Are you curious about roadschooling? Full-time travel presents some unique challenges to parents with school age children. One of the biggest centers around how to give them a proper education without sending them off to a brick-and-mortar school on a day-to-day basis.
Roadschooling is just a version of homeschooling that uses techniques amenable to education on the road. Like homeschooling, there are many different methods of roadschooling. Most roadschoolers choose to incorporate their geographic flexibility into their approach by adapting off-the-shelf homeschool curricula (or creating their own) to incorporate their geographic surroundings.
When it comes to homeschooling, there are a variety of reasons that parents choose to take their kids out of traditional school to homeschool. Talk to different homeschoolers, and you’ll hear very individualized reasons they began homeschooling – they think their children have specialized needs that aren’t being addressed in a big system, or they want more of a religious teaching, or their children aren’t thriving in the public school system, or they’re simply tired of waking up at 5:45 am to get their children to the bus on time.
Some roadschoolers are similar. They were already homeschooling for any of the above reasons (or a totally different reason), and they decided to move homeschooling on the road.
But for many roadschoolers, the desire (or need) to travel is the big impetus. Roadschoolers may want their children to experience more than they will in Town X, USA, or they don’t want to be limited to school breaks. On the other hand, some families have parents whose jobs relocate them often and travel is a necessity. It’s easier to teach their children on the road than constantly switch school systems. In cases like these, roadschooling is a natural solution.
Is roadschooling legal?
Absolutely! Homeschooling is legal, and roadschooling is just a form of homeschooling. The requirements differ by state. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) has a state-by-state guide that outlines what the requirements are in each state. So what do roadschoolers do that travel from state to state?
Every full-time RVer has a home state for tax purposes. Most people think the best states for full-time RVers’ permanent residence are Texas, South Dakota, and Florida. When a full-time RVer establishes permanent residency, they are required to travel to that state at least once a year and set up a permanent address in that state. There are services available to that help with this, such as Escapees RV Club.
Roadschoolers similarly need a home state for homeschool legislation. Opinions vary on what qualifications should be used to determine the best states to homeschool, but generally homeschoolers feel that less regulations are better. Some states, such as Texas, require no reporting. Others may require reporting to the local school district, testing, and teacher minimum qualifications. You can see a good breakdown at ProPublica and SheKnows. Since Texas is great for taxes and for homeschooling, a lot of roadschoolers who live full-time in their RV will establish residency in Texas.
Roadschoolers like us who are taking a time-limited trip have different considerations. Are we returning to our starting point when our trip is done? Do we plan to continue homeschooling after our travels are finished? Do we plan to move to a new state when we settle down? These questions might all result in different plans of action.
The point is that you need to pick a state and establish residency (whether that’s where your current brick-and-mortar home is or elsewhere). Once you do that, you will follow the homeschooling laws for your resident state.
How prevalent is roadschooling?
There are no formal statistics on how many families are currently roadschooling. We can get a rough idea by triangulating a few numbers for groups that statistics do exists for, namely roadschooling’s bigger cousin, homeschooling; and the number of families who currently live on the road full time.
The most accurate homeschooling numbers come from the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) National Household Education Survey Program (NHES). The NCES estimates that the percent of households homeschooling doubled from 1.7% to 3.4% between 1999 and 2012. In other words, in 2012, an estimated 1.77 million students were homeschooled in the U.S. Although homeschool rates are likely underestimated, we can assume that this is somewhere in the right ballpark. (If you’re curious why homeschool rates are likely underreported, you can read the full NCES homeschooling report or a concise, less technical discussion by Time4Learning.) As roadschooling is generally considered a subset of homeschooling, we also assume that the total number of roadschooled children is somewhere south of the estimated homeschooling numbers.
In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, only .1% of the roughly 136 million housholds in the U.S. resided in RVs, boats, vans or similar situations. Again, this is based on statistical methods that will likely under-report mobile populations, but it’s what we have. That .1% of the total number of households is somewhere around 102,000 households. According to the 2017 Current Population Study, the average number of children under 18 per household is .59 (see cell E7 of tableAVG1). Assuming the full-time RV population matches the broader U.S. population in terms of the number of children present in a household, that means there are around 60,000 children living full time in boats, RV’s and similar abodes. We assume those children are being educated, and that that education would be some form of roadschooling, even if it’s not defined as such.
So where does that leave us? Well, in lieu of a reliable, rigorous statistic, we can estimate the number of students being roadschooled probably somewhere around 60,000, and at worst we can say it’s definitely not larger than 1.77 million.
Roadschooling is an extension of homeschooling that is appropriate for families that want (or need) to travel often. Like homeschooling, it can be approached in many ways. Although statistics are sparse, indications are that roadschooling is growing in popularity. As more and more parents choose it, more and more roadschooling specific tools and services will emerge.