Road School

We’ve spent months figuring out how best to teach 3rd and 6th grade to our kids next year. As a teacher, Brian was able to gather curricula and lessons from other teachers in the district (if you are reading this, thank you!). As a researcher, I thought it would be pretty straightforward to find whatever additional curricula and resources we’d need. Turns out, the policy and research papers I’d been reading aren’t much help for this project and I was quickly overwhelmed by how much information exists about what and how to teach: standards (if the common core scares you, just try to sift through the hundreds, literally hundreds, of different state and local standards out there), curriculum and lesson plans (multiply number of standards by the common core), plus countless papers and guides and methods on what great teaching looks like and how to best teach children. In the end, we borrowed from a lot of different places and settled on the fact that we would have to learn as we go. Some of the most interesting conversations about what and how to teach are in the homeschooling community listservs, blogs and other social media sites. These are people who are having to figure it out for themselves and support one another–something teachers don’t have as much time and freedom to do anymore.

We settled on set curricula for math and ELA. For both 3rd and 6th we’re using EngageNY and our district curriculum as the foundation. For texts, we’re using Singapore Math for our 3rd grade daughter, who loves math and wants to move quickly and be challenged. For our 6th grader, who has a book in his hand at all times and is more frustrated by math, we’re using Mammoth Math and Life of Fred. For ELA, we also have set curricula for both grades, borrowing mostly from MCPS, plus a plan for journaling and a whole lot of reading. We have a ton of novels that we’ll probably have to pare down or transfer to Kindle before we go. We’ll be borrowing e-books from our home library, and visiting as many local libraries as we can (as a big fan of libraries, I’m hoping to see and document as many Carnegie libraries as possible, and to take advantage of the Little Free Library network).

For science, we asked the kids what they wanted to learn and we agreed on Anatomy and Physiology, Fire and Electricity (which we recognize could be a danger to us all–those of you who know the gas can story will especially appreciate this) and the Science of the Paranormal and Extraterrestrial (big plans to test some pretty outrageous 6th grader theories–Area 51, here we come!). We have a few books and DVDs on these subjects, plus we’ll be using a few great science sites like NASA and the Jason Project. And we expect to find plenty of other lessons along the way in our national and state parks. The same is true for social studies, where geography and history will be part of our everyday travels. We have a pretty good collection of maps (U.S. and a histomap) and we’ll be trying out resources from sites like iCivics and Constitute and Courts in the Classroom when we can get online. We’ll also be doing crosswords, solitaire, Scrabble, and learning a lot of card games. Plus, we are planning to learn to play the guitar and to knit a sweater (or at least a sock), and to master all sides of the Rubik’s cube. Plenty more plans but that already feels like a lot. We’ll keep you posted on how it all goes. If you have ideas, please let us know!!

4 Responses to Road School

  1. Sue D says:

    There’s a Carnegie library in Coos Bay, Oregon, but it hasn’t been used as a library for decades. I went to kindergarten there and spent many, many hours there among my beloved books in later years. It was my home away from home. You make me nostalgic for that wonderful place!


  2. Alicia P. Rodriguez says:

    Hi, Elena! It’s wonderful what you are doing with your family. Years ago we talked about doing something similar with our family, but, unfortunately, never made it happen. Now that my kids are 20 and 15, it probably won’t happen, but we have a lot of adventures in our travels. We are now in Spain visiting my parents and a couple of siblings and will be heading back to the states on Monday. We visited Portugal before coming here and loved it, renting a car in Lisbon and driving across the peninsula to my parent’s. We visit them every year and usually try to visit another part of Europe before or after our visit. Regarding schooling your kids, it looks like you have a great plan and they will have great opportunities to learn in experiential and nontraditional ways. When my son was in 6th grade we homeschooled him. My husband, a physics prof, was on sabbatical and I was still working full-time, so we split responsibilities. I taught him Spanish, world history (concentrating on Asia, because that year we we’re traveling to India for my brother’s wedding), geography, and English (mostly reading historical fiction with some of the books on India and Asia) and we also worked on some science experiments. My husband taught him science (mostly physics, astronomy, chemistry, etc) using a high school text written by Hewitt, and he also taught him Algebra 1 and some Geometry, I think. I also had him do some project-based stuff that came out of things that he was interested in. I think that what we learned that year was more advanced and richer than what he would have done at school. My son was never excited about school but always did well and when he was young mentioned that he would like to be homeschooled. So that is why we did it. We were hoping to do the same with my daughter around that age, but we could not coordinate it. On another note, Sleeping Bear dunes in Michigan is a lot of fun. We camped their for our honeymoon years ago. Enjoy!


  3. Nancy Lawless says:

    Hi Elena,
    My biggest suggestion to teaching the kids is to relax. Do the math and English as planned, but relax about the other stuff. They will learn a TON by your travels and many important ‘life’ skills like budgeting, grocery shopping, planning meals, nutrition, problem solving, map reading, getting first hand knowledge of what our country looks like and how other people live, etc. Plus, since you’re around your kids all day, all kinds of excellent questions come up for discussion, and you always have Google to look up answers you don’t know and don’t want to make up 😉 You’ll do a great job–I’m completely sure of that because you have a vested interest in your kids.

    Have a great trip!!!!


  4. Phil PIety says:

    I think you could also leverage your stops in terms of subject matter. If you happen to be near a dino dig then this could be not only fun but also the basis for writing projects. I would soak up all those national parks and the history lessons they have ready to use. Once in a lifetime opportunity really.


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