The Big Road Trip Adventure – Part 1 – The Idea

the big road trip adventure

We Love Road tripping.

As a family we love to take roadtrips.  They are cheap and you can experience so many interesting things.  Take a look at just a sampling of the road trips we’ve taken in the past few years.

mother daughter road trip

A Mother-Daughter Texas Weekend to the Cadillac Ranch

Joshua Orlando road trip

A Mother Son Weekend in Orlando

Florida keys road trip

Spring Break in the Florida Keys

Thanksgiving in Washington D.C.

Tampa Bay

Our Hurricane Evacucation to Mobile

And of course, we can’t forget our great move from Oklahoma to Georgia. 

As you can see, Road tripping is in our blood.

We love to travel and have even more big plans to see the country, learn many things and grow as a family this year. We have several smaller trips planned for this spring and next fall.  The one I am most excited about, though, is one monstrosity of a family road trip this summer. The kids are calling it-

“The Big Road Trip Adventure”

Over the next several months I will be sharing with you how I manage, as a single mother, to plan and carry out not just small weekend trips, but a three week cross country adventure that combines a college tour for the oldest with homeschool study for the others and a family vacation. I hope to do it all while considering the needs of my special needs son, and my extremely limited budget.

The first thing we needed to do was create our wish list.

At a recent family board meeting I asked each of us what we wanted to do on vacation this year. I took the top choices of each person and ended up with the following list.

  • Samantha wanted to see my brother’s new baby and do a college tour.
  • Joshua wanted something to do with Legos and to dig for diamonds.
  • I wanted to visit my grandfather (who just turned 97).
  • Daniel wanted to go to the zoo and play at the park.

Using these ideas I was able to sketch out a rough outline.

I know there are only a couple of places that truly cater to the Lego obsessed. One of these is the new Legoland Florida Resort in Winter Haven, FL. I also know there are very few places to dig for diamonds and if we truly want to get down to it, there is no place better than the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, AR. My brother lives in Moore, Ok and my grandfather lives outside Jefferson City, MO.

Samantha wants to get dual degrees in college in Music Education and ASL. This has severely limited her college choices. In fact there are only a handful of colleges that offer ASL at all (my views on the availability of ALS instruction are a whole other post.) The two schools she has narrowed to are Valdosta and Oklahoma State University. We are touring Valdosta over spring break, so OSU was added to our road trip adventure.

Daniel is much easier to please. However, I happen to know that one of the best zoos in the country is the St. Louis zoo. So we added that in.

At this point our map looked a little like this.

Big Road Trip Adventure map1


In case its too small to read this is 46 hours of driving.

I knew pretty much right away there needed to be more to this. As the initial planning stage continued I also employed the following considerations:

  • I wanted this trip to be educational. I plan to use this as an extended part of our homeschool.
  • In the interest of saving money, I wanted to take advantage of any relatives or friends I could tap to provide a place to stay.
  • There is only so long that my boys will sit in a car without a break.
  • I want every single day to have something fun and exciting planned. They should be looking forward to every day of the trip.
  • As with everything that involves Joshua and Daniel, planning is key. I want to leave as little as possible to chance.
  • My resources are limited. I need to be budget minded.
  • Our time is limited. We cannot leave until Sam gets back from her choir mission trip and must be home before band camp starts. Also I have a set amount of leave and cannot afford any unpaid days off.


Many iterations and spreadsheets later, we settled on the following itinerary:

  • Day 0 – Leave home after work and drive to Legoland (I call this day 0 because there is no planned activity this day other than driving.)
  • Day 1 – Spend the day at Legoland Park. Drive to Lake City, FL.
  • Day 2 – Picnic at Ponce De Leon State Park. Drive to my Uncle’s house in Mobile, AL
  • Day 3 – Day trip to New Orleans. Mardi gras world. New Orleans kids tour. St. Louis Cathedral. Jackson square
  • Day 4 – Day trip to Pensacola. Take in the USS Alabama. Possibly go to the beach.
  • Day 5 – Drive to Vicksburg. Take in the Mississippi Petrified forest. Take in the Windsor Ruins
  • Day 6 – Take in the Vicksburg National Military Park. Drive to the Diamonds Old West Hotel in Murfreesboro, AR
  • Day 7 – Visit the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Visit the Kadoha Gemstone Adventure
  • Day 8 – Drive to Moore, OK. Possibly take in the Chicasaw Cultural Center and/or Action Figure Museum.
  • Day 9 – Day trip to Oklahoma State University. College tour
  • Day 10 – Day with Family. Visit the National Western Heritage Museum.
  • Day 11 – Visit old church. Lunch with friends. Drive to Tulsa, OK
  • Day 12 – Drive to Aunt’s house in Jefferson City, MO. See the Winganon space capsule and the 3 corners (stand on 3 states). Tour Fantastic Caverns.
  • Day 13 – 4th of July family reunion
  • Day 14 –  Day trip to St. Louis Zoo. Take in the St. Louis Arch
  • Day 15 – Hopefully do the Missouri Penitentiary Tour (older kids)
  • Day 16 –  Visit the St. Louis Science Center. Drive to the Land Between the Lakes, KY.
  • Day 17 – Take in the Elk and Bison Prairie the 1850s working farm and living history museum. Visit the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory. See the Observatory Laser Show
  • Day 18 – Take in the Parthenon in Nashville, TN. Drive to Atlanta, GA.
  • Day 19 – Visit the Atlanta Aquarium and Coke World
  • Day 20 – Visit the Okmulgee National Monument. Drive Home.

Here is our new updated map

Big road trip adventure map2

Obviously an itinerary by itself does not make a successful road trip.

This equates to nearly 3,000 miles of driving, not including the day trips to New Orleans and Stillwater.  3000 miles, 3 kids, 3 weeks. Good thing I’m a planner.  This may be my greatest planning challenge yet.

Stay tuned in future posts as we begin to hammer out even more details of budgets, boarding, boredom and baggage.  In fact, if you subscribe you can be sure not to miss a minute.

Focus on Learning: The Purpose of Preschool

The Purpose of Preschool

Preschool is such an important year in the education of children.

However, my goals for preschool are somewhat different than my goals for future years. There are really not that many learning goals that I have for Daniel this year, but I think that the ones that he has may be among the most important goals for his entire education. This year is the foundation upon which I will build the rest of Daniel’s years of homeschool.

These are the 5 things that I want him to learn in the course of his preschool year:

1. Learn to Read
2. Learn the basics of Math – Adding, Subtracting, Counting and Sorting
3. Learn some important concepts of Safety and rules.
4. Learn that the world is interesting.
5. Develop a love of learning.

To hear more of my thoughts on each learning goal, watch the video that I made about it.

Check out this Book: The Existential Giraffe

Have you ever read a children’s book that is so unusual, so bizarre that it transcends age?  Just wait until you discover The Existential Giraffe.

You are going to LOVE this Book.  The Existential Giraffe is so witty and random that not only did Daniel love it, but Samantha (my 16 year old) took it to school to share with her teenage friends.

Sammy (yes, that is my daughter’s name.) is a giraffe who worries that what he thinks may not be the truth.  This makes him question his very existence.  The Existential Giraffe presents a complex word and concept in such a fun and lively way that I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I (and my kids) do.



St. Patrick’s Day Feast

Around our house we love to celebrate.  We look for any excuse we can find to do something different and make a big deal.  This is one of the reasons we began our trees for every season project. (The other was that I am too lazy to take down our Christmas tree.)

St. Patrick’s Day is no exception.

Shortly after Valentines Day we decked out our tree in green and clovers.  I probably spent about $20 total in supplies from the Dollar Tree.  A hat at the top and a few well placed coins later and viola – One Lucky Tree.

St. Patrick's Day tree

As the big day neared the kids decided that they wanted to celebrate with a feast.

Years ago when Joshua was homeschooling, we often incorporated feasts into our studies.  One of our favorites had been the native American feast where we learned to cook fry bread and had venison chili.  With St. Patrick’s day coming, we could do nothing else but to plan an Irish feast.  There was only one issue.  Lent.

My daughter Samantha and I are fasting as part of our lenten journeys this year.  Our particular choice of fast will preclude us from eating on the actual holiday.  Instead we decided to simply move St. Patrick’s Day up.  Thus, last Saturday we celebrated with our friends and neighbors with our own Irish feast.

The Menu:

Just look at that spread.  Goodness, gracious it was amazing.

We had a room full of friends and laughter.  That’s the way to celebrate a holiday… or a Saturday.

St Patrick's Day Celebration

Guess what Daniel’s favorite part of the meal was?

It was such a great time.  We watched some YouTube videos about St. Patrick and read stories about rainbows throughout the day.  Then the kids played games while I enjoyed some rare uninterrupted conversation with another adult.  Finally, Joshua’s friend got to spend the night in preparation for his (Joshua’s) baptism the next day.  We can’t wait until the next excuse for a feast Holiday to come around.

Product Review: Pacon Calendar Weather Pocket Chart

Who doesn’t love calendar time?

Preschool is a time to learn about how the world relates to itself.  Temporal relationships are a large part of that learning.

Today we are reviewing a wonderful calendar: the Pacon Calendar Weather Pocket Chart.  This is a big, colorful chart that has been quite useful to us for our homeschool.  My favorite feature, though, is the sheer number of holidays this calendar comes with.  Watch the video for the full review.


Pain and Sensory Perception

Does pain have a place in our lives? Growing up as a naturally timid child I had this view of pain as something to be feared and conquered. It was something that needed to be eliminated from your life if you wanted to be successful. Pain was for the weak, I was taught. But then I had a child with Sensory Processing Disorder and my paradigm changed forever.

Benefits of Pain

Think for a moment about what pain tells us. Pain is our signal that something is not right.   Pain, by its very nature, is supposed to be unpleasant. It is a sensation that is not normally meant to be enjoyed. Through the experience of pain, people learn to regulate themselves and their environment in subconscious (or conscious) avoidance. Pain connects an action with an understanding. Continue reading

Focus on Learning: Homeschool Schedule

As a single, working mother the question I am asked most frequently (after Why in the World are you trying to homeschool) is “When do you find the time to homeschool?”  The solution really isn’t as complicated as you think.

On today’s Focus on Learning, I discuss when we find the time to do homeschool.  One of the biggest ideas that I had to let go of to make homeschool work was the thought of a normal “school day” like I know from public school.  We homeschool in short bits of time all throughout every single day.  Watch the video to learn more.

Check out this Book: The Timekeeper

Daylight Savings Time is here!

Tonight we will be turning our clocks forward one hour.  Each week I read a different interesting, unusual or strange children’s book. In honor of Daylight savings time this week’s book is The Timekeeper.

This is a wonderful story by a 13 year old girl about how time began.  Woven in its pages is the story of not just time, but seasons as well.  I love how imaginative this book is and the pictures are simply beautiful.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy The Timekeeper as much as we do.


Parenting the Behavior Disorder

Parenting the behavior disorder

I have a special needs child.

When I tell people this many of their minds jump instantly to debilitating physical conditions.  they seem almost disappointed to see Joshua round the corner. Then their pitying looks turn critical and more than half of the time the next question is

  • My son has Asperger/ autism spectrum disorder.
  • My son has ADHD.
  • My son has sensory processing disorder.
  • My son has delayed auditory processing disorder.
  • My son has disruptive mood deregulation disorder.
  • One doctor said my son was bipolar.
  • Another doctor said my son has Oppositional Defiance Disorder.

Perhaps I could describe my son using terms his I hear about him from school:

  • My son is the boy that attacked his teacher.
  • My son is the boy who jumped out a window.
  • My son is the boy who has to have two desks because he can’t function long in a group.

This is nothing new. Before the age of 4 Joshua’s behavioral disorders got him kicked out of 12 different daycares. This is the boy who once, in the words of his 1st grade teacher, “cost the entire class their pet because he wouldn’t leave it alone.

Throughout elementary my son was shuttled from class to class, teacher to teacher. Mainstream teachers didn’t want him in their class because they had too many other students and “it wasn’t fair to the other students for Joshua to be in there.” Special education teachers didn’t want him in their class because “he was too smart for a special education class.

Joshua was the disabled kid who was not disabled at all.

So where do you fit this child? As a school, as a parent, how do you find a place where a child with Behavioral special needs can thrive?

Behavior disorders and mental health disorders can be tricky. People can seem completely normal until they’re not. Then, something sets them off and life spirals out of control. Because of the unpredictability it is often difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat. In Joshua’s case, eventually the schools in Oklahoma failed him. Continue reading

Product Review: Baby Bear Balance Set

So many ways to Enjoy!

Today I reviewed the Learning Resources Baby Bear Balance Set by Learning Resources.  I normally try to buy toys or other materials that can serve more than one use and this set fits that bill perfectly.  We use these bears for math and sequencing and patterns – so many things.  I love the fact that it comes with 100 bears of different colors.  One of our learning goals this year was to learn to count to 100.  These bears are getting used over and over again to help us towards this goal.


Want to know more?  Watch my full review of the Baby Bear Balance Set below.