If you haven’t heard the term “boatschooling” before, it is just a fun way of saying “homeschooling” and at its core simply means that the child (or children) will be educated within the context of home (in this case a boat) by the parents. It is an adventure all its own, but unfortunately for many it is also a source of fear and foreboding. But boatschooling doesn’t have to keep you awake at night or keep you from your dreams of travel and adventure. It can be a source of great satisfaction and joy. Here are my simple tips to help you begin, or renew your boatschooling journey!
A is for Ask and Answer
Too many times, parents just beginning to gather information about boatschooling jump straight to the big “C” question- “What curriculum do I use?” But I believe that question must be saved for later. Boatschooling must begin with asking yourself questions, reflecting on those questions and answering them honestly, either by yourself or with the entire family. Here are some questions to consider asking yourself:
Why do we want to cruise? Will our cruising time be seen as a sabbatical with plans to return to a public or private school system when cruising ends? Or will our cruising be a shift toward a more lasting, different lifestyle?
Are my children thriving in their current school environment or not? (Even if they are, it doesn’t mean they won’t thrive in a boatschooling environment). If they are, in what way (and how can we continue aspects of that on a boat)? If they are not, in what ways are they struggling (and how can boatschooling bring about a remedy)?
Are my children young enough that I will be making the bulk of their education decisions without them or are they old enough that I would like their input?
Who will be the child’s main educator- dad or mom? What is that parent’s personality- structured and organized or more creative and laid back?
What are the homeschooling laws in my resident state? (Although it needs to be noted here that according the information presented in Voyaging with Kids, you are, theoretically, supposed to abide by the homeschooling laws in the state you are physically present, not your home state).
With these questions, you can begin to discover your boatschooling goals. Will they complete a curriculum on par with their land peers so they can integrate back into their public or private school when cruising is over? Or, with your cruising lifestyle, are you looking for “a change in pace” with their education? These questions can help you begin to define your boatschooling journey.
B is for Beliefs
This is where many parents fly or falter. Your beliefs about your abilities to educate your children determine whether you will succeed or fail.
If you’re not already sold on boatschooling, to be successful often requires a shift in thinking. I commonly hear phrases directed my way like,
“I could never teach my kids. My kids would never listen to me.”
“I’m just not organized or patient enough to homeschool.”
“I don’t have the time.”
These are not necessarily true facts, but are more likely to be beliefs about your ability to educate your children, and these thoughts are often formed without us even being aware of it. But the truth is, every parent has days when their patience runs dry, when they feel they do not have enough time in the day, days when they or their kids are frustrated, days where it doesn’t work. We are all imperfect, all have strengths and weaknesses, all have times where we don’t have it all together. This doesn’t mean you can’t boatschool!
Do you want to make it work? Are you willing to stay humble, reflect, take suggestions if you need it, be flexible, and give it your best effort? I believe that’s what really matters. In order to shift to a different way of educating, you must first align your beliefs with what you desire.
The second belief to consider is what you believe about education itself. This is where your educational philosophy (as I call it) comes into play. This is where you might look into different approaches to education and decide which one fits best with your family’s outlook, your lifestyle and your desires for your children. An approach is not a curriculum. A curriculum is a way to implement the educational approach.
Here are some educational approaches to consider:
C is for Curate and Curriculum
Now that you have asked relevant questions and answered them, reflected and aligned your beliefs to educate your children and chosen an educational approach, now is when it becomes relevant to consider a curriculum. The curriculum you choose will be based on 1) the educational philosophy or approach you prefer 2) cost 3) how hands-on or hands-off you want it to be 4) how much internet availability you will have 5) how dependent or independent of a land based school you would like to be.
But notice I also used the word curate. Curating means gathering many different kinds of materials to create a robust and well-rounded learning experience. I love curating materials for my children! In addition to a curriculum and workbooks, I delight in carefully choosing engaging picture and chapter books with inspiring illustrations for our reading times together, open ended toys for their play time, field guides for the areas we’ll be cruising (they love to flip through these!), plenty of art supplies and even more blank paper, and I always have a nature basket around with their favorite finds from the beach, hike or forest. In addition to these items, you might also gather musical instruments, song books, atlases or maps to hang up, or CD’s and movies that will support the learning you want to do.
Our children are 8, 5, 3 and 1. When our oldest was born we knew we wanted to homeschool. We have done school at home and on our boat. But even though we were already on board (pun intended!) with boatschooling, that doesn’t mean it always comes easily or naturally. We are often evaluating our curriculum choices and discussing the style with which we teach (my husband and I are very different teachers) and making necessary adjustments.
This fall semester we are choosing a more classical approach to schooling while in their younger years we chose a more eclectic or even unschooling approach.
The last thing to remember is that each family’s boatschooling will look different, and that’s OK because each family is unique! With commitment, a little research, and some trial and error, I believe every family who wants to school their children at home can.
Share your boatschooling day with me in the comments! Feel free to post your questions too, I will try my best to answer them!