Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, remote learning and WFH (Working from Home — what did you think it meant??) became the norm for many families. It went so well for some families that they opted to make it a lifestyle. Whether you call it a schoolcation, road schooling, workcation or just plain old not being at home, the world can be your classroom and office. Read on for remote learning tips from veteran “road schoolers” and newcomers to the remote learning and earning revolution.
As another school year looms, school district reopening plans continue to morph. Will they have students in the classroom full time for face-to-face in-person instruction with face masks and social distancing? Or will the school day be spent online learning via Zoom? Or some combination of the two? Google “distance learning” and you’ll find a host of different school structures. And just when parents get used to the new normal, someone tests positive for coronavirus and everything changes.
If you’re a TravelingMom — and you’re reading this, so we know you are! — there’s an upside to all of this upheaval. Not being tied to a physical classroom means more opportunity to travel for parents who also have the option of working remotely.
Here’s how to be a digital nomad family that learns and earns while traveling.
Remote Learning Tips for Home (or Not)
It may feel like you need a whole Microsoft team on your side or a degree in computer science just to get through the days of learning and working via Zoom, but it doesn’t have to be so stressful. Parents all over the world — homeschoolers, road schoolers, unschoolers and digital nomads — have been doing it for years.
Here are their tips for seeing remote learning as fun and very doable.
1. Be Open to the Opportunity
Turning the whole family into digital nomads — a term most often used for adults who choose remote work as a way to support themselves while seeing the world — means the world becomes your virtual classroom. Gym class can be paddleboarding on the lake outside your VRBO. Pre-k and elementary-age students can learn science with a walk in the forest. High school civics class can focus on learning how local government works in the area you’re visiting.
For Bionca Smith, who travels full-time with her 11-year-old son, Carter, in a 1989 Ford Econoline and shares their adventures on social media as Off the Grid with a Kid, it was a longer-than-expected stop in New Mexico that made them really appreciate the opportunities remote learning offers. They “initially had written it off as a flyover state” but when their van broke down, they ended up staying in New Mexico for a month with friends of friends who were born and raised there.
“We learned about indigenous cultures there, about the Hatch Chile and its significance, we attended community events and went to the farmer’s markets. New Mexico has some of the best farmer’s markets in the world and the culture was so rich, it felt like we were in a new country,” she says. “It was the experience that showed us we need to stay a little longer in certain states and we have so much to learn about communities in the U.S.”
2. Have Great Wifi
Whether you’re Zooming into a classroom from an apartment in New York City, a VRBO rental on the beach in California or somewhere in between, the only thing that matters is whether the wifi is up to the challenge. Wimpy free wifi isn’t going to cut it. If you’re going to be running computers for the kids and for yourself, you need some serious bandwidth. So, before you book a month at a VRBO rental at some quaint lake town, ask some hard questions about the wifi strength.
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3. Know the Rules
Remote learning rules and options vary by school district. It’s important to understand what your local department of education expects from students.
Texas TravelingMom Breeze Leonard‘s three daughters, ages 7, 9 and 11, attend a charter school that is following a hybrid model with some students attending via a virtual classroom and others attending in person. Breeze is keeping her kids at home. They are expected to attend live Zoom meetings daily with their class and complete the same daily assignments that the in-person students are completing.
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It only took two weeks of learning from home for Breeze and her husband to start thinking about taking learning on the road. They’re monitoring travel deals looking for the right opportunity to learn from not-at-home.
“I’m tasked with finding destinations that cater to our new schedule,” she says. “Our days will still be filled with Zoom meetings and deadlines, however, a destination that allows us to break away in the afternoon for some socially distant fun is going to be ideal. Our future trips won’t be vacations necessarily, but we certainly want to take advantage of our new freedom to change our location and incorporate more travel into our everyday life.”
4. Create a Learning Plan and Structure
In some cases, the learning programs and structure will be imposed by the school and children will be expected to be online for a portion of the day, dialing in to live lessons presented by a teacher in real time. In other cases, like Nasreen’s kids’ learning experience, there is more flexibility. But structure is always important for kids. If there isn’t a school-imposed plan, create one yourself.
This is especially important if you have younger kids who are used to a rigid in-class learning experience. Without a daily/weekly schedule, chances are the kids will view remote learning as a vacation, veteran road schoolers say.
5. Stay Flexible
Bionca Smith recommends designing your lifestyle around your kids’ curriculum.
“For example, if your kid is going to be studying marine biology, travel near the ocean. If you’re studying Black history, travel to certain parts of the South to find new points of interest that may not be in the textbook, and complement what they’re learning,” she says. “Imagine reading a text book about a subject and standing right before it – that is where learning can really take off for a child and captivate their curiosity.”
Learning from Not-Home
If you’re learning and earning from home but don’t HAVE to do it from YOUR home, where should you go? Just about anywhere that is socially distanced and has good wifi.
Sometimes it’s just the ability to look at four different walls. We even know a few TravelingMoms who have booked an Airbnb or VRBO a few miles away because it has a better view, is closer to a natural resource or it has a pool to use at the end of a long day of remote learning and working.
The “fiasco” of remote learning last spring left Suzanne Doyle with a sort of PTSD. Knowing it was coming again, her husband announced he was going to buy a Winnebago. She responded, “Sure you are.” After all, the family had never even gone camping. But he was serious. The prospect of having the kids learning from home meant they could take school on the road.
That’s just what they plan to do, with a 6-week trip this fall. Her kids are just the right age for life in an RV, Suzanne thinks. They’re small enough to be comfortable in the bunks and young enough that they won’t mind being without friends for the length of their 6-week trip.
Their plans involve a trip from Georgia, north through Kentucky with a stop at Mammoth Cave, into Indiana and Illinois, then west through Kansas, into Utah, and south through New Mexico and Texas on the way home. The plan is to spend the most time in Utah, hiking in Zion and Bryce and seeing the gorgeous slot canyons. Because the kids won’t be tied to a daily classroom meeting, they can be flexible and work lessons around their travel.