In October, Cary mom Kaycee Hannen was in the process of selling just about everything her family owned to take homeschooling on the road in a 44-foot RV.
“Roadschooling” is gaining traction with homeschooling families across the United States. Although official statistics aren’t available, there are several websites dedicated to the practice, offering tips and resources as well as meet-ups for families on the road.
The Hannens are about four months in. Kaycee and husband, Louie, are traveling with their three kids: Kaitrinn, 14; Shealyn, 11; and Gavin, 7. Louie Hannen is able to work from the road.
I’ve been thinking about the family lately – perhaps wishfully, since it’s been so cold here, and I halfway remembered they’d be in Florida for the winter. My jealous self caught up with Kaycee Hannen recently by email.
“Schooling on the road has been wonderful,” she writes. “While we are with other families, (the kids) have an incentive to finish up the day’s work so they can go hang out with their friends.
“While we are on our own, things are slowed down, and we just take it easy,” she wrote. “It gives us a chance to really dive in and get things accomplished without distractions.”
During the fall, the family stayed relatively close, visiting Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina, coming back home for the holidays.
Right now, they’re in central Florida for three months. In early April, they’ll head over to Wisconsin, where Hannen grew up, then over to the northeastern states for the summer. They’ll head back home in the fall.
I asked Hannen what has surprised her the most.
“How quickly and deeply we have bonded with several of the families,” she says, “and how freeing and less stressful it all feels.”
Their Cary house is rented for now, and the income helps with on-the-road expenses, including 12 new tires purchased recently for the truck and trailer.
But the family misses “absolutely nothing” about the house itself, she said.
The hardest part, says Hannen, is the day they leave one location and head to the next.
“I deal with moving day with mixed feelings,” she says. “We have the ‘tear down camp and pack up the trailer’ routine down really well now, but it’s still a stressful day.
“Hauling a 44-foot trailer through traffic automatically raises my blood pressure,” she said. “On the other hand, it’s exciting, because it’s the only way we make it to the next stop for new sites to see and new people to meet.”
The kids, initially worried about missing their friends and activities, are doing well.
“They have blossomed, and it’s great to see their confidence and independence,” says Hannen. “Gavin finally learned how to ride his bike without training wheels, because he wanted to keep up with the bigger boys.
“Shealyn makes friends within minutes and is always looking to play,” she said.
She said Kaitrinn has Asperger’s, on the autism spectrum, and has impressed her the most, she said.
“Being able to go all of these places, meet the people and do new things would normally cause major amounts of anxiety,” she wrote. “However, with her home, family and everything she owns here, the comfort and security she needs is there, and she has stepped way beyond her past comfort zone.”
The family visits museums, monuments and historic sites, often with dozens of other families.
“At any given time, there are around 20 other families from the group staying at the campground we are at,” Hannen says. “People come and go depending upon their schedule. We’ve all made lots of friends.”
There are also traditional lessons to follow. Roadschoolers are advised to follow the regulations and requirements of their base state.
The stops along the way flesh out book studies – exploring animals, literature, history and art.
“It's amusing to see them learn from some of the places we visit,” Hannen says. “Gavin was all excited about not doing schoolwork at all one day and was telling Papa about it on the phone. He then proceeded to tell him all about what he had done and seen that day at Colonial Williamsburg.”
Sometimes the best learning is the kind you don’t even realize is happening.
To keep up with the family, go to www.ourbumpyroad.com.