Back to school on a boat

Posted by on Sep 17, 2006 in blog, Voyage 1 | No Comments
Back to school on a boat
09/17/2006, Hog Island, Grenada

The Grenadian summer is winding down. Local mini-van buses are crowded with school children in their crisp, clean uniforms and shiny new shoes. Here at the anchorage in Hog Island, you will see swimming costumes instead of school uniforms, but there still is a change in routines for three families living aboard their boats. Cruising kids too have started their school year and we wanted to let you know what school is like on the water. Meet 7 cruising kids, covering grades 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 all doing home schooling on board their sailboats.

For each of the cruising families, the school day largely takes place in the morning and the materials they are using to cover their curriculum is very different from one another. On sv Carapan the family is following the Ontario curriculum, while sv Eira family is using the Calvert home-schooling program from the U.S. and the third family on sv Univer is using a blend of several home-school and Christian-based programs to cover their curriculum. We asked each group of students to answer 3 questions to help describe what school is like on board their boats and here’s what the kids had to say.

Meet Daniel and John from s.v.Eira

John, Daniel and the mom/teacher Val on sv Eira.

John, Daniel and the mom/teacher Val on sv Eira.


Last year, you met Daniel in an earlier Journal when he wrote about the cruising life while traveling through the Bahamas. We met up with Daniel and his family in Grenada and together with 20 other boats, we’re here at the Hog Island anchorage.

Here are John, aged 7 1/2, in grade 2 and Daniel, aged 10, in grade 4. 

Q: Describe your schedule
John: I have math, reading, recess, writing, art, science, social studies, poetry, and picture study. School starts at 8:30, recess is for 15 minutes and school ends at 11:30.
Daniel: I have math, spelling, world history, phonics, grammar, geography, language usage, science and art. School starts at 8:30 – 8:45, recess is for 15 minutes and school ends at 11:30 – 12:00.

Q: This is your 2nd year of school on the boat. What are you looking forward to doing?
John: I am looking forward to picture study, poetry and science. I like learning about the different plants in the Caribbean. Poetry is fun.
Daniel: I am looking forward to world history because I like to learn about the past. Math, because it’s fun and I like multiplications and division. Spelling because it’s fun to learn new words. Art because it is fun to have a little break and make something.

Q: As you’re traveling to different countries, how is going to school on the boat been different than your old school?
John: We get done with school earlier and there are different things to do such as I go to school in my bathing suit and sometimes I swim off the boat during recess! When we are sailing we sometimes have school, but we usually don’t. We also fish when we are sailing and when we catch a fish it is an “Automatic Recess!!”
Daniel: School is different on a boat because almost everyday we are in a new place and in one place it may be rough or may be calm. So we have to adapt to the weather conditions.

Q. What advice would you give to other kids starting school for the first time by themselves on their boat?
John: Make sure you have recess and art! You need to have recess to have a break and lose all your stress because you mind gets too many words and it’s good to stop for a bit. Also, get your own books out before class and put them back when you are done.
Daniel: My advice – That it’s real hard to start off with home- schooling but then it does get easier towards the end of the year because you are in the groove of things. It is hard because usually your parents haven’t taught before and you have to get used to them as your teachers. I like home-schooling because a normal day goes until 3 PM but on the water you are done sooner – whenever you are finished with your lesson plan for that day.

Meet Jessie, Josh and Cameron from s.v. Univers

Mom/teacher Lynn with Jessie, Josh and Cameron on sv Universe

Mom/teacher Lynn with Jessie, Josh and Cameron on sv Universe

They are traveling with their parents, Chris and Lynn on a 47′ catamaran. Interestingly, this family has spent a great deal of their life on board missionary ships traveling to different countries in Africa. So this is a new experience for them to be on their own boat. Soon, they will be hosting small groups of adult students to join them for 3 month-blocks of time, as they travel the Caribbean and South America.

Here are Jessie, aged 10, and Joshua, aged 12, both in grade 6 and Cameron, aged 14, who is in grade 8.

Q: Describe your schedule.
Answer from all 3: 8:45 devotional/worship, 9:30 math, 10:00 science, 10:30 – 12:00 typing, spanish, writing and spelling. We have a 5 minute or so break in between each subject. We try to get done with school around 12 to 12:30 each day. From 10:30 – 12:00, we rotate between the different subjects. No recess just breaks. Sometimes we get in trouble and have to do after school time.

Q: Give 1 difference of how the start of school on your boat compares to going to school previously?
Josh: We do worship and devotional in the morning. We didn’t do that at our old school. We started at 9:00 am at our old school and here we start at 8:45.
Jessie: Usually there are only three kids here on board the boat. And at my old school there were 50 kids in my old class. I was in a multiple age classroom.
Cameron: Everything is different. You don’t get to see you old friends. Making new friends is harder on the boat since there aren’t many kids around. You don’t get to ride the school bus anymore so you can’t hang with your friends before school.


Q: What do you think your challenges will be this year? 
Josh: Spelling
Jessie: Science. At my old school Math was a challenge for me. The cushions on our boat are vinyl and are very sticky. So they stick to you because it is so hot and you’re wearing shorts or skirts all the time.
Cameron:Probably spelling will be difficult because I am not a very good speller. Home school is hard since there are no friends to have fun with or to be around.

Q: What are you looking forward to this year?
Josh: There is nothing I am looking forward to.
Jessie: I am looking forward to having school on the beach some times, to being taught on board by my mom and dad.
Cameron: I am looking forward to learning navigation from my dad. We get to do that once a week pretty soon.

Meet Emma and Ben on s.v. Carapan

Ben and his sister Emma and their mom/teacher Lisa, on sv Carapan.

Ben and his sister Emma and their mom/teacher Lisa, on sv Carapan.

Ben and Emma arrived with their parents, Steve and Lisa to Grenada directly from Canada. They have been living aboard their sailboat, sv Carapan, since the end of August and are settling in very well to life aboard a boat. They are starting their cruising on the south end of the Caribbean chain. So, from the other cruising kids they’ve heard snippets of stories about some of the adventures that await them as they travel north back to Canada.

Here are Emma in grade 5, and Ben in grade 7.

Q: Tell us a little about yourselves and describe your school day.
Emma: Hello, my name is Emma. I am in Grade 5 and I am ten. I have blonde hair and blue eyes. This is my first full week of school and so far my mom is teaching most of my subjects ( including math, language, spelling and social studies). So far Dad is teaching science. They say they will switch up in upcoming weeks. I think next week they should switch because change will keep it fun. We learn french on the computer mostly. In our school we also have DEAR time which means Drop Everything And Read. My mom has a list of subjects to learn everyday. We choose the order together. School goes from 9 AM to about 12 PM Monday to Friday. We have a bit of schoolwork on the weekends and evenings, too like reading or journal. We don’t take recess.
Ben: Hello my name is Ben. I am 12 years old. I have brown hair and my eye colour varies depending on my mood. I am in Grade 7. Our schedule: 7 – 9 AM: sleeping, reading, eating breakfast, playing DS. School starts at 9. 9 – 10 AM: usually the first subject – Math – ranges in between these two times. No recess in this school. 10 – 11 AM: The second and third subjects – Language Arts & Science are in these times. At this time, we usually enjoy the rattling sound of the motor. 11AM – 12 noon: This is the fourth subject – French – or DEAR time. 12 noon: *SCHOOL’S OUT*

Q: Give 1 difference of how the start of school on your boat compares to going to school previously?
Emma: Starting school on my boat was different to school before because here I can work at my own speed. I can go ahead and get started without waiting for classmates to get organized. Also my teacher doesn’t have to repeat explanations lots of times so we can get to it and get done quicker.
Ben: One difference is only having to walk three feet to school instead of taking a 7 km bus ride. And also here 30 below does not refer to temperature. It refers to things you have dropped over the side of your boat and are now sitting on the bottom of the anchorage.

Q: What do you think your challenges will be this year?
Emma: I think my challenges this year will be having my goofy brother in my class and my mom and dad as my teachers. Another challenge is being distracted when my parents are working with my brother. Our school room is pretty tiny and sometimes I have to wear earplugs. It can be harder to learn this way.
Ben: My challenges will be keeping my cool, having to work with my sister and having my parents as my teachers.


Q: What are you looking forward to this year?
Emma: This year, I am looking forward to only having to work until noon everyday. I also get to study things that interest me in more detail. When I’m done studying I have a beach and an ocean right outside. I’m making new friends who come from different places and have different perspectives on things.
Ben: I am looking forward to only having half a day of school, being able to get a drink whenever I want and my best friends are 100 yards away.

A new school year is the start of so many new things to learn. It makes no difference whether you study in a regular school, in your home or on a boat, it’s exciting to think of the opportunities we all have to learn new ideas and skills. Good luck navigating through your next year wherever you may be. To quote an old sailing phrase, Fair winds and long may your big jib draw.

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