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.