Growing Up RoadSchooled: Q&A with Kelsey Henry

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When Kelsey’s parents realized that traveling for work meant her dad was never at their Texas home, an idea came to them. What if they could travel to the different places his job took him? And so they bought a fifth wheel and set up camp in San Diego, California. Not a bad first destination for full-timers.

At the age of 12, Kelsey wasn’t entirely sure about this sudden move away from her home and her friends, but kids rarely get a say in these decisions, do they? And so they family packed up their treasured belongings and moved them into storage, sold the house, and started their full-time journey.

This was the beginning of Kelsey’s life as a “roadschooler.” A common term used now for kids who are homeschooled from their RV, a decade ago it was much less popular. Kelsey was one of the only kids she knew living this unconventional life. In her latest book, Growing Up Roadschooled, Kelsey shares stories about her six years of life on the road with her parents. She covers the hardships of making friends, how travel enhanced her education, and her discovery of unschooling—a new blend of education that would allow her to pursue her interests.

She dives deep into all these topics in more in her book, but I selfishly wanted to ask Kelsey a few of the most common questions parents tend to ask her about her roadschooling experience.


What did your family think of you growing up on the road?

My brothers, who graduated high school before we started traveling, thought I was a weird homeschooled kid. Other family members were definitely concerned, mainly about my social skills and getting into college. I felt a lot of pressure to turn out “normal” in spite of my upbringing. Now (over ten years later) they have finally accepted that I turned into a functioning adult.

 

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Home Sweet Home! After we sold the house and went to Europe for the summer, my parents and I moved into our new home, a 2001 Newmar fifth wheel with three slides and a matching F-550 Ford truck.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Moving into the RV was an adjustment and came with a learning curve. Hot water didn’t flow endlessly and we had to dump something gross called a black tank. Our new home could do all kinds of things that our house couldn’t, like move to new places and expand at the push of a button, like high tech origami!⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Though I reeeeeeally wanted a kid’s bunkhouse model to have my own room, our RV was super spacious and lovely. I slept on the couch for the first 6 months, until my Mom made me a bed in the living room.

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What curriculum did you use and who taught you?

I used Abeka Christian Academy from 7th-11th grade. Then, I took the SAT test twice and the GED exam, so I could graduate early, skip my senior year, and study what I wanted to.

The program was self-taught, so I used the teacher’s manuals, watched videos of kids learning in a classroom, gave myself exams, and graded all my own homework. Now that I’m saying this, I’m wondering why I gave myself homework at all…

Seriously though, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well in my studies. We also supplemented my schoolwork with TONS of field trips and travel, like learning about American history while exploring historical sites in Virginia. That’s the best part of roadschooling! Since my brothers and other family members were concerned that I wouldn’t get into college, I felt the need to prove myself.

Is it difficult to get into college if you are homeschooled?

It can be. I went to college and grad school, so it is definitely doable! I have a B.S. in Digital Retailing and an M.S. in Marketing from the University of North Texas.

It was a bit harder for me to get into college since I did not have an official high school transcript. My applications were based completely on my SAT scores, instead of grades. Once, I got into college though, I transitioned very easily to the courses and being self-taught helped me stay motivated in my studies.

Did you have any privacy growing up in the RV?

Nope. Not much! I slept on the couch in the living room of our fifth wheel for the first six months on the road. Then, my Mom sacrificed her living room recliners to build me a bed with a curtain. WITH A CURTAIN YOU GUYS. I might have actually cried. It was a really touching gesture, and I was very grateful for it.

 

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When we first moved into the fifth wheel, I slept on the couch. I learned how to not squirm in my sleep (or else I would fall off) and how to “make the bed” (fold up and store away my bedsheets each day).⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ After six months of living in the RV, my Mom made me this bedroom in the living room by sacrificing our two recliner chairs. I may have actually cried when she put it all together. It was my very own space with a curtain. A CURTAIN!!! It was so incredibly special.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ When you live a different life than you are used to, you begin to appreciate more and see new perspectives. My time spent sleeping on the couch made me so grateful to have a space of my own.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀

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How did growing up roadschooled influence your adult life?

Ahhhh, so this is a very important question. I grew up with a lot of freedom in my education, even when I was working and going to college. So, when I got into my first job in the corporate world, I immediately felt out of place. It was a wonderful job, and I enjoyed my work, but I had lost my freedom. This internal struggle inspired my song “Free”, which motivated me to start my own business. 


My biggest key takeaway from Kelsey’s story was how her experience roadschooling cultivated a love of learning. I’ve known Kelsey for years and no one loves learning more than she does. She is constantly pushing herself to learn new things by attending conferences, taking courses, and seeking out mentors.  This is a pattern I saw repeat itself over and over in her story.

Today Kelsey is a true entrepreneur. She is a Pinterest consultant as well as a musician and blogger. She runs PositivelyDelighted.com where she shares her music and her podcast, The Positively Delighted Show. You have probably heard her name a lot if you’ve been following us for a while as one of her first freelance gigs was editing our podcast! She is one of my sweetest friends and reading her book and hearing more about what RV life was like before it was cool has me so excited to travel with Ellie as she grows up.

You can learn more about Kelsey experience roadschooling and read all of her most memorable stories from life on the road in her new book Growing Up Roadschooled, available on Amazon.