Roadschooling: How Do Full-Time Traveling Kids Go to School?

Lisa Fritscher December 22, 2014 No Comments

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Roadschool

Roadschooling takes many different forms.

Most people have limited vacation time. They try to squeeze as much as they can into a week or two, loading the family into the car or onto an airplane for a rush trip to someplace exotic or interesting, before rushing home to go back to work and school. But what of the families that decide to take the full-time plunge, roaming the country in an RV? How do the kids go to school? As 10-year veterans of the full-timing life, Dad and I have had the opportunity to meet numerous roadschooling families. Whether they are on a one-time extended trip or full-timing indefinitely, they all face similar challenges and opportunities.

What Is Roadschooling?
Roadschooling is basically homeschooling done on the road. While homeschooling has become a mainstream option in recent years, however, roadschooling is still seen as a cutting edge, not often well-understood choice. For the growing ranks of roadschoolers, however, it soon becomes clear that, like homeschoolers, roadschoolers have a dizzying array of options. There is no right way to roadschool, and roadschoolers are a very diverse lot. All it takes is imagination, the knowledge of how to connect with a vast array of resources, and the courage to trust your own abilities and those of your children.

Legalities and Practicalities
Education is governed by state and local laws. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but requirements vary widely. Some states require annual testing by a certified teacher. Some require you to join an umbrella organization. Some require you to submit your child’s portfolio each year. Some only require a notice of intent.

In general, roadschooling families recommend following the laws of your current legal domicile. If you settle in one place for more than a few months, however, be aware that local law might require you to change residency. Always consult with local authorities or a family lawyer licensed in the relevant state or states if you have any questions.

If your children are currently enrolled in school, and you are planning a one-time extended trip, talk to your school district authorities about a leave of absence. You might be able to work something out that allows your kids to return to their current school after the trip without falling behind their peers.

Choosing a Philosophy and Curriculum

Craft Time

Anything can spur an educational opportunity for roadschoolers, including the craft classes offered at many RV parks.

In the Internet age, roadschooling can be anything you and your kids want it to be. Some families like to follow a traditional curriculum, while others believe that education should be child-driven. Spend some time reading up on homeschool philosophies and available curricula before taking the plunge.

Almost invariably, one thing that drives roadschoolers is the use of the world at large as a living laboratory. How better to get your kids interested in Lewis and Clark than to follow their historic route? Want them to gain a new appreciation for military history? Have them interview veterans working at some of our nation’s military museums. Roadschooling kids also have a unique opportunity to take on internships and volunteer positions at places as diverse as zoos, cultural centers and farms. Unconstrained by traditional school hours, many roadschoolers are able to get a jump start on their chosen careers or simply spend time seeing where their interests might lead.

College Coursework
Roadschoolers often work their way through lessons at a more rapid pace than those in a traditional classroom setting, as the individualized nature of homeschooling and roadschooling means they never have to wait for others to catch up. Consequently, many roadschoolers are ready for college courses by their mid-teens. Some choose to enroll in degree-seeking online programs, while others take advantage of free courses through open learning initiatives such as edx.org. Open courses are sponsored by major universities such as Harvard and MIT, and while they do not grant official college credit, they do provide the basis for credit-by-exam when your student is ready to enroll in college.

Companionship

Watermelon Eating Contest

Many campgrounds sponsor organized activities that let campers get to know each other.

Many people who have never experienced life on the road imagine it as a lonely existence. They wonder how kids  can possibly have a normal social life when they move from place to place every few weeks. They imagine children with stunted social development, reluctant to venture far from their parents and unable to bond with “normal” children or adults.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Almost without fail, the roadschoolers we have met have been polite, well-spoken, mature and outgoing. They are used to meeting new people, forming bonds, and interacting with those of all ages. They are confident, comfortable in their own skins, and unafraid to take risks. They are excellent at seeking each other out in RV parks and campgrounds, and typically become close quickly.

The RV community is largely close-knit, and most of the adults at any given campground have at least a basic awareness of who the kids are and who they belong to. They provide extra sets of eyes and ears, creating a relatively safe environment for RVing kids to roam. It is not at all unusual to see a mixed-age band of kids playing together, only to discover that they are from three different families and have known each other for only a couple of days.

While it is always sad to say goodbye, roadschooling kids are experts at staying in touch. In the age of always-on Internet connectivity and unlimited texting plans, full-timers find it easy to keep track of their friends across the country and around the world. Many families even plan regular meetups with their closest friends, sometimes at the same campground where they met, and other times at someplace across the country.

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Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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