Homeschool Q&A: Meet the Neff Family

35B2DB38-8529-494A-9F4A-7F043C5171BB E09E847A-D6DE-4C62-A9CE-52D984B3684E
 




Dad:   Christian (38)

Mom: Erica
 
3 Girls:
 
Libby, 11
Sophia, 9
Sydney, 7
Where is your family from?
We are originally from Springfield, MO area and are currently in St. George, UT.
How long have you been homeschooling for?
We are in the midst of starting our homeschool/roadschool journey.
What lead you to making the decision to homeschool your girls?
Last summer, we decided to travel as a family for the summer, and we really loved it! We decided as a family to homeschool for many reasons. In no particular order, and hopefully not offending anyone.
1) My wife really hated leaving the family dynamic for a few days while she worked her shifts. Generally, she would work 2-3 hours driving distance from home. So she would be gone usually 2-3 days top, but occasionally there were longer stretches of up to 2 weeks. It would be emotionally difficult at times. (Imagine 3 little girls and mommy crying) So, going together, now alleviates that issue for us.
2) The changing face of education also motivated us. The shift to excessive testing, etc. As I’ve taught the last 12 years, my perceived changes in students, as far as independent thinking, motivation, general knowledge, etc.
3) Culturally, we wanted to expose our children to the beautiful world that is out there. Our corner of the world in southwest Missouri, has some wonderful people in it. But, to our view, there is a strong undercurrent of anti-intellectualism, racism, sexism, homophobia,etc. that isn’t part of our worldview.
So, this April, we crunched the numbers, resolved some other family issues, and decided to take the plunge! I resigned my position, and we decided to hit the road full-time!
Are you full time roadschoolers?
Yes, traveling full time.
 
How do you finance homeschooling on the road?
 My wife is a travel nurse, and has been doing that for the last three years. Yeah, she is still a traveling nurse for labor and delivery. Luckily, she is making enough that I can focus on educating the kids. Maybe as the kids get older, I’ll supplement, if we need it.
 
What does a typical day/week look like in your family? Since you are also travelers, how long do you stay in a particular location and how do you decide where to go next? is it dictated by your wife’s job or interest?
 
A typical travel nurse works contracts that are 13 weeks in length, they can be extended if both parties want to.  Usually, about 4 weeks or so before the contract ends, you start the process of finding your next assignment or staying there.  Last summer, we decided to go to St. George, Utah. It has so many amazing things within in a 5 hour radius. National Parks, Las Vegas, Ocean, Grand Canyon are very close. We loved it! So, we decided to come back this summer since we didn’t do everything here, and we wanted something the kids were familiar with, instead of starting everything in a brand-new area.  No camper for us, so far, we stay in condos using vrbo.com.
 
What has been your biggest struggle with homeschooling and/or the transition to homeschooling. What has been the hardest part of moving from traditional schooling to home/roadschooling?
 
It’s been pretty smooth so far! We are still in summer mode! The older two are excited about the fact about not being constrained to a schedule. The youngest, who hasn’t been a fan of school at any point, is still coming to the realization that she needs to be educated lol. Mainly, the biggest challenges have come from family members concerned about socialization and oddly enough, athletic extra curriculars. (My perspective) The kids go through times where they are worried about their friends, so I am hoping to find good homeschool groups as we go along.
 
What methods does your family or will your family use for homeschooling? A curriculum? Unschooling? Something else?
 
Right now, the tentative plan is to use discoveryk12.com as a base for the curriculum and supplement as I see fit. As far as unschooling goes, I will allow them as much independent time as we can tolerate, and I’ll tailor their lessons and readings to topics that interest them. I want them to be prepared for any path they want to take in life. College-prep will be the focus, but as our economy and society change, I want them to have skills that will work in many areas. The kids said that they think the best part will be having me as their teacher (aren’t they sweet), and they are looking for the art and music parts. (Ukulele instruments)
What, so far, has been the best part about homeschooling? 
 
The kids said that they think the best part will be having me as their teacher (aren’t they sweet), and they are looking forward to the art and music parts. (Ukulele instruments)
How did your friends and/or family respond to your decision to go against the mainstream and homeschool?
My co-workers were very supportive! In fact, a few said they wished they could do what we are doing. Most of the family has been pretty supportive to our faces, but are mainly sad since we are going to be far away from Missouri most of the time. I try to have decent answers to their questions, but what we are doing is pretty non-traditional/radical to a lot of people. I’ve been pretty low-key about it on Facebook,  so not to hurt people’s feelings and also to avoid arguments.
 
Awesome! It sounds like a perfect balance. Is there anything you or the kids would like to add. Anything you think parents or kids thinking about or beginning homeschooling should know?
 
I’m no expert, but it seems like the biggest things that I’ve gathered from my research are to stay relaxed, have the end goal in mind, stick with it even though the first year will be tough, and not to worry about what others think too much. It seems like many homeschoolers feel the need to prove they made the right decision, and sometimes in that quest can really damage the kids, or the relationships with others.

Meet The Mom

Fitzgerald_160127-1941-1

I thought it would be a good exercise to give everybody a chance to introduce themselves to you all. The kids are excited to share with you!   

As you can see, there are not many photos that exist of only me. I love to explore new things. Until my oldest, Caleb, was born I worked as an EMT in Massachusetts. Later on I pursued a degree in Deaf Studies from Quinsigamond Community College. I don’t get much opportunity to use my ASL skills and as a consequence my skills are very rusty. I have a certificate in Photography from Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts and also spend some time at the New England Institute of Art. In the last few years I have also learned how to can food safely, sew, crochet and knit (but I dropped knitting as soon as I got the hang of crochet) and beading. I also make many of our household cleaners and shower products.

I love being a stay-at-home mom and exploring the world with my family. We’ve been through a lot in the last few years learning how to deal with food allergies, lead poisoning, Lyme Disease, mold toxicity and the physical, mental and emotional effects all of these things, especially when occurring in such a short amount of time, have on people.

I’m also love animals and nature. We currently have a cat and a dog as well as 3 bunnies (at 1 point we had 35!) and chickens.

I want to teach my kids by living life. I, myself, am a hands on learner. I learn by doing and experiencing. I want to teach them what they need to know to be successful adults in whatever dreams they want to pursue. Not only academically but with real life skills. I feel like there are too many adults and soon to be adults entering the world not having basic life skills necessary to function in day to day life. I feel like the decision to homeschool my children will make this possible and as a family we can achieve amazing things.

My dream is to spend a year or 2 (or more?) traveling the country (I’d love to say the world but flying terrifies me!) I’ll have to work on that one) and learning on the road. I want my kids to not just read about amazing places in books and see them on TV, I want them to experience these wonders and really appreciate them.

If When we are lucky enough to make this a reality there may come a time when we decide, you know what? We want to settle down. I feel like we’d have a better understand of the country and really know where a comfortable spot for us to live would be, because we’ll have been there.

We’d like to buy a nice plot of land ( I can see it in my mind) acres upon acres (maybe 20 acres?) With a view of the mountains and a pond where we can explore. We want to learn to live sustainably, grow our own food and raise animals (I’m having trouble with the meat thing, I love to eat meat, but I don’t know how I’d handle raising my dinner, I tend to get attached). We love the idea of off grid living in a small house and collecting memories, not things. I want to teach my kids that things are just that, things. People and experiences are more important than material possessions).

I dream of a rescue for livestock where they can be safe and happy. Living off the land, growing our own food (well, most of it anyway) and appreciating the little things in life.