As COVID shut schools down last spring, so many parents began thinking about homeschooling their children. My inbox has become flooded with messages from friends asking, “What do you use for school?” I decided it was time to blog about my thoughts and resources.
This was me exactly 3 years ago…
I un-enrolled Tyler from public school in Washington State the summer before he was set to enter 6th grade. I remember this day vividly. I was so nervous and conflicted. Was I up for this mammoth task of homeschooling a middle-schooler? I was so worried that I was going to “screw up” my kid.
Evie was set to start Kindergarten that year. With a late September birthday, she actually missed the Kindergarten cut-off but I paid to have her assessed in hopes I could enroll her early. She passed her test, but barely. I truly didn’t feel that she was ready, and at the last moment decided to keep her home as well.
It was then solely up to me to provide education to both of my children. That’s a terrifying thought, right?
I had one school year in our house to use land-based resources, community advice, and unlimited access to internet before we moved aboard our sailboat… and then we would be truly on our own in Central America.
I have a Master’s Degree in Education and have taught High School Technical Theatre, Drama, and also numerous theatre camps for elementary after-school programs. I really believe that this did not help me… It probably actually hindered me when I started out. I was used to structure: Lesson Plans, Rubrics, Schedules, Homework, Grades. I have learned that you do not need any of this to homeschool your kids.
Let me repeat that…
You do not need a strict structure of any kind for homeschooling. You can do whatever you want!
Homeschool ebbs and flows, just like the sea. Some days I feel like a complete rockstar teacher, and other days it’s a huge struggle and I feel like a total failure. And I have learned that’s ok and all homeschool moms feel that way.
I believe that children learn so much more when working one-on-one, even if it’s just an hour a day. As we cruised, our homeschool schedule would look something like the following (and we have found that this is the standard schedule for most nomadic boat kids.):
Approx. 9am-12pm: School work. (I’ll post the resources we use further down this post.)
12pm: Lunch… and then it was time to swim, hike, and explore our surroundings with our friends.
We taught them to cook with us (there’s a lot of math there!), or roll sushi; we did fun arts and crafts (especially Evie); we learned a lot about geography by having a huge map of the world on our wall (this is a must! Buy a map!); we had quiet reading time (Tyler loves to read). This is all homeschool!
Our “Field Trip” days were the best. I know that it’s a bit more difficult to take your kids to museums and such right now, but things are beginning to open back up with social distancing. Our kids learned so much by experiencing art, workshops, and educational performances. There are also so many online resources to have field trips virtually, and unless you’re reading this from your boat with limited wifi, take advantage of that.
So what programs do I use for my kids?
I don’t use a standard curriculum in a box. I pieced together what I felt my kids would vibe with this most.
My favorite resource is the book, Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp. It basically lists what students are “supposed to” know in each grade, and then I find resources to teach them those things.
Evie has used a program called “All About Reading” and “All About Spelling” for the past two years, for Kindergarten and 1st Grade. Huge fans. We love it. https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/
For Math, we tried a program called Math U See which includes colored blocks. She actually didn’t vibe with it as much as I thought she would and didn’t use the blocks much. We used all the worksheets and she counted on her fingers when she needed help. (You know, the old fashioned way… and I was totally ok with it.) https://mathusee.com/
For middle-school math, Tyler started out our first two years of homeschooling using Khan Academy. https://www.khanacademy.org/ and then switched to Teaching Textbooks for Algebra as it was recommended by a friend. http://www.teachingtextbooks.com/
Everything else I pieced together. For example, if Home Learning Year by Year says that Tyler is supposed to learn about WW1 and WW2, I would find a curriculum for that. I LOVE a website called https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/ . I can search for “middle school world war history” and purchase a complete lesson plan from a middle school teacher complete with slides, worksheets, and homework assignments. I also really love https://outschool.com/ for any time we were stationary for a bit in our travels and had reliable internet. When I first began using it for online live classes, it was brand new but I believe it’s pretty well-known now.
You know what else is a surprisingly great resource? Dollar Tree! Seriously. They have a lot of great little workbooks, writing prompts, and fun activities… for a dollar each! It’s a steal!
Some other books I love:
Summer Bridge Activities is a great assessment at the end of the year before entering the next grade. And these Scholastic Workbooks have great activities for the little ones.
The Unschooling Handbook helps take the initial pressure off homeschooling. Let your child decide what they want to learn. Or, for example, if a child needs to learn how to write a 5 paragraph essay, they can write about whatever they want. Less struggle that way. Homeschool Your Child For Free was a great resource, especially if you are land-based.
And if you do happen to be sea-based and reading this from your boat right now, Lesson Plans Ahoy is pretty awesome!
I’ve been asked a lot about our decision to stop cruising for a while so that Tyler can start public high school and whether I’m going to continue homeschooling Evie.
Sidenote: for those wondering… we are not selling Litha, we are not moving into a house. We will still be living aboard… in the winter… in New England. (Our site isn’t called “Life off the deep end” for nothin’!)
It’s not that I don’t think I could handle homeschooling a high-schooler. There’s plenty of resources to do that and options for graduation, but we had to make a decision to do what was best, in the moment, for our son. Tyler has aspirations to work for NASA someday and he spends his time reading books about physics. We wanted him to have better access to hands-on science and engineering classes. So, ultimately we made the decision to come “home” to Salem before COVID hit… and then the schools shut down. Not ideal, but full online schooling this year might be a really great way for him to transition from homeschool to public school.
COVID changed our plans in a completely different way with Evie. I planned to homeschool her, but with the school year starting remote, I figured I might as well enroll her. If she doesn’t seem to be doing well, I can always un-enroll her and continue using her current curriculum. So, only time will tell.
I hope this helped you. All of our kids will be fine. Relax and go with the flow. We won’t “screw them up” no matter which decision any of us decide to make for them this year. Feel free comment or email if you have any questions at all! I’m happy to offer advice.
I asked my 13 year old son to blog about our time in El Salvador. I told him it was completely up to him about what to write about. The amount of trash seen on the beaches and in the ocean was apparently what stuck out most for him. Here’s his blog:
El Salvador is a country in Central America; it’s south of Guatemala and north of Honduras. We were recently there for five months waiting out hurricane season. El Salvador is a very beautiful country except for one thing… the trash.
Sailing down the coast we saw more and more trash the closer we got to El Salvador and less trash as we sailed further south. The beaches are covered in bottles, bags, and surprisingly a lot of flip flops?! In some places on the beach you can’t even see sand!
Most people in El Salvador just don’t understand that it’s not good to throw their trash everywhere. While we were at the marina, my parents saw someone dump two whole garbage bags full of trash into the ocean. There was so much trash in the estuary that when we get in the dingy to go somewhere we have to swerve around trash so we don’t get any stuck in our propeller.
In roman mythology, Neptune is the god of not only the sea but of earthquakes. El Salvador is also known as the earthquake country. My mom and I were talking one day about how Neptune might be mad at El Salvador for dumping trash everywhere.
When we were in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua it was so clean, the streets were spotless, and the beaches were clear. While in a taxi, we were telling the taxi driver how clean it was there compared to El Salvador. He said that thirty years ago San Juan Del Sur was trashed and that they were able to clean it up to the beautiful place it is today.
One of the saddest parts is that all of the animals in El Salvador are living in the trash. All of the street dogs have to eat from it and all the cows, goats, and pigs too.
I think that if the country of El Salvador really tries to clean up like Nicargua did, then they could be the great country I know it can be. A way they could fix this is to start teaching the kids how to recycle and that it’s bad to litter. Besides the trash, El Salvador is amazing. There are many volcanos that you can hike up and view the entire city of San Salvador.
Another thing that’s cool about El Salvador is that the homeless don’t sit on the road holding a sign begging for money like they do in the US. They are out there trying their best to sell small things and earn a living. Even if it’s just selling water bottles, or cleaning windshields of cars as they are at a stoplight. Everyone is so kind and nice, they are always trying to help us with the little English they know, and everyone always asks, “How do you like my country?” If the beaches were clean, they would be beautiful. There is white sand, blue water, and the sea temperature is perfect. Maybe you’ll be able to see that in thirty years.
We spent our 1 year “Nomadiversary” in Massachusetts visiting friends and picking up new refrigeration parts for Litha. We didn’t plan to go back to the US but circumstances just aligned for a flight back “home.” We realize now that it was really important for us to go back and remember why we chose this cruising lifestyle in the first place. And, more importantly, to go shopping. Which leads me to things we didn’t expect:
1. Grocery shopping is weird. We expected we wouldn’t find many of our favorite foods from home, but some items we got used to buying in Mexico can no longer be found in Central America. For instance, frozen fruits and vegetables are something I really miss right now. The kids are great at adapting to not being able to find a favorite snack, always finding a new favorite. Did you know there are no lemons sold south of the US? Only limes. Oh and watermelons have seeds, which makes me really concerned as to why they don’t have them anymore when sold in the US. Eggs are not refrigerated which is amazing because we have the smallest refrigerator ever and we eat a ridiculous amount of them. Also, fresh milk is hard to find. I haven’t found half n half for my morning coffee since leaving Mexico. Milk comes in boxes, which is actually really nice when we live on a boat and can store them for later.
A small tienda in El Tunco, El Salvador
2. We didn’t know we needed a lifetime supply of coffee filters and trash compactor bags. Here in El Salvador, we can not find the cone shaped coffee filters that our coffee pot takes. When visiting Massachusetts, we stocked up on a Costco pack of 400 of them. Also, no one has a trash compactor. (Yes, our boat has a trash compactor, which is essential when we aren’t able to dump our trash for long periods between ports.) I couldn’t even find bags for it in stores in the US, but of course, Amazon has them. We miss Amazon so much.
3. I don’t wear makeup anymore. When we used to watch sailing YouTube channels before sailing away ourselves, I saw a lot of women saying things like, “You’ll never need to wear makeup out here. Don’t even bother bringing it on board.” And I thought, “Um, no way. I will bring my makeup. I have to at least wear mascara.” Well, I’m here to tell you that all those women were right. I’m a salty pirate now and all of us cruisers have the same natural look, no one wears makeup. On another note, a bra made of lace is horribly scratchy and uncomfortable in the tropics. Who knew I’d need a plethora of bikini tops! (Me. In bikini tops! Seriously I don’t even care. It is too hot for a one-piece.)
4. Showering rarely happens. Speaking of being a salty pirate, we went from being super clean hygienic people who showered every single morning on land or we couldn’t function throughout our day, to “When was the last time I showered?” Most of the time, a swim in the ocean with a quick freshwater rinse (sometimes not even that) is good enough. Also, fresh laundry happens much less frequently now too. Wearing something one time and washing it is a complete waste of our precious fresh water!
Evie waiting for her brother to become dive certified in Lake Ilopango, El Salvador.
5. The sound and feel of the ocean. I never realized the ocean has such a unique personality day by day. We have sailed in so many different sea conditions that I find the ocean even more fascinating and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. However, I always had this idea that we’d be spending our days playing in the waves and anchoring out to listen to them crashing on the beach at night. We honestly don’t visit many beaches with waves. We anchor in calm protected bays that are great for paddle boarding but we definitely haven’t learned how to surf. Also, we have so many fans going at night since it’s so hot that we wouldn’t be able to hear the crashing waves anyway. It’s great for snorkeling and diving though!
Tyler during his dive certification
6. Our electronics are prone to death. Salty air ruins everything. Our iPhones and iPads will spontaneously stop charging sometimes, and everything seems glitchy. Also, everything rusts. Zippers don’t zip, and even my can opener ceases up after a while and I have to oil it.
7. We can’t use cloud storage on our phones anymore because we rarely have WIFI. We have to manually download our photos/videos to our computer every week or two. And because we take so many photos, we cleared up space by deleting a lot of apps on our phones that we didn’t think we’d need. However, who knew that other countries used things like Uber (and UberEats!), Waze, and Limebike, and we’d need to re-download them!
8. Our computers and phones think we aren’t American citizens anymore. For example, we can’t download some Netflix shows because they “aren’t available in your country”. And facebook shows me most ads in Spanish (Even when we were back in Boston!) We need to look into getting a VPN so that our devices think we are still in the US.
9. The language barrier is harder than I was expecting. Our Spanish is getting much better, and I’m definitely able to do things like order at restaurants, buy my meat at the deli counter at the grocery store, ask for directions, etc. But it was especially hard when we needed to make doctor appointments for Evie. I don’t know medical terms at all and that was pretty stressful. A sick kiddo in a foreign country was no bueno. When we were in Mexico, there were plenty of people who spoke English in tourist areas (in Guatemala too) but not here in El Salvador. Also, we’re pretty much an anomaly here. There is no real cultural diversity, and very little tourists. We get stared at like, “What are those gringos doing here?” everywhere we go. (It might also be because Justin is 6’3” and that makes him the tallest person in this entire country. It could also be that I have purple hair.) However, when we do meet the random English speaker, they’re so excited to talk to us and help us find what we’re looking for. They’re very proud of their country and they always want to know what we think of it.
Evie visiting a pediatric hospital in San Salvador
10. Everyday tasks take forever. I knew that tasks like grocery shopping would take longer than when we lived on land, but I really didn’t understand just how long. Appreciate your cars people! Sometimes it takes me an entire day to buy groceries. For instance, I walk from the boat to the road, wait 30-60 mins for a bus, take a 1.5 hour bus ride from Costa del Sol to Zacatecoluca. Next, walk to the mercado to buy produce, and then walk to the supermercado to buy the rest of our essentials. Then carry heavy canvas bags back up the road to wait on a hot bus until it’s completely full, and then drive the 1.5 hours back, and carry my bags back to the boat to put everything away. And then, “Oh shoot. I forgot rice vinegar.” Repeat steps next day.
Me and my friend Britt, sweating in a bus after grocery shopping in Zacate
11. I don’t have the free time I thought I would. I guess I thought I’d be bored sometimes and the sailing life would provide the relaxing atmosphere to learn to play the ukulele, or learn new cooking methods, or just sit and read books all day. Accomplishing everyday tasks, homeschooling, building my online business and seeing clients, blogging/vlogging/podcasting for Life off the deep end, doing boat projects, and socializing with our friends… there’s absolutely no time to take up a new hobby.
12. The sailing community is even more amazing than I expected. It is really rare for us to have an entire day without spending time with friends. Tyler had over 20 boat kids at his birthday party back in La Paz. And even though we don’t have any kid boats here in El Salvador anymore (We’ll catch up with some when we head south), we’ve made amazing friends here and the kids learn to have adult conversations (and adults learn to have kid conversations.)
Lunch with cruising friends at a stilt restaurant on the estuary
Going back to the US, the kids have a newfound understanding of how fortunate they are to have this unique lifestyle. Cruising has become normal everyday life for them and they tend to forget what we’re giving them. They complain when it’s time to do school work, they complain when we have to walk in the heat and spend all day looking for some item dad needs to fix the boat. But even though Massachusetts was a nice break seeing their friends and ordering their favorite foods at restaurants in English, they were glad to be back home on Litha. We have traveled 2750 nautical miles so far and visited 4 countries (plus our own) We are excited to see where year 2 takes us.
To see and hear more about our travels from the past year, subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out our Podcast!
What is Litha?
Well, to my family and me, Litha is our home. Litha is the name of our sailboat as we travel the world. But what is Litha, and why did we choose it as her name?
Litha is the Celtic/Pagan celebration of the Summer Solstice. It is opposite of Yule (the Winter Solstice) on the Wheel of the Year. The wheel shows the four “Sabbats”, or Solar Celebrations, coinciding with the Solstices and Equinoxes. And also the four earth celebrations, or “cross quarter days” between solar points. For instance, Samhain (modern day Halloween) is halfway between the Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice.
Litha is the longest, brightest day of the year. The word “Solstice” comes from the latin word “Solstitium” meaning “sun stands still”. Ancient Celts used to celebrate Litha by traveling to the hilltops and lighting bonfires to honor the space between the earth and the heavens, land and sky.
Other ancient rituals included lighting a large wheel on fire and rolling it down a hill into the water. Litha is the most powerful day for the sun, but it also marks the days becoming shorter again. The water and fiery wheel may have represented soothing the sun’s strong fire, and was an offering to the gods to prevent drought for their crops.
Litha has been known as an important day for ritual. From the Romans honoring Juno, the Goddess of women, childbirth, and marriage, by naming the month of June after her as crops and nature thrive in summer; to offering cinders from bonfires to crops as a blessing. Even William Shakespeare associated ritual and witchcraft with the Summer Solstice in at least three of his plays. It’s a powerful day. Earth and Air, Fire and Water, Day and Night. The sun leaves Gemini with such duality, and enters Cancer, the sign of warmth, home, and comfort.
A modern day ritual that I would recommend today would definitely include focusing on your Solar Plexus Chakra. This Chakra is located just below your ribcage at your sternum. The color associated with your Solar Plexus is yellow, and it represents your own inner sun: Your fire, your willpower, and your sense of self. As you light your own bonfire tonight, write down aspects of your self that do not make you feel as powerful and confident as you truly are. Burn these small pieces of paper in the fire to rid of them and increase your self worth and shine! Stay up late and say goodnight to the sun tonight. Play music, light a BBQ, and enjoy the longest day of the year!
We named our home afloat Litha for our own balance in life; to celebrate a never-ending summer of wanderlust for our family. With this bright light, we follow the adventurous Sagittarius Full Moon with fire and passion on the sea. Follow our family travels at http://www.lifeoffthedeepend.com We have a Blog, Podcast, and YouTube channel!
This year, learn more about what lights YOU up, and clear energetic blocks through the Chakras! Join me for the next session of my online course See of Colors. Hurry and sign up by Litha! We start the next session on Monday June 22, 2020! Rock Your Chakras in 7 Weeks for only $111. More info and sign up here! www.seeingfromthesea.com/onlinecourses
Up: You get to go to all sorts of places. And when you’re down south its warm!
Down: On the way to all the places there can be big waves and you get seasick. And being seasick isn’t fun.
Up: You can find other boat kids everywhere. Almost everywhere we have been there has been at least one boat kid.
Down: There are not a lot my age. Most are below the age of 11 and that kind of sucks.
Up: The ones that are my age are awesome friends.
Down: Most of them are somewhere else right now and we might not see each other again.
Up: I can talk to all my old friends online and even play video games with them.
Down: We don’t have Wi-Fi that often and I can’t talk to anyone without it.
Up: When you are “boat-schooled” you have lots of free time to swim, play at the beach, and hang out with friends.
Down: You have lots of free time and when you’re stuck on the boat some days, you can’t go anywhere and it can get boring.
Up: You meet amazing famlies that are so much fun.
Down: You almost always have to say goodbye.
Right now we are in La Cruz and probably going south to El Salvador and have to say goodbye to friends again. We hope to see them again someday, and we will probably meet new friends. Being a boat kid comes with a lot of ups and downs but it usually ends up being okay.
Eh… not really! But we hear that all. the. time. Let me tell you what our life is like since moving aboard our sailboat, fixing it up for 5 months in San Diego, and sailing down to La Paz Mexico…
Pro: We live on a sailboat in Mexico! I mean come on! It’s sunny, warm, and the water is clear. It’s our dream come true and we’ve worked so hard to get here!
Con: We don’t live in a house anymore, which means we have no stable ground. This is especially stressful at night. Will our anchor hold? Will another boat drag into us? Will we be rocking and rolling all night long? Will the wind pick up overnight? You never sleep soundly when you live on the sea.
Pro: Sailing the world is an amazing experience for our children! We are teaching them so much about the world’s different cultures, languages, and cuisine! And we are able to spend so much quality time as a family!
Con: We live in a 54 ft space with our two children… whom we see 24/7. We homeschool them, which is a ton of work and worry. We almost never get time alone without them (or each other for that matter!) Did I mention it’s a 54 ft space?
Pro: Speaking of cuisine and culture, we are able to try so many new delicious foods, and also learn how to shop and cook them ourselves!
Con: Mi Espanol no es muy bueno. (My Spanish is not very good) so it becomes really difficult to order at restaurants, or ask for an item at the supermarket, or even directions to said supermarket. My usual quick errands take half the day due to language barriers and travel. We ride in a dinghy from the boat to a dock, and then walk to the store with no vehicle. Sometimes I miss my car and drive-thrus; and, even more, online ordering!
Pro: We meet amazing people. There’s such a growing community of cruisers and kid boats, all of whom decided to leave their “normal” life and embrace crazy as well, so everyone you meet is like-minded and laidback. The kids have made the best friends, and so have we!
Con: We have to say goodbye a lot. Sometimes our friends’ routes are not the same as ours, and it’s really sad to move on, but this is the lifestyle we all chose for our families.
Some days it really does feel like a vacation. For instance, the day we swam with whale sharks with a boat full of tourists was a trip of a lifetime! But most days, it’s just typical day-to-day life. School, work, cooking, cleaning, and boat projects (all a bit more difficult without an unlimited amount of water, power, and WIFI).
As you see, all of these cons are a trade-off for the pros– For the days that we are able to spend the afternoon snorkeling, paddle-boarding, hiking, and having potlucks on the beach with friends.
[To hear more about our day-to-day life, be sure to check out our Podcast, “Life off the deep end” available on Apple Podcast (itunes), Google Play, Podbean, Stitcher, and more! Search for us wherever you listen, or click the Podcast tab on our website!]