Kindergarten on the road.

One of the more significant tasks we are taking on during this trip is homeschooling our own little kindergartner. Ava is now 5-years old and will officially start kindergarten in the fall. We began researching different types of homeschooling programs when we decided to go back on the road and were really lucky to find a great program for newbies like us at Ventura Charter School.

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Ava’s first-ever set of official school books.

The decision for us to travel and work full time on the road is something that intrigues a lot of our friends and family. Some of them are envious of our decision and are very encouraging, some of them think we are more than a little crazy and I think there are a few that think we are throwing away our lives and might actually hold disdain for what we do. And for those that do, I don’t really fault them for it. It certainly isn’t right for everyone. We just think it is right for us.

Clearly this lifestyle does not fit into the status quo of a traditional American family. We are suppose to both work a 9 to 5 job and take our little kids to daycare and the big ones to public school. In return, we get the security of a steady paycheck and health insurance coverage while we spend a few hours a day after work with our kids. And only once we reached the ripe old retirement age of 65, are we supposed to buy an RV and roam aimlessly sans children. Believe me, there are moments when I think that feeling of security is exactly what I want, or worse yet, need. Luckily for me, those moments never last very long.

When the topic of home schooling comes up, most people seem to have very strong feelings about it. I think one’s perception of home schooling comes from the homeschooled kids they’ve encountered in their personal lives. We fortunately have come across some of the brightest and most well-behaved homeschoolers during our times on and off the road. We have received some very good advice on how we might pursue homeschooling ourselves when that time come. And that time is here.

A few months go, we attended an open house put together by Ventura Charter School. They are part of a local public school system in the Ventura County School District and offer a pretty unique style of homeschooling for those interested. Since it is technically a public school, it is funded by the school system. We receive materials provided by them as well as a credentialed teacher who will be supervising Ava’s progress.

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Our daily activity log sheet to help us stay on top of her school work.

In the homeschooling community, there is a popular and controversial style of learning referred to as ‘unschooling’. It is the philosophy that kids learn naturally through their life experiences. Although there will be inevitably a lot of ‘unschooling’ that will happen during our travels, we will also be incorporating a lot of traditional methods to complement her kindergarten education. The Ventura Charter School program will provide us with all of the course materials as we need them as well as helping us along the way in making sure Ava is meeting or exceeding her expected milestones.

With modern technology like wireless Internet, e-books and mobile apps, homeschooling has reached a level never seen before. Every month, Ava will meet with her teacher via Skype to talk about what she is learning. We are expected to log and submit samples of her work weekly either by postal or digital mail. The school provides traditional learning materials like workbooks and other learning supplies but we will getting a lot of her materials digitally to make learning while traveling easier. Access to various e-learning Websites and iPad apps will keep her challenged and stimulated while hands-on activities at each and every travel stop will put those newly acquired skills to practical use.

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We are definitely not yet experts on homeschooling. But we do know that we are excited about the opportunity for her to learn about the world while she is seeing and living in it. She will have opportunities to learn about the transcontinental railroad while traveling through the mountains of Utah. She will learn about the life of the Lakota People while driving through the Black Hills of South Dakota. She will get to run down the same hills with arms raised to her sides where Orville and Wilbur Wright took their first human flight in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We may not be the best teachers she will ever have but at least we will be endowed with the best materials and classroom we can possibly hope for.

As we gain more experience with homeschooling our kindergartner on the road, we hope to be documenting and sharing our experiences on this blog. I hope our experiences will be exceedingly positive and maybe even inspire some other families who might be contemplating this lifestyle to take the plunge.

over and out,
dan

  • Roxanne

    Wow! What an awesome experience that Ava will get to have for her Kinder year. You can only learn so much sitting in a classroom, with a textbook open. I know my soon to be 1st grader, loves a challenge and is quite bored in the classroom. She would love the opportunity, to learn and have hands on experience while seeing the country. Good for you guys, that you have the chance to get out and “see” the world! If I were given the opportunity, I would run with it because life changes and one never knows what “tomorrow” may bring. Happy and safe travels to all 5 of you. We are envious that you get to travel around the United States. ENJOY the experience.

  • gayle cooper

    How exciting for your whole family to share in Ava’s schooling! I like to call it family schooling — because it’s the family that supports it rather than the home, but just a minor semantics point. You know, there are associations that support home schooling and lots of families online doing this, and they network and meet up, too! It would be fun for Ava to have some online homeschool on-the-road friends to email and print out their messages in enlarged type and keep a scrapbook of her on-the-road friends! Just focus on the love, not on “the right”! Happy learning, Ava!

  • gayle cooper

    Here I am again! I am so enchanted by your plans, that I am back to suggest http://www.familiesontheroad.com

    Click “roadschooling section”

    I home schooled my son back in 1974 when he was in 2nd grade and we were in Saudi Arabia. There were no homeschool curriculums. I had to buy correspondence school curriculum, which was really fine, but the teacher was not really so much me. And when we went to the American Embassy for a curriculum, they told us in no uncertain terms, “There is no AMERICAN CURRICULUM. You have to BUY something.” And so I did, and my son has fond memories of the experience. Camels trotting by, et al.

  • LG

    What an exciting time for your family. I will share with you a couple of links of home-schooling, full-timing families. They have very conservative values, but I find them fascinating. http://www.wechoosethislife.com/ and http://ticknortribe.com/ are two that I read regularly. The Ticknors really espouse the Junior Ranger program at National Park District sites. They seem to have a ball with it.

    Wishing you much happiness! LG

  • jerry

    Two of the most brilliant kids I know were home-schooled,
    they are now excelling in college with honors. It will be great for them.

  • WOW! Thanks everyone for the encouraging words and advice!!! Ava is super excited to become a kindergartner and to start her cross-country adventure. And I am excited to become “Teacher Marlene” instead of “Mama” for a few hours a week 🙂

  • Julie

    My husband and I admire you and your family. We are open minded to understand how life is changing and it is possible for our children to learn outside of a classroom and more. We are now pursueing a park mobile for the weekends but have also considered our 9 to 5 and how much time we are away from the entire family, so I could understand the envy among others when we speak of experiencing the travels and considering homeschooling. In this age of time, people forgot what it was like to let go and be free.