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Family RV trip turns into school on wheels

Category: RV
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel
Publish Date: Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Summary: Imagine taking three young boys, loading them into one RV, and traveling 13,000 miles of open road over the course of eight weeks. Although it sounds like the pilot to a sitcom, it was a reality for the Tison family.

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Imagine taking three young boys, loading them into one RV, and traveling 13,000 miles of open road over the course of eight weeks. Although it sounds like the pilot to a sitcom, it was a reality for the Tison family.

The family of five left their home in East Knoxville in October, and pulled into their driveway one week before Christmas. They visited over 25 states, went into Canada and Mexico, saw countless landmarks, and made a lifetime of memories.

"Her dad," said Tom Tison, referring to his wife, Christy, "owned his own business and was able to take off a month each summer to travel with his family. We had talked about doing this even before we got married ... " Christy nodded in agreement.

"It was such an experience in my life that really opened up my eyes," she said. "I came from a small town in North Carolina where many people had never seen the ocean. We went to every state in the Union that we could drive to, and I think that fueled my desire to do this with my kids. We wanted our kids to have a new perspective; to see how other people live in other parts of the country. The terrain may be different, but people are the same."

That point was made when Christy ran into a couple from California on the beach in Oregon. "They were surprised to see (Christy) had shoes on, being from Tennessee," said Tom with a good-natured smile.

"They said, 'I bet you think we are all a bunch of fruits and nuts in California!' But the thing is," Christy added, "until you actually meet different people and go different places, we all kind of believe the stereotypes of people. The truth is, while we may differ on ideals and stuff, we are all basically the same."

Tom, who owns Tison Shelton consulting, can work on the road with the help of the Internet and his cell phone. Their children proved to be just as portable.

In order to make the trip, the Tison's decided to home school their two older sons, Thomas-Allan, 11, and Jonathan, 8. Shelton, who is 3, went along for the ride. "Thomas-Allan and Jonathan are both very interested in everything," said Christy. "So now seemed like the time to go."

History and science were taught in real time, through real life situations during visits to historical places like Mt. Rushmore and Old Faithful.

The boys participated in the Junior Ranger programs that are offered through the National Park system, and handwriting, grammar, and spelling were practiced through letter and journal writing. Math could be done anywhere- in the back of the RV, counting change at McDonald's, or adding up all the miles they traveled.

The family began their journey in St. Louis, "Just like Lewis and Clark!" laughed Christy. They traveled through virtually every state along the way. "The only states in the Midwest that we didn't get to were Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas," said Tom.

"We made sure we got a picture of every state sign," Christy said. "No matter what time it was, if it was pouring rain, whatever, we made sure we got a picture with that state sign!" she said.

Overall, the family adapted easily to life on wheels. Still, Christy tried to make the RV feel like home. The family celebrated Halloween by carving cantaloupes instead of pumpkins because they were smaller and more space-efficient. "Besides, we could eat the insides while we were carving!" Christy said.

Although being away for so long was occasionally difficult, the Tison's feel that it was absolutely worth it.

"Every night we'd ask the kids, 'What was your favorite thing about today?' " said Tom. "And every night Thomas-Allan would say, 'This was the best day of my life.' "

 


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