Roadschooling with Preschoolers
One of the reasons we decided to RV fulltime now vs. later is the fact that we have a couple of years until the kids are actually school aged. Finnegan was in preschool when we left our sticks and bricks home in Heber City, UT, and in watching what he was doing daily, I figured I could handle preschooling on the road. From what I knew about my children, what I saw Finn doing in preschool, and thanks to good old common sense, I knew kids learn a lot through play in the preschool years. Hey, I can handle play! But, I also knew my kids had a desire to learn through reading, writing, and working in a more structured environment. Therefore, I’ve decided to incorporate both free play and formal learning into our roadschooling preschool curriculum. While there are so many pros to roadschooling, I feel the biggest pro is having the flexibility to educate your children in a way that works best for your family. And, since there are SO many choices to choose from, or not to choose from, you can literally do whatever you want! So with that being said, here is what roadschooling with preschoolers looks like for our family.
Workbooks, Flashcards & More
Finnegan is four, and Hazel is two. While they are only 21 months apart, they are pretty far apart as far as learning goes. Maybe I’m just being a mom, but I honestly feel like Finnegan is smart beyond his four little years. I think some of that has to do with the fact that he was in daycare the majority of his tiny life while I worked fulltime. He has been in a structured setting where education was a primary focus the majority of his life, while Hazle has not. So, when it comes to “school” work, Finn and Hazel are at very different stages.
With Hazel, we are currently working on things such as shapes, colors, numbers, a few letters, identifying animals, and all your basic two-year-old things. A few days a week, I will spend one on one time with her focused on these topics. We use flashcards for basically all of the above. We have a set of cards that incorporates shapes and colors and will spend time on each card, discussing both. This has helped her understand the difference between shapes and colors, and obviously, learn each! Hazel also loves puzzles. I have some wonderful, educational puzzles that I used in our house with Finn, and knew they would make the short list of items to bring with us in the RV. They are perfect for practicing shapes, colors, identify different items, and improving motor skills. Here are our favorite things for structured roadschooling with Hazel:
Finn has mastered his colors, shapes, etc. and we are now focusing on reading, writing, and math. When I first thought about having to teach my children how to read without the help of teachers, I was scared! But, as Finn has gotten older and is now in the early stages of learning to read, I’m not nearly as frightened. His desire to read has made the process that much easier! We use workbooks that focus on letters, numbers, and handwriting. We sit down together most weekdays while Hazel naps and work in his books. I find he does best when his sister isn’t there to distract him, and I’m able to focus on him. Here are our favorite workbooks:
Arts & Crafts
Finn and Hazel have very different artistic styles and likes. Hazel enjoys coloring and drawing. Finnegan is really into cutting and gluing. So, we take two overhead cabinets in the RV to house arts and crafts materials to fit everyone’s artistic needs! Not to mention, dabbling in a little of everything is ideal for different educational reasons. Free drawing is great for the imagination and improving visual analysis while learning to use scissors enhances motor skills and bilateral coordination skills. Several times a week, we will bust out the arts and crafts bins and let each child go to town. I usually let them tell me what they’d like to do, or occasionally I will lead crafts that we all do together. Once our masterpieces are complete, we use our tiny oven to display our work. The kids are so proud to put their art on display! Here are our must-have arts and craft supplies.
Glue sticks (what Finn asked for from Santa!)
One unsuspecting hobby that both of the kids have started to show an interest in is photography. While they are still too young to fully understand how to do it on their own, they are able to frame up a shot and click the button with a little help. It must come from watching us document all of our travels. We even gave them an old point and shoot digital camera we had laying around!
Both kids absolutely love to read. We have been reading to them since the womb. A story or two has been part of our bedtime routine since we’ve had a bedtime routine (which has been their whole life because I heard that would help with sleep)! Books are one thing we don’t feel bad about having too much of. While we rehomed most of our adult books, we kept a healthy portion of our kid's books when we downsized to the RV. We have a large tote full of books in the basement that we trade out of every few weeks. This keeps our in-house selection fresh and new(ish) to us! We have some books that are more interactive that we incorporate into daytime play then we have our storybooks that are mostly reserved for bedtime and rainy days. Right now our favorite books are pretty much anything by Dr. Seuss, P.D. Eastman, or Robert McCloskey. Finn is really into picking out letters as we read and we’ve started to stop the story to spell out words as we go. This tells me he is eager to learn to read, so we are also reading books that are meant for beginners. The simple words and large font are perfect for this next stage in his life! Here are some of our favorite books:
Last and probably the most important part of roadschooling with preschoolers is playtime. According to The Center for Parenting Education, play encourages communication, improves cognitive development, and encourages relationship building. Therefore, we spend the vast majority of our time each day playing! Outdoor play is ideal. We spend a lot of time playing in nature at National Parks, State Parks, and just outside at the RV. Rocks and sticks have become some of our favorite toys. Both kids could spend all day throwing rocks into the water, whether it be a river or lake, and sticks make for great tools when digging in mud or turning over rocks to look for bugs. I find being outside without manufactured toys encourages the kid’s imagination to run wild without relying on anything other than their minds. For outdoor play, all you really need is some good gear to keep you comfortable and fuel to keep you energized. Here is some of our favorite gear:
When we are inside playing, we do have toys to keep us busy on rainy or lazy days. I will be the first to admit, we brought way too many toys, but they honestly don’t take up that much space! When we get to a new location, and I bring out the toys after traveling, I will only get out a few things. I then rotate toys each new campsite, so the kids seem to stay interested in the toys much longer. When they haven’t seen a toy in three weeks, it’s new to them! While completely unsolicited by us as parents, the kids have become pretty gender stereotypical in the toys they have gravitated towards. I figured Hazel would love cars and trucks, as that’s what Finn mostly plays with, but she loves cooking on her play stovetop and taking care of her baby dolls. But, she does enjoy playing cars with her brother, and Finn has his own purse, so they mix it up too. Here are some of our favorite toys for playing in the RV:
Roadschooling is not something I ever imagined myself doing. Even when I did decide to move into an RV and roadschool with my preschoolers, I was scared that I’d do it wrong, or that they’d end up super far behind when/if they go back to a traditional school. Once I got my feet wet with roadschooling, I lost all of that fear. I am capable of teaching my kids, and they want to learn. I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to roadschool. Doing a little bit of research and going with your gut is the best advice I can give. Most importantly, enjoy this special time with your little one. Spending quality time together and having fun is really all you need to do. The rest will come naturally!