Dark Light

Q&A With Travel Entrepreneur Colleen Carswell

One of the most commonly touted benefits of homeschooling is the freedom it affords families. Charlie and Colleen Carswell of North Carolina are new homeschool parents who have chosen to make the very most of this freedom.

In 2021, after their fourth child was born, they decided to quit their jobs, start a travel-centered family business, and begin homeschooling. I asked Colleen about their experience so far and for any advice to give to other families who sense freedom calling.

The Epoch Times: Last year was an eventful year for your family! What led you and your husband to make the bold choice to quit your jobs and become homeschoolers?

Colleen Carswell: In February 2021, I had just given birth to our fourth child. I had been sick leading up to and after the delivery, to the point where I had to be put back in the hospital the day after coming home.

Juxtaposed to this, my husband was working in a job he absolutely hated, to the point where he was physically sick every single morning. A job that gave him one week—and no wiggle room—when it came to parental leave.

One day, between juggling all the things, we just stopped and said, “What if?” What if we invested all our time, energy, and money into our family? What if we let our family and our “why” be bigger than any worry or fear? What if we decided to leap before we’re ready? Because we will never be ready. What if?

And then we just did it. My husband quit his job and we went all in on creating a business and lifestyle that was the best fit for us, for our family. It was unconventional, but our minds were made up. And while homeschooling wasn’t even a thought in our minds at that point, it was a very natural transition when the opportunity presented itself six months later.

In regard to our decision to homeschool our kids, I will say this: It didn’t so much feel like a choice at first, but rather a rushed last resort. Just days before school was to begin, it became evident that the school board in our county wasn’t going to act in the best interests of our kids. Not only were they making unsafe decisions, we found their rationalizations to be illogical.

My husband and I knew then and there that we didn’t want to ever feel that helpless again when it came to our kids’ education, health, or safety. We could either keep going with what we knew, what felt comfortable and “normal” but wasn’t serving or acting in the best interest of our kids, or we could figure it out and find another way. And that’s exactly what we did: We found another way.

Epoch Times Photo
Visiting the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Mo. (Colleen Carswell)

The Epoch Times: Your new business centers on travel. How important do you think travel is to a child’s education?

Ms. Carswell: I love this question! I think traveling and experiencing new ways of life, meeting new people, learning new cultures and traditions, and seeing new sights, all help to mold us into the full human beings we are meant to be. I don’t think we’re meant to stay isolated and confined to one area. As the quote by Mark Twain goes, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” I couldn’t agree more.

I find that our geography can be both the greatest unifier and divider. We tend to find comfort in our community, communities full of wonderful, like-minded people—comfort that feels so safe and so supportive that it’s difficult to want to risk that ever changing. But that community is only one small corner of a vast, vibrant world. It’s only one way of life. There is so much more to experience and learn outside the boundaries of our own neighborhood, town, state, and country.

This for me is one of the most exciting parts of our homeschooling journey. Our kids get to learn through real-life experiences and interactions with the cultures, people, and places others only read about in books. And it’s why I am so adamant about creating a world where travel is more affordable, accessible, and convenient for families. Everyone should be able to travel, regardless of resources, because this world is meant for us all to enjoy.

The Epoch Times: What have been the most challenging aspects of your new lifestyle so far?

Ms. Carswell: Oof. Where to even begin? For every magical and rewarding experience homeschooling offers, it’s nearly equally full of challenges to overcome—as with most anything worth doing. The difference, though, is that when you’re focused on your “why” for choosing this lifestyle, it becomes easier to handle. Not easy, of course, but easier.

For me, one of the biggest overall challenges this year was choosing “right for us” over “right now.” Both as new entrepreneurs and homeschoolers, the easy path right now would be the conventional one: to get a job that automatically provides a paycheck every two weeks no matter what, a job that offers benefits and a steady, consistent source of income; to send kids to school for eight hours a day so we can get our work done while letting someone else plan the lessons and make the lunches and clean up the messes made during the day.

It’s a mindset challenge more than anything else. I have found I must be so unshakable in knowing that “this is what is right and meant for me and my family” that I can withstand the hardest days—those days where temptation creeps in and says, “Oh, look how green that grass is over there. Wouldn’t it be so easy if—” Because it may look easy—and it may very well even be easy in comparison—but it’s not the path that is meant for us.

We don’t want a life that is logical or conventional; we want one that’s vibrant and full of adventure. And I am committed to doing whatever it takes to create that life for me and my family.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo The family visits the “Forest Giants in a Giant Forest” sculptures at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky. (Colleen Carswell)

The Epoch Times: What were the greatest benefits you enjoyed last year?

Ms. Carswell: Togetherness. As a career-driven mom who worked outside the home for many years, I truly had no idea what I was missing. I was happy with the life we had created up until that point. Had it not been for the pandemic decimating the hospitality industry (and no one wanting to hire a pregnant woman in the middle of it all), I may still very well have been going about my days on autopilot, working my way up the corporate ladder and convincing myself that that was my truest path.

It has been such a joy to spend this time with my family—to watch my kids grow and learn, to see them uncover their passions and watch their wheels turn. They are so very different from each other and it has allowed me to see what teachers are up against, trying to make one curriculum fit 20 to 30 very different and unique personalities. Simply knowing this one thing makes me all the more certain homeschooling is the right choice for us.

And, of course, getting to live into our “why.” To have the freedom to travel together, untethered, so our kids can experience humanity and all its wonder outside of our one, small rural town in North Carolina. We had only been through a few years of public school before we made the switch to homeschooling. But even in that short time, I knew it felt wrong for us energetically. I didn’t like having to ask permission to take a trip to see my family. I didn’t like having to write a dissertation about how Disney World would be educational for my kindergartener. I didn’t like that our travels were limited to only a few weeks a year. Now, even if we don’t travel every day of the year, we at least have that choice and freedom to do so should we want to. And that feels really, really good.

Epoch Times Photo
Colleen Carswell and her children. (Colleen Carswell)

The Epoch Times: Many parents are about to embark on their own first homeschooling year. What advice would you give those feeling a bit nervous about their choice?

Ms. Carswell: As someone who is still new to this world and coming up on our first homeschool-aversary, I would say this: Don’t overthink it. I know you want to have all the answers before you start. I know you think that if you don’t, then you’re somehow going to fail your kid(s). On both accounts, you won’t. And I think getting comfortable with that fact is a very good place to begin this new journey.

Your kids are only going to be better for this experience—even if it doesn’t end up being a fit for your family—because they saw you try. They saw you learn by doing. They saw you do all the things you ask from them to do in their own educational journey. You become that shining example for them, no matter the outcome.

Something that helped me greatly those first few months was understanding that this decision wasn’t permanent. If I wanted to, I could send my kids back to school at any time. If it didn’t work out, it was OK. The very worst-case scenario would be that we tried a thing and learned it wasn’t for us.

But I think you’ll be very pleased with how your journey unfolds. Take note of the small things that are now possible because of this new change in lifestyle. Maybe you’re not rushing to get out the door at 7 a.m. and can start the day with a calmer energy. Maybe you learn that you love movie nights in the middle of the week. Maybe you learn that Tuesday becomes your new Saturday and you can score amazing deals and not be surrounded by massive crowds. Maybe you learn that you love this—you really, really love this!

The Epoch Times: What do you wish you had known before you began homeschooling?

Ms. Carswell: I wish I had known that I really didn’t need to have all the answers. My personality loves a good plan. I like to know how things are going to unfold and I find immense comfort in knowing what to expect. But really, the only thing that you need to know is your reason—your “why”—for embarking on this homeschooling journey. That’s it. The how’s and the what’s and the when’s, those all come in time. I wish someone had taken me by the arms, shaken me silly, looked me in the eyes, and said: “Stop wasting your energy on worrying. It’s all going to work out because it always works out.”

The Epoch Times: What have you found to be the most surprising aspect of homeschooling?

Ms. Carswell: I think I am most surprised by the fact that I actually, really love homeschooling! I was skeptical at first. Especially since I originally felt this decision had come from a place of desperation rather than a place of desire. But almost immediately, I was finding things left and right that felt so much more aligned. I thought homeschooling would feel heavy and daunting because it was just one more thing to add to my already overloaded plate. But in reality, it was expansive and freeing.

We can now live life based on our wants, our desires, our passions, and personalities. We get the final say. If something isn’t working, we have the ability to problem-solve on our terms. And if we really enjoy doing something (movie nights on “school nights” or crowd-free weekdays at the park), we get to do as much of it as we like. As someone who has always been very type A, the freedom and joyful energy that has come from this unexpected flexibility was surprising in the best way imaginable.

The Epoch Times: If someone reading this is inspired to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?

Ms. Carswell: If you’re feeling inspired to live an untethered life, one where freedom and flexibility are never in short supply, my advice would be to start with one thing. While we didn’t plan it this way, looking back, if we had taken on entrepreneurship and homeschooling and traveling all at the same time, it would have been too much all at once. This dream life we are now creating together would have felt unattainable and we may have even given up.

Instead, we started with getting familiar with entrepreneurship, then homeschooling, then little travel adventures here and there, working our way up to bigger, bolder trips that will only grow grander over time.

An important part of this process is emphasizing the word “familiar.” You don’t have to master this lifestyle. You don’t have to do one thing perfectly before moving on—what would that even look like, anyway? Focus on getting familiar, not comfortable. Stretch yourself and just keep moving forward. And when things get hard, remind yourself: I am so much closer than when I began.

As with homeschooling, you don’t have to have all the answers right away. You don’t have to know the “how,” just your “why.” Open your mind to the possibilities. Ask yourself, “What if?” from a place of expansiveness, not worry or fear. And dig deep to find your truest “why.” Keep asking yourself “why” over and over until you get to the heart of it. And then let that “why” be bigger than any worry or fear; because it is.

Take things one leap at a time. Make that first one bold and just go for it. Don’t overthink it. Dare to do things differently. Dare to take risks. Dare to go against what your lived experiences have led you to believe is normal or expected. There is no right way to live your unique journey. No one mold you have to fit. That is the beauty of this entire human experience. You have a chance to create something magical with your family and you owe it to yourself, and them, to at least try.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Barbara Danza

Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart.
Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.

Source link


Choose your membership level

$35 billed annually