Welcome to our Site!

Welcome to Have School Will Travel, a website devoted to documenting our unique version of home schooling. Using travel across the United States as a backdrop, the world is our textbook. We combine a set curriculum with whatever educational opportunities our travel affords us, “going as the way opens!”

We are the Tysons – Mark, Denise and our son Vance, who is completing 5th grade, his 3rd year as a homeschooler. Vance is currently 11 years old, and has an older brother, Miles, who is living and working in Marietta, Georgia.

We reside on an old mountain farm located outside of Bryson City, North Carolina, very close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We moved to the mountains several years ago from Atlanta, Ga, where Mark was employed in a variety of technical management positions, both as an entrepreneur, and working for IBM and Radiant Systems.

If you are visiting the site for the first time, a good jumping off point would be the “Index to Everywhere We’ve Been”, which is a listing of articles from our Fall 2006 trip to New England and Summer 2007 trip to the American West. There you will find articles describing our adventures, how we tried to tie them into Vance’s education, plenty of pictures, and a few videos. Of special interest to kids (and his grandmother!) are “Vance’s Viewpoints”, which are short compositions by our son Vance on what he was doing at the time.

We hope you enjoy our site, and feedback is always appreciated and welcome. If you like the site, you can be automatically notified of new postings on the site by entering your email address into the subscription box at the bottom of the right hand column.

What are we up to?

Our goal as a homeschooling family is to raise a confident, well grounded son who will understand that the world is a big, diverse place. We hope that by taking extended trips around the country and tightly integrating schooling in with our travels, that Vance will gain and retain an appreciation for areas of the country other than just the Western North Carolina mountains where we live.

We’ve found that by remaining flexible, we are able to supplement a traditional schooling curriculum by ‘going as the way opens’. What this means is to adapt what we are learning to what an area has to offer. For example:

A visit to Old Fort Niagara during a re-enactment is a chance to learn about the conflicts between the English and French settling northeastern North America.

• A canoe trip offered by a nature center in the Thousand Islands offered insights into the French fur trade that helped drive the initial settlement of the region.

• A trip along a portion of the Erie Canal, and seeing first hand how the locks work, helped us understand how the canal opened up the Midwest (by not having to move things on foot around Niagara Falls)!

A visit to Minuteman National Historic Park was a chance to walk down the very roads the Minuteman and British Regulars fought at Concord. Throw in a little play acting (Dad is the British marching in a column, Vance pretends to be a minuteman shooting from behind a side wall then escaping), and we came away with a far better understanding of the events of that historic day than possible to gather from a book. A couple of very patient Park Rangers dressed in period costume helped set the context.

• Visits to the Mariners Museum at Bath, Maine, Old Mystic Seaport and Salem Maritime National Historic Park schooled us on the history and importance of the maritime trade in establishing the US as an independent country, and later a world power.

An afternoon spent on an educational dive boat helped us gain an appreciation for marine biology, and an afternoon sail on a historic wooden ‘Friendship’ sloop showed us how the sail based maritime trade worked.

The opportunities are there if you look hard enough. Nathaniel Hawthorne popped up every time we turned around in New England – Salem, Concord and Boston. We found Robert Frost’s grave in southern Vermont, and his farm in New Hampshire. Longfellow’s home in Portland, Maine provided a great lead into Paul Revere in Boston and the start of the American Revolution in Concord, Mass.

By using what was available to us, Vance came away from the New England trip with a very solid grounding in early American history, and an appetite to learn more in this interactive fashion. The best part – it was a lot more fun and interesting than just reading about it in a book!

We’ve taken several ‘educational’ excursions in the last couple of years, including a several week trip to Washington, D.C., and a 3 month camping trip in New England during the fall of 2006. We are currently in the midst of a 5 month camping trip to the Southwest and Pacific Coast regions of our country, having departed in April 2007.

The Trip

The Trip came about as part of a chance conversation while on vacation in the summer of 2003 at Mt Hood, Oregon.

While Vance was swimming in the Timberline Lodge pool with some other children, Denise began talking with one of the other moms. Come to find out, their family was taking a year long camping trip around the U.S. According to the mom, the kids reaction was a mixed bag – the younger children (of 5) loved the trip, the two teenagers complained that ‘their parents were ruining their lives', although grudgingly admitting that parts of the trip were pretty cool. But their Mom was very enthusiastic about having the opportunity to spend the time as a family, and seeing the country.

Wow, we thought, what a really cool way to live, even if for just a little while.

This encounter made a big impression on both of us – living on the road for extended periods of time was something we could do if we were willing to make the commitment to it and change our lifestyle. Vance was the right age and we all enjoyed travel. The thought of home schooling in order to give us the freedom to travel was something that intrigued us. After some discussion and soul searching, we decided to 'just do it'.

Initial steps – we took a hard look at our finances to see how we could make it happen. Mark left his job with Radiant Systems in the summer of 2004. We bought a camper and a truck big enough to pull it. We focused on completing renovations on our small mountain farmhouse near Bryson City, North Carolina, and selling our home in the Atlanta suburbs.

However, life has a funny way of interfering with the best of plans. Mark's father, suffering from a long term critical illness, declined rapidly and passed away in April, 2005. Mark took on responsibility for his grandmother's affairs, who then passed away in Jan 2006. Estates had to be handled. There were numerous odds and ends to be completed on the farmhouse. People wanted to visit, there were community activities to participate in, etc, etc, etc….one thing after another seemed to conspire against us leaving. In addition, we found we really enjoyed living up in the mountains, and weren’t in a great hurry to leave once we finally got settled in.

We jokingly told ourselves that we’d have to just pack up one night and leave if we ever wanted to get gone. The truth wasn’t far from that. We finally picked a date, told no one, packed up in a couple of days and left.

After high tailing it up to Niagara Falls, we zig-zagged across New York State for about a month, then went thru the New England States – Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and finally the New York City area. We visited mountains, seashores, and quite a bit in between. Our timing was lucky, and we experienced beautiful fall color that started in Vermont, hit the peak in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, then started all over again on the Maine coast. The weather for the most part cooperated – lots of rain, but the first snowflakes fell on us only as we were driving into our farm on the last day of our trip.

The New England trip was such a success, both from an enjoyment and educational standpoint, that we are now in the midst of a much more ambitious trip to the American West. We hope to stay on the road approximately 5 months, until early fall, focusing on the many National Parks out west.

You can contact us at: tysonpublic@gmail.com

Thanks for joining us!

- Mark, Denise and Vance Tyson

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