Learning as they go!
As soon as the Hedley Frank kids arrive home from summer school, they make a beeline to the dining room where their two dads—Ethan and Rob—are sitting at the table. “Guess what we did today!” says Rozlee, age 9. Rozlee is smiling from ear to ear, giddy with excitement to share his day’s big adventure with his two dads. “What did you do?” replies Rob, or “R-Dad,” as the kiddos call him.
Next Rozlee tells his dads about a water game he played during his summer school field trip. Meanwhile, 7-year-old Maytrim looks up and smiles at Ethan—a.k.a. “E-Dad,”—from behind the dining room table. “I got a spider painted on my face!,” Maytrim says as he points at his cheek. Little sister Rose, age 6, chimes in, too. “And I got a kitty!,” she says. As Maytrim walks out of the kitchen, he leaves his dad’s with a quick last request. “Oh, and I need to be signed up for my field trip!”
Rozlee, Maytrim and Rose are three of Rob and Ethan’s seven children, and their current summer school experience marks the first time they’ve attended a school building since 2020. “They really do enjoy going to school,” Rob says. But a variety of health concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic have kept them away from the seated classroom for the last few years. The good news, though, is that they have been able to continue learning—and to travel around the country—with the help of Launch.
THE JOURNEY TO NOW
Rob and Ethan have been together for 13 years, and they’ve been parents for the last eight of those years. “We started out with fostering elevated behavior boys,” Rob says. Next the couple took on children who had severe drug addictions, and eventually they took in drug-addicted babies. “We have had various issues due to the childrens’ different experiences,” Rob says. “We ended up doing some home bound before we started with Launch.”
The Hedley Franks officially started with Launch in the Fall 2020 semester. “It took us a bit to get on board with IEPs and things at first,” Rob says. But after spending some time working with Amy Bollinger, Launch’s Special Education Liaison, things improved. “Once we had everything set up, it was much better,” Rob says. “In fact, we actually enjoyed the opportunity, and we were grateful that we were able to make it work with our travel.”
LIFE ON THE ROAD
When Rob mentions travel, he’s referring to the cross-country travel that he, Ethan and the kids—all 7 of them—do in their RV. And of course, we can’t forget the family dog. “We have a docuseries called RV Plus 10,” Rob says. At press time, the show was being aired in a test market, but Rob hopes it will be picked up by a major network in the near future.
The Hedley Franks filmed the show’s first season last fall when they traveled down South to spend time in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. “Some areas had recreation centers, which have tables and chairs where the kids can set up their computers and work on their Launch classes,” Robs says. “But there was one area we stayed in—a really remote area in Florida—where we drove 30 minutes both ways so the kids could work at the library.” Regardless of the circumstances, the family did what they had to in order to make Launch work, and they plan to do the same in Spring 2023 as they film season 2.
Rob’s goal for the show is to encourage other foster families to follow their dreams. “It says ‘Okay, we don’t have all the answers, and we don’t do everything right—we fail,” Rob says. “But, I think for foster parents, seeing that can be encouraging. They’ll see it and think, ‘Well, okay, if those two clowns can do that and travel all over the country with these kids, we can do it, too!’ I hope we give other families ideas and encouragement.’
ROZLEE’S SUCCESS ONLINE
Rozlee had trouble in the classroom before starting with Launch. “He hated school,” Rob says. “We ended up taking him out of kindergarten because I was going to the school about every day.” Rozlee has ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), a behavior disorder that applies to children who are uncooperative, defiant and hostile toward peers, parents, teachers and other authority figures. “He started with Launch in second grade, and we had a bit of an up and down then,” Rob says. “But his teacher last year made all the difference.”
Rozlee was in Mrs. Nelms third grade class. “She took it upon herself to always make sure that she interacted with him personally,” Rob says. “She cared enough to take an extra-personal approach with him, and I think it made all the difference. There was one day when the kids weren’t going to be able to log on—we were having a beach day—and Rozlee was the only one who was upset. He said ‘No! I want to see Mrs. Nelms!”
Rozlee’s behavior has also been much-improved since returning to seated summer school, and Rob credits much of this to the progress he made with Mrs. Nelms.
KYLE MAKES A TURN-AROUND
Rob and Ethan’s second-oldest son, 15-year-old Kyle, also significantly improved his study skills after starting with Launch. “Before Kyle had found ways to work the system,” Rob says. In the years that he attended seated school, Kyle often did all he could to not work, including finding ways to get kicked out. But with Launch, things are different. “I learned that if I do things right the first time, I won’t have to go back and redo it all,” Kyle says.
And the family’s travel has actually helped with this. “Kyle is always making friends everywhere we go,” Rob says. “He’ll make friends at a campground, and he’ll want to go hang out with them. Well, he knows I’m going to get in Canvas and check his work, so he knows to do it right the first time around.” Rob also credits Kyle’s new found success—including lettering in academics—to the Launch team and their help with his IEP. “He has short-term memory loss, so he would often struggle to work on different subjects every day,” Rob says. “Well, Launch got him set up to work on one subject each day, plus his IEP classes, and he has become much more successful.”