If you would have asked me a year ago if I would ever homeschool my kids, I would have said that question must have been intended for someone else ’cause you surely weren’t talking to me. Yet here we are, homeschooling our boys full-time. And not only are we homeschooling, but our spontaneity led us to kick off our fall semester on the road. #schoolfromhabitat
One thing I can tell you is that it’s that the reality of mobile schooling will not set in until you’re living it. As we wind down our trip and reflect on everything we’ve learned, I’ve compiled three main takeaways I would share with other families looking to adventure while schooling.
DEVISE A PLAN WITH FLEXIBILITY IN MIND
My wife Alex and I are a bit obsessed with organization. Before this trip was even planned, we had all our homeschooling materials organized at home, along with all the corresponding supplies we knew we’d use consistently. All of that went right out the window once we decided to travel for a month. We knew that having a strategy would obviously be useful, but there was no way it was going to be perfect with so many unknown variables.
At that point, we mapped out our general lessons and made some milestones of where each boy ideally needed to be by the time we returned and then packed materials and supplies accordingly. When it came to packing said supplies, we really appreciated the expanded storage in the 2021 Mantis. We devoted a crate to everything school-related which allowed us to have a dedicated location, made it easy to access so both ourselves and the kids could grab the goods when necessary.
Our official first day of school was chaotic to say the least. Juggling two full-time jobs and homeschooling all at once was a lot to handle, but we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. For the first week, we constantly felt like we weren’t doing enough. It wasn’t until both boys independently started sharing little thoughts and ideas around what they were learning with us organically that we realized, maybe we didn’t need to push as hard as we thought. Giving them room to breathe each day and allowing plenty of time for imaginative play has really been a win for them. As much as we felt we should have done “more” to prepare or add more structure, the proof was in the results; the boys were happy and both were learning.
DON’T LET INTIMIDATION KEEP YOU FROM GREAT MEMORIES
Here’s the real talk. If we would have taken every piece of advice to heart, this trip would have never happened. We would have overthought every single element and just abandoned the idea altogether. The reality is, we did nearly toss the entire idea aside a couple of times, but thankfully, we persevered.
I have seen a TON of posts, Instagram ads, and blogs telling you a million things you need to buy to successfully school from home as well as all the things you “have” to do. That’s garbage. I firmly believe you can utilize great free resources, online or elsewhere, to help develop curriculum, get ideas for special projects, and everything in between. I’m not saying that you can’t utilize purchasable resources. We made the conscious decision to use Calvert homeschooling materials because we liked having a base curriculum, but we dictated the pace as well as chose to focus supplemental learning in areas that were important to our family.
Although having access to so many great resources online can be a blessing, don’t let yourself get so overwhelmed that you find yourself abandoning opportunity.
BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN EXPERIENCES & LESSONS
We all want what’s best for our kids. However, I think we parents can easily fall into the trap of pursuing exceptional education that we deemphasize the importance of our kids just experiencing life. I will admit this is especially hard for me because I like structure and routine. The great thing about a trip like this is it breaks up your family routine so much it forces you to almost not have any routine at all. And honestly, it was exactly what I needed to give my perspective a refresh.
Alex and I began to look for ways to connect the core learnings the boys were focused on with things we encountered along our travels. Some instances were straight forward, like when discussing living and nonliving things in Science, the boys ventured off into the desert and brought me examples of each. While other cases were a bit more of a happy coincidence, like Alex introducing the boys to Native American tribes in History/Geography that once inhabited lands that we were traveling through. Just yesterday, Henley, our oldest, was working on a handwriting exercise that involved him writing out facts about Zion National Park (the most recent National Park we visited).
The possibilities of connecting traditional lessons to real-world experiences truly are endless and are some of the most meaningful moments we can give our children.
None of this would have been possible without the Mantis. Having a habitat that isn’t a hassle to tow and gives us all the comforts we need allowed us to say “yes” as much as possible. Our boys have seen and experienced more in 30 days than in their whole (albeit short) lives, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this will undoubtedly be a time they never forget.