Roadschool and Exploring Public Lands
Updated: Oct 17, 2020
Roadschooling. Life learning. Home education on the road. Whatever we call this way of living…of learning….it’s a pretty incredible education we’re gifting our children. But, how did we get here? How did our family get to the place of desiring to sell our 10 acres and fully renovated house in Texas and trade that in for less than 400 sq feet?
Since Sept 27th is Public Lands Day I decided it would be fun to give you all the details on how we plan our routes and the learning along the way!! We’ve been homeschooling our 5 children for the past 14 years. And, through those years I quickly realized my favorite way of learning, and teaching, was what I refer to as family style. The bulk of our subjects are done together. History, science, poetry, Bible, geography, Shakespeare, and any other subject I’ve decided to throw in there that we want to learn about, are all done as a group and typically in the mornings to start off our day.
The older ones will read additional books on the subjects and the I’ll read additional lower level books to the younger ones. But, the spine in each subject and typically a read aloud on the same subject (usually our histo
ry cycle) is all read aloud together.
After experiencing this learning American history alongside my children I found myself with a burning inside to not simply read about these places but to actually visit them. Why not go and touch, smell and see the places these books were brining alive in our imaginations.
So, 5 years ago we did just that.
We set out on a 3 week road trip to walk the streets of Philadelphia, to sit on the porch of Mount Vernon and reflect in the gardens of Thomas Jeffersons Monticello.
With that trip we realized what Charlotte Mason meant by ‘education is an atmosphere, a discipline and life’ and what it meant for our family. Once we realized how much those experiences cemented the living and breathing learning into our children lives I just couldn’t sit still when there were so many more places to explore. We realized that by coupling living books and experienced based learning we were providing them with the best learning atmosphere.
So how does that look in our daily life on the road?
We visit historical places like National Parks, museums, living history museums, public lands, and all the numerous places of significance all over our country.
Sometimes I preplan where we’ll be visiting- like basing our travels around national parks or historical sights. Our first 3 week road trip came about because my husband had a business trip in Washing DC and were learning about early American history that year. It only made sense to tag along and join him! But, sometimes we just happen to be in an area where I had no idea what was offered in the way of historical or natural spots. Sometimes I’ll be searching for a midpoint between one planned destination and another, using The Dyrt and trying to find some BLM (Bureau of Land Management) public land on our Dyrt Pro membership so we can boondock and I realize we’re in a treasure trove of learning opportunities!
As we set out on our full-time Rv adventures I began searching for preplanned lessons or bundles, or even suggestions of books on certain subjects like national parks or historical spots, and I realized my searches were coming up short.
I couldn’t find what I was looking for to help bring this learning and travels alive for my children.
I could find books on subjects but nothing already prepared for me. I have had to create these lessons and lists myself.
So, I began creating it. I've created a national parks bundle written in daily story form full of information about national parks. I've found and read living books and provided books lists for each subject within the bundles. There are nature study prompts based on the plants and animals found in location the bundle is about. Here are my top tips for planning your Roadschool lessons:
+Plan your route. This can be done a few different ways. One can be planning a route based on what you’re already learning- like early American history or the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Another could be planning your route first and finding learning points of interest along the way. Since we hit the road to RV we have planned our routes and then I’ve pulled in education lessons for our family based on the route and where we’ll be going. One question I get a lot is ‘how do you plan our routes? Is there an app or website you use?’
The answer is yes! The Dyrt has a Pro Membership that has a trip planner feature. You put in your starting and stopping points, how you’ll be staying (RV, ten, van etc), how long you’d like to drive each day and a variety of other details. Once you add in how long you’d like to drive each day the app automatically pulls up appropriate camping spots along the way for each days stopping point. If you like boon docking like we do theres an added element of map layers to find free dispersed camping on public lands! You can choose BLM land, US Forest Service Land, or National Park Service land and the Dyrt will show you all the free camping spots in your desired area!
Once we figure out where we’ll be staying I then begin researching why that area may hold historical or natural significance. Sometimes its obvious, like a National Park, and sometimes I have to dig a little bit hard.
I’ll look ahead at our route and note famous locations, like early American history spots, or famous travel routes like the Oregon Trail or the Lewis and Clark Trail.
I also make note of the geography and natural world of the locations we’ll be visiting and begin to research living books that can bring those locations to life for all of us.
For instance, If its an ocean search living books on ocean life. If its a mountain range do the same. As you read those rich stories about the natural world or the society that once lived, or currently lives, there you are enhancing the visit 100 fold.
Once I begin to find books on the location and subjects I want to cover I’ll go ahead and order them.
If we’re visiting say, a National Park, I’ll make sure and find books on that park beforehand. For instance, with Sequoia I order several picture books about Sequoia trees and we read interesting facts together about the park. As we visited the park, and walked under those walls giants, my children already knew so many fascinating facts about the trees, animals and nature contained within the boundaries of that park itself!
As we went on to Yosemite I added more books on the area to our RV bookshelf.
Reading truly does bring learning alive for all of us. And coupling the reading with the experience based learning just magnifies it for all of us. As we drove into Yosemite Valley we had the words of Richard Haliburton echoing through our minds, remembering all about his visit and his accounts of the first white men to visit that area. Just 2 years before we had read his account of that day in his book The Book of Marvels .
The words and passions of John Muir came to life as we gazed at Half Dome in Yosemite and our memory of reading about John Muir and Theodore Roosevelts camping trip together in the park came to mind.
The Camping Trip That Changed America is the book but the truth is…it was literally the camping trip that changed America. That trip, with those two men who loved the natural lands and places found in this country, prompted the protection of hundreds of thousands of acres of lands over the next century.
The reason we can celebrate a day like Public Lands Day and enjoy the untouched beauty found within those boundaries is because of the efforts made by men like Muir and Roosevelt!
And, here’s what’s really cool about finding books and resources specific to where you’ll be visiting…. When your child walks into a tide pool and can identify a certain type of Seastar because you read about it together you will both have such fond memory of that location but also a stronger reinforcement of the information learned because you saw it first hand!!
When you take a visit to an underground mine shaft with a tour guide who was one of the last former miners who worked that actual mine, in what is now almost a ghost town…your kids will never forget the significance of that job to the area of the country. They’ll remember his shaky words describing his life underground and the devastation his city felt when they were shut down.
I've mentioned pre-ordering books for each place we visit so this begs the question….where do we get them sent if you’re on the road full-time?!
Many RV parks will allow you to receive mail at their park, simply ask their policy on this. Another option is an Amazon locker. I’m usually ordering Amazon anyways because of Prime shipping so getting the order sent to a locker isn’t a big deal. If neither of those options work, because sometimes this has proven to be the case, many US Post Offices will allow you to have mail sent to the Post Office itself where you can then pick it up. This does vary by location so make sure to call or go in and ask their policy on receiving mail.
This life of hitting the road and taking advantage of the opportunity to roadschool is really such a gift. If you ever have the opportunity to take advantage of any amount of time on the road, learning as you go, do it!