Wondering how to spice up homeschool while traveling to make it fun? Our homeschool family is taking another long road trip, but the learning won’t stop just because we leave home! This article gives you unique ideas to think outside the curriculum box, how to keep learning fun on long travel days, and how to keep everything organized.
Homeschool While Traveling Mindset + Tips
Some keys to keep in mind about homeschooling while traveling are:
- you don’t have in a school room to learn
- plan ahead, it pays off
- bring a variety of learning resources
- be flexible and allow for spontaneous learning opportunities
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Think Outside the Curriculum Box
If your curriculum is bulky, includes a lot of pieces, or you just want to do something different for homeschool while traveling, be encouraged. This is an opportunity to embrace the flexibility of homeschool and think outside the box (assuming your state allows for flexibility as ours does).
Instead consider packing:
- dry-erase activity books
- memory work CDs
- a tablet with educational apps
- educational movies or shows
With a little bit of planning ahead, you can still have a week full of fun learning without hauling binders, totes, or a bunch of tiny math manipulatives along.
Traveling can be long and stressful, but who doesn’t love surprises?
Wrap up books, activity books, or toys to keep it exciting. Wrapping paper, gift bags, canvas bags, or even plastic bags work just fine.
Here are our 18 bags of surprises, some new, some oldies but goodies, and some they just haven’t seen for awhile. Why 18? One for each hour…
Open One Activity Bag Each Hour
To make traveling time easier for everyone, do not give them everything right away! If your kids are anything like mine, if you give them access to everything right away, it’ll be 45 minutes later and you’ll hear “I’m bored…are we there yet?”
Avoid this by setting a timeframe like every hour, or a distance marker like when you enter a new state, to let your kids open one of the surprises. Things like new books, coloring supplies, movies, or special snacks are ideas.
This really helps keep boredom down, anticipating up, and encourages the essential life skill of patience
Keep Your School Supplies Organized
Keep all the kids’ homeschool and learning supplies in a backpack or tote bag on the floor. Or if you need more organization like me, these things helped us.
Use a Lap Desk for School on the Road
I bought one of these Kids Travel Trays for each child and they worked great!
I surprised the kids with a fresh set of dry erase markers to go with their lap desk. The kids were able to practice writing letters, numbers, and even spelling words.
For fun, they played Pictionary, tic-tac-toe, and just enjoyed creative drawing.
Here are some photos of the lap desk with various supplies, so you can gauge how big they are.
I read many reviews before picking this one. I like it seems durable, has a dry erase surface, side pockets for organization, and a sturdy, removable tablet stand.
Use a Back Seat Organizer
If your kids don’t fill all the seats, a bin or bag on the back seat helps keep everything contained and within reach.
I got this car seat organizer on Amazon that you can buckle in because I got tired of our previous book basket sliding onto the floor and spilling all over. It is easy to install and surprisingly, holds a lot of stuff!
Learning Resources to Use While Traveling
Use Workbooks for Multiple Subjects
If you want to pack as light as possible, get a workbook like those by Brain Quest. There are workbooks for preschool through 6th grade.
Brain Quest workbooks are colorful, cover all the main subject areas, inexpensive, and easy to order on Amazon:
There are even Summer Brain Quest workbooks that can help kids keep their skills fresh throughout the summer break. Why not order one early and start it while on vacation?
Summer Brain Quest Workbooks
Ways to Practice Math on a Road Trip
In addition to workbooks, math concepts are in so many educational and storybooks! Bring books like these, and your kids will get the added benefit of language and reading practice.
Look for math story books about:
- spatial awareness
Read Usborne Math Books
The Usborne See inside Math book was a hit. It’s educational and all the little flaps kept them busy.
Most younger kids also enjoy learning from the Usborne Big Book of Numbers book, while older kids might enjoy reading from the Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Math.
Use Time to Practice Telling Time + Tying Shoes
Have a kindergartener who doesn’t know how to tie her shoes or tell time yet? A road trip is a perfect time because you’re spending hours and hours sitting in a car anyway.
Our daughter had already figured out how to tell time, but she was still struggling with tying her shoes. It took encouragement to persevere and stick with it even though it was hard, but this How to Tie Your Shoes book was well worth the ten bucks because we came home from our vacation with a five-year-old girl who knew how to tie her own shoes. 🎉👟
Bonus: it includes pieces to make a cardboard shoe that our 3-year-old built, took apart, and rebuilt again and again. that was a pleasant surprise!
Read Math Story Books
You can also learn and strengthen math concepts in storybooks like these, although I’ll admit the books mentioned above were more engaging.
Play Math Games
Bring a game that practices math skills for the family to play during down time. This version of Shut the Box can have up to four players at once. It’s a fun way to practice mental math, reaction time, and strategic thinking!
Use Math Workbooks
Finally, if you have a kid who really likes workbooks, pack a math workbook along as an easy way to practice math skills while on vacation.
Ways to Practice Reading, Language, and Writing While Traveling
Reading should be pretty easy to take on the road…books! Bring book(s) that are both at the child’s level for reading skills practice and above her level for read aloud.
Audiobooks and e-books are perfect if you’re tight on space (these tips can help you get audiobooks for free) and Explode the Code workbooks are great for phonics practice and language skills.
For language and writing practice, a workbook can allow kids to practice skills, while a journal can be a place for them to take notes about your vacation.
Use a Travel Journal for Writing
Bring a notebook or make it extra fun with a Travel Journal. The Page-A-Day Artisan Travel Journal has one page per day to write the date, location, notes, and circle the weather. This could be a special keepsake of memories for the family that go far beyond daily writing practice.
Bring Books for Reading Practice
If you have a beginning reader, a set of BOB Books is perfect for road trips. I like that they’re small, so you can bring quite a few without taking a lot of space.
They come in a pretty sturdy box, so they stay organized and don’t get lost. If you don’t have any yet, you can check your library or order them from Amazon.
Beginner Books + Early Readers
Use Montesorri Travel Reading Blocks
“Look, Mom, I spelled run like you went for runs on the beach!” 🏖
If you have a beginning reader, these Spin-and-Read Montesorri Reading Blocks and Flashcard Travel Set is a hands-on way for kids to practice reading anywhere. By spinning the blocks, kids can make 60+ words. It even comes with a ring of high-quality flashcards and it all fits in a nice small travel tote bag.
Read Chapter Books
You can also bring a book that’s beyond your child’s reading level. A family read-aloud book or audiobooks work.
Fun Ways to Learn Geography and History on a Road Trip
Between CDs, books, activity books, or coloring books, you can easily keep history and geography learning going while on vacation.
Listen to American History on CDs
Adventures in Odyssey has a highly-recommended American History Compilation on 8 CDs that we will use for American History. Audio CD’s are a perfect way to learn history while passing time on a road trip.
In eight hours of audio lessons, this series covers the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620, the Revolutionary War, Civil War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War.
Bring a Map to Learn Geography
To homeschool during a road trip, bring a map and a book to learn about the areas you’re traveling to and through.
We brought a dry erase map and crossed off each state as we left it. Then we read about the capital of each state we entered from a State Capitals book.
Bring Travel Books
Pack books with information about the places you are going to. Even if your kids cannot read well yet, they can look at the pictures, ask questions, and get excited about the family adventure.
Check your public library for extra books about your destinations that you don’t want to buy.
U.S. Travel Books and Workbooks
Here are some of the most popular books and activity books about traveling the United States:
Color Geography Coloring Books
Maps and coloring books are more fun ways to incorporate learning on your trip. This United States Coloring Book includes a picture with a few basic facts about each state, like the capital, state bird, state flower, and state nickname.
Use the Historic American Landmarks coloring book to learn about famous mand-made landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty and the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
For geography around the world, the Around the World Coloring Book is a creative way to teach the names and facts about countries around the world. Each nation includes names of major cities, national flags, landmarks, and unique facts.
For a free version, this blog has a printable 50 states coloring book that you can print at home.
Easy Ways to Make Learning on Vacation Fun
Pack New Markers, Crayons, Colored Pencils, and Erasable Gel Pens
Of course, all parents know fresh new colors are an easy way to make things new and exciting. Most kids really enjoy twistable and scented colors. These Mr. Sketch Scented Twistable Crayons have both!
Crayola Mess Free markers only show up on special paper, so these are perfect for younger kids if you’re worried about markers getting on your seats.
Our kids are always asking to use my favorite FriXion Erasable Gel Pens. They’re incredible because they really do erase! Sometimes handwriting or workbook work is more fun and less of a struggle if there’s a special writing utensil involved.
Bring Magnetic Tangram Puzzles
Magnetic Tangram puzzles are great for keeping younger kids’ minds and hands busy. We’ll be packing the Coogam Travel Tangram Puzzle, which includes 360 different patterns. These help little minds grasp abstract shapes, problem-solving, geometric shapes, hand-eye coordination, patience, observation, and perseverance.
Pack Sticker Books
Sticker books are another fun way to pass the time while traveling and Melissa and Doug sticker books are definitely a favorite.
Our daughter absolutely loved the Mermaid and Princess sticker pads, which I was lucky to snag in a Buy 3 Get 1 Free deal just before our vacation.
The giant Melissa & Doug sticker pads are not the best for traveling because they’re so big, but these are great options:
- Reusable Puffy Sticker Scenes are easy for little fingers, have a variety of scenes, and don’t take up much space
- Mosaic Sticker Pads are fun for a little older kids, and are like a puzzle without sliding pieces
- Make-a-Face Stickers are fun for creative kids who enjoy dress up or find humor in making silly faces
Use a Tablet + Learning Apps
If you have an iPad or tablet, movies, audiobooks, and games can be an easy way to homeschool while on the vacation.
Some popular tablets are:
A few of the many free educational apps are:
- Khan Academy Kids
- PBS Kids Games
- Funbrain Jr.
- Phonics Ninja
Remember to pack earphones for the kids! Our daughter got these glittery pink headphones as a gift for her 5th birthday.
Part of the beauty of homeschooling is the ability to learn anywhere! Remain flexible and allow for spontaneous adventures for unexpected learning opportunities.
Memories made on vacation are some of the lessons kids will remember for a lifetime.
Cherish it and enjoy the adventure!
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