It was never on anyone’s radar to live through a pandemic. Being prepared to go on lockdown and end all physical interaction with people outside of our family was not on our radar. However, as we take on the constant changes in COVID-19 Life, we have noticed that our kids are not just doing well. They are still thriving. This is how we think our lifestyle has given them an upper hand on living through this time.
- Unschooling– The most obvious way is that we practice Self-Directed Learning. So, our children were used to having some autonomy over their day and what they learn. This also meant that they can sustain a good chunk of time without adult intervention. This was helpful to us as we needed that time to figure out our business and sort our Big Grown-Up Emotions during this time.
- Alternative Learning Resources– Since we are on the move, we have already researched the online and alternative resources to supplement our learning on the road. If anything, the Pandemic just increased our access to quality online resources. We are really hoping this is a growing trend, and our virtual ballet classes and art classes can keep growing!
- Family Time– Being a traveling family and having 2 parents work from “home” means we all are used to what it looks like to spend 24/7 together. Because of #1 and this being our norm, we live in a close space and still GIVE each other space. We already weave in and out of each other’s day. This isn’t to say there are days where we get on each others’ nerves or feel touched out, but our boundaries are already established. So, we are not getting used to each other in a crisis.
- Emotional Regulation– This one is not entirely due to van life, but because of van life, we have had to stare our emotional “demons” in the face. There is nowhere to go when you throw a tantrum in a 70 sq ft van. So, we have put a lot of work as parents into being conscious and managing our emotions within the space. This also means learning and honoring what each child needs emotionally. So, if it is a hug or just to be left to simmer, we have had to figure this out to co-exist happily on the road. This makes BIG Pandemic Feelings come out in manageable ways and not usually explosive episodes.
- Less is More– I wouldn’t go as far as to say we are minimalist. That requires a level of self-control that I know we do not possess. However, we have learned to shop with intention and loosen the correlation between joy and consumerism, even if just a little bit. This means decorating the van and exchanging one gift brings us the same joy as a huge Christmas Tree and 10 presents. A lopsided birthday cake tastes just as yummy as a perfect “Pinterest worthy” cake. Time together on the beach brings just as much joy as time together by a pool. During this trying time, we have been able to embrace simplicity even more. We are actually fine-tuning this skill to take our Van Life choices even further!
- Finding Consistency in the Inconsistent– As an Early Childhood professional, I was taught that children need routine and predictability. What my education did not teach me is that this can take on lots of forms, and inconsistency in itself can provide consistency. I do not mean in a way that is neglectful or harmful. I mean in ways that allow your child to find comfort and maybe even joy in the unknown. Part of our love for Van Life is that we rest our heads in the same home, even if that home moves from place to place. We discovered routines in our actions and within our family that was not reliant on location or outside factors. What do we do when we wake up? What do we do when we are in a new place? How do we go about adventuring? All of this provides consistency without rigidity.
For our family, we really thrive in this space where we honor individual goals AND the collective good. I also know that it took time and effort for us to establish these habits and norms in our family. My biggest wish for other families is that they give themselves the grace and space to explore what their new normal is like. How does your family operate at it’s best when the outside world is shut off? I think you will find a lot of freedom and joy when you hit your stride.
About the Author
Tiana Kubik is a wife, mother, writer, educator, and business owner from Chicago, IL. You may already know her from TK Photography, which she co-owns with her photographer husband Thomas, but Tiana's passion for education, learning, family, and travel is presented for us in her blog Us Along the Way. Follow along to get a feel for what #vanlife looks like for a family of four. Tiana has also recently turned her passion and background for education into a new business, which is what lead me to connect with her. Her new venture, Curious Kids Learn, is a valuable resource for all parents who are finding themselves wondering "How do we navigate educating our children from this point forward?" I encourage you to connect with her if you have questions about what homeschooling, or Self-Directed Education, could look like for your family.