Like most homeschool families we know, we do quite a bit of traveling on the weekdays. Each week, Sweet Pea, my fourth grader, has a private violin lesson, an orchestra rehearsal, and a robotics class. My second grader, Sugar Plum, has a weekly piano lesson and dance practice. My youngest, two year old, Baby Girl, is always with us as we travel to and fro.
This schedule means we spend lots of time in the van. Since I want to use that time wisely, I’ve learned to make the most of our minivan moments. Whether riding to an activity or parked in the car waiting for a lesson to end, our homeschool lessons continue. If you’re a homeschooling parent who thinks “school on the go” is an impossible dream, here are nine practical tips you can use to make it a reality.
1. Have children read books while they ride. I do not like the girlies to work on written assignments while I drive. The bumps and stop and go traffic make it hard for them to write neatly. Plus, when I’m behind the wheel, I can’t thoroughly answer questions they may have about a particular assignment. The girlies’ time in the backseat is not wasted because we use the ride time for silent reading. When we arrive at our destination, I then have time to check comprehension by asking questions about what they’ve read.
2. Have children watch an educational DVD while they ride. Is there a video you’re using to supplement a lesson you’re teaching? If so, consider saving it for the ride so children can watch as you drive. Our van is equipped with a DVD player, but you could also pack a portable DVD player to use. I give the remote to the girlies so they can pause the video when I ask them to. This allows me to talk about what they’re watching and ask questions to check their understanding of what they’ve seen.
3. Keep materials in a bag or a basket. Before climbing into the van, Sweet Pea and Sugar Plum grab their homeschool backpacks. These particular backpacks are exclusively used for homeschooling on the go. Each backpack is stocked with necessary books, crayons, pencils, erasers, mechanical pencil sharpeners, clipboards (a must have!), and any other supplies the girlies might need while on the road.
4. Park and pull out the pencils. Once we’re parked, written assignments can be completed. If I need to provide direct instruction to either girl, I ask her to sit in the passenger seat next to me so I can teach the lesson.
5. Bring snacks. There are few things worse than a hungry and cranky child (check out this post), so I travel with a small supermarket in the back of the minivan. Keep moodiness at bay and blood sugars at appropriate levels by traveling with water bottles, juice boxes, cereal bars, beef jerky, pretzels, a variety of crackers, and dried fruit. If the girlies get hungry, I offer them a snack to enjoy while they work.
6. Help the kids get comfortable. It can get cramped in the car, so help the kids relax while completing their work. I allow the girlies to take off their shoes and, once parked, they may curl up on or stretch out in the backseat. In addition, each girl has a travel pillow she can rest her head on as she works. It’s much more enjoyable to read a book, watch a video, or practice flashcards when you have a comfy pillow to lean on.
7. Have headphones. While the older girlies work with me, Baby Girl is often watching a DVD. She uses headphones to listen without disturbing her sisters as they complete their assignments. Headphones can also be used to listen to an audio book without disruption.
8. Keep the interior clean and fresh. To make sure children have ample space to work, keep the interior of your car clean. It will be harder for children to work if the interior is messy. Keep a stash of supermarket plastic bags inside the vehicle and use them to hold trash from snacks, pencil shavings, scraps of paper, etc. Be sure to toss the trash when you get home. Hang a scented air freshener to keep the interior smelling fresh.
9. Dress in layers. Since the temperature inside the van will fluctuate depending upon the weather, I like to dress the children in layers. After I park, I usually turn the car off. If children get cold, they can slip into a sweatshirt or jacket. If it is too hot, children can remove jackets to reveal a cooling tank top.
Though I prefer schooling from the comfort of our home, our schedule requires us to make the most of time spent on the road and in the minivan. With careful organization and a bit of prep work, my children successfully complete assignments in their mobile classroom. If you have to be out and about, I hope you’ll find success on the road too!
Photo courtesy of digital art/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
© 2013 – 2014, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.