Cross country road trip: Goals for the Trip

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall, 1882

Our family recently completed a 6 week long cross country road trip. We traveled from Atlanta, GA to Jackson, Mississippi and from there to Chicago, IL. After a week in Chicago my husband flew home and I traveled on with 5 of our kids (ages 4, 6, 12, 15, and 17) all the way to  Maine and back to Atlanta. I had big goals for keeping a journal on our trip, but I was too busy having fun with the kids (and driving 6,000 miles) SO….it didn’t happen. Now I am in a rush to record some of these precious memories before I forget the details.

I’ll start with posting my goals at the beginning of the trip, and the rest of the posts in this series will cover where we went, what we did, and where we ate!

Goals for the trip

To rejuvenate and be refreshed–to REST.

This year marked the half way point of my homeschooling career–16 years down, 15 to go. Adopting a child with some significant special needs almost 4 years ago have made the last several years extremely busy. I spend a lot of time driving, doing therapy, teaching school, keeping house, and trying to keep all the plates spinning.

I was tired. Really tired. And I have not had much time to really enjoy just being with my kids for quite awhile–many of our interactions had become focused on getting school done, rushing to get out of the house for an activity, and me correcting their behavior or telling them the bullet points on their to do lists. My husband offered me this priceless gift–the chance to go away for SIX WEEKS, to step back from my many responsibilities and put all of our kids activities and therapy on hold so we could spend time just relaxing and reconnecting. He referred to it as “the summer of Molly”. He sacrificed not only money but time with me and the kids so that we could have this opportunity. I can never fully express how valuable and precious this time was for me and for the kids.

To have fun with the kids, make fun memories and break out of the rut of having most of our one on one time devoted to school.

I wanted to spend extra time alone with each child, as well as enjoy doing fun things together as a group. I have one “easy” kid who doesn’t get a lot of time and attention from me because he always does everything “right” and just floats under the radar. I have other kids that need a lot of help with school or therapy, or a lot of correction, and many of our interactions focus on their particular needs. All of that is important but I wanted a chance to just enjoy being with them, appreciating their individual personalities, and loving on them in ways that are meaningful to them. My 6 year old had been expressing a great desire for me to take an entire day off to just play with her and spend time together and I was having to look at my calendar and see when I could pencil her in….um, how is two weeks from Saturday? This was a chance to set cooking, cleaning, school, activities, and all the other pressures aside.

Rest, by William Adolphe Bouguereau

To change our family culture to one that is supportive and cooperative.

We are under a lot of pressure and many of our interactions with one another had become rushed, and over time, even rude. I felt like my kids were often not speaking respectfully to one another, and we had all grown very impatient with one another–a symptom of the many days when we seem to have more things on our schedule than what we really have time for. I have always believed that when people aren’t getting along or treating each other as kindly that it is good for them to spend MORE time together, rather than less. It gives an opportunity to really work on the issues and confront them head on. By the end of Day 1 we had dubbed this trip our “Family Sanctification Journey”. Being crammed together in the car with too much luggage showed us just how far things had digressed. One major focus needed to be improving the way we treat one another, and growing in patience was another area we wanted to change. To help achieve this goal we listened to various Christian audio messages, prayed together about these issues, and worked hard to change our thinking and our habits. Some people say it takes 40 days to change a habit, so we set out to do just that.

To play games and have down time to relax together, to laugh, and to have some times with NO agenda.

This may seem like a silly goal, since it should go without saying. Since I am a “maximizer” it was important for me to write this down and articulate it to our family. I don’t enjoy playing games much and I HATE having no agenda. And when I have an agenda, I want it to be full–even overly full, if possible, because I like to “maximize” my time and get as much done as possible.

I sure do get a lot done, but Maximizing can also be stressful. And when faced with the opportunity of planning a long journey, with very few specifications (other than budget and a couple of locations which were “must do”) the temptations to maximize were many. Planning such a long trip with  many interesting field trips along the way was, for me, a homeschooler’s dream! But during my planning and even more so once we were underway, I maintained a commitment to keep the kids involved in the decisions about what we would do on any given day (giving up control and compromising when their goals were not the same as mine). I was also committed to letting plans go when they interfered with our broader goals of relaxing, having fun, changing our culture, and having some unstructured time. I could have easily filled the time with “must do’s” and “must sees”, but we had to let some important sites remain unseen to accomplish our bigger goals.

Also, life happened. If we were having fun one day and decided to spend extra time at one place, it meant another place may have gotten squeezed out of the schedule. Case in point: Boston. We went to Boston Burger Company (thanks, Guy Fieri and Food Network–it really was a highlight). But we didn’t do (gasp) anything else there. We skipped it all saved it for another time because we were having too much fun relaxing at Cape Cod to leave for a day of planned field trips.

Ekvall Knut The Reading Lesson

To read together, about the places we were visiting.

I am a homeschool mom, after all. I brought a ridiculous amount of books along on this trip so we could read most nights about something we had done that day or something we would be doing the next day. We didn’t finish all the books I took as there wasn’t always time or energy to read…but we got through a lot of the books I took, and we will be working through the others this summer. I LOVE that kind of synergy–it was one of the truly exciting parts of this trip for me to be able to plan neat field trips and then read books to enhance and enrich them. When my bigger kids were young we read a TON and that was my favorite part of home schooling. In the past few years I have been pulled in SO many different directions that I haven’t spent nearly as much time reading to my younger set as I wanted to, and this was an opportunity to seize time for reading and set another new pattern that we can, with the Lord’s help, carry forward from here. It was SO GOOD to stop feeling guilty for not reading and instead to start doing it!

To redeem the time in the car

My kids have tablets and ipods and, of course, they like to play games on them. And we bought a DVD player for the car before we started our 6,000 mile journey. But I did not want ALL of our time to be consumed by things that separate us from one another and which don’t engage our brain or imagination. I had a goal of redeeming the time in the car. My kids were not too excited about it, I admit, but thankfully they are compliant and go along with my ideas without much fuss. I took some school work along (which we didn’t do much with, I admit) and some great audio resources (which we thoroughly enjoyed!) We listened to R. C. Sproul’s series Chosen by God together, and the Lord used it to really encourage us. We are also reading Sproul’s book Everyone’s a Theologian and we had some opportunities to read that aloud, too. We began a series on church history (by Robert Godfrey), which I am hoping to finish with my older teen boys in the fall. I also wanted to listen to one book our rising Challenge A (Classical Conversations) student needs to read in the fall (we chose The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe). I had hoped to listen to more audio books and sermons, and I had envisioned some serious License Plate spotting games, but that didn’t materialize. Instead, we filled the time with conversation and that turned out to be even better than what I had planned.

To attend church somewhere every week that we were gone

We managed this all but one Sunday when circumstances arose that prevented us (ahem Acadia, Maine…you are large and kinda remote). We were truly blessed through visiting several different local congregations from Mississippi to Virginia and points in between.