Sometimes homeschoolers laugh at the term “homeschooling.”
We’re not homeschoolers, we’re van-schoolers, co-op-schoolers, waiting-room-schoolers, coffee-shop-schoolers, field-trip-schoolers, library-schoolers, or even travel-abroad-schoolers.
It’s hard enough to keep our homeschools organized at home, but when we’re on-the-go, it’s doubly difficult. This post is for you if you’ve ever felt spoiled on the days when you actually get to stay home all day and just do school. Here we’ll discuss some practical ways to keep things organized as you “homeschool” on-the-go.
Mystie Winckler, the internet’s resident homeschool organization expert from SimplifiedOrganization.com, says, “Being on the go means you really have to put organization into practice because there isn’t the same wiggle room that being at home allows.”
Literally. At least in the back of my truck, it often seems like there’s no wiggle room. When I have a plan before we set out, that all changes. Papers are contained, pencils are sharp (and aren’t lost), and books aren’t scattered everywhere because we have the right books and the rest are left at home.
The two constraints traveling homeschoolers face are time and space. To deal with this, Winckler says we might have to adjust our plan. “Reading books and narrating is inherently simpler and more portable than workbooks and projects. Sometimes our circumstances must influence our curriculum & methods choices.”
The first key to planning ahead for an out of home homeschooling day is to narrow down what assignments are possible to work on during the time you have. This is where we homeschool moms, notorious for an overdeveloped sense of ambition, have to get realistic. We simply cannot squeeze a lesson in every subject into a 45-minute waiting-room school session.
In her book, Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace, Sarah Mackenzie says, “You have to begin with what you have, and what you have is a fixed amount of time.” Figure out what you can get done in the time you have, don’t try to do everything you hope in the time you have–it’ll never happen and you’ll probably end up feeling frustrated. This way, you don’t have to bring all the materials for all of school with you, only those assignments your students can reasonably accomplish in the time you have.
Another factor that really helps me narrow down what we’ll bring instead of trying to pack the whole homeschool into our truck is by bringing only what we can carry. In my own mobile homeschool, I know I’ll be wrangling two toddlers, so what school work we bring will have to fit into either a kid’s backpack or my backpack. If it doesn’t fit, or if it weighs us down too much, it stays home. To lighten the load, I’ll often take the advice of full-time road schoolers, and opt for multipurpose devices, like an iPad or Kindle. These reduce the amount of stuff we have to bring, and can contain thousands of books or documents on one lightweight device.
For the Drive
A half-hour commute to a field trip or doctor’s appointment can be a fantastic time for kids to focus on school work. After all, they’re strapped in and literally cannot escape to other distractions!
Audiobooks are one of our family’s favorite ways to homeschool while driving. You can borrow them for free from your library either on CDs, or on most mobile devices using the Overdrive Media Console app. Other sources of free audiobooks include LibriVox and Lit-2-Go.
If audiobooks aren’t on your plan for the day, make sure to grab a lap desk or book light if your kids are doing seat work in the car. Many lap desks have zippered pockets, which are great for keeping kids from losing their pencils.
Homeschoolers need mobile tools that work, not apps that waste time. We need to be able to access them from any device, and we want them for free. We’re an easy-to-please bunch aren’t we?
Winkler notes that apps like Homeschool SkedTrack or Homeschool Tracker can be helpful if they fit your style of homeschooling. She says, “Look at what you have to track, don’t track more than you need to, and choose the app that best meets your particular needs. Make sure to double-check that your app syncs across devices and is available without wifi if you’re going to need it on the go, too.”
Evernote is a popular app that can accomplish a LOT without hoarding all your phone’s storage space. Word processing, check lists, audio recordings, photo notes, and even hand-drawn notes are all part of what Evernote does best. Need to bring a page with you, but don’t want to bring the whole binder or book? Just snap a picture and send it to Evernote. The companion app, Scannable, automatically detects and focuses on the page, crops, and enhances the page for you. Then you can upload it to your Evernote, Dropbox, email, and most other popular sharing platforms.
Younger students might also enjoy the Foundations Memory Work apps by Classical Conversations. Each of their three apps costs $15.99, but when you consider that each one offers an entire year’s worth of memory work in all the major subject areas, it’s quite a lot of bang for your buck. They truly are like bringing your whole homeschool along for the ride.
Books and Papers
If you’re a mom who organizes your homeschool using a lot of binders, notebooks, and paper, it can be overwhelming to try to downsize to a travel-friendly homeschool without losing productivity or revamping your system.
One way I have simplified the papers we bring with us is by teaching my son the Bullet Journal system. Brainchild of New York designer Ryder Carroll, the Bullet Journal is one way to keep all papers in one notebook. That’s right, it’s one place for everything your child needs to write down. It’s a planner, a task management tool, a commonplace book, a sketch book, and can be the replacement for all those pieces of loose-leaf paper that would ordinarily be contained in 3-ring binders. Visit www.bulletjournal.com for the basics, but essentially all you need is a blank notebook. A thrifty composition book works great for kids, or you can choose a hard cover like the official Bullet Journal if you need a more durable option.
For each school day, I list Bubba’s assignments and he crosses them out as he finishes. He can do them in any order, which he loves. For students with established handwriting, the bullet journal gets even better, since they can write their narrations, work math problems, or draw whatever they need to draw. I use it as a portable whiteboard, too. Again, it’s ONE place to write EVERYTHING when you’re on the go. That’s the principle that really keeps it simple for us. At the end of the year, you have a ready-made portfolio of your student’s work, bonus!
With all the opportunities available to homeschoolers for enriching experiences that are not located inside the home, it can be difficult to keep the actual books, notebooks, binders, papers, and devices all organized. With a little planning ahead and the right resources, though, we can all enjoy more organized homeschooling on-the-go!
*This post was originally written for Home Educator’s Magazine