Education at Sea

      Answering another question from Willy in Ibiza today:
     "I would like to know about studies of your kids, was it difficult for them?"

     Our children’s education was not at all difficult. Stephan and I divided the teaching load: he taught math and science while I taught social studies, English and Spanish.
     We encouraged the children to work at their own pace.
 For our oldest child, who liked to stay up late and was easily distracted, that meant she usually worked after everyone else had gone to bed. If she had questions about an assignment or a concept, she would ask us the next day. During the day, she liked to explore on her own or draw or read or sew.
They usually spent only 2-3 hours a day on schoolwork, then something else in the afternoon like exploring or sports or following their own interests. Sometimes on passages we only read and waited until we reached land; other times, passages were excellent for catching up.
     Our middle child is dyslexic, so he benefitted a great deal from having one-on-one teaching. I modified his curriculum so there was not so much reading and writing the first year. He was an experiential learner, so our style of field trips – visiting the classical sites of ancient Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Italy – taught him far more than simply reading about it did. I also brought along lots of fiction set in the areas we were visiting or era we were studying.
     The science experiments that were part of their curriculum presented the biggest challenge. We didn’t have room to grow plants or construct machines that took lots of materials, so we chose an alternative or talked through the ideas and thought of other examples or waited until we were on land for awhile and could find more resources. We also made up for it with lots of natural history and marine biology as part of our lives.
     The youngest child was the hardest to keep entertained at first. Avery was 8, and her schoolwork was too easy for her. She ended up attending school in Turkey to keep her active mind busy. She also attended school in New Zealand with great success.
     All three children were enrolled in local school in Spain, with mixed results. Drew loved it. She picked up excellent Spanish and made lifelong friends. The younger children struggled more with provinciality. Their peers didn’t really understand that not speaking the language was not the same as being stupid. James was lonely there, but says that the experience still taught him a lot about self-reliance and prejudice. Avery did okay and has a great accent now.
     Our friend on VINTAS (another boat from Ibiza) reported that after six months, her son passed the exams for two years of school. I found this to be the rule rather than the exception. Cruising kids tended to move more quickly outside the classroom and generally enjoy their own process of education more than ‘going to school.’
     As their teachers, we were certainly far more involved in their education than we were before. By the time we finished, we knew them very well: their learning styles, weaknesses and strengths. We were better able to guide them when we returned to land and our relationships were much stronger.
     I’m happy to say that all three were admitted to top universities and have been successful at their studies.Even more important, we all still like each other.


My experience in "boat-schooling" our kids was that it was fun and interesting. Remember all that stuff you tried to avoid learning in high school? Well, it turns out that it is fascinating.