A Liberty Township family decided to take advantage of the freedom that comes with virtual learning and take to the road on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
After they log off for the day with Lakota Local Schools, the Piening kids enjoy biking in the bayou and lessons at picnic tables by the water because for this schoolyear, the family’s home is an RV – which is currently in Louisiana.
Knowing they could keep their kids learning virtually, Jamie and Dan Piening hatched the pandemic plan to hit the road with their kids and stay connected to the Tri-State via Zoom and Wi-Fi.
“Within two weeks, we sold three cars, bought a truck, bought an RV, rented out the house, yeah, had a big yard sale,” Dan Piening said.
Now 10-year-old Elle, 7-year-old Cami and 8-year-old Danny are getting an education far beyond a normal classroom.
Elle shares her travels with her teacher and classmates at Van Gorden Elementary. In their Google classroom she leaves clues to where she is and the other kids do their best to figure it out.
“It’s been a challenge to build community virtually, so this has been a really good opportunity for her and her classmates to connect,” Elle’s teacher, Tricia Paugstat, said.
So far, the Piening family has been through 17 states. After some repairs to the RV, they’ll head west to Houston.
The family said they’ve had lots of high points so far, like being in Selma, Alabama, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Just getting to go and see where the civil rights march was – and seeing all these things in history and being able to share that with the kids – was really important to us as well,” Jaime Piening said.
The kids have favorite outside-the-classroom learning moments, too, like learning to start a fire from scratch and lessons in whittling with pocket knives. And little things, like the reasons behind each kid’s favorite color, come from that precious commodity – spending time together.
“It’s just something I’ll never forget, and I will never regret taking this time to do this trip,” Jaime Piening said. “And just expanding their worldview is important, and it’s been such a gift to do that.”