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Homeschooling Through a Move

I’ve been intending to post an article on tips for homeschooling while moving for the past month, but…we’ve been in the middle of moving into our new house!

The irony is not lost on me.

Now that I’m finally feeling a bit more settled, I’m happy to share some wisdom from a couple of dear friends of mine: Angie from over at Not Your Average American and Kim from Starry Sky Ranch.

I didn’t do the math, but between the three of us, we’ve moved several dozen times while homeschooling, and we’ve all lived to tell the tale. (Only counting countries and states here, not houses!).

The three of us fall on different points on the homeschool continuum, representing a traditional approach to schooling, eclectic, and an unschooling bent. (I’m not telling you who is who!) Each of our family’s moves have been military mandated, but I think we can offer a few tips for ANY homeschooling family gearing up for a move.

So, let’s get started! I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

How do you handle homeschooling during a move?

Angie: Part of it depends on the age of your children. Young children soak up new information like no tomorrow so at the end of the day, your approach has more to do with what is easiest for you and for your child.

If your young child likes to have consistency in approach, keeping at least some of your homeschool schedule is a good decision. At the very least, have items close by that remind your child of the positive aspects of schooling. Have them pack that carry-on with their favorite books from the Sir Cumference series or find space in the car for a go-to box of car games like Rush Hour. If they’re loving math just before the move, let them focus on the math. If they’re loving reading, let them focus on the reading. Leave the tough subjects for post-move education, please. Moving isn’t the time to force fractions into an already stressful time.

If your young child doesn’t need a schedule and seems comfortable going with the flow, you have some added options. You can certainly do the above. But you can also use moving as a time to introduce new material. Driving to that new location? A long car trip can also mean frequent stops at National and State Parks along the way. My kids have earned Junior Ranger badges in multiple states and loved every minute of it! The small workbooks are a lovely combination of science, natural history, US history, and often literature. If we had to travel by plane, I filled their backpacks with new puzzle books and small travel games that they had never seen before. And I always had a deck of cards at hand. A game of multiplication war (or addition or subtraction or all three) can help make waiting a little less tedious.

Kim: How we handle school during moves depends a great deal on how far we are moving, how we are getting there, and how long we expect to be in temporary lodging.

If we are moving ourselves–assuming it’s during the school year–then we usually pack a few subjects for each child to work on semi-independently while we work on packing/unpacking.

This is a good time for things like phonics workbooks, handwriting, math drills, historical novels, critical thinking puzzle-type books, and educational coloring books like those from Dover Press. Anything that can occupy them for a stretch of time, often in a tight space or in the car, but does not require much parental instruction. Some other extras that pack well and work in the car or in temporary spaces are Learning Wrap-Ups, e-readers, and iPads loaded with edu-apps.

If we know far enough in advance, we may decide to do a little extra in instruction-heavy subjects and finish those, leaving these other subjects to be done during the transition time.

Me: I certainly concur with easy-to-use resources like games and simple workbooks. In the past, I would also have each child pack several school books in their suitcases (especially on overseas moves) with the intent of working on them during the trip or in the hotel time. I should’ve saved that space–with all the other transitions, family visits en route, and getting used to a new country or culture, we rarely cracked a textbook during a move!

What about the strange point where you’ve not really ‘arrived’  yet (i.e. between houses, in a hotel or temporary housing) and you’re in transition? Do you continue with school books, field trips, some combination, or break altogether?

Kim: We usually do not break entirely for several reasons. First, there is a fair amount of time waiting and driving and “staying out of the way.” Second, it is something familiar and provides some routine during a time when many other things are new and unpredictable.

Me: We typically break for a few days to weeks to allow ourselves some acclimation time. If we have an extended stay waiting for housing, I will either pull out the few books I shipped ahead to myself, or go ahead and order books for the new school year. We do a lot of exploring in the new area, scope out the local library and nature trails, and take some time to explore the new locale. This has evolved as my kids have gotten older. Angie has more on that.

Angie: Even as my children have gotten older, our suitcases have contained books to read out loud at bedtime and art supplies to doodle away that empty time that always creeps into every move. But more often, those items have been for me and not for them.

Teenagers demand a different rhythm when changing homes. It’s a time when we remove a level of control over their lives and for that reason, I highly recommend letting your teen decide how and when to school while moving. Teenagers are learning how to be adults and sometimes the best lessons are learned while making their own personal decisions. You may think that the waiting time at the airport or in temporary lodging could best be filled with Algebra, but your child may think differently. It’s a chance for them to explore that process. The worst that happens is that they wish they would have used the time more efficiently. What’s most likely to happen is that they get bored and they learn to fill that time with something valuable to themselves, be it reading the entire Harry Potter series for the third time or how to edit photos using the software on their laptop.

Giving your teenage age child this level of control doesn’t mean you can’t provide learning opportunities while on the go. On car trips, we’ve listened to audiobooks that appeal to the entire family. The latest was Hellhounds on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King. While waiting for the plane, we still break out a deck of cards. More often our choice is Hearts, a strategy game for four that requires quick thinking and offers lessons about making risky choices. Restaurant meals provide time for conversation and we make sure to talk about current events and encourage our teens to form opinions and defend them in ways that others can understand. Basically, schooling like this goes on all the time in our family but moving just allows us to provide a different focus.

Any other moving tips you’d like to add? 

Me: Moving is stressful for the entire family. Remember to be kind to yourself. Even if you choose to continue schooling through a move, I would encourage you to allow some extra time and not plan to complete a full schedule for a while. If that goes against your nature, planning and working ahead like Kim mentioned will help a great deal! Everyone’s sleep and (likely) diet will be a bit ‘off’ for a time, so making allowances for those circumstances will help decrease frustration. With our most recent move very fresh in my mind, I have to share this:

We ended up staying in a hotel for about 5 weeks this last move while waiting for our house to be ready. After a couple of weeks, I went ahead and ordered books for this school year. My only child still homeschooling (the other 3 have graduated) seemed happy–though she probably wouldn’t admit it–to have some structure back in her days. It helped the time pass more quickly for us both, and she worked ahead of where she would have been otherwise. Kids can be surprising! Flexibility is key.

Angie: Whatever you decide, just remember that decisions can be changed midstream. While I always packed the textbooks or mailed them in a box to have them close at hand, I rarely used them while moving. But having them nearby provided a crutch; it offered a possibility of starting again. Granted, we chose the more exciting opportunities at the new place, striking out to discover local parks and museums, to read the bulletin board at the local library and learn what groups might be meeting nearby, or to shop at the food co-op and discover new local foods. But it’s always good to keep choices open. And sometimes, we need that crutch. It’s okay to use it.

Thank you, awesome ladies, for sharing your stories!


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Hi, I'm Jen!

As a military spouse of three decades and now the mom of an active duty son, my hope is to support you in your own military life. You’ll find help for your military marriage, deployments, PCS moves, and more!