But How Will Soleil Make Friends?

“But how will Soleil make friends? How will she ‘socialize’?”

It’s not a bad question. Given that we’re always on the move, and that Soleil is an only child, I can understand why people worry. Truthfully, we worry. Out of all the questions we get, this topic has probably garnered more conversations between Tree and me than all the others put together.

Usually the questions come around five minutes after we’ve explained to someone for the first time that we don’t have a fixed home, that we’re always traveling. Before we had Sol, the most common question was how we made money. And went the bathroom. But now that we have an RV and a little person aboard, people want to know much more.  Presumably, they want to know if a couple dirtbags traveling in an old motorhome can responsibly take care of a child.

What about her doctor appointments? How does she get her vaccines? What about her education? Wait a minute, how will she ever have FRIENDS?!

Look how lonely she looks. Cruel parents. 

Soleil in Sand

I don’t take offense to the questions because I know 99% of the time, they come from a good place. People are concerend for Soleil’s welfare, how could I be upset about that? And I understand that our lifestyle is, quite literally, extra-ordinary. Most people don’t know many other families living in vehicles intent on driving around the world, so there’s little personal reference beyond us. We’re kind of a freaky experiment.  (Yet, as much as I’d like to say we’re like Lewis and Clark, braving a new frontier, we’re not alone. Check out Bumfuzzle, Bodeswell, A2Z, Advodna, and other traveling families I’m not thinking of right now).

Yet, so far, Soleil makes friends despite our suspect transience.

Granted, we make an effort.

Take these girls we met in Yosemite, Sophia and Cassidy. They were camped just a couple sites down, so Soleil and I invited them to come jump in puddles with us. I mentioned that they should ask their parents first, and for some reason, I assumed that these 5 and 7 year old girls would do just that. Whoops.

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Sometimes she meets kids while we’re out climbing, which makes her day go from good to GREAT.

Soleil with her climbing friend

Here she is reading a story to future crusher Theo, pro-climber Beth Rodden’s adorable boy. I like to think these two will be climbing partners some day.

Soleil and Theo

We almost always meet kids at the park.

Soleil and boy at pond

But, more than anything, she bonds with our friends’ kids. It seems so many of our friends got a late start in life, too–Peter Pan syndrome?–so Soleil has a gaggle of ‘cousins’ (real and extended) to keep up with.

Like the McGuire gang in Mammoth…

Soleil and the McGuire kids

And the Lorenzo boys in Vegas….

Elijah and Soleil Hot Wheels

Soleil and Noah with drum

And the Giddens girls in Kernville….

Sol and Pepe4

Sol and Pepe

Okay, the below photo may be one of my favorite pictures of all time. It’s frickin’ hilarious.  I can just picture these three girls giggling over it in 20, 40, 60+ years from now.

Three Girls by the River

There’s no doubt that it’s not as easy for Sol to socialize with kids her age as it would be if she went to school every day, or if we lived in a neighborhood teeming with little people. But there’s always a sacrifice with every choice we make in life.  When Tree and I weigh what she gains with our lifestyle against what she loses, we feel good about our choice to raise her on the road.

Besides, with all the bullying, low performance, and high peer pressure these days, I’m not convinced that school, as it’s currently designed, is the best way for children to learn or be socialized anyway. The idea of making my child sit in a chair from 8-3, next to fifty of her closest ‘friends,’ to learn by rote, with only about an hour of free-time to eat lunch and play, doesn’t sound like a winning equation to me. And I loved school. But I had the privilege of going to a VERY small private school for most of my education–one that we couldn’t afford for Soleil anyway. These days it seems we treat education like factory farming: pack in as many kids as possible, cut costs at the expense of quality and humanity, and churn out a product that looks okay on the outside but is not as healthy or wholesome as it should be. Our children and teachers–and, maybe even our farm animals–deserve a system that’s more, I don’t know, ...Finnish. Okay, enough for now. (Clearly, I’m going to have to devote a whole essay to this subject.)

One thing Soleil will learn as a nomad is that to make and maintain friendships, she’ll have to extend herself. And, of course we’ll have to facilitate that.. But don’t we all? If we want to have a meaningful–and not forced or merely circumstantial–relationship with anyone or anything, even a plant, we need to nurture it, consciously and deliberately.

Just look at her nurture, Pepe. She’s a natural!

Soleil hugging Pepe

And, besides, if she were to spend all day penned up at school, what relationship to the world would she actually be developing? How to sit still and take tests? How to ‘fit in’ to a weird social hierarchy that values popularity over good character? Oh god, someone stop me! Anyhoo, the point is…

I’d rather her be outside, running and climbing and jumping in mud puddles, exploring the big wide world and testing her limits–learning how to be happy and at home with herself.

Pepe, Soleil and Maggie

 

 

 

Comments

  1. nonituyas says:

    Ding, ding!
    You are raising a FREE spirit, one who is learning to embrace all the beauty, caring, variety, spice, adventures, opportunities and spontaneity that life has to offer. She is not only going to be “just fine” – she’s learning to be AMAZING!

  2. Suzanne, I wish we could have lunch to discuss education as a passion and as an institution. Being that you’re a teacher, a mom, and you shared my experience at both Lycée and South High, I feel like we could really solve the world’s problems 🙂

    • Now you’re talking!

    • I’ll jump in on this one as a guy non-parent Stevie. The pic is GREAT first! And then what came to my mind was. . .She is who she is because of yesterday and she will be who she is because of tomorrow, so live for today! Or something like that. 🙂 Add some Indian Peace Pipe to the wine and then you will have a recipe for solving the worlds problems. lol 🙂

  3. Oh for goodness sakes…she’s so little…it’s a non issue until she’s at least 10-12…from 0-7 the world of the child is the parent’s world…7-14 it slowly becomes the community around her (school, acquaintances, neighborhood or travel mates) and 14-21 it becomes a world she puts together on her own…(school, work, community)…the circle widens naturally as children are able to make those connections on their own…you and Tree are still her world. So much will probably happen in the next few years…there are so many road schoolers out there…you will probably bump into them…one of my best friends homeschooled two little girls on a boat sailing the world for 10 years and didn’t come to ground until the oldest went in 9th grade (about age 14)…

  4. and they had TONS of friends….all families who were sailing….

  5. PS: avoid vaccines

  6. Lisa, I like that ‘world’ to age breakdown! When I look back on my own childhood, it totally fits. I think the woman that asked me the question was more concerned about the future, when Sol’s ‘supposed’ to be in school. I totally agree with you, we met lots of road-schooled kids in South America, and they seemed happy, enthusiastic, and well-adjusted. And if at any point Sol really wants to go to school, I’m sure we can make that happen for her.To be honest, the only part I’m concerned about is how much work it’s going to be for me to homeschool. But as I mentioned in the post, that’s the sacrifice that comes with our choice.

  7. Just had a box of some Pre-K road school games and toys delivered to us in an RV park in Haines, Alaska. Oh, and spent the morning at the local public library enjoying story time with about 30 other kids. I don’t see wanting to do anything different for the foreseeable future.

    • I’m so looking forward to when we get to meet up with you guys. It’s so much harder to catch our fellow nomads than our ‘fixed home’ friends. We’ll be in Squamish for the month of July…any chance we’ll cross paths? What’s your itinerary?

    • Ugh. Doesn’t look good. Alaska through mid August and then down through Jasper and Banff before cutting east. Boston by Halloween. We can stay in touch and share notes tho!

    • Yes please! Send me an email of any ‘must-have’ toddler toys/games that facilitate fun learning on the road. I’ll do the same. Until we join forces, onward….

  8. Stevie, there are SO many homeschool options…including some where you actually hire a teacher who skypes with your child…homeschooling takes 1/4 of the time of regular school…the main things to “learn” are reading, writing and basic math…you don’t need a full on curriculum to do that…she’ll learn as much or more just by exploring the world the way she will…we used Calvert when we homeschooled our 3rd & 5th graders…they didn’t miss a beat when they got back into the “system”…you are so right that the system has major problems…I don’t know anyone who has homeschooled for any amount of time and chose to return to the system who struggled with their child…the only caveat being the stupid “core” math that they are shoving down all our throats…my 8th grader (and thus we) has been going nuts trying to understand this unnatural way of learning math…we are opting out next year and doing BYU online math for her which she can do in the PC system and it goes on her transcripts as “math”…one-to-one homeschoolish/college+tutor = happy child and happy family. Education is changing SO fast right now…good and bad…you aren’t missing a thing. Believe me!

    • I am so happy to hear that homeschooling only takes 1/4 of the time. I kind of suspected that with one-on-one learning, we wouldn’t need 7hr days, 5x/week. I have a friend who homeschools and she’s part of a group that meets up in the afternoons to play, too. We may have to join around 50 of those groups around the world, but whatever….we’ll make it work 😉

  9. Kaycee B says:

    Smart parenting! Lucky kid. XO

  10. Maybe she should have asked “how will she keep track of her world full of friends.”

  11. I wish I had you and Tree for MY parents!!!!!

  12. She will make friends all over the world! Those people need to travel more! lol

    • That’s definitely the goal, and I don’t see why not. After all, Tree and I are making friends all over the world, why can’t Sol? I think the problem is going to be how we’re going to visit so many people all the time 🙂

    • Right! When she gets older people will think she’s some dignitary or diplomat with all the people she knows! lolol!!

  13. Tim Widmer says:

    Don’t have to sell us at all on what you guys are doing. Hero comes to mind. You guys are raising a star, and I would love Sol to meet our kids. They would so get along. Anyway.. Come up to the Santiam.. Tree can paddle a karma unlimited.. Think it is a bit bigger than that dancer he was paddling.. And stevie.. You and Sol, Karen and the kids can float down in a raft.. I promise not to flip.. Cheers
    Tim

  14. Sol will always have her best friend cousins!!

    Ps. The kids only get 20 minutes for lunch. You guys rock.
    Xoxo

    • Soleil is so lucky to have such loving cousins! We love Nica and Theo and Abigail! On another note, I can’t believe the kids only get 20 minutes for lunch. What the heck! (as Theo would say). Didn’t we used to get an hour? How is anyone supposed to have a civilized meal with proper food swapping and juvenile conversation with that kind of time limit. Sheez.

  15. You’re right about that. We bond with like-minds and like-hearts, right? She’s going to have one colorful flock of friends! xoxo

  16. Isn’t that picture of Maggie, Pepe, and Soleil just priceless?

  17. Beautiful Momma. Bravo.

  18. Having ‘lost’ all the friends I grew up with was the gift that taught me how to maintain friendships. As much as it hurts when you loose those formative relationships from childhood, as an adult you choose friends differently, relationships that nurture your soul not just your continuity.

    • Agreed. When I got out of high school, I didn’t really know how to maintain those friendships, and I moved to Hollywood and chose new friends based on their fabulous party skills. And then the heroin years created a mass exodus in my life. When I got clean at 26, I realized how incredibly important community is, how conscious I need to be in creating it, and how much I need to nurture it to sustain it. Today I think it’s my biggest strength. Speaking of which, see you Tuesday!

  19. My Mom moved my brother around ALL the time. I used to hate it but as I grew older I realized that I am comfortable around any type of people and have no nervousness about meeting new people, everyone is my friend. Unless their jerks 😉

  20. Anonymous says:

    She’s climbing mountains, seeing the world, learning languages and making friends everywhere when she could be spending 6 hours a day glued to video games and computers. Pobrecita Soleil. Go girl!

    • True true! The world is an exciting place for Soleil. And it’s even more exciting for Tree and me now that we get to share it with her.

  21. Lori G. says:

    I think it is a rude question. It implies you don’t have the brains to know what is best for your child or life. I have been raising and homeschooling my now 14 year old grandson since birth and we have always home schooled him. Some of the questions people feel entitled to ask about our lifestyle choice just astound me. First of all, those asking this question should first learn the definition of socialization. Socializing means hanging out with people for fun. Socialization means having the skills to do so successfully. Your daughter is meeting new people of ALL ages all the time. It’s natural for her & she will easily be able to join in with young or old and just like my grandson, will have a much wider world view & experiences with “socializing” than most children her age. Sticking up to 30 kids of the same age in a room with each other isn’t my idea of socialization. Traditional schools are profoundly anti-social if you really think about what is going on there. Just how much time do kids get to socialize in often over crowded classrooms, 20 minute lunch/recesses and only within their age group? Hmmm My grandson can converse and interact with babies on up to elders and he enjoys it! He learns so much by being able to interact with all ages and it’s not something foreign to him. People assume a LOT when you live a lifestyle that is different from the “norm” (what is that anyway??), but one thing we have taught our grandson is to be tolerant of others & their lifestyle choices and not be rude and question them about it. The beauty is in the journey, so carry on and know you are doing what is best for your family!

    • Amen, sister! You’re invited to share my campfire any day 🙂 But I don’t get offended by the questions because I know that so many people weren’t raised the way you’re raising your grandson. It’s hard for them to imagine outside the box. I think of the Allegory of the Cave….how the cave dwellers couldn’t comprehend that the shadows on the walls were made from things passing the opening of the cave. That being said, I think there’s a mini-movement starting…I see more and more people living on the road or in tiny houses, questioning the status quo, and thinking about alternative lifestyles. Times are changing, hopefully towards a more tolerant, compassionate, and conscious society. I’m excited to see the world Soleil and your grandson create.

  22. I think you are right about this mini-movement. With the circles that we run in these days the question of schooling hardly comes up because everyone just assumes we are either, homeschooling, unschooling, roadschooling, or some combination of all three. And everyone seems to understand just what that means. Sure, we can go back and visit family and friends from our pre-traveling life and get a lot of the misunderstanding vibe. But for the most part I think most people, even those who are still on the traditional route, have come to realize that there is something fundamentally broken with the public school system, and are open-minded enough to know that there are other options out there.

    P.S. Ali laughed when she saw that last picture, because Ouest has the same jewelry box. Also, we’re going to be in the States for a bit later this summer. I hope we can catch up with each other at some point.

    • Hola Bums! Agreed, the nomadic, alternative schooling family movement is totally happening. In fact, some people might say you guys were on the forefront of it here in the States 😉 Email us when and where you guys will be later this summer. We’d love to finally cross paths if it’s possible. I was joking with Dave and Ann that it seems harder, by far, to visit our nomad friends than our fixed friends.

  23. If I had one wish and one wish only, it would be that I could go back in time and raise my daughter the way you are raising Soleil. She is now 31 and the damage done by being in the public school system can never be undone. You are so wise to have recognized this at your young age.

    • Hey Eve. First of all, thank you for your kind words and support. I carry the good stuff close to my heart.

      I’m sorry to hear that you have such a disheartening regret. I think as parents, it’s inevitable. We’ll always look back on something and say, if only I knew then what I know now. But you did the best you could do at that moment. Your love and intention was always right, even if maybe you wouldn’t make the same choices again.

      In 9th grade, the campus of the private school I went to closed down, and rather than sending me to the other campus a little further away on a full scholarship, my parents sent me to public school–with nothing but protest and heartbreak from me, even some of my teachers lobbied on my behalf–but my parents were dead set on ‘socializing’ me. They thought I was becoming ‘an educated idiot.’ Well, at public school, I got in the advanced placement program and continued to excel academically, but I also discovered drugs and began to experiment and ‘party’ wildly. By the time I was 17, I was secretly battling my first addiction. It wasn’t until I was 26 that I finally ‘recovered’ from that cycle of self-abuse. Anyhow, I tell you this because I DID RECOVER, and although my parents might regret their choice to send me to public school, I am grateful for everything that I’ve been through in my life. Not only do I love who I am today, I feel blessed that I gifts of compassion to pay forward. So, don’t be too hard on yourself, Mom. Sometimes we can turn our darkness into light, our shit into gold. It’s all about being an alchemist. xo.

  24. Brenda de Klerk says:

    Thank you for this one; i think what you doing is extra ordinary ; brave and amazing!! I can only see Soleil as a total advanced ; understanding and responsible grown up one day! what an amazing family you are! i bow to you in grace; keep going; do what your hearts lead you to; she is such a amazing little girl.
    Salute!!! i totally love following you; been following you over some years; and I cant wait for the sprinter life to appear on my mail.

  25. Crystal De La Paz says:

    Hi Stevie,
    I have been following you guys for about a year and a half, found your website while searching for families raising their kids on the road. My partner and I have been mostly living on the road for the past 12 years and lovin every min of it. Sleeping under the stars, drinking till late around a campfire, living life. Then…we had a baby 🙂 and truth be told our world turned upside down in the best way possible. Soleil and our daughter are actually only 6 weeks apart. Aurora Fire was born mid December 2012. We knew we still wanted to have a nomadic lifestyle but some things did change. We went from always living in a car/van/tent to hopping around short term rentals. We did move into a van and take a road trip last summer/autumn from The Czech Republic to Finland through the Baltic’s. Aurora loved it. Somewhere in all of this we decided to homeschool/unschool. It just clicked, one day I was worrying about not having enough time to travel once she started school and the next I was like homeschooling…? After reading about the movement we were in. My partner is Czech, I’m American and we could divide our time better between both cultures. Plus take off whenever we want to somewhere else! I do realize this is a privilege, a great privilege that not all people who want to homeschool can do and I am thankful. Jiří, my partner, is a commercial diver so he is not always with us. He is off a few months/on a few months depending on the project and where in the world he is diving. Sometimes it’s just Aurora and I. I have been asking my self this same question, are we giving her enough access to kids her own age? Is she learning about conflict resolution? Sharing! Right now it’s summer so everyone is outside, friendship is only a playground away 🙂 BUT I do worry about the future at times. We know we’re making the right choice, we have no second thoughts but the uncertainty still creeps in. I think if we have faith in the flow of life, the flow of ourselves things will fall into place. There are times I’ve started to worry about Aurora, for whatever reason, and then BAM! She figured it out or it worked it’s self out. I’m telling ya, if I just listen to her she’ll tell me what she needs. Great post, love seeing other families with young kids galavanting the globe challenging the status quo. Isn’t parenting a journey!

    • Hey Crystal,

      Well, the solution is obvious, right? Our girls have to meet! Not only are they 6wks apart and living parallel nomadic lives, they share a little bit of the same heritage: my grandfather was half Czech, my maiden name is Cizek. When is Aurora’s bday? (Beautiful name by the way!) My bday is the 16th of December. She’s a Sagittarius like me….so many coincidences, right?

      I think it’s natural, and probably a good sign, that a little bit of doubt creeps in at times. It shows that we’re always re-examining our choices to tailor our lifestyle to meet everyone in the family’s needs optimally. At the same time, it’s important that we maintain a community of like-minded people so that we stay inspired and brave. Thank you for being part of my community! I really appreciate it and feel lucky that you and others read my stories and take the time to comment.

      Keep up the good work Mama. I hope we get to share a campfire and some wine someday.

      xo

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