Thursday, November 13, 2014

What's the most time consuming boat project? School Curriculum!

We've made great success over here on the Terrapin. We can officially say that if the Zombie Apocalypse were to happen tomorrow we could successfullysail off into the sunset, all of the BIG boat projects are done.

So what's keeping us from shaking our booties to the 'happy dance'? The one boat project trickier than any of them. More daunting than the standing rigging, more frightening than rebuilding the heads,  more intense than strapping down two 12 foot kayaks to the boat is building our girls school curriculum. Que the blood curdling screams and horror movie music.
Text books! State standards! Science! Math! Where does one begin?  Any chance we can get away with "do as I say and not as I do" for the next two years and just call it a day? Honestly if there was any way we could teach the girls to be underwater welders we could scrap the whole curriculum thing and have them on their way to lucrative careers.

Originally we had planned on buying "curriculum in a box" for each grade level, till we thought better of the idea. We really want to incorporate curriculum relevant to our travels while still incorporating material that our girls need to have.

First we downloaded and poured over the state standards. Each state has their own particular standards broken down by grade level and content.  We plan to keep the standards for Math and Language Arts but will be tweaking standards for Social Science and Science. We will not be teaching to tests, nor will we be incorporating Common Core into any subject.

For Math we plan to use Saxon Math. Saxon math is what Phil and I grew up with.
This math is easy to follow and more importantly it will be easy for us to teach using this type of curriculum because of our familiarity.  We have been able to download Saxon Math books (found free online) onto the computer and Ipad for each grade up till 9th. And just for good measure we are purchasing a high school algebra book (we already have a teachers edition) in hardcover.

We're covering the Language Arts content by purchasing workbooks our girls are already accustomed to using.  Since 1st grade our girls have used California Treasure workbooks. These workbooks are customized for most states. In addition to the workbooks our girls will be regularly posting to their own blog (which will be public soon) and required to write in a daily journal. We are requiring that they write just a few sentences in a daily journal as to have a momento from their trip. Their blog posts will help with their typing skills, grammar, sentence structure and overall writing.

With regards to Social Science we are only keeping the standards that apply to the US government. Regardless of the state you live in, there are social science standards you will learn in both 5th and 8th grades regarding United States History and Geography. For the remainder of this school year (we
5th grade social science
leave in January) we will be switching our social science focus to Mexico and Central America. This is where it gets tricky. Trying to find a specific textbook that solely focuses on these areas and their history is tough, if not impossible.

On the advice of Behan from Totem, we are using DK Eyewitness Books to fill in the gaps for relevant social science materials.  But don't go thinking it's just that easy. We can't randomly buy books that sound exciting. What about having two different reading levels we have to cater to? How can you tell exactly what grade level the book is written for?

This is where the "fun" part comes in. I have found fantastic books I thought would be perfect to cover content only to discover that they were college materials. Bummer.

Here's how you check the reading level of the books you are wanting to purchase.

Every book has an ISBN number.  You need this number to be detect the grade level. There are a few different ways to do this.  Accelerated Reader (AR BookFinder) through Renaissance Learning will give you access to check the grade level of books. 

There's also an app called which will allow you to check grade level of books called Level It Books.

You can also check your student's Lexile by using their website.  What's Lexile and why do you care? The Lexile measure can be used to identify material at the appropriate difficulty level for the student regardless of the student's grade level. Check out their website for a better definition.

For Science we've purchased two books to satisfy Emma, who's in 4th grade this year and 5th next. We've yet to purchase any specific science books for Jessica (6th grade this year).  One major advantage for our girls (and me) when it comes to science is their dad has a PhD in Science.  With the help of a microscope and slides we plan to dive deep into science primarily focusing on the ocean and the many different animals we plan to encounter. In conjunction with any science text books we purchase to co-inside with the state standards we will be teaching them Marine Biology.  We have some DK Eyewitness Books to help with this subject as we continue to search for an age appropriate textbook, most Marine Biology textbooks are geared towards college level.

Living on a boat reveals tremendous learning opportunities for our girls not offered in a regular classroom.  We've yet to set sail and they've already been introduced to and will continue to learn more about weather patterns, engines, electricity (rebuilding the battery bank was a great learning opportunity), ecosystems and other cultures.


  1. WHOA- you can get target grade level from an ISBN? I had *no* idea. That's an awesome insider trick, Aimee! I am not familiar with any of these tools and will check them out. Let me know if you want recos on field guides for some of those marine critters you'll be seeing.

    Don't write off higher level content. Our son turned into a voracious reader that first year in Mexico to satisfy his interested in marine bio. He ended up using high school and college texts - and this was a kid who was a very reluctant reader when we left. If it looks good- take a chance!

    It was fun brainstorming MX books with you Aimee!

  2. Hola! Don't delay your departure--the soon-to-be nine-year-old and just-turned eleven-year-old girls aboard Del Viento will be mostly in the La Paz area this winter prepping to cross the Pacific and we hope we have a chance to meet you all. Michael

  3. I saw on your blog that you're leaving :( We've been following your blog for a good while now. We plan to stay with a good friend in La Paz for awhile once we get there. We leave January 26th! Can't wait

  4. Hello from s/v Bliss here! Hope to catch you in Mexico. Jolanda

    1. Jolanda,

      We're headed down 1/26
      We'd like to hit up Carnaval in La Paz in Feb.

      Terrapin Crew

  5. I have to agree. We can always find an excuse not to go.
    Cast off the lines, feel the wind, say goodbye to your old life and welcome your new one with open arms.. before the zombies get you!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Hi Aimee,
    Thank you so much for this very timely post! It was very helpful. My husband and I just might bump into you. We are leaving the SF Bay area with our two young girls in late Feb. Love the ISBN number thing!! I had no idea.... I could have used that knowledge when Christmas shopping for the nieces and nephews! Thanks again for sharing your process.
    Anne Vawter
    SV Banyan

    1. Anne,

      We'll me in Mexico for a few months. Please let us know if you're down our way.

      Terrapin Crew