Homeschooling in a Bus

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I’ve been partially homeschooling Lily (and, by default, Emmaline) in the bus for all of two and a half days now, so I’m totally an expert on this.

Ahahahaha. Ha.

Since running around willy nilly trying to get things around here into SOME semblance of order to provide at least a semi-adequate kind of learning environment for my children has been what’s prevented me from posting this week, I figured I’d give you all a run down of what that looks like (after I shoved great swaths of miscellany out of the way in order to take neatish pictures – just so we’re clear).

One of the advantages of the current hybrid program we’re involved with in our local charter school is that they handle all of the science teaching while the parents do all of the history teaching. Since science as a subject in general requires having a lot more stuff on hand, I’m calling this a win for now. We are pretty “stuffed out” on this end.

Case in point:


In one of the Ikea bins under the futon I’m storing manipulatives (pictured: Do-a-Dot Markers, play money, Addition Wrap-Up, base ten blocks, rhyming cards, addition and subtraction flash cards) and books and workbooks that I either rarely use or don’t use yet (pictured: Sing Spell Read Write “On Track” Kindergarten Workbook, Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto).

Some of these resources have been provided by the school (the learning wrap ups, flash cards and SSRW curriculum), but most of them I have picked up on my own or have been given by friends. Some we use often (my girls adore the Do-a-Dot markers) and some we rarely or ever use (flashcards come immediately to mind).


On the shelf above the futon I am storing library books (left), binders, notebooks, maps, card games, CDs and folders (mislabeled bin the center) and workbooks and schoolbooks that we are currently using (right).

All of our craft items (markers, paints, craft sticks, felt, googly eyes, construction paper, extra glue, tape and scissors, etc) are out in our storage pod in this handy dandy organizing cart (here’s a ten-drawer one as well):


Most of the girls’ work is done at the the desk or on the computer (we have since added two stools that the girls sit on – they don’t have to stand to do their work, I promise):


Three days a week our day consists mainly of me getting the girls’ set up with independent activities and trying to occupy Finn so he’s not climbing up and completely destroying everything that they’re working on while simultaneously answering questions that either of them have.

Emmaline is currently working through Lily’s old SSRW workbooks that went mostly unused last year. She is in love with cutting and pasting pictures that match the letter sounds, so I pretty much just let her do that to her heart’s content:


I’m a bit more up in the air with Lily’s school work.

(Warning: diatribe ahead)

It probably requires its own, separate post, but in a nutshell: I am at this odd place where my homeschooling philosophy leans a lot more toward unschooling – basically a child-led learning style that allows kids to explore their own interests at a pace and variety of their own choosing, instead of disconnected and arbitrary curricum that is mandated by someone else.

In the early years that looks a lot less like sitting at a desk and learning how to summarize a plot and more like developing skills through play.

I believe that many of the things that schools spend so much time and effort trying to “teach” children at an early age (such as reading and basic math skills) will develop naturally as kids are involved in a literate, numerate society and family life – I’ve seen evidence of this in my own children again and again. I think that much of the busy work provided by the public school system essentially takes the innate curiosity that children are born with and slowly kills it.

The public charter we’re a part of, while allowing parents a lot of freedom in educating their children how they see fit, is still held to state standards (Common Core, evidence of “work completed” etc.) and so families must meet certain requirements throughout the school year. Lily loves the social aspect of the classroom environment despite the fact that much of the actual work that they’re doing is pretty far below her level (parental brag, but still true).

Ideally, I would completely eschew all the trappings of the traditional schooling environment and allow my children full reign to explore their own interests and follow their curiosity to its maximum potential unfettered by a system that slowly strips the joy and uniqueness out of learning and discovery… but I also want to honor Lily’s desire to stay with her friends and be a part of that world for now. Even if it means completing worksheets that neither one of us enjoy.

So, that’s kind of the crux of my dilemma right now: how to mesh an approach that rejects the traditional schooling environment with… a traditional schooling environment.

I know this isn’t a home schooling blog, but I’m terribly curious to hear other peoples’ thoughts about this. I grew up in traditional public school thinking all home schoolers were weird and unsocialized. It wasn’t until Lily was about three that I started rethinking my stance and, well, now look where we are. I love hearing different perspectives on education and about others’ experiences and beliefs. Let’s discuss?

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9 thoughts on “Homeschooling in a Bus

  1. I have a lot of thoughts on this (brilliant ones, of course), but I’ve got a three year old about to wake up and a Papa about to get home from work, so I think it’d better wait. Let’s just say for starters that you’re right about unschooling and about how people learn. Ooops, here he is!

  2. I’m all for homeschooling…I’m a homeschool graduate myself. From my own experience I prefer traditional textbooks because they provide a foundation, a road map, a springboard….I was definitely an eager learner and delved into additional materials myself. Doing the same for my 5 year old now!

    1. Thought to expound on my comment above while I have the time now. I think esp for subjects like history and science, a good textbook program (I’m an A Beka graduate, and am using A Beka now with my kids) gives a good overall layout. For example, in history a student interested in, say, World War II might not be aware of how turmoil in Europe the 1920s and 1930s set the stage for war erupting on the continent, if he didn’t have a course of study that first went through world history through the centuries, before he studied deeper into any particular period. The same works for science, too.

      From a home school mother’s viewpoint I think worksheets do have the benefit of teaching a child self-discipline. In adult life there is always the boring, routine stuff that needs to be done as well as the moments of “fun work” and I think preparing a child for real life does involve training oneself to finish a task even though it is boring :/ But to an extent I do agree that some parts of standard curricula are unnecessary. Like if you are teaching your child you already know where they stand academically, so why subject them to tests?

      The beauty of home schooling is that a child can learn at his own pace, so that even using traditional methods, he can “fast forward” through material that comes easy to him, and then he also has the time to delve deeper into any areas that interest him. And even though there is Common Core and all that as parents we still know how our child learns best and have a level of flexibility to change things.

      I loved homeschooling, especially through high school. And I love home schooling my kids now. Would be interesting to know how you progressed from a “home schoolers are weird” position to being a home schooling mom now.

      1. I love that you expounded on your comment!

        In public school I never, ever liked my history textbooks. They never seemed to address the subjects in an in-depth or even interesting way and as an adult I discovered a lot about how much actual history was completely glossed over. I thoroughly enjoyed the (very liberal) book “Lies My Teacher Told Me” that addressed a lot of the things I felt about history growing up.

        I really love the idea of “living books” to teach (although I don’t necessarily subscribe to a full on Charlotte Mason ideology). It wasn’t until I was an adult and started reading books like Devil in the White City and books by David McCollugh that I discovered that I really DO enjoy history when it’s presented contextually. I would love for my kids to experience history in a vivid, interesting way, because I never did as a kid and I think I missed out on a LOT.

        I definitely agree that children need to learn self-discipline, but I think that it can be taught in different ways as well and for younger ages, I think the idea of “sitting and doing your work” is really over emphasized in a school setting. When I walk into a classroom and see all the kids fidgeting and just *aching* to get up out of their seats when they’re supposed to be writing or coloring, I feel so bad for them!

        I think the way that I progressed from thinking home schoolers were weird to where I stand now is simply growing up and having my own kids and not wanting to hand them over to someone else for the majority of their days for the next 12 years. I didn’t like the idea of them picking up the habits and behaviors of other children from families I didn’t know. I still wanted our family unit to be the main influence in my kids’ life, and my husband definitely agreed.

        Once I figured that out, I started actually talking to other homeschooling moms in my church and reading everything I could get my hands on. I started participating in home schooling forums and really delving into what a home schooling life was like. The more I read, the more it made sense and my philosophy just kind of evolved from there 🙂

        I love discussing this stuff, so thank you for taking the time to write more of your thoughts!

  3. I considered homeschooling my children and did a great deal of research about it. Ultimately I decided to send them to public school. It has been an uphill battle with issues related to everything from bullying to the core curriculum. If I had it to do over, I would probably try homeschooling first. The school system has changed so much since we were kids. Mine are in middle school and high school and my middle school child actually inquired about homeschooling a couple of weeks ago – perhaps still something to consider. And I like the idea of school on a bus!

  4. Just a quick note to this (I swear I’ll answer in more depth eventually…). I have friends who just accept that teenagers, especially girls, are all rebellious and angry and depressed, and when I tell them that we never went through that “phase”, they’re baffled. I can see them thinking, “Hmmm, I didn’t think she was a liar, but, maybe delusional.”
    But, here’s the actual reason why: because they were in charge of vast amounts of their lives, they didn’t have much to rebel against or get angry or depressed about. I gave them as much freedom in their lives as I thought safe (and sometimes more, gulp), and I respected their rights to live their lives as they saw fit, within the context of family approved behavior. Strangely enough, I’m considered a disciplinarian because I do insist on kindness, manners and empathy (I mean, I INSIST), but when it comes to deciding what to do with their lives, I pretty much said, “If it’s moral, legal and loving, I’m ok with it.” I worked hard to be a facilitator, rather than a sit-down teacher. And the more hands-off I was, the closer we got. That seems weird, but it’s true, and I think it’s because the core of our relationships was truth and not condemnation. As long as no one was lying (and there was no reason for it), we lived in a pretty nice piece of harmony.
    I hope that makes sense, because I’ve got a 3 year old about to wake up and a Papa about read to come home. My, how my life is consistent!

  5. I have a couple of thoughts.

    #1 – I went to traditional public school all my life, and everytime I met a homeshooled kid I was always impressed at how smart, well-behaved, and well-rounded they were.

    #2 – I only learned of this idea of “unschooling” a short while ago, and I love the idea. I feel like this is what we normally do as adults anyway. When we have time, we learn about the things we are interested in, and, more importantly, we know how to learn the things we need. The ability to learn is key, not the knowledge we accumulate. For example, a while back I wanted to have a garage sale, but I had never had one before, and they didn’t teach me how to do this in school. So, I asked some friends for advice, googled more advice on the internet, and voila! I learned how to it and pulled off a successful garage sale! If you can teach your kids HOW to learn, you will be successful!

  6. I “drop in” to this blog occasionally, because the idea of living in a bus is fascinating to me. I am constantly trying to get “stuff” out and only have things we use, love, or need taking up our space.

    I also unschool my 4 kids. The older two are grades 7 and 9 this year, and it’s the first time we’re trying out what “taking a course” online is like. It’s pleasantly surprising how ready they are for it.

    The little ones (sk and gr1) spend most of the day playing outside, baking, drawing, Lego-ing, reading, singing, counting (up to 100 this week!) and so forth.

    Being able to learn what they are interested in has been a huge blessing to my kids. The 11yo in particular has known since she was 4 “what she wants to be” and has focused on architecture and design far more than she could have in a conventional classroom.

    Being able to move whenever they need to is a blessing to all my kids, especially my fidgety two. They can do a bit of work, go bounce on the trampoline, come back and do a bit more. The oldest takes himself off for a walk in the woods when he gets stressed, and comes back calm and ready to try again. They are all interested at least a bit in academic areas, but at their own pace and on their own time.

    We considered public school for high school, but he decided that he wanted to stay home so that he’d still have his evenings and weekends free. Which we totally support – my husband just changed jobs so that he wouldn’t be “on call” (read, working) every evening and most weekends.

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