Roadschooling Family Takes Flexible Learning to New Heights
We hope you enjoy this special Q&A interview with Sandra Peña, a roadschooling mom with four children ages 10, 9, 5, and 4, two of whom use Time4Learning to continue the learning on the road. Tired of the city life, the Peñas bought an RV and joined the growing community of roadschoolers in the U.S.
We recently caught up with Sandra while she was in the Florida Keys to learn more about roadschooling, how Time4Learning makes homeschooling on the go hassle-free, and what life on the road is like.
Q: What made you roadschool in the first place?
A: Well, it happened as a result of being priced out of the housing market in Silicon Valley. We were just feeling this wasn’t our kind of lifestyle – working like crazy and not being able to afford a home of our own. So many things were starting to feel like we were getting cooped up in our city. Traffic just became a nightmare. So, we bought a new RV. It’s definitely cheaper than buying a home in Silicon Valley, plus it gives us the opportunity to travel the country, and we can still run our online business. It’s a real win-win situation.
Q: Where are some of the places you have traveled to and roadschooled in?
A: We have gone to so many places from the desert in Arizona to New Mexico to the beaches in Florida. One of my friends recommended Mexico. As a first generation Mexican-American I thought why don’t we take our RV there? So we actually ended up living in Mexico for about a month with our RV. We were recently in Orlando, Florida, taking in all of the attractions, and we are now in the Florida Keys, enjoying a beautiful, fun-filled vacation.
Q: Do you roadschool with other families? Is there a roadschooling community?
A: Yes, there is! There are a lot of families here right now who travel in RVs and roadschool their children. We have play dates and learn together. They spend part of the morning and day online learning, and then they go into nature and learn and play with all the other friends. It’s a different type of school, obviously, but it is still time for learning. It seems like roadschooling families are all different, but maybe something they have in common is they want to take control of their lives. They want to take control of their child’s learning.
Q: What’s the approach you take to learning on the road?
A: We do a lot of unschooling. It’s kind of like organic learning since we’re on the road. We’re learning from our environment, absorbing information and asking questions. And so that’s the kind of learning that we like, and they like, especially because of their age. Every day is a new learning adventure on the road. They know they’re going to explore all day. That’s what we do. It’s not like you have a concrete way of doing things. Our approach to learning is to be as flexible as possible.
Q: How are you able to handle work with roadschooling?
A: My husband and I have been running an online Etsy store, selling jewelry online, for over 11 years. This definitely gives us the remote work life that makes it possible to travel and roadschool.
Q: Like many homeschoolers, your children are very independent-minded. How does roadschooling empower children with critical thinking skills?
A: Roadschooling leads to pretty amazing opportunities for children to learn on their own, and to learn more about things that actually interest them. I tell them, “We want you guys to really figure out the answers, and we have all the time in the world. Watch the video over again. I’m here if you absolutely need me.”, But I really want them to learn on their own as much as possible. They also really enjoy when we tie in what they are learning with destinations that we have traveled to. So, when they’re learning about the Grand Canyon, I’m like “Yep! We’ve been there!” So, roadschooling helps us to solidify the lessons in Time4Learning.
Q: How long have you been using Time4Learning and how does it compare to other homeschool curriculums?
A: We did try other programs and curricula, but they didn’t really work out. I just think they were too much, too many hours, their own pace instead of our kids’ pace. Time4Learning gives us a little more structure. We’ve been using it for the past five months. Our kids are getting a little bit older and we wanted a program that had deadlines, checklists, and scores. Seeing the lessons checked off makes me feel good as a parent. It’s a very visual curriculum and they’re really enjoying that. Our kids love it because it’s funny and it’s understandable. You know, it’s not so serious. I think that was my thing. You don’t want to give your kids anxiety over learning!
Q: How has Time4Learning helped you customize learning for your two children?
A: We really love this ability to customize, because that’s the whole point of learning, right? Not everyone is alike. Everybody receives information differently and makes sense of it differently. I don’t know why we do that to children. I think it’s changing that narrative about the United States and how that the structure of learning and the classroom is all changing. I think we’re at the beginning of this change, and homeschoolers are the pioneers of it. You can’t sit 30 people in a class and say you’re all at a fourth grade level. I like that you can accommodate and be able to move up and down a grade level.
Q: How do you incorporate real-life learning when you are on the road? Can you give an example?
A: We always find fun ways to learn anywhere and at any given time. There’s always something the locals are into wherever we visit. We love to fish, and get to fish everywhere. Let’s say we go to a town and catch a species local to the area that we’ve never seen before, that becomes a learning lesson. Now we’re learning about a species of fish that we had no idea even existed. We recently learned about estuaries in Virginia when we were fishing there, which we never even heard of. The kids were like, “Wait just wait a minute, there’s like saltwater but there’s also a mix of fresh water?” Everything becomes a question.
Q: Aside from being on the road, how else is roadschooling different from traditional schooling?
A: Roadschooling is so exciting as opposed to traditional school, where it’s like, “Here’s a book, go ahead and learn social studies.” It’s like we’re all learning together and it’s way more exciting for the children. We are not only constantly traveling, we are constantly learning, which makes it such a rewarding experience for our family. Roadschooling brings us closer as a family. We have much more time to spend together in fun ways than most families in traditional schools.
Q: So let’s talk about your nine-year-old and your ten-year-old. They’re in Time4Learning. Do they learn at the same time? Do they have the same learning schedule or is it different for them?
A: They take turns doing math and they’re so super competitive. They have to do the exact same thing. They take ownership with their learning. Sometimes they both talk it out, OK, Tiger, you do math and then I do math, and then you do an English language arts and then I do language arts, and then we’ll do science together. They have created a nice rhythm with their learning. Some of the things like science they like to do together, but in math and in English, they are at different levels. Tiger helps his sister out all the time, which I really, really like. They know that if they both finish their studies quicker, they’ll go outside and play quicker!
Q: Describe how empowering roadschooling families feel?
A: Roadschooling is whatever your family makes it. Every family has a different dynamic. It’s very self-led. It’s about whatever works for your family,and I think that’s the lesson. That was my fear, that my kids would feel so pressured like we have to do this and we have to do that. Today, I’m like no, it’s our learning path, our learning journey. And if we need to crank up a little more in an area for Tiger, let’s read a little bit more. You make it work.
Q: So, what do you say to people who have thought about roadschooling, but are on the fence?
A: We need to grab life and make it our own. I’m sharing our story so other people can feel more confident paving their own path. We have so much depression and anxiety in our country because we’re all not living how we really want to live. We had Easter dinner with a family we actually met in North Carolina. They were interested in roadschooling so we met up here in Florida. You make your own path. With roadschooling or homeschooling, you don’t get people to tell you what you can and can’t do. You learn what you love from your environment. I could go on and on about the benefits of roadschooling!