By far, the biggest question we get asked when we tell people we’re sailing around the world is, ‘But what about your daughter – is she coming with you?’ My husband often replies to that question with, ‘you’re welcome to keep her if you want, but considering she is our child, yes, she’s coming with us!’ We’ve heard often, ‘A boat is no place for a child!’
People are funny. I assumed that the reaction we’d get would be more about our safety or questions as to how the heck we’re paying for this epic trip. I thought people would want to know how we’re doing what we’re doing, but the fact is, since we decided to sell our possessions and buy a 56′ yacht, the majority of questions focus around our 3 year old daughter, Sienna Maddison Brown.
Education and socialization are the biggies
How will Sienna get an education? What will she do about learning social skills? After that, safety is often brought up. People ask, ‘Is it safe for you to sail to certain locations with your daughter? Will she wear a life jacket? Can she swim?’ It’s funny that few people express concern over mine and my hubby’s safety!
And then we get a few questions regarding health risks such as, ‘What happens if Sienna gets sick? What will you do if she needs medical attention? What if she gets Malaria?’
For the most part I think people are genuinely interested, but I can’t help but feel that some of the questions are asked with a tone of condemnation. Friend and family can’t say, or don’t have the courage to say, ‘are you crazy – how irresponsible can you get?’ Of course, I could be way off the mark on this, but I sometimes feel judged when people shout at me, ‘But what about your child?’
Ironically, I think we’re doing the best thing imaginable for our daughter
Not only will we help to educate her through homeschooling, but our family will all be together on an adventure that will enable us to see a massive amount of the amazing world we live in!
Speaking of homeschooling, I must admit that that the whole concept freaked me out at first. I was all set up to send Sienna through the UK schooling system. One month before we decided to sell up and sail away, I was contemplating what school to register her for.
After hubby and I decided to go for our dream and the dust settled a bit, I started to question the whole homeschooling side of things. My initial reaction was, ‘I’m not a teacher! I have no clue about teaching! I can’t teach my daughter!’ I immediately purchased a few homeschooling books – I’m the type of person that buys a book every time I experience a problem. To read about the books I purchased read my journey article: What does homeschooling, the paleo diet, writing, and photography have to do with sailing?
The books helped!
In fact, by the time I read all three of them I was convinced that homeschooling has just as many, if not more, benefits to the standard education system. I also grew in confidence about ways to teach. There are two extremes. Some parents teach just like teachers in a school. They have time tables, workbooks, etc and follow the school ciriculum to the exact syllabus. The other extreme are parents that go with the flow and find teaching lessons in association to what the child is currently interested in.
For example, if your child is into dolls houses right now, you can create learning opportunities around the dolls house. You think about, English, Math, Science, History and work it into playing. If I wanted to teach Sienna about colors, we could name the colors in the house. If I wanted to teach her history, we could put on a historical play with the dolls.
I’m not sure what approach will take – we’ll probably sit in the middle and do both structured and unstructured learning
The key thing is that after a bit of education I now feel completely confident in my abilities to teach my daughter.
And as for the education board, when we called up to tell them what we’re doing, they said just register Sienna in school when you return to the UK. My husband was shocked. They didn’t want to know our names, what we were planning on teaching – nothing. Since Sienna isn’t in the system yet, there’s no need to tell the system what she’s doing. Interesting – eh?
Socialization is the other big issue that most people mention
And I must admit that it was a concern of mine too. How will a 3 year old get on in the world of socializing when she’s stuck with mom and dad on a boat? Well…from what I’ve read, children that spend more time with adults (eg. homeschooled kids) actually tend to have more advanced social skills. Rather than learning both the good and bad traits from their school peers homeschooled children mature a bit quicker. Let’s face it, Sienna is less likely to be a bully, be bullied, act immature (for her age) or be mean. She won’t learn anti-social behaviours because hubby and I are not anti-social.
Furthermore, just because we’re going to live on a boat doesn’t mean that we’re isolated. In fact, we’ll have more of a social life than most! We’ll meet other boaters during our travels in addition to thousands of locals. We’ll go to playgrounds, visit attractions and we’ll be out and about all the time. Also, there are activity clubs for kids at the major marinas and there’s a massive international homeschooling network providing several opportunities for us to introduce Sienna to other children. (It’s actually a great way for hubby and I to make new friends too!)
And what about the risks?
What about pirates, being so close to water all the time, storms, tidal waves, human sized squid, killer sharks, back flipping boat smashing wales, the Bermuda Triangle, capsizing possibilities, foreign bacteria, health issues, blood sucking leaches, jelly fish stings or collisions?
Hmmmmm, yes those are risks but let’s compare them to ‘normal’ day to day living.
I bet that doing the daily school run is a higher risk than all the risks associated to sailing. Or, in other words, I bet that there are more fatalities caused by car crashes than all the fatalities caused by living on a boat.
Furthermore, it’s not like we simply decided to sail around the world and haven’t prepared for it. Both hubby and I have taken engine, First Aid, medical, and several sailing courses. We’ll never be able to prepare for everything, but we’ve definitely taken the risks associated to sailing very seriously.
And as for the pirates, we’ll never go anywhere near them!
In regards to the medical side of things, we’ve purchased thousands of pounds/dollars worth of medical equipment and drugs. Furthermore, we’ve learned how to use the equipment! On board, we have observational equipment including blood pressure apperatus, stethoscope, thermometer, pulse taker, pee strips, pen light, and ear/nose/mouth instruments. We also are carrying a variety of drugs that will help in an emergency. For example, we have the antibiotic that is needed to combat meningitis and the drug that prevents secondary drowning. We also have the amazing substance created during the Gulf War that forces blood to clot (for massive artery bleeds).
And after much debate, we also purchased a heart defibrillator. (Read my article about that here: Carrying a Defibrillator aboard our yacht – Is it really necessary?).
So, is a boat no place for a child? No way!
Photograph by Eneka Stewart