Is your family in the car more often than you care to admit? Would you like some ideas to creatively homeschool in the car to redeem some of the time spent riding to co-op, ballet, music lessons, ball practice, chess club, or doctor’s appointments? If so, you’ll love this blog post!
Hours spent in the car can make a homeschooling mom feel quite guilty about the seemingly wasted minutes or hours. However, car time doesn’t have to be downtime for learning (unless you want it to be)! There are lots of wonderful schooling and enrichment activities that can keep your children educationally engaged.
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Keep reading to find more than 40 ideas for fun and productive homeschooling in the car!
Why Homeschool in the Car?
We live in a rural area where a simple trip to the grocery is a 20-minute drive each way. Co-op classes and music lessons tend to be 60 minutes each way. Getting to the nearest big city for specialty doctor appointments or Costco shopping is the same. (It’s hard to fathom how many miles we put on our cars each year.)
Rather than rush through a school day or ditch school altogether in order to go places, I’ve used many of those traveling hours as learning opportunities.
What is Carschooling?
Oftentimes, we simply bring along workbooks and reading books for “regular” school in the car. However, creative carschooling activities are way more fun! Those carschooling activities are the ones I’m telling you about today.
I realize the idea of homeschooling in the car with creative ideas can seem kind of lame and not really fruitful, but these less “schoolish” lessons have always reaped big results with my children. Because many of our activities are game-like, everybody is pretty joyful about playing along and we get in quite a lot of learning.
How To Homeschool in the Car
When we’re talking about creative carschooling versus regular assignments, I still have to be thoughtful and prepared as the homeschool mom in charge of learning. This is especially true when we have a long drive ahead and I plan to absolutely count our time as more than educational fun.
Let me stop here and mention that you can certainly do educational things just for fun to pass the time on a family drive. In fact, we often do that to keep busy kids occupied. Homeschooling in the car is different than that, though. It’s a plan to do things that can count toward the daily plan for a school day that’s strong in academics.
Have a Carschooling Plan
In order for carschooling to actually count as schoolwork, I typically think ahead of time about the activities we’ll do. This allows me to grab any necessary supplies, as well as specifically plan to span several academic subjects.
Of course, how many activities I plan greatly depends on how long we’ll be in the car and how many subjects need to be covered that day. For instance, if we had plenty of time to complete math and language arts before hopping in the car, there is no need for me to plan extra carschooling activities for those subjects.
Much like I keep a basket of rotating morning time activities, I also rotate through carschooling activities. Having a list of ideas and a box full of special supplies at the ready is the key to a successful plan for meaningful academic work in the car.
Activities of Homeschooling in the Car
Most of the following ideas to homeschool in the car are most appropriate for elementary and middle school students. I’ve broken the list into some unique categories for you. Feel free to add your own incredible ideas to the list, too!
You’ll notice that most of the activities require very little preparation or supplies. For the activities that do require some supplies, I gathered them slowly over time at end-of-year homeschool sales, thrift stores, yard sales, and sometimes Amazon.
Bible Memory Work in the Car
Recite Bible Verses
Work on simple verses or long passages. This is a great way to actually get in that memory and recitation time that often gets pushed to the side during a busy homeschooling day.
Recite the Books of the Bible
Simply doing this here and there in the car goes a long way in keeping the books of the Bible memorized in order. This translates well to how quickly kids can find those books during Bible study, too.
Have Bible Drills
For children that can read well, car time is a great time to challenge them to be the first person to find a book of the Bible or a specific verse to read aloud. I loved the challenge of Bible drills at church in middle school and find that my children think it’s fun, too.
Practice Academic Skills in the Car
Drill Math Facts
One of my favorite ways to do this is to go from one kiddo to another asking for the answer to a fact that they should know. I challenge them to see how many rounds we can go without a mistake. This is a good way to stay polished on math facts.
Complete Mental Math Problems
Unlike basic fact recall, these are oral problems that are challenging to think about mentally. For instance, I might ask a 2nd grader working on understanding the base ten system to mentally add 1,000 + 100 + 10 in their head. For a 5th grader, I might ask them to mentally subtract 565 from 1,000. Mental math helps the brain learn to think about math differently for quicker on-the-spot figuring.
I will often make up mental word problems, too. For instance, Sally bought 48 apples to share with her friends at the park. Only 38 friends came to the park. How many apples does Sally have left? What should she do with the leftovers?
Round License Plate Numbers to the Nearest Ten or Hundred
This is a fun mental math activity to strengthen rounding skills for elementary children.
Drill Spelling Words
There is no better time to practice spelling words than aloud in the car. As with mental math problems, this helps children visualize words which strengthens spelling skills.
This is great reading practice and adds a layer of urgency to read the sign (or one word from it) before the car zooms past it.
Quiz Vocabulary Definitions
Pick a subject and dream up some interesting vocabulary words. See if your kiddos can guess the meaning and then challenge them to spell it. Here’s an example: biology, geology, zoology, ecology, archeology…
Drill Important Dates to Remember
If you’ve been working on a certain era of history, quiz some important dates or talk about several events that fit into that era.
Drill Important People or Events and Their Significance
Ask who’s who in history. This can be a quick quiz or a discussion.
Narrate Recent Readings
Car time is a great time for narration, especially if narration seems like drudgery. You can even turn towards a book discussion instead, which is another great comprehension skill.
Poetry recitation is another easy thing to do in the car. When I have more than one reader, I will often bring along our latest poem. One child can read along and give prompts as another child recites.
Map U.S. Geography with License Plates
Give each child a copy of a blank US map, some colored pencils, and a clipboard. As they see a new state on a license plate, ask them to color that state on the blank map.
Quiz Fun Facts
Bring Fandex guides or other fact cards with you in the car. Children that can read can quiz each other on facts about science and nature study, geography, history, and more.
Play Educational Games in the Car
“I spy with my little eye something that is ____.” Everyone takes a turn filling in the blank with objects, colors, shapes, or words on signs. The rest of the people in the car try to guess the item before it passes by.
Everyone works to build a list of at least things they see outside that fit a designated category. Some examples are things mentioned in the Bible, things having to do with botany, and things having to do with numbers.
One of my favorite story-telling games for the car is an add-on story. Someone starts the story and stops at a critical point. Another person takes over telling the story and stops at another critical point for yet another person to take the story-telling over. The last person in line to add to the story is the person who concludes it.
Mom says a sentence out loud and asks a child to name a specific part of speech. For example, Mom might say the sentence, “Emily looked for the ball under the bush.” She then might ask someone in the car to name the prepositional phrases. She might ask someone else to name the subject noun.
Name That Tune
Someone in the car hums or whistles a tune from a favorite hymn, modern song, or even classical music. Everyone else tries to be the first to guess the song correctly.
Someone in the car thinks of a general topic like animals, foods, cities, or names. The first person names something that fits the topic that starts with the letter “a”, the next person thinks of a “b” word, and so on.
Someone in the car thinks of a general topic like desserts, restaurants, vacation destinations, or summer fun. The first person says a word (any word) that fits the topic. The next person says the previous word and adds another word that fits the topic. The third person says the first two words and adds another word. Keep going until someone messes up the memory chain. For example, if the topic is animals, and the first person says ‘dog’, the second person would say ‘dog’ and then add another word like ‘cat’. The third person would say ‘dog’, ‘cat’, and then add another word like ‘frog’.
Bugs and Cruisers
Assign point values to certain types of cars and have the kids keep a point tally during the drive. For example. you might assign one point to VW Bugs and PT Cruisers. Hummers might be worth 10 points. Jeeps might be worth 5 points.
Educational Travel Games
Over the years, I’ve collected several educational travel games. I will keep a handful in a plastic tote in the trunk to be available whenever we need them. Here are some of our favorites.
Audio Books for Carschooling
You knew I couldn’t leave out living literature, right? We have spent hours upon hours listening to wonderful books over the years. In fact, we have some core memories from many of these impactful audios.
There is NO WAY I could possibly list all of the audiobooks we’ve enjoyed in the car. Not a chance. I asked each of my children to name two of their very favorites and those are what I’ve included below.
Educational Audio Ideas
There are many other audio resources that have been family favorites over the years that also happen to serve as great teachers of academic subjects as well!
From Bible to history and science, these audio resources were a hit.
Classical music was made even more special through stories that introduced us to historical and biographical information about composers and their music. Below are a few of the stand-out favorites.
A Few More Creative Ideas for Homeschooling in the Car
Keep a lap desk or storage clipboard in your car, along with a supply of pencils, crayons, colored pencils, and a simple sketchbook. Art is always a great carschooling activity, especially when you provide fun drawing how-to books!
On a familiar drive, ask your child to create a travel brochure of the sights you see.
Roadtrip Tour Guide
Stop at a rest stop or hotel in an unfamiliar area and pick up a few brochures. Let your child be the “tour guide” of attractions in the area as you drive. You never know when an unexpected field trip might turn up.
Listen to a podcast sermon and discuss.
Turn up the music and practice singing harmonies.
Pack a few educational coloring books, along with crayons or colored pencils for coloring that counts towards schooling.
I hope you were able to gather some fun ideas your kiddos will enjoy in the car. Do you homeschool in the car differently? I’d love to hear about it!
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