Home Education Magazine
July-August 2001 - Articles and Columns
Happy Trails - Melissa Emery
A Homeschool Journey Across the United States
Have you ever dreamed of selling everything, quitting your job, and homeschooling your children as you travel across the country? This is exactly what we did!
Homeschooling families know that children learn best when it's a natural extension of their everyday experiences. When a child has a personal interest in a subject, it moves beyond just names and dates and equations. We seek to give our children the best hands-on education within our grasp. So, what better way to do that than to travel around the United States and make the world their classroom?
Neither of us remembers how it all came about. It began as a suggestion, a wish. One day we were plodding through life, going to work, finishing the remodel of our house, and homeschooling our boys. The next day we were sitting down with paper and pen compiling lists of what would need to be done to make our dream come true. We came to realize that with careful planning and research our dream could become a reality.
Even though we had two strikes against us from the beginning, we forged ahead. The biggest problem? We've never been on an extended camping trip and didn't know the first thing about recreational vehicles. To choose to do something that you have never done before and know nothing about is a frightening experience. But we've always subscribed to the premise that a person can learn anything they desire if they put their mind to it and are resourceful enough. Suffice it to say that in the year that followed our initial decision, my husband and I crammed more information about trailers and tow vehicles into our heads than we thought possible. We even felt comfortable enough to design our own trailer. And, as we all know, since there's no better teacher than experience, we figured that we would probably learn more during those first few months on the road than from any amount of reading.
The second hurdle came when we had to break the news to our families. Can you imagine how heartbreaking it was to tell our parents that we were leaving for a few years and taking their grandchildren? The stress of the impending separation hit each of us differently. I, myself, have never lived more than a few miles away from my parents, so for me this was "cutting the apron strings" in a big way. My husband was also working through his own feelings of remorse about leaving his family. And, of course, we dreaded the effect it would have on our two sons, whose days had always been filled with doting grandparents and giggly cousins. The only thought that kept us moving toward our goal was that this trip was the chance of a lifetime, enriching our children's lives as well as our own in ways we could only imagine.
As the time drew nearer for our departure, the anticipation was both exhilarating and exasperating. We watched as people snatched up our prized possessions at our estate sale. More than fifteen years of marriage and eight years of childhood walked out our doors in strangers' hands. Our vehicles were sold out from under us and our house sold the day we picked up our trailer. It was amazing how some items we thought we could never live without were added to our estate sale list. With our minds focused on the goal before us, each item that sold moved us one step closer toward that goal.
We drove away from family and friends on a rainy day in May of 2000. Enough hugs and kisses were exchanged to sustain us for the first few months. Early in the journey we were simultaneously riddled with elation and homesickness. Our first daunting task was to learn how four people can live in harmony in a 350-square-foot house on wheels. Since then we've dealt with RV repairs, poor weather conditions, medical emergencies, and potholes that would swallow a man whole. In the past 17 states, we've met people from all walks of life who have opened their homes and enriched our lives more than we can say, people whom we would never have met in our little suburb in Washington state. All in all, we've weathered the bad and rejoiced in the good, just as we would have back home.
People we meet while on the road ask us if we won the lottery. How else could we do this wonderful thing? My husband likes to tell them that we're doing it backwards - retire now and work later. Actually, we've found that it's a rather inexpensive way to live. No bills in the mail for house payments, property taxes, car payments, water, gas, electric, garbage, or cable. Besides food, which we were going to eat anyway, our only major expenses are for diesel and camping fees. There are also endless work opportunities on the road for someone who's willing to try anything. Often times these jobs offset camping fees. Imagine being a ranger in the Great Smokey Mountains, working at Disney World, leading trail rides at a dude ranch in Montana, or flipping burgers at a small town cafe with no less than five old calendars on the wall. Work on the road is out there for those who want it.
On this great adventure, homeschooling opportunities are unlimited. One day you can find us searching for dinosaur fossils in Texas and, another, we'll be searching for shark's teeth on the beaches in Florida. We've ridden a buggy through Amish country in Tennessee and watched the launch of a Space Shuttle. We helped administer an IV to a sick sea turtle and have hidden in trenches by the Mississippi River on a Civil War battlefield. We even accidentally met the President! And, just like at home, my sons enjoy playing with a 3-year-old camper as much as a 93 year old. Everyone they meet has something to share, to teach, and to enjoy. The books I brought with us for homeschooling are gathering dust as they pale in comparison to the world that surrounds us.
After a full year on the road we've come to terms with small spaces and homesickness and are having the time of our lives! We can't imagine any other lifestyle than the one we are living now. There are few regrets when we look out the window, heading to places unknown. We have the world as our classroom and the possibilities are endless.
(c) 2001 Melissa Emery
July-August 2001 Issue
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