As a career-switching teacher, formerly of the corporate world, I cannot tell you how important it is to prepare our children for life after school. We are, unfortunately, still teaching kids in many public schools the same ways they’ve been taught for over 100 years, even though the expectations in the real world have changed immensely.
‘Roadschooling’ is the term my husband and I use to define the way we teach our wild learner. Since we are a family living tiny, with the ability to travel, incorporating site-seeing and historical landmarks is a large part of the way we teach. This type of hands-on learning is allowing our son, who previously failed to perform in public school, the ability to thrive and use his gifts and talents to learn, serve others, and better manage his emotions, impulses, and behaviors.
We Roadschool our kiddos because we live tiny and have freedoms many do not. We also parent a son with multiple behavior diagnosis, including severe ADHD. He is a brilliant kid, but convincing him to sit in school is next to impossible. So, we wanted to share what has worked for us to keep his focus and have hands-on fun while learning, whether stationary or on the road! Our circumstances may not look like yours, but our goal is the same. We want to provide our kids with the opportunity for growth and success through learning. So here are some unconventional activities to try with your learners this year!
This adventure sport will push even the most excited thrill seeker, while still offering low-key options like bouldering (lower to the ground without the use of complicated knots or harnessing) for the more calculated risk-taker. Parents who want to participate can, or they can simply sit back and play mama-razzi to capture the moment. Many cities offer indoor gyms or rec centers with qualified and certified staff members to teach and keep your students safe. Click HERE to search for one in your area. For the more outdoorsy parents, you can always find real rock and make your way to the peaks. Click HERE for a list of recommended and approved outdoor sites. If you have advanced reading elementary students or middle schoolers, THIS is a great book to get them interested.
This is such an overlooked part of history and can capture even the most uninterested student’s attention. This type of curriculum can be adapted for all ages and can be tweaked to incorporate all subjects. We used rubber bands to test trajectory, paper airplanes to illustrate cargo capacity, and visited our local naval base and air force museum (which were both FREE). Even if your hometown doesn’t have access to suchwealths of knowledge, the nearest airport is a great place for kids of all ages to check out the basics of flight and many employees are eager to help educate! There are some great ideas to get you started HERE. To incorporate some awesome books for this unit, I’d recommend THIS for preschool, THIS for elementary, THIS for middle school, and THIS for high school.
This was one of the most popular weeks we have ever spent Roadschooling. Our son, who has some pretty major sensory concerns, really got down to business and was so eager to learn the how-to’s of the experiments and making things happen. He is six and he learned the entire scientific method and how to get through it and it costed us no more than a 2 liter bottle and some basic kitchen items we already had in the pantry. Click HERE for a place to get your list of supplies and step-by-steps! We used THIS book, THIS kit to make snow, and THIS kit to launch a rocket. Those were our personal favs!
Charting the Stars-
Our son really got into this and we timed it to fall in line with the total eclipse last year. We charted constellations, built them out of toothpicks and mini marshmallows, and learned about space. Our son studied planets and stars and was able to finalize the week with a visit to the local aviation museum which has a NASA exhibit. THIS is a great book to use to introduce these lessons and it can be used for a variety of ages. Many science museums have similar exhibits so check into it in your area. HERE is a great place to get started.
I could go on and on about why all teachers (parents or otherwise) should be incorporating STEM activities into their curriculum as much as possible. Our current jobs demand collaboration, creativity, and ingenuity. The days of factory work have passed for many so we need to prepare our kids for life after high school. THIS is a great place to start for ideas, but we also used THIS book as it can be adapted for a variety of age and ability levels. STEM incorporates the idea of completing a task using a variety of materials and problem solving skills and they are so fun!
Anatomy Of Themselves-
It has proven helpful in our home when you teach more tech-heavy or language intensive subjects to incorporate as much hands-on learning as possible. Click HERE for suggestions on activities you can do with your kiddos that will begin teaching them about muscles, the skeletal system, and much more. This can also be a great time to incorporate good hygiene lessons as well as safety from drugs and alcohol as you can give them hard and fast illustrations of how they can affect their bodily functions. THIS is a great set of posters your students can complete that you can display with pride.
Because our son has some behavior diagnosis, we take this unit a step further and teach him about emotional awareness, personal responsibility, and honesty.
As a high school English teacher by trade, I cannot tell you how crucial this can be for your children. No matter what their age, it is never too early to get them thinking about what they want to be “when they grow up”. This is a great unit for differentiating the work for various ages and ability levels. Our six year old focused mostly on learning about different types of careers he was interested in, while older students can draft a resume including babysitting or a paper route, and high school students should begin collecting letters of recommendation, writing cover letters and so on to prepare them for college and career readiness. If your student is in high school, I’d recommend THIS book to use as a guide to building their portfolio.
Team Building Activities-
If you are in touch with other homeschoolers or just friends with kiddos your age, this is a GREAT way for them to burn energy, get outside (but can be done inside), and connect, collaborate, and problem solve. Whether you hire a company that specializes in team building or you facilitate activities like THESE, your kids will be better for it and they will have fun! THIS super affordable book is loaded with ideas for all age groups and concept levels.
One of the best things we’ve done with our son is get hooked up with a local restaurant that allows community members to volunteer their time or work for food. It is incredible, really. It is a beautiful model of kindness, service, and generosity to others. In our self-centered society, this is a great reminder for our kiddos! Whether your community favors a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or food pantry, our younger generation needs to learn to be others-focused and this is a great (and safe) way to help them learn.
Project-Based Skill Development-
The current job market is looking for creative innovators who are able to think outside the box. Start HERE searching for activities and lessons you can incorporate that are based around a project that incorporates a concept or question and leaves it up to the students to come up with a creative way to navigate to the solution. I have four years experience teaching in a project-based high school and our students test higher and perform better both in and after high school because of these skills they’ve developed.
This was the last unit we did with our son before Christmas. We felt is was crucial that he learn that not all people take breaks for holidays because their jobs require them to be ready at all times. So, together, we baked cookies for local police, firemen, and EMTs and delivered them. this turned out to be an amazing experience as the local departments gave him tours, let him see their vehicles, and the fire department even let him put on a uniform. It was pretty remarkable. We incorporated age-level appropriate books like THIS into his lessons and he absolutely loved it.
This generation already has so much more knowledge about recycling and leaving a smaller footprint on our planet than we ever had because they are growing up hearing the lingo. However, while they may hear it, many aren’t sure why it is important. These lessons and activities can easily be combined with science units as well. Start HERE to get some great ideas for projects and activities your students can do that are hands-on and teach long term lessons. THIS is a super great intro book to use if you have preschool or elementary aged students.
For many of us, this wasn’t on the radar until college. However, we are raising a group of young people who are lacking basic culture because of it. Therefore, exposing our children to art beyond a coloring book, we are able to open their minds to abstract concepts and allow them to flourish with talents and interests they may not have otherwise discovered. I also love that many art museums are free or deeply discounted for students so incorporating a field trip where they can put their lessons to work can be a great way to build confidence and take their school work a step further. Go HERE for ideas of how to get your students involved and HERE to find an excellent resource for this unit!
As an English teacher, I love to incorporate books whenever possible into my children’s lessons. This is crucial for a variety of reasons that go far beyond building vocabulary and reading skills. THESE books are just a start to where your children can develop a deep love and appreciation for music genres far beyond Disney princess classics. Many local towns also offer music lessons, live music, or free performances in places like farmer’s markets to expose our students to a variety of types of music. We LOVE THIS book because it comes with a CD for you to listen while you learn! Super great for those who prefer to work while listening to tunes or for those with sensory needs (like our son).
Children Around the World-
THIS book is incredible! We let our son design his own passport and choose 5 countries he wanted to visit that week. He was able to read about, see, and learn about other kids that are just like him but living in different parts of the world. We incorporated food from their countries and even made crafts to resemble items from their cultures. This lesson went far beyond just reading to exploration, discovery, and discussions of tolerance and equality, even with our six year old.
Life Skills Development-
As we all know, we may not use our 8th grade knowledge of parallelograms in our day-to-day life, but we sure need to know how to balance a checkbook or file our taxes! So, we are starting young teaching our kids to survive on their own. This means incorporating lessons about money management, cooking, and even doing laundry. This will provide freedom and self reliance for our kids as well as the confidence we need as parents to let them become more independent. We recommend THIS book for elementary, THIS one for middle school, and THIS one for a high school resource.
How To Eat Homemade-
Whether you are a family that eats whole and organic foods, or one who prefers macaroni from a box, our students should know how to prepare a meal for themselves or their family. We incorporated science, math, and money management into this unit for our son. He was able to feel a part of his lessons as well as a contributor to the household when he helped plan a menu, shop for groceries, and cook the food. THIS book was a huge help, especially if you have kiddos with food allergies or ingredients you prefer to stay away from. It is user friendly and filled with great recipes that any age will enjoy making!
This might arguably be the most important unit we cover all year. As our son has five behavior diagnosis, he is a very emotional child. He feels everything and his show of emotions is loud. Even for children who do not struggle as our son does, our society is dealing with bullying and offenses toward people that strike panic in the hearts of parents. So, this unit was so wonderful to teach and model self-respect, kindness, identifying and managing emotions, and impulse control. Our favorite resources can be viewed by clicking on each of those topics.
Beyond a teaching degree and six years parenting a child with behavior diagnosis, we are not professionals. However, we have spent a combined 30+ years working with children of all ages and backgrounds who have struggled to learn. This is our hands-on approach to some outside of the box lessons to help each learner master skills to help them become successful adults.
Brynn Burger lives tiny, loves big, and laughs always. Writing with honest hilarity and violent vulnerability about parenting, adulting, downsizing, living tiny, and raising an extreme child is her attempt to escape the painful isolation that comes from a life of hiding to instead connect with people who are raw and real. Check her out at www.themamaontherocks.com.