We get asked by both friends or family at home and also people we meet here what we are doing about schooling on this trip. When I cruised in the ‘90s, I completed grades 9 and 11 on the boat and followed a very prescribed curriculum through our Ministry of Education. Our kids are much younger (our oldest is in grade 2) and therefore we have taken a fairly laissez faire approach to homeschooling on this trip. Unschooling, inquiry based learning, play-based learning are all buzz words that seem to pop up in both conventional education circles and also with homeschooling/roadschooling/boatschooling families. We believe kids learn best when they are truly interested in something and a classroom isn’t always the best place to learn. I really love a lot of the principles around unschooling, but I think my type A personality couldn’t let loose that much. I still feel that need to do some pen and paper work and active teaching of how to read.
So what does school look like on our boat? Well first of all, it doesn’t happen Monday to Friday for 6 hours. It happens when it fits into our schedule and when we aren’t sailing. If it is going to happen, it is after breakfast for about an hour and a half. We find it hard to work with all 3 kids at once, so each kid rotates through 20-30 minutes of ipad time, while one or both of us work with the other two. Most of the ipad time is to be spent on educational apps with a small amount of time at the end on their choice. There are some amazing ipad apps out there that we use for spelling, math, and phonics. For Ella (grade 2), she is a great independent worker and will work on her journal and various workbooks. We also have weekly spelling words and she is enjoying learning cursive writing. Gavin (kindergarden) will work on his journal, letter recognition ring, math or reading workbooks and maybe some flashcards. Miles (3 ½) is mostly exempt from school, but he likes to join in with his maze books, pre-school workbooks and will play lego or play dough. School is short and sweet. I would say we end up doing school 4 days out of the week.
Is this the most educational part of their day.? Clearly not and we are firm believers that experiential learning is the most authentic way to learn. Paul is truly a scientist at heart and he loves to answer all their questions about science. Today at lunch we had a long discussion about tsunamis and earthquakes. Gavin could not ask his questions quick enough; they were enthralled. Later that afternoon while they were playing at the beach, he demonstrated a tsunami. Ella reads chapter books like they are going out of style all day long and I have to work really hard to trade and obtain new books to keep her going. She loves to read signs, the charts, pamplets, anything. Here is just a small list of the learning that has taken place on our boat recently: the bleaching of coral reefs, global warming, the danger of plastics in our oceans, the international space station, constellations, slavery, renewable energy and conservation. Not to mention they get to snorkel in a huge aquarium daily and see numerous fish, corals, sharks, sting rays, dolphins, turtles, shellfish. They have also had Spanish lessons on the beach and learned all about marine mammals from a marine biologist who trained the dolphin Winter for the movie Dolphin Tale. Everything can be educational. They calculate how much money we need to buy some supplies. Today Ella calculated how long it would take us to sail 30 miles, going 5 knots. They identify what fish we saw when we snorkeled or if the fish we catch are edible.
That is what boat schooling looks like on our boat. It may not be conventional, but I have no doubt that they are learning so much from this experience.