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School on Wheels: Roadschooling for RVers

The call of the open road can be loud.... but so can the tardy bell at the local elementary school. What if you've decided to travel the country on a full-time or part-time basis in an RV, but still feel trapped by the public school calendar? Take school on the road! 

We’ve been able to meet so many amazing families who homeschool from the road. The school day looks a little different for each family, with different types of curriculum, different needs for their children, and different priorities at different ages and phases of life.  I have spoken with families choosing  co-op schooling, “unschooling,”, Montessori learning, and some who enroll in local public schools where they are seasonally traveling and then move on to another a few months later. As a former elementary school teacher, I see value in every style, as their child’s educational needs are typically front and center when decisions are made.  

RV Organization for the New Year (4)

Meet Leslie Stranathan from Elementary Explorers. She and her husband Peter live in a Winnebago Minnie 2455 Bunkhouse travel trailer with their two adorable kids, Josiah and Eleanor. I was lucky enough to meet the Stranathan family in Tampa at the RV Supershow when they stopped by our booth, and it was truly a treat to spend time with these incredible kids. Their family had just crushed their goal of visiting all fifty states after finally checking that pesky ol Hawaii off the list a few weeks prior.   Every member of this family exudes happiness, and it was downright contagious!  As a family, they make fantastic educational videos about family-friendly travel destinations everywhere they roam.  I interviewed Leslie and picked her brain about how her family's life on the road enhances the educational experience for her children. Enjoy!


Emily: When getting started with roadschooling, were you nervous jumping in?

Leslie: I think anytime you try something new, it’s normal to feel nervous! And I certainly was! Homeschooling was not something we planned on doing, but neither was traveling in an RV! We take it one day at a time, and are constantly learning and growing.  We've been homeschooling since preschool!

Emily: What’s it like to homeschool while living in your RV full-time?
Leslie:: Our school day is really no different than homeschooling at home… except for that now our backyard is always changing so we always have a new environment to explore. National parks are one of our favorite places to learn - and we are making a point of seeing as many of those sites as we can! Science museums, zoos, aquariums, and adventures in nature are so unique everywhere we go!
Emily: How does your travel influence your school experience?
Leslie: As often as we can, I incorporate the places we travel into our learning. Our geography focuses on the state we are currently traveling through - and we study state symbols, state animals, state flowers and trees and do our best to find them! We also have visited many state Capitol buildings (they give great free tours that focus on the history of the state)! When we were last in Florida, our kids did a large science chemistry project about salinity in water. We also did a research project about the manatee, and ended our studies by swimming with them!
Emily: How do the kids feel about having their school on wheels?
Leslie: They love it!!! My son was 9 when we began this journey (he is 14 now) and he adores learning through travel. He often plans places to go and is inspired by things we learn through travel. My daughter is more of a homebody, so having her whole home (and all her stuffed animals) with her as we travel gives her security. She loves having a new backyard every week to play in. 
My kids have had the opportunity to go to space camp in Alabama, fly in a helicopter above an active volcano in Hawaii, watch a mama and baby moose grazing outside the RV window, hike to a glacier lake, and learn from so many people that are passionate about what they do. Their school day typically consists of book work in the morning - math and language arts - and exploring in the afternoon. Our afternoon exploring lends itself to our history, geography, science, and art projects that we complete in the evening.
Emily: What helps you be successful in your journey of roadschooling?
Leslie: Flexibility is key! Our schedule is somewhat consistent, but we have to always be open to changes. Sometimes travel days interrupt our routine, or we switch up our day and do school in the evenings so we can get to an early morning excursion. We also read - A LOT. I’m always picking up books for the kids that help them learn more about the area around us. 
Emily: What would you change about your roadschooling routine?
Leslie: When I began schooling the kids I used an individual grade level program for each of them. Now, we use grade level specific math and language arts and elective classes, but do history/science/art/geography together. This one change helped a lot with the amount of time we were needing to spend on each subject! I’ve learned over time that the more time we can spend exploring the more the kids learn! 
Emily: What should someone getting started need to know?
Leslie: Obviously, we love homeschooling. It gives us time together as a family, and a chance to meet our children academically right where they are. They can grow and learn at their own pace. And learning on the road opens up a wealth of opportunities for children. There really is no better way to learn than hands on! Today there are also many options for curriculum choices and field trips and meet ups with other traveling homeschooling families. As a mom, organizing and teaching them each every day does take time and commitment. I’m fortunate that my work obligations allow me the flexibility to teach them. 
Getting to know this breath-of-fresh-air family has been one of the unexpected surprises of venturing out into the RV lifestyle.... and I guess that's kind of the point! Flexibility and an open mind will put the experiences and people in front of you that can give you a world view and depth of experience that would be impossible in a stationary classroom. 
There are, of course, different strokes for different folks! For some, a permanent address and structured school day provides the stability needed for happy, healthy, and successful kids.  For others, it's hitting the road and learning to go with the flow of traffic. I have no idea what I would personally chose should the time come for educational decisions. After spending lots of time at campgrounds and RV parks over the past year and a half of life on the road, one thing is for certain: socialization would certainly not be a problem for road-kids. The amount of lifelong relationships forged, activities planned in every park, exploration with new friends in a new place, and just plain FUN for kids in this lifestyle is inspiring.  So what's your style? 
Are you a sticks-and-bricks school fan or a #roadschool champion? 
We'd love to hear your advice and experience about roadschooling in the comments below! What works for you? What advice would you give to families looking to make the leap to learning on the road? Please consider hitting the Subscribe button in the green box below so you never miss a post!
Happy Travels!
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