If you follow me on social media, you know I’ve been taking the squad camping across America for the last two weeks. It’s been part necessity (we’re moving from Salt Lake City to the Great Lakes) and part fun-activity, because we learned all about early American history this year in our homeschool, and what good is teaching them at home if you don’t get out there in the world and take advantage of the privileges home education can bring? So when it came time to plan our trip across the country, we opted out of the airlines, pulled out the atlas, and plotted a route that traced the Louisiana Purchase exploration and included the beauty of American National Parks that were close along the way.
So was this a field trip? Or were we done with school and this was a vacation? To really understand the answer to that, you’d need to know our homeschool strategy. See, I really came into my own as an unschooler this year. Unschooling gets a bad rap, because most people imagine a pajama-clad mom waking up with a cup of coffee and asking the kids what they want to do that day. But that’s not us at all. I decided to fully embrace unschooling this year after I caught myself telling my 9 year old exactly what the kindergarten teacher who pushed us into homeschooling had told her: “if you keep asking questions we’re never going to get to what I had planned for this week.” Oy. I have been blessed with extraordinarily inquisitive children, and they genuinely ask great questions, but their questions and desire to delve deeper into topics that interest them can totally derail a well-planned curriculum model. So I ditched those things.
Instead of buying curriculum and writing detailed weekly lesson plans, I create a vision for the school year with concrete goals (like reading x number of words or ability to write concise exposition on a given topic) and subject matter (like American history through the Vietnam war) I intend to cover, and then we use the library, museums, exhibits, natural resources, trips, and other materials to look deeper at each topic as we write, draw, map, build, and create our responses and understanding of said topics. It gives us room to dwell on topics that take me by surprise (hello, 9-year-old writing a report on the Cold War) and to breeze through things that are easier (like math and sight words for my 4-year old whiz kid). And we finish when we finish. Sometimes that means 180 days, but more likely it means we school for closer to 250 days out of the year, learning in every environment, because that’s the beauty of educating them at home.
So here we are, a trio of homeschoolers (with big sister living out loud on the autism spectrum, we opted to let her go stay with her dad and grandparents in a quieter more structured environment, and it was a perfect choice for her) traveling across America with nature journals, maps, a tent, campfire supplies, and entirely too much other junk, to see the nation we’d read about all year. It was beautiful, wild, rough, and beyond our wildest imaginations. So much of the west looks exactly like Lewis and Clark found it, and we got to bask in its majesty at our own pace. Glorious.
So now that I’ve peaked your interest…stay tuned. We’re hitting the road for our final drive to grandparents’ houses, and over the next few days I’ll spill the beans on how our trek played out. There’s good, there’s bad, and there’s ugly, but mostly there’s hilarity in the midst of well-planned chaos, which is exactly where I like to live.