I thought instead of doing the blow by blow of our daily adventures, I’d share some of the less glamorous aspects to this lifestyle. The least glamorous, in my opinion, is Homeschooling.
How is the homeschooling going?
This continues to be our biggest source of stress and argument while cruising. I continually make them (the boys in particular) do something they quite frankly don’t show a ton of interest in doing on their own. We have changed the structure of schooling in several different ways in the hopes of maximizing their efforts while minimizing my frustration, and while we don’t have a perfect set up, the latest seems to work best for us. Dare I say almost good? I write out a three day schedule out and they have 4 days to complete it. And repeat. If they get it all done in 3 days, they get a 4th day mostly off (mostly because I’m often accused of finding “educational opportunities” on many off days). Knowledge isn’t enough of an incentive, they need to be bribed with a free day. Sometimes the free days get eaten up with a sea day, but it does lessen the pressure of schooling on the tougher sea days. This schedule also allows the kids to have some structure which satisfies me, while also giving them some flexibility to plan their day.
Our curriculum is pieced together from several different sources:
MATH - We use Saxon Math for math and complete 1-3 lessons at a time, depending on how much is new and how much is review. The Math is self regulating and we probably do the best in that subject because there isn’t any room to fudge. If they understand the concepts, we can move on quickly. If they struggle with a concept, we work on that concept ad nauseam. I’m good at math, so math is a subject I enjoy teaching.
HISTORY - We have some fantastic history textbooks and we read those together and discuss. We started with a broad focus on the history of the world and now we are studying US history, which is super fun for me, because I’m learning a lot! This is usually an enjoyable teaching/learning experience and I’m generally happy with what they are retaining.
LANGUAGE - Spanish is via a few apps and what they are absorbing in Spanish speaking countries. It is fairly rudimentary at this point.
SCIENCE - Science is more reading and discussing as a group. We have a few citizen science projects started, so that helps with the big picture. Zander is also doing a multi year science project where he is studying how fast tin and aluminum cans will oxidize in salt water. We are trying to decide which is the lesser of the two evils; tossing cans overboard (legal until 2013 when offshore), or letting them sit in a landfill. I’ve mentioned before, we have participated in some cool projects; counting sea turtles in Mexico, collecting water samples across the Atlantic and we hope to do plastic trawls when we re-cross the Atlantic for another organization.
WRITING - Writing is the most frustrating subject for me to teach. For one, Zander is dyslexic, so he does not enjoy it at all and is not fantastic at it. Nor am I, so that makes it more challenging. Z’s spelling is quite abysmal and the reality is, that may never change. I’ve read articles that say spelling tests don’t help poor spellers, they just reinforce that good spellers are good. That doesn’t help us much, so we avoid spelling tests. I try to go through his writing assignments and find the words he misspells repeatedly and at least work on those. We are working on ways for him to find his own mistakes. Dictionaries don’t really help dyslexics when they don’t even know where to start. Counterintuitively, dyslexia is not so much a reading disorder, but an auditory processing disorder, but it manifests itself in reading and writing. Sounds and letters are arbitrary and they just don’t make sense to the brain of a dyslexic. That said, you can’t get through life without being a decent writer, so we focus on ways he can help himself and we keep it simple. He’s a wicked smart kid, it sucks that he can’t always convey that on paper. Porter on the other hand, as you can imagine, is quite creative in his writing and doesn't mind the assignments.
LIFE LEARNING - The world is our classroom approach. Geography, world studies, religion, learning about different cultures and many other subjects are all the things we hope the kids are getting out here via osmosis. For example they practice their flag identification when we enter a new marina and guess boat origins, we try to identify stars on night watches, we practice fish ID when we are snorkeling or fishing and we learn about different cultures simply by observing them and talking to locals. The kids hang out with kids from different countries and get a wider understanding of the world at large (or maybe they are just discussing if the Ferrari or Porsche has the faster 0-60 speed, it's probably not all literary critiques of western authors like I imagine their conversations to be. In fact, Porters big discovery about Scottish kids was "they sure drop the f bomb a lot. Fantastic!). Our hope is the worldly gains they make will far outweigh some of the setbacks they may experience in the traditional classroom when they return to that setting.
Where did they start and where are they now?
I mentioned Zander is dyslexic and the writing is what suffers. Fortunately, on this trip, he has really started to read for pleasure and we can only hope the more he reads the better his writing/spelling will be. He reads 2-3 hours a day, so that has to benefit him at some point. He was not doing that, nor do I think he would be doing that if we were at home. Zander is fantastic in math and I think we have continued to keep his forward momentum, so I’m happy with his progress. History and Science also come pretty easy for Z as long as he doesn’t have to write about them. His discussions are awesome and he retains more than I do about historical events.
Since we had one dyslexic child, we were pretty worried about Porter as early as preschool. When he didn’t show any signs of having the same disorder we were so thrilled and turns out, we may have let his studies slide a little. I always worked in Z’s classroom because I thought he needed the help. I helped with a lot of parties in Porter’s classroom, but didn’t really help with the academics. When we left for our trip, Porter’s grades were average, but when I actually sat down with him and spent time on his skills, I was appalled at how poor his math skills were and how many fundamentals he was missing in the subject. I totally take the blame. We spent the first 6 months of our trip retracing some serious math steps, but I can happily say he is doing great now and we’ve taken some standardized tests to confirm this.
Oh yeah, and I have a third child to teach don’t I? Fortunately Ana also shows no signs of being dyslexic (it is hereditary, so we worried for a long time). She is very good at math and the reading seems to be on level. We have workbooks for her and she reads a little every day and since she is only missing kindergarten, I think she will survive without traditional school and under the Mommy influence. She is at the point where school work is still fun, so I try to enjoy that, one of the few educational moments of Zen!
Will I continue to homeschool when we return?
Hell no! OK, I do feel guilty admitting this, but I’m pretty sure future homeschooling is not in the cards for our family. It is a fantastic schedule and I’m convinced you can fully keep up with traditional school in about 1/3 of the time it takes to actually attend traditional school. Imagine the extra time for extracurricular activities, play time and/or down time? Unfortunately I’m not sure my blood pressure would survive much more of this! Homeschooling exhuasts me most of the time. Some days it is so rewarding, but there are some pretty frustrating days as well and I'm not very good at balancing the two. Maybe with one child I could do it, but juggling three is hard for me. I’m pretty sure I made a good call not studying to be a teacher in college. I don’t have that gene. Some days my mantra is simply “I will not kill my kids today”. I probably won’t have to dust off space on my shelf for my “teacher of the year” award. That said, there are indeed, actual moments of Zen. We get in long discussions about world affairs, historical events, scientific principals.......unfortunately most of those moments do not translate into lengthy written compositions, but learning is definitely going on. If my kids end up living in a van down by the river, I’ll beat myself up. If most of their future academic endeavors are a success, I’ll try to take a little credit for that as well.
|steering up the Guadiana River|