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A Family Road Trip Across North America: Talk About A Crazy Trip

My name is Leah, and I am from Cleveland, Ohio. My husband, a rabbi, has a six month sabbatical. We are using five of those months to travel cross-country with our children (ages 14, 12, & 9) to visit as many Jewish communities in North America as we can.  We will be in 34 US states and two Canadian provinces.

I know. We’re nuts.

But here’s the thing: This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We have a chance to see the country and meet people from all walks of life, in their context. How could we pass that up?

Traveling for five months with a teen, a ‘tween’, and a nine-year-old present a few challenges. How do we invest each kid in this trip? How much do they participate in the planning? What about school? Not to mention packing: What’s the right quantity of clothes to pack? Who picks the clothes? What about electronics?

How We Did It:


My husband and I did the bulk of the “big picture” planning: which states, in what order and when. We then picked the locations where we would have flexible time, put the kids in front of Google, and asked them to give us a list of what they wanted to see and in order of priority. We incorporated as many of those things as we could into our schedule. Lego sculptures, giant vegetables and balls of yarn, here we come!


For our high school student we chose a state-sponsored online public school, the transcript of which our local public school would accept when we return. The other two children attend a Jewish school that worked with us to put together materials we would need to complete 6th and 3rd grade. More to come on the actual execution of what we are referring to as “HondaSchooling.”


We packed clothes for eight days, assuming (praying?) we’d have weekly access to laundry. The kids picked most clothes out themselves, and I guided the selection of the sabbath outfit they would need. This worked well. As long as it was clean, no holes, and weather-appropriate they could bring it.

Plugging in

Electronics. This, above all, was (and is) the most challenging for us as parents. We are strict about media, electronics, and “screen time.” We did not want a free-for-all brain freeze. We knew we’d need our laptops and iDevices for schooling and music, but my kids are veteran car travelers so we knew they would survive in the car with books, music and games. They did not agree.

At this point, three weeks into the trip, we’ve agreed to allow limited electronics in the car during portions of the driving that are longer than five hours. They must use headphones, they may not fight over it, and they turn it off after two hours. We are encountering some pushback, and how we are handling that is still evolving – updates to come. Heh.

Leah Weiss Caruso works for JFSA of Cleveland as a teen educator, and is mother to 3 human children and 1 canine child.

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