HS 170: Road Trips for Homeschoolers with Trish Corlew
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Pam: Trish Corlew is a wife and mom to three teenage boys who began their homeschooling journey in 2009 as co-owner of hiphomeschoolmoms.com she provides a place online where homeschool moms can find community inspiration and encouragement. Over the past five years, Trish’s found a passion for bringing learning to life and families together through homeschool road trips hosted by the Hip Homeschool Moms. She joins us on the podcast today to share about these HEART trips and enriching the homeschool through travel. Trish, welcome to the podcast.
Trish: Thank you Pam. Thank you so much for inviting me to be here. I appreciate it.
Pam: Well, we are so happy to have you. I heard about this concept when you and I first met back early this spring at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions and I thought this was just the neatest thing ever. This idea of kind of a travel service for homeschooling families and just hearing you talk about the trips and everything, it sounded like so much fun. So tell me a little bit about what made you start doing this. Why do you feel like travel is an important part of education?
Trish: Well, it’s really funny. Wendy and I joke about it was not our idea. It was actually our community’s idea. You know, we have this group of 30,000 plus homeschool moms and essentially they wanted to have in-real-life meetups. And so we started our very first one five years ago. We went to the coast of North Carolina, which is where I’m from. And so it was a little safe, you know, where I could go, where I knew people and knew places and felt like I could actually, bring something to the table instead of just showing up somewhere we didn’t know. But, we didn’t even know if they would show. We, you know, a lot of people talk about, “Oh yeah, that sounds like fun. We’ll go!” And then they don’t register and don’t show up. They did! A hundred people came to our very first meetup and it was at Fort Caswell on the coast of North Carolina. And we actually had a different concept. They even have driven how we do it. Our concept was we went to a place that offered education and we thought the moms might hang out and do things together, you know, have sweet tea and sit on the porch and rock or whatever while the kids were learning. Yeah, that’s not a us, right? Homeschool mom’s don’t do that. And so they were with their kids, we were with our kids. And so we quickly figured out that it didn’t need to be a mom in real life meetup. It’s really more about the families. And so we really evolved quickly to start focusing on the educational aspect, but also the community aspect. So we found that out really quick.
Pam: Okay. So,what happens now? You did your first one, a hundred people showed up and now what does it look like a few years later?
Trish: Well, it’s really evolved in a couple of different directions. First, our very first one that we went to was at a fort where they essentially offered all of the educational aspects of it. And we showed up and they taught it, which we love. And we still do. We do Space Camp and things like that, every couple of years. So that’s still that same format where you show up and they teach. But, now we go to different places. Like, we’re going to New Mexico this year and New Mexico does not have a place where you just show up and somebody’s teaching it. We literally have gotten a guide to go with us who will be teaching about why this is important, but we also are doing things like we’re floating down the Rio Grande with a Pueblo Native American who is going to literally be teaching us about everything we’re seeing and what that means to his culture. So we’re stepping outside of the box and we’re not just going to places that are already set up and canned. We’re creating them now. We also now are ambassadors with GoRVing. We did our very first road trip this year where we invited RVers in. We didn’t know how to do it, honestly, until this year. We didn’t know how to invite them. We didn’t know how to because typically we did hotels and catered food. Well how do you get the RVers involved in that. So this year we tried, we actually went to Jellystone and we went to Cave City in Kentucky and we stayed at a Jellystone, so the RVers were there, but we were staying in cabins. So that changed the dynamics completely. Not all of our trips are going to be like that. For instance, New Mexico, you would think they would have a ton of RV high end resorts. No they don’t. It’s all chalets and skiing. So we are not all at the same place in New Mexico, but we’re within a mile of each other. But we just keep evolving and honestly, just like what we want for our children, we’re learning every single time. We have become lifelong studiers and lifelong learners and we’re trying to figure out what works best. And every single trip is different. So we morph to the trip.
Pam: Okay. That’s so much fun. I just love the sound of these trips. I’m waiting for you guys to come back over to this side of the country ’cause New Mexico was a little far for us. But, you have to provide something for everybody everywhere to make it close enough for them to be able to get there and things like that. But I love the fact that you’re listening to your community and you’re doing what the families in your community want. And I also love the fact that you recognized fairly early on that when you’re homeschooling, it’s not just about your kids learning, it’s about everybody in the family learning.
Trish: That’s right. That’s right. It really is. I’m actually having to change up our trips for next year. Our goal is to have three years planned out. And so we’re working diligently on that this very second on what next year is going to look like. Even though we haven’t gone to New Mexico yet, but it actually was looking like everything was going to be on the east coast. And I said, no, we can’t do that. But interestingly enough, a lot of our people come from everywhere. We literally have people from Florida that are coming to New Mexico. We have people from Texas, we have people from New Hampshire. Literally they’re all over the United States. We’ve had people, international people, come to our trips. We’ve had people from literally, like from Hawaii, we had a family fly in to space camp. So, everybody’s different. It just depends on what they’re excited about and what interests them and what they’re studying that year or what they want to be studying that year and they just plug in where it makes sense. We have about eight families that have been on every single road trip with us. So we almost have, you know, we always say that there’s a minimum of 10 families, so if you add Wendy and I in, there’s 10. So we almost meet our minimum immediately because the same group of families goes. But it’s typically about half and half. We have about half returning and half new. This trip, it’s actually playing out where we have a little more new. Again, this is our first trip out west, so maybe that’s why, because we’re getting more from the west side of the country that we don’t normally get, but we do have, we already have 16 families signed up for it and we just opened it up a month ago. So yeah, it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.
Pam: Awesome. So Trish, as a homeschool mom, speaking to another homeschool mom, what do you think are some of the biggest benefits for homeschool families to travel like this together?
Trish: Well, it depends on what your goal is. I think for us, one of the things that happens in our family is we get in a rut. We get bored. You know, we’re doing the same thing every single day. And honestly, it brings a new flavor just getting out, going, doing, helps us not get stale. But there’s this whole other side that a lot of people haven’t considered when you travel with your family. One of the things that we found is that if you give everybody a job and a role and you change them up, it actually helps y’all look at each other differently. I’ll give you an example. My oldest son is our navigator. I absolutely hate driving on the interstate, not because I don’t like the interstate, but because it’s boring and I do not like boring. So we usually take the highway. Well, you know, every GPS on earth tries to get you on the interstate. So he is over there navigating with his phone, getting us to our destination, and literally, if we miss it, if we get to the wrong place or we get there late, it’s all on his shoulders because he is navigating. I think that changes the dynamics when you’re literally relying on your children to get you there. Right? So, it’s powerful. It gives them a role in the family, it gives them a job and it gives them a place to be responsible. And so we’ve really enjoyed that aspect of it. But there’s a thousand other things. I mean, think about all the things that moms do when we’re getting ready to go on a road trip. Think about everything from who’s going to pet sit, to who’s watering the plants, to who’s picking up the mail if it’s outside. All those little aspects of it you can let your children do, but not only that, you can literally let them plan the trip. You can give them a budget. You can say you get us there. You can fly us there, we can drive, but let’s take all these things into consideration. And they literally, you want to talk about geography study. They literally map it out on a map and they figure out how much it would cost to fly and then rent a car versus driving. You have to go into miles per gallon. Think about all the lessons that are going on there. That’s math, that’s geography, it’s planning, it’s project management. So, we love doing that. I actually turn that over to my kids on a regular basis to let them do it. So we encourage that. We think it’s a blessing for families to try new things and you get on the road and of course, bringing history to life once you’re at your destination, or science to life. Kids remember this. You engage all of these different senses and they remember it. And that’s really the whole goal, right?
Pam: Okay. This is funny because I thought you were going to finish answering that question without ever actually saying anything about being at the destination. I mean, you had all these great things that happened even before you got to where you were going.
Trish: I know, but yeah, they do. I mean, obviously getting there is a big part of it. And one of the things that we have found, and you know this as a mom, the more you can get your kids involved, their different senses, the more different senses as you can get involved in their education, the better they’re gonna remember it. We joke and say that emotions are memory glue. But seriously, if you can get them involved, think about this raft trip that we’re going to do: we’re floating down the Rio Grande, we’re listening to a Native American guide, we’re smelling the smells, we’re seeing the sites, we’re touching the water. We literally get off of the float and we sit down and have a Native American feast that his family has cooked for us. And then we have Native Americans coming in. It’s actually coincidentally a full moon that night. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that was a God incidence. But anyway, it’s a Hunter moon. And so they’re literally going to do a dance that’s about the Hunter Moon. So how many senses can we get involved in that? We have taste, we have sight, we have smell, we have touch. Think about it. So we are so excited. That’s how kids remember things is you get to them involved at that level.
Pam: Okay. And I’m totally stealing that quote that emotions are memory glue. It really is, I mean this will be something that they absolutely never forget.
Trish: So we’re making memories, right? We’re literally making memories. So it’s family memories, but it’s also education. And if, especially if you’re Charlotte Mason or unschooler or you are very involved in the nature side of it, that’s always a big part of our trips. So that’s one thing that we encourage. Get out and get involved.
Pam: Yeah. Okay. So let’s talk about when you start planning these road trips because Trish plans her road trips, but families who are thinking about doing some educational travel just on their own can use some of these tips from Trish as well. So when you start planning these educational road trips, how do you choose what to do? What’s like, your jumping off point or your inspiration?
Trish: Well, it depends. Some of it is, like you said, we were talking earlier about our community. So a lot of times it’s the community and I look for a trend where seven people or eight people want to go to this one place. But, for us, if it was just me going and traveling, I would be looking at what my kids are learning next year or what they just learned this past year to help concrete cement that into their memory. So I would look, I would start with things that they are either inspired about. You can do local, I mean, if they’re interested in ballet, obviously you can try and get a behind the scenes look at the next ballet that’s coming to town. And a lot of times they’ll do that. They do dress rehearsals and they do things like that where they want you to come in, they want people there to watch it. And you can get a real inspiration, get behind the scenes look at what’s happening, and those are local. Those aren’t usually very expensive and sometimes they’re free depending on the community and what they’re trying to do. So you can do local trips, you can do long trips. But I always try to keep in mind if it were just my family that what we’re learning or what they’re inspired by. One of the things that we did when we left Niagara Falls, I have one child that loves architecture. And so we just started looking for Frank Lloyd Wright homes on the way home. And literally, we went out of our way a little bit. We went through Pennsylvania to come home, but we went to Falling Waters because it was just something that he’s interested in and we wanted to go see it. So we look for things that might spark their curiosity and might be a leaping off point for a career. Who knows? Right? I’ve got high schoolers, so I’m always looking for opportunities to inspire them.
Pam: Yeah, that’s awesome. And how about that? I mean, traveling with high schoolers. They’re never too cool to go on a trip with mom, are they?
Trish: Right. It’s interesting because you know, I even have a college kid. My oldest now is leaving for college this fall and I didn’t plan this no matter what anybody says, I did not plan it this way. It just literally happened this way. We were looking at his fall break and it’s literally at the same time as our New Mexico trip. I think he’s even going to come to New Mexico as a first year college student.
Pam: Okay. So that just speaks to how much, I mean, we talk a lot about Morning Time and how it’s a way to build kind of family culture and family memories. And it sounds like these trips do a lot of that as well.
Trish: They do. They really do. And honestly it does bring you closer. I love to drive for this very reason. We spend a lot of time talking, we spend a lot of time laughing, we cut up, we play games, we talk and those probably are just as important as the places we’re going, are those trips getting there. So I’m a big believer in the journey, not the destination. You heard that earlier. Yes, I did speak about the destination, but I’m very journey-oriented. I think the journey is just as important.
Pam: Awesome. So tell me, looking back on all the trips that you’ve done with Hip Homeschool Moms and your community, can you pinpoint one memory from those trips that is just like one of your absolute favorite, something that happened, some interaction you had with a family?
Trish: Gosh, that’s so hard because there’s so many. Well, on the very first trip, one of the things that, again, we were not sure what was going to happen because it was our first trip, was the moms got out there and started kayaking with their kids. First Time. None of them had been in a kayak. They didn’t know anything about it. And they were being taught just like we will want, you know, lifelong learners. We’re being taught how to Kayak. One of the other things I saw just happened at Kentucky where mom’s overcoming a desire not to be dirty. We went on a cave crawl. We did the Mike Rowe ‘Dirty Jobs’ cave crawl at Hidden River Cave. And these moms got over themselves. Not me, by the way. I did not go in. I’m just going to keep it real. Right?
Pam: I’m thinking my claustrophobia would not let me go in.
Trish: Well I did. I went into all the caves. I just did not do this one. And honestly I didn’t do this one because one of the moms wasn’t going in and I didn’t want her to be the only one not going in. So, I sat out with her, but we went antique shopping just across the street. So there you go. But, I saw a lot of moms getting in that cave and doing that cave crawl for three hours with their children and they came out muddy and dirty and nasty. But the biggest smiles on their faces. Something else we do on our trips, we always have an adventure side. Believe it or not, that was not the adventure side on this trip. And we actually had rappelling and ziplining on this trip, on the Cave City trip. And we saw moms overcoming their fears and getting out there and doing that. But it’s also the kids. And I think it’s really interesting to watch the family dynamics when mom is having to overcome it. My kids watch me do that at Niagara Falls. I am not a zipliner. I’m the girl that likes to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground and I’m the one that everybody runs to when they get home, when they get off. They come running to see me and tell me about it. But, I did. I went ziplining in Niagara Falls over the Erie Canal and my kids were so proud of me for getting out there and overcoming my own fear and doing it. So a lot of stuff happens on these trips that are memories that are some of my favorites. One of the ones that we’re going to do in New Mexico is we’re going balloon riding. So really excited about that. I’ve already done a balloon. I went up in a balloon when Wendy and I were doing the research for this trip, we went up and Wendy, who is the daredevil, was the one that was scared. I wasn’t. Isn’t that wild?
Pam: That is kinda wild.
Trish: I know. So, it was interesting that we changed roles ’cause usually her daughter’s with me, feet firmly planted on the ground and all of my boys are with Wendy doing whatever crazy idea she’s come up with for this trip. So, yeah, it was sort of different. But yeah, I dunno, there’s so many memories. My favorite was probably me going over the Erie Canal, I think.
Pam: That does sound really cool. And it’s funny because now I hear you mentioning, you were talking earlier about seeing your kids in a new role and that being so good for them, and now you’re talking about your kids seeing you in a new role and that also being good for them. So it’s lovely how it works both ways. Okay. You mentioned something else in there that I really want to talk about. Getting back to your trips specifically. These are very meticulously researched. You work hard on these. So tell us a little bit about how I can be sure if my family is going on one of these trips that I know it’s going to be a success.
Trish: Well, we did not do that in the very beginning. We actually went on our first three years of trips without going, and Niagara Falls was the one that really sent it home for us that we had to go because one of our families is in a wheelchair. The mom regularly is able to get up and go. She actually was doing cave crawls with us in cave city. She’s one that travels with us every single time. But there are times when she can’t, when her body just will not cooperate and she is in a wheelchair. She didn’t get to do one of the rides with us in Niagara Falls. And we felt horrible obviously for her not being able to participate. So we decided then and there that we needed to know everything that we could possibly know to ensure that we could tell you. We’re not saying that there are not going to be things that you can’t do or that you wouldn’t want to do. We’re just saying that we’re going to do our best to tell you all the ins and outs, how far things are, if you’re in a wheelchair, if you’re capable or incapable. And we have a lot of special needs families that travel with us. So, we try our best to know the things that we need to know for it to be successful for the families.
Pam: Right. So you’re putting in a lot of time in advance to make sure that you’re going to have the most information possible to give to somebody who’s making this investment.
Trish: We sure try to. You can go read our reviews on a Homeschool Road Trips, which is actually the official name of it. It’s Homeschool Road Trips on Facebook and you can read the reviews. They really give us kudos for the amount of research we do and how much success we’ve had. When you’re spending this amount of money, because it is essentially your family vacation that year, there’s lots of opportunity for unhappy families and we have been so blessed. We really have had nothing but positive things. Not saying that we haven’t had hiccups, but when we do have hiccups we try to correct them.
Pam: Yeah. So how many dads do you have come on your trip, Trish?
Trish: Well, you know, it’s funny. We used to call them Hip Homeschool Moms Road Trips. And at Space Camp, they were very adamant about kids under seven cannot be on site. And that includes nursing babies, which meant a lot of moms couldn’t go. So this was our very first trip, the first trip to Space Camp, where we had a lot of dads on our trip without moms. So that was the trip that we changed the name because we didn’t think it was cool the dads were saying they were traveling with Hip Homeschool Moms and yet their wives weren’t there. We joke about we’re not that hip, thank you. So, we literally, had to change the name because of that. But we do have a lot of dads that travel with us. Some are traveling without their wives, some are traveling with their wives. We have a lot of moms that come without dads. We have grandparents. We have one set of grandparents that had been with us on every road trip. So it’s a little bit of everything. You just don’t know what it will be next. We’ve even had grown aunts and uncles join their nieces and nephews on our road trips because they were so excited about the trip. So, there you go, it’s a little bit of everything. It’s definitely a family affair, but you leave it not just being a family affair, it leaves everybody’s a community. And so it’s amazing. We do not plan it, we could not plan it if our life depended on it, where every 10 year old has a partner close to the same age and gender. We couldn’t plan it that way if our life depended on it. But somehow or another, it always manages to work out that way where everybody walks away feeling like they’ve made a lifelong friend.
Pam: That’s awesome. And you know, I know from taking my kids to conventions and things like that, they really do, they meet up with somebody there and then they’re asking to email them or text them or facetime or something. Yeah. And just making friends all over the country. So I mean, these kids really do want the opportunity to connect with other homeschool kids. You know, I don’t know what the appeal is to having these friends who are not in your area, but they always do. They always want to connect with these kids.
Trish: They love it. And honestly, we look at it as pen pals and you know, relationships. Because once you, when you do go to that area, if you ever go back for some reason to their neck of the woods, you already have a relationship there. And we have families, we had one family, they just literally left Cave City and we see they’re posting pictures in our group of them down in Texas. And neither one of them even live in Texas. They met up in Texas at a Lego event down there. So there you go.
Pam: Oh, how fun. So not only is it making families stronger, but you know, bonds between different families stronger.
Trish: That’s right.
Pam: That is a lot of fun. So if I were interested in taking one of these homeschool road trips, maybe the one in New Mexico or one of the ones for next year, what do I need to do?
Trish: Well, first it’s on our website. It’s on hiphomeschoolmoms.com we have a travel tab at the top so they can go to the travel section of our website. They can see some of our other trips we’ve taken or the current, HEART Trips and HEART actually stands for Homeschool Enrichment Adventure Road Trips. So we have the enrichment side for the homeschool, but we also have the adventure. And so we just shorten and call them HEART Trips. But we do have all of the HEART trips listed out there on our travel section of our hiphomeschoolmoms.com website, or you can go to our community. We have a Facebook community, Homeschool Road Trips. You can find it there or you can just email me at Trish@hiphomeschoolmoms.com.
Pam: Okay. So let’s talk just a little bit of logistics about this. So it sounds like most of the time a nursing baby is okay to bring.
Trish: Oh yeah. Ninety-nine percent of the time. As a matter of fact, after the trip to Space Camp, we will still return to space camp, but after that trip to Space Camp, all of the rest of our trips, we have really focused on having it where it’s available for all ages. We don’t like to disrupt families. We want them to be able to travel together. So yeah, we, we learned a lesson on that one. But yeah, even all the way down to nursing babies, this float that we’re doing in New Mexico literally is rated for an infant or a senior.
Pam: Okay, perfect. So even though there is an adventure side, there’s always a wide variety of something on the trip for everyone. So I don’t have to feel scared about traveling with my toddler or something like that.
Trish: No. As a matter of fact, there’s so many moms there, you’ll actually have trouble keeping us from helping you because, we do. We know there’s so many of us and we get it, you know? We’ve been there, we’ve done that. So regularly, you have a dad picking up a stroller helping somebody go down the steps or whatever it is that’s happening we’re all there for each other. And I think that’s part of the luxury of when you travel as a community, as a group. We do watch out for each other. So as a way to explore but be safe but also have friends along. So, we try our best logistically to help everybody and we do have families that travel with the mom is traveling with their children alone regularly. So we are very cognizant of that and we try our best to help.
Pam: Oh that’s awesome. So all ages and then a little bit of something for everyone. You’re trying to get that in. So if you are interested in looking at some of these trips, they sound like so much fun. It’s wonderful. I know it’s wonderful to get to spend time with Trish and Wendy from the homeschool convention. So, I know that being on a trip with them would be awesome as well. So do go check out hiphomeschoolmoms.com and the travel tab there has all the information about the HEART trips. Well, Trish, thank you so much for coming on to talk to me today about your trips and trips in general for homeschooling families and why it’s important for families to get out and do a little bit of traveling together.
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