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Band of Fathers

March 26, 2010

Many thanks to Todd Beeby for inviting me to post a summary of our trip to his new blog, Band of Fathers.

Imagine this scenario: despite genuine effort, your eleven-year-old child’s reading speed is a year below grade level, and it takes hours for him to memorize the ten words for the weekly spelling test. Except for Art class, P.E., and recess, going to school becomes an exercise in humiliation. Your kid’s attitude toward school is spiraling through dread, bound for rejection. What do you do?

My wife and I faced this situation last May with our son Logan. He’s a bright kid, but has a mild LD when processing text (the “ripple out” effect is incredible). We felt we needed to come up with a plan to get him back on track. Our unorthodox solution leverages his passion for skateboarding and his naturally hands-on learning style, combined with the longest field trip in the history of sixth grade: 50skatekid.

Since Logan and I left home in Wilmot Flat, NH, last September, he has skated in 43 states. We’ve stayed with altruistic strangers all across the country (thanks to We’ve walked the battlefield at Gettysburg, the White Sands of New Mexico, and the deserts of Nevada. We’ve visited many museums, met pro skater Mike Vallely, and made a deck with skateboard manufacturing godfather, Paul Schmitt.

When we started this journey, I had second thoughts. And at the end of each week, I’d ask myself: Would he be better off in school? For all 29 weeks so far, the answer has been clear: No. Way.

A typical weekday morning finds us in the local public library, knocking out the next chapter in textbooks borrowed from Logan’s school, or completing a module of his online English course. Afternoons belong to museums, skate parks, and the interstate. We’ve only spent six nights in a hotel during the trip, so evenings involve meeting new people, swapping stories and ideas, and accepting their overnight hospitality.

This recipe – for Logan, at least – has resulted in a huge jump in his confidence. Liberation from a classroom audience deflated his anxiety about reading. (He now reads for pleasure – on his Kindle – thanks, Mom!) Our tight student-teacher ratio means he masters content quickly and completely, resulting in feelings of academic success. Harder to quantify, but more valuable, is the life experience he’s gained, including this lesson: “If you can’t win the game, change the rules.”

We have seven weeks and seven states left until the finish line on Mother’s Day in Washington DC, but the journey is already a success. Logan believes in himself again. He has taken the measure of his abilities and found them equal to this epic adventure. Travel along with us at

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