Jill Krause and her husband Scott had achieved what they describe as "peak American dream." They had the house - a five bedroom beauty on an acre of land in a top-rated Texas school district. But that dream, they realised, was sucking the life out of them. The couple was spending just about all of their free time maintaining the property, and yearned for their kids to see what's beyond the grind of extracurriculars and standardised tests.
So at the beginning of last year, the Krauses made a drastic decision - to sell the house, move into an RV and hit the road. Now the family of six is "roadschooling" - homeschooling on the road - while sharing tips and tricks for RV life in a blog and YouTube series called Happy Loud Life. Jill tells us how she parents.
Location: Currently? Washington Job: Content creator and influencer Family: Husband Scott, and kids Kendall (10), Leyna (7), Lowell (4) and Wallace (18 months)
Tell us a little bit about your family and your career. Did life happen mostly as planned or were there surprises?
Scott and I worked really hard to achieve our idyllic family life from the time we met each other. We both put ourselves through college, worked hard to advance in our careers, and mostly planned to have all four kiddos we have now, though a couple came at unexpected times. While we didn't plan to sell everything and hit the road in an RV, it was definitely a choice we intentionally made once our hearts were open to the idea in 2016.
Take us through your morning routine. What are your best tricks for getting out the door?
Now that we live in the RV fulltime and roadschool the kids, there is very little that gets us out the door earlier than 10 AM, and that's one amazing perk of this trip. Even still, it can be hard to round four kids up and get them going, no matter what time of day it is. We keep all shoes in one spot, which is a trick we had back when we lived in a 4,000-square-foot house that still serves us well.
We also have tried-and-true grab-and-go snacks (big love for the Target brand fruit leathers) that we always keep stocked, and we keep extra diapers and wipes right by the door. So we know exactly where to go for shoes, snacks and diapers. Those are really the key things we need before we go anywhere.
How do you divide household/childcare responsibilities with your partner?
Scott and I have always operated as a team that plays to each other's strengths. Scott does the dishes and laundry every night and is really doing the bulk of the childcare right now while I'm working full time from the road. But before we sold our house, he had a full-time job that required me to do those things.
How much outside help do you get as a parent? Who or what can't you live without?
Now that we are travelling, we get zero outside help. It's exhausting, but we know it's temporary. There was a time we had a weekly housekeeper, and when we get back into a house, it's my goal to incorporate that expense into our budget. She made our life feel so much less chaotic.
What are the gadgets, apps, charts or tools you rely on?
We couldn't do this trip without our iPhones, which I know is not a novel answer, but thank goodness for them. I take a ton of pictures of the kids and our family as we go from state to state, and I really love editing them on my phone with A Colour Story. Instagram is our main family story telling platform these days, but I also love printing those photos with Recently, which turns your camera roll into a photo magazine.
For living with a toddler in an RV, a few game-changing products include the Lotus Travel Crib, Summer Infant Pop N' Play Portable Playard and Stokke Flexi Bath, which folds up really small and be stored away in our cabinet.
What does your evening routine like?
Our RV is pretty spacious in terms of RVs, so we have this awesome living/dining/kitchen area with two comfy couches and a big TV. We make dinner with a lot of documentaries on in the background, like Planet Earth or The National Parks by Ken Burns. We read stories to the kids most nights, and tuck them into bed just like we did in our house.
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None of us are very happy when we end up at a park where our WiFi doesn’t work, but last night we made the most of it with family reading night, and I was surprised how quickly they began to enjoy themselves. We all took turns reading to each other from dinner to bedtime. #happyloudlife
How do you decompress?
Scott and I have to be intentional about carving out self-care and time for the two of us while we do this. We like to watch shows like Westworld or The Walking Dead in our room after the kids go to bed. We like to find local craft beers or wines wherever we travel, and enjoy a drink while we watch.
What are your on-the-road hacks?
We love listening to podcasts on the road with the kids. Our family favourite is Circle Round. Scott and I also like to listen to How I Built This, which isn't really a kid's podcast, but I love that our kids can overhear stories of success that always include details about their failures. I think it's so important to teach our kids that failure is a huge part of growth and success.
What's been your proudest moment as a parent?
I'm really proud of our kids for taking this leap with us. It's not that they had a lot of choice, and there are many days they complain or miss our old life, but they're here, living it. They find joy in the new things we experience. They are creating such strong sibling bonds without even realising it.
What moment are you least proud of?
I think we end every day not very proud of something we've done as parents. We are always working on our patience and our intentions with the kids. I'm not proud that I lose my temper or that I feel like I need to manage my work time better so I can give the kids more focused attention. So every day I wake up and try to get better at those things.
What do you want your kids to learn from your example?
I brought up the idea of this trip — to sell the house and buy an RV and travel — at the dinner table one night in February, 2017. We had a lively family discussion about it, and I hope my kids will always remember that night that mum had this wild idea, and then we did it. I hope they will learn to speak their own wild ideas into life and to take risks because they saw me do the same.
Do you have any funny/weird/special family rituals?
Instead of singing the Happy Birthday song to each other on our birthdays, we play Parry Gripp's "There's A Cat Licking Your Birthday Cake" and sing along. It's so much more fun!
The one thing I would tell other parents who are thinking about living in an RV:
Do it! Don't wait. There's never a perfect time. Yes, it will be loud and cramped and stressful and chaotic. It will also be so fulfilling if you can let go of your expectations and let the magic make itself.