[Guest Blogger Series] The Big Picture of Roadschooling by Val Joiner

From my very first leap off the diving board of blogging a little over a year ago, Val Joiner has been on my reading list. Her blog is…. well… just as she puts it; Val In Real Life. So simple, yet so incredibly evocative and candid, she paints the world a color entirely her own and then invites us all in to come and sit down with her around a cozy fire. And that it is why, I am so thrilled to introduce her to all of you! 

When I began homeschooling my sons over five years ago at the ages of 5 and 8, I had no idea we’d turn into roadschoolers. In fact, homeschooling wasn’t on my radar at all until I was out of options and desperate for a situation that would work for my quirky kids. Because our transition to homeschooling was fairly sudden, I didn’t enter into it with preconceived notions or even much of a plan. 

As we muddled our way through the first year or two in terms of figuring out how to address academics, we continued with our usual nature walk day trips and weekend camping trips to our state parks, things we’d been doing since they were babies. But no longer being tied to a rigid school schedule, we had to ability to leave a littler earlier and stay a little longer. Over time, our trips slowly evolved in length and scope.

Part of what drove this evolution was meeting and learning from inspiring home- and road-schoolers as we became immersed in this new community. They helped me shift my mindset from viewing our trips as separate from our normal life and education. They opened my eyes to the possibilities that travel held for the boys’ education and helped me take the final step towards mentally separating from the modern concept of education and academics in a school setting to seeing the world as their school. 

With our new mindset, we’ve now camped, hiked, and geocached all over North America in national and state parks. In the last five years, with the ability to go further and do more, we’ve taken countless long and short trips, encompassing 45 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces. Among so many experiences we now cherish as memories, we’ve paddled with the alligators in the Okefenokee Swamp, sat in a kiva at Mesa Verde, touched the Pacific Ocean, marveled at the tides in Fundy Bay, felt the crunch of salt under our feet at Badwater Basin, stood in 40 mph winds in the sands of Great Sand Dunes, touched John Adams’ tomb, stood in the shadow of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s home, battled mosquitoes in the Everglades, and felt insignificant on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

I’ve seen these experiences expand the boys’ view of the world around them. It shows up in their artwork and stories. When they read or hear about places we’ve been, they have a real connection, real memories, and real experiences to draw from. It has transformed their knowledge in a way that detached learning cannot. They not only know what these swamps, mountains, beaches, and deserts look like, but they also know how they smell, feel, and sound… a more complete understanding. 

On top of the knowledge of history and landscape they now have, our travels have taught them the life skills of flexibility and problem-solving, open-mindedness and self-awareness, perseverance and limits. When you’re on the road far from home, the world is very real and it requires resourcefulness to navigate. It’s a very important kind of education that isn’t taught alongside history, math, and language arts in schools. There’s no replacement for being out in the world… doing, seeing, and living. One of my favorite sayings now as a road-schooler is that books and computers are portable, historic sites and natural wonders are not.

Now firmly in adolescence, they’re developing their own distinct ideas about what they want out of life. Our roadschooling experiences have given them a broad perspective from which they can now choose the path of possibilities they want to follow, the crucial element being that they know they have choices. If I’ve given them nothing else in all of this, I know they at least have that empowerment. 

For me, this journey has been surprise in so many ways. Not only that we’re on it at all, but that the joys and fulfillment that come with giving your children the world is so worth the energy and effort it takes to make it happen. 
About the Author

Val Joiner is an outdoor and educational travel blogger based in Roswell, GA. The former geologist turned road-schooling mom chronicles her adventures at Val in Real Life. When Val isn’t on the road with her two boys, she can frequently be found honing her Southern Appalachian Naturalist skills in the Great Smoky Mountains.

5 thoughts on “[Guest Blogger Series] The Big Picture of Roadschooling by Val Joiner

  1. We're doing a similar thing here. Homeschooling two boys (5 and 7), spending lots of time outside and taking as many trips as possible. What a great way to live life!


  2. “A more complete understanding.” Great post!!! We also have been road schooling for a couple years with our kids and I wouldn't change it for the world.


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