This is the first article in a four part series about boatschooling.

Deciding how you’ll boatschool your kids is overwhelming, but important.

Before cruising, my kids went to public school. It was a good school in a good district. We didn’t run to homeschool out of dissatisfaction; we came to it out of necessity. If we were going to set sail, we were going to have to homeschool the kids.

Even though I’d worked in education all my life, I knew next to nothing about homeschooling. I didn’t even know the term ‘boatschool’ was a thing! Once I started researching, I found myself spinning down a rabbit hole…

“What are the different types?”…
“Are some better than others?”…
“How will I divide my time between the kids?”…
“How will we balance learning and cruising?”…etc.

The list of questions went on and on. Google search results were overwhelming, not to mention my husband and I were still working, raising our kids, downsizing our stuff, fixing up the house to sell, and looking for a boat all at the same time! Overwhelming for sure.

Boatschooling: Where to Begin

Don’t start, like I did, getting lost in the details of all the different homeschooling styles. First, start by figuring out what is best for you and your kids.

How do your kids learn best?: approach

Reflect on each kid as a learner. How do they learn best? When you go to school to become an educator, you learn about multiple intelligences and learning styles (more links in ‘More Resources’ at end of article), but I don’t recommend labeling your kid. I only mention them because it’s important to understand that all kids learn differently and using multiple approaches is best. What works for one kid won’t necessarily work for another. If they’re not ‘getting it’, you have to ‘shake it up’ and try something new. For example, if they’re struggling understanding division, instead of doing a workbook page, have them manipulate blocks to show their work. They’re learning the same material, but using manipulatives to help understand the concept.

What do you want them to learn?: content

Once you know how your kids learn best, now it’s time to figure out WHAT they should learn. Are you comfortable deciding what you want them to know and how you’ll teach that to them? Would you prefer someone else make the decisions and you execute their plans? Will you create the curriculum from scratch, handpick components from various sources and programs, or purchase an entire curriculum? If you’d rather they learn organically, harnessing the teachable moments that cruising offers, at the end of the day, how will you know their education is well-rounded? These are all non-judgey, valid questions.

Regardless of which you choose, an emphasis on reading, writing, and math are essential. There are other subjects as well: science, history, geography, languages, etc. Of course, you’ll also want to encourage and develop their interests: music, art, engineering, etc. And don’t forget getting in some physical activity! (Although, living on a boat involves lots of swimming, snorkeling, and walking around while exploring new places, so this probably isn’t an issue.)

How committed are you to facilitating the learning?: your role

Some programs are facilitated by a certified teacher off-site. Others have you instruct, then you, the on-site teacher, report progress to the certified off-site teacher. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with you, the on-site teacher being the one and only teacher. 

How will you structure your days? School during the week & off on weekends? Will the kids be working at the same time? How will you manage that? How much boatschool time is enough? 3 hours? 5 hours? Will the kids boatschool on days that you sail? If not, how will you ‘catch up’? Will you divide teacher duties with your spouse? If so how? By kid or content? What comes first, boatschool or boat work? Lots of questions, but ponder them now before you have to make a choice.

Also, your homeport state probably has homeschooling requirements, like documenting school days, mandatory annual state testing, etc. and you’ll need to abide by them to keep ‘the powers that be’ happy. Not sure what your state requires? Check it out here (more links in ‘More Resources’ at end of article).

Remember this…your boat…your choice!

That’s the beauty of cruising! Don’t like Common Core Math? Don’t teach it! Want the kids to have more play time? Do it! Want to turn your sightseeing day into a fun, teachable boatschool moment? Go right ahead! You decide. 

The next article in this series will be about boatschooling styles.

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More resources: