Making the most of quarantine – taking lessons from my kids
By The HelmsMistress
Over the past 3 weeks during our trek back to Baja, whenever we had a cell or WiFi signal Chad and I anxiously checked our phones for updates on the growing worldwide pandemic and connected with friends, many of whom work in healthcare, to hear the impact on their lives. Meanwhile, my kids were busy building a fort, busting out bags of legos to build a new world, or even dancing the Macarena on the deck as they heard it playing nearby on shore -Yes, that unforgettable gift of the 90s is inescapable down here. You can now rest at ease knowing the future generations aren’t being cheated out of this landmark dance craze! But I digress…The kids know what’s going on, we’ve explained the rationale for our isolation and their newfound “boat arrest”. They hear us talking about the growing numbers of cases, closures in society, and worldwide devastation – you hear EVERYTHING on a boat. When crisis strikes the girls seem to sense the stress, try to make sense of it and find a way to cope. They’re pretty good at not worrying about the things they can’t control, finding constructive distractions and all the while, still remaining their goofy selves. This is where we, the parents, become the students. They remind us of what is important – the rich opportunities we have here and now.
We’ve been isolating on the boat and they haven’t seen another kid for almost 4 weeks. They’re pretty stoked to have WiFi and endless power during our brief stay in a marina. We’ve ridden rollercoasters at Disney and Universal, visited the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, toured the Louvre and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History…all virtually of course, but who’s keeping track. At our last port, the “spa at sea” was open and if college plans fail, my girl has a promising future in nail art. I keep trying to channel Paul Rudd in the Ant Man movies while on house arrest, except I am far less productive and ambitious. Even so, we’ve tried to continue our routine as much as possible with some interruptions for fueling, provisioning runs, and minor tune-ups. Critical to our routine is homeschooling.
Many are finding themselves in the position of supporting a homeschooling environment for the first time. Even if you have live-feed virtual instruction, this is likely uncharted territory, injecting itself amidst lay-offs and financial stress or alongside a newly engineered home office. Having just made the transition to homeschooling 5 months ago, I can tell you that flexibility and patience are key. Thank you Captain Obvious – I got it…just hear me out. Many choices to homeschool are based on the flexibility it affords and even if this wasn’t your choice, the sooner you embrace it, the better. Patience on the other hand is no doubt wearing thin during these times of stress. Even on our floating hovel miles away from the chaos this is evident. As we shift gears from planning to go home and reunite with family and friends to now provisioning at a near apocalyptic level with preparations to be off the grid isolated in remote anchorages in the Sea of Cortez for possibly months – it’s palpable – patience is being tested!
Flexibility is both an advantage and requirement of homeschooling. I didn’t fully exercise this advantage in the beginning because I felt compelled to stick to the lesson plans that I had, but once I incorporated some somewhat spontaneous projects, they were truly win/win. The kids were happy, I was happy and they were learning something that was relevant to the world around them. For us the flexibility comes in different forms. If we’re underway on a difficult passage or in port with a great opportunity, school may be pushed to the weekend or we may double up on a day to get things done. One example just presented itself as we crossed the Sea. While on passage we managed to “catch” a flying fish and squid on our deck during the night. Lesson Plans Ahoy has many cool educational programs designed for cruising kids to include anatomy and dissection of a fish. The girls couldn’t stomach the dissection, but we did inspect and review anatomy, and both kids completed sketches of the creatures. We had a great discussion and now have beautiful sketches to remember our creatures that appeared in the middle of the night – victory!
I also say that flexibility is a requirement of homeschooling, because you must embrace it since you have been their parent and now are taking on a very different role. Yes, as parents we are (hopefully) spending a decent amount of time educating our children about the world, but to breathe life into lessons such as reducing fractions, diagraming sentences, remembering “i before e” and divisibility rules (did I sleep through that class???), prefixes, suffixes… take your pick! My hat’s off to the teachers of the world! It takes energy and inspiration to maintain kids’ motivation to learn these topics and hold them to it until the lightbulb goes on. Even if you are facilitating the learning environment while someone else instructs, this applies. When your kids are used to another authority figure providing their education and dear old mom or dad step up to the plate to fulfill this role, be prepared for some bumps in the road.
Patience is a virtue…ooh yeah baby…one I wish I possessed. I just read and wholeheartedly embrace the statement “if patience is a virtue, action and perseverance is a duty” (read the blogpost at https://theojellis.com/is-patience-really-a-virtue/). To clarify, I’m not recommending a wait and see approach to homeschooling, but rather one of: be patient with any life transition…especially one amidst a lifechanging, worldwide pandemic – give it time, allow for mistakes and head the lessons learned along the way. Make a conscious effort to take that deep breath, time out and find a moment of levity amidst this journey – it’s a key survival skill that you’ll need, believe me!
Beyond school, there still is a lot of after school and weekend time being spent in isolation and it doesn’t look like we’ll be clear of this anytime in the near future. I’m not Mary Poppins with my carpet bag full of tricks and spoonful of sugar orchestrating an endless stream of activities that would entertain even the most melancholy child – BUT I do try to keep some things on hand for the kids to look forward to and make an effort to have some of their screentime educational. We don’t always have the advantage of a strong WiFi signal, if any at all, so I look for downloads that I can print or save for periods that we are underway.
Here are some of the websites, podcasts and projects that have helped us out to alleviate the “I’m bored” moments on the boat. Most are free or low cost – check them out.
Websites and Podcasts
Brains on! Science podcast for kids – We played these in the car to and from school before we left and now it is a familiar reminder of home – creative, educational, diverse in topics
National Geographic Kids – https://kids.nationalgeographic.com- quizzes, videos all great topics
World Wildlife Fund Wild Classroom– https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources – detailed lesson plans covering a variety of subjects from science and economics to physical education – all focused on conservation and protection of wildlife and their habitats
NASA STEM – https://www.nasa.gov/stem educational programs, videos, NASA TV – for my girl who loves space, this is a great resource
DeepSpaceSparkle – Free art lessons and downloads -sign up on email and receive a monthly email packet`
Celebrate heritage months – a quick internet search will provide you with relevant historical and cultural information to do any number of activities to celebrate the heritage months. For March we developed a time line of notable firsts for women and each girl picked a women to do a presentation on after reading the bios in the Smithsonian’s “Because of Her Story” https://womenshistory.si.edu and various books we had onboard. Teagan picked conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall and Kellyn picked Cindy Whitehead, skateboarding pioneer and developer of the girl empowerment clothing line and movement “Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word”. After their presentations, Chad emailed Cindy about the project and Kellyn received a personalized email back from her! Talk about inspiring the next generation – thank you Cindy!
Cruising sites and books
Sailing Totem – https://www.sailingtotem.com/tag/homeschooling – Behan and Jamie Gifford provide wisdom, insight, experience and practical tips to aid in successful homeschooling on a boat. Having recently met them, they are humble, generous mentors to many of us with families aboard and about as genuine as you get – great website to follow with a 3-part boatschooling series and wealth of other good reads as they continue cruising with their now teenage kids aboard.
Sailing with Terrapin – http://www.sv-terrapin.com/2015/09/homeroadboatworld-school-resources.html While I’ve never met Aimee, her resources and witty sense of humor reflected in her posts helped me make the adjustment to boat schooling my girls and getting prepared to become the matriarch on this cruising adventure. Their blog is a few years old, but the posts still make me laugh and this link takes you to many of the free educational online resources.
Lesson Plans Ahoy! by Nadine Slavinski – This book provides lesson plans and how-to’s for not only homeschooling on a boat, but also making the most of the numerous educational experiences around you while on the water. I’ve pulled projects from here and look forward to pulling many more in the next few months without internet.
Voyaging with Kids by Behan Gifford, Sara Dawn Johnson and Michel Robertson – Considered by many a cruising family as an essential component in your cruising library, this book covers not only education onboard, but health, safety and sanity of taking your kids afloat in any capacity. Easy read with relevant topics for all – a must have! Note: We recently met Behan Gifford and can’t recommend this book highly enough…might be a great read for ANY homeschooling mom or dad.
Being in isolation affords moments that many of us aren’t aware of in the normal hustle bustle of life. Allow yourself to take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves here and now. When we’re able to move forward from this period, perhaps we’ll relish the simple freedoms of being able to go to the beach or to our favorite restaurants again. Now please excuse me while I join my kids on deck to work on my Macarena moves. Be safe out there.
This story was late because the HelmsMistress is a bit more strict about perfecting her writing than I am. Stick with us to read Kids Corner tomorrow and posts on Sat and Sun. We’re getting ready to get on the road so we can start heading north…planning on going off the grid for several weeks to make sure we do some self-isolation on our own little floating island…as we head north into the heart of the Sea of Cortez. We’ve kept up on the news and want you all to know that you’re in our thoughts and prayers…no matter where you are. Every one of you are awesome and we love the interaction and comments we get…from you. It feels like a community as I reply to comments from folks all over the world…thanks and keep it up. Following us is GREAT….thank you. Want to get a bit more involved with LF2SF? Check out our Patreon Page!
Note: If you choose to purchase either of the books mentioned in this post via the links I’ve provided…we make a very, very small percentage of the purchase…as we’re Amazon Associates. In the last four years…we’ve made nearly $6 whole dollars!