The One With All Our Boatschool Secrets

10 years ago if you told me I would live on a boat and homeschool my kids, I would have laughed and called you crazy. And yet, here we are starting our 2nd year of “Boatschool.”

Admittedly, we know we’re crazy. (That really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.) But in all honesty, boatschool is working well for us right now.

We’re able to spend so much time as a family. I love allowing my kids to learn in ways that work best for them. Both kids get to offer input into the subjects they study and can add focus in areas that interest them. We get to choose everything about their education. And while it’s a big responsibility, it’s a privilege too. We’re grateful and don’t take it for granted!

That said, it’s not always easy!

Here are some secrets of how we make Boatschool successful for our family:

I design our school calendar around a 30 week year. We start the last Monday in August, and finish the first Friday in May. This allows us to take 3 weeks for Christmas, the whole week of Thanksgiving and Easter, and also gives us a floating week-long break in both the fall and spring.

In reality, we do some form of learning 356 days of the year, but “shh” don’t tell my kids! Breaking down the schoolwork component of learning into 30 weeks makes it seem very manageable. I typically front-load the first half of the year with about 65% of the actual work. When spring fever hits, it’s nice that we’re winding down in all of our subjects.

We boatschool for the freedom to set our own schedule!

For those who might wonder if it’s enough, it is. Technically, NC does not have a minimum number of school days required for homeschool students. That being said, we finish a year’s worth of curriculum. And Mary Grace and Miller take an end of year national assessment (Woodcock Johnson Achievement Test.) This gives us a great benchmark of improvement each year.

Another secret for making boatschool successful is knowing that flexibility is the key. We aim for a routine. School generally takes place Monday through Friday from 9-3. But we all have to be willing to put circumstances first, and flex our spontaneity.

We occasionally move the boat during weekdays. Sometimes we take a field trip during the day, and need to work at night. Or we plan our day based on the weather. Often the kids chose to work ahead and take a 3-day weekend.

The kids’ favorite way to learn is through hands-on studies.

We always try to take advantage of our surroundings to get out and explore. As we travel we visit historical sites, National Parks and museums. It’s been really awesome exploring places that we’ve learned about (for example, the kids studied Jamestown and then we visited.)

We also try to diversify the curriculum and the ways that the kids are learning. For example, they each do a pretty standard math curriculum (Miller uses Abeka and Mary Grace is doing Bob Jones Algebra.) This year Miller is doing a very cool writing class through the Institute For Excellence in Writing. He’ll watch his lessons online and then complete work. Mary Grace is taking biology through Florida Virtual School. She has a virtual teacher to help her along the way.

Additionally, as a family, we are studying American History and Geography this year with a huge emphasis on areas around the Great Loop. Quite honestly, last year as we were traveling, we were thrown so much material and opportunities. It’s time to slow down and absorb it all. We have some awesome books to read this year. And as a family as we revisit our memories of each destination, we’re building scrapbooks of our Loop for each of the kids to keep forever.

Ultimately we’ve found that the more diversity we have in our day, the more effectively our kids learn. (No one wants to listen to me teach all day!)

Another secret to boatschool is the realization that desks are overrated!

We almost never stay in one spot for learning! The kids like the freedom to learn from a variety of different locations around the boat. And funny enough, the one desk we have is rarely used!

Occasionally we get off the boat to do school. We’ll go to a local coffee shop, or outdoor park. Sometimes marinas have nice boaters lounges that allow us to spread out. But more often than not, we find our own space on the boat. This year we purchased big reading pillows for each of the kids. We also got a few folding lap desks. Though we’re only a few days into this year, they’re both workspace hits!

Along those lines, we also have a few other products on the boat that help with our school day.

Between two kids, work commitments, and just everyday life, we need to have quiet activities to keep them busy when they aren’t actively working on school. Being outside playing is always okay. However, on the boat they entertain themselves with Magna-Qubix, activity books, LEGOS, and a variety of books, audiobooks and educational Podcasts.

Our final secret to successful boatschool is laughter.

Sometimes it feels like we live in a circus. Our boat is a school, office, restaurant, laundromat, coffee shop, and playground. Most days Brent runs meetings or interviews behind a green screen. And the rest of us do our best to keep our faces and voices off camera!

This scene has played out more than once: Child stands up to sharpen a pencil. Child trips over dog and spills mom’s coffee. Naturally, coffee gets on the other child’s schoolwork and the dog. Mom attempts to grab dog before he can spread the mess, comfort the child who tripped and hurt himself, salvage the schoolwork, and stop the other child from starting World War 3. All somewhat silently, as not to disrupt dad’s meeting.

All you can do is laugh!

At the end of the day, my kids know how blessed they are to be able to do what we do.

Some days are a struggle. We all get into bad moods. Occasionally, we throw in the towel and go to the beach. We don’t take school or life too seriously. Mary Grace and Miller are thriving, so one day of school isn’t going to make or break our year. We feel so grateful to have a second opportunity to do boatschool and we’re making the most of every day!

As always, thanks for following along on our crazy adventures. You might also enjoy reading:

The One About Living On A Boat With A Dog

The Most Interesting Place I’ve Ever Been

The One Where We Decided To Live On A Boat

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