Are you dreaming of moving your family off the grid, but worrying about schooling your kids? While some off grid families do send their kids to traditional schools in nearby towns, many off-gridders we know are homeschoolers. Like us. Although we don't consider ourselves experts, here are some tips, tricks and challenges we face as we learn how to homeschool our two youngest of seven kids while we're living off the grid.
Learn How to Homeschool Legally In Your Area
Here's the thing about homeschooling. The laws vary from country to country, state to state, province to province, and even from region to region. In some places, homeschooling is highly regulated, and in other places, it's completely hands-off.
It's true that homeschooling is becoming more common and more accepted in society. However, as you will soon find out (if you haven't already), homeschooling parents can be viewed suspiciously. Add in the fact that you're living off the grid, and maybe homesteading and homeschooling too, you may be viewed as an even more unusual family. And believe me, between the time you'll spend homeschooling and managing your off grid chores (and homesteading if you're doing that too), you don't have time to deal with any extra hassle from school officials, social services, or busybodies.
So find out how to homeschool legally in your area. If you're in Canada, check out this post from my friend Lisa Fletcher over at The Canadian Homeschooler. It provides a quick overview of what's required from homeschoolers by province/territory.
In the United States, check out the handy map on the Homeschool Legal Defence Association website which shows the laws by states. And you might even want to join the HSLDA if you live in a highly regulated area or anticipate problems down the road. (Here's the link to the Canadian HSLDA site too.)
Learn How to Homeschool With a Curriculum ...To Start
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If you're new to homeschooling, look for a structured curriculum. Homeschooling programs or curriculums might include lesson plans, schedules, textbooks and workbooks. Using a structured curriculum can help you feel more confident about sticking to a homeschool schedule. It can help you cover the basics that educators feel are important for a child based on age.
If you have continuous access to the internet, you can find free online lesson plans (and lessons) through sites like Easy Peasy or Ambleside Online (for Charlotte Mason-style education). However, if your off grid home is in an area like ours is, off grid internet access can be an issue.
That's one of the many reasons we're in our seventh year of using Sonlight®, a Christian homeschooling program that has been around for many years. It's a literature-based curriculum that I order each summer. The boxes arrive and it's a big "Box Day" celebration here - kind of like Christmas.
Our Homeschool Includes Off Grid Living Skills for Kids
As a family living off the grid, our daily life looks a little different from what many people are used to. For example, we depend on firewood for our woodstove to provide the heat (we also have a boiler - it gets really cold here). We don't have access to an electric company (but no electric bills either.) Solar panels power our generator and battery bank and provide electricity to run our off grid home power systems. We don't have town water. Instead, we pump water from the lake for household use. And our family enjoys fishing together from that same lake all year round.
We can also hunt for rabbit, ptarmigan or spruce grouse and moose in the area. In the spring, summer and fall we forage through these woods and beyond. And we can grow vegetables and berries in our garden. Next summer we even plan to get chickens (maybe goats too).
Our kids participate in all these activities alongside us. We consider these life and survival skills. They're part of the daily rhythms of our lifestyle. And each of these activities gives the kids a chance to apply their "book learning" to a hands-on activity. Every day they're making choices and uses skills including lessons taught in subjects like:
- home economics
- history/pioneer studies (we're experimenting with making pioneer foods like hardtack, pemmican, dry fish and dried game meat/jerky for long-term food storage)
- reading skills (lots of non-fiction books at our house on these subjects)
Between our homeschool curriculum, forest school curriculum, extra-curricular group activities in town, and the life, survival and wilderness skills for kids learned on a daily basis, we're pretty busy homeschooling off the grid.
Homeschool Year Round With The Seasons
One of the things we're learning about how to homeschool when you live off the grid is that our daily schedule is our own.
At first, we tried to stick to a traditional September through June school year. But we found such great outdoor learning opportunities in the summer. So we adjusted our homeschool schedule to include outdoor art lessons and nature studies using a Charlotte Mason-style approach.
The other neat thing about where we live is having 20+ hours of daylight in the summer. So fishing with Dad at midnight in the middle of June has happened more than once!
Your Local School Board Might Help You
We've homeschooled in Manitoba, Ontario, and the Northwest Territories of Canada. Each province had slightly different regulations. Luckily, our local school board in Yellowknife has been supportive of homeschoolers. And they're familiar with the challenges of homeschooling off the grid.
We register each year with a local public school. So if needed, we could access some of the resources there. This includes speech therapists, sports teams, and even in-class options for things like art or music should we wish. In addition, we even get funding towards our homeschooling curriculum and supplies.
Plan Ahead for Your Homeschooling Resources
If you're living off the grid up north or in a really remote area, it can be tough to get your hands on the homeschooling resources you'll need if you wait until the last minute. True, shipping homeschooling resources across the United States seems simple enough and often cheap or free. However, it's a different story in Canada. Other than free shipping through Amazon Prime, homeschooling families usually pay a pretty penny for shipping books, especially from the United States.
So think ahead and keep your eyes open for homeschooling resources any time you head into town or travel.
For us, this means finding free books locally. Seriously, one of our local supermarkets has three sets of bookshelves set up where you can donate and take second-hand books and even workbooks.
We have also been able to get some really neat old school books at farm auctions in Ontario and Manitoba. We use our limited internet to download free worksheets and print them off as needed to supplement our curriculum when we feel like it.
Our family heads into town several times a week for extra-curricular activities and often stops at the library to borrow extra books - some for fun, and some for school. We also check out the sale table for discards at $1.00 per book.
Connect With Other Homeschooling Families
If you're considering homeschooling your kids while you live off the grid, connecting with other homeschooling families can be a good source of support, ideas, and even just fellowship and fun.
Luckily for us, we now have two homeschooling families (also off the grid) within a 15-minute drive. These families share lifestyles and values similar to mine. We'll get together for an informal play date now and then. And with our larger homeschool community in Yellowknife (about a 35-minute drive away) we enjoy regular gym times and field trips.
Even connecting with others online can be helpful. I belong to a homeschool Facebook group for families using the same curriculum I do.
Living off the grid can be tough. And so can homeschooling. It might take time to find the daily rhythm, routines, and learning style best suited to the individuals of your family. Yet know that it can be done and that you aren't alone!
This post is part of the Homestead Blog Hop 260!