On the Road

Malia Siverts traveled to various landmarks in an RV with her family while distance learning


Malia’s sister Molly does a handstand in front of the Grand Canyon. PHOTO BY MALIA SIVERTS

Online school can get boring: sitting in the same chair at the same desk, staring absentmindedly out the window at the same tree or street or next-door-neighbor’s wall, day after day. Fortunately for junior Malia Siverts, the view out her window changed nearly every morning. 

For 18 days and 5000 miles, Siverts took school on the road as she and her family completed an RV expedition of the Midwest. From the Grand Canyon to the Great Sand Dunes, from Mt. Rushmore to the Idaho Potato Museum, the Siverts saw it all, driving through a total of eight states (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota) over the course of their journey.

“Did you ever see that movie ‘RV?’ It was very similar to that,” Malia’s mother, Monica Siverts, said of the trip. “Except for drowning the RV in the lake, of course […] You know how in ‘RV’ there’s that weird family that yodels? We’re in the RV park in Las Vegas, and this guy comes up, and he’s like, ‘Hi! I’m JD Snow!’ and then he starts yodeling for us!”

But as anyone who’s seen the Robin Williams comedy “RV” knows, road tripping is not all fun and yodeling. Especially with online school—Malia may have been able to bring her computer with her, but she certainly couldn’t take the WiFi router along. According to the Siverts, it became a constant struggle for them to find a strong enough internet connection for Malia to attend class and complete her schoolwork. 

“Sometimes we had WiFi at the campsite; sometimes we just drove to a Walmart,” Monica said. “Sometimes one class would end a little earlier, and so [the teacher] would say, ‘Oh, just finish your schoolwork,’ and so we’d take that hour or whatever to get an hour down the road. We’d go on to the next stop and try to find WiFi again.”

Even still, WiFi was scarce at many of the national parks they visited.

“In the Grand Canyon, we were holding our phones up in the air trying to get WiFi—that was funny—but we ended up having to email Malia’s teacher and say, ‘No, sorry, it’s just not working,’” Monica said.

Although Malia ended up missing all her classes that day, she did manage to discover some backroad solutions to accessing necessary class materials, even without constant internet.

“When I didn’t have WiFi, Google Docs and Classroom weren’t open for me, so I’d have to take screenshots of everything beforehand, when I did have WiFi,” Malia said.

Other than internet issues—which the Siverts eventually solved with the purchase of a hot spot—school from an RV presented many unique challenges, such as creating Culinary Arts and Studio Arts projects without her usual materials available. In fact, Malia ended up missing an entire day at Yellowstone because of how much her workload piled up.

“If I hadn’t been so tied up with schoolwork, I think I would’ve gotten to enjoy it more,”

Malia said. “Sometimes I couldn’t talk to anyone, or go out and do things because I was stuck in the RV doing homework.”

Nevertheless, Malia and the rest of her family were immensely grateful for the chance at fresh air and a change of scenery, which both Malia and Mrs. Siverts said was the highlight of the trip.

 “Two days in a row [Malia and I] went to the Grand Canyon at the crack of dawn for the sunrise,” Monica said. “The fall colors were gorgeous.” Malia agreed: “The best thing [about attending school from the road] is just the scenery, and seeing things, and getting out.”