Back to (Boat)School

Back to (Boat)School

The beginning of a school year can be a lonely time for homeschooling moms.  Several friends echoed my melancholy sentiments and said it wasn’t just because I moved away—I would be lonely even in my old environment. Some of the children’s friends go back to school and are no longer available to get together at convenient times, and the moms are either running the kids to and from school and various lessons and practices, or, like me, are hitting the books with their own kids and have time for little else. Of course, unlike me, they tend to live in regular neighborhoods in houses that stay put, with friends that mostly stay put. I am learning to be content to have Jay and the kids as my only daily companions—we have become a very close family (in more ways than one!).

Aside from a few moments of missing my friends and what used to be normal routines, I am really happy here, and our school year is going really well. Last year, we were constantly coming and going, packing and unpacking, so to have entire uninterrupted weeks and months to focus on our unit studies, I feel like we are making up for lost time this fall. Sam is a little older, too, so he can sit still on my lap while I read, and can be given things to do on his own while I teach the older kids and help them stay on task.

We just finished a unit study entitled, “Myths, Legends, and Fables” which introduced Ancient Greece and covered everything from Hercules to Aesop.  That morphed into an additional month of astronomy, of course, with almost all the heavenly bodies in some way related to the ancient names and stories. I learned so much—I was a good student, but I feel like there were things missing in my education that I am now learning as I teach my children.

It makes perfect sense for us to homeschool our children—what school would tolerate our schedule? Who would give a five year-old second grade work? Since when is tree climbing part of the P.E. curriculum? And aside from my objections to public school in general, the main reasons we homeschool our children have nothing to do with escaping negative things, but rather being drawn to all the positives.

I love homeschooling my children. It is not always easy (actually, it is rarely easy), but I do love spending my days adventuring through books, through history, and through nature with these interesting, intelligent, and funny people. I would hate to miss out on all their successes and failures; I want to be the one to see the mental light bulbs switch on, and to help them to persevere through disappointments.

I also have the insider’s view on the developing relationships between siblings, which brings both joy and frustration. I spend a lot of time teaching conflict resolution, but there are also precious moments. Last night I taught Sam and Sarah the art of snuggling; we climbed into Sarah’s bunk and sang songs and told stories, wiggled and tickled. The only way I could get Sam to climb down and go to sleep in his own berth was to promise more tomorrow! I frequently have to hush the boys at night as their storytelling gets out of hand with sound effects and fits of laughter. I have often wondered if the relationships in my own family growing up would have been closer without the pressures of a school schedule and social strata. I see that although it is nice to have other families with whom we can get together for play time, we are a pretty self-sufficient unit. I am very glad we have four children as they provide plenty of social interaction for each other (and us!).

I love that we don’t have to rush. We can go at whatever pace is necessary; slow down to savor the good stuff, speed up when things are going smoothly, or take time off when we need it. Because we opted to live on a boat and forgo the “normal” life, we also don’t have lots of running in different directions like headless chickens. I apologize to any of you who may read this and take offense—there’s nothing wrong with being on a schedule or being busy, it’s just that we’d rather be on “island time.”

I love the planning part of teaching perhaps more than the implementation, and that fun is doubled in homeschooling because I can draw on such a wide variety of resources: field trips relevant to our unit of study, cultural events, art exhibits, local parks and nature preserves, the public library, and anything else that you can imagine. Things seem to providentially fall into place, making the synthesis easy. Pertinent library books practically jump off the shelves into my hands, the museum of which we are members hosts exhibits that coincide with our studies as if on command and everything flows very naturally from school to real life.  

Last, but perhaps greatest, I know that I am doing something meaningful and enduring with my life. Not only can I infuse my children’s education with cohesive, interconnected and meaningful studies, but I will be simultaneously learning and expanding my own understanding. I will never regret the time and energy investment as we will all be reaping the rewards, perhaps for a few generations. Our closeness as a family is worth every difficulty we may face in this journey.

I can’t say whether anyone else should or should not homeschool their children. I only know that there is nothing else I would rather be doing with my life. I have my dream job: mother-teacher- baker-writer-sailor. Lucky, lucky me.