HOMESCHOOLING ON A YACHT IN THE CARIBBEAN
We have spent an unforgettable year sailing around the Caribbean on a catamaran with our two children. Our homeschooling on the ocean has been a great experience, not only for our son Tayne, but for the whole family.
We chose the Clonard curriculum and only started the programme in March as our daughter Michaela was visiting SA and she had to bring the books to us in the Caribbean. They were not yet available at the time of us leaving SA. She arrived at St Maarten Airport in March with 8kg of books on her aching back!
We found the programme self explanatory and very easy to use with great answer books and guidance to help the tutor. Due to the amount of subjects in Gr 9, we found the volume of work that had to be covered quite extensive as we tried to incorporate other educational opportunities as they arose. We seemed to be playing 'catch-up' for much of the year but fortunately Clonard are flexible with their exam times and encourage the pupils only to write when they are ready.
But Tayne was able to learn so much more than what was available from school books. We created our own school wherever we were and continually educated him about the history and culture of the countries we visited.
While we were in America we visited the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg and Tayne researched the different artworks we saw there. We spent time in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia which is 'bear country', and we learned all about the local bears, especially what to do if we were approached by one in the woods! We visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral which was an amazing educational experience for the whole family. The visit was particularly informative for Tayne as the solar system is part of his science curriculum this year and we were able to watch a 3D movie about how how stars and planets are formed. We also spent time at the Disney Theme Parks and Seaworld in Orlando which were educational and lots of fun too. Tayne is now passionate about the plight of the Killer Whales that are kept in captivity.
Tayne was given responsible tasks on the boat which gave him confidence and matured him on so many levels. He had to helm the boat on his own and was an integral part of our crew as he manned the sails and the anchor even in the most adverse conditions. He took control of the dinghy and confidently drove us everywhere. He learned about plotting a sailing course, about reading weather, about co-ordinates and wind - living in the elements for a year makes one very in tune with weather and sea conditions. He often cooked food and washed his own clothes and did daily chores, none of which were ever done back home.
The Caribbean is full of history and each island has a story to tell. There are fascinating stories about wars and piracy and we were able to visit ruins and forts from bygone days. We found the old sugar mills and rum distilleries most interesting. We saw an active volcano on the island of Monserrat which was quite disturbing. A whole village was in ruins and half covered in debris after the devastation of the eruption and smoke and sulphur hung in the air. We used this as a learning opportunity to research volcanoes. We also did a lot of hiking in the beautiful rainforests, visited waterfalls and swam in hot water springs on the islands.
We visited 14 different islands, each with their own culture. Within a few hours sail we would be transported from a quaint French island with cobbled streets, pastries and coffee shops to an impoverished island with Rastafarians selling their wares on the beach and Reggae music blaring from the beach bars.
We are all avid divers and we did beautiful diving all around the Caribbean. We had scuba diving tanks on board so we were able to drop anchor and dive wherever we found a good place. Tayne did his Open Water Scuba Diving course before we left SA and his sister is a Dive Master. We had many memorable underwater moments but the highlight was swimming with dolphins. We were lucky enough to have dolphins coming into our anchorage on two occasions, spending the day playing around our boat. They were interacting with us and we spent hours in the water with them. Coincidently, both times the dolphins arrived, Tayne was busy with Afrikaans schoolwork and we stopped school so we could swim with them. Tayne reckons that was a 'sign' as he does not enjoy doing Afrikaans! He was also lucky enough to catch a big Sailfish off the island of Grenada.
There were a lot of quiet times on the boat with very few children around and limited internet so Tayne had to find ways to amuse himself. He taught himself to play the guitar, constructed and carved items out of wood, grew plants, devised ingenious fishing methods and did swimming training to keep fit. He spent days constructing a 'sailboat' using his paddle board. He used the paddle as a mast which was held up by various ropes and used a silk hammock as a sail. He was able to sail around the anchorages and even did one long crossing across a bay on his homemade boat, fascinating many of the other sailors around.
Besides all the other educational opportunities we had out there, we did have a schedule to do homeschooling. The whole family got involved as Tayne's sister took on the Maths, his dad did the EMS and mom did the other subjects. It was not always easy in the tropical heat with all the distractions around, but we got into a routine of starting early in the morning and tried to make the learning fun. If there was any resistance he was quickly reminded that he could be sitting in a cold classroom in Cape Town!
Tayne is due to go back to mainstream schooling next year but he so enjoyed the homeschooling experience that he wants to carry on with it next year. We are at present exploring the various options.