When Bob and I were considering going on this adventure, one of the first things that stopped us in our tracks was Liv’s education. We knew we wouldn’t be able to leave until September, so we’d have to pull her out of school for an extended period of time. Homeschooling Liv seemed doable for the short period of time we planned on being gone, but would her school allow it? Would they be on board with our plan? After speaking with Liv’s Principal, many of our concerns were alleviated. He advised us that the easiest way to take this two-month absence would be to unenroll Liv from school and then re-enroll her upon our return.
Third grade started mid-August for Liv. She was able to spend a few weeks in the classroom before we took off on September 1st. This time not only gave her a jump start on the academic side of third grade but also helped Liv make friends in her class and get to know the daily routine. Amazingly, Liv’s teacher was totally on board with our plan as well. We really lucked out with such a remarkably thoughtful, kind teacher. Taking Liv out of school for the first part of the year would have been much more challenging had her school not been so supportive and helpful. Before we left, we met with Liv’s teacher and talked about what we would be working on with her while we were away. We were given Liv’s math, cursive and spelling workbooks. Liv also packed many age appropriate reading books and writing notebooks.
Liv’s teacher was enthusiastic about her blog and said she’d try to read it to the class while we were gone. Knowing her class would read her blog was a real incentive for Liv to focus on her writing. We also promised to have Liv write postcards to the class from the various states we visited. This way, Liv could continue to feel connected to her classmates while she was on the road and her class would have a better idea of what she is up to while away. So far, sending postcards back to the classroom has been a really fun activity on the road. For Bob and me it feels kind of retro (in the best way possible) and Liv loves picking out a card at each of our stops. As an added benefit, it helps rein in the interest in purchasing junk from gift shops, instead was can just focus finding the perfect card.
Before we left I thought we’d have a more regimented schedule for school work. I imagined Liv grabbing her backpack, walking around the campsite and sitting down at her table to begin her school day. The reality of life on the road has been less structured. We work on memorizing state capitals, multiplication tables and spelling as we drive but once we get to our campsite, we’re more focused on enjoying our new surroundings than schoolwork. By the time we get back to the campsite in the late afternoon, Liv is often too tired to focus very long or retain new information well. We’re working on breaking schoolwork up into smaller sections throughout the day. Morning work before our daily outing, shorter afternoon work before dinner and independent reading before bedtime in the tent.
There are some clear benefits to homeschooling Liv on the road. Both parents working one on one with our child has allowed us to better understand the specifics of what she is learning. We can reinforce definitions and new ideas while on a hiking trail or make connections to academic concepts while exploring a new place. While we were both working full time, we would ask Liv questions at dinner about what she learned that day, but rarely would she share mundane specifics. On the road, class time blends into the rest of the day and there are teaching moments in all that we do.
We met a nice man hiking in the Redwoods. He was interested in our travels and as we described our game plan he nodded and smiled. He said “Classroom time is important, but these experiences are priceless. She’ll remember this forever and it will shape her as a human being.” I couldn’t agree more.