Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Confessions of a homeschooling mom

"Do we really have to do school today?"

"This is so unfair, it's Saturday!!"

"This sucks!"

One of the first questions parents receive when meeting another sailing family is always, "So how's homeschool going?"  The first 60 days of cruising and attempting to homeschool is rough, real rough. You set sail off into the sunset and discover that every aspect of your life has been turned inside out. Nothing is the same as it was when living on the dock. Showering, eating, cooking, sleeping, everything is different. Then comes homeschool. 

Expect that your first few months your kids would rather do just about anything than homeschool. Honestly, can you blame them? Like you, they're enthralled with their new life, dolphins swimming by, fish to catch, dad's out swimming with whales, they'd rather be snorkeling with manta rays and more. 

Conversations with other parents all start the same, thinking we're failing and the kids are going to be calling CPS. Doesn't take but a few minutes to feel in good company discovering that the parents you're talking to are also worried that they  haven't dedicated enough time to teaching and that they too are fighting the good fight of getting kids to cooperate. 

Two months into the trip I pulled a fast one on a particular blonde hair, blued eyed daughter of ours. My ears were bleeding from all the whining about homeschool and I had had enough. To the untrained ear, the following may sound counterproductive.

"If you don't want to do homeschool, you don't have to. You have the option of not doing any school for this entire trip. No problem. No worries. You can expect that once we go back you will be the oldest kid in 6th grade."

Phil knew where I was heading with my homeschool conversation and chimed in.

"Think of it, Jessica. You might even be old enough to drive in 6th grade by the time we get back. How cool would that be? A 6th grader with a car. I bet you'd have tons of friends all wanting rides. Maybe you can even get your own parking spot right next to the principal"

I didn't sell off everything I owned, save for two years and say goodbye to friends and family to cruise and fight with an 11 year old every day. Not on my list of things to do.  Our oldest daughter got the hint and hasn't complained much since. She will on occasion as if we can have an "easy" day. 

So how are we handling homeschool?

 Both Phil and I are passionate about our girls education and have split the work of teaching our girls. We dedicate 15 hours a week (Sun-Sat) to school. Every school day the girls will do Math, Language Arts, and then something else. That something else might be History or Science (Phil has a PhD in Molecular Biology, huge help).  The girls are also required to be reading a book of their choice everyday.  The girls are also required (no options regarding this) to write in a journal every day. All I ask, is that they write a few sentences about what they did the day before. This is to be written in their words as a momento, something they can look back at 20 years from now.  

Right now homeschool is going well. I love teaching the girls as it gives me a chance to learn new things too and keep an eye on their progression. The girls like homeschool because it allows them to move at their own speed. One is blasting through Math while the other is needing to go slow in the Language Arts department, which we can easily accommodate. With an established 15 hours of school needed each week, the girls can decide if they want to blow off a day knowing that they'll have to make up the hours later that week. For us school is year round to make up for the periods of days when we don't homeschool, like on long passages.

For the first 3 months the girls studied the history of the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans. I highly recommend DK books as they are easy to teach from and engage the kids with their great pictures.


After we were finished with the history of local natives, the girls were asked to pick a group that they wanted to create a report about. I gave the girls an outline of what the report was to include and they were given 4 weeks to complete the reports and hand them in. 

Jessica chose to do a report on the Inca's

Emma did her report on Aztecs. Check out her drawing of Chacmool!!
They we required to draw a map showing the different areas of civilizations

They each got to pick their favorite chapter and write about it.

Each report ended with information regarding the Spanish Conquest.

I really enjoyed teaching about the local Natives and the girls loved learning about local history. They both really got into their reports and couldn't wait to present them when they were due. 

So what's next? Book reports!!  Oh yeah, we're rolling it back to 1986 when kids actually produced book reports. They've each finished  book of their choosing and will be creating their reports soon. 

PROTIP:  School does not have to be done at the same time every day. Some days we hike before it gets too hot and then do school. Some days we do school after dinner when it's the coolest part of the day. Don't kill yourself and your kids trying to maintain a strict schedule, it's easier if you establish how many hours you'd like to complete in a week and go from there. 



  1. This is great! I was just talking to Chuck Jones & we were talking about home schooling. I sent him the link so he can read this. I love the girl's drawings!

  2. I just saw the drawing of Pizzaro--the girls are getting the real version of the Spanish conquest aren't they? Love it!

  3. Looks great! We studied the Aztecs several years ago, but it wasn't nearly as interesting doing it from Washington State as it would be from a sailboat off S. America! :)

  4. Great post and way to go Mom & Dad teaching your children well! Love the corn drawing in the report - so detailed! Fantastic idea on the journaling too.

  5. The best thing those kids will have is the experience to back up their knowledge. Kids only get to read about places in books while YOUR kids get to actually see first hand.

    (just found your blog yesterday so going to catch up a bit) :)

  6. Love your information you are putting out for other cruising families. We are a New Zealand family about to start cruising in six weeks time. Thank you for your indepth information on homeschooling and a breakdown of your cruising costs. Cindy