Homeschooling ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. When I first decided to homeschool, I picture cozy cuddle sessions on the couch with my two angels reading Shakespeare, or lazy days in the garden picking veggies and communing with nature. I pictured freshly scrubbed faces engrossed in their work around the kitchen table while I baked homemade bread.
Tragically, my homeschool looks nothing like this. My older daughter and I are both very active and social, and even the homebody younger daughter wants to sign up for every activity in which she has even a passing interest.
That’s why, for us, homeschool involves doing school in all of the in-between hours. In between music lessons and playdates. Between morning sewing class and afternoon baking class. And mostly, it involves using the precious time we have in the car, which is why most days I feel a little less like a mom and more like a sherpa. Armed with a massive tote filled with everything from mini iPad’s to books to binders, we take off for our daily activities.
In my experience, in order for carschooling to be effective and productive, you need to have 2 things in the car with you at all times:
- A Snack Bag: I have a small L.L. Bean tote that is perpetually stocked with car-friendly snacks. Pretzel rods, applesauce pouches, whole wheat crackers, and organic fruit snacks are always available if my girls need a snack on the go. For my 10-year-old grazer, who eats hourly, this has been a lifesaver (and a moneysaver). If we are going to be eating lunch en route, I also pack Go Picnic portable snack lunches or the ones from Revolution Foods. I like us to eat healthy, even when we’re on the go, and fortunately my girls despise fast food (although we do love an occasional fix of Chick Fil A!). We also have large aluminum water bottles with us on a daily basis.
- A Supply Box: My friend and blog partner Jean gave me this brilliant idea. Last year, my girls kept any school supplies in their backpacks, and this was a hit and miss method. I never knew exactly what they had and we often ended up without the essential supplies to complete an assignment. Enter the Supply Box. Ours is a standard large plastic school supply box from Target, and it’s filled with everything they could need to complete their school work in the car: mechanical pencils, pens, washable markers, colored pencils, tape, safety scissors, and a glue stick, among other assorted items. I go through it fairly regularly to make sure it’s well stocked (it’s amazing how items can migrate to the four corners of the car, or, alas!, the house) and now we always have our supplies on hand for school.
And now that the car basics are taken care of, here are the 5 tools I rely on the most for carschooling.
- Binders: I saw this idea in a video last summer and had a lightbulb moment. (As soon as I find the video, I will link it here). This brilliant mama’s idea was to pull pages out of her children’s workbooks (I cringed too, at first) and then put them into a binder. Every week, you can update the binder with that week’s work. While we haven’t stuck to this system completely, we do use binders for much of their curriculum. Some programs even seem set up for this. For example, Learning Language Arts through Literature’s student book has the holes pre-punched for you. Just tear out that week’s lesson and pop it in the binder. I also use the binder for Easy Grammar, pages from Comprehensive Curriculum, math and language arts supplement pages, homework helps, etc. They also have a standalone binder for their foreign language this year, Arabic.
- iPADs: Like Jean, I have a love/hate relationship with technology, but there is no question in my mind that it has simplified homeschooling and opened up our options dramatically. The girls know that car time means they need to hop on their iPAD minis and complete one of their learning apps. Their daily apps include Reflex (for math facts fluency), Khan Academy (math missions, history videos and, soon, we will be doing their grammar videos too), and Mango Languages (available free through our library system). My 10-year-old also does a reading fluency app called LexiaCore, which is created by the publishers of Rosetta Stone. They also use their iPADs to watch videos on Kids YouTube from MathAntics, Crash Course and Schoolhouse Rock.
- Audio Books: The library has been a great resource for audio books, and I also love to check out the Audible deals that Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival shares. They are so nice for long car rides, and they’ve really exposed my girls to books we might not have otherwise been able to read together.
- Library Books: Why specifically library books? Because, frankly, otherwise we lose them. I don’t know about you, but my girls are always reading multiple books at a time. Frankly, it drives me a little crazy, even though I do the same thing. If my girls leave them in the car, they can read them on the go, and they are always handy for library dropoffs or renewals.
- Podcasts: Okay, I’ll admit that this is brand-spanking new for me. A couple of friends have mentioned them, but we have just started diving into podcasts for kids, and so far, we are loving them. I am using them to reintroduce the girls to the French language, listen to Christian music, or catch a story on StoryNory.
Do you find yourself carschooling more than homeschooling? What are your favorite resources for doing school in the car. We’d love to hear about them!