Family

How to have a strong marriage and support network while traveling with kids. Traveling with kids is precious bonding time. But how do you stay connected and keep your marriage strong while you're on the road?

How to have a strong marriage and support network while traveling with kids

We all want the precious bonding opportunities that come from traveling with our kids. But what about when you’re traveling without your usual support network?

What about babysitters and dates and time alone and time for you know what and just keeping your sanity in general for months on end?

If you feel selfish or guilty for asking that question, don’t. It’s a legitimate thing, one that many parents would do well to consider more carefully before stepping out on their next adventure.

When this question came up in our private EntreFamily Facebook group, I knew it was worthy of more than just a quick answer:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on having a support network while you travel. My husband and I are seriously considering a year-long RV trip with our 2 and 4 year olds, but I get nervous about losing the little support we have here (especially babysitters!!). Would love to hear what’s worked for others. ~ Catherine

We had four kids aged eight and under (including a baby) when we went on our first Big Trip (one year around the world) and it was definitely hard to both:

a) go without our regular community, family, & friends for an extended period of time

b) have no access to babysitters for the entire year

For the record, it’s not that we didn’t want to be with our kids frequently (and I think that’s what makes us feel guilty for even asking these questions). I mean, quality time as a family was sort of the whole point of the trip.

But let’s not downplay the fact that it’s actually necessary for the health of your relationship as partners to have that time together with each other.

Not only that, but being away from your usual community – whether that’s your extended family, good friends, your church, a sports team or book club, or wherever you regularly connect with others – just gets plain old lonely, and lonely isn’t good for anyone.

How to have a strong marriage and support network while traveling with kids. Traveling with kids is precious bonding time. But how do you stay connected and keep your marriage strong while you're on the road?

*Our family during the first month of our trip, in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.*

Being away from our tight-knit community back home was both one of the best and worst things that happened to us, to be frank.

It gave us time away to relearn who we were as individuals and as a family. We were able to explore many of our long-held ideas and values and ways of living, and let travel help us ask better questions about who we were, what mattered most, and what we wanted out of life.

The downside is that we were thrown into a state of spiritual deconstruction, questioning and rethinking much of what we’d believed most of our lives. This was one of the hardest things we’ve ever walked through (and are still walking through to a lesser degree) and yet it was also so good for us.

We also hit hard times in our marriage. Some things that had been festering for a while got big and ugly while we traveled.

I frequently tell people that whatever is already in your relationships before you travel will not get better. It will be revealed and you’ll have to deal with it fully. The stresses of travel are like bumps and jolts against a glass of water, and whoosh! The water that was already inside the glass comes sloshing out. Surprise! Now you get to clean up the mess.

We were blessed by a visit with friends while in Italy (they were passing through Europe, so we met up) and thankfully they recognized we were struggling and called us out on it. We did monthly Skype calls with them for the last 6 months of our trip, as accountability to keep working through our junk, and to give us a listening and compassionate ear when we had no one else to talk to about it.

How to have a strong marriage and support network while traveling with kids. Traveling with kids is precious bonding time. But how do you stay connected and keep your marriage strong while you're on the road?

Lastly, it was truly positive for us as a family. We bonded with our kids significantly. We learned how to function as a family unit, and how to be each other’s best friends.

We had so much stinkin’ fun together. We got to know our kids, each other, and ourselves so much better than before. We saw beautiful things emerge in each other. We formed precious memories in some very special places. We learned and grew and changed and sat in awe and wonder, together.

So as you step towards your own Big Trip or whatever your version of extended travel looks like, do so knowingly and thoughtfully. This isn’t an impossible hurdle. It just requires a little intentionality.

There are many ways to lessen the struggles and loneliness, stay connected with your support network, and keep your marriage strong while traveling with kids.

How to have a strong marriage and support network while traveling with kids. Traveling with kids is precious bonding time. But how do you stay connected and keep your marriage strong while you're on the road?

*Johanna and friend London playing together in Argentina – we met her parents Joe and Leann while we were on the road and spent a month hanging out together as families, including taking a road trip together!* 

Here are some practical things we’ve done to have a strong marriage and support network while traveling with kids:

We made friends all over the place, mostly with friends of friends.

Missionaries, ex-pats, fellow nomads, military families, or even people we’d known online for years but never met in person. This was amazing. And every once in a while, there were people we felt comfortable enough with to leave our kids with briefly to get out and have a short date together. It wasn’t very often, but when it happened we really relished it.

Babysitting or not, these new-found relationships gave us more adult time and much-needed community.

We all need friends to talk and share our lives with. To grab a coffee with. To have long conversations over Argentine wine while our children run amok in a restaurant courtyard. To talk all day together while we stroll with our kids in a park in Kuala Lumpur. To listen and be a safe place as our new friends shared struggles of ministry and faith and weariness while serving in Israel. To have lunch in India and have them help you buy running shoes for your daughter because you don’t have a clue where to go. We all need community.

We gave each other permission to get out of the house.

Even if we couldn’t go out together, Ryan and I could send the other spouse out for an afternoon with a new friend, or to go sit in a coffee shop alone for a few hours, or just go for a walk on the beach. Those times were critical to our mental and emotional health as we traveled in new cultures with four small kids and lived in very tight physical spaces. We needed an outlet and going out by ourselves often provided that.

How to have a strong marriage and support network while traveling with kids. Traveling with kids is precious bonding time. But how do you stay connected and keep your marriage strong while you're on the road?

*Camel riding in Morocco with Grandma (Ryan’s mom)*

We flew in reinforcements.

We put out an open invitation to our friends and family that anyone could meet up with us during our travels. Only one person actually took us up on it, but man, was it awesome. Ryan’s mom flew to Europe to be with us for about three weeks. It was so good for the kids to have Grandma time and us to have another adult around, but it changed up our dynamic in a good way and we had a blast showing her around Spain and France, and even taking her briefly to Morocco and Portugal. We made sure to take several good date nights during this period of time, including one really special evening in Paris, which was as stereotypically magical as you’d expect.

We had in-house dates.

If we couldn’t get out, then we’d bring the date night to us after the kiddos went to bed. Did you know that you can actually get gelato delivery in Argentina?? Heaven help us.

We found as many opportunities to connect during our every day activities as possible.

If we were eating ice cream at the beach and the kids were occupied scrambling up a pile of rocks, we’d find a place to sit and have a nice conversation while we watched them. We’d do the same at parks, sitting on a bench sipping on a coffee, tea or liquado while they ran and played.

We tried to find local churches and communities in as many locations as possible. 

That way we could, at least briefly, connect and engage with others. Not only was this just good for our souls, but it allowed us to make many friends, get to know some truly incredible people, and better understand their lives in a different culture.

We did the usual Skype calls and texting and Facebook updates.

It seems like a small thing, but it isn’t. I tried to post a Facebook update once every day or two during our year long trip, and having that connection back home to the people we loved was invaluable. I could tell them when we were having a hard time, ask them to pray, or just share a few funny comments back and forth across the miles, and feel like maybe, just maybe, we weren’t so very far away.

How to have a strong marriage and support network while traveling with kids. Traveling with kids is precious bonding time. But how do you stay connected and keep your marriage strong while you're on the road?

*Our kids together with the Oxenreider kids, building their own “Teribithia” village during our month-long stay in Cadenet, France.*

Lessons we’ve learned and what we intentionally do these days to stay connected and supported while we’re traveling:

  • Plan our travel around meeting up with friends – We can’t always make this happen, but when we can? It’s such a gift. Traveling or meeting up with another family goes a long way towards our emotional and relational health. About two years ago, we met up with our friends Tsh and Kyle and their kids, and spent over six weeks enjoying Europe together. This spring, we have plans to meet up at a conference with other worldschooling families, plus two weeks together in Costa Rica with a family mastermind group we’re a part of, to help break up our time on the road in Central America (which we anticipate will be three months – more on this to come!).
  • Plan for longer stays in one place – The more we travel, the more staying put in one place matters to us. Last time we went to Europe we spent one month living in a small town in France. This time, we’re planning 3-4 weeks in a little lakeside village in Guatemala, and possibly another couple weeks in a Nicaraguan town. This gives us time to get into a routine, to meet both locals and ex-pats, to feel rested and settled, and gives us a far richer cultural experience. For us, it’s a must-do.
  • As word gets out about our travels, we find ourselves being connected with other traveling families and we’ve realized there’s more of a network out there than we thought! I love this Worldschoolers group on Facebook, plus there’s the conference I mentioned above, the upcoming Family Adventure Summit put on by friends I met this summer, our very own private Facebook group for fellow EntreFamilies, and numerous families I met when I spoke at the World Domination Summit this past summer.
  • Make sure we’re healthy and ready, before we go. We can never be 100% anything, but just being aware of the potential issues and hardships and trying to prepare ourselves beforehand makes a gigantic difference. So before embarking on your next adventure, consider planning extra time for your kids to be with friends and family before you leave. Do a few marital counseling sessions. Go away on a personal retreat (both of you) before leaving. Make actual plans to stay connected with friends and family while you’re gone, or to meet up with others on your travels. Put extra effort into being as physically healthy as possible before starting out. All of this goes such a long way towards a smoother journey.

How do you keep up a strong marriage and support network while traveling with kids?

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It was a big decision, but in this post we share the ins and outs of why we put our kids in school after homeschooling for seven years.

Why we put our kids in school (after 7 years of homeschooling)

Before sharing we we put our kids in schooling after homeschooling, ’ll begin by stating what may be the obvious, but there is no perfect option when it comes to educating your children.

At least that’s been our experience this spring, as for the very first time ever we opted to put our three oldest kids into school after seven years of solely homeschooling.

Although we surprised a lot of people with our decision, it didn’t ultimately feel surprising to us. Different, outside of our norm, a learning curve for us and our kids — it was all of those things and more.

But it wasn’t a total surprise and this is why: because although we’ve never actually gone and done it, we’ve discussed and contemplated the idea of school myriad times before. We’ve frequently said we would never say never and just because the time hadn’t arrived yet didn’t mean it wouldn’t come at some point.

Several wise friends have encouraged me over the years not to hold tightly to any particular choice, but to take each year as it comes. None of us know what life will hold, and so we’ve come to agree with them that a “one year at a time” policy might be best.

That said, I thought it might be helpful to work through some of the questions that might be on your minds…

It was a big decision, but in this post we share the ins and outs of why we put our kids in school after homeschooling for seven years.

The reasons why we put our kids in school after homeschooling

Back when I was pregnant with our fifth child Oliver, I wondered if we might want to temporarily put the kids into school and began researching local school options last January.

After having such a great experience balancing homeschooling and work while traveling and spending some time in Europe, we came home encouraged and sure that we’d be ready to jump back into homeschool after summer, new baby or not.

What we didn’t take into account was that we’d end up spending 2 months living in Nashville and more time driving across North America, or that we’d spend 3-4 months this winter developing a brand new business with a model that was unfamiliar to us.

In other words, we got worn out (it could even be argued that we wore ourselves out; let’s just tell it like it is).

Whatever the case, by the time we hit January, we were plain old tired.

I had struggled with a lot of postpartum depression and anxiety this time around and was having a hard time doing life in general. Although we were more or less “keeping up”, we weren’t thriving and didn’t feel like we were giving the kids our best.

This brought us back around to the school conversation and within one short week, we knew it was the right decision for this season. We went forward with applying at a local private school that stood out to me when I looked around last winter.

The kids were quickly accepted and the school worked hard to accommodate us and make the process speedy. Within two weeks start to finish, we were dropping them off for their first day (whoa Nelly).

It was a big decision, but in this post we share the ins and outs of why we put our kids in school after homeschooling for seven years.

Why did we choose a private school?

This is too big of a conversation for this post, but one of the reasons we choose to homeschool is our belief that public school doesn’t offer the type of education we want for our kids.

We want something more individualized, that really works with their unique personalities, interests, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses, rather than an education determined by the average student (or even the lowest common denominator) in a large classroom.

We also wanted smaller classrooms and more hand-picked teachers. We preferred a world view that matched up more closely with ours. We wanted to be more involved and feel like we were part of a community where our kids were really known and not just on a conveyor belt that pushed kids through the system with a cookie cutter approach. We also wanted really solid academics and a more rigorous approach to particular subjects.

Though there really is no such thing as a perfect school (including the school they’re currently attending), we felt overall that this private school matched up more closely with our ideals for our family and our children’s education than a public school experience would.

And I’m sure I’ll receive flack for making that statement, but it’s honest if nothing else. I don’t think a public school education is necessarily a bad thing (after all, I’m the product of public school and I’d like to think I turned out OK), but I also saw and experienced the weaknesses of that school system growing up in it and it’s just not what I want for my kids.

It was a big decision, but in this post we share the ins and outs of why we put our kids in school after homeschooling for seven years.

Filming for our current launch.

Did we do this so we could work more?

Yes and no. For the rest of the winter, we did need to work more hours as we finished getting this new business launched and off the ground as well as possible.

Beyond that, however, we looked at it as a way not to work more hours, but rather to catch our breath and feel more refreshed and rested before jumping back into homeschooling again in the fall (at least, that’s our current plan).

We’re both trying to take one weekday off “work” per week, to do projects around the house, bring some more organization and stability back to our lives, and for me in particular, to practice a little self-care and spend extra time with our pre-schooler and baby.

We also needed the mental and emotional release that came by not carrying the burden of wondering each day whether we had done enough to educate our kids.

We needed to temporarily pass that off to their teachers and be available to support them, of course (because success in school is hugely dependent on the home environment), but not be the ones solely responsible for everything they needed to learn each week.

Having them in school means one less thing occupying our mental space and will give us the freedom to not worry about school or playing catch-up during the summer either (which we probably would have done had we kept homeschooling the remainder of this year).

It was a big decision, but in this post we share the ins and outs of why we put our kids in school after homeschooling for seven years.

Will we go back to homeschooling?

Yes, we plan to start up again this fall.

Taking this hiatus has definitely cemented the fact that I love having our kids at home and take so much joy in overseeing their education. There are many things I miss about it and we both feel that it makes more sense when it comes to our family’s values and lifestyle choices.

What do we like about having our kids in school?

  • There’s something to be said for not having to worry about their education, and instead just getting to be plain old Mom when they get home each day. It simplifies our relationship to some degree.
  • Although we still have a pre-schooler and baby at home, it definitely is easier to get work done without the noise of 5 little people (and the mess that follows).
  • They’re enjoying making friends, something we’ve had a hard time doing since moving to our new community two years ago.
  • We’ve seen some big improvements in the work quality with one child in particular, and another child is receiving special learning assistance that was really needed. We’re hopeful that by the end of this school year we’ll be over the hump with the two non-readers we started out the school year with, and having all three big kids reading independently next year will make a HUGE difference compared to how hard the first half of this year was. Part of the struggle this year was just a particularly difficult mix of our kid’s ages, specific needs, and overall household dynamics. Previous years had definitely felt easier than this one did.

It was a big decision, but in this post we share the ins and outs of why we put our kids in school after homeschooling for seven years.

What’s not so great about having them in school?

  • It really messes with our evenings – we miss being more relaxed and just hanging out together. Now we have to fuss with things like spelling words, read alouds (both of which would have been done earlier in the day while homeschooling), homework for the eldest, making lunches, checking planners and signing permission forms, etc. We don’t see them most of the day then feel like our family time in the evening gets eaten up too quickly.
  • It can still be a lot of work to keep up with it all – lunches, school activities, uniforms (for those in private school), homework in the evening, field trips, drop off and pick up, etc. I would say now that we’ve got the hang of it, the work load is definitely less than when we homeschooled, but for the first month it honestly felt like almost as much work and these days it still feels fairly significant. Putting your kids in school is different, but it’s not a cop out or a way to get off scot-free.
  • We just miss them in general. They’re gone for almost 7 hours and that’s a pretty huge chunk of time.
  • They have less downtime than they used to, and the younger ones in particular have had a hard time adjusting. Our introverted son especially craves quiet, creative play time and he struggles to get enough to meet his needs when he’s gone at school all day and sometimes we have errands or other events in the afternoon/evenings. Our extraverted daughters handle it better because they love the extra time with other kids.
  • I’ve been rather shocked by the level of dramatics that play out in the classroom. One six year old darling can generate quite enough drama on her own. Put her together with 13 other girls and a heap of boys that act like, well, six year old boys… and it’s a recipe for tears and “she said this” and “she doesn’t want to be my friend”. Every. single. day.
  • It cramps our style. We now have places to be at certain times, and can’t just take off for vacation or travels when it suits our family. I get that I probably sound whiny and entitled even saying that, but there are very good reasons we value the flexibility and freedom that comes with our entrepreneurial, homeschooling lifestyle. It’s hard work, but so worth it. Yet another reason we’ll be going back to it in the fall.

What have we learned?

  • There is no perfect solution. Each educational option comes with pros and cons.
  • We weren’t doing as bad a job as we thought. In fact, we’ve recognized that we were actually doing a pretty good job most of the time. Having the kids in school has highlighted some of their strengths and the benefits they’ve received from all these years of homeschooling are shining through.
  • Deep down, we really love and value our unconventional lifestyle and are eager to return to it BUT it’s been a beneficial experience. Honestly, it was the right thing for us in this season. We have no regrets and we’re both grateful that we did it.

It was a big decision, but in this post we share the ins and outs of why we put our kids in school after homeschooling for seven years.

Image credits: school supply bucketsdesks in classroomgirl blowing dandelionswings, school bus, and our own cute kiddos dressed in their school uniforms from my Instagram account.

How personality tests can help you as an entrepreneur

A very long time ago, in a far away, distant galaxy, I studied psychology in university, took Myers-Briggs tests and learned all about personality theory (am I the only one who feels like those days are lightyears away from my life now?).

Several years later, once my psychology degree began to appear fairly useless for the path my life was on, I concluded I’d never use any of this silly old personality theory again.

And then I joined a couple mastermind groups. (Crunch, chew… swallow. That’s me eating my words.)

Lo and behold, I had unwittingly returned to the land of extrovert or introvert, thinker or feeler, sensor or intuitor. It turns out personality typing is no longer just for bored undergrad university students or human resource directors at government agencies.

They’re trendy now.

It’s become hip to know if you’re an ENTJ or an ISFP, an Enneagram type 2 or 8, and what your top 5 strengths are.

I’ve been surprised over the past year at just how much knowing your personality type has come into vogue, and even how mainstream it’s becoming.

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Why I dropped out of school in grade 2 and want my kids to do the same

When I was in grade 2, I dropped out of school.

Where I lived at that time, I’m pretty sure that was illegal because I had to hide at home all day so the neighbors didn’t report me to the authorities.

Since I couldn’t go out, I kept myself busy by reading a new book or two every day and building a lot of cool things.  Like booby traps, weapons, the best paper-airplane I’ve seen to this day, and Winnie-the-Poo inspired parachutes (which also involved a large tree and a “rounding error” in my pull-of-gravity vs. lift of helium balloon calculations, and ended badly for my right arm, but not for my all consuming desire to fly).

Where were my parents in all of this?

Well, being the awesome parents they were, they were actually quite supportive of my decision. My mom, in particular, made sure I had lots of reading material, and helped me learn the finer points of math, science, writing, etc.

In Canada we were technically outlaws, but should we have lived just south of the Canadian-US border, we would have been called homeschoolers.

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A kid’s perspective on being in an entrepreneurial family

You get to hear from us an awful lot, but seeing as this is a blog for entrepreneurial families, it seemed only fitting to get our kids in here as well.

Our lifestyle is different than most families. While Ryan and I know this full well, we were curious how much our children understood that, and also to hear their version of the way our family does things.

Do they enjoy our lifestyle? Do they even notice the difference? What do they like about it and what do they find hard?

I decided to find out. After our kids had finished up their schoolwork the other day, I gathered them together (along with Tatum Oxenreider, a friend and the oldest daughter in an traveling EntreFamily, who happened to be over at our house), and started asking some questions.

Here’s what they had to say…

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