Whether you’re planning a move, planning an extended vacation, or deciding to go for the traveling lifestyle, homeschooling is one of the greatest assets you can have!
But how do you do it?
How do you take all of the books, materials, and everything you need and make the switch from a solid place (like a house with a school room or school corner) to a mobile homeschooling mentality?
On a practical level, how do you take homeschooling on the road?
This question became a deeply personal one for me as my family just recently moved cross-country. As I looked ahead to the whole process of packing, selling out house, moving out, living in transition with stuff in storage, finding a new house, and finally moving into our new house and rediscovering which box contained what….. Well, I had to figure out what this looked like!
You see, school is one of the things in our life that keeps us grounded and anchored. It’s one of those “big rocks” we can depend on. And I knew that we would all need this anchor as we walked through this major transition.
So then the question became: How do I do this? How do I set things up so we can go mobile for months with our homeschooling?
As we hit the 3 month mark in our homeschooling on the road journey, I wanted to share with you the things I’ve learned along the way and how homeschooling on the road is really working for us!
Planning is Everything!
‘I love it when a plan comes together!’
This phrase has to be one of my all-time favorite phrases from any movie I’ve ever seen. Being able to watch as all the moving parts and pieces of a plan start working as they should and coming together to accomplish what you wanted it to is a thing of beauty! But the thing is: You have to have a plan in the first place in order for that plan to come together!
This is especially true when it comes to homeschooling on the road. You see, while it’s very possible to plan as you go when you have all your homeschooling resources at your fingertips, it becomes a whole lot harder when your entire school room has been reduced down to 2 bins!
In other words, you need to have your plan in place so you know what materials you need to bring with you.
The very first piece of this plan is knowing what lessons and subjects you’ll be covering. In other words, you want to know what history lessons you plan to cover on what days. You want to know what math curriculum you’re using and about how many lessons you’ll get through.
Now, this step might feel a bit tedious, but when you have your curriculum plan mapped out for the year, this becomes your launching point for everything you need as you homeschool on the road.
Determine Your Time
The very first thing you need to figure out is how long you’re going to be homeschooling on the road. If you’re looking at a 2 or 3 week stretch of time, you’re going to need a lot less materials than if you’re planning on being mobile for 2 or 3 months!
And while both options might feel intimidating, it is very possible! But knowing how long you’re planning for will be essential, both in knowing how much space you’ll need and what you’ll need to bring with you.
Determine Your Space
The next step is to determine the amount of space you have for your homeschooling materials. Do you have a shelf in an RV? Do you have a couple crates? Do you have a waterproof tub or two?
The amount of space you have will play into how many materials you can take with you and how much you need to condense your homeschooling materials. So before you even start, figure out how much space you have to work with.
Now, keep in mind this might change. You might get into packing your homeschooling stuff and realize that you need 2 bins instead of only 1. Or you may find that you need less space than you originally thought. No matter what, you need to start out with a goal in mind of how much space you want your homeschooling materials to take.
Start with the Essentials
As you start gathering your homeschooling materials, start with the essentials. The very first thing I recommend is bringing your curriculum plan! That will be your guidebook through the whole process and you want to make sure you don’t forget it!
Next, make sure you have the history book and the science book that you’ll be using. Make sure you have the books you’ll be reading out loud with your kids and any books that are essential to your studies. Also, if any of your lessons are DVD driven, make sure you bring the DVDs with you, too!
For example, as we’ve been homeschooling on the road, we’ve read through ‘Lava Chasers at Volcanoes National Park’ (A National Park Mystery Book) and ‘Farmer Boy.’ Before we left, I made sure these two books were in our homeschooling bins.
We’ve also been taking a look at different artists and their paintings. As we look at each artist, we read the book about that artist from Mike Venezia’s ‘World’s Greatest Artists’ series. So, I made sure that we had these books in our homeschooling bins, too.
Don’t Forget the Teacher’s Manuals!
As important as it is to remember the science book and history book, you also need to remember the teacher manuals with the answer keys!
Now, if your child is in First Grade and working on simple addition and subtraction, you can probably come up with the answers in your head faster than looking them up in a book, right? But when your child gets to those multiple-digit multiplication and division problems, that teacher’s manual with the answers will come in very handy! So make sure you bring them along!
The Power of Individual Binders
Did you know that individual binders can hold a lot of stuff? It’s true!
We started out using individual binders as a way to hold the calendar pages and the reading lists for each of my children. As they got a little older, the pocket in the front of the binder became the perfect place to put worksheets for the next day and even their individual school lists.
And while we still use the individual binders to hold all of these things, as we started preparing to go mobile for multiple months, I realized that the individual binders could hold so much more than just calendar pages! (I know, shocking, right?)
Here’s an example: My middle schooler is going through Analytical Grammar right now. When we had everything set up in our school room, we used a 1-inch binder that held all the worksheets and extra pages needed for this year in Analytical Grammar along with an individual binder.
However, as we started packing everything to go mobile, it seemed ridiculous to bring 2 binders when one would do nicely (and save space). So, we made a tab for Analytical Grammar, put it in the individual binder, and then put all the Analytical Grammar pages needed for 3 months of mobile homeschooling in that tab.
Now, I know this might sound simple and like something anyone should think of, but sometimes when you get in the midst of packing, it’s easy to forget simple thing like these.
So use those individual binders to condense as much as you can and still have access to all the worksheets and pages you need as you homeschool on the road!
Copy Worksheets Ahead of Time
Again, this one sounds like a no-brainer, right? But think about the room you can save if you take some time and copy all the worksheets you’ll need ahead of time!
Here’s an example: When it comes to spelling words, I have multiple children on multiple different spelling lists. (Spelling is just one of those subject you can’t combine across grade levels!) Usually, I have 3-4 binders with each level of spelling curriculum sitting on a shelf. But that takes up a lot of room!
So, before we packed everything up, I sat down and copied all the spelling worksheets that each child would use during our transition time. Then, I three-hole punched them and put them in one big 3-inch binder (using tabs to separate the levels, of course!).
Now, this did give me a huge binder to add to my homeschooling stuff to pack, but with using the dividers, I was able to copy almost all of the worksheets we would use in our transition time. And I was able to eliminate packing so many extra binders in the process.
So in the end, it’s worth it to take some extra time and copy those worksheets ahead of time!
Storing Completed Worksheets
Now, think ahead with me just a minute here: You’re on the road. You’re doing your school work. Your child comes to you and says, “Mom, here are my worksheets for today.” Now, usually you would have a place to store these in your school room, right? But where do you put them when you’re on the road?
Well, do you remember that big binder that was holding all the worksheets you copied? What about putting the completed worksheets back in the same binder?
It’s so simple and yet so brilliant! You see, you’re going to pull the worksheets out of the binder for your child to do them, then when they’re finished with the worksheet, you simply put it back in the same binder! In other words, you’re using all the space you have to work with and you’re not wasting any of it!
One easy way to keep the completed worksheets separate from the other worksheets is simply to add a tab at the back of all the copied worksheets with your child’s name on it – particularly if you have multiple children! That way you know which child did what worksheet, and you keep the completed worksheets separate from the ones waiting to be completed.
Oh, and don’t forget the 3-hold punch for those random papers that sneak in!
Plastic Box of Supplies
Completing school work requires a few supplies like pencils, erasers, and pencil sharpeners. You might even need some colored pencils and dry erase markers, too. So, where do you put all these random supplies in your bins filled with books and binders?
Well, start by having your children add a pencil pouch in their individual binders. This way, they can choose their favorite pencils and erasers and – if they keep them in their pouches – they’ll have access to them the entire time you’re in transition.
But what about those other supplies? Where do you put them? Try getting a plastic box with a lid. Personally, I like the clear ones so you can see what’s inside.
This is the perfect spot for those extra pencils, colored pencils, erasers, dry erase markers, scissors, glue sticks, and more. Essentially, all those random, odd-shaped objects that you need but are challenging to pack when you’re working with rectangular objects like books and binders!
Multiple Kids Means Multiple Sets
Now, this probably goes without saying, but if you have multiple children, you’re going to need to make sure that you have everything you need for each child.
But don’t let that thought scare you! All you have to do is run through this list for each child as a double check. Personally, I was surprised at how much overlap there was even as I went through this list for each one of my 5 children as we packed up our homeschooling stuff!
Don’t forget your White Board
Now, if you’re used to putting a list of lessons on a white board or chalk board in your school room, don’t despair! You can still do this! All it takes it a little imagination…
You see, when you laminate a piece of paper, it becomes a mobile white board! (If you don’t have a laminating machine, you can use a page protector, but I find that the laminated ones work better.)
So all you have to do is bring a laminated piece of paper, your dry erase markers, and you have your very own mobile white board! You can even tack your ‘white board’ up on the lid of your bin that holds your homeschooling supplies just to keep it all in one place!
Hit the Road
And there you have it, my Friend, your roadmap to packing up your school supplies and taking your homeschooling on the road!
Just remember, the biggest key to packing up and going mobile as you homeschool is to slow down, get your plan together, and think through it calmly.
Oh, and remember that a flexible mindset will serve you very well. True in homeschooling, but especially true when homeschooling on the road!
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Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.