- Children are spending more time learning at home. While some are learning virtually, others are being homeschooled for the first time this school year.
- Insider spoke to four families who lived in RVs while homeschooling their children.
- They shared advice they have for families who are now taking the reigns on their children's learning.
- Sign up for our new parenting newsletter Insider Parenting here.
Ash Fite's first year of homeschooling her daughter was sprinkled with stress and freak-outs.
Not from her daughter Everly, who was 5 at the time. The stress came from Fite. She said she was constantly nervous that she wasn't doing enough or teaching the right way. But over time, Ash noticed that Everly would pick things up and learn in all types of circumstances.
"We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create this kid," she told Insider. "When really, our children are using us as guides."
Ash and her husband, Mars Fite, have two children: Everly, 6, and Atlas, 10 months. Together, the family travels full-time in a camper van and record their adventures through Fite Travels. They started their travel journey with a 48-state road trip. Shortly after that, they purchased a van to live and travel in for the foreseeable future.
Van life also meant that Ash and Mars would need to homeschool their children, a challenge that Ash was excited to take on. But it didn't come without its road bumps. Over the course of the year — and even today — Ash reminds herself that it's going to be OK.
This year, the country has seen a spike of interest in homeschooling. In states like Nebraska, North Carolina, and Vermont, homeschooling application requests have increased. Everything from virtual school to online public homeschooling to unschooling has gained popularity over the last few months.
Insider spoke to four families who have homeschooled their children while living on the road about the tips and tricks they picked up along the way.
Take your children someplace new every week.
A few RV families shared that small adventures can feel just as large as the ones that took months to plan. So whether you're living at home or living on the road, don't stop exploring new places.
Karen Akpan and her husband started homeschooling their son Aiden from day one.
"Just looking at my son and how he was learning, I just knew that I would be the best way to teach him," the mom, who runs a blog called The Mom Trotter, told Insider.
They follow an unschooling model, which is an unstructured approach to education where the children often choose what they learn.
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𝐑𝐨𝐚𝐝𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 3rd Grade with your favorite nephew a.k.a. aspiring Wild Life Biologist 🥰. This year we will be homeschooling / unschooling / roadschooling. We have been homeschooling for a few years now so this isn't new to us. The only difference is that now we are full time RVing now vs being at home. We usually homeschool year round, but since school technically starts in August, that's when we do our first day of school photos. Aiden spent his first week of school learning to sharpen a stick with a knife, build a fort in the forest, ride his bike, float on a river, read, write, draw, explore nature and more. Talk about roadschooling, this is what I dreamt about for him when we decided to RV full time. To be able to get up and spend all day outside being a kid 🙌🏾. With most families doing distance learning and homeschooling, you can do it too. I highly recommend renting an RV and taking the kids on a trip. As always you can take an RV trip right now and stay socially distant from people. It is possible!! 😉 Wondering where to rent an RV, check out @rvshare which is a peer to peer rental site. If you don't want to drive an RV, some owner's will even drop it off for you at your campsite. 📍Tips for Roadschooling – Plan a trip to somewhere that has lots of outdoor experiences. Biking, white water rafting, beach, natioal forest, national parks, parks etc. – Pack whatever tools your kids will need while on the road including books, tablet, laptop, headphones, writing materials. – Plan your activities around their school work. – Let your kids explore their surroundings and be curious. – Always make yourself available to indulge in their curiosity. – Have fun with them, because that's really what matters the most. ⁉️ Do you plan on renting an RV and taking a trip with your kids? Or taking a road trip somewhere? Any questions, don't hesitate to ask below 😃. #RVshareExpert
Now, Aiden learns on the road. In RV camps, at museums, and along nature trails.
While it's easier for her family to access new destinations, she urged others to explore their own city, town, or neighborhood.
"Go someplace new every week that offers them a different experience," Akpan said.
It's easy to think you can't teach your children, but you've been teaching them your whole life.
Away We Roam, which is composed of Jacklynn Fry, Matthew Fry, and their three children —Norah, 9, Wesley, 7, and Spencer, 3 — started living on the road last December.
The Fry family does a combination of regular homeschooling and unschooling. For them, that means math and language arts follow a curriculum, but science, geography, and history are based on where they're traveling.
For example, the family recently traveled to Mount Rushmore, where they learned about a few of the country's presidents.
Jacklynn said that the hardest transition to homeschooling was trusting herself to be a qualified teacher.
No, not all parents are a certified science or English teacher, Jacklynn said, but that doesn't mean they can't teach their children.
"You've taught them to walk, you've taught them to talk, to say 'please' and 'thank you,'" she said. "It's really easy to get stressed out, but you can do it."
Don't ruin an adventure or activity by declaring it "educational."
Megan and Mike Knorpp are the parents of nine children, ranging from 7 to 19 years old.
They initially switched to homeschooling their children, and over the course of five years, they transitioned to unschooling.
"It came down to what we hoped we could give our kids," Megan said of their decision. "We wanted our kids to be creative thinkers, innovative thinkers, strategic thinkers, and be entrepreneurial. We started looking for ways to develop that and ultimately came to unschooling."
In 2016, they set out for an 18-month adventure in an RV all while unschooling their children. They've been sharing their journey on their blog, Knorpp and South.
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We started homeschooling our kids over a decade ago because we wanted to spend more time together as a family and also to have the freedom to walk to the beat of our own drum. Because both Mike and I had gone to public school, at first it pretty much just looked like a shorter version of public school at home. But we weren’t happy – I was constantly telling the kids to do their schooling and they were constantly avoiding it. So, after several years of trial and error (and reading/researching out the wazoo) we became UNSCHOOLERS. That was five years ago and it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We’ve watched our kids bloom and grow and become interesting and unique humans through exploration, through travel, through play, and overall – through freedom. It’s hard to explain unschooling in a single post so instead Mike and I sat down and made a super long video explaining it and answering all of your burning questions. You can check it out today on the channel! Link in our profile!
One piece of advice the family shared is that something doesn't need to be declared "educational" in order for kids to learn.
"We have this strange view that you only learn when you decide 'I am now learning,'" she said. "When the human brain never stops learning."
Ash agreed with Megan's sentiment, saying: "They're sponges, and they will learn. We put so much pressure on ourselves to teach when kids are constantly learning."
Ash urged parents to help their children start to enjoy learning, and one strategy for that is by letting it happen naturally.
For families that are homeschooling for the first time, don't feel like you have to replicate school.
"You can't re-create it, so don't try," Jacklynn said. "When they're at school they're not receiving eight hours of instruction, and definitely not eight hours of individual instruction."
Jacklynn stressed that parents and guardians might feel pressure to mimic the school experience, but often that takes away from the advantages of homeschooling.
She encouraged families to avoid sitting and learning for hours straight. Instead, she suggested learning in short segments and teaching based on what your children are excited about.
Ash agreed, saying: "It doesn't make sense for us to sit down from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on a computer."
When Ash is teaching her daughter Everly, they learn in shorter bursts. For 90 minutes, they focus on learning, and afterward, they'll do a creative activity.
For families with multiple children, you can learn about the same topics regardless of age.
Often when families are traveling or exploring new places, everyone in the family is learning.
Jacklynn said families should use that to their advantage and learn as a unit.
"My kids can learn the same social studies, they can learn the same history, the same geography regardless if they were in first grade or fifth grade," Jacklynn said. "You just have to adjust it slightly."
By focusing on those topics that both her children can learn, she said it's helped her reduce her stress.
Follow your children's lead.
Whatever Aiden shows an interest in, Karen follows.
"A lot of parents get worried and think, 'What if my kid doesn't show an interest in anything?'" she said. "But if you let children find their path, they will show an interest in something."
For example, Aiden has recently found a love for cooking. But within cooking, there are important lessons about math and measuring and science.
"Kids are natural learners," she said. "Sometimes we need to let them show us that they can do things and it changes the perspective."
The same rings true for the Knorpp family. When things fascinate the children, the family digs in deeper.
For example, their son Elijah became interested in bamboo at the age of 13, which quickly turned into a larger interest in the country of Japan. Through that, he learned a new language, he learned about geography and culture, and he learned about cuisine and climate. Eventually, he traveled to the country.
"When you give a child control and you let them take the driver's seat, they'll take that and do something with it," Mike told Insider.
Model the things you want your children to do.
Megan Knorpp said that if a family member wants their child to read or learn an instrument, then that family member should pick up a book or play an instrument.
"The most important thing you can do as an unschooler or not is model the thing that you want your children to become," she said. "Children see an adult and they say, 'That's what I'm working toward.'"
Karen stressed that teaching goes beyond the lessons in a textbook.
Karen has taught her 7-year-old things like cooking and taxes when he shows an interest in those topics.
"Teach them life skills and have as much fun with it as you can," she said.
If it's not working, stop doing it.
At the core of homeschooling, is that families are now working as a team.
Each team looks different: One might have a mom and son, while another might have two dads, a daughter, and a teacher.
The focus is on finding what works best for your team.
Jacklynn said a lot of the time it's trial and error. For example, the first curriculum she used with her daughter didn't work. Initially, they tried to continue using it, but eventually, she accepted that it just wasn't the right fit.
"The important thing is for everyone to remember that it's so individualized," Jacklynn said. "Don't feel like you have to live up to anyone else is doing — it doesn't work the same for everyone."
If you're a teacher, student, or parent who wants to share their story on what it's like to go back to school right now, get in touch at [email protected].
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