On the Road with Lisa Welchel and Family
An interview with Facts of Life child star and now homeschooling mom, Lisa Whelchel, about her family's yearlong road trip across the United States.
In July of last year, Lisa Whelchel, the child star of The Facts of Life, loaded up her family in an RV and began a yearlong adventure traveling and exploring America. Lisa and her family have just returned and lisa has taken a few minutes, before the unpacking, to share with you what it was like to live on the road.
Homeschool.com: Your family just returned from a once in a lifetime trip throughout the US. Can you share some highlights of your adventure with us?
Whelchel: For me, the highlights were the "lowlights." I cherished the long drives when we could catch up on schoolwork, sleep, and read good books aloud. I loved the evenings when we drove into a city, found an RV Park and then had a good old-fashioned family night. We would rent a movie, have Pizza delivered to the motor home door, and simply enjoy being together. On evenings like that, it didn't matter where we were in the country.
Homeschool.com: Did technology play a part in allowing your husband and yourself to work from your RV while your family traveled?
Whelchel: Put it this way, my husband would have enjoyed the trip a lot less if we had taken it even a year or two earlier. Towards the end of the trip KVH Industries came out with a satellite Internet system, which they generously installed on the roof of our Allegro Bus. This enabled Steve to communicate with the office at home and continue his job as a meeting planner. It also allowed us to upload my daily journal entry to my website while driving down the Interstate. Steve had our laptop computers networked together along with a combination fax/scanner/copier/printer. Between all that technology and our trusty cell phones we were able to keep up with all the business that needed to be taken care of in order to pay for the diesel fuel to keep on truckin'.
Homeschool.com: Were there any major surprises on the trip?
Whelchel: The biggest surprise was how much easier it was, how much more fun we had, and how much we all loved being together 24/7. We embarked on the trip with our eyes wide open. We knew it would be the trip of a lifetime but we also assumed that there would be "tight" spots along the way, especially living in such close quarters. Surprisingly, the "tighter" the spot, the better. From the black water hose exploding, to nearly sinking in a swamp, to the awning coming out while driving down the Interstate, we cheerfully proclaimed, "We're making a memory!"
Homeschool.com: How did your family stay organized? And, we have to ask; did you miss cleaning the house? Or, we have to be PC here; did your husband miss cleaning the house?
Whelchel: I'm pretty organized by temperament, so I had each and every day planned before we even left home. I knew where we would be, what we would be doing and how long it would take us to get there. Of course, there were a few places where we threw the plans out the window and either stayed longer or drove on past.
Are you serious about the house-cleaning question? Not only did I not miss house cleaning but I didn't even cook much. It proved to be too much trouble to attempt to shop, cook, and clean up after a family of five in a motor home. Besides, our dining table was the schoolroom, so it was never available for sitting down at a meal. We figured we ate out over 700 meals on our trip.
Homeschool.com: While you stopped in different cities, your children must have had some incredible opportunities to learn about the nuances of each city they visited. Basically, your kids just did an in-depth hands-on unit study of the US! Did they have a favorite city or place?
Whelchel: It's probably not the best answer for a homeschooling site but it is an honest one; the kids' favorite place was Walt Disney World. They also loved Texas because Grandmother, Grandfather and cousins were there. Steve was blown away by Mount Rushmore and Bryce Canyon. I couldn't get enough of the East Coast and the opportunities for learning American History.
Homeschool.com: Can you describe a day on your trip as you drove, explored and homeschooled your children? Notice, we left the word "typical" out?
Whelchel: You wisely left out the word "typical." We did make sure the kids got their math in every day. Other than that, we saved the "official" school for drive days. Any other time we spent the day taking advantage of whatever the city had to offer. That could mean a great museum, restaurant, friends, or our favorite - factory tours. The weekends were typically filled with a book signing at the Christian bookstore and speaking engagements at local churches.
Homeschool.com: Did you visit many museums? Any one in particular that was truly amazing?
Whelchel: I fell in love with Colonial Williamsburg, and "Patrick Henry," specifically. We stood and listened to him "interpret" for close to two hours and I was mesmerized. (The kids were too for about 45 minutes.) We spent two days there but I really wish we could have stayed another two. We also loved Plimoth Plantation. And you can't beat the Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C.
Homeschool.com: What style or approach do you use in your homeschooling?
Whelchel: Throughout the elementary school years, we took a very relaxed approach. We began each day with about an hour gathered around the kitchen table together. The kids practiced their handwriting while I read from "Hero" tales, helped them with their AWANA Bible memory verses, and talked to them about whatever the Lord was teaching me at the time. From there they found their own "studyin' spot." This could be under the dining room table, behind the couch or outside on the trampoline. An assigned amount of the 3 R's was required before we could move on to the fun stuff. The rest of the day was filled with whatever caught our fancy.
Homeschool.com: You discovered something about two years ago about your education as child. Will you please share it with our readers?
Whelchel: I didn't put two-and-two together until recently that I was actually homeschooled as a child! I went to public school through sixth grade until I moved from Texas to California to become a Mouseketeer on the New Mickey Mouse Club. While on that show, I was tutored on the set. From there, I kept up my studies independently until my first year on "The Facts of Life." At which time there was an actor's strike so we were off work for six months. I enrolled in a Christian school in Texas that used a homeschool curriculum. By doubling up on my work, I was able to graduate high school at sixteen. Upon returning to California, I was able to continue working on the show without having to put in the mandatory three hours a day with a tutor on the set.
Homeschool.com: So, you are a second-generation homeschooler?
Whelchel: Apparently so.
Homeschool.com: Would you recommend an adventure like your family had to other homeschooling families?
Whelchel: Whole-heartedly. Because of the growing acceptance and understanding of homeschooling, coupled with the new technology available for the mobile professional, I believe it could be an option for more families than ever. For instance, what used to pull families apart, the father being on the road for business could actually be the very thing that enables them to come together. Can't you just imagine Dad driving in an RV from job to job, while mom homeschools along the way, and the whole family discovering America, and more importantly, each other?
Homeschool.com: What is next for you as well as your family?
Whelchel: Immediately after unpacking the RV, I have to jump into writing my next book, "I'm Thinking About Homeschooling" to be published in April 2003. I am also very excited about the upcoming "MomTime Getaways" I'm planning. Think of it as a slumber party for Moms. The first one will be this October at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Check out my website at http://www.LisaWhelchel.com if it sounds fun to you. I always love to meet fellow moms. (Is that an oxymoron?)
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The Facts of Life and Other Lessons My Father Taught Me
More Homeschooling Curriculum
Master Books ®
Garlic Press, Inc.
Home Science Tools
High School (UNHS)
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