environment. Now that they have social media, their friend’s list could end up in the hundreds of thousands when they’re ready for college. So, they’re getting more socialization and getting exposed to a more diverse population than classroom kids.
Also, classroom kids learn about the Grand Canyon in a book. You have the opportunity to take your children to the Grand Canyon National Park. All of you can stand on the Hualapai Native American Nation’s Grand Canyon Skywalk and get an eagle’s perspective of our national treasure (if you’re not afraid of heights). You can take a mule tour, hike the many trails, or ride the Colorado River through the canyon as a family.
When you get back to the campground, your children will run to their campground friends, talk about their adventures, log on to their social media, and write an essay about their experiences. Learning and socialization achieved.
Did someone say college?
Yes, universities, colleges, technical schools, and other secondary education institutions love homeschooled students. As the statistics show, they have better grades, do better in their higher education experience, and end up on the Dean’s list rather than the behavior probation list.
Around their junior year of high school, start looking around the RV community as you search for scholarships. You’d be surprised what you may find out there as far as money for college. When writing an essay about themselves, your child’s biggest challenge is understanding how much life experience they have compared to the average junior or senior.
How Do I Start Roadschooling My Child?
You started homeschooling your child the first time you placed your headphones on your stomach and played Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album by The Beatles). To get recognized school accreditation credit, the first thing you need to do is explore your state’s board of education website.
All 50 states allow homeschooling but have different criteria. If you’re a full-time RVer, you need to check your domicile state’s education department website (the one you have your mailing address). You need to consider this before choosing your domicile address for those thinking about or in the transition phase of the full-time RV lifestyle.
While Florida, Texas, and South Dakota are the most RV-friendly states to call home for tax reasons, you have to consider the requirements for roadschooling, among others. Texas and Oklahoma are the easiest to work with, but life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You may have to domicile in a particular state due to family, medical, or other concerns.
Some of the criteria you’ll run across have to do with attendance, testing, or telephone/video conferencing at scheduled times with the school board’s teaching/administrative staff. For a quick check to see what your state requires as far as parent requirements, state-mandated subjects, assessment requirements, and other issues, ProPublica spells it all out in an easy-to-read chart.
You’ll want to read through the state requirements carefully and refresh yourself now and again to refresh yourself. Bookmark the website and add an icon to your desktop. Sign up for their newsletters so you can receive any updates if they change any of the requirements.
Keep the perspective that the state Department of Education wants your child to succeed, so these requirements are in place to make sure your child has the same education or better as their peers in the classroom. The information they’re providing is there to prepare and help your child succeed.
What’s the Best Roadschool Curriculum?
Now that we know it’s okay, how to register your student, and what “hoops you’ll need to jump through,” we can now alleviate your second worst fear: what to teach your children and how. As you travel around the country, you’ll find that both parents and children love roadschooling.
You’re going to receive advice from everyone about everything. It’ll feel like you did an internet search on something simple, and you can’t stop the ads from bombarding you. Don’t worry, we’ll help you sort through the spam.
There are some different schooling methods you can use. The benefit of homeschooling is that you can craft the lessons to your child’s learning method. The traditional classroom method in earlier eras focused primarily on visual and auditory learners. For those that learned best from seeing and hearing, that worked well. Yet those that absorb information better by doing something, learning through creativity, or other styles found the classroom difficult.
Child psychologists and other experts have designed various teaching methods that have worked well for home and roadschoolers. Here are some popular learning models that full-time RVers recommend.
1. Online school
Most states have an online program through the public school system. The curriculum mimics what’s taught in the classroom, but your child can learn at their pace. Activities include:
- Pre-recorded lectures
- Messaging and chatrooms to communicate with the teacher
- Scheduled telephone or video conferencing appointments
- Homework submission through document uploading
- Timed quizzes and tests
Students may have other assignments depending on the curriculum. All books and materials are either in electronic format or sent to the student. Parents can consult with the teachers to assist their children, but the burden of teaching is on the virtual school staff.
2. Public school curriculum
The public school systems also offer an approved curriculum that parents can use for roadschooling. The curriculum comes with teaching guides, lesson plans, and what the student should learn in each lesson. If your state requires testing or some type of assessment, this curriculum will match that testing.
Many states offer the curriculum at no cost but allow parents the freedom to whatever materials they want to achieve the lesson if they don’t use the recommended one.
3. School at home
First presented in Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Trained Mind, the school at home method is a versatile roadschool program model. The lessons fit standard classroom lessons. You receive course packs through the mail and you work through them with your child together. If your children have any experience in the classroom, they’ll feel comfortable with the teaching style since they follow the lecture-exercises method.
If you’re looking for a learning method better suited for children who learn better outside classroom methods, this program might not work well for your student. Although, this one may fit nicely for those states that require quarterly or semester testing.
4. Literature-based school
Jim Trelease’s book, Read-Aloud Handbook, discusses Charlotte Mason’s teaching method of teaching math through literature. It’s a flexible homeschooling method, but it’s a book-heavy curriculum. Nevertheless, it adapts to your student’s interests to keep them engaged, and you shouldn’t have trouble finding the necessary e-books to solve the potential library storage issue in your travel trailer.
If you decide to set your jacks down for good and return your children to the classroom, they may have difficulty transitioning since the literature-based method is so different. You’ll have to make sure you are comfortable with the state assessment methods if your state requires them. Your child may know the material perfectly, but they may be better at written tests versus standardized tests.
5. Unit studies
This type of learning is where you spend a certain amount of time or go to a particular location to learn about a specific lesson. As an RVer, full or part-time, you have the advantage. You pick a destination and learn the history, fields of science, math, literature, art, and any other subject matter of the area.
For example, let’s say you and your family travel to Taos, New Mexico. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the Native American history and culture of the area. In addition, you can learn about the mountains’ geography and the art from the artists that live there.
Since you’re so high from sea level, talk to a mechanic about how and why vehicles lose towing power at higher elevations. You can spend weeks dissecting every facet of the area. Be careful, though; your children may catch a bigger fish than you at Eagle Nest Lake.
6. Eclectic education
Simply put, take all of these learning styles and some others we haven’t discussed, shake them up in a box, and create your own method that fits best. Some techniques work better for some subjects than others. People generally have more than one way they learn. Psychologists recommend using multiple learning methods to reinforce lessons rather than one.
You’ll never know what your kids will pick up either. For example, when they’re helping you with your preventive maintenance or a repair, the lessons learned could help them with multi-step equations or other concepts. The point is, overall, they’ll have a well-rounded education.
7. The National Park Service
Did you know the U.S. National Parks have curriculums that teachers use all the time? If you go to the National Park Service’s Website, you’ll find a section for teachers for the parks, historic sites, and landmarks. The design of the curriculums focuses on groups, but can it work for individual students as well. In addition, there are versions for different age groups, so your teenager doesn’t feel like a “dweeb” doing elementary school activities.
You can also get your kids involved in the Junior Ranger Program. After they take their oath to help protect and preserve the environment, they can earn badges that focus on the various themes of the National Park Service. You can find all of the parks that participate in the program, the activity, and how they can earn their badge. The website also has 10 virtual badges that your kids can gain online. If your child is a part of the Boy/Girl Scouts of America, they can earn a Junior Ranger Badge as a Scout.
8. Religious Curriculums
Some parents choose to use religious-oriented homeschooling curriculums. We recommend checking with your State’s Department of Education before you begin. Some religious curriculums have the proper accreditation to be accepted by the state, and others don’t. If this is a concern for you and your family, the state school board will work with you to help you find the best curriculum for your children.
Making Your RV Ready for Roadschooling
Here are some examples to show you some great tips on how to prepare your RV for homeschooling. You should find many of these tips useful for your RV.
- Refrigerator Chalkboards – Many RV refrigerators come with removable panels. Some you can order with the chalkboard or dry erase board panels. If you need to demonstrate something, you can use your dinette as the classroom desk while presenting the lesson on your refrigerator chalkboard.
- Dry Erase Walls – Update an RV wall and turn it into a dry erase board. Then, after class, your kids can have fun doodling on the wall (as long as they keep it on the paint).
- Laptop Stands for Tables – Using a keyboard flat on a table can create wrist and arm problems after prolonged use. You’ll want your kids to use a laptop stand that sits at the right height to avoid carpal tunnel or other issues. Also, if you have more than one kiddo working on the same surface, it’s a great way to create surface space. The kids can keep their books under the laptop as they work.
- Folding Portable Desks – If your rig has an extra bunk that you don’t need, you can remove it and install a wall-mounted fold-up desk. If you have the space, folding desks that are freestanding with ergonomic chairs may fit well for class time.
- Headphones – More than likely, the kids already have them, but you and your spouse may want to pick up a comfortable pair of headphones for yourselves. While the kids are working, the two of you may want to retire to your room to watch a movie. Some devices connect your TV’s audio to headphones, so you don’t have to strain to hear the dialogue, so it’s quiet enough for the kids to work.
- SmartTV or Casting Device – You’ll want some type of method to show internet videos on your RV’s LED TVs. Both you and your child(ren) will want to watch pre-recorded videos together that are big enough to see all the details. For you, it may be a refresher, but you’ll need to know how to present the material in the learning style of the curriculum. You’ll want to stop, start, and rewind the video if your student needs to go over a specific section.
- Camera and Microphone – Your laptop or tablet may come with a built-in camera and microphone. In situations when you’re video conferencing with teachers or other people, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. Features like auto-focus, background noise cancelation, and other benefits will make the interaction more effortless for the other person to understand.
- Field Camera – Mobile devices are getting pretty good, but having a camera that takes still shots and video may be best if your child has assignments to photograph things or do a video presentation. High resolution with focusing and filtering features will help the teachers distinguish what’s going on clearly. A blurry picture could mean the difference between an A- and a B+.
- Network Strengthening Devices – Some believe they need a signal booster for boondocking only. However, having a data and cellular signal booster is always wise if you break down in a weak signal area. Also, if you’re in a strong signal area but many people are using the internet around you, the connection can weaken. You don’t want that worst-case scenario where your child can’t upload their school project because they can’t get a strong enough connection.
- Software – Do you remember that college class where you went to the bookstore before the class started, picked up the books for the course, and even read the first two chapters? Then, when you attended the first day, you found out you didn’t need most of the books or needed the new edition? Software can be the same way.
If you’re using an online curriculum, you want to determine what software is acceptable for homework assignments. For example, is Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or another word processing program the correct one? During the preliminaries, they should tell you, but make sure you’re clear before you buy the full versions (as professional writers, we’ve seen this happen).
Parents Helping Parents and Other Support During Homeschool
Do you need ideas for lessons or have questions you’d like to ask other RV parents who are roadschooling their children? Did inspiration hit you, and you came up with a homeschool lesson plan that the kids loved and made you the parent of the century? There are plenty of forums and roadschooling blogs out in the cybersphere, ready and waiting for you.
Parents all over the country (and world) share their ideas and answer questions to help each other out. Everyone has the same goal: giving their children the best education possible, keeping them engaged, and having fun doing it. There’s no one perfect curriculum out there since every child is unique. However, finding something you can do with the kids on a rainy day can be just as significant as participating in an archeological dig.
Ready to Roadschool RV Masterclass
If you want to prepare yourself for the roadschool experience, RV Life has teamed up with RV Masterclass. This group of well-known RV influencers created online courses that answer key topics in the RV world. Kristen Murphy of Where Wild Ones Roam has a thorough background in early education and currently homeschools her three children during their full-time RV lifestyle.
In the Ready to Roadschool RV Masterclass course, Kristen answers all of the questions we’ve covered in further detail, incorporating learning on the road and how to ease your children back into the traditional school system if you decide to set your jacks down for good. Kristen also covers many more topics allaying the concerns parents have about homeschooling.
“Not all classrooms have four walls.”
Of course, you don’t want to miss out on the other exciting feature articles you’ll find through the RV Life Network. Our experts are showcasing new products, RVs, destinations, and other RV-related topics that can enhance your family’s recreational and learning experience throughout the week. You’ll find the newsletter signup option on the home page of Campground Reviews, Camper Report, Camper Smarts, Do-It-Yourself RV, and RV Life Magazine.
To find all of the amazing learning landmarks and educational encounters, you can use the best RV Trip Planner on the market: RV Trip Wizard. As you plan your next adventure, the app helps you identify many points of interest along the way, uses an RV-friendly GPS that avoids the bad roads and other great features.
So, safe travels from our family to yours, and we’ll see you down the road!