Roadschooling and Relationships

Is it possible to have a productive day homeschooling on the road, even if you are not following your normal routine?  And is taking a day out of the schedule worth it?

If you follow the Humility and Doxology facebook page, you may have seen that last week I took the kids on a day trip to visit my old friend and her new baby.  My friend recently moved from a town 11 hours away to one in an adjacent state merely 3 hours away.  That’s a difficult, but do-able, day trip.

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Our Roadschool Experience

Our family tries to emphasize consistent persistence in our weekly school life.  We do not follow a strict schedule, but we do have a fairly standard routine.  Assignments given are expected to be completed, barring some unforeseen circumstance.

One of the benefits of consistency, especially consistency at the beginning of the year, is that you begin to have more flexibility towards the end of the school year.  I always plan a bit less than will fit into the full “school year,” so if we have worked diligently up until spring, we often have much less work to fit into those final weeks.

This is similar to the advice that you should never create a plan that takes up 100% of your day; always leave 20% to 30% empty space!  This gives you breathing room for those times when the toddler has an accident, the dishwasher dies, or someone gets sick.

Our consistency in the fall gave us the freedom to take a travel day now in the spring.  But even if roadschooling is a part of your family’s regular routine (due to work, traveling for sports, etc), you can still find many creative ways to make it work for you!

My dad traveled a lot for his work when I was homeschooled, and we would often bring our work along in the car.  We got to spend time together, keep up with our school, and explore unique places while he worked.

Our roadschooling this week posed a bit of a challenge since I have some children who get car sick while reading and some while writing.  But here is all we still accomplished by the time we came home:

What we learned

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The final disc of the book 1 audiobook was all that remained, and we enjoyed listening to that to kick off our trip!

Beatrix Potter audiobook

Next, I faded the speakers to the far back of the van so the younger girls could listen to Beatrix Potter stories while the older 2 did their own independent reading.

Explorers Who Got Lost

My daughter read her assigned pages for history, but what she really wanted to focus on was finishing her reading of book 3 and 4 from:

The Giver Quartet

Doctor Faustus

Meanwhile, my 7th grader read all of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.  Unfortunately, I had not taken the time to read it again myself beforehand.  I could not remember many of the specifics, and was concerned that what I did remember might be from the Goethe version instead.

But did that stop our literary analysis discussion?  Never! Open ended questions are always better, anyway!  And this way I had a captive audience.

Here are some of the questions I posed:

  • Can you first narrate back and tell me the basic gist of the story, since I have probably forgotten so much of it?
  • What do you think motivated Faustus to make the pact with the devil? Is he most concerned with power, knowledge, or dissipation?  What do you think Marlowe is emphasizing: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life?
  • Tell me more about how the pact works out for Faustus. Do things go well for him?
  • Tell me more about this cup of mercy you mentioned. Do you think that he truly had a chance to repent?  Would that mercy have been sufficient to overthrow the blood covenant he had made?
  • Tell me more about the end of the play. Does Faustus show regret or repentance?  How do you know?
  • Is there a character who you think provides a foil to Faustus in the play? Please note: I truly had no idea what the answer was to this question ahead of time, and no agenda!  First I had to define the term “foil,” but after thinking for a bit my son mentioned the Clown character.  I asked him to find a section(s) from the play he could read aloud to me to help me understand why he chose that character. (See, my having to keep my eyes on the road actually helped facilitate the discussion!)

We actually had one of our most peaceful and profitable literature discussions of the year this way!

Pilgrim’s Progress

He then pulled out this modern English translation of Pilgrim’s Progress, another one of his assigned humanities texts.

The Magician’s Elephant

On the drive home, we listened to this audiobook by Kate DiCamillo in its entirety.  I love DiCamillo’s work and highly recommend her other titles like The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  None of the kids had heard The Magician’s Elephant before, so it kept them captivated all the way home.

Mom can learn, too

When not breaking up bickering in the backseat or discussing Marlowe, I was able to listen to 4 wonderful podcast episodes.

Episode 136 of Sorta Awesome kept me in stitches as the co-hosts described some of their most embarrassing moments.

The Bravewriter Podcast episode, “55 Things I did NOT do as a homeschooler,” was poignant and thought provoking!  I always think about things from a different perspective when I listen to Julie Bogart.

The Classical Homeschool podcast episode 29 had me hitting pause and asking my son to use my cell phone to put a couple titles on hold at our local library!

The Girl Next Door Podcast always makes me smile and think, and this episode, “Taking the Temperature of your Life and Inbox Honesty,” was no exception.

Was the 7-hour trip worth the 2.5-hour visit?

Nurturing off-line, in-real-life relationships is extremely important to me.  Texting, voxing, email, facebook, and all the other blessings of our internet age allow us to maintain long-distance relationships.

Frankly, sometimes they also help us maintain relationships with people who live in our own town.

But it is just not the same as being in the same room with someone.

There is rarely a good or convenient time to break into our hectic life for a visit, whether it’s coordinating schedules with a local friend or making a trek to the neighboring state.  But in my own family’s culture, it is one of those priorities that I seek to cultivate.

This is of course becoming more difficult as we have added children and all of their schedules to our home.  But I cannot wait until things are perfect and convenient.  When I see that there is a fleeting opportunity to pursue a real-life, real-hug, let’s-just-sit-in-a-room-together-quietly moment…I try to take it.

So, yes.  Leaving at dawn, getting stuck in construction traffic which added an hour to the trip, having 2.5 hours to eat lunch/chase children/walk together, before driving back home just in time for baseball practice and a small group dinner?  Those 2.5 hours were incredibly precious and worth it to me.

One of my answers to the question “what kind of human do you want to raise?” is that I want my children to be true friends to others: to prioritize meaningful relationships among their siblings, with their parents, and with their other friends outside the home.  I want them to make the effort to drive to visit their grandparents one day.  So I believe that for our family, taking this day out of our normal school schedule was actually a pivotal part in their education.

Do you take school on the road for work or pleasure? How do you prioritize relationship and friendship in your family?

I’d love to hear from you! Please join my email list and facebook community and add to the conversation!

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