A Complete Guide to Homeschooling & Roadschooling K-12

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Why Did We Start Homeschooling?

When our children were born we didn’t immediately think about their schooling. That’s years from now, right? We just read lots of books and played.

Reading books together- it's what we did.

Reading books together- it’s what we did. Yea, Elmo. Don’t judge.

Friends of ours had boys a few years older than our children and were homeschooling. When my kids were barely out of diapers I went to one of their meetings. The moms there talked about their successes and struggles. They organized field trips. They prayed for each other. I enjoyed it so kept attending.

Reading books alone - it's what we did. Even when almost asleep.

Reading books alone in daddy’s chair. Even when almost asleep.

When Harrison turned 5, we thought, “How hard can it be to homeschool Kindergarten?” He was already reading and could do some basic math. He and Miranda loved re-enacting what we read about or what we experienced on our field trips. I had the support of the other homeschooling moms to draw on if I felt challenged.

So we kept them home for Kindergarten. At the end of the year we asked ourselves “Should we keep doing this?

Yep.

We kept asking that question each year.

The answer each year was yes.

What Curriculum Do You Use?

This question comes up a lot. The answer isn’t a quick one, so we’ll outline it below and then link you off to Resource pages for specifics.

Elementary School Years

During the elementary school years I had an eclectic approach. I dabbled in several formal programs and we read a lot of library books. My children had different strengths when it came to math and writing so I tailored subjects to suit each kid. 

Helping Daddy in the garage.

“Helping” Daddy in the garage counted as science. Weird science, but still.

We added “Daddy Time” in the garage, on the snow-hills, or on the bike paths. We also found local programs to tap into like gym class for homeschoolers at the local college or a 4H program where Miranda worked with miniature horses.

Suburban Sheep Shirt

Suburban Sheep Shirt If you have the same slightly sarcastic sense of humor as we do this may be the shirt for you. This design is both a commentary on suburban living and a declaration of your intent to leave it.

Styles available: t-Shirts,and hoodies.
Colors available: black, royal blue, navy blue.

But basically?

We learned together. And read together. Went on “field trips” together. And played together.

4H - miniature horses.

4H - Not with giant girls but with miniature horses.

Visit the Resources section for details and links to all of the elementary-aged homeschool curricula we’ve used.

Middle School Years

When the kids entered the middle school years we got more structured in our schooling. In addition to teaching the kids at home, I hired a tutor to encourage our reluctant writer and our prolific writer.

Creating a water fountain in the back yard.

Creating a water fountain in the back yard. Or a backwash collection system, we were never quite clear.

I also enrolled my children in Friday Addition - a one day a week program where the kids attended classes on those “additional” topics I may not cover at home (i.e. art, music, drama, Spanish, gym)

The school year before we began traveling was our most structured year.

Never too old to read with Daddy.

Never too old to read with Daddy. Or play with his new iPhone, but we’re going with reading.

I felt like I finally had the hang of this homeschooling thing.

And then?

We cooked up this crazy plan to take a year traveling the country.

Visit our Resources section for details and links to all of the homeschool curricula for middle-schoolers we’ve used.

Our One Year Road Trip

The summer before we left on our one year adventure was crazy-busy with preparations. We had to shop for, buy and prep a new truck and a new (used) RV. We had to find someone to live in our house and get that arranged. We had to change insurance.

The week before we left, I freaked. I didn’t have anything finalized for the upcoming school year. Mike looked me in the eyes and calmly told me to “let it go”.

I don’t want to be sitting outside of Yosemite and having to wait for the kids to finish up their workbook pages.Mike

So we left with multiple stacks of books, paper, and pencils/pens/markers. No textbooks. No schedules.

No plan.

For the first few weeks we were all getting used to traveling and living in this small space.
About a month into the trip I became unsettled again. Without a schedule or textbooks, I felt my kids were not learning anything. I felt we needed to get more structured.

Learning about sundials (and adding drama for photos) in Richmond, VA

Learning about sundials (and dramatic poses) in Richmond, VA

I put together a plan. It lasted a week. I was frustrated.

At this point, Harrison put things into perspective for me. He reminded me that he and Miranda were learning.

He said history lessons came from:

and science lessons came from:

and Geography? They were learning that every time we moved the RV.

He was right.

I “let it go” for the next several months. We visited National Parks where Miranda was still young enough to do the Junior Ranger programs.

Miranda takes the Junior Ranger oath.

Miranda takes the Junior Ranger oath. Probably the first one wearing braces.

We visited State and County Parks where we learned about the desert, the ocean, the forests. We visited large cities and experienced public transporation, unique foods, and homelessness.

The kids participated in NaNoWriMo and journaling to keep their writing skills progressing. Somewhere in Arizona I added formal math.

We learned from our travels.

Pit Stop in Suburbia

After our year of traveling we returned to our house for six months to prep it for sale. Switching gears for homeschooling was difficult.

Taking advantage of having room to play music together while back in the house.

Taking advantage of having room to play “music” together while back in the house.

I ordered some science, history and math curriculums even while we were purging a basement full of old curriculum.

Harrison joined a local homeschoolers Journalism class and started a Sports column for the class newspaper.

But overall?

We muddled through without enthusiasm or structure.

Return to the Road

The house sold and we went back to the road fulltime.

Our homeschooling morphed again. It became a combination of formal curriculum and experiences as we traveled.

Miranda dug into her love for the Sonoran desert. Harrison joined another traveling teen and created Lego stop-motion movies.

Surfs up, Dude! Taking surfing lessons in California.

Walk this way! Taking surfing lessons in California.

Both kids took on new physical challenges - mountain biking, hiking, surfing, snorkeling, BMX racing. They both took online classes, meeting kids from all over the world (and remaining friends with some of them).

They watched and listened as the House of Representatives discussed and took vote on a bill. Harrison had his first “real job” and Miranda worked with horses and dogs. They hung out with kids and adults of all ages.

They continued to learn.

Homeschooling while traveling in the USA -  do you follow the laws of the state you are in or the laws of your home state? We contacted all 50 states and compiled their answers into an eBook.

Where We Are Now?

Another four years have gone by since we sold the house. We are in the final phases of our homeschooling journey.

Harrison

Last January we graduated Harrison on his 18th birthday. His final year with me was more formal as he wanted to make sure he was prepared to attend college after a gap year if he chose to.

Harrison the Graduate.

Harrison the graduate. In the most pink shirt ever.

The summer after he graduated he worked part-time at Subway, improving his “life skills” (cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc.) and spending time working on his music. The following fall he moved out on his own.

Miranda

Miranda originally thought she’d like to graduate on her 18th birthday, like her brother did.  She realized a few months ago that she had more she wanted to learn before officially graduating. We’ve pencilled in the end of this year.

Miranda continues to learn through travel.

Miranda still enjoys traveling & the learning that it brings. The workouts stopped soon after this photo.

Miranda does school work most every day. Over the past few months she’s:

  • Finishing up a formal math program
  • Completed a human anatomy course
  • Learning Dutch
  • Teaching herself guitar
  • Editing one novel and writing another
  • Knitting hats, purses, washcloths, and stuffed animals

She’s found ways to learn more about animals. She did an internship at a humane society. She took care of animals at an animal rescue ranch. She worked her first paid job this summer. Her final “year” of homeschooling looks different than Harrison’s did.

The beauty of homeschooling is that it can be tailored to each child.

Visit the Resources section for details and links to all of the high-school homeschool curricula we’ve used.

If I Could Do It Over?

Holy Cow!

I didn’t realize (until writing this article) how many different curriculums we tried. Why did I change them up so often? I’m surprised my poor kids could keep up.

I was probably too busy watching what other homeschooling families used. Or searching for the perfect solution. Or just trying to not screw up my kids.

If I could do it all over again?

If they were this age again? Less structure, more interest-led.

If they were this age again? Less structure, more interest-led.

I would be less structured and less worried about curriculum.

I would follow my kids’ lead and do more Project Based Learning. I would let learning be more organic like it was our first year of traveling.

And we’d hit the road sooner.

You know, for the children.

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12 Comments A Complete Guide to Homeschooling & Roadschooling K-12

  1. Picture of JenniJenni August 18, 2015

    Well, that sounded like the story of our lives too.  Here where we’ve landed in CO I joined a group for homeschoolers on FB.  AT least once a week a mother of very young kids posts an anxiety-laden (in all-caps) shout out wanting to know what is the perfect curriculum and how many hours per day and what should a pre-schooler should know.  And every time at least 25 of us who now have high schoolers weigh in telling her to relax.  Just go to the library, read a lot, explore the excellent parks and historical sites here, do Play-doh and Legos and watch bugs.  Someone probably told me that too.  Why did I not listen?

  2. Picture of Todd PetteeTodd Pettee August 26, 2015

    Thanks for sharing all of your adventures with homeschooling your kids.  It sounds like you did a great job, and your kids will always be grateful for that, I’m sure.

    I’m glad to hear that you feel you should have been “less structured and less worried about curriculum”.

    We’re leaning in that direction as well, and we really feel that, with a little help, they’ll naturally develop the knowledge and skills they need to pursue their own interests.

    I also love the book that you mentioned on Project-Based Homeschooling.

  3. Picture of Crissa BoyinkCrissa Boyink August 27, 2015

    Todd,

    Thanks for commenting. I really wish that I had found the Project-Based Homeschooling book and website earlier in our homeschooling years. As my daughter finishes up her “high schooling” years this next year, we are using that approach a bit more.

  4. Picture of Crissa BoyinkCrissa Boyink August 27, 2015

    Jenni,

    Apparently I didn’t listen to those wise homeschooling moms of teens, either.  ;)

  5. Picture of StefanieStefanie October 26, 2015

    Thank you for the article.  I so appreciate it.  My children, a boy then a girl also,  look the same age as your children probably were in the younger picture you posted of them.  We are gearing up to move into an RV full time within a few months.  As I am naturally a structure person, I’m overwhelmed with providing a “good enough” education for them.  This article was incredibly encouraging.  I will do my best to listen to the wise words of those with older teens!  (I so needed to hear it!) Thank you.

  6. Picture of Danielle TateDanielle Tate May 23, 2016

    . Ah!! Thank you for this post! I am struggling with homeschooling immensely. (Starting K next in the fall). Part of me really wants the organized structure because that is what I need to feel in control (from a standpoint of being on top of what we’re doing not controlling what he does every day). The other half of me wants to just let it all go and wing it. I did buy some curriculum, already but I’m kind of second-guessing myself now.  Lesson learned, I’ll just use what I can and let the rest go

  7. Picture of Melissa MeredithMelissa Meredith February 07, 2017

    Thanks so much for this!  Our kids are 8 and 9 and both rank in the top 5% of kids their age.  We’re in the process of selling everything and we will travel the country in a school bus.  We’re going to unschool but I’m very anxious about it.  I’m mostly concerned about math so it’s a relief to see that your kids learned so many amazing things out in the world but you still incorporated formal math training.

  8. Picture of Crissa BoyinkCrissa Boyink February 08, 2017

    Melissa Meredith - So glad this was helpful. If your children already rank high in their age groups, they will love unschooling.

    When are you planning to join us on the road?

  9. Picture of Melissa MeredithMelissa Meredith February 08, 2017

    Very soon!  Our house will be on the market next week.  We will take off right after close.  :-)  We can’t wait!

  10. Picture of Corrie KnollCorrie Knoll June 28, 2017

    Thank you for your information. My family and I have been discussing going on the road full time and I’m completely overwhelmed. We have four kids (aged 7, 11, 12 and 14) and they’ve all been in traditional public school since they were young. I have no idea where to start with home/road schooling. I don’t feel like I have the organizational skills to actually “teach” them myself, so we’re trying to find something online, but we keep hitting a wall with just finding online schools that are for specific states. Were there online programs that you used? Also, what about a diploma and credits and such that may be needed for college? You say they graduated, but how does that actually translate on paper. Sorry, I know that’s a lot of questions. I feel so lost!

  11. Picture of CrissaCrissa June 29, 2017

    Corrie,
    It can be a challenging moving from traditional schooling to home/roadschooling.

    To start with you will need to know the homeschooling laws in your state of residence. We are residents of Michigan, where the laws are “relaxed.” We just followed our home state’s laws as we travelled.

    When are you planning to launch?

    Be sure to give yourself some grace with this whole thing. There are so many things you all will be learning in your travels that are so much richer than a textbook.

    Regarding online programs: I’m not much help. We did plug into one online program for science classes that was free. They offered multiple class times so my kids could attend different sessions so we could still explore.

    I do collect articles on Pinterest about how other families homeschool while traveling. Maybe you can find some inspiration there.
           
    https://www.pinterest.com/ditchsuburbia/homeschooling-roadschooling-worldschooling/

    Also, I’m willing to chat with you via email or phone to help you think through it.

  12. Picture of Pam DooleyPam Dooley June 29, 2017

    I teach for k12 which is a nationwide online school. You can sign your kids up for a full curriculum or only a couple of classes (formal math, for example). Some states will even pay for it. A great resource with live teachers to help when needed.

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