[Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this a year ago for a friend of a friend who asked me to be the “roadschool voice” for a new moms’ blog she was starting. That blog ended up not going live, and I kind of forgot about this article I had written. I finally thought I’d go ahead and share it here!]
Over two years ago, my husband and I decided to do something crazy. We sold the house that we loved so much, said goodbye to our neighbors and friends, and headed out in an RV to travel the country. At the time we made that decision, we didn’t know there was a term for what we were doing: roadschool. And we certainly didn’t know there is a whole community of other families doing the same thing. My husband’s biggest concern in going along with me on this unconventional idea was leaving behind great friendships we had formed in our town. We had no idea at the time of the great friendships we were going to form as we traveled!
As our roadschool journey began, we knew we were going to love certain aspects of the lifestyle. We knew we would love forming deeper understanding of our studies by being in the locations we were learning about. My Revolutionary War-obsessed daughter, Sunshine, walked through Valley Forge and proclaimed, “I understand it so much more now!” We read about a Native American girl climbing on top of mesas out west, while we were out west climbing on top of mesas. We learned about Texas fighting for its independence from Mexico in our history curriculum while visiting Washington-on-the-Brazos (where the formal declaration of independence from Mexico was written and signed) and San Jacinto Battlefield (where the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution was fought).
What has really surprised us, though, is all the social benefits of roadschooling for my children, my 9 year old son “Mr. Bang” and my 11 year old daughter “Character Queen” (and for the hubs and I!):
1. Lessened shyness, increased courage. My daughter, like my husband, has pretty much always been an extrovert, ready to make a new friend in any situation. My son is similar to me – he’s much more likely to stay quiet and do his own thing when he’s around kids he doesn’t know. However, that has changed since we’ve been on the road. At RV park playgrounds, he’s much more likely to initiate playing with other kids. When we first started roadschooling and would visit new churches in different towns, he didn’t want to go to Sunday School or children’s church unless his sister went with him – and even then, sometimes he just wanted to stay with his mom and dad. Now, he doesn’t give it a second thought – he has no fear anymore of walking into a new church class or busy playground by himself.
2. New roadschool friends. As I mentioned previously, I had no idea when we started that roadschooling is a thing. There are so many families who live this lifestyle! Our first roadschool friends were a family that we met in Gettysburg, PA. That family has two boys similar in age to my children, and the four kids had a blast building stick forts together in between our two RVs. We met up with them again later near San Antonio, TX. This time they were working with a large group of other roadschool kids on a much bigger stick fort. The next month, we were together at a huge RV rally in Arizona. A couple months later, we met up in southern Utah. We plan to see them next in Florida in January. That’s the cool thing about roadschool friends – you don’t say “good-bye,” you just say, “I’ll see you down the road!” We’ve made several great friends at various points along our journey, and we keep crossing paths with them along the way. Sometimes we make specific travel plans together for awhile, sometimes we just compare schedules and maps and see when we’ll just happen to be near each other again.
3. Continued strong friendships at home. God has blessed us with some really strong friendships back home. In particular, there are four families where the husbands are great friends, the wives are great friends, and the kids are all about the same ages and great friends with each other. That kind of connection can be really hard to find, and we were really nervous about messing that up by leaving town for an extended period. Thankfully, that has not been the case! My friends and I text each other regularly (as I’m typing this, there’s a conversation going about one friend’s daughters participating in an Ironkids event this morning), and the kids sometimes call or send postcards and letters. We’re actually discussing opening e-mail accounts for my daughter and her best friend back home so they can keep in touch more easily. When we’re back in town, as we were for two months this summer, we spend nearly all our time with our friends. We definitely miss seeing our friends regularly, but traveling hasn’t seemed to have any negative impact on those friendships.
4. Strengthened friendships in other states. One of the great joys of roadschooling is that we have friends and family nearly everywhere we travel! Right now, we’re spending two weeks in Dallas visiting my youngest brother and his family, including his little toddler daughter who we didn’t get to meet at all until we started traveling. We regularly get to meet up with old friends for a meal or joint field trip. When we went to Gettysburg, good friends from our former church in Virginia came and spent the night with us, and we toured the battlefield together. In San Antonio, my daughter and my childhood best friend’s daughter took turns sleeping overnight in each other’s homes. We get to have really good relationship-building time with friends and family that we normally wouldn’t have been able to connect with because we lived so far from each other.
5. Sibling closeness. Character Queen and Mr. Bang have always had that best-of-friends-worst-of-enemies vibe going, but after living together in an RV for an extended time, the “best of friends” part of that is stronger than ever. They like it when other kids are at the RV park’s playground or pool, but they also love it to be just the two of them because they have so much fun playing together. My son’s best friend back home came to me absolutely stunned one day this summer because Character Queen had told him that Mr. Bang is her “very, very best friend.” She explained to this boy that his sister was her best friend, but that Mr. Bang is her “very, very best friend.” This friend just couldn’t wrap his mind around the concept of a brother and sister being such close friends!
6. Great for autistic kids. This one doesn’t apply to my family, but after having a conversation about it with another mom, I think it’s such a great benefit that I don’t want to leave it out. This mom has an autistic son, who spent some time in traditional schools before launching into the RV lifestyle. Like many autistic kids, this boy looks like any other boy. In schools, he would play great with the other kids for the first couple weeks or so. Then they would start picking up on the fact that he’s “different,” and they stopped wanting to play with him. They would even pick on him. That caused him to become more withdrawn, so he didn’t want to play with other kids. As a roadschooler, he’s usually not with any one group of kids more than a few weeks at a time, so they don’t get to that point of deciding he’s “weird.” They just have fun playing with him. Therefore, his confidence has really boosted, and he actually doesn’t hesitate to play with other kids now! His mom remarked on what a transformation she has seen in his social skills since they’ve been on the road!
I knew roadschooling was going to be awesome. I knew we would learn a ton and have so many incredible experiences. However, I had no idea it would help my children’s social skills and lives blossom so much!