Know the Laws: Living in an RV with School-Aged Kids
Are you thinking about traveling full-time in an RV with your Kids? Do you want to bond as a family and have the freedom to travel across the country?
Living a nomadic lifestyle is full of adventure, magnificent places to explore, and you have ample time to bond with your family. Your children will grow up seeing places that others never get a chance to see. They will have life experiences that never get taught in school.
With every beautiful experience associated with this lifestyle comes a downside. How does the government see families that RV fulltime with school-aged children?
The McKinney-Vento Act
According to the McKinney-Vento Act, federal law, you are considered homeless. The law defines homelessness as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (within the meaning of section 103(a)(1)); and includes children and youths who are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of adequate alternative accommodations”.
Many of you may be thinking that this is absurd since living fulltime in an RV is your choice – some RV’s cost more than a house in the suburbs. If you decide to put your children in the public school system, you may face this stigma.
This Act is a federal law intended to ensure that homeless children or those without a permanent address have an equal opportunity to attend school. The Act also provides these kids with transportation to school and enrollment even if documents are missing, such as immunization records or birth certificates.
How does this affect full-time families?
Remember that it is not illegal to live in an RV with your children, and if you choose to put your kids in public school, you may have to deal with the district’s homeless liaison. Your job will be to establish residency.
Some states make it harder to live in an RV with school-aged kids, and others have no qualms about it. Here is a list of easy and more difficult states to camp in during the school year. It is compiled from the experiences of full-time families across the country.
Hardest States to RV with kids:
- New Jersey
- Los Angeles
Easiest States to RV with kids:
- Washington State
- North Carolina
When enrolling your children in school, contact the district’s homeless liaison, and explain why the Vento Act doesn’t apply to you.
Come prepared and take all documentation with you – birth certificates, immunization records, and the RV park’s address. If they require you to fill out a form about the Vento Amendment, write that this does not apply to you.
Before every trip, keep the following in mind:
- Campgrounds can turn you away if you have school-aged children.
- Some school buses won’t stop at campgrounds.
- Each county will have different regulations concerning how to address families living in RV’s. Do some research and call ahead of time to see what information they will need from you.
- Some schools have strict rules regarding how much time your kids take off school. These regulations can affect your travel plans, and changing to a different school midterm can be a painstaking process.
If the school system is making you feel down, you have the option to homeschool your kids. Learning from home comes with many benefits, such as having the freedom to travel whenever you want, not having to stress about a school accepting your child due to their living situation, and spending quality time with your kids.
Clear a small space in your RV and set a balanced schedule for learning and exploring. There are also extracurricular interests that are available outside of the school system that they can pursue. They can join sports clubs, art classes, after school programs, and other exciting activities.
But don’t forget that you would need to be available to tutor your kids. If you can afford to homeschool, consider the remarkable life you would give them and all the places you will see.
Living on the road with kids is messy, cramped, and stressful at times, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. You will bond as a family and get to travel the country whenever you want with minimal expenses going towards accommodation.
It is essential to plan how your kids will attend school and approach the challenges that come along with it. Once you have this all figured out, enjoy the freedom that comes with this relaxed and cozy lifestyle.
Disclaimer: The Vento Amendment’s goal is to ensure that homeless children can attend public school and have the necessary resources to succeed. If this is your situation, please contact your school district’s homeless liaison and do an eligibility intake.
*This is not legal advice and should not be taken as such.