A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Category: Homeschooling

RVing Full Time with Kids: What homeschool (roadschool) curriculum do you use?

Any homeschooling parent knows the thrill (or dread) of choosing curriculum. Some of us feel like a kid making a Christmas list, spending hours pouring over the hundreds of choices….

Homeschooling Books2

Any homeschooling parent knows the thrill (or dread) of choosing curriculum.

Some of us feel like a kid making a Christmas list, spending hours pouring over the hundreds of choices. Others of us approach the task with terror as if the wrong curriculum will somehow land our precious ones in jail.

Choosing curriculum can be overwhelming to say the least.

For me, there used to be an underlying pressure to choose the “best” curriculum similar to researching and picking the safest car or best vacuum. (<== OCD much?) I may have traded a few months of my life researching curriculum when we first started homeschooling 6 years ago. It seemed like, if I just read every. single. review. and every thread on every homeschooling message board on the entire internet I would find that perfect curriculum and my kids would be on their way to Harvard before their 13th birthdays.

But you know what I’ve learned?

Curriculum does’t really matter all that much.

Whaaat?

Yeah, curriculum really doesn’t’ matter all that much.

Seriously. Homeschooling is about so much more than stuffing our kids with “the right” facts and formulas and meeting “standards”. Who cares if my kid goes to an Ivy League or any school for that matter if he (or me) is a punk or unhappy or sees learning as a chore.

Homeschooling is about developing character.

Homeschooling is about connecting and growing relationships with family and the community.

Homeschooling is about really getting to know your kids…the lovely and not so lovely parts.

Homeschooling about finding and nourishing strengths and addressing weaknesses.

Homeschooling is about learning to love learning.

Homeschooling is about cultivating curiosity.

Homeschooling is about learning to be a self motivated learner instead of spoon-fed.

Homeschooling is about meeting the needs of your child and your family.

Homeschooling is about so much more than curriculum.

That said, one of the questions I get asked most often is, “What curriculum do you use?”

So here it goes… Remember this is what worked for our family in each particular season of life.

Our Homeschool and Roadschool Curriculum List

(The older grade is followed by the younger grade. If only one publisher is listed it means I used it for both boys. For math and grammar I often used the same publisher but different grade levels, i.e. Level 1 and Level 4, but I only listed the one publisher.)

Year 1 – Grades 4 and 1

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After months of research, we decided we wanted to follow the Classical model of eduction. In the beginning, we were going to follow the classical model of education to a T. It would only be a few short years until my kids were reading the Odyssey in Latin. Reality check! It didn’t take long for me to realize that wasn’t going to happen. For the most part, we have stuck with the history cycle and somewhat with the stages of learning but realized we couldn’t, or rather didn’t want to, “do it all”.

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Like falling in love, our first year of homeschooling was a mix giddy excitement and weighing self-doubt.

History/English

Tapestry of Grace

Math

Singapore

Science

Apologia Elementary Series

Grammar (Thing 1 only)

Rod and Staff

Spelling (Thing 1 only)

I cannot remember what we used this year!

Phonics (Thing 2 only)

Hooked on Phonics

Explode the Code

(To this day, teaching Thing 2 to read has been of my most satisfying and rewarding experiences. I’ll never forget those mornings snuggled together on the couch listening to him slowly sound out words and watching the joy on his face when he would get them on his own. He still loves to read and we can’t keep his Kindle filled!)

Handwriting

A Reason For Handwriting

Handwriting without Tears

Co-op

We also joined a homeschool co-op this year and took a mix of classes to compliment what we were learning at home.

Year 2 – Grades 5 and 2

PicMonkey Collage Beacon Hill CA

Our second year of homeschooling, we enrolled the boys in a new a hybrid classical school. It was a fantastic year blending the best of both worlds. The boys were home with us four days a week and went to school three days a week. They got the benefits of a classroom setting, like positive peer pressure (and a teacher who could keep up with Latin) and I got a break. Since I didn’t need to create schedules, choose curriculum, and find social opportunities our homeschool days were even more relaxed. The one thing I would have changed about this year was math. At the time, the school used Saxton which turned out to be a poor fit for both boys. Not only was it boring but it was less advanced than their previous curriculum. When we went back to homeschooling the following year we had to go back a year in Singapore.

Year 3 – Grades 6 and 3

English Ship Replicas Jamestown Settlement Jamestown Settlement Armor

Year 3 was our first year of roadschooling. Like watching a 3D movie for the first time, this was the year where learning came to life as we visited battlefields, swam with manatees, explored cities, experienced caves, imagined life as an American colonial , hiked mountains, stayed on a farm, canoed with alligators, and experienced more in one year than many people experience in a lifetime.

Thing One Port CharlotteFamily Statue of Liberty NYC

We started with the curriculum below but after about six months gave “unschooling” a try before going back to a more scheduled approach. I’m glad we tried unschooling but it didn’t work for us at that point in our lives or perhaps I just didn’t give it time. Another post all together. After our failed unschooling attempt, I added an additional writing program because I wasn’t thrilled with Sonlight or Rod and Staff’s writing components.

Stocks Williamsburg VA

I should add that although we do subjects like spelling and grammar, I consider them “throw away” subjects. (Don’t hate, you grammar Nazis.)  We do enough to understand the concepts but we don’t waste time with unnecessary drilling and extra practice. We would rather the boys spend the time reading or exploring.

Thing 2 Cannon Chickamauga GA

This year we also abandoned book science and took a hands on approach by taking advantage of our travels to national parks and museums. The boys earned over 50 Junior Ranger badges that year. It was also an amazing year for history as we read books like Johnny Tremain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Moccasin Trail and then visited the places in the stories.

Family at Capital Washington DC

History/English

Sonlight

Math

Singapore

Science

National Park Tour, Junior Ranger Programs, and many museums

Grammar

Rod and Staff

Handwriting

Handwriting without Tears (Thing 2 only)

Spelling

Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing

Writing

Institute for Excellence in Writing

Year 4 – Grades 7 and 4

Junior Rangers Olympic NP WA 1

Our second year of roadschooling was similar to our first year as we continued to explore the United States with the exception of Thing 1’s work. His work was more challenging than the previous year and we began to do some testing. I did not do standardized testing but subject testing so he would learn test taking skills should he need them later down the road. 

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After many years of Singapore math I realized I couldn’t keep up with Thing 1 so began the search for a new math curriculum that required less parental involvement. We tried the Art of Problem Solving which would be amazing for the right kind of kid. It was a horrible fit for us. After a few more weeks of research, I narrowed math down to Math-U-See, Teaching Textbooks, and Life of Fred. Thing 1 looked them over and chose which one he wanted to study. He chose Life of Fred and after two years I can’t say enough good things about it. (The Kahn Academy was used as a supplemental resource for extra practice when needed and not as a stand-alone program.)

Family by Yelllowstone Sign

We decided to start Latin this year but abandoned it about 6 months later. 

Noah and the boys Breck Ski School

A huge highlight of the year was four months in snowboard school at Breckinridge Ski Resort where the boys went from falling down the mountain to riding black diamonds.

History/English

Sonlight

Math

Life of Fred

Singapore

Kahn Academy (Thing 1 and 2)

Science

Apologia General Science

Apologia Elementary Series

Grammar

Rod and Staff

Writing

Institute of Excellence in Writing

Handwriting

Handwriting without Tears (Thing 2)

Spelling

Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing (Thing 2)

Latin

Getting Started with Latin

Year 5 – Grades 8 and 5

Family 2 Denali The Mountain Alaska

 

Thing 2 Glacier Cruise AlaskaThing 1 Exit Glacier Alaska

The focus for our third year of roadschooling was preparing Thing 1 for high school level work and continue to make learning as fun as possible for Thing 2. Of course, as we traveled we continued to learn through experiences.

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The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!

History/English

Story of the World

A Variety of Historical Fiction

(I picked books based on the time period we were studying or the places we visited.)

Math

Life of Fred

Singapore

Kahn (Thing 1 and 2)

Science

Apologia Physical Science

Apologia Elementary Series

Grammar

Rod and Staff

Spelling

Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing (Thing 2 only)

Year 6 – Grades 9 and 6

I can’t believe I’m a mother of a high schooler and we’ve been on this homeschooling journey for six years!

Thing 1 Eagle Falls Tahoe CA

Our fourth year of roadschooling has been a big year for Thing 1. Per his request he wanted a challenging curriculum because wanted to make sure he is “keeping up with school kids”. It has been a struggle for me because, frankly, I see much (not all) of traditional school as a lot of nonsense and wasted time. While we’ve kept up with the core subjects, we’ve allowed plenty of room for freedom to explore, create, and have avoided traditional textbooks and boring assignments. Brent and I have encouraged the boys to think out of box and question the status quo.

Telescopes Egle Bay CA

However, Thing 1 is getting older and we wanted to respect his desire for a more traditional course of study. He has expressed that he wants to go to college and hopefully receive some scholarship money. That means “the game” of test scores and graduation requirements needs to be played to a certain extent. We know there are untraditional ways to gain entrance into college and receive scholarships but we do want to keep as many paths open as possible for him.

Reluctantly, we arranged his course of study to meet traditional future college entrance requirements and enrolled him in a virtual school for a few classes. It was tough transition. First, it was our first experience with the Common Core math standards. As you know, I question any sort of blanket “standards” and the status quo. However, after a year I think the new standards are beneficial in helping kids gain a true understanding of math instead of relying on memorizing formulas. The virtual school math has also been very challenging because, although he has a teacher he “can” go to with questions, he has been responsible for learning the concepts himself and he has had to be accountable to someone other than me. A good thing! For the most part, it has been a valuable experience as he has learned the hard way to manage his time and seek out resources on his own to help him understand concepts. (Unfortunately, his algebra teacher were less than helpful.)

Brothers Snowboard RV 3 CO

As for Thing 2, the goal has continued to be keep learning as fun and interesting as possible. He reads, reads, and reads. He isn’t crazy about math but I’ve insisted that he keep up with “requirements” because math is one subject that is hard to catch up should we decide to stop homeschooling. He, too, enrolled in a virtual school math class and also received an A both semesters. The biggest change for him was more independent learning. The previous 5 years I was more hands on but with Thing 3 in the picture it became increasingly difficult. Thing 2 really stepped up and took initiative to complete assignments on his own.

History/English/Bible

My Father’s World Ancient History and Literature

Mystery of History

Math

Florida Virtual School – Honors Algebra and 6th grade math

Kahn

Science

Tried Florida Virtual School but switched to Apologia Biology

Finished the Apologia Elementary Series
(Thing 2 read every book over the years except Chemistry.)

Grammar

Rod and Staff (Thing 2 only)

Intro to Technology

Florida Virtual School (Thing 1)

Honors Web Design

Florida Virtual School (Thing 1)

Guitar

Florida Virtual School (Thing 2)

So there it is…our curriculum choices over the last 6 years. 

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How I miss our early years of cuddling on the couch while reading stories about pharaohs and pioneers. Even though I tried to be intentional and savor the moments with them, it has all gone by too fast. I wouldn’t trade our early years of homeschooling or the adventures of road schooling for anything. The only thing I would do differently is start homeschooling sooner and not worry so much about picking “the right” curriculum in the beginning because homeschooling is about so much more!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Valentine’s Day in Orlando, Florida

If there is one thing our kids miss about school, it would be sugar class parties. If there is one thing our kids miss about living in Ventura, it would…

If there is one thing our kids miss about school, it would be sugar class parties.

If there is one thing our kids miss about living in Ventura, it would be friends.

Spending ten days in Orlando with other fulltime RVing families gave my kids the opportunity to hang out with new friends.  Since Valentine’s Day fell in the middle of our stay, I thought why not have a little party and some sugar with our new friends. We made Valentine’s Day cards and ice cream sundaes. However, Margie Lundy had the best idea of the party. When we were done with the cards, we passed them out around our the “neighborhood”. I think it made everyone smile.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Chickmauga and Trouble in Tannehill

We’ve been busy and a little bit lazy. I think it’s the Florida sun. It’s hard to stay indoors and write when there so much beauty outdoors. Except I miss…

We’ve been busy and a little bit lazy. I think it’s the Florida sun. It’s hard to stay indoors and write when there so much beauty outdoors.

Except I miss you.

I miss sharing our adventures with our little circle of friends.

So here we go. Catch up time. This week. For sure.

After we left Tennessee, we headed to Alabama but not without a stop at Chickamauga National Military Park. We are in hot pursuit of the special Junior Civil War Historian Badges which requires completing 3 Jr. Ranger programs at participating parks or 2 Jr. Ranger programs plus an online activity. Chickamauga is a participating park and we were ready.

Except we weren’t.

The time change. We drove as fast as we safely could to the park thinking we had an hour to browse the visitor center. As it turned out we had about 2.5 minutes before it closed.

Awesome.

Still we drove around and read the brochures I begged the ranger to give us before he locked the door to the visitor center.

The next day was better despite waking up in a Walmart parking lot.

We rolled out of Wally World and 20 minutes later arrived Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park. It was early, leaving us with a whole day for school and exploration. Tennehill Ironworks Historical State Park is a home roadschoolers dream. It’s hands on history complete with a museum and numerous old buildings in a beautiful setting. We took off on our bikes for the Iron and Steel museum of Alabama. Afterwards we checked out the cotton gin and made our way to the old furnace. I watched as the boys explored with excitement.

Yes, these are the days I dream of.

Almost.

Feeling overly ambitious, I suggested we take another route back to our trailer.

We headed over the bridge to what looked, on the map, like a short trail back to our campsite.

All was well and lovely until I looked back and saw this…

Somehow Thing 1’s back wheel had gotten out of alignment and it was sticking on the break making it extremely difficult to peddle.

And extremely difficult to stay calm. Notice the distance between Thing 1 (in the top right corner) and his bike? I’ll let you guess how it got there.

We carried on because “according to the map” the campground must be right around the corner. Wrong.

We rode and rode.

And I had some very unhappy, hungry, thirsty, tired, little boys.

What felt like miles later, we came to the end of the trail except there was no campground in sight. Uh-oh. Thankfully, there was a maintenance man and he explained to us that we had missed the short loop and had ended up on a different trail. He also offered to take us back to our campsite.

What started off like this.

Ended up like this. Thing 2 won’t even look at me.

Sigh.

At least there were deer right out our window. That always makes for smiles.

I think Meow Cow agrees.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Days 51-53: Stuffing My Soul

When we left on our road trip I had visions of what it would be like to live on the road with my family in an RV. My dreams didn’t…

When we left on our road trip I had visions of what it would be like to live on the road with my family in an RV.

My dreams didn’t include family photos in front of Mt. Rushmore or touring the Smithsonian. Although we plan to go to both places.

My dreams were made up of far more simpler things. Things that have filled the last three long rainy days here at Lake Texoma.

I imagined…

…cozy days in the car

…school days on the couch

…that turned to naps

…I guess “working with sentences” isn’t very interesting

I imagined…

…wonder

…friendship

…cat naps

…and playing footsie with my love under the table.

(Okay so I really didn’t imagine footsie but I sure do like it.)

I wish I could just hold my breath and with it these moments. These not-so-small-anymore-hands grow as I hold them in mine. I’m all to aware that these days are limited. I do my best to stuff as many of these moments as I can into my soul. My soul is infinite but these moments are not.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Days 44 & 45: Space Center Houston

Hi guys! Just when I was almost caught up blogging about our trip, we lost a strong internet connection. One night I sat at the computer for over an hour…

Hi guys!

Just when I was almost caught up blogging about our trip, we lost a strong internet connection. One night I sat at the computer for over an hour trying to upload 5 pictures. Frustrated, I decided the blog would just have to wait. Then we came up to my parent’s for Christmas so we’ve been busy with family. I’m going to be here for the week and I’m hoping to get all caught up so I can start writing in (almost) real time again.

Tuesday morning, we left San Antonio for League City near Houston. It was the longest driving day we’ve had since we left Marfa.  We pulled into the campground before dark which, for us, was very exciting.

And meant time to to just hang out.

Wednesday morning we visited Space Center Houston.

Space Center Houston is cool. Really cool.

The space center is filled with exhibits, tours, movies, and hands on activities for the entire family. (I sound like an infomercial, forgive me.) My favorite part was the Starship Gallery. There were videos featuring one of the astronauts (I can’t remember his name..ooops.) on the last Apollo 17 mission. He talked in detail about the last mission and what it was like to see earth from outer space.  While listening I kept looking at the Apollo 17 Command Module imagining it in outer space and looking down at the earth. Thinking about it gives me chills.

Next time I want to complain about the shower in our RV I will try to remember the shower in Skylab.

We also took the tram to see historic Mission Control, the astronaut training facility, and the Saturn V rocket. That thing is crazy huge. HUGE!

The space center opens at 10:00 am but we got there at 11:30 am. At 5:00 pm security was pushing us out the door as we lingered in the exhibits trying to see just a little more. We considering hiding in one of the space capsules until after closing so we could play all night but the security guard was pretty frightening.

I thought from now on it would be nice if I share some visiting tips. Maybe someone will find something helpful.

Visiting Tips

– Buy tickets online. You will save $5 per ticket.

– Try to get there when it opens at 10:00 so you have all day. They told us it takes people 4-5 hours to see everything. We had 5.5 hours there and wished we would have had another hour or two more. We didn’t even watch all the movies or read everything. If you purchase a ticket two hours before they close they will let you come back the following day for one day’s admission.

– The audio tour was totally worth the extra admission to us. The only downside is you really have to look for the audio guide numbers. I ended up missing quite a few including the one at the Saturn V exhibit. I listened to it on the tram ride back to the museum which wasn’t nearly as interesting as it would have been walking around the rocket itself.

-We were glad to have brought our lunch (which they let us bring in because it was cold outside) as there was only one restaurant open in the food court. The guy at the door did say that they normally don’t let people bring in food and they have to eat outside at the picnic area.

-Watch Apollo 13 the night before you go! It adds an extra layer of excitement. Of course, if you aren’t in the mood for something as intense there is always Space Camp. It was all fun and games until someone got “launched”.

Love and  Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 27: The Magic and Mystery of Carlsbad Caverns

Today, we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  We opted for the self-guided tour with an audio guide.  We were all happy we got the audio tour because not only could…

Today, we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  We opted for the self-guided tour with an audio guide.  We were all happy we got the audio tour because not only could we move at our own pace ,we learned a lot.

The descent into the cave is something I’ll never forget.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  We wound down the path until we came to this massive black mouth. It was sublime. The cave was first discovered by a 16 old boy, Jim White, when he saw what he thought was a volcano or twister in the distance.  He set out to investigate and discovered bats coming out the cave. Can you imagine?!?! Over the next several years, Jim White continued to explore the cave using homemade torches, lanterns, and ladders. Talk about brave!  While I’m adventurous,  I think I prefer the paved paths and lights that are present today.

The cave was magnificent. Crazy. Grand. Beautiful.

A whole other world existing below the surface of the earth.

The only thing that would have made this visit better is the BATS who had already migrated to Mexico for the winter.  I love bats.  They are so cute.  (I’m also the girl who had pet rats as a teenager.)  Thing 2 and I play this game in the mornings called “baby bat”.  We pretend we are bats. I wrap my wings around him and we snuggle.  My bat voice a really bad Asian/British/Southern/what-the-heck accent.  Baby Bat tells me he is hungry for “fish”.  I have no idea where we got the idea “bats eat fish” but that is what Baby Bat always wants.  I had never really considered a bat’s real diet which turns out to be insects.  Recently, Baby Bat has been wanting “cat” and Mama Bat reminds him “bats don’t eat cat” but it doesn’t seem to help.  Any excuse to chase Meow Cow.

Ummm anyway…

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Backyard Pugs

Before we moved into my parent’s place to save money for our upcoming adventure, we had a backyard. Oh the possibilities! One afternoon, it was particularly hot and everyone was…

Before we moved into my parent’s place to save money for our upcoming adventure, we had a backyard.

Oh the possibilities!

One afternoon, it was particularly hot and everyone was particularly cranky.  We decided to seek comfort under the big avocado tree in our backyard.  We set up a fan (because we’re classy like that), spread out a blanket, and read a book.  Everyone’s mood changed dramatically.  It was a small change of scenery but since we normally read on the couch reading outside became an “adventure” (kids are so easy to please).  Adventures always help bad moods.  And the fan!  Who doesn’t love a fan on a hot day. We weren’t the only one to enjoy ourselves so did the pugs.

With love,
Jenn

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