This is the second article in a four part series about boatschooling.
Click here for first article.

Once you’ve figured out how you’d like to approach boatschooling your kids (1st article in this series), you’re ready to decide which homeschooling style you’ll be using. As thebestschools.org states, “One of the key advantages of homeschooling is also among its biggest challenges: Options.” Can I get an amen?!! 

Boatschooling is different than homeschooling. Really.

With limited resources and space, not all homeschooling styles work well on a boat. Some work better than others. There are ~10 homeschooling types, but we’ll focus on the styles that are most often used by family cruisers. Experts have already written extremely thorough descriptions of each style (linked in resources), so, for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on how these styles work on a boat.

  1. School-At-Home

    As the name suggests, this takes what they do in a ‘brick and mortar’ school and extends it to your boat home. This is also known as ‘curriculum in a box’ because you can purchase the entire standards based curriculum: books, workbooks, guides, and all and simply follow the directions.

    Does it work on a boat?

    Many families transitioning from ‘brink and mortar’ schools to homeschooling choose this style initially. If your kid went to a traditional school before cruising & you experienced the same, everyone has an understanding of how this style works. It’s also the most expensive style because the box you’re buying includes everything. There are no curriculum decisions to make & no worries about thoroughness. The curriculum is designed by experts and you’re merely the guide. Now, all of that curriculum has to ‘live’ somewhere on your boat and if you have multiple kids, that multiplies ‘the stuff’. Some days are long, but can easily be broken up into smaller chunks, it just takes longer to complete the curriculum. This system thrives on a schedule, but you can manipulate the schedule to fit your needs. What happens when you reach an amazing cruising destination? Even though these unique investigational learning opportunities exist, you still have a curriculum to get through, so, unfortunately, your exploration field trips are extracurricular and ‘do not count’ towards your curricular learning goals like other styles. That being said, this style is short-term cruising friendly, especially if you intend to put your kids back into traditional school when you’re finished cruising.

  2. Online/Virtual School

    This style is more of a delivery method than a style, but it is prevalent in the teen cruising community. Think of this as the digital version of School-At-Home.

    Does it work on a boat?

    Virtual programs are designed for land-based families with robust home wifi networks. Materials are minimal beyond the tech to access them, so they tend to be slightly less expensive than School-At-Home. Work is sent to teachers virtually, streaming video is common place, and having a constant connection is paramount. Depending on your cruising grounds, this can be a real struggle. Routing decisions are made around having wifi access. Data plans with substantial hotspot usage can be expensive, but they extend available cruising grounds, so they’re a viable option.

  3. Unit Studies

    This is also more of a delivery method than a style, but this design teaches all subjects through one theme. thehomeschoolmom.com gives us a great example to explain this style: water. Use can study it’s molecular makeup in Science, the cost of this resource in Economics, bodies of water in Geography, the history of the Red Sea, etc.

    Does it work on a boat?

    This method takes more planning than others, especially if you’re creating your units from scratch. Units are not complete curriculums, so although they teach all subjects through a particular focus, there is no overall curricular framework that makes sure all standards are met. This style, however, is a great way to teach kids of multiple ages using the same instruction, just different learning tasks. It’s usually project based, so depth of research and resources might be a challenge.

  4. Unschooling

    Everyone seems to have a different definition of unschooling. Odd, right? Most agree that this is a student directed learning style that uses a child’s natural curiosity. In other words, parents supply life experiences that provide discoverable learning opportunities and the child’s interests dictate what they learn.
    Does it work on a boat?

    Cruising naturally furnishes plenty of authentic learning opportunities, but providing these experiences can incur cost, especially when factoring in excursions and lessons taught by experts for hobbies. Also, will learning that is guided by your child’s interests be well-rounded? If your home state requires them to take an annual standards based test, will they show knowledge gaps with this type of learning? This style could work well for younger crews, but I’d take caution using it with older crews.

  5. Eclectic

    This style is used most often in the homeschooling world because this method is completely customizable. Like the idea of Unit Studies? Use that for Science and Social Studies. Think School-At-Home for Math is best for your kids? Do that. You pick and choose teaching and learning methods from multiple styles and customize your perfect curriculum.

    Does it work on a boat?

    Because you’re picking and choosing, you have to be conscious of providing a well-rounded education for your child. Hobbies are considered learning experiences, and fostering hobbies can get expensive, however, you’re probably not buying a complete ‘curriculum in a box’, so your materials costs will likely be lower. It would be a challenge to jump from a ‘brick and mortar’ experience to this style, but its not impossible, especially if you feel it’s the best option for your crew.

Again, remember…your boat…your choice!

This is not a comprehensive list, rather its a list of styles used most often by family cruisers. There are others, secular for example (linked in resources), so if the styles I’ve mentioned don’t sound appealing, keep on looking. Your style is out there. 

Don’t fret about whether or not your chosen style will work because all of these are currently being used by family crews around the world. Will there be a learning curve? Sure, especially if you’ve never done anything like this before, BUT boatschooling is a necessity if you’re planning any type of extended cruising. Relish the fact that you get to make this choice for your child and enjoy the journey.


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

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More Homeschooling Resources: