Sunday, February 17, 2013

Homeschooling aboard s/v Savannah

After three years of experimenting, worrying and occasionally patting myself on the back, I think it’s time to evaluate Savannah Academy.

It’s one of the things that actually keeps many women from cruising…. home-schooling.  I was nervous as I could be and in the beginning I had more questions than answers.  How stringent should I be?  What is this un-schooling thing?  Should I buy a curriculum?  Am I supposed to make it all up?  What if I miss something?  What if he turns out stupid?  I decided, given my personality and the million other things we had to worry about, the best thing to do would be to buy one of the schools in a box type things and go from there.  Calvert Home-schooling has graduated many cruisers so we decided it was a good place to start.  Jake was just in Kindergarten so I knew that if it didn’t work we had plenty of time to work things out.  We tried it for a while and I found it to be too rigid and many times irrelevant ( learning his address and phone number for example….ummm.  Sailing Vessel Savannah, Channel 16?), which was rather surprising given my type A personality and the need to check lots of boxes.  Eventually, we donated the whole box to a local community in Mexico and just focused on basic reading, writing, and math while I went about finding another approach. 

Our second go round was based on the book The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise.  This is sort of a ‘how to’ on Classical Education.  I love the way it’s laid out and it provides several different choices/suggestions/resources for curriculums.  While I never really followed this guide to a ‘T” (it, too is very rigid), it addressed all the things that I was concerned with.  Specifically, I liked the way it laid out History and the different phases of education.  It just made sense to me.

So today, we do a combination of many different curriculums, all loosely based on the Classical Education concept.  We use The History of the World, as suggested by the book and Jake absolutely loves it.  We (I) like Math U See and we use Spelling Workout books for Spelling.  For reading, we started with Hooked on Phonics, but since we’ve finished those through second grade, we now read whatever books we have on board, trying when we can to link them to our history lessons or something pertaining to wherever we may be geographically.  Writing is all over the place, but we use Handwriting Without Tears to fill in the blanks.  We use Susan Wise’s book on Langugae/Grammer (we’re on book 2 at the moment) and so far, I’m impressed with the results. 

We’re much freer with our schedule than I ever thought we would be.  I find that we spend about 2 – 3 hours a day (depending on the attitude of the student and patience of the teacher) on the basic subjects; math, reading, writing, spelling, grammer, history, science.  Science gets the least amount of attention, as I really believe we cover that day to day via our hikes, snorkels, sailing, etc.   If we pull into a harbor and see kids…we take every chance we can get to play.  If we are underway and the seas are too rough, we ditch school until the conditions get better.  When we got to Tahiti, we took a “Tahiti Break.”  This summer when we went to the east coast of the US, we took a “summer break.”  I find that we are able to stick to our plans most when we’re in a place where we have sort of “settled down.”   Our typical day is for Jake and I to “do school” in the a.m. while Andy goes diving.  In the afternoon, we do boat projects, go shopping, hiking or whatever.  One day a week, we usually take a break and go hiking or sight seeing as a whole family.  Sometimes I have Jake write about our trip, sometimes I don’t.  I find if I connect all the fun things to school, he no longer thinks they’re fun.

We’ve run into attitude problems along the way…we’ve developed a system.  Andy and I have a mantra:  We will not raise an idiot.  If Jake doesn’t want to learn from me (nice cozy atmosphere in our underwear joking and laughing), he can learn from daddy (sit up straight, put on a shirt, “I’m timing you!”).  If daddy can’t motivate, we’ll put him in school where ever we are at the time.  If that doesn’t work…. we go home.  Mommy and daddy get jobs, Jake goes to school.  We’ve found we rarely get past putting a shirt on for daddy.  The threat alone usually does the trick.

While I’m 100% positive that he’s thriving in this atmosphere, as I said above, I do find that he isn’t always as enthusiastic as I had hoped.  And while we have a plan, I find that I get extremely sad when he doesn’t want to learn.  I think many of us mom’s who have followed other cruising kid blogs over the years envision our kids sweetly skipping through town picking up strange languages, politely sitting down with elders asking intriguing questions, begging to make the grocery list and add up the cost, while fitting in time to learn a new instrument or skill like carving or basket weaving.  Well, that just doesn’t happen.  So the less you beat yourself up about it (as a mom and teacher), the better the day goes.  There are times when you can squint really hard, have a beer and convince yourself it’s happening, but more often than not, you’re better off just trying to find out how to make learning fun while still getting the job done and not killing anyone.  At the end of the day, somehow, through all the fussing and fighting, you find out they really did learn that language (at least hello, goodbye, and cheers!), and while they may not have learned how to carve a shark out of a breadfruit tree, they did learn how to climb the coconut tree and provide you with a tasty coconut to go with your rum. 

I find that as a home-schooling mom (on the ocean or on land), you just need to cut yourself some slack.  Whether you’re un-schooling, or you keep the strictest of schedules, the point is you’re together and you’re both learning and NO ONE cares more about their education than you.  ...that can’t be a bad thing.


Nancy, Ethan & Zada said...

The biggest part of my daily worries on Eyoni are the woes of the "schooling" parts. As you state, I thought my child would jump in and thrive under "mom being teacher". Not so. And I think it makes sense on a small boat. You're mom/friend/nurse/teacher/couselor/peace-maker/co-captain and when you add "teacher" to that long list it gets I am glad you are not beating yourself up too much as it's easy to do. Easy to watch others and hear the complaints of teachers who dislike home-schooling parents. I figure though, that taken the state we departed from: California and it's piss-pour record in nation-wide grades, that no matter what I do, from a 12 minute course one day to a 3 hour course the next, that one-one-one beats the 28-32 to one any day of the yes, we mom's who homeschool on floating boats need to relax some and not buy into the stress of all the things we left behind and the good reasons why we did. Jake will thrive. No doubt about it. In fact, I think I'll guarantee it. Now go sit in the sun and have fun....more lessons on WWII are right around the corner in good old Palau and I doubt most kids his age wouldn't even know what that is all about, let alone find it on a world map.

Diane, Evan and Maia said...

If it's any consolation boat schooling does seem to help kids thrive--no matter what it looks like on board. Maia's brick and mortar school experiences seem on par with kids who have returned (or are in a school for a while): her teacher's find her fascinating because she's all about getting down to the work and getting it done (though she hates any form of busy work), she's a strong an involved learner, and she's super confident (though that took a bit--she had a shakey start). We did find gaps: we didn't do as much music education as she needed and funny enough her knowledge of Aussie history and geography was a bit behind. But we're also in a pretty flexible school system now so her strengths more than make up for anything we missed.

Diane, Evan and Maia said...

oh--and sport. I knew there was something else she was behind on...

Anonymous said...

Jake, thank you for the time we had together at the Manta Ray pool in Yap. Sorry we missed you and your parents in Palau. (Make sure you go to Jellyfish Lake.) I can assure everyone you are a well educated child. The way you can merge your imagination world and real life experiences you have had while sailing entertained me. I think every child should be as lucky as you. What you have learned can't be taught from a book or in a "classroom". Your "teachers" should be proud! Sail on, perhaps I'll see you in the Bahamas one day. Miss Jenny from Michigan
PS I will brush up on my dinosaurs.

The Crew of Savannah said...

Thanks for all the comments. Miss Jenny....Jake says thank you for the ice cream :). Sorry we missed you too. We got here yesterday after a long rough passage but now we're fully enjoying it!

Just a Minute said...

School- Smhool. Don't kid yourself. You're doing a great job. One hour of one-on-one beats six hours of standing in line, moving between classes, waiting your turn to speak, or being afraid to ask questions in case you look stupid. I firmly believe that. When Jake gets to high school, you may want to think about getting near a school, because there are SO many amazing opportunities for them at that age. Jack is loving life. He is on the Swim Team (both the high school one which just finished and now the year round private one) and he just joined the HS Sailing team which is a blast. In Spring, he's joining a biking club. All while maintaining a 3.7 GPA. And in Junior year he is all lined up to do a Running Start program at a local Community College. When he graduates he will have a HS degree and be a certified Marine Deisel Mechanic. And then guess what? He's already planning on Hawaii, the South Pacific or some other great location back out in the REAL world where he can surf. No cubicle for him! Our years of homeschooling molded Jack into a confident, happy, hard-working self-starter. I am sure you will find the same.

The Crew of Savannah said...

Thanks Laura! I remember you guys had some issues (?) so it's great to hear that once you got back, all was better than expected. I'm really not concerned anymore but when reading and talking with other people, found I have some opinions now that I just can't keep to myself :)!

Anonymous said...

My wife, who started homeschooling our 9 year old this year, really enjoyed your perspective. She said "it was the most honest expose on homeschooling she has read". The real thing and not just a bunch of positive fluff. Thanks

Chuck and Ivy from the Tayana 37 Mowe, near you guys in Palau.

The Crew of Savannah said...

Hi Chuck. I'm glad she enjoyed it. I have lots more where that came from!! :). Are you guys the couple from Guam? We didn't get a chance to meet your wife and daughter the other day (we were doing school :) )but hope to when you guys come to town again. Take care and thanks for the comment.

The Merriman Family said...

Well as being a land home schooler, I have found that Kai can have a bit of an attitude sometimes with not wanting to do school. I keep telling myself it is his age. Instead of threatening Dad schooling him, I threaten sending him to "real, 8 hours a day" school. Takes care of the problem every time;) We just discovered lap books to go with our learning. It really helps us with our reading, making it a project or unit study type learning. I have found that switching our learning up helps. But if we had to do school on a boat with tons of new stuff to explore every stop, I don't know how I could motivate the kids to do it. Loved reading your post on this subject. Glad you are able to go with the flow.

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