Back in 2008, when we started living in our Airstream, it was just the three of us: Dan, our oldest (and then only kid) Ava, and me. Oh and our cat Yoda too. So I guess that actually makes four of us.
We bought an Airstream in order to show Ava the country via long trips and it was also a way for us to travel easier and more frequently as a family. Long trips eventually turned into full-time travel and one kid eventually turned into three. It was totally unexpected… Well, when I say unexpected, I mean the full-time travel thing, NOT the three kid part. We actually planned that part. Ha.
So imagine being a full-time family on the road, in the early days of social media: Facebook, forums, blogs and not much else. There weren’t many traveling families to connect with online and we didn’t get a chance to meet very many families on the road either, especially ones with school-aged children. It was mostly us and a lot of retired couples hanging out with each other. And we were fine with it because that’s the way things were.
Because full-timing was sorta unexpected, we didn’t really think ahead to what we’d do when our oldest kid inched closer to having to attend kindergarten. We had a hard time deciding what was best for her. Should we buy a house and settle down so she can attend public school? Should we continue to travel and figure out how to school her from the road? How are we even qualified to do this? What if we mess it all up? Aren’t homeschooled children supposed to be weird? Ugh. Talk about pressure.
As kindergarten loomed over our heads in 2012, we met a few other families who homeschooled while living the road, which we refer to as “roadschool”. I remember meeting Rich and Eleanor of Airstream Life Magazine in Tucson, Arizona and thinking how well spoken and mannered their child Emma was. We also met another awesome family, The Bare Naked Family, with their three kids in Astoria, Oregon. Their kids were teenagers at the time and instead of throwing attitude or locking themselves in their rooms, they chose to play with our young kids and they also chose to join our adult conversations. It amazed us how well-adjusted, social and adaptable all these roadschooled children were. How becoming friends with someone didn’t depend if they were your same age. How their parents were always around to guide them to making better decisions in their lives. But most of all… how kind and well-rounded they were. It gave us a glimpse into how WE wanted OUR children to be.These two families unknowingly helped guide us to where we are today and we will be forever grateful for it.
The last push we needed to choose roadschool over traditional school, was a little bit of ‘being in the right place at the right time’. Dan typed the phrase “homeschool in Ventura, California” into google one day just to see what would come up in our old hometown. And low and behold, a local charter school was holding a homeschool open house and we immediately signed up for it. The charter school was located in our former hometown and had a publicly funded homeschool program that assigned an accredited teacher to each student and also provided publicly funded school materials. What we ultimately decided on was to continue our travels and ease into roadschooling by joining this charter school. This choice allowed us to have a professional to guide us on our journey. We met with her every twenty days via video chat to discuss our child’s progress. This worked great for us at the beginning when we were a little unsure of ourselves. After a few years, our confidence grew but the school started requiring more paperwork, in-person student testing for funding reasons and getting our school supplies was a big pain because of delays and shipping. So we decided to veer out on our own.
In California, you can declare yourself a private school via an affidavit. It is an easy process you do yearly that involves filling out an online form with some personal information and checkboxes regarding your intent. That’s what we’ve been doing since the 2015-16 school year for our kids.
So now that we are on our own instead of with a charter school, what’s different? Well, two things.
First, instead of getting school supplies from the state, we now pay for them out of pocket. Every year our supplies look a little different but for the most part they include: workbooks, textbooks, reference materials (like maps and subject-specific encyclopedias), journals, art supplies, apps, books (mostly electronic), online resources, yearly passes (like from museums or national parks) and resources we find from our full-time travels. Here’s a link to some of these things in our Amazon shop.
Another thing that’s different… now that we are our own declared private school… is we don’t have a teacher to speak to if we have questions. But these days, we have enough confidence in roadschooling that it is not an issue for us. And since this gets asked a lot… how do we make sure they are on track for their age?… well, we buy grade appropriate workbooks. This gives us an idea of what other kids their age are learning in a classroom setting. And you know what? They are at the levels they are supposed to be at or beyond.
Pros and Cons
The biggest pro for us is that we get to customize our child’s education based on their abilities and interests and foster a positive learning environment. It allows us to focus on subjects that our kids are really into at the moment, like space science or digital art. It also allows us to slow down to spend extra time on harder subjects like with long division or speed up things that the kids already know.
Other pros we’ve found is that our kids don’t have to deal with drama or bullying on a daily basis. No, they aren’t sheltered from it. They are exposed to it during visits to playgrounds or playdates with new and old friends but don’t have it as a part of their daily lives.
Which brings us to another pro, being able to guide them towards positive influences and away from negative ones. We are also with them to answer questions right away. Whether it’s about school or social issues or whatever. Their questions and issues are dealt with right away or close to it, instead of them simmering all day.
So this roadschool thing can’t be 100% awesome all the time. So of course, there are cons. But they aren’t things that are deal breakers nor do they make us consider stopping our full-time travel lifestyle.
Some of the cons for us are our off days. On random days we will have a kid or a teacher (uhm) that are in a bad mood or unmotivated for one reason or another and those days can be tough. But in this lifestyle, who says you can’t take that Wednesday off and reschedule the school day for a Saturday. Problem solved.
Our kids have only been homeschooled/roadschooled so they don’t crave a learning environment with peers like they used to have when they lived in a sticks and bricks home. But we know of some kids that transitioned from public school to roadschool and then realized that they enjoy being in classes with other kids. So to deal with that issue, our friend’s enrolled their kids in online weekly classes with other kids and it made a difference in continuing to foster a positive learning environment. Another problem solved. It just takes some creativity.
So that’s our story on how we got into roadschooling with some thoughts on the pros and cons that go along with it. It was a little bit of a roller coaster ride in the beginning to figure it all out and gain confidence in ourselves but at the end of the day we realized that we cared deeply for our children and their education and it was well worth a shot.
I hope that helped some of you understand how we got here. In the following roadschool blogs and videos, I will dive deeply into exactly what we use in regards to school supplies, how we obtain them while constantly on the move, our method of homeschooling, the importance of incorporating the national park system, and how much time we actually spend schooling in a day.