Family and (Home) School on the Road
Greg and Julie Alexander’s home school becomes a “road school,” as they take five of their seven children with them in their 35-foot RV bringing their marriage apostolate, Covenant of Love.
Several times a year, Greg and Julie Alexander’s home school becomes a “road school,” as they take five of their seven children with them in their 35-foot RV bringing their marriage apostolate, Covenant of Love (TheAlexanderHouse.org/outreach), to parishes around the country.
For two to six weeks at a time, the family travels to parishes in a particular region of the country as part of their “Great Marriage Challenge”; the couple gives talks, retreats and workshops aimed at encouraging couples to strengthen their marriages.
All the while, the Alexanders, who live in San Antonio, Texas, homeschool their kids, ages 3 to 13, using online curriculum supplemented by plenty of on-the-road lessons. (The couple’s 26-year-old son and 24-year-old daughter do not travel with the family, although their daughter works for the apostolate.)
“We wanted them to be with us to experience everything that we’d have on the road,” Julie said. “We’ve seen places and parts of the country we never would have seen before.”
The Alexanders took their first tour to Florida and Alabama in August 2013 and have since logged more than 20,000 miles visiting 47 parishes in 34 dioceses. They are planning a tour of Texas in January 2015, followed by another trip to Arizona, the Bay Area, Oregon and Washington in February and March 2015.
One benefit of home schooling on the road is the chance to visit important places. The Alexanders’ 13-year-old daughter, Katharine, is assigned to research historical, religious and otherwise noteworthy landmarks on the family’s route and then teach her younger brothers and sister about them. Through the RV’s wide front window, the children often get panoramic perspectives on sights such as the Grand Canyon. They also visit educational places, national memorials and spiritual sites, including churches and cathedrals.
Both Greg and Julie teach the children; Julie does the majority of the teaching, and the older kids help teach their siblings, too.
“There’s a lot of interaction with everyone in the family,” Julie said.
The family meets priests, religious and parishioners who are sometimes surprised when they all arrive. “We’re actually evangelizing without using words,” Julie said. “It’s a family mission, and they’re just learning as we go.”
The kids also help with the apostolate, Greg said.
Katharine interviews workshop attendees on video and helps manage social media. “It’s a great experience,” Katharine said. “It’s a great learning opportunity, and meeting new people is awesome.”
From meeting other families while on the road and from learning about Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching on the theology of the body, Katharine was inspired to start her own apostolate, Beyounique11 (link available at the Alexander’s website), which seeks to help young girls recognize their true beauty. “They can have their dignity, and they can be themselves — without having to be what everyone else wants them to be,” she said.
Overall, the road-trip, home-schooling plan has been positive for all of them, Greg said: “It has been such a great learning experience for” the kids.
Greg senses urgency in their travels. “We feel marriage is in such a grave state that we have to be out there to wake people up,” he said, especially in light of the recent synod on the family. We want people to “see the importance of marriage, challenge them to build marriage ministry in their parishes,” he added.
Greg said they can now see their trips as part of God’s call for their family.
“God knew all before we did: that he was going to be calling us on the road — because we do indeed see it as a calling,” Greg said. “He allowed for the conditions to be conducive to home schooling on the road.”
Added Julie: “It’s an amazing adventure, really, of our faith and our faith in action.”
Susan Klemond writes from
St. Paul, Minnesota.