Month: February 2016

Teaching Through Experience

We homeschool. Do I think homeschooling is right for everyone? No, if you choose not to or you aren’t willing….its not right for you. Every family has different priorities none…

We homeschool.

Do I think homeschooling is right for everyone? No, if you choose not to or you aren’t willing….its not right for you. Every family has different priorities none more important or better than the next.  I don’t judge anyone for having different priorities than us. Everyone is different and we are all doing the best we can to get through life.

We like to travel and we LOVE to travel when no one else is traveling. Disneyland in September, and the last week of February is magical and walking onto every ride, churro in each hand is perfection.  Hotels, national parks, and RV parks are dead and much cheaper. I want to be able to park off the coast of Malibu and say we will stay until we feel like leaving.  Road trip through California, Oregon, Washington, Canada, and up to Alaska and not answer to anyone.

I don’t blame or judge anyone for not homeschooling but it IS the right choice for us. We put Cayden in school for kindergarten after a 10 week try at homeschooling.  I had a 5 month old and way too many hormonal changes messing with my emotions to be an effective mother and homeschool teacher (I’ve since sorted all of that out).  It was a great decision at that time and it really helped solidify my decision to keep him home this year.  In 7 months my son had 26 absences not counting holidays. He had 13 late arrivals and I never turned in homework.

“Reason for tardy?” ….ummm we went out for doughnuts

“Why was Cayden absent for the week?” ….We went to Disneyland with our friends

We were blessed with an amazing teacher and if I could guarantee she would be my kid’s teacher every year I’d probably consider public school. Cayden went into kindergarten scoring 100% on his tests and came out scoring 100%. I asked if I could move him up to 1st grade and the district did not allow that. His teacher challenged him and worked hard to always keep him engaged but I cant guarantee that every year. She never hassled me for not doing homework with him. The principle, and district’s rules on the other hand, didnt agree with us.

I believe that too many people live for the weekend. I want my kids to work hard and live with purpose but I don’t want them thinking that a 9-5 is the ONLY option. I want them to see things, experience nature, feel God and connect with His people. Don’t get me wrong math, reading, writing etc are important but I want them to come naturally.  Not because there is a test they need to score high on so their over worked teacher can keep his or her job but because they love reading Harry Potter, want to learn more about the Bible, or they enjoy learning fractions through baking cookies. I want them to love to learn and desire knowledge because its fun.

We try to complete school 4 days a week. Sometimes its 3 days because the botanical gardens just opened a Bugatorium and we love bugs (when I say “we” I mean them). Sometimes we cuddle, read books, build forts and pretend its the Treb Movie Theatre so we can stream Sponge Bob Squarepants and old eat halloween candy.  Its not always easy to get them to focus. I don’t always ask in a calm voice for them to pay attention and I do yell at Reagan to “get off the table” too much. It’s how we have chosen to educate our children and in the end. Its up to you. Its your choice. Patience is a choice. Kids have to be taught to focus and obey. Everything is a choice. Its often rough but a great joy. We work hard to make it work. Unless met with unfortunate circumstances most parents are capable of teaching and children capable of learning at home.

Too often school is a place for teaching obiedience rather than a love for learning.  Sit down, stop talking, no running, hold still, and pay attention! These things are the priority. Sometimes we as parents need to stop trying to please the other adults and do what we feel is right for our kids.  Our babies are spending 7 hours out of the day in a classroom away from us and then when they get home we are expected to sit down and force them to do more school work. When really all they want to do is go climb a tree, play and have a conversation with their parents.

I guess my point is…after an 7 hour day at school if your kid doesn’t want to do homework throw it on the ground, build a fort and watch a movie together instead.

….and please don’t choose to go to Disneyland in May, June, and July.  Take your kids out of school for the week and go when its dead I promise you’ll have zero regrets!


Affiliate Link Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. We will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies/products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through them. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you in achieving your goals.
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33 Hours

It all started with a craigslist ad.  I woke up late on a Sunday morning intending to skip church like the heathen I am, when my wife Ashley said “I…

It all started with a craigslist ad.  I woke up late on a Sunday morning intending to skip church like the heathen I am, when my wife Ashley said “I think I have found our bus”.  Having heard this statement in the past, I brushed it off, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down to mindlessly check social media.  Sensing her urgency, I asked her about the details.

 

 

The ad was for a 1999 Bluebird 8.3l Cummins rear pusher 84 passenger school bus for $4400.  The bus was also located only a 10 hour drive away in the small town of Ennis Texas.  So, I called the owner and asked him questions like “What type of transmission does it have?” and “Do you have the service records”.  Although the answers would be meaningless to me (not a car guy), they seemed like the right things to ask.  Luckily for me most of his answers were vague.  I did find out that it was a retired school bus gone church bus and it “runs good”.

Knowing nothing about busses (driving, purchasing, etc…), I decided to take my good friend Denver (from Miller Adventures) with me to pick up the bus.

Texas Bound

The plan was simple. We would take a 3PM flight that day and arrive around 5.  We would go pay for the bus and leave early the next morning.  This would get us back to Albuquerque by mid day.   Of course this was wishful thinking.

First our flight was delayed due to weather. We didn’t actually take off until slightly after 7PM.  This made it impossible to see the bus that day and it would further push out our travel plans.

The flight was pretty smooth and we arrived at the Love Field airport in Fort Worth Texas.  Next, we took a 45 minute (felt like 45 hour) Uber ride south east to a little town called Ennis.  I have discovered that the first rule of riding in an Uber is you have to listen to the driver complain about Uber (it also happens to be the second rule).

We finally arrived at our hotel which was straight out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  We then had the best IHOP food of our life and hit the sack.

First Impressions

The next morning, we were picked up by the bus’ owner and he took us to meet the bus for the first time. He was extremely hesitant to sell us the bus at first as we didn’t have insurance or a CDL (commercial driver’s license).  He wouldn’t even let us test drive the bus until we purchased it.  We did a quick check, she started right up, we pulled it forward and pulled it backwards.  This was enough. We were sold.

When you first go look at a bus, be prepared to see what it could be instead of what it is. Most of them are pretty hideous inside and maybe even have some slight body dammage (our’s does).  All of this will be worked out as you convert the bus, so focus on things like engine, body style, space, rust, etc… You are really interested in purchasing a box with a solid engine. So as long as the box and engine are in good shape, you’re golden.

David the owner and I David the owner and I

The Long Wait

When taking a bus home, you really need 3 major things (to be discussed in detail in a later post).  But for now, those things are

  • Commercial Vehicle Insurance
  • Temp Tags
  • CDL (Commercial Driver’s License)

Reading through the skoolie forums, you will see everyone has a different story about how they had some or none of these requirements.  Everything from “I brought my buddy with a CDL to drive us home” to “Drive it like you stole it”.  We opted for 2/3 of these requirements.

The owner dropped us off at a coffee shop to begin the process.  Denver had a “guy” (he always has a guy for something) that could help with insurance and another for registration, However it was only 9am Texas time which was 8am NM time.  So we had to wait at least an hour for everything to open.  So, I decided to hit the phones and call around to other known insurance companies.  Almost immediatly, the person on the other end of the phone would say “we can’t insure it until after it’s been converted”.  I tried this 3 or 4 times and as you can imagine became extremely discouraged. Denver keeping his cool said “just wait for my guy”.

9am eventually rolled around and we got a hold of the insurance broker he used to register his bus.  Within a few minutes, we sent her everything she needed and she responded with an insurance policy and ID cards.  I couldn’t believe it was so easy.  ($250 up front was pretty brutal though, but worth the piece of mind)

Once we had the insurance in-hand we headed over to the local Bank of America to grab the cash.  A little old lady sensed my urgency and allowed me to go ahead of her as she was going to be “long”.  Like the big jerk I am, I took the opportunity.  Now, cash in hand, we called the owner and he brought us back to the church.

The last step was to acquire the temp tags so that we would be less susceptible to getting pulled over.  Denver called another one of his “guys” and kicked the process off.  Well, this must have been the world’s slowest MVD Express because we would wait another 2.5 hours in this guys office staring at our hands and making small talk.  Did I mention we hadn’t eaten a single thing today except one small piece of a Texas-shaped waffle? It was now 1:30pm and I was hangry.

Finally, the tags were emailed over, we printed them out, and taped them on to the bus.  It was time to bring her home. We left at 2PM instead of the original 5am per the original plan.  If we didn’t stop once and maintained a constant 65 MPH, we could be home by midnight.

Amarillo By Morning

The moment we left that church parking lot, Denver and I were giddy.  If you have never driven a bus its a hilarious experience. First stop: Chick-Fil-a!

Once we began driving, it was quickly apparent that both the speedometer and gas gage were non functional.  So, we had to improvise.  To solve the speedometer issue, we downloaded an app called Speedometer that used the phone’s GPS to track your speed. Using our engineering genious, we mounted the phone to the dashboard using a backpack and soda bottle.

To solve the gas gauge issue, we filled the bus to the max.  Then just used our math brains to figure out MPG using distance and gallons on the next fill up.  For those wondering, we got about 7 MPG which was slightly less than expected given the 25MPH headwinds we faced as we drove west through a storm heading east.

Filling up with gas was quite the experience.  The first decision you have to make when arriving at a gas station was “big trucks” or “cars” entrance. We opted for the “big trucks” entrance.  This was both a great and terrible idea.  First, it was great because there was plenty of space to pull the bus in, we had no problem maneuvering to the pump and the truckers were actually quite patient while we figured things out.  The bad is listed below:

  • At stations like LOVES, you can’t use a credit card to just ‘fill up’. You must prepay unless you have some fancy trucker card. This required a bit of guesswork on our part.
  • The pumps are on both sides. This is so truckers can fill both of their tanks at the same time.  Unlucky for us, the master pump was on the side opposite of our gas tank. This required one of us to hold the master pump on our hand while the other filled up.
  • The pressure of the pumps was insane! We learned this early on as diesel fuel sprayed out of the tank covering us in fuel.  This made for a stinkier ride home.

Diesel spill Diesel spill

As I mentioned, you have to prepay. We found one LOVEs attendant that was kind enough to open the pump before we paid, so we could ensure a full tank.  After filling up $75 worth, I went back inside to pay.  Since I was using my credit cards from anther state, the banks thought it would be fun to play a joke on me and ensure they ALL declined.  The gas station attendant was not amused.  Using that math brain again, I just grabbed cash out of the ATM and paid the attendant.

After 9 hours of driving we were finally in the least Texas-y part of Texas that we had encourntered: Amarillo.  We arrived just before 11pm allowing us to enjoy some MUCH needed Starbucks. You might be wondering why we are at 9 hours and still so far from Albuquerque.  Well, we noticed that once we hit 60+ MPH, the dashboard would illuminate a “high engine temperature” light.  This of course scared me to death as I deduced from this that the bus would explode any minute. Denver assured me that it was just the panel malfunctioning as our engine temperature showed a healthy 190 degrees. Needless to say, when it was my turn to drive, I kept her at a cool 55MPH increasing the time of our trip.

The Home Stretch

Denver decided to snooze while I drove to Santa Rosa, NM.  By the time we got there, I was delirious.  It was now 2am.  We switched positions and began our final 2 hours to Albuquerque.  Remember when I mentioned the storm?  Well, by the time we got into the mountains, we were getting hammered with a mix of snow and rain.  The road was completely white and the lines invisible.  Denver and I had to decide to press on or stop at a nearby hotel.  Drawing from our experience of playing the Oregon Trail, we decided to forge the river hoping no one dies of dysentery.  This was by far the scariest part of the trip (and perhaps my life).

We eventually dropped Denver off at his house and I drove another 5 miles to my house.  I have never been so happy to see my home in my life.  I parked the bus, went inside and collapsed on my bed after traveling for the past 33 hours.

Now it’s time to get to work.


Affiliate Link Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. We will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies/products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through them. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you in achieving your goals.
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Trailer Renovations Before and After

Before Bathroom Before Bathroom After Master bedroom before What was replaced All counter tops (kitchen, bedroom nightstands, bathroom) faucets (bathroom and kitchen) queen mattress bathroom wall water pump battery tires…

Before Before

Bathroom Before  Bathroom Before Bathroom After Bathroom After Master bedroom before Master bedroom before

What was replaced

  • All counter tops (kitchen, bedroom nightstands, bathroom)
  • faucets (bathroom and kitchen)
  • queen mattress
  • bathroom wall
  • water pump
  • battery
  • tires
  • shower head
  • propane tanks

What was renovated:

  • wall paint
  • cabinet paint
  • wood flooring
  • cabinet handles
  • window coverings ripped out
  • refrigerator: stainless steel contact paper
  • removed weird pad above entry door
  • removed built in entertainment center (between master and kitchen)
  • all vent covers spray painted
  • light switches painted
  • dinette table painted
  • doors painted
  • dinette cushions reupholstered
  • backsplash of peel and stick subway tiles in bathroom and kitchen
  • added minimal decor (america, mirror, plant, spice rack, hanging fake plant, American flag etc.)

I would say the renovation took 1 month of on and off working 3-5 hours a night. Everything was pretty easy except painting because painting SUCKS. It was a great starter project and taught us a lot.


Affiliate Link Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. We will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies/products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through them. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you in achieving your goals.
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NAAAAAAme That Bus

I read everywhere that as you get to know your bus the name will come to you.  As I write this Brandon and Denver from Miller Adventures are on a plane…

I read everywhere that as you get to know your bus the name will come to you.  As I write this Brandon and Denver from Miller Adventures are on a plane to Dallas to pick up said bus.  Im in bed contemplating names for the new member of our family having not met him/her.

Do I want to be true to my thug ways and name the bus something like….BUSta Rhymes or BUSta move?

get deep and hipster with…..NuminousBus (Numi for short)

Numinous (adj.)Describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted- the powerful, personal, experience of being overwhelmed and inspired.

or keep it punny and say the name of our bus is NoneyaBUSness

bahahahahahah!

you cant say that didn’t make you giggle!

I guess ill have to wait until I meet ______.


Affiliate Link Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. We will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies/products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through them. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you in achieving your goals.
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…But You Just Bought A Trailer

Yeah, I know.  We just bought a trailer. We just bought a truck to pull that trailer.  We just spent a month renovating our new trailer. Well guess what WE…

Yeah, I know.  We just bought a trailer. We just bought a truck to pull that trailer.  We just spent a month renovating our new trailer. Well guess what WE DO WHAT WE WANT.

…and I really want a bus!

Our friends The Millers over at Miller Adverntures loved the idea of traveling with us after we bought our first camping trailer.  Which for them soon turned into a life changing, purge everything, sell their house, become the wealthiest people we know, and move into a bus….in our backyard idea. Over the past three months we have watched them transform an ugly yellow bus into a tiny home on wheels. Its amazing!

Obviously, it was only a matter of time until we jumped on the Skoolie wagon and bought one of our own.

Our family loves adventure. We love freedom and not being tied down to a schedule.  My husband, Brandon owns a software company Pixegon and ultimately when we started our company the goal was to work less and travel more.  We homeschool for that very same reason. Who wants to be tied down to yet another schedule? Not us.

Once we made the decision to homeschool our oldest, we knew road tripping would be a large part of our lives. We bought a trailer, a truck, and spent the spring of 2015 renovating a 2004 Prowler travel trailer.  It took me almost a month working every night to rid that thing of it’s floral padded walls and dirty laminate tile flooring. After a new coat of paint and some ikea fixtures on the cabinets it looks and feels like home….ish.

Inside the Prowler before renovation  Inside the Prowler before renovation

While renovating the trailer I couldn’t help but notice how unbelievably cheap and horribly manufactured these things are.  Which then led me to think about how much easier and cost effective a bus is to travel in.

Cost break down for trailer:

  • Trailer: $6,000
  • Renovations: $1000-1500
  • Excursion to pull trailer: $9500
  • Insurance for Excursion: $100/month
  • Total: $18,000  +$100/mo

Cost break down for school bus:

  • Bus: $4400
  • Travel (gas and flights): $210 + $600
  • Conversion budget: $4000-5000
  • Insurance: $30/month
  • Total: $10,570 (ish)

After going over the costs alone made me realize the bus was a better way to go.  I could customize it to fit our family perfectly. I could utilize space better. I could homeschool while Brandon drives and Brandon could comfortably work while I drive. The electric and plumbing will be organized and easily accessible if needed to be replaced. No surprises that we wont be prepared for or not know how to fix.  Plus I could use my power tools for something more than a DIY coffee table and derby cars.

So why the hell not?


Affiliate Link Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. We will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that we have experience with all of these companies/products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through them. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you in achieving your goals.
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