Reading, Writing and Arithmatics

A look back over our year with roadschooling Tristan and thoughts about the general education process of a life next to the yellow lines.

a young man with a sticker on his shirt

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I’m quite impressed with the advances our young rousty Tristan has made with his roadschoolery over the past year. We began his First Grade year a full month and a half behind the normal school year, took off several weeks around the New Year, and in February he even took a break from roadtripping with us to go and visit family in Pittsburgh. With two months of what would be considered the normal school year (Sept-May), I think he’s achieved great strides.

When we began roadschooling him last Fall, he had class for several hours a day, four days a week. Everything was very structured, morning exercises followed by learning a new letter, a small miscellaneous project, typically art related, and then we’d finish the day with a major lesson about whatever: deciduous vs. evergreen, the Civil War, entry level evolution or sometimes just exploring a trail or going for a bike ride.

All in all, the roadschooling experience has worked out very well for us so far.

Once he’d finished his letters and learned the joys of “secret sounds” like th, sh, ing, etc. and started to be able to read basic words, we rolled back the lessons for a couple weeks of Winter Solsticing. When we returned to schoolwork in January, he only had one task: read two or three pages a day from a few very basic books (highly recommended by us is A Hole is to Dig, hilarious and very easy for first time readers). Now and then I’d give him a sheet of math problems to sort out, but by this time he could already add, subtract, understand negatives, and even do some multiplication. In fact, with only a short lesson, for fun and largely to satisfy curiosity on my part, he was able to solve a simple algebra equation last January. Then he went off to visit his grandparents in Pittsburgh for some of February and March. They are intelligent people themselves, and I would consider all of their children to be very well educated and capable of learning, not just knowing, and so when he returned, going through two or three pages a day would only take him a few minutes. He continues to read, five or six pages a day now, and I feel very good about where he’s at with the whole making letters into sounds into words thing.

He still does a math sheet most days as well, though at this point all I can think of to do is give him bigger numbers to solve as he’s pretty much got the whole concept down.

We’ve recently begun drawing pictures for him and then having him spell those words out, to get him into the idea of learning to spell and figure out how to write words from scratch as well. And once I get over my appendicitus recovery, I plan to take him somewhere every Thursday or Friday to give him an “experience lesson”, much like we were doing in the beginning. Think the local science center, kayaking, or a hobby shop.

All in all, the roadschooling experience has worked out very well for us so far. I was hesitant at first, precisely because I know that my son does have quite a bit of potential, and I didn’t want to stifle that by trying to juggle my own work and play with his learning time as well. Nothing further from that could have happened, and I know that, aside from the infinitely valuable time we’ve spent together while he’s young and still completely in love with his parents, he’s also gaining so much real world knowledge — everything from how to read and subtract to how to safely cross a road, do dishes, and recycle — that I don’t think any school could have given him this much.

At this stage, much of his roadschooling is largely hands off for me. Much of that has to do with the fact that he can pick a lesson up very quickly, but also because I don’t teach him something for 30 minutes and then have him go do it. I teach it to him once, ask him if he understands, and if he says yes, I let him get to it. If he comes back from doing the assignment and it’s completely wrong, which is rare, then it reinforces the idea in him to ask questions before you dive into something, otherwise you’ll end up doing it twice because you were in a rush.

All in all, I can’t recommend the whole roadschooling experience enough for anyone who’s considered the fulltimer lifestyle but has young ones and is worried about the impact it’ll have on their education. If that’s not enough to convince you though, think about this: we’ve all heard of the guy with a PhD who’s made a career as a bartender or a Barnes & Noble employee, but how many people who’ve gone to trade school have found it impossible to get into carpentry, plumbing, or whatever they were seeking? Sure, you can get highly trained by reading books and paying wads of cash for an 8×10 full of capital letters, but experiencing something is the only sure fire way to know you can do it.