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Educational road trip

5ac1c-family(Photo by Joe Ellis/The Clarion-Ledger)

When Sara Zittlow returned from an inspirational trip to Israel, she decided to begin spending more time with her growing family away from life’s distractions.

So she devised a plan, talked it over with her husband and set out on a nine-month journey from Green Bay, Wis.

On Sept. 13, the Zittlow family left home in their VW Jetta wagon with a $15,000 budget and plans to visit every state in the nation. This past week, they were in Mississippi. Zittlow, who is homeschooling her children this year, thought they’d learn more by visiting the 50 states than reading about them, and her husband agreed.

To cut costs, they’ve found host families in each of the states.

“We have had wonderful experiences staying with the locals because we can ask them questions,” she said. “Sometimes, we can’t see all the highlights, but we can break bread with them and learn what it’s like living somewhere and what they want to tell us about.”

At every stop, Andrew, 11, Megan, 9, and Ryan, 8, buy a handful of postcards and send them back to their classmates and father.

Their dad, Rob, a computer programmer, remains in Wisconsin but travels to see his family once a month during their journey.

The Zittlows arrived in Jackson on Thursday and visited the Old Capitol Museum and the Capitol, where they met Gov. Phil Bryant.

Saturday night, they were in Grenada, and today they are in Little Rock, Ark.

“I think my kids will have a much greater appreciation and respect for all areas of our country,” said Zittlow, a former teacher. “It’s not someone else’s opinion in a textbook – it’s their own.”

The family traveled from September to the end of November and took a break during the holidays.

Last Monday, they hit the road again. They will travel for three weeks, then break in Colorado for two months.

So far, they’ve seen 32 states with 18 to go. They plan to end the trip with a cruise to Alaska and a trip to Hawaii.

Zittlow said the family has learned a lot about each other. The children have become better friends, and they’ve realized “stuff” doesn’t matter as much as people do.

“The best part for the kids is when we get to see the natural beauty of our country – a mountain with a sunset or a high peak with a waterfall – they can’t quit hugging me enough,” she said.

Megan Zittlow said Mississippi and Indiana are her favorite states so far. She’s looking forward to Colorado because, “I want to go skiing, and it’s our big break.”

Andrew Zittlow said each capital has been different. He’s looking forward to visiting Colorado, Texas, Alaska and Hawaii.

“The trip is kind of one big sleepover,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about the history. It’s different, though, because you’re not in a classroom sitting down and reading about it. You are actually there.”

The long trip hasn’t changed the kids’ minds about travel.

“They are already asking about foreign countries,” Zittlow said. “We are not even home, and they are asking what’s next.

“My son was like, ‘Do you think we can go live in Germany for a summer?’ I was like, ‘You bet.’ ”

“They are little microbes in a petri dish, and I am their microscope.”

–LaReeca Rucker, Clarion-Ledger

Got a comment? E-mail me at or Tweet me at @lareecarucker.




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