Open yourself to God’s will and your dreams will take you down a path you never imagined.
Five years ago, my husband, Jason, had a dream. He was inspired to show us the world and was determined to take the steps necessary to accomplish this goal. Like many families, our biggest problem was money. So, the first step was to find ways to save, which included better budgeting, cutting the cable (TV) and finding more cost efficient cell phone plans. But the one big change that I wasn’t quite ready for was selling our second car.
There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice. – Pope John Paul II
I was skeptical of the idea of being a one car family. We had two kids and a third on the way. We could easily afford two cars, and I was worried about Jason biking to work, especially with the crazy Houston traffic. To make it even more dramatic, we would have to sell our house and move closer to work just so he could bike. It really did (and still does) sound crazy. But I appreciated Jason’s dream of traveling the world and he soon convinced me of his vision. Within a year we and our kids were excitedly planning our first adventure to Italy.
At around the same time, I began to dream of homeschooling our kids. Our pre-school daughter was reading chapter books on her own, and as a teacher, I was afraid that the public school system would be a step back for her. With a homeschool approach, we could challenge her and keep the momentum going. This turned out to be the best choice for our kids and for our family’s travel dream.
Today – Travellers!
Today, we are still a one car family, and the lifestyle changes, along with our decision to homeschool, have helped our travel dreams become a reality. We have seen the world from the Pantheon to Paris. Our kids talk non-stop about dog sledding in Alaska, eating squid ink pasta in Peru, and counting the red phone booths in London. I can talk all day about how shooting for a goal teaches you that nothing is impossible. But, one of the most amazing lessons is how God can bless our lives in ways that we never would have expected.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths. – 3 Proverbs 3: 5-6
Before we became a one car family, Jason and I lived two parallel lives with our own schedules from 8am-5pm and we only shared family time with all of us at morning and night. But when you have to share something as vital to our modern lives as a car, it connects us so that we depend on each other throughout the day. Every night before we go to bed, Jason and I plan the next day and figure out who needs the car. Sometimes he bikes to work, other times he takes the car, and occasionally I drop him off.
You may think this isn’t worth the effort. At first it wasn’t. Loading three kids into the car for a twenty minute round trip to work isn’t easy. But we have learned to treasure these moments in the car. We listen to music and talk about our day. The kids tell us which country they want to visit next. And they love saying goodbye in four different languages as Dad leaves the car, his co-workers chuckling behind him.
Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. – Ephesians 5:15-17
Because we moved closer to work, we also spend more time together. Now my husband’s office is only 10 minutes away by car or bike. We have learned that our time together is our most valuable asset. Not only do we have more time as a family to play, but my husband uses that extra time to help me teach. He helps the kids with math and plans science experiments with them in the evening. Plus, as an added bonus, we get to have lunch together with Daddy several times a week, whenever he has the car.
The desire to downsize has spread to other aspects of our lives as well. We have simplified our lives by choosing a smaller house with less upkeep and closer to our everyday needs. With less space, we are also very careful about buying things that we don’t need. Bigger is not always better. A bigger lawn means more work, and a bigger house means more cleaning and more stuff. While our house is a tiny condo by Texas standards (1400 sq. feet), it is cozy and full of laughter and noise.
A Day in the Life
On an average homeschool day, our life is centered around our dining table, since we don’t have an extra room for school. The dining table is where we eat, pray and learn together. For our family, the daily school schedule is different, depending on whether we have dance classes, co-op, or a field trip scheduled. Every morning, the kids look in their assignment folder to see their schedule and daily assignments. This has taught the kids to be self-directed and motivated. They often complete handwriting and other self-directed subjects before I have finished cleaning the breakfast dishes. Additional enrichment activities such as books and activities about our next destination usually come later in the day.
When we first chose to homeschool with Seton, it was because of Seton’s Catholic roots, accreditation and teacher support. But the one benefit of homeschooling that has aided our lifestyle the most was the flexibility of having school year round. We now travel when other families are in school, which lowers travel cost and allows us to teach school during the hot Texas summer months. We can then take off all of December and Holy Week to spend time with God and family.
To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself. – Pope Benedict XVI
One of the greatest joys of homeschooling with Seton is that the curriculum is centered on God. This has helped our family put God first at home and in our travels. We were inspired by the History and Religion curriculum to turn our trips into pilgrimages. Some of our destinations included going to Christmas Mass at Saint Junipero Serra’s mission in San Diego, visiting the tiny house that Saint Rose of Lima lived in as a Dominican tertiary nun in Peru, and listening to Pope Benedict’s address in St Peter’s Square.
Seton has also inspired our kids to have their own travel dreams. When my daughter, Grace, read about Good King Wenceslas in History for Young Catholics, the Czech Republic became her top travel destination. My other daughter, Brecklyn, now dreams of visiting Italy and walking in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi after learning about him in Religion class.
The human heart plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. – Proverbs 16:9
We dreamed of travel, but God has led the transformation in our family. The changes we made to our lifestyle in order to achieve these dreams have had a much more positive effect than we could have anticipated. Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices to make your dreams come true; you never know when your dream will become more beautiful than you ever imagined.
As usual, we already have an exciting adventure planned for the Christmas holidays, starting with Christmas Eve in Denver with family. On Christmas morning, we board the California Zephyr for a scenic, 2-day ride through the Rocky Mountains to San Francisco. After a few days in California enjoying the clam chowder and Mission Dolores (another St. Serra mission), we are flying to Thailand where we will spend a week in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, fulfilling our daughter’s wish of playing with elephants.