Homeschooling on the Road
One of the reasons I home school, and possibly the biggest reason, is the freedom it offers us to travel and learn wherever we might be. We are on a three week family vacation now and have been traveling from Colorado to North Carolina to Florida. We’ll be heading to Virginia in a week and then down to Texas before going back to Colorado. As a matter of fact, I am typing this article from the passenger seat of our Toyota Highlander on our way through Georgia. It got me thinking about some people I’ve met recently who have been traveling around in a camper for the past 10 years (yes, it’s a bit extreme). They have 4 kids who they home schooled and who are nearing college age. The oldest got accepted to both Dartmouth and Cornell Universities. I’m impressed. So how did they do it? It’s simple. Just like I am working on the road, so too can kids. I have a computer, two GPS devices, and an air card. That means I have, at my fingertips, access to unlimited trip guidance and lesson material. Even without lazy man’s technology I could print out all this information and do proper planning; the kids and I could still stop at every interesting roadside attraction and tourist information stop and learn loads of stuff. I’ll give a few examples from just the last two weeks.
The first leg of our Journey was through Kansas on I-70. It’s funny how many weird oddities are along the roadside. We specifically liked the Wizard of Oz museum in Wamego, Kansas. We spent all day driving, and it isn’t as if the boys could do a written lesson without getting carsick. And how many people ever go to the Oz museum? That’s something no school kid in Boulder ever does! An interesting fact about Kansas is that the entire interstate system was responsible for an explosion of economic growth in this country starting in the 1950’s. It was all thanks to Dwight Eisenhower, who is from Kansas! We drove past his presidential library. Yay for Kansas.
Missouri is packed with attractions. We didn’t stop in Branson, but I’ve been there, and I fully intend to take the boys some day. On our journey back we’re going to stop at the gateway arch. Even if we choose not to stop we could still have a lesson. For instance, I didn’t know that the margin of error in the arch, for the two sections meeting at the top, was 1/64th of an inch. And, that was before modern computer technology! That’s pretty impressive too. Parents can print out a list of interesting facts along the road to read to the kids and, later, quiz them about. Or, if they’re like me and they have internet access, they can surf while passing each attraction searching for fascinating tid-bits along the way. I have an uncle who probably doesn’t need a computer at all because he’s got it all in his head. I’m not that fortunate; I need a book.
West Virginia (I slept through Kentucky)
Besides almost everything in the state being named after Robert C Byrd (which is a politics lesson in itself) West Virginia has a fascinating Coal mining history. I knew almost nothing about coal before we entered the state. Then, when we started driving through Charleston, I thought the boys and I should learn something about it. We should anyways because it’s what fuels this country to this day. I spent an hour at our hotel reading up on coal before presenting a lesson to the boys. What a cool opportunity to learn about it with a visual aid. By the way, we just learned that coal is West Virginia’s official mineral. I suggested, in a blog comment, that maybe the legislature should have named Anthracite the official rock to distinguish West Virginia from Kentucky which also claims coal as its official rock. Maybe Anthracite should go to Pennsylvania and Bituminous should be for West Virginia.
North Carolina (Virginia has possibly the richest history in the country, but we blew right through).
My dad gave us all a history lesson on North Carolina (we came for a visit). We were in New Bern for 4 days and learned all about the Tryon Palace and New Bern’s importance to early trade on the East Coast of the United States. There is a plaque on Front Street in New Bern that tells about the first mail route down the east coast from New England. We also went out to Atlantic Beach. I’m going to take the boys to Fort Macon next week and teach them about some civil war history. When we drive north I plan to take a detour out to Kitty Hawk so I can teach them about the Wright Brothers.
We have not arrived in Florida, and we will be back to Virginia next week. No matter the state there is always lots of things to learn. In addition to history lessons both boys have been, and will be, exposed to sailing. My Dad has made plans to spend a summer teaching the boys to sail down south in the Caribbean (They live on a boat and I grew up around sailing myself). We even managed a few math lessons at Dunkin Donuts with spare change (My exercise and diet have been a little derailed on this vacation, but I don’t care). The lessons could be better because I honestly did not do a bit of planning ahead of time. . We essentially threw our pet bunny and some clothes in the car and started driving. I put my best friend in our house in Colorado and said I didn’t know when we’d be back. Simply improvising along the way I have come up with valuable lessons for everyone in the car. Home schooling gives the whole family the chance to learn together. That’s a little how our lives are, and it’s been great so far.