Homeschooling a 4th Grader While Traveling Full-Time in a RV
With the Coronavirus affecting our daily lives so much, a few friends have reached out and asked me about homeschooling and what we do for school while on the road. This is a question I never thought I would be asked.
We hadn't considered homeschooling to be a good fit for our family before this trip. I'm not a trained educator, my math skills are so so, and I feel my grammar is even worse. I have always worked outside of the home, so that was another reason it wasn’t an option for us. Though, as parents, we have always been active in Lila’s education and volunteered at the school regularly. Once we decided to go "full-time" for a year, homeschool was one of the priorities that needed to be addressed. There are a lot of options for homeschooling such as online schools, your local public school, guided curriculum, no curriculum, and even unschooling (per Wikipedia unschooling is informal learning that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction). I had no idea until a year ago that unschooling was a thing.
I am certainly no expert in the area of homeschooling. I do not know all of the laws for homeschooling, and they do vary state by state. I’ve learned a few things along the way and thought I’d share them with you. I've taken what I believe is a more traditional approach. We use workbooks for reading, spelling, and grammar, an online math program, and we’ve also incorporated a little unschooling
Here's a glimpse of the subjects we cover and how:
Reading is important to both Steve and I, so much so that we have been reading to Lila since she was a baby, and we continue that still. We are currently reading The Hobbit together. Lila and I take turns reading so I can hear her pronounce words, pause for commas, and work on reading at a consistent and understandable pace.
Lila has always loved books, but her love for reading grew immensely a few months into our trip. She took on The Mysterious Benedict Society, a 500-page book, and completed it within a few weeks. She reads daily and thoroughly enjoys it. In the last 7 months, she has read over 45 books.
Grammar & Spelling:
We primarily use workbooks to teach these skills. Here are the links to the books we use: Scholastic Success with Grammar 4th Grade, Spelling Skills 4th Grade, Skill Sharpeners Spell & Write 4th Grade, Common Core Language Arts 4 Today (Lila told me today that really enjoys the Scholastic Grammar and Spelling Skills books because they have fun activities in them).
Spelling is important to both Steve and I so we recently purchased a dictionary for her. Now when she says, “How do you spell …?”, she has to go look it up. This right here is a challenge in itself. This a new skill she’s learning, which also requires a fair amount of patience.
In her daily work, if I find a word spelled incorrectly, it is added to her spelling list, and once a week she has to write it correctly 20 times over.
While reading The Hobbit, we’ve come across words we are not familiar with, she'll look it up in the dictionary, and add it to her vocab for the week. She then writes the definition down and uses it in a sentence.
Before leaving, I spoke to a few of Lila’s teachers, and some other teachers I have gotten to know over the last few years, and they all stressed that writing was a huge part of the 4th-grade curriculum.
Opinion, Narrative, and Informational texts seemed to be the 3 major types of writing required for the 4th grade. We’ve incorporated these requirements into her blogging. Each of her blog posts fills one of these requirements.
I also use a website called teacherspayteachers.com for other writing prompts, such as poems. Lila just did a fun one for St. Patrick’s Day where she had to write a Limerick about herself.
Zearn.org is our go-to for math. It teaches the Common Core math standard. The online portion of the program is free, and if you’d like the workbooks to go with the online courses those can be purchased for $28. We didn’t order the workbooks through Zearn, because I was able to pick up unused books from the school last year. Each lesson is approx. 20 minutes long. I feel the lessons are entertaining, engaging, and it makes learning math fun. I watch these lessons with Lila so that I can grade her homework later.
In addition to Zearn, we have Lila work on random math problems such as, “If Campground X stay was $109.00 for 4 nights, how much is it per night?”.
History and Social Studies:
These are primarily covered by visiting National Parks, Historic Sites, museums, and reading books.
The National Park Service along with state parks have Junior Ranger Programs for the kids (and big kids like Steve and I), that are both educational and fun). We complete these programs at all the parks we visit.
Audiobooks are a great resource as well for history. We listened to an audiobook on the Pony Express, which covered a great deal of American History. We either get them from our local library app called Libby (a free resource) or Audible.
Another book we listened to was The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. It is about the University of Washington rowing team that went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. The book covered the Great Depression, the beginnings of World War 2, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which we had learned about at many of the National Parks we visited before listening to the book.
I relate unschooling to “life” in general. What needs to happen in the trailer (home) to make life good, and what happens outside that makes the world go around.
From our travels, we've learned about animals we’ve never heard of before, such as Javelina’s in Arizona and Pack Rats in Colorado.
Lila is included in some of our budgeting and finances. For instance, when we grocery shop, she often asks, “can we get a Mango today?” My response is, “how much is it?” I do this for two reasons, one, I feel it’s important to have an idea of what an item, such as a Mango, should cost, and does cost, and two, do we have the money for it in our grocery budget?
We also have her keep track of a mutual fund that we invested in a long time ago. Every week, we look back on how the fund did over the week and chart it daily on a graph. Once a month or so, I have her do a few math problems with the info we’ve gathered, to see what her gains and losses totaled to with a made-up number of shares. Needless to say, the last few weeks has really caught her attention. Our chart had to be redrawn three times to incorporate the massive ups and downs the market has seen over the past few weeks.
Journaling is another way we school. We use The Explorer's Notebook to record our National Park visits, but it can be used to document field trips, or any sort of travel you'd like.
Playing with friends. We have been so fortunate to meet people on the road, and when we do, school is a little less of a priority. Making new friends, playing outside, baking, and making forts becomes the focus.
Teacherspayteachers.com - An online source that offers worksheets of all sorts, covers all subjects, grades, prices start at free and go up from there. I’ve used this resource quite a bit for writing prompts, holiday activities, math challenges, etc. Once you find one you like, you download and print it. We use the local library to print since we aren’t traveling with a printer.
Zearn.org - Free math resource
Typing.com - Steve and I both feel typing skills are important, we don’t want Lila to be hunting and pecking the keyboard for the rest of her life. Typing.com is free and starts with the absolute basics of typing and incorporates fun challenges with great graphics.
CommonCore App - This lists the standards by grade level and goes into detail of what is required. Within the app, each requirement has been given a code. For Ex. RL.4.1 = Reading: Literature - Key Ideas and Details. The description goes on, but this gives you an idea of what is required. You can also take the RL.4.1 and add that to the search in teacherspayteachers.com and it will bring up sources that include that requirement.
Friends and Family - Reach out, you probably know a homeschool parent or teacher. They are full of info and insight and all the people I’ve reached out to have been more than helpful.
What we cover and when all depends on the day. Is it a travel day, do we have an activity planned such as a National Park, museum, a hike, or is it a home day? School is generally spread out throughout the day with lots of breaks in between. Sometimes weekends include homework, but that’s generally only because the week was full of anything but school work.
Let us know if you have questions, we’re here to help.
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