When I went to bed on August 20, 2017, I had no intention of waking up early or seeing the upcoming solar eclipse from anything beyond the local library. Driving for hours on end to reach the Path of Totality wasn’t even on my radar.
My disabilities often mean that early morning activities are off the table. My right foot has partial paralysis and a ton of nerve damage. Mornings are a gamble. There are days when standing isn’t something I can do for a few hours – waiting for medication to kick in. My children understand this and they are able to get their mornings underway without me. The teens have their school work all set up weeks in advance in their personal binders. PB knows that he can rely on his sisters if I need a little extra time before I can start my day. You could say we have a system that works for us.
What I hadn’t counted on was that I would wake up a little bit earlier than usual and feel totally fine. This never happens! I immediately got online to check traffic reports and google maps. Sure enough, if I managed to wake up all three kids, get them fed, and load them in the car within 15 minutes… there was a slim chance that we could drive north and make it to the Path of Totality for the solar eclipse just in time to experience it the way I secretly dreamed.
I had seen David Baron’s TED Talk online while researching curriculum for the kids and the idea seemed romantic enough.
I took my morning medications, finished pulling on some real clothes, and dashed around the house waking up children and telling them to hurry up and get ready to leave in 5 minutes. Let me be clear: I in no way expected my children to be ready in 5, 10, or even 15 minutes. This was my most optimistic self aiming for something I did not believe was truly achievable.
10 minutes later
Huh. Go figure. All 3 kids fed, dressed, and in the car. I take no credit for this. This was entirely a miracle of their own design. I had not even told them where we were going, so real was the fear that we wouldn’t actually make it to the Totality.
20 minutes out of the city, I asked them to review their lessons on solar eclipses with me. I knew it had been less than a week since the work had been assigned. They recited a few basic answers and asked if that’s where we were headed. This seemed as good a time as any to lie. “We’re going to get as far north as we can. We won’t quite make the Path of Totality, but we’ll come as close as we are able.” Maybe it wasn’t a real lie. I still believed it, even if we were making good time.
My favorite photo of us? No. Definitely not my best work. That said, it’s one of the photos that I’m most proud of. We busted our buns and made it all the way to Shelley, Idaho with time to spare before the totality. Our little road bound homeschool managed to defy our own odds and experience something truly magical together. David Baron was right. There’s nothing like a solar eclipse. My children will not be forgetting this experience any time soon.
We did this as a team. Every single person had to work through their own issues to make this happen. I had to wake up and decide that a little pain is nothing compared to usual and that it wasn’t going to stop me. Zoe had to decide that her nervousness about breaking from routine (not a favorite for those on the Autism Spectrum. Note: We would not have attempted this drive if she had said no. I did ask if she was willing to do a day of road school when I woke her up.) and keep her heart open to adventure. Siren & PB have different perspectives on what morning should look like. PB likes to bust through his school work as fast as possible to earn a little Overwatch time. Siren likes to stay in bed as long as I’ll let her. This was a stretch for both of them.
I would have loved it if Abe had been able to take off the day from work, but alas, it was not to be. Gratitude doesn’t even begin to describe how much I appreciate his support of my road school days for our kids. He tells me I’m a great parent, but I couldn’t be this level of awesome without his constant support.
Days like that are a little frightening for me. I know that sounds strange, but here’s the scary truth: If we can pull that off, what else can we do? Those days remind my wanderlust that road schooling is an actual thing that actual people do. Someday we may look back at 2017 and ask ourselves what it was about this time that lit our motivational fires and made road school happen for us. Dear future me: Think about that eclipse. Think about the Path of Totality. Think about how one long shot achieved can turn into two, and then three, and on and on. Sometimes a good run of good luck goes on longer than anyone could have possibly imagined.