School Bus Conversion | A Minimalist Family Adventure

A Family of 5 Living on a Converted School Bus. We blog about skoolies, travel, family, and minimalism

Author: Ashley

Do You Homeschool Your Kids?

Yep, we do! We decided 4 years ago that homeschooling was right for our family. We love the freedom to travel when ever we want. My oldest spent 1 semester…

Yep, we do!

We decided 4 years ago that homeschooling was right for our family. We love the freedom to travel when ever we want.

My oldest spent 1 semester in kindergarten. In those 4 months of school we missed 26 days and were late 12 days.  I would sign him in at the office and the front desk lady would ask “why is he late…today?” most of the time my answer was we “went out for doughnuts” or “we stayed up late watching a movie”. I told the truth, 🍩 are important to our family.  We value being able spend time together and just plain DO WHAT WE WANT!

 

Don’t you worry they won’t get enough socialization?

NO! My kids see 1 or more of their cousins or friends everyday of the week. We have an amazing group of homeschool kids and moms (not the denim skirt wearing super conservative women but supportive, Jesus loving, forward thinking, tattooed up women and I ❤️ them) that we do life with. Also they do tae kwon do 1-4 days a week.  The boys are enrolled in a weekly class where they learn 🔬 science, history, and literature📕 from 8:30-3:30 (hallelujah, mama loves Tuesdays!)

Our main reasons for homeschooling

  • We love to travel
  • We like to encourage their strengths and passions allowing them to spend more time learning what they love.
  • We build our own curriculum which allows for the kids to learn at their own pace and in their own style.
  • We don’t adhered to a strict schedule and have never been slaves to corporate America this is something that we want to impart upon our kids and encourage them to seek out their own way.

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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Parenting In 300ish Square Feet

Parenting is a challenge! Whether on a bus or in a “normal house”! We haven’t found it to be much harder than when we were in a traditional home. What…

Parenting is a challenge! Whether on a bus or in a “normal house”! We haven’t found it to be much harder than when we were in a traditional home.

What is it like to parent 3 children in a tiny home?

🚎=🏠

PROS

  • less chores to fight over
  • fewer toys to cleanup
  • intentional living lessons
  • more outdoor time
  • cultivating a feral mindset
  • more family time
  • opportunities to teach while experiencing adventure
  • we share in the everyday chores (water fill ups, chopping wood, toilet changing, dishes etc.)
  • lots of snuggles

 

CONS

  • it’s LOUD
  • 1 bathroom (all kids need to poop at the same time)
  • winter makes us go stir crazy
  • rain does the same thing
  • less “alone” time
  • we live in an aisle so they leave their stuff in the middle of the walkway constantly

 

Things we have learned while parenting in 300 sqft are:

Kids lose their favorite toy even in a tiny house.

Make them sit to pee on the composting toilet, ALWAYS SIT on the composting toilet!

Kids don’t have to shower everyday…neither do adults!

Rushing is a waste of time and energy. Enjoy the adventure!

Don’t expect to have your own space because you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The bumper makes a great timeout spot.

Funniest part of bus living is listening to your kids explain to their friends what a composting toilet is and how to use it.


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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Downsizing – 5 Steps To Get Started

Before we knew our destiny of living minimally on a school bus, we were constantly “decluttering” our lives.  Every week I (Ashley) would single out a room, and tackle it….

Before we knew our destiny of living minimally on a school bus, we were constantly “decluttering” our lives.  Every week I (Ashley) would single out a room, and tackle it.  I would frequently day dream about the tiny containers that would fit perfectly within my bigger containers to organize my over cluttered life.  I spent more time thinking about it than actually working towards simplification. Downsizing was little more than just a pipe dream.

We had a 4 bedroom house with a pantry the size of my bus, two dining rooms and an enormous walk in master closet: all packed with my things. At one point I remember telling my husband “this house doesn’t have any storage!”. I laugh now looking back on the women I was.  So concerned with properly folded decorative towels and storage bins. I still am at times a princess about somethings but I have come so far! ::::patting myself on the back::::

I get asked a lot about how to start minimizing and decluttering so here I will share my top 5 tips.

  1. PRIORITIZE YOUR GOALS: Why are you wanting to simplify?  What are your goals? Things waste our time!  How often do you spend time looking for Tupperware lids, never to find the one you were looking for? Does cleaning your kids toys take more time than they actually spend playing with them? Life isn’t suppose to be spent organizing and cleaning things. If you choose to just keep cleaning things up, rather than simplify nothing will change. My “ahh ha moment” was standing at my kitchen sink while I was washing dishes and my child asked me to go swing with them.  I responded with “no, honey I need to finish the dishes”….WHAT?! Why are dishes more important than actually spending time with my kid? (Obviously I still wash dishes, and still have responsibilities around the bus, but they pale in comparison to what they used to). I was spending hours a day loading and unloading dish after dish from my dishwasher because I kept buying more and more dishes. I bought more clothes to satisfy my materialistic desires to be trendy rather than because I needed them. Which lead to more laundry, more folding, more stress and more mental over head. The fewer things you own the more your able to live the life you want.
  2. MAKE LISTS: I am a list maker. I find satisfaction in making long lists and checking off tasks as they are completed.  It also clears my mind to actually focus on the task at hand.  If you have too many things floating around in your brain nothing actually gets done. A large house full of organizing and decluttering sounds overwhelming which leads to failure.  Get out your pen and paper and start writing down the rooms, closets, dressers, junk drawers, cabinets etc. that are cluttering up your mind and your life. Figure out what is a reasonable timeline for yourself and aim for 1 room, drawer, cabinet whatever, per week. Start checking off those tasks and watch your list get completed!
  3. DONT QUIT: Decluttering isn’t fun.  Its incredibly tedious at times. I fought my boredom with audio books (mostly zombie fiction). I would start a book and not want to stop listening; it would keep me going for hours. The Girl With All The Gifts got me through my entire master bedroom, bathroom and closet! If you’re not into listening to books, 90’s hip hop is pretty motivating also. If you don’t know now you know! (RIP Biggie)
  4. NO MORE “JUST IN CASE”: Most of the clutter in our lives are the “just in case items”. We hang on to cords just in case, we keep those jeans just in case we lose 20 lbs, we keep that crystal pitchers just in case we throw a party. How often is the item actually used? Have you used it in the past year? If not get rid of it. If you can replace the item quickly and for under $20 its not worth cluttering your home with it.  Not quite ready to ditch it? Put the item in a box in the garage and if you use it within the next three months than keep it, if not wave goodbye!
  5. START….YEP GET STARTED: No more excuses, no more procrastination, no more “Im too busy”. I hate that excuse BTW because what you’re really saying is “its not a priority”.  Everyone makes time for the things that are a priority in their lives.
    So if you don’t have time…MAKE TIME.

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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Moving Into The Bus And Unofficial Bus Tour

I can’t believe it has been over a year since we first moved on the bus!  We first moved into our bus in October 2016.  After moving, we spent the…

I can’t believe it has been over a year since we first moved on the bus!  We first moved into our bus in October 2016.  After moving, we spent the next 4 months on the road traveling the western US states.  During this time we would spend almost 30 days in Disney land 😬, see the Redwoods, play in the pacific Ocean at Cannon Beach, head to San Diego, and much much more!

Upon returning from our trip, I (Brandon) had the opportunity to start another company in downtown Albuquerque.  Given that there are few places to park downtown and commuting would not have been in my best interest, we decided to move the family into a loft downtown while I worked on the company.  This was a very interesting experience. We live above a pizza place (which was super rad) however as we would discover, it was also a biker bar.  So, all night Friday – Sunday, we would hear motorcycles ripping down the street until 3am. Going from peaceful bus living to busy loud downtown living was quite a change of pace.

After the company got moving, we moved back out to the suburb of Corrales into another rental while we made the necessary upgrades to the bus to make it even more livable.  This included raising and tiling the shower, adding “privacy doors” to the kids bunks, and many more tweaks based on things we learned while traveling on the road.

Check out our YouTube Video where we show our first night on the bus.  Jackson (our middle son) also gives you a quick bus tour. We will be posting an official tour in the coming months.  Make sure to comment and subscribe!

Also, if you are new you may want to consider checking out our intro video and subscribing to our mailing list!

Happy Travels!

Moving In Day And Unofficial Bus Tour


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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Tiny House Festivals: Some Observations After Attending

Over the past two years that we have been on the bus, we have attended multiple Tiny House festivals and meetups.  We absolutely love showing off our bus and meeting…

Over the past two years that we have been on the bus, we have attended multiple Tiny House festivals and meetups.  We absolutely love showing off our bus and meeting the amazing people that are part of the community.  Here are a few interesting things that I have discovered over the past year or so.

Sharing Community Of Tiny Home Dwellers

This is my absolute favorite thing about the “tiny” movement.  Ashley and I have been a part of numerous subcultures over the years (school, extra curricular groups, churches, coops) and have never found a community more inviting and accepting that the tiny home community.  Especially the DIYers.  Everyone seems to share similar values of living sustainably and treating others with love and respect.  It’s absolutely incredible.

Often we are asked why we spend our time and money to attend tiny home shows/meet-ups.  Usually, they are unpaid gigs that involve quite a bit of work for all of the folks attending.  My response is always to spend time in community with other tiny home dwellers.

Almost out of no where, each night after the guests have left, a huge party materializes.  Everyone in the show brings food to share and there are often (sometimes obscure) musical instruments that get pulled out and an on-the-spot band is formed.  I feel like we are immediately among family after knowing these people for less than 12 hours.

Huge Difference Between DIY Tiny Homes And Tiny Home Builders

I’m totally not knocking on people who have their houses/busses/vans built for them or the builders who do it, but there is definitely a difference in the mindset between the two.  Most of the festivals have separate areas for DIY vs Corporate.

A few other observations about the actual structures of DIY vs Built:

  • DIY tends to have more character while manufactured feels like a “home builder”
  • DIY people tend to be more savvy as they have acquired the skills needed to build their structure
  • Cost: The cost to have a tiny home or bus built for you is almost double that of doing it yourself
  • Reasons for living tiny: I feel that DIYers are more inclined to be living tiny because of the movement instead of the trend (again there are plenty of exceptions, I’m only speaking in generalities).  Also, the DIY community seems to be more “stick it to the man” in this regard.

People Think We Are Poor

So, Ashley, together with a few super talented friends of ours created this super cool logo/sticker for Trebventure.  She had a cool idea of selling stickers at $3 a pop to go into our gas fund (we get 7 mpg so we can use all the help we can get).  Well, people purchased about $60 worth of stickers, however every now and again someone would slip me a 10 or a 20 and not want a sticker.  When I pressed them on this they would say things like “I know what it’s like to have kids”.  I humbly accepted the money (and put it into the community beer fund), however I really want to convey to people that we choose to live this way.

One other time this sort of thing happened, we were in Washington.  The Nomadic Millers and us had pulled into a parking lot at a local laundry mat to get some laundry done when a car pulled up.  The woman got out and proceeded to give us a case of water and balls for the kids.  Again, while we were super grateful for the generosity, I’m still not super sure how to react in these situations other than to say “thank you”.

We are houseless not homeless.

Everyone Has Road/Traveling Issues

“How much have you spent on bus maintenance?” – This is an extremely common question we get asked.  While we have been incredibly fortunate to have less than $1,000 in maintenance so far, many of our peers haven’t been so lucky.  We have heard stories of multiple transmission replacements, clutch jobs in parking lots, rebuilds on the side of the road and more.  Almost every time we are all ready to leave a convention, someone’s bus won’t start.

Road issues aren’t just common in the busses either.  Many of the tiny home folks dealt with flats, truck issues, near misses on bridges, etc…

Tiny Home Dwellers Love To Talk About Poop

At every convention I go to, I ultimately find myself in a conversation (not started by me I promise) about human waste / disposal.  We use a composting toilet and absolutely love it (OK maybe I start some of the conversations).  Since it’s such a unique thing and way of disposing of waste, people are always intrigued.  Not to mention, there are still a few challenges associated with it that only frequent users will understand. That post is for another day.

Some Final Thoughts

We absolutely LOVE attending tiny house jamborees/festivals/conventions/meetups.  If you know of one in your area, we absolutely encourage you to go (also let us know and we might check it out ).  Building our bus has been a labor of love and an expression of our creativity. Nothing brings us more joy than being able to show case our hard work to the world.


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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We Are Officially On YouTube – Our Very First Intro Video

We have been threatening for some time to create content for YouTube.  Well, we have finally cracked the seal and uploaded an intro video. We had an absolute blast making…

We have been threatening for some time to create content for YouTube.  Well, we have finally cracked the seal and uploaded an intro video.

We had an absolute blast making the video (I believe that is pretty obvious).

A few plans for future videos include:

  • Bus Tour
  • Move In Video
  • Q&A
  • How we school kids on the road
  • How we make money
  • Geeky electronics on our bus
  • Misc Vlogs

We hope you enjoy the video as much as we did making it. So, please check it out, like, and subscribe.  Happy travels!


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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The Essentials in Our Minimalist Kitchen

The kitchen in our bus is my (Ashley’s) sanctuary.  It’s where I spend most of my time and I think it’s beautiful! I look back at the kitchen I had…

The kitchen in our bus is my (Ashley’s) sanctuary.  It’s where I spend most of my time and I think it’s beautiful! I look back at the kitchen I had in my house.  I liked that space however it was also a place of a lot of frustration.  It was an area where there was always a mess and always some cabinet that needed to be organized.  I spent countless hours rearranging my cups, finding more space for my Starbucks coffee mug collection, and finding lids for all of my plastic containers.  I probably had 25 plates, 10-15 bowls, who knows how many mason jar cups (because I’m just that trendy), and enough mugs to be able to serve coffee to an army.

I hosted a lot, which I enjoyed. It was one of the main reasons we loved the our house.  We had people over for dinner roughly 3 times a week.  We hosted countless parties and I do miss that aspect of owning a house. Although, the cleaning up after a dinner party wasn’t my favorite.  I used paper plates (don’t hate me you “save the Earth” hippies) and plastic wear when I hosted larger engagements but still felt like I needed a lot of dishes.

What I now realize is that the reason we have so many dishes is because we left most of them in the dishwasher, getting washed, or waiting to be put away.  Now that I don’t have a dishwasher, I never run out of dishes.  I wash them immediately after we finish a meal and put them away.  There is no room for a sink full of dishes since there is no room for procrastination.  I no longer have the mental over head of having to unload the dishwasher, which is my least favorite chore of all time. Use a dish, clean it, put it away. Simple.

As I have been making observations, I have found that one of the reasons we have so much stuff in our house is because we have so many places to put said stuff. I didn’t always have 25 plates but I had room for more plates so when Target put out their newest trendy plate I bought it and put it on top of last weeks trendy plate, which was on top of the week before that’s trendy plate and so on and so on. I didn’t cycle out the old because the old wasn’t really old, it was still cute, Target just knows how to make all their stuff cuter and trendier and I was a sucker.

In the bus we have minimal cabinets so I have minimal space to store my minimal kitchen things. Below I will go over what is in my kitchen now.

I have a total of 6 drawers, 4 large and 2 small.

 

  • Top Left (small) Junk Drawer: Remotes, our favorite essential oils, duct tape, batteries and charger, random screws, tape, apple tv hook up thingy, felt stickys, hose splitter, box cutter, pencils, pens, permanent marker, tape measurer, Letterfolk felt board letters, lighters, flash light, swisher sweets, and charcoal toothpaste.

 

  • Middle Left Coffee Drawer: Coffee container filled with 2 lbs of whole bean Lavazza coffee (its the best), our Aeropress and it’s accessories, my everyday spices – salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and honey, milk frother, a recipe box, and paper plates for when we host dinner in our bus.

 

  • Bottom Left Plastics Drawer: all of my plastic containers 8 of them all with lids, 2 ice cube trays, gallon bags, snack size bags, and foil

 

  • Top Right (small) Silverware Drawer: 7 forks, spoons, and knives, 3 ceramic cutting knives, 2 pairs of scissors, potato peeler, pizza cutter, can opener, measuring cups and spoons, wine opener, bottle opener, ice cream scoop, moon shaped cutting thing for salads, ceramic knives and a long bread knife.

 

  • Middle Right Dish Drawer: Protein Shaker, Starbucks Disneyland tumbler, 3 small cups for hot chocolate with lids, 3 Camelback water bottles for our kids, they never spill (not pictured), 2 thermal Takeya brand water bottles for Brandon and I, we take them with us everywhere we go (not pictured), 1  togo cup for coffee, 3 coffee mugs, 1 whiskey glass, 1 wine glass, 1 small cutting board, 3 small plates, 3 big plates, 3 big bowls, 3 small bowls, and 3 kids plates

 

  • Bottom Right Pan Drawer: 3 cork counter protectors, cast iron dutch oven (my favorite), 2 skillets (12 inch and 10 inch), 1 stainless pot with steamer attachment, 1 small pot, grease protector cover (not pictured).

 

On top of my counter I have a 3 burner stove, hand soap, paper towels, a plant, my cutting board (in the shape of our home state New Mexico), our coffee grinder, a tea kettle, and a utensil container (list below of utensils).

  • Utensils: 2 whisks (1 big 1 small), 2 spatulas (1 big, 1 small), spoon, rubber spatula, basting brush, and a ladle.

The purpose of our kitchen was to provide a space where I can make real food for my family, and host a dinner occationally in a tiny space.  I feel I have everything I could ever need to do these things.

That is my kitchen in a nutshell…..or a bus-shell.


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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Bus Demo

Over the past month or so, we embarked on an adventure to “Demo” the bus.  This turned out to be quite the task and we hope to never have to…

Over the past month or so, we embarked on an adventure to “Demo” the bus.  This turned out to be quite the task and we hope to never have to do it again. I’m partially kidding as we now realize that demoing the bus is a right of passage for any skoolie owner.  Demoing is both a grind and riveting (you will get that amazing double pun after reading on).

In the following post, we wanted to share the breakdown of this phase of the bus development.  We have detailed the list of supplies as well as the steps that we took in order to prepare the bus to be built up.

Tools And Items

  • 2 Angle grinders (Harbor Freight) $30
  • DeWALT Impact driver and hammer drill combo set (Lowes) $250
  • 2 cut off wheels pack of 10 (to remove rivets, Harbor Freight) $20
  • 2 grinder wheels (to remove rust, Harbor Freight) $10
  • Safety goggles, gloves, masks (to protect your sexy face, Harbor Freight) $20
  • 2 jugs phosphoric acid Prep & Etch (neutralizes rust, Home Depot) $30
  • 2 cans Rustoleum “rusty metal primer” (Lowes) $54
  • Paint brushes, rollers, and extender (Lowes) $30
  • 5/16 hex sheet metal screws (Lowes) $6
  • Metal shears (Harbor Freight) $30

Pro Tips

  • Find a friend who has completed a bus conversion so you can learn from them (thanks Denver and Vanessa Miller)
  • Lowes gift cards at Office Max or Staples

I dabble in “travel hacking” and have learned a couple tips to maximize travel points. For this project or any DIY project the best card to apply for is the business Chase Ink Plus . This card offers 50,000 points after spending $5000 in the first three months and 5x the points on purchases made at office supply stores such as Staples, Office Max etc.  Office Max sells Lowes and Amazon gift cards in high amounts.  I go there and buy a bunch of gift cards and Im able to do all my bus purchases with the gift cards.

  • Using ceiling panels to patch floor
  • Once comfortable with using the angle grinder remove the guards and BE CAREFUL
  • Angle grind seats out but don’t try and unscrew the bolts, its a waste of time
  • Buy the warranty on the angle grinders because they over heat
  • Ceiling rivets cut x’s then hand chisel out (This task is “riveting”)

Steps We Took To Demo

  • Angle grind out the seats (and karate kick them out)
  • Remove the center walk way strip of flooring
  • Disconnect and remove heaters and hoses (warning antifreeze will get everywhere)
  • Remove rubber floor
  • Remove wood sub floor with crow bar (it was still wet, ew!)
  • Remove the vinyl from wheel wells
  • Unscrew all lights, speakers, fans, any and all things that can be unscrewed with a drill.
  • Unscrew all emergency exit windows to access the rivets underneath
  • Angle grind out rivets holding side panel walls on

  • DO NOT REMOVE THE LOWEST RIVETS OR PANELS this panel and these rivets hold the top of your bus to the bottom frame.
  • Throw away all old nasty insulation
  • Start your ceiling rivets by making a X in them and then hand chiseling them off with a cold chisel and a mini sledge hammer.

  • Hold on to a couple ceiling panels we used the sheet metal to patch the larger holes in the bus floor from rust
  • Grind off any nails or screws that are still poking upward in the floor
  • Sledge hammer all the large chunks of rust
  • Angle grind with a large grinder wheel around all the holes and on all rusty spots (in our case the entire floor)
  • Clean up the mess, we used a blower, a shop vac , and a huge push broom
  • Spray phosphoric acid on the entire floor of the bus. This is to remove/neutralize the remaining rust.

  • Let it dry
  • Rinse the floor and sweep out the excess water
  • Let it dry
  • Repeat

  • Paint the floor with Rustolium using the roller and use the brush to get in the corners, around all wheel wells and in and around holes.
  • Let dry and apply another coat

  • Use metal shears to cut ceiling panels to patch holes in the floor.

  • We used 5/16 hex sheet metal screws to attach the metal patches to the floor
  • Fill small screw holes with silicon caulk

And voila! The bus is (finally) ready to be worked on.  Now on to the fun part…


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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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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