This is probably the number one question I get when I talk to people about living on a boat. Our girls are 3 1/2 and 4 (almost 5) years old right now so technically they are not “school age”. However, they are learning and absorbing the world around them like a sponge right now. Our lack of plans do not really dictate where or what we will be doing next year when Avery will be starting kindergarten, so we may be “officially” homeschooling next year. At this young age, I am not concerned about either child’s education since I feel confident in both mine and Bryan’s ability to educate them…..we are thankful for our education backgrounds. Also at this age, everyday experiences and exposure to different places, people and things are constant learning opportunities. And many times it turns into learning experiences for both Bryan and me as well!
I have had many successes and some disasters teaching my kids over the past 6 months. I have put together a perfect “lesson” with many hands-on approaches and it has been met with opposition, whining, and fighting between the girls…..my head is spinning as to what I have done wrong!! What I have learned is that timing is EVERYTHING with my children. They must have completely full bellies (they are nonstop eaters!!) and not be tired. Of course these are two things that seem rather obvious but they are mistakes that I have made nonetheless. Some of my successes have come at the most unplanned and informal times….like this afternoon while eating the “letter” cheez-its and we started spelling words before we could eat them. At this age, I work mainly on developmental skills in the areas of cognitive, social-emotional, language, adaptive, and physical. With Avery we are starting some more academic skills in reading and math. It is very easy to incorporate all of these skills into everyday living on a boat. Below are a short list of different examples of things that we have done over the past 6 months.
- Book “Projects” We actually started these prior to living on the boat. We will read a book and then do different activities and crafts that go with the book. I have found Pinterest to be a huge resource to me over the years and we do lots of crafts on the boat. We actually have an entire cabinet (we only have 4) dedicated to craft items!
- Playing card games. We have a set of “kid” card games that we have started playing every night before bed. Not only has this helped with the night time routine…..the girls rush to get on their pj’s so they can play each night. Recently, they have been playing as a team and beating us, which makes them completely giddy with excitement…..not exactly a quiet time before bedtime!
- Checking out the library. We feel especially lucky if we catch one of the children programs. Some of the libraries have some very interesting and engaging programs….recently we went to storytime yoga and have previously been to plays, arts and crafts time, and an outdoor story walk.
- Playgrounds!!! We have become very skilled in finding some of the best playgrounds around town. Not only is this a time for the girls to work on their motor skills, but it also an opportunity for them to meet and play with other kids. The girls are starting to get very good at introducing themselves to other children and quickly becoming playmates.
- Character Words. We have tried to implement what I call a character word in the boat and then reinforce it throughout the week. For example, we started with the word caring (hoping this might help with the sibling fighting!!) and the girls earned stickers when they demonstrated this character trait.
- Writing (and drawing) letters to friends and family. The girls LOVE to draw pictures and then dictate a short letter to friends and family. This is also a time for them to practice writing either by writing their name or parts of the letter. Half the fun is also scoping out the town to find a mailbox or post office.
- Reading books. I was really sad to get rid of a lot of our books when we moved on the boat, but we just did not have the room. I have tried to keep as many as possible and create some different types of storage for them under the girl’s bed. Luckily we stocked up on some new books while in Beaufort thanks to Gramma.
- Exploring. Each town usually has something that makes it unique which typically involves the history of the area. And, yes, our explorations commonly take us to the local beach and ice cream store as well!
- Museums. I cannot speak highly enough about our ASTC membership that we purchased while in Elizabeth City thanks to Dana at Port Discovery. The ASTC Passport works particularly well for us on the move as it requires you to visit museums that are away from your home area. The membership fee was only $60 and it gets you into an enormous list of museums worldwide that have some type of interactive activities for children. This fee paid for itself upon visiting the very first museum “Nauticus” in Norfolk, VA as admission there for the four of us would have been more than $60. We can spend an entire day at a museum and really enjoy the ones that have a planetarium. Particularly impressive to us and engaging to the kids were the Virginia Children’s Museum in Portsmouth and the Museum of Art and Science in Daytona.
- Teaching Compassion and Gratitude. As we travel from town to town, we have tried to “give back” in different ways….either to kids who are waiting in a doctors office or emergency room or to service men and women. In these developmental years teaching character is far more important than teaching any math or science lesson.
- Attempting to learn Spanish with a word of the day. I wish we could be immersed in a country that speaks another language since we all would pick up the language faster, especially the girls, but for now we are just learning a word at a time.
- Hands on learning activities. Before we left, I prepped lots of different learning games. Teachers Pay Teachers is an incredible resource for all different types of activities that you can download for just dollars. Also, for literacy activities, The Florida Center for Reading Research lays out premade activities to do with kids. Recently, we have been focusing on magnetic letters and all the different things you can do with them.
So that is a little glimpse into our “boat school”…..I also throw in some traditional workbooks from time to time. As we continue this journey and our children grow and develop, I’m sure my approaches to their learning will also change. I never thought homeschooling would be in our future (especially since my mom was a public school teacher and I worked as a School Psychologist in the public school system for 10 years) but it is becoming more appealing, especially in these younger years. What are some other ideas for teaching and learning on a boat? Please share in the comments below.