The United States is a beautiful place from sea to shining sea. From the warm and sunny beaches of South Florida to the cold and dark yet shockingly beautiful Ape Caves in Washington state, there’s a vast array of breathtaking sights.
Naturally, human beings are curious creatures, and the allure of exciting new destinations leads to a yearning for a life on the road for many. As a result, the full-time RVing lifestyle was born.
While the RV life is an exciting one, it’s a major lifestyle change for families with school-age children, and it requires careful consideration, including whether or not it’s worth home-schooling your children. After all, if you live in California one day and the next week your home base is suddenly Georgia, driving to a traditional school is simply out of the question. Full-time RVers with school-age children have to make special considerations to ensure their children receive the education they deserve.
Road-Schooling Your Kids When RVing Full Time
Road-schooling comes with many benefits. After all, when you travel with your children, you don’t just teach them about meaningful landmarks across the United States. You show them the landmarks.
When you teach your children about Abraham Lincoln, you can take them to the Lincoln Memorial, where they can interact with what they’re learning. Ultimately, teaching on the road gives the teacher educational tools you simply can’t fit into a classroom.
On the other hand, according to Wise Geek, only about 2% of the American population are professional teachers. So if you’re considering full-time RV living, chances are you’re one of the other 98%, which poses its own challenges to your children’s education.
When transitioning to home schooling, there’s a learning curve for both the student and the newly appointed teacher. That learning curve can be exaggerated when adding in the curveball of bouncing around in RV parks.
But preparing early, ensuring you have the right technology, and reeducating yourself can significantly reduce this learning curve and likely lead to a smoother transition and enjoyable experience.
Your Home School Legal & Ethical Obligations
Before you decide to RV full-time and road-school your children, it’s crucial you consider the weight of the decision you’re making. Your child’s education can make the difference between them living a rich and fulfilling lifestyle or having to struggle up to and through retirement.
Providing a quality education is so essential it’s both an ethical and legal obligation. As is the case with many topics, the laws surrounding home-schooling children vary from state to state. Even when you RV full time, you must choose one state to call your home base and abide by that state’s laws. Every state has its own residency requirements, most of which require you to live in the state for a predetermined number of months before applying for residency. However, many full-time RVers choose a state where a friend or family member resides so they can receive mail and use the address to claim residency.
Some states, like Idaho, Texas, and Oklahoma, have very relaxed laws surrounding home schooling children. In contrast, states like Vermont, Pennsylvania, and New York have stringent regulations surrounding the home-schooling process.
In particular, you must determine whether your state has any or a mix of the following legal requirements:
- Required Notification. In many states, parents must notify their school board of a shift to home schooling. In some cases, that may be as simple as a phone call and email. However, in some strict states, you must submit a plan for home schooling your children and receive approval from the state before transitioning to home schooling.
- Teacher Qualifications. In some states, parents must meet specific requirements to teach their children at home. For example, in Pennsylvania, if you choose to home-school in the traditional sense, you must have a high school diploma. If not, your child must have access to a tutor (whose qualification requirements are determined by state mandates.), enroll in a satellite of a religious day school, or enroll in a satellite of an accredited school or boarding school.
- State-Mandated Subjects. The vast majority of states across the country have specific state-mandated subjects you must teach your children. For example, if your home base is Texas, you must teach your children math, reading, spelling and grammar, and good citizenship.
- Assessment Requirements. Some states have assessment requirements that require you to be in the state at certain times for your children to take supervised assessment tests. It is vital you determine whether your child must be present for these tests and plan your ultimate road trip accordingly.
To get a more detailed understanding of your state’s laws, visit the Home School Legal Defense Association’s website and click your state on the map. That will direct you to a page that outlines your state’s legal requirements surrounding home schooling.
Your Options for Home-School Strategies
As is the case with legal requirements, your options regarding how you can home-school or road-school your children vary from state to state. But in general, you have three categories of options:
- Traditional Home-Schooling. Traditional home-schooling is simply teaching your child at home. You come up with the lesson plans and tests or buy them online. It is up to you to walk your child through the lesson plans and teach them accordingly. In this option, the state is somewhat involved in the schooling of your children. For example, Florida offers an online platform that explains what your child should be learning and provides resources to help you along your educational journey.
- Virtual Schooling. The COVID-19 pandemic has given way to a new type of home schooling — virtual school. Virtual school brings the classroom to your computer, using tools like Zoom meetings to provide a platform for teacher-student interaction. In this option, the teacher is a traditional teacher who follows a traditional curriculum rather than the home-school curriculum. While it’s an efficient option, some states require children to be in school on some days for state-required assessments. So you need to know when these assessments take place and plan accordingly. Also, when the pandemic is over, this resource-intensive schooling opportunity may no longer be an option. As a result, virtual school may be a short-term solution.
- A Complete Withdrawal From the School System. You may also have the option to withdraw from the school system completely. That means you must develop your own lesson plans and choose what and how to teach your children. But there will be no state intervention in the education of your children whatsoever. However, even if you withdraw completely (in states where this option is available), it’s critical you keep detailed records of the education you’re providing. Most states, even those with comparatively lax regulations, require records to prove you’re teaching your children. In most states, officials can request these records at any time to prove your child is receiving an adequate education. A good rule of thumb is to keep all completed work and notes of field trips and other educational activities for a minimum of two years.
Pandemic-Related Road-Schooling Considerations
The pandemic has led to significant lifestyle changes for the masses. Due to shutdowns and business closures, many have decided to travel in search of work. Moreover, living in a motorhome or camper can be far less expensive than living in a brick-and-mortar home, especially if you’re camping in low-cost state and national parks rather than high-end RV parks. As a result, many have turned to full-time RVing in response to hardships created by the pandemic.
In these instances, most parents are road schooling via the virtual schooling method. However, there are special considerations for children participating in COVID-19-related virtual school while on the road full-time.
- In-School Testing. While the vast majority of virtual schooling happens online in video meetings, there are some tests most children must return to school for. It’s essential you know when these are and plan your family travel around these times.
- Required Online Meetings. Virtual schooling generally requires children to take part in multiple daily online meetings. As a result, you must adhere to a strict schedule, ensuring your child’s attendance doesn’t falter.
- Time Limits. Your child must turn in some of the schoolwork the teacher assigned to them on specific days and by specific times. Keep track of the schoolwork schedule to ensure your children get the credit they deserve for the work they’ve done.
Over time, processes evolve. Over the past several years, there has been a significant evolution in the way teachers teach. In the past, learning was pretty much a memory exercise. By studying in repetition, students would work their ways to straight A’s.
Today, the U.S. is shifting to the Common Core learning method. According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, 41 states have adopted Common Core standards in their teaching practices.
The idea of Common Core completely flips the repetitive memory idea on its head. Instead of 4 times 2 simply being 8, students learn to group sets of numbers to understand why 4 times 2 is 8. There’s a big debate about whether that’s the best way to teach, but regardless of the debate, Common Core standards seem to be the way of the future.
So road-schooling teachers must understand how regulators want them to learn. While these new teaching methods will likely be confusing at first, once you understand the basic concept, it makes a lot of sense. And you may even appreciate the detailed learning opportunities Common Core provides.
To familiarize yourself with Common Core, visit CoreStandards.org.
Socialization Is a Significant Factor in Home Schooling
A critical part of school is making new friends. School isn’t just where you learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. School is also a social training ground, allowing children to develop the social skills to drive their future success.
When home-schooling, ensure your children have social lives. With traditional home-schooling, you have options like sports teams, rotary clubs, and scouts. But when you’re on the road, those options are unavailable.
To make sure your child has a social life during full-time travel, you have to get creative.
- Take Part in RV Park-Planned Gatherings. Many RV parks have weekly potlucks or other events designed to bring those within the RV full-timing community together. Take part in these activities to add a social spin to the experience.
- Plan to Travel With Friends. As you travel, you will meet plenty of people, often making friends across the country. Some of these friends will be full-time RVers, and others will travel occasionally. However, by keeping in touch with them, you can plan trips together during which your children have the opportunity to make long-term friendships with familiar faces, even while traveling full time.
- Social Media. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become overwhelmingly popular. Just about everyone uses them. Encourage your children to use social media to keep in touch with friends from home. Not only does it help to sharpen relationship-building and -maintenance skills, but it also helps with reading and writing. However, if you take advantage of this option, educate yourself on the dangers social media poses to children and take the time to educate your children on safe social media use.
- Play Places. There are tons of indoor activity centers across the country where you can take young children to socialize. Moreover, they’re relatively inexpensive, usually charging $5 or $10 per hour to allow your children to run around with others of a similar age through obstacle courses and down slides. By connecting with the parents of children, your children meet at these indoor playgrounds, and the adults can plan for revisits, allowing your children to see their old friends later in your RVing journey.
Technology That’s an Absolute Must for the Road-School Life
If you’ve decided you’re going to hit the road with your school-age children, there are a few pieces of technology you need for your road-schooling activities to be successful.
- A Computer. Computers are handy, not only for your children but for you as their teacher. “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” swept the nation, showing people that even if you’re college-educated, you lose a lot of that knowledge along the way. There will be times that you need to research things you may have forgotten to ensure you’re teaching your child properly.
- Satellite Internet. Most upscale RV parks offer some Internet service. However, this Internet service tends to be weak and unreliable. Moreover, the hotspot on your cellphone only works with strong cell coverage, and when you travel, you quickly realize cell coverage isn’t a luxury granted to everyone. A satellite Internet system for an RV can cost from $350 to $3,000, but even the systems on the lower end of that spectrum work just fine. Satellite Internet services used to be very costly on a monthly basis, but with the spread of cell network availability, those costs are drastically lower. Today, satellite Internet is slightly more expensive than home Internet services but definitely won’t break the bank.
- A Tablet. When doing schoolwork, your children must work out math problems. An RV is a relatively small space, and you don’t want to clutter it up with paper notes. A tablet and stylus can provide all your children need to work out complex math problems and other schoolwork to solve this problem. You can also download educational games on the tablet. They give your children a break from the monotony while keeping their minds engaged.
Take Advantage of Everything RVing Has to Offer
Some of the most memorable educational experiences most people have are field trips. Kids love to break free from the classroom and learn in new and exciting ways. When you’re a full-time RVer, you’re living on one big field trip.
There are 421 national parks and 10,234 state parks across the country. Each of them comes with unique educational opportunities. For example, in Georgia, you’ll find Stone Mountain, where children can learn about the Civil War and social equality. The best part is that it is very inexpensive to take advantage of these resources. You can buy the America the Beautiful annual pass for just $80, which gives you uninterrupted access to every national park in the United States for a full year. Also, as part of the Every Kid Outdoors program, children in fourth grade get free access to national parks for the entire school year. Many state parks have similar programs, and the vast majority of them are inexpensive, even on a daily-use basis.
Outside state and national parks, the U.S. has 35,144 museums covering topics ranging from biography to martial arts, espionage, aviation, and humanity. You’ll also find other educational destinations, like planetariums, terrariums, and zoos.
Teaching doesn’t always have to include a pencil and paper. Sometimes, the best learning opportunities are also some of the most fun experiences of your life.
Stick to a Schedule
The full-time RV lifestyle is often one that’s lived on a whim. However, when you’re road-schooling, you must trade the on-a-whim lifestyle for one with more structure.
Children learn better when they know what to expect when. Ultimately, a schedule is one of the most vital strategic advantages you can give your child. Make sure you have a consistently scheduled time when typical schooling activities take place, Monday through Friday:
- School Begins. Start school at the same time every day.
- Subject Rotation. Keep the subject rotation consistent. For example, Math may be from 8:30am to 9:30am every day, followed by science from 9:30am to 10:30am.
- Lunch. Lunch provides a meaningful break that not only leads to physical nourishment but allows your children the opportunity to digest what they’ve learned throughout the day. Take this break at the same time every day.
- Testing. Tests let you assess your children’s comprehension of the topics you’re covering. And if your children know tests are coming at 2pm every Friday, they’re more likely to apply themselves and ensure they hold onto the information you’re providing them with.
Consider Paid Home-Schooling Tools
There are several online tools for home schooling that work great for road schooling. While the vast majority of them are paid services, they provide quality content designed to engage and teach children in a way that sticks. Two of the best of these programs include:
- Time4Learning. Time4Learning was essentially designed as a virtual school. The program comes with a full curriculum that keeps your children’s education on pace with the education they would receive from a traditional school. The platform keeps all records of work done, and it lets you export all the work for your records if you decide to cancel service. Time4Learning charges $19.95 per month for children in grades K-8. For high school learners, the price is $30 per month.
- ABCmouse. ABCmouse is more of a supplemental learning tool. This learning application is for children in grades two through eight and provides intuitive games that make learning fun. The first month of ABCmouse is free. After the first month, you pay $9.95 per family with up to three children.
Full-time RVing is the adventure of a lifetime. Everyone knows the United States is a beautiful country, but you’ll never get a real understanding of that beauty until you see it firsthand. That’s what the RV life provides.
However, with school-age children, road schooling is an important topic if you’d like to become a full-time RVer. While there’s a bit of an initial learning curve, road school offers a wide array of learning opportunities that traditional school settings simply don’t provide.
With a little bit of early preparation, a small investment in the necessary technology, and a willingness to reeducate yourself based on the new teaching methods, road schooling could prove to be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Is road schooling right for you? What exciting places and events do you want your kids to learn about on the road?