- Joel Young and his family spend about six months of the year traveling in an RV.
- Young’s three boys, who are between 7 and 15, are homeschooled.
- This is his story, as told to MaryLou Costa.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Joel Young. It has been edited for length and clarity.
My wife, Jenna, and I both grew up in rural Ohio. We both have great parents, but we didn’t travel a lot. I was 17 before I even went on an airplane.
We want to give our kids — three boys between the ages of 7 and 15 — exposure to the melting pot that is America, where culture changes state by state, so they can all find their place and their passions.
That’s why we travel about six months out of the year in an RV. We find that learning through experiences is a much better teacher than a classroom.
We get to see historic places in person
We’ve been to Gettysburg, famous Civil War sites, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Washington Monument, and we also spend a lot of time in nature. We take the kids to mountains and look at geological formations, and we’ve explored deserts.
It’s much easier to make learning a natural part of life when you’re out seeing there new things versus seeing the same thing every day through a computer and a book.
We recently traveled across the country from where we live in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Yellowstone National Park in Montana — about 1,500 miles. Then we traveled down into Utah to visit the national parks including Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon. We then went all the way over the Rocky Mountains, past the ski resorts, and back down to Boulder, Colorado, where we used to live.
We need to plan a lot
There’s a lot of planning involved. Jenna takes the lead on homeschooling, while I run my own video-production business.
When we’re traveling, I get up early and work for a couple of hours. Then we spend the whole day together, and I get another few hours of work done in the evening.
I work less when we’re on the road to get more enjoyment out of that. I do have a mobile recording studio that I’ve fitted into the RV, though. The kids are used to going into silent mode when dad’s recording.
While Jenna creates the boys’ curriculums using online resources and tools that fit their personalities and needs — our middle child is dyslexic — I find things I’m really passionate about to help out with schooling. One of them is personal finance. I want my kids to know what is going on with money before they get to adulthood. That’s something our public-school systems are missing. I also focus on entrepreneurialism.
They take standardized public-school tests and will take college entry tests when appropriate, but we’re trying to equip them to see opportunities and skills within themselves to potentially build a business around.
The world is changing so fast, so we want them to be prepared to pivot whenever they need to.
We used to do two big trips of about three months apiece. But we’ve started to break it up into three of around two months so it’s more manageable — especially as the boys are big into sports, so we try to make sure we’re back for those. Our kids are also at the ages where they’re developing more lasting friendships and wanting to hang out with those friends more. So transitioning to shorter chunks of travel gives the kids more freedom and flexibility.
It feels like the road has become a second home for our family. By traveling in an RV, we have more stability, and our kids are able to feel more comfortable in new places. This travel has also bonded our family to each other in ways that traditional life doesn’t.
We’re creating bonds and memories that simply cannot happen at home.