Roadschooling: What materials do you need to homeschool on the road?

There are people out there who equate a mountain of teaching materials with a good education.  Experience has shown, however, that you can provide an awesome education for your children with relatively few supplies.  For roadschooling families with limited space, this fact is a godsend.

While I will be the first to admit that a good variety of teaching materials can made a teacher’s life easier (much easier!) I´ve learned from my 21 years as a classroom teacher that they aren’t necessary.

One year I walked into my new classroom in Albuquerque, New Mexico and quickly discovered a scene straight out of one of those horror films:  it was empty.  I had an empty teacher desk, a bunch of empty student desks, and a bookshelf filled with 200 copies of old fifth grade science and social studies books.  I was teaching Grade 2 – 5 Special Education.  I had nothing useable – not a single pencil or piece of paper, no reading books or math books. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.  Goose eggs.

And yet, I look back on that year now and marvel at the education my students received.  I pulled out all the stops on that creativity box in my brain and we learned – a lot.

I made the rounds of travel agencies in town and picked up travel brochures for destinations around the globe. The kids and I cut out pictures of the seven continents and made collages. We wrote stories based on the pictures and used those as our reading materials.  We sang songs and recited poems about various parts of the world.  I went to a furniture store and rounded up refrigerator boxes to make dioramas.  In short – those kids learned way more than they would have if I had had that mountain of teaching supplies at my fingertips.

As roadschoolers, we have the advantage of being in unique locations and we can take advantage of that fact.  When you visit national parks, take time to listen to the ranger talks and read the info presented in the visitor centers.  As you drive along the highway, stop and read the historical markers.  You will find that a huge amount of your children’s education can come from simply taking advantage of your local environment – whereever that happens to be today.

There are some materials that will make your life easier on the road. Each family will choose different items, but this is what we carry with us on our bicycles as we travel the world on two wheels:

  • Kindles – the best purchase ever.  Our sons can download English books no matter where we happen to be.
  • Math books – For younger children, all they need to know in this area can easily be incorporated into your daily routine, but for older kids who are studying more advanced math, it’s not as easy.  We managed to get some math books from a school that had purchased new ones and was discarding their old copies.
  • Notebook – We have a notebook for each child.  They use them as journals (if we are camping out and they don’t have access to a computer) and paper for math.  We buy small notebooks and replace them when full.
  • Calculator/Thesaurus/Dictionary/Translator – One machine does it all.  It’s the size of a normal calculator, but it’s so much more.
  • Maps – We carry maps so we know where we’re going, but they also make great teaching materials.
  • Computers and various CDs - a computer is a great tool!  We have a wide variety of educational programs for our children – from an entire earth science book that’s been scanned to geography programs to math drill. There is no end to what you can find for the computer.
  • Creativity – This is the most important thing to take with you!  By thinking creatively, you will find you can provide an awesome educational program for your children no matter where you happen to be in the world!


At the equator

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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3 Responses to Roadschooling: What materials do you need to homeschool on the road?

  1. Rick September 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    I agree with you on every aspect! I am a teacher, too, and I am convinced that this so called modern education is a big part of what is wrong with education in America. Back to the basics!

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  2. Evelyn September 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

    Great teachers have great minds and use them to the fullest. Keep traveling safely.

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  3. Victoria September 24, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    We are taking a computer (the BBC schools website is amazing btw), notebooks, felt tips, glue, sellotape, pencils, one thin maths revision guide per child (this will cover everything they’re missing in maths at school), a Sony ereader, an iPhone with various educational apps (times tables etc) and that’s it. Otherwise we’ll visit museums and fill in worksheets, learn about volcanos, glaciers, rainforests and deserts by actually visiting them. And play!

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