Confessions of a (new) homeschooling mom finishing the first school year

By The HelmsMistress

The Tulum V crew cheers as we round 3rd base in the first year of homeschool!  Yes, despite the pleas of two elementary school kids who were very used to a traditional school year, we have 4 weeks to go to finish off the requirements for their grades.  Then what?  It’s not as if my kids need a break from school so they can go to summer camp or on a beach vacation – we do that rather effectively all year long.  What’s next???  Admittedly, I’ve been on autopilot for the past few weeks of school, but recently faced the realization that I had two important decisions to make:  #1 Schedule: Stick to the traditional August-June school schedule or continue year-round? and  #2: What curriculum to follow for next year?

Let’s get real, it’s not just the kids who need a break, their rookie teacher is badly in need of a break to recharge her creativity (and patience)!  Furthermore, I have zero experience with (and desire for frankly) year-round school.  So, we’ve settled on a plan to finish by the 4th of July, take a break, recommence in August with some projects on the ancient civilizations, art, music etc. with… of course our dear friend math rearing her lovely face from time to time and starting a formal school sometime in September/October.  This seems to work for us and like anything in the cruising world, is the plan for TODAY.  I’m embracing less rigidity as we enter hurricane season and continue to watch COVID-19 containment and necessary restrictions evolve in Mexico.

Now with a clean slate for next school year, I researched homeschool curriculum again.  There is so much to choose from – between homeschool styles, theory, cost, etc. – the options easily become overwhelming.  There are charter schools in California that will give you money for educational materials and even field trips to Disneyland that I had heard quite a bit about.  While the reimbursement sounds good, we need something that doesn’t require a solid WIFI connection at routine intervals to communicate with advisors.  We also didn’t want a set of boxed, strict curriculum, but desired some structure to follow that allows for flexibility throughout the year to account for travel days and opportunities that present themselves based on our location and the kids’ interest.  I finally decided to stop complicating things.  We liked some of the format of the curriculum we had this past year (Abeka and Bob Jones University) and plan to supplement with some other books and diversify it with electronic resources to cover all the subject areas as well as other areas of interest for the kids.  The beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility you have in selecting curriculum and the time and space in which to apply it.

So how did the first year of homeschooling go?  While I did have to dodge some pencil and paper projectiles (thank you long division, division of fractions….basically anything division), I am proud to say that no books or students were thrown overboard and the kids still sit down and get to work when it’s time for school – I consider that success!  We left traditional school at the end of October and I started our formal homeschool, (Offshore Innovations), in early December, graciously inheriting lesson plans and much of the curriculum from their school.  The long break allowed for transition to a new cruising lifestyle and the all important “deschooling” process.  In hindsight, I didn’t put too much emphasis on this, particularly because it seemed to have a negative connotation (in reality, it is anything but).  “Deschooling” simply refers to the period of transition from a classroom learning environment to a homeschool environment.  It involves less structure and allows for a child’s natural love of learning to hopefully emerge.  We had a huge family transition happening, so while we had a natural break in the schedule, I didn’t have very scripted goals for deschooling.  Even so, this period was inherently rich with learning opportunities from both internal and external resources and I have no regrets on the timing of restarting formal curriculum.

I didn’t take advantage of the beauty of homeschooling until later in the school year.  The beauty of homeschooling is flexibility – both in terms of individual learning style and pace as well as environmental factors.  Homeschooling aboard for us means that we are not locked into a hard, fast schedule and if an educational opportunity comes along that the kids show interest in, we can spend more time in that area while the interest is there.  To be clear, we are not throwing math out for the week because they found a sudden interest in turtle reproduction, but I don’t feel pressured to have to push through and cram in multiple math lessons to make up the time.  They’ll complete the requirements they need for their grade.

One major curveball impacted our schedule this year, but we were able to find some positives from it.  With COVID quarantines, everyone was tapping into their virtual connections and with that came a flood of free online educational opportunities.  Our favorite by far has been the World Wildlife Fund Wild Classroom.  From virtual classroom discussions on conservation led by experts in the field to educational activities on various endangered species and their important role in the environment – we have been thoroughly impressed with this resource.  The girls just logged in this morning to listen to the Senior Manager of the Antarctic Program talk about tagging and studying whales in Antarctica.  The girls even had their question answered real time which just brings smiles to their faces.  Better than listening to dear old mom, especially in the midst of quarantine and limited activities – thank you WWF!

I definitely have goals based on lessons learned from this first year.  I did less teaching and more assigning of lesson plans with follow-up feedback than I originally envisioned.  Next year I hope to spend more time preparing lessons beforehand and introducing interesting topics to engage my not-so-little-anymore learners.  It is challenging with 2 learners of different grades both vying for your attention (hmmmm, this sounds vaguely like mommyhood).  As such, just like I do as a parent, I plan to carve out individual time for each of them so we may not all start school together, but rather come together for appropriate activities as needed.  I’ve relieved myself of the need to be an expert in everything, and rely on having good resources available.  I can’t tell you how beneficial the World Book Encyclopedia set (that I originally scoffed at) has become for offline periods.  Most importantly I’ve learned to embrace the benefits of homeschooling.  I can’t put a price on time spent teaching my kids and watching them evolve and learn their important role in this world.  I missed those moments in years past.  I am learning and re-learning just about as much as they are and this time it’s fun!  I’m loving the opportunity to inspire the kids to learn all they can about the world around them and those brave pioneers who have gone before them, who took a stand and broke through glass ceilings for something important in life.  I am embracing the flexibility to allow them to learn more about a topic they find interesting and at the same time, allowing modifications or a complete re-do to a lesson plan that sounded really cool in my mind, but completely flopped when presented.

As always, this is my story and my experience.  The universal mantra I hear from homeschooling parents is you have to find what works for you and your family.  What are your goals for your children?  What are their learning styles?  Where does your desire to homeschool come from?  I’ve thought through these by now and have heard all variety of answers to these questions which has helped me solidify where we’re going as a family.  I have evolved from fear of failure in homeschooling to excitement for developing lesson plans for next year and getting started again!  Sharpen your pencils girls!


The HelmsMistress is also the Homeschool Teacher and she writes the Weds post and takes most of these insanely awesome pictures.  But this writing isn’t by her.  We’re living on a cruising sailboat in the time of COVID….isolating the best we can as we also approach hurricane season in the Sea of Cortez.  I also wanna take the time to tell you that life out here probably isn’t what you think it is…but it isn’t too bad.  One thing you gotta do out here is WEAR SUNSCREEN…so we’re constantly looking for great sunscreen that we can wear in the water and it will take care of my tats.  I found it in several different brands, right now we use a lot of Raw Elements– Check it out…it’s not bad.

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