We often get asked how we manage to homeschool four children, run a business, be full-time performers and travel most of the year. This question is amusing because we really just go with the flow and it all works out. I try not to think about the “how we do it” and instead just get it done. So let’s talk about homeschooling on the road. These are the the things we are doing this school year. If something stops working, we change it up. What we do isn’t necessarily what your family should be doing. This is what works for us. Everyone has to find their own way on the journey of homeschooling. However, I hope that in sharing our resources, you may gain something of value that works for you too.
First, let me say that we are very relaxed homeschoolers. In other words, some days we get a lot of “school” stuff done and other days we simply get stuff done. I (Mom) am the one that handles most of the homeschooling. Generally, we find a new theme each year (usually in January) and that lays the general foundation for our year. We school year round so that allows us days to not do official school things. Now, I must add that we are very interest directed in our approach to learning. Learning happens all the time, every single day with or without curriculum tools. When you travel most of the year, you learn that education comes in all forms. One day it may be how to repair the bus and other days it could be learning to read a map because gps has once again tried to get us lost. Often, I feel more like an *unschooler but I can’t fully embrace that title because I love me some good curriculum to add in the learning process. LOL I also insist on the kids learning math and spelling in a more formal way. My unschooling friends just threw eggs at me on that one. : )
This January 2017, we decided to complete novel studies of Newberry Awarded books. I had high hopes of doing notebooking type of novel studies and even purchased some lesson plans online for our first chosen novel. We went in hard with all the extras and it lasted about three days before I said forget it. We tossed it all in the trash and actually just started reading it together. The kids enjoyed it more and it opened many discussions that might not have otherwise evolved from a more strict approach. We are now on our second novel and are simply snuggling and reading it as a family. It’s fun, everyone enjoys it at their varying levels and it’s just another thing we share as a family creating memories together.
This year 2017, we started Life of Fred math series. So far, it’s working wonderfully. It’s a strange and quirky storyline but the lessons are engaging and my three oldest are getting a really strong foundation. The series starts at about 1st grade and goes all the way into higher levels of math including trigonometry and calculus. We have started a celebration party when any child completes a LOF (Life of Fred) book. The party involves pizza, brownies and a special little reward (most often a Lego mini figure mystery pack). Oh, and some beer for Mom and Dad because we deserve it too! LOF is working great for us currently and even better it is a small book that travels really well in our bus. Hope it continues to work wonderfully but if things change for any particular child, I am totally willing to find a new source of math learning.
Spelling! The nemesis of my children and by default me. It’s really important to me that my children learn to communicate intelligently and effectively. Spelling is a big deal to me for these reasons. That being said none of us are natural spellers (except my mom who always could spell almost any word). Many programs that I tried didn’t work well for my kids. Many tears were shed from all our eyes due to frustration from all of us. But, I finally found a program that is working almost magically for us!!!! It’s called Sequential Spelling. Basically, each day is a spelling “test” and each day the base words build on each other. They take the test and simply correct any mistakes with no pressure or stress. After a while, they naturally learn the spelling. Sounds overly simple but really they are learning hundreds of words with NO MORE TEARS!!! That’s a win in my book. Again, it’s working now but if for some reason it becomes ineffectual for any one child, I will shift gears and find what will work.
We also do a historical person/place type study using the Who Was….? series. These are smallish chapter books that go into suffienct depth of the individual’s life/place. They are small and again store well. And even better, after we finish one, we find a Barnes & Noble and pick a new one. Each child gets a chance to choose one that interests them to study as a family. If there are additional ideas that we want to expand on during these readings, we find resources and go deeper into any given topic. It’s really a lot of fun and cost effect too.
*Living books are the basic foundation for our science and history studies. They are more engaging than textbooks. We share ideas in a relaxed and pressure free environment which leads to understanding and absorbing information. We also use the Ideas in 30 Seconds series and have read most of them. Great info in little bits to learn and really understand. We often choose to go more in-depth on any given topic of interest. I have tried using a more structured history and science program but that just caused me too much pressure. If mama is stressed out over keeping up with a structured curriculum then nobody is enjoying learning.
Each night my husband reads to the kids several books, one of which is the 1,000 Facts series. We are currently reading 1,000+ Fantastic Facts. We have been reading one double page each night for about a year now. We all are learning so many interesting facts. Our youngest is a little sponge and absorbs so much it is simply amazing me.
I would like to say that science experiments happen daily or weekly but the truth is that we get around to maybe three a month. We love science but often being on the road or on set for our circus shows doesn’t allow convenience to accomplish as much as I would like in this area. However, this hasn’t stopped my kids from having quite an extensive knowledge of scientific principles despite my lack of continual experiment offerings.
For my other two, we have started reading Everything You Need to Ace…..In One Big Fat Notebook series. Currently, we are reading the American History, English Language Arts and Science ones. These go into a lot of depth and are written in a colorful and fun way. The things they are learning from simply reading this book to me is exciting. Did you catch the reading to me part? Yeah, I’m sneaky that way. They read to me thus increasing their reading abilities and are learning the given topic too. Oh yea! Sometimes I get it right!!!! It’s been one of the best things that I found to get more reading/learning in at one time. SCORE!!!
My older kids also choose books that they want to read to themselves. They are free to choose whatever interests them. They write down each title they have completed on the 2017 ongoing list. We reward them in small ways for this achievement. It encourages them to read more and also serves to reinforce their personal accomplishments.
Lastly, we play a lot of games together. I am a bit obsessed with games and if you asked my kids what type I like best they would all say “tiny ones!” Yes, ones that store really easily are my favorite. We have every imaginable card game and dice game. There is so much learning to be had playing games together. The list of what we have is too long to list but if you have specific questions, I am happy to answer them down below.
That’s our homeschooling in a nutshell. It’s relaxed and based on living our education through travel and reading. Last year, we planned our entire circus tour based on the fact that we were studying pioneer days (aka Little House on the Prairie) and wanted to experience first hand all the places that we read about in the books. If we can create a love of learning for our children then we believe that they can accomplish anything they truly want to do in life. I am happy to answer any specific questions you may have about our homeschooling travel style.
*Unschooler is defined as “an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning.” (Because I insist on math and spelling for my kids so I am not an unschooler but choose the relaxed/eclectic/world schooler instead.
*Living books is defined as books that are “usually written by one person that has a passion for the subject and writes in a conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject come alive.”