An Alternative Approach
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By Diane Flynn Keith
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 friends' 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.
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
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.
Wrap-Ups consist of a deck of hinged, bookmark sized plastic game cards. The player
uses the pre-cut piece of string 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. The Mastery Kits come with Wrap-ups math
manipulatives and CDs to help memorize math facts too. Available in addition, subtraction,
multiplication, division, and fractions. Ages 8 and up.
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
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 Family Field Guides
are a series of information cards on subjects like Explorers, the US Presidents, State
Capitals, the Civil War, etc., that are all hinged together so that they fan out for use,
but stay together - a real plus when using them in the car. Each individual card in a
pack contains a photograph or illustration and well-written information and trivia facts.
Ages 9 and up.
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.
Geography Songs Kit
The names of almost every country and its capital are set to music to make memorization a
snap. The kit contains a CD of songs and a map of the world. From Audio Memory Publishing,
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.
The 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.
"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
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
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."
"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
This company offers a set of tapes that teach foreign languages to children. Korean,
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.
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