If you’re like me, you’ve found that the term homeschooling can be a bit of a misnomer. Between driving to the grocery store, the park, meet-ups with friends, swimming lessons, dentist appointments, and an occasional long distance trip to Grandma’s house, not to mention summer road trips and vacations, my family is in the car a lot.
It didn’t take me long to discover there are many valuable ways this time can be harnessed for learning. Enter carschooling. It’s exactly what it sounds like: school in the car.
Not only does carschooling allow me to cross tasks off my to-do list for the week, but it also keeps my kids engaged, staving off some of the inevitable whining and bickering that a car ride can induce. While it may be tempting to use videos and electronic devices to ensure your kids are zoned-out and quiet, there are plenty of inexpensive and even free ways to to keep your kids happy and learning as the miles go by.
These are a fun and entertaining way to fuel curiosity and passion for learning while you drive. Here are some favorites to check out:
Classics for Kids: This podcast weaves beautiful classical music and interesting stories together to bring the great composers to life. Search the archives to find episodes to match your current topic of study or simply enjoy the composer of the month.
No Sweat Nature Study: These short engaging episodes from Cindy West cover nature topics in an informative and engaging way. Each episode ends with a nature journaling challenge or a prompt of something to search for on your next nature walk.
Wow in the World: NPR listeners will recognize the voices of Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas as they explore new discoveries in the realm of science and technology.
Audiobooks are perfect for squeezing more read-aloud time into your busy day while building attentiveness and quiet concentration. Plus you don’t have to be the one doing the reading. Look for some of these titles to find your next great listen!
Tell Me a Story! on Audio CD, or really anything read by Jim Weiss for that matter. His voice is mesmerizing. His narrating is almost guaranteed to leave your children entranced and listening quietly while gazing out the window.
The books of E. B. White read by the author, such as this recording of Charlotte’s Web. Few stories have captured the hearts of children like those of E. B. White, and nothing beats the author’s own reading of these classic tales.
Jesus Storybook Bible Audio by Sally Lloyd-Jones. This children’s Bible combines masterful storytelling with rich Scriptural content. The audio version is just as delightful as the print version. You might find these stories to be a perfect springboard into deep conversations in the car, especially with children who are more likely to engage you in discussion when they’re not making eye contact.
The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer are excellent listening and cover the history of the world from ancient times to the modern era. Your kids won’t even realize how much historical information they’re assimilating as you drive along. Entertaining and educational for kids and parents alike.
Foreign Language Study
Listening to a foreign language spoken by a native speaker is a great way to enhance your studies, familiarizing you and your children with vocabulary and grammar while exposing you to correct pronunciation.
Your local library is a great resource. They likely have a growing collection of foreign language titles available for check-out on CD. Look for favorite picture books that your children already know and love. We’ve enjoyed Corduroy, Make Way for Ducklings, and Ferdinand in Spanish, all free from the public library. Your library may even have a service like Hoopla or Overdrive that allows you to download foreign language titles electronically.
Music is a fun way for kids to assimilate a new language. CDs like this one allow children to learn their favorite Bible songs in a new language.
Keep busy hands occupied
On a long car ride empty hands inevitably get into trouble. And the last thing you need is a so-called travel game with tons of little pieces to lose. These simple diversions will keep your kids learning and having fun without the mess and the stress.
Fandex Field Guides are a colorful series of informative cards that hinge together so they fan out without falling apart. Covering a range of topics from U.S. Presidents to butterflies to Shakespeare, you are sure to find something that aligns with your current course of study.
Wrap Ups use a deck of plastic cards and a simple piece of string to practice memorization of math facts. Wonderful for hands-on learners and self-correcting, your child can strengthen basic arithmetic skills without any help from you.
While none of us want to spend every minute of our day or our vacation in scheduled learning, carschooling can help make drive time pass more quickly and with a few more smiles. If you find yourself lamenting time lost to driving, you might want to give learning in the car a try!