Travel and Homeschool - A Simply Homeschool Review
Travelling or planning to with kids? There is a good chance one of your biggest questions is “What about school?” After 5 months on the road home schooling 4 of my 5 kids (ages 4 to 14yrs) I would like to share with you some tips, tricks and how using Simply Homeschool works for us as a travelling family.
They’ll learn so much on the road!
I heard this statement thrown around on a regular basis before leaving and often wondered what that would look like. Now I could write you a list longer than my arm.
Natural learning through travelling hasn’t, however, covered all our family’s educational needs. When it comes to teaching my 6 yr old phonics, grammar for my 9yr old, maths or scientific concepts for my high schoolers I needed some extra help.
Thankfully I found Simply Homeschool.
Way out of my Comfort Zone!
Travelling really takes you out of your comfort zone. You will continually surprise yourself. Like swimming with freshwater crocodiles! It’s amazing what you are willing to do after a hot walk to a stunning gorge.
If you are accustomed to traditional schooling you might find Simply Homeschool with its talk of “lapbooks” and “cores” a little strange and out of your comfort zone. This difference also makes it ideal for travellers! A couple of cores (or learning programs based around engaging books) can cover all the recommended syllabus for your child. It’s simple, flows naturally and is easy to fit into your day.
Throw the idea of covering each subject separately out the 4WD window. Embrace the change and enjoy the benefits. My kids’ learning experience is richer for it.
I’m bendier than ever!
If my family has learnt anything from travelling, especially during a pandemic, it is to always be flexible!
Simply Homeschool has given us flexible learning options like:
- Choosing topics that interest our kids and fit in with our travelling (one of our favourites has been “A is for Australia”).
- Choosing how often, when and where we learn.
- Learning together with a range of ages all at once.
- Working at the level of our child/children.
But what about Internet?
My kids have a list of questions they now ask when we arrive at a new destination. They really are life changing questions when you are on the road. “Will we be connected to power and water or free camping?”, “Is there a dump point?” (this matters more than you think) and “Will there be any internet?”
We have been to some pretty remote places in Australia and while many have no coverage there are a surprising amount of places that do. It certainly hasn’t disrupted our learning as much as I feared.
With Simply Homeschool some Cores benefit from an internet connection while others need it sometimes or not at all.
If you have an annual membership to Simply Homeschool you can download each core lesson as a PDF on to your device or computer and even print them out. I have used a combination of these options for cores that are light on internet resources, usually cores involving a lot of English.
We also choose another core that works well with internet connection. There are some great cores with fun links, interactive quizzes, videos and research opportunities that are just too good to miss out on.
A big part of our learning also includes reading really good books. Simply Homeschool provides a huge list of suggested reading which is categorised by age and learning area. No internet required!
Will I be carrying ALL the things?
Packing the caravan was quite the task before we left. Fitting in 7 family members worth of “just a little bit of stuff” equals a lot! If you haven’t left yet, then really examine what you are packing. Chances are you don’t need a lot of it!
What you really want to know is what you DO need. I know I did.
Our regularly used school supplies for learning with Simply Homeschool include:
A caddy full of
- Pencils, markers, pens, sharpener, eraser, scissors, glue, ruler, protractor, compass, white board markers, permanent marker, watercolour paints and brushes (plus a cheap pad of A4 water colour paper).
Small white board
- We have one for each kid. They save on paper and are perfect for working out maths problems or practicing writing. They also keep our younger kids occupied on ridiculously long car journeys.
- Expo dry erase markers are good quality and last ages. At least they do once you train your kids to put the lid back on!
- This is one book where ALL your good work goes (we use an A4 visual diary or scrapbook)
- My kids struggled with this new concept at first but love it now!
Simply Homeschool Core Books
- You’ll need far less of these than you think. Cores integrate a lot of subjects into one and more than one child may do the same core.
- A recommended amount of cores per year is between 3-5 (it depends which core you choose and your child’s age/stage). With travelling I would pack 3 and then pick up more books when you need them later.
Just Good Books
- These are books recommended by Simply Homeschool that cover a range of learning areas.
- To keep our caravan from filling with books we try to use local libraries, audio books (great for car journeys) or books on their kindle/e-reader.
No printer needed!
- We don’t have a printer. Sometimes I wish we did but mostly we just make do without one.
- Printing a core’s activity sheets prior to leaving can be helpful. Generally, it’s not a huge amount.
- If we really want to print something, we’ll find an office supplies store or library.
Will this cover everything I need to use the Simply Homeschool curriculum?
Mostly yes. Sometimes activities require items we don’t have access to. When this happens, we get flexible and do one of the following:
- Adapt the activity by using what we have around us e.g. recycling or natural objects
- Think about how we have already covered that learning opportunity during our travels and give it a big tick
- Come back to it later
- Skip it! (It’s ok to not do it all, yes really)
Feeling the rhythm
When everything is always changing it is nice to have some rhythm somewhere in our day. We try to carve out a little pocket of learning each day except for Sundays. We do this because with so much changing this is how we can find a little consistency.
A typical learning day WITH internet looks mostly like this for our kids:
- Maths Online (or a maths workbook or app for our 6yr old)
- Core Lesson (we usually have two cores running and choose one)
- Reading some of a Just Good Book
Time taken 30mins-2hrs (depending on the age of the child)
A typical learning day WITHOUT internet looks mostly like this for our kids:
- Core Lesson (we use the core which does not use internet)
- Reading some of a Just Good Book
Time taken 30mins-1hr (depending on the age of the child)
Travel days can be tricky and we need to be flexible if it’s a big day. We also like to choose our “holidays” from school around when learning might not be so practical. For example, we took a break when we travelled up to Cape York and camped in tents for a week…and possibly the week after so we could recover from all the corrugated road driving!
Every family is different. This is what works for us using Simply Homeschool.
Natural Learning Opportunities are Amazing!
Learning “so much” on the road is definitely a thing. We’ve experienced the joy of quietly observing platypi in their natural habitat, swimming with turtles as we snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and watching a sugar cane harvest from the burn right through to sitting in the truck loading the cane train.
I like to scribble notes in my planner at the end of a week to record learning opportunities and remember our amazing experiences.
One of my weeks might include a day like this:
Visited the Cutta Cutta tropical limestone caves. Joined a tour led by a local Indigenous ranger and learnt about:
- The caves’ delicate closed climate and habitat for the Ghost Bat and Brown Tree snake
- Local food chain and being snake aware, especially at the entrance where there is lots of food for the snakes
- How limestone formations developed over time, particularly formations found only in tropical locations
- The effects of Indigenous land management burns over hundreds of years on the limestone caves below, blackened sections of limestone cave roof
- Evidence of WW2 target practice by servicemen
What I have shared here is truly just the tip of the travelling iceberg!
Simply Homeschool has taught me how to see these learning opportunities in everyday life. In fact, I think I may even be learning more than my kids, and I’m absolutely loving it!