On-the-Road Unschooling – And a Journal Switch-Up

My daughter Lindsey is the primary voice in this blog, although the process of writing the blog has been a collaboration in many ways. We discuss and edit together, exchange ideas, debate, proofread, etc. Of course, it is also a collaboration in that Lindsey has been sharing my past writings from a journal I wrote when Lindsey was 3 and her older sister was 5 years old.

But Lindsey has been so busy recently — she’s been wanting to write more, but has been unable to find the time. So I thought that a reversal of roles was fair play! Today, I wanted to share some excerpts from an old road-trip journal that Lindsey wrote decades ago, when she was about 8 years old.

Day 1: I (well, we) saw a red road! I saw a dead rabbit on the side of the road. That was pretty sad. So far, all we’ve pretty much been doing is driving. We’re in Arizona right now…..

Oh, goody, Mom says that we’ll be able to camp out tonight. Maybe!

Well, we ended up in a motel; we went swimming! It was like ice!

We saw a real jail! And we walked into it!

We saw some Indians dancing. The last dance, me and Mom and Whitney danced in a circle!

Good night.

Day 2: Last night – whoa, last night was really kind of hectic! Whitney got a fever, and she also threw up. She got a little throw-up on my sleeve….

Well, now we’re going to go see the Petrified Forest.

It was so cool!!!

We saw a lot of petrified wood and some crystalized wood, and we saw some Indian ruins. I saw petroglyphs, and I climbed down the rocks and looked at some close up, and felt them.

We drove for a very long time. I got kind of car sick, so I had to sit in the front seat. Daddy got tired, so Mom had to drive. I was in the front seat, playing guessing games so that Mom wouldn’t get sleepy. We went to a Dairy Queen; it was really good.

Oh, I almost forgot. There was this place called the painted desert. It was SO GORGEOUS! The hills were red, and some of them were striped with red and tan.

This is like what I saw:

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Day 4: Well, we went to a cliff and looked off it, and then we went to some Indian ruins. It…well, I will draw it!…

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Day 5: First I will tell you about last night. Well, it took me a while to get to sleep, but when I did I slept ok! But I was kind of scared of ghosts. Mom said that was silly, but I told Mom, if you’re scared of something, you’re scared of something – you can’t help it!

The stars were so pretty, you could barely see the moon, there were so many stars….

There was a lot more that Lindsey wrote each day on that trip. I was interested to note that Lindsey really appreciated the things we went to see, such as the Petrified Forest, the Indian ruins and petroglyphs, the Painted Desert—but she found it hard to write about those places. She wrote a few details and used a few adjectives, but she was more inclined to draw what she saw rather than describe it with words.

Who can blame her? We adults take a few photos and say things like “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I wonder, though, if most kids let it go with “it was cool,” and don’t bother to draw what they saw? I don’t know—but perhaps this was an early sign that she was becoming an artist.

Of course, it is always fascinating to see what parts of a trip kids find important enough to record. Road kill, a motel swimming pool, and Dairy Queen get almost as much coverage as the Painted Desert. I am not surprised! I am actually pretty gratified that young Lindsey appreciated the places we visited as much as she did—I can imagine a very different journal full of bitterness that she is trapped on a family road trip.

mindy and lindsey desert trip

We tell our kids very clearly by our actions what is really most important to us parents. My husband and I took our kids on a lot of trips. I mean, a lot. Jim was a public school teacher, so he had a couple months off in the summer and a week off in the spring. We probably took about four trips per year, so that would be about 60 trips in a childhood! And that doesn’t count all the day outings we did.

We started when the kids were young. Our oldest daughter had been on four planes by the time she was four months old! Naturally, we tried to meet our kids’ every need—cutting a destination because it was too ambitious to make the kids sit for ANOTHER hundred miles on the road…carrying them up a slope because they were tired…stopping for a run-around in the grass, and then another potty stop, and then a food stop, and then ANOTHER potty stop. But we so loved seeing new things, especially natural beauty, that our love of travel was contagious. All of our kids have continued to travel and to enjoy travel as adults. And they all express gratitude that they were able to see so many places when they were kids.