Friday, February 07, 2020

Homeschooling as a Lifestyle

One of our intentions about cruising the Bahamas for 4-5 months was to slow down.

Ha, easier said than done.

There's been a lot of hype and research lately about how important it is to let kids be bored.

Being bored lets them figure things out by themselves, how to use that time to get into a 'flow' of something and just be ok with not doing anything seemingly 'productive.'

Being bored as an adult goes against the grain of what I was taught. Undoing all those years of schedules, meetings, checklists, appointments, multi-tasking and needing to fill my waking hours with DOING SOMETHING is making it hard to DO NOTHING.

Well, it's not really doing nothing. It's more like not needing to do many things at once or in a hurry.

To me, slowing down is a way of being. It's an intention, a lifestyle.

This brings me to homeschooling.

Homeschooling is so different to conventional schooling. It is similar to slowing down, has intention and is a lifestyle.

A week ago, the Homeschool Liaison officer from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board emailed us to see how we were getting on with homeschooling the kids and if we had any questions or needed some resources.

I had no idea there was even a Homeschool Liaison officer!!
It took me a few days to think of a proper response. It really threw me actually.

Do I tell her really what we do (or don't do)? Do I make it sound all idyllic and that it's been easy? Do I tell her about the countless tantrums and tears we've endured, from both sides? Do I tell her how I constantly feel challenged, guilty, overwhelmed and out of my depth? Do I tell her I'm a TRAINED teacher on top of it all?!

What I ended up saying was a bit of everything of the above.
Without a doubt, homeschooling has been one of the top challenges of our cruising lifestyle. Boat-schooling is in a completely different league on its own.

There are days when I wake up all energized and raring to ensure that today will be a good homeschooling day with intentional learning, critical thinking and magical A-ha moments.

There are days when I can't even be bothered to utter the word 'schoolwork' because I dread the backlash and whining that will (likely) ensue.

Mostly there are days where we just wing it, leaf through some workbooks, assign a few pages and then call it a day.

More and more, this feels like a lie. I realize I'm doing this to feel better about myself, to reassure ourselves and the rest of the world that we DID do some schooling. See? The worksheet is completed. Done. You can't deny a completed worksheet, right?

What has taken some time for me to understand and accept (still working on that), is that a completed worksheet is no indication that the child has learned anything except to read the question and fill in the answer.

Yes, there was probably some calculation or thinking involved to write down that answer, but still...

Did the child learn? And if so, what?

I am beginning to see how the cruising lifestyle IS an education in itself. Like REALLY see it.

We solve problems every single day on the boat. Why? Because there are problems every single day that need solving. And the correlation is imminent. If we don't solve X, then Y will happen.

We solve these problems by thinking creatively, doing research, working with others, and then probably the most important aspect of all, we just do it.

We try, we fail, we try again, we fail again, we try something different, it works! We learn.

And man is it hard.

I was raised by immigrant parents who valued hard work and a good education.

Extra math work and Kumon was part of the norm in our household. Getting good grades was expected, as was doing well in all the extra-curricular activities we were enrolled in.

Being busy was seen as a positive thing. Doing nothing was seen as lazy.

Today I find myself trying to educate my children on a boat when all I've ever known to be a 'good education' is to study harder and longer just so I could ace the tests.

Lucky for me, my parents also saw the value in sending me and my sister to summer camps, taking us on interesting holidays and letting us choose our own post-secondary majors without question.

That has made all the difference.

Still, homeschooling has tested me, my values and our family relationships.

As hard as it is, I try to focus on what we can give our kids now in our current environment and the answer to that is: Time.

Our little clan has spent more time together than we ever have, and probably ever will.

Without a doubt, we know one another a LOT better now. There is no room for secrets on a 42 foot boat. Bad moods permeate every square inch, as do smelly farts!

We talk a lot more together. We discuss, argue, debate, explain, joke and tease.

Lately we have been talking about the coronavirus, Brexit and the school strikes back in Ottawa.

We know our cruising lifestyle is not going to be a permanent thing. We know the kids will be returning to a brick and mortar school in the fall.

So for now, workbooks and worksheets have taken a somewhat back seat in our homeschooling journey.

Boardgames, reading, journals, educational apps and Minecraft is what we do.

Oh, and maintaining a floating home for cruising, safety and comfort. Together.


Pics below are of our recent days with new cruising friends on SV Ventolines and SV Consort (another Endeavor 42!) here at Rock Sound anchorage.

Cathedral cave, a short walk from where we tied our dinghy in Rock Sound.

See the monkey climbing the roots?

So cool and shady and all to ourselves! Love how accessible it is, 
free to explore and no trail to speak of. You go where you want to go.

Tai shining a torch into a small hole... Wyatt's on the other side doing the same.

Lots of tiny spaces and holes to go through at Cathedral Cave.

Tai and boat kid Wyatt strolling and chatting Minecraft. Tai has amazed us 
with his ease and speed at making new friends, chatting easily to new boat kids and adults.

Boats at anchor in Rock Sound. Anjulia Sue is further out in the anchorage.

One of the dinghy docks at Rock Sound. Depending on tide and current, 
we often have to set a Stern dinghy anchor to prevent the dinghy from going under 
the dock. Climbing in and out of the dinghy is always an exercise in 
flexibility and agility. Never looks pretty.

Back at Ocean Hole, and it's all to ourselves!

You can't hear him, but Tai was talking to these fish and ooohing and 
aaahhhhing at them. We had to drag him out of there.

Real Canadian maple syrup at the grocery store! *Only* $22.39 USD.

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