Since I feel like there are just too many variables in planning our trip to Alaska I have decided to focus a bit more on the girls’ school plan for next year.  Every year since I have been homeschooling I come up with a school plan.  It’s basically a subject by subject list of what each child will study and what curricula they will use.  I usually integrate that into our travel for the year. 

This year since we will be road tripping for a while and I’m not even sure where we are going and where we will end up living when it’s all over there are certainly a lot of question marks.  Regardless of all the unknowns though for ES the focus is on college prep since this is her last year home. 

People ask me what kind of homeschooling theory do I use with my kids and the answer is that while I am definitely not an unschooler the longer I do this the more I lean in that direction.  If I have learned one thing in all my years homeschooling it’s that less is more.  I figure if I literally bombard my kids with information appealing to all of their senses they will remember what they need.  (Except in math.  We are 100% traditional in that department.) I think that is why the concept of travelschooling has been such a large part of my homeschool.  Seeing a place, hearing a language, smelling and tasting the food leaves far more a lasting impression than mearly doing a worksheet.  I pair it up with some seriously great reading and writing assignments all linked together and BAM you’ve got a great plan.   Kids are too, for the most part, wired to learn a certain way and while we can try to mold them in different directions the reality is that they will bloom where they bloom when they bloom regardless of what you do.  My main theory of homeschooling is just to provide a plethora of materials in a variety of learning styles and be sure they are moving forward each day.  By the time they reach middle school both they and you will know what works best so just blast the littles with lots of different types of learning and see what works.  That being said there is undoubtedly a baseline of hoops you must jump through or get your kids to jump through if they want to get into college.  After years of education based more on exploration than any one theory this is the year I must teach ES to jump through hoops so she is more prepared for the hoop jumping required in college. 

The first hoop ES will jump through is the SAT and we are doing an online SAT Math prep class for her this summer. For a kid who really has almost no experience with standardized tests it could go either way. I have to say though when I sent my oldest son in for the SAT he came out looking defeated and told me, “Mom, everyone else had a calculator!” Yes, I am the idiot homeschooling mom who had no idea kids can now bring calculators into the SAT. He did fine though and since I am a one and done type person– let’s not waste anymore time on this than necessary– we just chocked that one up to great stories to laugh about in the future.

 At the same time ES is jumping through the SAT hoop I am working on her transcript pulling out the study plans from the last few years and using to put it together.  I used this with my boys and they didn’t have any trouble at all getting into college.  I hate paperwork so for me to say this was easier than I thought it would be says a lot. 

I also want to put together a school plan for the year that includes a  strong base in the philosophy and western canon required by many colleges and contrast that to a more free spirited last hurrah with the travelschooling.  I don’t want her whole last year at home to be about hoopjumping, but at the same time I want to give her a good dose of information so when she is drowning in college level hoops she at least has a vague idea of what is going on.  It’s a tall order, but this strategy worked well for my sons so I know it is possible. 

(My oldest graduated from college with a degree in economics and he’s gainfully employed, totally independent, married, living in Hong Kong and a civilized human being.  The other just completed his second year of seminary and he’s conquered some seriously nutty sounding philosophy courses not to mention a whole lot of Latin without too much of a struggle.  He is also a civilized human being.  I tell you this because I know the constant doubt of homeschooling.  Am I doing enough?  Will this child ever learn to keep his feet from smelling?  What will happen when they sit in a college class for the first time?  Trust me—less is more. They will grow up and learn to be independent. Homeschooling works a lot better than you think it will.  Anyway back to ES and the school plan….) 

I use Homeschool Connections a great deal for anything classical like what I am going for in ES’s college prep coursework.  Their subscription service is affordable and the classes are fantastic.  So I will sign her up for some philosophy and literature through them.  Usually I do at least one of the classes live online, but for the purposes of the road trip I think independent pre recorded is best this semester.  (Just for your reference in addition to Homeschool Connections I am also a big fan of both Open Tent and Excelsior.  We’ve used all three a great deal and I have never had a bad experience.  Open Tent is definitely the most laid back of the three while Excelsior is somewhere in the middle and Homeschool Connections is the more thorough)  Maybe in the spring when we are more settled where ever it is that we end up settling I will add in a live class. 

I’m also going to make her do physics much to her dismay.  I usually use Apologia for science which might be difficult on the road for the lab portion, but we will get it done.  I think Apologia is definitely the easiest and most thorough of all the homeschool science programs I have used.  Before deciding to go to Seminary my younger son wanted to be a doctor so I did a lot of online science classes for him which is another option if you want to go that route.  It just depends on how in depth you want them to go and how confident you are in teaching it. 

Math is Rick’s problem.  Seriously.  He’s a math guy and I am not.  Opposites attract.  I think ES is going to do Statistics and Probability.  I have no idea though. 

History will be our last hurrah of travelschooling.  I will probably get a few good Great Courses to listen to while we are driving and then, of course, tons of hands on stops along the road.  And we will use travel journals which the girls hate, but I am hoping some day they will appreciate them.  Shhh though don’t tell them because I don’t want to hear them whine.  I am saving that for the car ride. 

I also like to add in practical physical education.  The girls are both using a running app this year (makes me sad to think about moving.  I love running along the National Mall.  I wonder where we will end up living….)  It starts with couch to 5K and then has 5K to 10K etc. all the way up to marathon.  I have them just do it super slowly repeating runs because there is really no rush to get through them all.  We will also include a lot of hikes and some swimming when possible.  If we do manage to get to Alaska we will aim for cross country skiing, ice skating and snow shoeing in the winter.  I just want to be sure they get their heart rates up three times a week and then stretch before and after. 

Boom.  Senior Year planned.  Wow.  That’s kind of sad.  And also a relief.  Will deal with LS and eighth grade tomorrow. 

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About Mary

Mary Stephens holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Mary spent almost twenty years homeschooling her four children and is now navigating post homeschool life in Alaska. She offers personal insights, recipes, homeschooling tips and tricks and travel advice on her website Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.

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