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Carschooling: An Alternative Approach To Homeschooling

by Diane Flynn Keith

Do you Carschool?  As a homeschooling parent I spend inordinate amounts of time on the road taxiing my kids to park days, field trips, co-op classes, music lessons, museums, libraries, and friend’ houses – not to mention the everyday errand-running we do.  I don’t know about you, but we are always hopping into the car to get last-minute items like a box of baking soda for the volcano we’re building, or a field guide for the nature studies class, or raspberries for the finicky iguana we’re baby-sitting for a vacationing homeschool friend.  At one point, we were spending so much time in the car we didn’t have time for academics! In sheer desperation I thought of books-on-tape – at least we’d hear some good literature and I could relax a little about fulfilling our Language Arts requirement. That was the turning point that took us off the are-we-there-yet interstate and put us on the real information super highway. 

Audio-books were such a hit with the kids that I began to look for other audio resources.  To my utter amazement I found everything from multiplication table rap music, to biographies of famous musicians, to life sciences on cassettes and CDs. Some of these resources had suggested activities for further study in the form of games that we were able to play in the car.  That led to our discovery of many more games and resources for learning every subject imaginable while on the road.  It occurred to me that if I could transform my dining room into a homeschool, I could certainly convert my vintage Volkswagen into a Carschool.

Now, instead of lamenting lost time spent in traffic jams, we cover our curriculum in the car.  You can’t imagine the freedom-from-guilt carschooling has provided this former “home” educator.  As I began to share my new method of car-instruction with my friends, I discovered there were lots of “homeschooling” parents who were really “carschooling.”  We began to share ideas for covering all of the subjects required by the national curriculum standards within the cozy confines of our cars.  We were no longer subjected to cavemen-brained car games like “Slug Bug” (if you see a VW Bug on the road you get to slug the person next to you) — nope, our kids were now unequivocal carschooling “road scholars” learning math, science, grammar, history and more! 

If you are a homeschooling parent who has regretted lost time spent in the car with your homeschooled students – car schooling may be the answer for you!  Try this sample car school curriculum the next time you’re on the road and see if it doesn’t convince you to adopt “Auto Academics.”

A SAMPLE CAR SCHOOLING CURRICULUM

(We’ve included one game and one educational resource under each subject category, to give you a tip-of-the iceberg view of what is available for committed Carschoolers. To find, share, and discuss more resources join the Car Schooling E-List by visiting www.Homefires.com and click on the Carschooling E-List button.)

ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS

Complete The Story Game

This is a simple game that improves listening skills, comprehension, vocabulary, and creative writing.  One person begins to tell a story about anything they want.  After a few descriptive sentences they say, “and then….”  Anyone listening for the “and then” can jump in and add a few more details to the story until they say, “and then”.  That’s when someone else picks up the story.  Anyone can end the story after 3 rounds of play – or it can continue for as long as players would like.

The Princeton Review
Grammar Smart Junior
By Liz Buffa

This book’s subtitle says it all “Good Grammar Made Easy.”  It’s an engaging and fun way to learn parts of speech and sentence structure.  It contains very funny and clever examples of good and bad grammar as it demonstrates what to do and what not to do.  It also contains workbook-type pages and quizzes that car students can do.  Grammar Smart Junior is also available on cassette – good news for those who are auditory learners or who get carsick from reading in the car.  This book received a Parent’s Choice Award and is geared for grades 6-8.  Older students can use it as a refresher course or for remedial work.  Available at bookstores or www.randomhouse.com.

MATH

Rounding Numbers Game: 

Some of the best games are those that car schooling parents and kids invent themselves – like this one from Leslie Pitts, a Carschool mom in California:

“We used license plates in learning to round numbers. As we saw a car go by I challenged my son to ‘Round that number to the nearest ten (hundred, etc).’  He enjoys this form of practice because it’s like a game, and a speedy response is required because the cars drive away so quickly.”  ~ Leslie P. 

Learning Wrap-Ups

Wrap-Ups consist of a bookmark sized plastic game board that is notched. The player uses the pre-cut piece of string/yarn that is supplied to wrap around the board while following a number sequence and pattern of math facts. The back of the board is etched with the correct pattern that the wound string should ultimately resemble if the player knows his or her math facts.  Available in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions. $7.95/each. Learning Wrap-Ups, 2122 East 6550 South, Ogden, UT 84405, 1-800-992-4966.  Ages 8 and up.

SOCIAL SCIENCES

Decade or Dare?

“Our family (with three kids ages 9-16) changed the old ‘Truth or Dare’ game into a history challenge. First we think of a list of silly consequences so that when someone loses the challenge, they must do one of several pre-selected consequences.  Singing a difficult song like the National Anthem in its entirety by yourself (including the high notes) is one popular consequence around here. Saying the alphabet backwards or reciting a poem, or stating the multiplication facts (like 8 x numbers 1-12) are others.  Sitting in an uncomfortable position for 5 minutes of the car ride, or having to clean the windshields when we stop for gas have also been consequences.  Anyway, the game goes like this…

One person picks a decade (1490-1500, 1770-1780, 1860-1870, 1910-1920, 1990-2000, etc.) and challenges each person in the car to come up with one historical event or fact that occurred during that decade. Play continues from one person to another until someone can’t think of a fact (or you can set a limit of 10 or 20 facts and move on to another decade if everyone passes the challenge). If a person fails to come up with a fact, they must repeat all the facts they just heard about that decade or perform a consequence. If they successfully repeat all the facts, they get to restart the game with a new decade of their choice.  It is okay to bluff, if you don’t know.  If no one calls your bluff – play continues.  If someone calls your bluff you must repeat all the facts you just heard about that decade or perform one of the pre-selected consequences. After someone performs a consequence – then a new decade is selected and play begins again.  We take turns choosing decades. Oh, and we have one designated “bluff-buster” who corrects any bluffs that weren’t challenged after the game is over – so that no one leaves the game with erroneous information.  If the bluff-buster didn’t catch your bluff you must confess your bluff at the end of the game – again, so no one leaves with incorrect information.”  ~ Michelle F.

Fandex are information cards on subjects like the US presidents, state capitals, the Civil War, etc., that are all hinged together so that they fan out. They are available on a variety of subjects. Self-contained items are a real plus in the car! Order them from: Rainbow Resources Catalog, www.rainbowresource.com  or The Sycamore Tree, www.sycamoretree.com

GEOGRAPHY

Geography Game

The first player picks the starting geographical site, usually where your trip

commences. If you start in Los Angeles, that ends with the letter S, so the next

player has to think of a geographical location or thing (like a city, country, mountain range or a river) that begins with S. So perhaps then, she would say, San Francisco. That ends in an O, so the third geographical item then must begin with O. So the next player might say Oregon Trail. That ends with an L, so the next player says something beginning with an L -- perhaps Lima, etc. The game ends when you run out of E's and A's or when you arrive at your destination. Anything geographical is fair game. You just can't repeat items. Use mountain ranges, cities, landmarks, places (e.g. Arctic Circle, Antarctica,) continents, etc.

Sing Around The World Kit
By Kathy Troxel

The names of almost every country and its capital are set to music to make memorization a snap. The kit contains a cassette tape of songs and a map of the world.  $19.95  from Audio Memory Publishing 20060 Raymond Ave., Signal Hill, CA  90806 1-800-365-SING

SCIENCE

20 Questions Science Game

Many people play twenty questions on road trips. Try a variation in which everyone knows that they are trying to guess the name of a famous scientist.  20 Questions is truly a classic game.  It can be played by all ages.  One person thinks of the name of a scientist. The players then take turns asking questions which can be answered with a YES or NO. For instance a player might ask "Is the scientist a woman?" “Did she die of radiation poisoning?” (Marie Curie)  And after 20 questions are asked, if the players have not already guessed the answer, each player gets a last chance to make a guess. Afterwards, a new player tries to stump the group. It is helpful to carry a reference book in the car like The Usborne Book of Scientists From Archimedes to Einstein, as it will help players think of a scientist to use for the game.

Explorabook– a neat science activity book from Klutz Press designed to take along in the car. Comes with a magnifying glass, interesting facts, puzzles, and games based in scientific principle.  About $19.95.  Available at most bookstores.

VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS

A Carschool Variation On:

Art Memo Game, Art Memo II Game, and Impressionist Memo Game

Available from Sax Arts & Crafts 1-800-558-6696 or www.saxarts.com. $23/each.

“These are wonderful card games that are used to play a game similar to “concentration.” The game is played with 72 cards that depict 36 famous works of art – and you try to match two pictures to make a pair. The game would require too much space to spread the cards out in the car  -- but my kids loved to just split the deck and look at the pictures as we drove in the car.  It led to wonderful discussion about the artists, the style of painting, etc.”  ~  Nancy W.

Lives of the Musicians ~ Good Times, Bad Times (And What the Neighbors Thought)

By Kathleen Krull

Published by Audio Bookshelf, Prescott Hill Road, Northport, Maine  04849, 1-800-234-1713, $15.95 plus shipping, 2 audiotapes, Family Listening, Ages 5 & up

So, you don’t think your children will be interested in the life stories of long-gone classical musicians? Think again. They might relate to them because most were homeschooled. If that’s not enough, consider that if they listen to this book on audiocassette they will discover that: Johann Sebastian Bach, composer of the Brandenburg Concertos, got into a knife-fight; that in spite of Mozart’s fame, he was so poor he couldn’t afford firewood and had to dance to keep warm; that Beethoven had such poor personal hygiene that when his clothes became too dirty and disgusting, his friends would replace them with new ones during the night - and Beethoven never noticed the difference; that Chopin wrote a waltz for his girlfriend’s dog; and that Igor Stravinsky (whose music was featured in the Disney movie Fantasia) once wrote a piece called “Do Not Throw Paper Towels In The Toilet.” That ought to get their attention!

Listening to the inside scoop on what these musical geniuses were really like brings them alive and incites a real interest in their music. We also enjoyed hearing about the lives of more modern composers like Scott Joplin, George Gershwin and Woody Guthrie. The audiocassette includes brief, familiar samples of the composers’ work.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION & HEALTH

Activity

Highway Rest Stops provide the perfect opportunity for P.E.!  Bring along some equipment to get some exercise: Jump Rope, Ball, Frisbee, Hackey Sack, Cat’s Cradle, Chalk for Hop Scotch, Running, Skipping, Walking. Stopping to shake the sillies out is good for the kids and a sanity-saver for drivers.

Gray’s Anatomy Coloring Book

By Freddy Stark

Published by Running Press, 1-800-345-5359

Health studies include learning about your body and how to keep it well. This book contains black-lined pictures or diagrams that show various body parts and systems and where they are located.  They beg for kids to color them (and they can do it in the car)!  The text explains anatomy in simple, easy-to-understand terms.  There are all kinds of interesting sidebars with facts, trivia, and explanations for things like why people yawn or why a foot “falls asleep.”  About $10.


FOREIGN LANGUAGES

Game

“We are studying Spanish so we like to practice when we are in the car.  We pick a category like animals, numbers, colors, etc.  Then we call out what we see in Spanish.  For example, the category is “numbers”.   We take turns spotting road signs with numbers on them (like mileage or speed limit signs) and saying the number in Spanish instead of English.  Or if the category is “animals” and someone sees a cow – they say vaca instead of cow.  It has really helped us all to improve.”  ~  Katie M.

Teach Me Tapes 1-800-456-4656; Email: teachme@wavetech.net

has a set of tapes that teach foreign languages to children. Japanese, Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Russian and more. Teach Me Tapes has received several Parents' Choice awards. Teach Me Tapes believes that a child's early exposure to new languages and cultures enhances learning skills and promotes a better understanding of America's own multi-cultural society. They come with activity books to follow along with the tapes.  About $15.

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Copyright 2001, All Rights Reserved, Diane Flynn Keith

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media