SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
August 30, 2010
When considering cruising with children, a big concern for most parents is home schooling. Depending on your home State, there are several different options available. If you only plan to go on a trip, some school districts will allow you to keep your children enrolled in their current school and do the work on board. Since we were planning to sail as a lifestyle, this was not an option for us. There are several schools designed for home schoolers, such as Calvert School in Maryland, and many on-line options. We were uncomfortable with Calvert for many reasons (their cost and approach to teaching evolution were the biggest), and since we did not own a laptop at the time, the online option was not realistic. In some States parents can create their own programs, following strict guidelines. In Maryland this included semi-annual home visits, obviously not practical for our circumstances. Our first step was to choose a school that allowed ultimate flexibility, but would still meet State requirements and provide our children with the appropriate transcripts for college admittance. Though there are several such schools available, after years of research, we chose Active Learning Academy, since renamed Pinnacle School. They are, on paper, an accredited K-12 private school for which I am a volunteer teacher; therefore, no teaching certificate is required. I order books or computer programs from them or any other source. After a few years I became comfortable enough to decide on text books on my own and order them from Amazon. Pinnacle School even has packages for elementary school students that I have found to be appropriate and engaging. These packages can be customized if a child needs remedial work in some areas or to be challenged in others.
The parents decide when a school year begins with the only requirement being that the child attends 180 days of school per grade. I submit attendance and grades, and Pinnacle School keeps these records. When our sons graduated, they received a Florida State diploma and transcripts. Colleges need not know that the student was home schooled unless the child decides to include it in the application essays. Ours did, and were both accepted to their first choice universities. We did have to plan our sailing around the SAT and be sure to be in St. Croix when it was offered, though since it was not during hurricane season that was not a problem.
You may have noted that we lived in Maryland when we set off, yet our children received diplomas from a Florida school and wonder how that was possible. I simply followed the Active Learning Academy counselor's advice. When I first called and explained our situation, I was told, "We could definitely accommodate you, except you live in Maryland, and their State Board of Education does not allow parents to use our program." "What do you suggest?" "Move." She had said it facetiously, but I had decided that no board of education was going to prevent me from providing my children with the best education I could, so we moved. That is to say, we started using a mail forwarding service in Green Cove Springs, Florida called St. Brendan's Isle. Using that address we got Florida drivers licenses and became Florida residents. We told the school officials in Maryland that we were moving, withdrew our children, and enrolled them in Active Learning Academy--all perfectly legal. Since the children are enrolled in a private school, we are not subject to either the red tape associated with home schooling or the many State assessments required of public school students. This approach has proven to be the best option for us.
As for recommending Pinnacle School, I can only do that with a few reservations. They are not reliable communicators: their 800 number only works in the continental United States, their office hours are short, and they are closed for an extended summer break. They do not answer my emails promptly, and it often seems that one hand does not know what the other is doing. Having said that, I believe they were our best option; David is still enrolled with them. They can be contacted through www.pinnacleschool.com.
Even with the best school backing you, boat schooling is a lot of work for the parent. The parents we have encountered who have the hardest time motivating their children to do schoolwork are the ones who are the most lenient and relaxed about it. I do not believe my children would use either word to describe me when I am in teacher-mode. Or parent-mode in general, for that matter.
When the children were younger, my alarm went off at 6:30 every weekday morning, even if I had worked until midnight and wished I could sleep in. I cooked them breakfast and made myself some coffee, then woke them at 7:00. After they changed clothes, ate breakfast, and brushed their teeth, they started their school day by writing in their journals. I never assigned a topic, read them or required anything other than that they write: about their adventures, plans, fears, dreams, anything. When we were traveling it was not uncommon for someone to ask, "Where are we again?"
Since it was easier for me in the beginning to teach the same subject to all three at the same time, we decided to all start the day with math. They each had a daily goal for every subject, but if one of them got frustrated with a subject he could leave it until the next day. My only requirement was that they work until noon or their daily goal was met for each subject. If after 180 days of school they had not completed the work we had agreed upon at the beginning of the year, they continued with school until they had. That only happened once. If they finished the required work before 180 days, they were out of school early with the exception of physical education and reading, which continued for the remainder of the required days.
Though our school days are very structured, the school year is not. Any time one of the boys has a legitimate reason for wanting off school, we call a vacation day. School is canceled when we are sailing, though Nick often got bored and worked anyway. Our first day in a new port is a holiday, as is everyone's birthday, and any vacation days their friends have if they have something planned. Nicholas would take surfing days if he woke up to a good swell, and we often went on fieldtrips if an activity could not wait until the weekend. Nicholas exclaimed on the way home from the Baths in Virgin Gorda, "This was the best field trip ever!" Since it was not the first time he had said that, I had to laugh.
While home schooling allows for some flexibility in scheduling, this should not be construed as flexibility about the learning or work involved. I have heard parents say, "I did Johnny's math test for him today. It was just too hard for him; he never could have passed it." I assume these parents believe they are doing what is best for their child, but I strongly disagree. The purpose of school is not to earn a grade, but to learn the material, concepts, good study skills, work ethic, and how to learn. Those parents were teaching their children that if something is too difficult, give up, someone else will do it for you: not something I want to teach my children.
The boys often hear from their non-home schooled friends such craziness as, "Oh, you were home-schooled; you must have had it easy." Anyone who knows me very well knows the fallacy of that assumption. Education is very important to me, and I will go to any extreme to ensure that my boys leave Eurisko with the best education I can provide. It's not always easy, and it certainly doesn't always make me very popular. But when Nick thanked me when he graduated from college this spring, I knew I must have done something right.
WEDNESDAY it's time to break out the sewing machine and create more storage space for your home. Whether you live in an apartment that's a bit too small for all your stuff, or you have kids who can't seem to keep their toys and shoes and junk off the floor, or your boat seems to be shrinking, we can all use extra storage space. I'll give you my "Pockets Solution" idea and instructions.
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