It would be hard to find stronger advocates for homeschooling, than motorhomers Jim and Angela Courtney of Long Island, N.Y.
“The combination of my job and homeschooling is a good fit,” said Jim, an air-traffic control supervisor at New York Center in Ronkonkoma. “Anytime I can get off from work, we can take advantage of the opportunity that motorhome travel gives us, without having to worry about the kids missing school.”
Angela, who has a degree in nursing and became a registered nurse in 1994, homeschools Ashley, 11, and Jimmy, 8. She started about 6 years ago.
“My daughter went to preschool for two years,” Angela said. “I sent her because it was expected what every good mother does.”
Before long, Angela noticed certain practices she didn’t agree with, including teachers’ styles.
“I realized I had no control over what other people were going to be teaching my children. At that point I started researching homeschooling, and then we decided to take it year by year … It’s worked out really well with all the traveling we do.”
The Courtneys have toured Gettysburg National Military Park, learned about American history at Colonial Williamsburg, discovered the wonder of Luray Caverns in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and immersed themselves in the 17th-century at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Mass.
“We’re really able to take advantage of the vast opportunities that our country offers,” Angela said. “Our kids have seen so many things that they wouldn’t have been able to see had they been tied down by a school system.”
Homeschooling provides flexibility to go with the flow, Jim said. “I had to go to Florida for two weeks on a work-related trip. Instead of flying down by myself, we drove the motorhome down and the kids learned about the history of St. Augustine [the United States’ oldest city].
“Anywhere you go, anything you do, you can incorporate learning into it,” he continued. “And anywhere I have to go for my job, we can incorporate a motorhome trip into it.”
Angela would like to homeschool the kids through high school and into college, but can’t say that’s definite. “Each year, we evaluate the needs of the child — academically, emotionally and socially. And we decide if that‘s what we’re going to continue to do.”
The biggest misconception about homeschooling, Angela said, is that homeschooled children are not well socialized. “They actually are very well socialized because of the diversity of people they meet, and the experiences they get to do.”
Homeschooling children is not as difficult as it's perceived, Jim said, adding that there is “a ton” of support available.
“I didn’t know anything about homeschooling,” he said. “What I was surprised at is the number of people who actually do it. Just here in our local area, there are hundreds of people who do it and they form support groups where they share ideas and plan field trips. The kids have grown up together. It’s almost the same idea as being in school, in that respect. They share outings, families become friends and close. There is a big giant network out there.”
“My biggest advice,” Angela said, “if you’re thinking about doing it, is to get out there, get on the Internet, talk to people, go to the local library, take a look at the statistics, talk to kids who are homeschooled.”
Jim isn’t surprised that they’re encountering more motorhome owners who homeschool their children. “When we started motorhoming in 2004, it seemed like we were the only young people who had a motorhome. Now it seems there are a lot of younger people who have them.”
What do the kids think?
Does Ashley miss going to a school?
“No, because I wouldn’t be able to travel so much,” she said. “And I love having my mom as my teacher.”
Fort Wilderness at Disney World has been her favorite place to visit. The best learning trip has been Gettysburg, Pa.
Jimmy also is sold on homeschooling.
“It’s a very good experience because you can be home, get your school work done and go on lots of field trips,” he said.
He likes being taught by his mom and staying home with his pets. Asheville, N.C., and Williamsburg, Va., are his favorite places he’s visited so far. He said he learned the most at Gettysburg.
“It’s [being homeschooled] a very fun experience and I hope that other kids can do what I get to do!”