Meet Gretchen and her wonderful traveling family from Jamestown, TN.
Q: How old are your children?
“Alysia is 16, Trillian is 12, and my son, Logan, is 8. River, aka Ribby, was 22 months when we lost her this summer.”
I’m so sorry about your little one
“Thank you. Today has been a month since she’s been gone.”
Q: Is it ok for me to ask what happened?
“We were on the road for the summer, about 3 weeks into our trip, our last day in Kansas City, when Ribby fell in a pool and drowned. Trillian rescued her, I did CPR and restored her heartbeat, but she was still in a coma. She spent 2 weeks on life support at Children’s Mercy Hospital, but ultimately did not make it. All her body systems were working beautifully, but her brain just suffered too much damage. The silver lining to our loss, was that she was able to donate her organs; and with her ultimate gift, Ribby saved the lives of others.”
Q: That is truly an amazing gift she and your family were willing give to their families. I apologize, I’ll get back on topic. How long have you been homeschooling?
“I consider us homeschoolers since Day One, literally, so almost 17 years.”
Q: What made you decide to homeschool?
“All through school, I was your model student. Perfect grades, incredible aspirations. But, by high school, I was pretty fed up with the system and ended up dropping out. If I would have graduated, I would have been the valedictorian of my class; but suddenly that didn’t even matter anymore. I promised my future children then that I would never let them go through the same nonsense. I didn’t even know what homeschooling was at that point, but I had plans to deliver them some stellar educational experience above and beyond what a school would be able to do. When someone finally planted the seeds of homeschooling in my brain, I knew that was the life I would choose for my family.”
Q: How did friends/family respond to your decision to homeschool?
“In the beginning, my mom envisioned me strapping my kids into desks 12 hours a day and drilling them relentlessly. She wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of “educational torture.” But, she realized some people she worked with were also homeschoolers, and by talking to them, I think she realized it wouldn’t be as bad as she thought. My kids’ dad had an expensive private school upbringing. He certainly wasn’t keen on public education, but he wasn’t too sure about the homeschooling concept. I think he always assumed his kids would go to a private school just as he did. Fast forward 17 years, I think he has enjoyed the homeschooling lifestyle we have provided our family; but he still underestimates just how much all of our experiences have indeed shaped each of the kids into the amazing people they are today. The ONLY grief I’ve ever gotten, is from my kids’ paternal grandfather. Just two years ago, he literally asked me “So, when are you going to grow up and send the kids to real school?” Grrrr. Thanks, Grandpa.”
Q: What methods or curriculum (if any) do you use?
“I don’t like a lot of labels, per se, but we’re definitely worldschoolers. And definitely unschoolers. We’re all about hands-on, first-person learning experiences. We spend an average of over 200 nights a year on the road. Alysia has been through all 48 continental states and into Canada and Mexico. Trillian and Logan have been through 41 states. And Ribby made it to 15 in her 22 months. We’ve been to thousands of museums, zoos, state parks, national parks, historic sites, places of cultural significance, and so much more. Whether we’re dining with the Navajo, piroguing through a bayou, working with researchers at an Ivy League University, or earning our 60th Junior Ranger Badge, THIS is our classroom. The entire world. I used to collect text books. At one point I had 16,000 of them. But every time we would come home and delve into a stack of books, we would quickly realize the knowledge we had already gained from personal experience was greater than what any textbook could offer. I still use a few math books (JUMP, Math in Focus / Singapore) every now and then to make sure their math skills are on par. And we really do enjoy logic skills, puzzles, critical thinking, and problem solving (Critical Thinking Press, Prufrock, Dandy Lion and the like) but everything else is learned through life itself.”
Q: How is your family able to live the dream of roadschooling financially?
“When we travel, it is usually just the kids and me. Craig prefers being stationary most of the time. He enjoys his work in furniture sales and does well for our family. We budget as much of his income towards travel as possible. When you make travel such a priority, you don’t even miss the sacrifice that it does require. Our vehicles are older with very high mileage. We don’t have cable. We don’t eat out much. Alysia and I do have iphones, but Craig still uses an old school flip phone. When we are home, I cook from scratch. We buy most clothes used or on clearance. I’m a super bargain shopper, and I make our money stretch quite far. But when you hit the road, off on an exciting new adventure, none of those “sacrifices” even feel like you’ve missed out. So, hard work in a good job; living modestly, both at home and on the road; and a total dedication to travel as our main goal are the efforts that enable us to enjoy life on our terms.”
Q: What had been your biggest struggle while on your homeschooling journey?