When we embarked on this adventure I had four principle fears: homeschooling; hurricanes; pirates; and sharks. If we screwed up the education piece we could potentially do irreparable harm to the two of you that no amount of therapy could fix. My saving grace is that you are both reasonably bright and your mother has an academic aptitude.
When we left Yellowknife we did purchase the math and science syllabus which ensures that we cover similar material to your peers back home, however, I truly believe that the education you have received through experience alone will put you in good stead when we return. That being said we have tried to conform to the normal scholastic schedule and rhythm and that includes spring exams. One of the disadvantages of mommy recently completing her MBA, and now writing your math and science exams, is that she is….tough. The second disadvantage is that I really have no idea how I got through grade six science and math!
We are in the review process and your science deals with the theory of flight (I did understand that one), renewable energy, marine life, and the solar system. All of these subjects are directly related to life on a boat and we need look no further than our own electrical panel to understand solar energy, or the generator and wind turbines to understand how these generate electricity. There is the added bonus of monitoring our battery bank and moderating our consumption accordingly. Bernoulli’s theory comes to life every time we raise the sails, and the ocean ecosystem is all around us. This afternoon we are heading off snorkeling with sea turtles, and yesterday, when we dove on the anchor there was an enormous sea ray guarding the chain. This on top of Kathryn checking the Diesel engines before departure to ensure the status of the filters, oil and coolant and Alex helping me change the diesel oil and connect the solar electrical panels (because the connections were in an impossibly confined space that only a 10-year-old could reach).
In the Tobago Cays we sat reviewing the different types of renewable energy and the five subgroups of vertebrates as we drank coffee in our swimsuits. Kathryn specifically, and Alexandra to a lesser degree, are very concerned about their numerical grades and an end of year report card. Because we are your teachers, evaluators, and monitors (parents), the need for exams and report cards is superfluous, however, we are trying to maintain the same structure as the schools to which you will eventually return. To that end, we have prepared spring exams for you both and I am sure they are more comprehensive than your peers back home are subjected to, but for us, the real learning opportunities are all around you. The rich experience will hopefully shape your thoughts and attitudes for the rest of your lives and give you the thirst for adventure that your mother and I share.
As traveled as you both are, it has always been in a reasonably controlled environment and while Yellowknife is not cosmopolitan, neither is it third world. Mommy and I enjoy exploring the islands with their hectic, loud, and often pungent markets. The locals’ manner of interaction which usually includes yells and arguments three blocks apart, punctuated by the honking of horns and the roar of two-stroke motorcycles, has been a bit overwhelming for you. In fairness you have never had much exposure to environments where there are disproportionate numbers of idle and disheveled men sitting around drinking in the streets, paying you too much-unwanted attention. Even downtown Yellowknife didn’t compare. While your mother and I take it in stride, the experience has proved intimidating for you both and often you would prefer to stay on the boat. We occasionally insist on forced cultural learning, however, I was dragged through enough European churches at your age, and we usually acquiesce to your requests. I hope you will become more comfortable in these environments as the trip progresses and you get more experience.
I am sure it is obvious that the homeschooling has been a wonderful surprise for both your parents and we have enjoyed it more than we could have imagined. You may have other memories of the substandard instruction and draconian discipline, however, this is my blog entry… I think that you are both just glad that school is over at noon and every Friday is a PD day! Ironically we have had the offer to include you in local schools for a bit of island exposure and social interaction and when presented with the offer Alex said,” Uhhhh, you mean….ahhh, for the whole day? No thanks Daddy, we’re good!”
Many people have asked us about homeschooling and invariably the question of social interaction comes up. This is the Achilles Heel of our plan and we have not met many other cruising families like we had anticipated. While I think that Kathryn is quite happy to be away from the den of vipers that are teenage girls, Alex is very homesick for her friends, both in Yellowknife and Ottawa. We have tried to find opportunities to meet other children, but much like parents trying to social engineer future sons-in-law, it has not met with much success. Spotty internet has allowed you to text your friends back home which helps, however, our great hope is that you will develop fast friends when we slow down a bit in Grenada.
To conclude, the homeschooling has been both rewarding for us and enriching for you. As this year comes to an end Kathryn has read Tom Sawyer, Sherlock Holmes, War Horse, Ann Frank, Little Women, The Divergent Series, City of Ashes and will conclude the year with Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Alexandra has read The Scarlett Pimpernel, Sherlock Holmes, Ann Frank, three Emily Wind snaps, The Girl Who Could Fly, the Divergent Series, and the Mortal Instruments series. You have debated the war in the Crimea, Socialism vs Capitalism, and Canada vs the US. We spent the Fall doing an intensive walk through US history and are now immersed in the history of the Caribbean. As part of the Holocaust syllabus, you sat with Alex Gross, an Auschwitz survivor, for two hours learning first hand one of the last centuries hardest lessons. All through this, you have learned to navigate, run and maintain Diesel engines, set sail and drop anchor and engage with the many domestic chores of day to day living on a boat. We have given you great responsibilities, demanded adult maturity and performance, and over and over you amaze us with your capacity to learn and adapt.
So now we can focus on the hurricanes, pirates, and sharks…