Welcome to part two of our series on homeschooling through crisis.
There are a lot of reasons one might have to pack their homeschool materials up on a moment’s notice. Some positive, such as your family won and all-expenses paid trip to Europe and has to leave right away! However, there are many not so positive reasons as well. Death of a loved one, loss of income, natural disaster, unexpected illness or injury in the family, loss of home, legal troubles, and a wealth of other unexpected and unpleasant reasons might cause your family to have to relocate with only a few days – or even a few hours – to prepare.
In this situation you may decide to leave your homeschool materials behind or you may choose to make room for a few things in your luggage, the choice is up to you. (See part one of this series, Homeschooling Through Crisis: Should you?)
I opted to empty out a binder which LittleMan had been using as his writing center and fill it with frequently used math and literacy materials. I also made a point of packing toys which could be used not only as open-ended play things but also as props and manipulatives for our lessons.
In the binder, besides paper and pencil, I packed our Starfall early readers, a couple of our favorite pointers from our reading station, our sandpaper letters, our phonics practice book, our sight word bees, 100 glass gems, a divided plate, our popsicle stick math problems. I also choose to pack a few sets of flashcards including insects, North American wildlife, and dinosaurs. I know a lot of people are anti-flashcards but I find they can be quite helpful at delivering small doses of information which get the children interested and spur conversation.
Since our personal family crisis required us to drive through five states, I made a point of packing our 50 states flashcards to give us some fun facts we could discuss. One of our first lessons when we arrived at my mother-in-law’s house was to learn about the state flower and state animal of our new home and to compare them with that of where we used to live.
Another fun toy with educational benefits is LEGO bricks. these may seem bulky and difficult to make room for in your luggage however I find that they fit perfectly if only you take a moment to arrange them first.
I made a wall of LEGOs like so:
Then to prevent them from falling apart I simply wrapped them in a low-adhesive tape (painters tape or masking tape is ideal so that there isn’t any residue after the tape is removed). LEGO bricks are not only a great open-ended toy to practice fine motor skills and encourage creativity, they are also a useful tool in the homeschool classroom.
SunnyGirl uses them to practice her color sorting and naming.
LittleMan reviews pattern making.
Both children enjoy hearing stories about ancient civilizations when they have a temple prop to explore.
Both children also take an interest in early architecture concepts, like building a stable bridge or a model of a tree house when the tree trunk is thinner than the house above it.
For more LEGO learning ideas, check out this list of a dozen ways to learn with a dozen LEGOs (and one dry erase marker).
You can choose to lay your flat wall of LEGOs inside the suitcase and then pack your clothes on top but I prefer to have the LEGOs handy. If LEGOs are the first thing unpacked then it gives the children something to do while you get everything else settled at your destination.
I find that the most handy place to put things for quick unpacking is the front pocket of the suitcase. This is doubly beneficial because it creates a flat surface on top of the suitcase, making it easier if you need to stack other items on it.
I like to keep all the large flat items together, so beneath the LEGOs I packed our Candy Land board game.
When looking at a board game, it might seem counter-intuitive to pack it due the the bulk of the box or the lack of ways it can be used. I eliminate much of the bulk by simply not packing the box. The board itself is thin and easily fits into the suitcase. The cards and game pieces can be kept tidy during the trip by way of a sandwich-sized baggy. While we have a wealth of board and card games, I choose Candy Land specifically because it is such a versatile game, easily adaptable for a multitude of educational purposes.
Currently we are using Candy Land to work on the Dolch sight word list by way of free printable Candy Land sight word cards from Ironic Adventures. You could make similar cards to review almost anything: shapes, number recognition, letter recognition, math facts, vocabulary words, etc.. And the beauty of it is that altering the game this way does not detract from the original purpose of the came. While LittleMan is working on his literacy skills, SunnyGirl can still practice her color recognition and her basic number concepts (one vs two).
When looking around your home for things to pack, whether it be toys or homeschool tools, try to think small items with multiple uses. I went with things like magnifying glasses, working stethoscopes, beads and pipe cleaners, decks of cards, finger puppets, and magnets. All things my children love to play with but also things that can be useful in homeschooling.
Another great toy that I love both for open-ended play and for playful learning in homeschooling is Safari TOOBs. LittleMan has several of these TOOBs and they have been an amazing tool for learning about zoology and geography. I highly recommend anything Safari, they are a great brand, but especially their TOOBs are very useful and fun for homeschool families.
Other worthwhile tips:
1- If your crisis puts you in a position where you not only have to relocate but you also have to pack up your entire house, pack up one entire room first. This empty room will be the children’s safe heaven against all the mess and chaos happening in the rest of the house. I choose to pack up my children’s room first. I talked to them throughout the process of packing, reassuring them that their toys would be moving to their new home as well, it just may take a little longer for the toys to arrive. I also gave them each a small piece of luggage they could carry on their own and let them pack whatever toys they wanted in it. Once the entire room was clear of all boxes and suitcases, I put out bowls of soapy water and rags for them to play with. This served two purposes, it kept the children content and out of the way while I packed the rest of the house, and it got the walls in that room very clean.
2- As difficult as it maybe, you will have to leave some of your books behind because a suitcase full of books just isn’t practical. My children have a fantastic library which I’ve been building for them since the day I found out I was pregnant with my son, and they make use of their library everyday. Picking and choosing which books were boxed up vs which we could make room for in the suitcase was not an easy task. In the end we went with the How to Train Your Dragon series, the Narnia series, a couple by Roald Dahl, and a handful of comic books. The books you choose may be the only books you have access to for a little while so choose wisely.
3- Roll your clothes when you pack them in the suitcase. There are many youtube videos that explain this process but basically, if you roll your clothes into a tight little tube, you can fit DOUBLE of them into your suitcase vs if you just lay them flat. Yes, they will get wrinkly. Get over it. With everything you’re going through, no one will care if you wear wrinkly clothes. Also, you’re not going to want to have to worry about doing laundry every two days because you’re out of clean clothes again, so pack as many clothes as you can by rolling them.
4- If you’re relocating with a pet in tow then remember to keep them safe and comfortable in a carrier. Don’t let them wander about inside of a car because they could distract the driver or try to jump out without a leash at a rest stop or even go through the windshield in the event of an accident, make sure you have them inside of a carrier. The ideal carrier should be big enough that they can walk in with their head up, sit down, lay down, and turn around comfortably inside of it. Putting a blanket over the carrier to block out the sun (or traveling at night while they normally sleep) can help them stay calm during the trip. If you are traveling with a small animal who may become easily dehydrated (such as a hamster) then be sure to include a slice of cucumber or watermelon in their cage, something safe for them to eat that has a high water content. We relocated with a cat, a Russian tortoise, and a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. Everyone made the trip with minimal stress and has settled in well in their new home.
5- If a long car ride is on the itinerary and there are small children involved, I strongly suggest having an adult sitting in the backseat with the children for at least a portion of the trip. I’ve done 6 road trips, 3 cross-country train trips, and 2 international plane trips with my children and I find it very helpful in keeping everyone calm and happy if an adult can sit next to the child to chat, or just to hold hands, for at least part of the trip.
6- So far I have been hammering it in that items should serve multiple functions and/or be as compact as possible, there is one crucial exception to this rule: children’s comfort items. It does not matter if a bulky teddybear serves no purpose other than for LittleMan to hug it when he needs to, this single purpose of comforting the child is important and therefore making room for comfort items when packing is vital. Besides their favorite teddybear, both of my children have special tea cups and blankets. Things that are necessary for them to feel safe and secure, therefore things that are necessary for me to make room for when packing. Bottom line: you must be practical when packing, however you are encouraged to break away from practicality for the sake of a child’s comfort item.