Parents Without Borders

  • Parents Without Borders 1 of 11
    For parents, it's oh-too-easy to slip into a routine, follow the leader and forget that there's more than one way to raise healthy, happy children. Not for these moms and dads. Dedicated to marching to the beat of their own drums — sometimes literally — these families each have inspiring projects and unique lifestyles that set them apart from their neighbors.
  • The Scientists 2 of 11
    When 7-year-old Enzo Monfre wanted to make a show about science and nature, his dad grabbed the video camera, and they produced a short clip about a praying mantis the boy had caught. Five weeks after uploading it to YouTube, Enzo was on The Ellen Degeneres Show. Fast-forward five years and 90 episodes later, Enzoology has been seen by more than 17.5 million viewers and is now syndicated online to classrooms. The program is still shot and edited by Enzo's dad, Pete, while his mom is the creative director, but it's expanded from their Austin, Texas home to location shoots across the U.S. "If you want kids to pursue their potential in anything, not just science, it has to be relevant to them when they're young," Pete says. As other kids stress about pop quizzes and standardized tests, Enzo and fam are planning their latest adventure — a two-week trek through Nicaragua to deliver medical aid to the Rama Indians with the help of Special Forces troops. The trip will produce lessons on sustainable agriculture, conservation, biology and renewable energy. The group is currently fundraising for the trip right over here.
  • The Wanderers 3 of 11
    In 2007, Rachel Denning, her husband and their four children sold all their things and set out to see the world. They haven't looked back since. Driving from the U.S. to Costa Rica, the Dennings started their nomadic lifestyle with a year in Central America followed by stints back in the States as well as the Dominican Republic and India. After India, the clan returned to the U.S. and eventually made their way to up Alaska, where Rachel delivered baby number five, son Atlas. In April of 2011, the family left on their biggest adventure yet — a journey from Alaska to Argentina in a truck that runs on recycled vegetable oil. "We started traveling mostly because we just felt like we wanted to learn other languages and learn about other cultures," Rachel says. "We wanted that to be a part of our children's education. We wanted to expose them to new ideas and just to live a deliberate life." While the kids love the perks that come with permanent traveling — hiking ancient ruins, exploring volcanoes, partying it up at the Dia de los Meurtos in Mexico and getting to do humanitarian projects in several countries — Rachel adds that it's crucial to maintain a routine of chores and schoolwork to provide some stability. The Dennings' trip is currently being funded with money earned through their blog and additional revenue streams. They plan to end their South America excursion in 2016 with a visit to the summer Olympics in Brazil.
  • The Helping Hands 4 of 11
    Patience Salgado and her family in Richmond, Virginia know that the best way to get love is to give it. Dedicated "kindness workers," the family of six brainstorms and executes kindness projects that range from "ding dong ditch" missions, where children leave flowers and nice messages on strangers' doorsteps, to a movement to show appreciation for garbage workers. All are detailed on Patience's blog, "It really brings us together and it feels good," says Patience. "I also want [my children] to really connect with people and care about the world." The Salgados' fans agree, and they're more than willing to spread the love. For the family's Magic Wand Project, the Salgados took 100 old magic-wand party favors, attached invitations for recipients to perform three acts of kindness and left them all over Richmond. When the acts were complete, kids could send in pictures then leave their wand in a new location or make another one for someone else to find. Within 48 hours of launching the project, wands were reported in five states. There are currently more than 2,000 floating around along, with a teacher guide for classrooms. "If you want to see love in the world, you've got to be love," Patience says. "If you want to see goodness in the world, you have to be that thing. I want my kids to see themselves as powerful agents in the world of change, that they can be part of something they want to see."
  • The Rock Stars 5 of 11
    While other families have board game or movie night, Fernando Rabiela and his kids get ready to rock the faces off of Chicago music fans. Fernando, along with 14 year-old Evan, 13 year-old Sofia, and 11 year-old Cecilia are The Socialists, a family band that covers The Smiths, The Ramones, and Morrissey and also performs their own songs. The Rabielas take turns on each instrument — everyone plays the guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and sings — and the whole family works on band image and social networking. "If you think about family band, you don't really think 'good' and you definitely don't think 'cool,'" says Fernando. "We're not really dopey. We try and take our image and who we are seriously. It's definitely not a ‘Partridge family' thing."
  • The Animal Lovers 6 of 11
    Tobi Kosanke didn't intend for her home to become a refuge for unwanted animals. But after being forced to leave New Orleans when Katrina hit, Kosanke, her husband, their infant daughter and their eight pets evacuated to Houston. They eventually purchased a farm in nearby Hempstead, Texas that came with a few furry and feathered friends. And then more started showing up, from neighbors, strangers and eventually the SPCA. Today, Crazy K Farm is a 35-acre facility that's home to more than 200 rescued ducks, chickens, geese, cats, dogs, parrots, donkeys, horses, sheep, fish and goats. Some of the animals are too sick or injured to live outside, so the family shares their home with a few, including a one-legged chicken and a domesticated duck that's terrified of wild ducks. The farm is funded by Tobi's salary as a geologist, donations to Crazy K and through the array of pet and poultry products they sell. Her 7-year-old daughter supports the project by doing chores and happily dressing up as the Crazy K mascot. "[This lifestyle has] brought us together because we have a shared goal," Tobi says. "If one of us isn't pulling our weight, it's a lot of work on the other one."
  • The Nomads 7 of 11
    Think your house is cramped? Try living in a 320-square-foot RV. That's what Jewels Muller, her husband, their twin 11-year-old boys and the family dog have been doing since May. Jewels is the head of Chicks Connect, a personal and professional development group for women. When the company started opening chapters nationwide, Muller wanted to meet her members face-to-face. That meant either extensively traveling away from her family in Portland, Oregon, or homeschooling and taking them along for the ride. "The boys really like being on the road," Jewels says. "We feel very fortunate and lucky that our boys want to be with us. We want to take advantage of that while we have the time with them." For the younger Mullers, living in an RV means supplementing classroom learning with trips to places like Appomattox Court House in Virginia and getting to explore first-hand states like Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Florida. "We're learning a ton. We're learning a lot about how each other's brains work," Jewels says, estimating that the trip will last anywhere from one to three years. "Everything becomes a lesson when you're in arm's reach of each other." The Mullers blog about their adventures at
  • The Healers 8 of 11
    Rupert Isaacson thought his autistic son was "unreachable" until he accidentally discovered the boy's gentle connection with horses. For three years, Rupert and his son, Rowan, rode every day. In 2007, Rupert and his wife Kristin took Rowan on a journey across Mongolia on horseback to seek out traditional healers and shamans — anyone who could potentially help their tantrum-ing, uncommunicative son find peace. The result was The Horse Boy, a 2009 documentary and book about the family's experiences: how Rowan learned potty training, communication and emotion control skills through working with animals. The Isaacsons' trip to Mongolia also set the parents on a new course. Opening the Horse Boy Foundation in 2008, the Isaacsons have devoted themselves to helping families with autistic children find healing through horses.
  • The Entrepreneurs 9 of 11
    In 2007, when Renee Sandler showed her 9- and 10-year-old daughters a statistic that only 12 of the Fortune 500 companies were led by women, the gears started turning. Sandler wanted to provide her daughters with a leg up in the business world; she told them that if they had a good business idea, they would also have the family's support. "I did not think that they would take me up on that suggestion, but they did and came up with the idea of creating lip balm product in our kitchen," Sandler says. Five years later, Sandler's daughters are the co-founders and co-CEOs of Blamtastic, a company that has sold over one million lip balms and baby products to vendors across the globe. Lily and Melanie Sandler, now ages 13 and 15, attend school full time then earn unofficial MBAs by devoting after-school hours to corporate meetings, public speaking events, market research, developing new products — the list goes on. Renee serves as president, and under the Sandler leadership, the company has doubled its revenues each year and opened manufacturing outlets in Wisconsin, Utah, Iowa and Michigan. Though Renee says it's a challenge to juggle school and business responsibilities, her daughters "have attained skills they will use throughout their lives and their careers," she says. "It's a remarkable, remarkable thing for them both."
  • The Minimalists 10 of 11
    Most families only dream of living mortgage-free. The Berzins took drastic steps to make it happen. When the economic collapse forced the family to close their restaurant and leave their 1,500 square-foot Florida home, they decided to build their own micro-home, living in it until they could build a bigger place. Starting the groundwork for an 8' x 21' home, the Berzins began building their new place while renting in Florida, then attached the house to a U-haul truck and transported it to southwestern Virginia. Selling the majority of their belongings, mom, dad and kids ages eight and 10 moved to Virginia in May 2011, when they finished the micro-home and moved in. For nearly two years, the family has grown their own food, raised chickens and learned how to survive on less while they build a larger house — where they'll also live mortgage-free. The lifestyle change has forced the family to work on clear communication skills, spend more time outdoors and carefully evaluate what they need, says "Mama Hari" Berzin. "It pushes us to think about how little we need to be happy," she says. For more about the Berzin's micro-lifestyle, check out their blog at
  • The Homemakers 11 of 11
    Sixteen years ago, Julie and Rusty Bulloch and their 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son opened their home to Jenna, a teenage girl from their community who wanted to run away from home. Jenna was the first of 29 troubled teenagers the Bullochs have welcomed over the years. Allowing up to two teens at a time to stay on their Lakeland, Florida ranch for anywhere from nine months to a year and a half, the Bullochs have provided a safe haven and structured parental environment to area kids who need it most. "It was just like an extension of our family," says Julie, adding that the family has never received any government aid for their services. "My husband hunts, and we raise our vegetables and are frugal, so another mouth to feed wasn't that big a deal." The Bullochs abide by a strict "nothing in life is free" mentality. Boarders are supplied with a room and basic supplies, but they must work either on the family farm or at Julie's bounce house company for spending money. As for their two biological children, Julie says that growing up with boarders has fostered a sense of compassion and an appreciation for family. "It's been a roller coaster ride," she says. "I think we've been blessed as much as the kids have been blessed with the relationships we've had over the years." A reality show about Julie and Rusty called Bulloch Family Ranch will air on GMC TV (formerly the Gospel Music Channel) this summer. Know a family who's breaking all the rules (in a good way)? We'd love to hear about them! Share their stories in the comments and we may feature them on Babble!

Article Posted 4 years Ago

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