A Word About Homeschooling
by the HelmsMistress
There was an endless list of considerations as we prepared to cut the docklines and leave. Of these, the one thing I had all figured out was how to homeschool my kids while underway on a sailboat outside of the country….Bhaaaaahhhaaahaaaa! Not even close! It’s not as if I was not well equipped for the task: I had all the curriculum I needed and then some. I had lesson plans, downloads from NASA, musical instruments – my kids were going to be some well-rounded brainiacs – look out world! The problem was taking the first step and formalizing our routine. I am after all, still mom. They know my idiosyncrasies and PSYOP tactics as well as I know theirs. During our first few days of madness, I mean cruising, I tried to sprinkle in some spelling, a little journaling, math flashcards and the everpopular art projects. These were met with some initial interest, but we never did progress to an actual spelling or math test and journal entries yielded minimal effort so they could get on to doing something they really wanted to do. I justified that this was not the time to start homeschooling as not only were they not ready and willing, but neither was I. I got it – “So you just enabled your kids to dictate when they would be schooled because they didn’t want to????” Remember, we had not only just embarked on a new adventure, but just started an entirely new lifestyle and I can honestly say today that I have no regrets in allowing for some transition for all of us. I account for not only the transition of leaving their known lifestyle for an entirely new one, but also for safety while moving your 51-foot sailboat, your home, on the open ocean.
Finally, I had no more excuses to justify my continued delays. We had slowed down, I was around fellow boat schooling moms who all gave me great advice and frankly, we all were in need of a bit of an academic routine – now was the time. This is not to say that my kids had been completely academically stagnate – Radius of a circle on radar – why is this important? What is bioluminescence? How many oz in a cup when cooking macaroni and cheese?…but alas, it was time for more of an academic routine.
I laid out all the books and handouts I had with my skillful knack for organization (a word no one EVER has associated with my name btw) and began to figure out how this would play out. I was fortunate to have inherited the lesson plans from the teachers once we departed school at the end of October and at least had an outline of where I needed to lead my kids, academically speaking. I followed the advice that I had now heard from almost every homeschooling mom – focus on reading, writing and arithmetic; allow for transition to the new routine; and don’t try to cram too much in all at once. I pulled lesson plans and handouts for the first week or so and filed them into their folders.
Before we had left, I sought buy-in from the kids (something I still believe to be important and manageable). They had selected the mascots for our school (two because we couldn’t agree – not fighting that battle today Batman) and we had lanyards we would wear when we were in school with pins representing the mascots (a turtle and a dolphin-no surprise). We started the first day by donning these lanyards, followed by the pledge of allegiance and looking at our plan for the day. These rituals seem to help girls, who were used to a routine and they have stuck and evolved with us. We then rolled right into the school rules. What do you think the rules for your school should be? The kids were surprisingly (or perhaps not) vocal at this point and I completed the list with a few rules myself. We got this!…OK, now the academics – the first week was a bit choppy because I had to listen to the routines they were used to and then we had to lay out a path of what the new expectations would be for their academic journey. I perpetually seem to have one student in a great mood, quick to participate and the other one distracted or completely frustrated, turning their pencils into projectiles. I consider this to some degree, pretty normal for any “Team French” evolution, and believe in time we’ll get through this. My hat’s off to the teachers of the world – how you manage 20-30 little personalities in your classrooms without losing your minds is beyond me!
I’m learning patience and believe there is no greater gift than that of spending time getting to know your kids. I think back to a life of picking them up from school, enthralled to hear of all they learned during the day only to hear “nothing” or “I don’t know” when asked what they learned in school that day. This is not to say that they weren’t learning and weren’t engaged – they had a great school with phenomenal teachers. I was only getting involved in a fraction of what they were learning and how they were interpreting the world around them through academics. Perhaps this is normal as a parent, but I will admit that I am loving helping my kids through their academic struggles. I’m still figuring out how to make fractions and division fun and some days, I modify my expectations in favor of something more enjoyable. Today it was – “Lets learn about maps and design a zoo!” They worked overtime on this project. I’ve embraced flexibility when the kids show an interest in a certain area, while still maintaining focus in the core trifecta: reading, writing and arithmetic. Managing my expectations for perfection and progress was by far the biggest hurdle to overcome.
I’ve also come to realize that homeschooling/boatschooling/adventureschooling is highly individualized to each family. There are those with a strict routine and those who completely unschool. I advocate for whatever works for your family and goals for your children. The dynamics of cruising demand some degree of flexibility and this has been true for us as well. When we hauled our boat out, we stumbled on a full set of the “Horrible Histories” books that the kids loved reading, so we changed our history lesson plans and found several opportunities for journal entries and oral presentations. We recently found a wonderful Spanish and Art teacher in town so this has supplemented their education and given them a break from Maestra Mommy. When work needs to be done on the boat and errands need to be run out in town, they’ve been given self-study days and to my surprise, completed everything. I’m learning to empower my kids and trust them more than I ever did. The less they are spoon fed, the more they learn the impact of the choices they make. As a parent, this is a slippery slope, but I’m learning.
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