Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

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I absolutely love American History! I can’t say I loved it very well during high school, but since having taught it repeatedly to my own children (we homeschool) I have become enamored. My husband, Kendel, and I talked several times over the years about taking our kids on a history road trip across the United States, but there was always a reason not to.

Finally one day, while taking a walk, we decided it was time. We wanted it to happen before our oldest left home. I was pregnant with our 8th child, but you know how when the timing feels right you just have to do it?

So we talked about the idea as we walked the neighborhood and decided that if we could find a way to take the road trip for under $5000, we would. Airfare times nine would have eaten that meager trip budget up in a hurry, so we would have to drive. And if we drove, we might as well turn it into a road trip and see all the fabulous things on the way out (we live in Utah, in the western half of the USA, and Boston is over on the east coast) and on the way back. And if we were going to drive, we might as well take a motorhome so we could save time and money on hotels and restaurants.

It’s kind of like the book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. All the ‘if we’s’ leading to ‘we might as well’s’ add up, and you’ve got a pretty big thing going on! But I always ignore the snowballing because my life’s motto is ‘how hard can it be’? So I proceeded, despite finances being tight and life being busy.

If you know me, when I get an idea I’m like a dog with a bone. I started looking for motorhomes. I contemplated renting one, but after learning the price for an entire month, plus all of the extra mileage fees, figured we should probably buy one. We could sell it when we got back and recoup most of the transportation/lodging costs.

Our price range was pretty low, so we were looking at real junkers! In fact, one that we looked at was parked in an impound lot with a guy living in it! Not kidding! It was so full of junk that the seller had to clear a path for Kendel. I didn’t go in. It was all I could do to make myself politely peek inside. Nope, not buying that one!

We finally found one that was clean and nice, with super low mileage, but old. I didn’t care that it was old. We bought it and spent a couple of weekends redoing most of the inside. I bought new vinyl flooring and carpet from a place that sold remnants, and the kids pulled up the old vinyl and removed staples for a nickel each. Cheap labor rocks, ha, ha!

I reupholstered the couch and chairs and made new window coverings. Kendel is 6’9″ and needed a larger captain’s chair, so he replaced both of the front seats. We also replaced some of the appliances. We were pretty happy with how it turned out and super excited for our trip!

Meanwhile, we also planned our trip. Leaving from Utah, we would take a Southerly route East, drive north along the east coast, and take a northerly route back. We decided what we wanted to see and scheduled it all into our itinerary, which we whittled down to 3 1/2 weeks, since that was all the work Kendel could miss. I used mapquest and to determine distances and driving times, so we could stay on schedule.

Eating at restaurants with a family of 9 was way beyond our meager budget, so the kids helped me make 2 dozen freezer meals in disposable containers, along with a large bucket of our favorite granola. We bought lots of snacks in bulk, along with sandwich fixings, packed it all into the motorhome and excitedly began our journey.

Kendel likes driving, fortunately, because I don’t. I hate that I’m missing things by having to keep my attention on the road! I also have trouble staying awake! So Kendel drove while I napped on the couch behind him. I don’t usually nap — I am just not a napper — but I was 7 months pregnant and could have slept through an apocalypse. The kids were in heaven because they could play games at the table, watch movies, eat and nap in the bunks at the back.

We drove through St. Louis and contemplated stopping at the arch, but were a little behind schedule, so we just drove by it. The kids didn’t seem very interested in it anyway, and they were happily playing. Sometimes, when things are going well,  you don’t interrupt them!



Therefore, our first stop was Liberty Jail historic site in Missouri. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Liberty Jail is where the first prophet of our church, Joseph Smith, was incarcerated for five months. The most interesting part of the tour, for me, was a display about how Joseph Smith regarded the Liberty Jail as a temple, because of the instruction he received there, and because of the purifying nature of his trials.


USA Road Trip History


The kids were antsy and travel weary, and it was difficult to contain and herd them through the building, so I wouldn’t say I got much from the tour.  We had lunch, climbed back in the motorhome and continued merrily on our way. Really, it was merry. We were all together, having fun, for almost an entire month!

I had never wanted a motorhome before, but seriously, this was THE way to travel! Until… we broke down. Several hours past Missouri, near Leavenworth, Indiana, at about 10:30 pm, the motorhome shuddered and quit. Kendel pulled it over as far as he could, but there wasn’t much of a shoulder. The rest of us were all sleeping in the back. I got up and went up front to see what the matter was. We called Good Sam, our RV insurance company, but they said they couldn’t help us, because the only town even remotely near us, Leavenworth, did not have anyone that could tow a motorhome.

We were on a narrow freeway, and huge semi’s were racing past us, causing the motorhome to rock back and forth. I was a little worried for the safety of my family. It was getting close to midnight and there was nothing around. We called again, and the dispatcher said he would call a local sheriff. That sheriff called a kind, local pastor, who came and picked the kids and me up in his ‘church bus’ and took us to the only hotel in Leavenworth.

Kendel stayed with the motorhome and eventually found someone willing to tow it. The tow truck driver dropped him off at our hotel. We figure we must have thrown a rod or something by driving the motorhome far faster than it was capable of going. The engine was shot. I think it was made in the 70’s, when engines were built for freeways with 55 mph speed limits. Kendel and I are both engineers — we should have known better!

Boy was that a huge disappointment! I attribute it to being so very pregnant, in addition to the motorhome trauma, but I could not stop crying. We had two choices. We could fly home from the nearest airport, with just our clothing, or we could finish our trip. We weren’t about to try to buy another motorhome, but maybe we could find a decent van.

In retrospect, I am so very grateful that we had a healthy emergency fund and choices, and that we were all safe, although at the time I did NOT feel grateful for anything! That’s not quite true. I was very grateful for the sweet pastor who picked us up and delivered us to the hotel in the middle of the night. Good people like him are such a blessing! But I sure wasn’t grateful for any of the rest of it!

We decided to continue our trip, so Kendel hired a local guy to drive him into a metropolitan area to look at dealerships for a vehicle. While he shopped, which took two days, the kids and I sat in the motorhome, in the parking lot of the mechanic’s shop. We all wallowed in the depths of despair and drowned our sorrows in massive amounts of sugar. I had purchased several of the 5lb bulk bags of gummy bears and taffy from Costco, and I think we ate them all that day, along with far too much other candy and junk food. And I cried and ranted, because that’s what I do. I’m not proud of it.

In the midst of our despair, I remembered back to our visit to Liberty Jail the day before. Joseph Smith and his companions had languished in the dark, dank cellar of the jail, with inadequate food, zero sanitation, and abuse for five months when Joseph cried out to Heavenly Father in despair. He recorded Heavenly Father’s answer to him, which is now part of our LDS scriptures, the Doctrine and Covenants, section 122.

Heavenly Father answered Joseph, “If thou art called to pass through tribulation… if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep, if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man (Jesus Christ) hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

Wow! Joseph had gone through so much more than I can even comprehend, and Heavenly Father answers his question with another –the Son of Man hath descended below all; art thou greater than He? We lost a few thousand dollars on an old motorhome, which doesn’t even remotely compare to what Joseph Smith went through, which still pales in comparison to the atoning sacrifice of our savior. That really put my small trial into perspective!

I STILL was not very grateful for my trial, sitting in that broken-down old motorhome in that parking lot. Did I mention it took two whole days? And I was even less grateful when Kendel brought back an ugly 15-seater van that had been used for Amish transport. But I can honestly say I’m grateful now, several years later, because those particular scriptures have such great meaning to me. Had the motorhome worked beautifully, I would not have appreciated the sacrifices made by Joseph Smith and to an even greater extent, Christ. I realize that I am completely incapable of ever understanding fully the sacrifice made by Christ, but that trial did humble me enough to try.

Okay, enough of the breakdown. We loaded everything that would fit into the Amish van (we nicknamed it ‘the church bus’ because we were so amused by the fact that when the police heard there were 9 of us, they called the pastor with the church bus) and traded our motorhome to the tow truck driver for fees, then headed on down the road. It was crazier than it sounds here–it really felt monumentally crazy and quite reckless, but we knew we would regret not finishing our trip if we decided to take that route.



Because we spent two unexpected days in a parking lot, we had to cut our visits to the Little House museum, Colonial Williamsburg, and Historic Jamestown and head straight for Washington DC.

We hurriedly made hotel reservations at all of our stops along the way, and cancelled RV reservations. We tried several hotels in Washington DC, where we planned to spend 4 days, before realizing that our dates were during the Cherry Blossom Festival, and every single room in the city was booked. Oops! Luckily, Kendel has a very kind uncle and aunt in Arlington, who let us stay with them. (Thank you Uncle Dell and Aunt Valeria!)

Because of the breakdown, my nerves were frayed, and I couldn’t help but remain on high alert through the rest of the drive. We were particularly alert as we drove through West Virginia. We had never before seen such wild and craggy mountains. Even the Rocky Mountains, where we are from, seemed tame in comparison. The scenery was amazing and I hope to visit again someday with time to hike.

We’ve visited DC several times, but have always flown in, so we were unprepared for the twisting and winding, seemingly incomprehensible route that GPS presented us. We seriously contemplated turning off the GPS, but fortunately decided against it, because we would never have found our destination on our own. We finally and very happily and gratefully arrived in Arlington.

I don’t want to break your fingers with excessive scrolling, and our trip was only just getting started, so the rest of our historical tour of the United States will be continued in the following segments:

Washington D. C.: All the awesome things to see with kids

US History Road Trip: Battlefields, Philadelphia and NYC

17 Riveting Boston historical sites everyone should see

Niagra Falls and Palmyra: Upstate New York

LDS Church History: Kirtland, Nauvoo and Winter Quarters





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  1. This is a great way for kids to learn and really understand on a much deeper level.

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      I completely agree — there is nothing like hands-on learning!

  2. Wow!!! What an adventure! You are brave! I love your determination and the ingenious ways you were able to save money and make an expensive trip affordable. Very amazing!!!

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      It really was SO VERY worthwhile! My kids now have such a thorough understanding of US History and an appreciation for all of the sacrifices that were made in behalf of our wonderful country. I recommend it to everyone!

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