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Homeschooling and RV Living: Is it possible?
by Marion Esposito
Before you answer the question, let me tell you how and why we chose to live in a home that has wheels instead of a home with a permanent foundation.

We are a homeschooling family of two children, Jonathan, 15 and Katarina, 7. We are in our sixth year of homeschooling and plan to follow through on the commitment we made to teach our children at home until they have completed their high school education.

Our family spent eight wonderful years living overseas in Germany and the experience and memories we have are priceless. We returned to the United States and lived in Maryland for almost one year. No matter how hard we tried to make it “home,” we could not rid ourselves of the desire to return to our homeland, California. We packed our furniture and drove for five days until we finally arrived in Southern California.

We checked into a hotel and began looking for a home two days later. We were hoping to find something soon because the cost of the hotel would soon deplete our budget. We had appointments with our realtor almost every day. We spent countless hours on our own driving through neighborhoods. We visited so many homes throughout the county, and did research on the Internet almost every day. As time passed we were becoming more discouraged and exhausted from the hours spent in house hunting. We wanted to find a simple home within our budget, yet our budget would not buy what it did in Maryland. Time was passing quickly and the cost for the hotel was overwhelming. After almost one month in a hotel and no hope of finding a suitable house any time soon, we discussed purchasing a trailer to live in while we continued to search for a home. This would give us time to look without rushing into anything we would not be happy with.

We moved into our new 31-foot home with a glide out, full kitchen, comfortable beds and sufficient storage space. We enjoyed our new arrangement and felt much more relaxed. The house hunting continued on until another decision had to be made: Take a break or keep looking. The excitement of looking at houses grew tiresome. The weekends spent in the car, hour after hour with the kids, felt wasted. There was so much to see and do, and we spent every available opportunity on the dreaded search for a home. So, after discussing our options, we decided to take a much-needed break and “forget house hunting for now.” It was such a relief to know that I could finally plan outings, visit museums, find a homeschool support group, go to the beach, or visit family and friends. Our time was finally free!

If you had asked me a year ago if I would ever live in an RV, I would have told you “never!” A vacation, yes, but living in an RV full time, no way. I felt that I really needed a house with rooms and a place to hang my things in order to feel content. Besides, what would people think if we chose this lifestyle? What would our family think about our decision? It was a big change from what we had been used to, and I admit that at times, there was a part of me that still longed to have a traditional home.

What changed my heart? Taking one day at a time and learning to enjoy all the opportunities I now have. Experiencing new things that I may not ever have done if we rushed into purchasing a home. It has been an ongoing process that happens when I focus on being content and thankful for what I have and not wishing for more. That helps me to relax and enjoy my husband, my kids and my life as a whole.

So how could we possible stay in a 31-foot trailer all day? That’s the beauty of it -- we don’t. We spend more quality time outdoors than we ever have before. The campground has four lakes, boat rentals, fishing, playgrounds, picnic areas, walking paths, and a swimming pool. There is so much to do within the campground itself that it has made me look for new ways to enjoy nature. One day we chose to study the American Coot, one of over 175 species of birds sited here. We took our Field Guide to Birds book, notebook, pencil, camera and binoculars and learned by simple observation. We love to feed the ducks and continue to be amazed by the variety of wildlife around us. Just recently and rather unexpectedly, a flock of pelicans made their way to the lake. It has been very much fun to witness one of the largest birds in North America right in our own backyard.

Christmas was a whole new adventure for us. We spent the holidays at the beach for one month. We have always enjoyed putting Christmas lights up wherever we lived so why not do the same with the trailer? We put on holiday music and worked together to hang the lights and decorations. Don’t think because you are at a campground you can’t have a tree either. We went to our storage unit and pulled out our 6-foot artificial tree. We did not hang ornaments, since the tree would be left outside, but we did string lights on it. Just outside the gates of the RV resort was a boat harbor. The owners also decorated their boats with lights. In the evening, we enjoyed taking walks admiring all the decorations. We did our usual Christmas traditions of cooking and baking together. Christmas turned out to be wonderful, simple and very memorable for us.

There are also so many different ways to “do” art. I discovered a fun and inexpensive way to bring nature and art together -- we do lots and lots of rock painting! Some days we go for a walk just to look for our next rock to paint. My kids now see rocks and possibilities to create something new. I have met people at the campground who ask if I would paint them something. It is a lot of fun, and anyone, no matter what age, can enjoy rock painting. Also, since we began to live in our RV, we have seen more wildlife than ever before. Some, I appreciated more than others -- the tarantula for instance. Among the creatures and critters we have seen or heard are squirrels, raccoons -- alone and in groups -- snakes, beetles, frogs, coyotes, owls, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, ducks, bunnies and bees. I can’t imagine ever running out of things learn about.

Our children are eight years apart in age, yet they spend time riding their bikes together or swimming in the pool. Some days our son takes his sister to the park to play and I have a few moments to myself. Instead of the kids spending time in their bedrooms with the doors closed and isolated from the rest of the family, we spend time together as a family. When we lived in Maryland we had a fireplace, and now we have a portable fire pit! I love the evenings sitting around the warm fire, toasting marshmallows or just having good conversation. Everything around us is so quiet, except for the crackling sound of the wood burning. It’s a nice feeling to be out in the fresh air looking up at the stars at night.

Since I am not able to keep all my books with me in the trailer, we make regular trips to the library. It gives us the opportunity to have a new variety of literature all the time. There are special events at the library I like to take our daughter to such as craft day, story time and Spanish day. Many people living in RV’s have their entire computer set-up in a special place. Since we are four people in a trailer with limited space, we use laptops that can easily be put away at the end of each day. Some campgrounds have phone lines and opportunities for Internet hook-up, but since ours does not, we utilize the public library. We also have our printer/copier with us, which is very useful in our homeschool. When I am finished using it, I can store it under our bed to keep from overcrowding our trailer. Some may wonder where we put all our homeschool books along with everything else? I use whatever cabinet space I can, while still leaving room for other necessities. I purchased stackable plastic drawers and fill them with paper, art supplies, extra books, and other miscellaneous school supplies. We have a screened-in room attached to the outside of our trailer, which gives us extra living space as well. It is what we call our “Rec room.” We have two large bins filled with our daughter’s toys, and our son has his indoor basketball game set up. There is also a table for doing puzzles or games. If it’s cold outside, we just plug in the portable heater and let them have a good time. Although our kids do not have everything they normally would have in their bedrooms, they have what they need and enjoy what they do have. It seems that over time we have learned to live without all the extra “stuff.” Instead of wanting a house to hold all of our “stuff,” I am looking for ways to size down. I visit our storage space now and then and ask myself, “Why in the world do we need all this?” Most of it is just a bunch of dust collectors anyway. We do have special things we brought back from Germany and I miss seeing them, or some of my photos in frames or albums, but they don’t compare to the benefits we are experiencing now.

I used to dream of how I would decorate our “classroom.” I envisioned it covered with learning posters, charts, a dry erase board, a corkboard to hang my teacher notes, and the kids’ schoolwork adorning the walls. It was going to be a picture-perfect learning environment for the kids. Since the day I first began to homeschool we have always used the dining room. We had a fairly large home in Maryland and my plan was to use the basement as the place where we “do school.” I was so excited to finally have the space to design our schoolroom. Well, the basement was too cold during the winter and felt too far away from the rest of the house. We ended up going right back to where we had been the most comfortable, in the dining room. It may not have been the decorated classroom atmosphere I envisioned, but it made no difference in how we learned. Now we are in a trailer with even less space. Our focus is not what hangs on the walls, but the beauty around us. The decorations matter less when there is a whole world to explore outside the front door.

As you can see, our family is not lacking in our daily lifestyle. We have grown to appreciate life in a whole new way. I have no idea if we will buy a home someday. I can honestly say that if that day comes I will look back at this experience with warm thoughts. I will remember how much we grew as a family, how much the children learned, the people we met along the way, and the opportunity to understand and appreciate the RV lifestyle. Homeschooling in an RV has had obstacles, good and bad days, just as it would no matter where you live or what kind of home you live in. Homeschooling is about our children. It’s about raising, training and teaching our children in a loving environment. The goal of our teaching should be that our children would grow up to be responsible loving adults, with wonderful character and good morals. M.E.

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