We dabbled in homeschool a few weeks before we hit the road. We’d never done it before. Sure, we read to the girls at bedtime and took them to the library and helped the eldest with homework, but homeschooling is a whole different ballgame and I’ve never been much for sports.
I decided that since everyone else was back in school already (we didn’t leave on our trip until September 7th) that we should delve in ourselves. I covered the dining room table with the curriculum I pieced together based on my love affair with the idea of Charlotte Mason learning and we began.
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It was downright awful the first few days. Paige kept wandering off, both physically and mentally. At the time, we didn’t know she had dyslexia. Reagan questioned why I was doing things in a manner different from the beloved teachers we’d rudely snatched her from…and she thought often about what her friends were doing back at “real school.” It was hard to keep us on task, hard to find which book we needed in my giant pile, and hard to know when to press on or when we all needed a break. Dreams of curling up with my rosy-cheeked cherubs while eagerly feasting on a meal of fine literature and mind-growing historical anecdotes left the room, the building, my life. Don’t forget the boxes everywhere and the giant RV parked out front both beckoning and threatening.
I let it go.
Two weeks later we tried again, this time from the dinette in our new home on wheels. I’ll never forget it. We were in Abilene, Texas and something clicked. Road schooling was more manageable because very little else existed for us.
When you live simply, without outside commitments, the thing in front of you is so much easier to tackle because it’s all there is.
No inner voice chastises you for not getting your to-do list done that day. The list doesn’t exist. When we sat down together, I could literally only fit a couple books on that tiny table. We derived many of our lessons from one multi-use resource in particular: Five In a Row. Haven’t heard of it? Read up, friends. The FIAR concept changed my life and our school.
Nothing really distracted us except the occasional bird or squirrel outside our window. Bathroom breaks or the need to grab a pencil from their room meant a two or three-step journey, not a trip up the stairs to a completely different part of a sprawling house.
I didn’t have deadlines to meet for work. My phone didn’t buzz with requests. Our calendar said things like “Chattanooga” or “Jacksonville” and then the rest of the square was blank. We didn’t run into friends in the grocery store who told us what their kids were doing academically so that silent but deadly competitive spirit didn’t creep up and squeeze our souls. We didn’t know when others were on vacation or not. We had no schedule to keep but our own steady progress through our lessons.
I felt freedom to base our entire history curriculum around our travels and what we’d be experiencing by way of plantation tours, museums, beaches, battlefields, or national parks. When I realized (and accepted) that something was different about the way Paige learned, I tailored her lessons to match that learning style and I didn’t give a flying rat’s behind about her “catching up.” I focused on my little girl without outside criticism. I’m not saying to throw academic standards out the window, but for that season, that blessed year, we worked more on love and encouragement than whether she conquered chapter books by a certain month. When she crawled into my lap after one particularly successful lesson and whispered, “I’m getting it,” I knew we’d made the right choice.
Much like homeschooling, when the outdoors called, we answered. We schooled while sitting at picnic tables or leaning against trees. Our backdrop changed every week and the lessons morphed accordingly. In Stone Mountain, Ga., the girls and I made popcorn in the afternoons, saved some without butter or salt and fed our good friends, a striking mallard couple. We walked along the Mississippi River while our eldest recited times tables and our little one gathered random treasures. My uncle gave us a microscope and we stuck anything and everything underneath that bad boy and oohed and ahhed over God’s creativity. We attended nature talks and one park ranger let us a hold a strong, beautiful snake. Reagan sat on the grassy Mall to draw the Washington Monument from just the right angle. Paige crawled along beside a slow-moving turtle. We stood in a manicured greenhouse full of glorious orchids and Danny said he saw tears in my eyes.
The road school life isn’t perfect or without stress. It’s just that the pace is so different, so less hectic and demanding. It was us and the pavement and the vast country all around and I can’t explain it but that made all the difference for us. We live in a normal house again but the lessons we learned out there still benefit us today. A year away from it all made us realize how unimportant so much of our busyness really is. Boiled down to what counts, schooling was simpler, more fulfilling and less burdensome. Today, though we’re fully immersed in the real world again, I try to recreate that freedom-filled educational experience in our home classroom.
You probably don’t have to live in a 5th wheel for months on end to learn these lessons, but I think you should.
Lisa loves to travel (obviously) and stay at home in her pajamas. That’s why the RV life was so good for her soul. Read about it at www.armedonlywiththis.com.