When my husband and I decided to sell all our possessions, buy the largest boat we could afford and sail around the world we had mixed feelings. On the one hand, we were excited to finally live a dream that had been growing for over ten years. On the other hand, we both had several fears – me, more so than my husband! (Read on to hear about my fears about homeschooling…)
On a daily basis I felt sheer excitement AND absolute terror
When thinking of the sights we’d see, the ability to spend quality time with family and all the adventures we’d experience, I’d smile while feeling butterflies of anticipation in my stomach.
However, when thinking about safety issues associated with our trip, like pirates, diseases, lack of medical care and so forth I’d jump over to the other side of the spectrum and break out into cold sweats – especially if my mind thought of my daughter facing any sort of problem.
And on a practical, day-to-day, level I also found myself worrying about our decision to homeschool Sienna. Would we be able to provide her with an education on par, if not better, than the standard curriculum? Would she lose here ability to be sociable due to a lack of being with a continuous same-age peer group? Would she lose out on making early childhood friends?
To combat my fears about homeschooling I started to seek out other homeschooling parents
Whenever there’s fear, there’s usually a lack of knowledge. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know so the decision to homeschool was scary. The first thing I did was go to Amazon and purchase a few homeschooling books. I thought they’d give me a foundation as to why parents homeschool and how they do it.
After reading the first book I felt more relaxed and less fearful
And then after reading the three books I purchased, in addition to connecting online with homeschooling parents, I actually felt excited by the opportunity. If it hadn’t been for our plans to sail around the world, Sienna would have gone to school just like most kids do. I would have never researched homeschooling and probably wouldn’t have realized that I even had a choice in the matter.
I always thought homeschooling was done by hippie parents that were against the establishment, but I was wrong!
My research made me realized that parents all over the world have been, and still are, taking their children out of the mainstream school system. In America, over 2 million children are being homeschooled and in the UK it’s around 50,000 and increasing very quickly. And the reasons for opting out of school or taking kids out at some point along the line are wide-ranging.
There are parents like us that want to travel around the world and bring our child with us. And there are parents that feel the system is broken and failing to provide an adequate education. Many parents feel that the educational system doesn’t cater to their child’s needs. Perhaps their child needs to learn by experimentation rather than reading a book – and because the school doesn’t offer experimental learning, the child is labeled ‘stupid.’
If you spend just 10 minutes researching homeschooling on the Internet you’ll quickly read many stories that sound like this:
‘My child just wasn’t doing very well in school. The teachers said that he/she had learning difficulties or disruptive or the common one – ‘stupid.’ We knew that our child wasn’t ‘stupid’. After trying many things, we finally decided to take him/her out of school and educate our child ourselves. Since then, our child has blossomed!’ The story usually ends with some sort of amazing accolade that the child has recently received and parent remarks that ‘Homeschooling our child was the best thing we ever did.’
In all my research I haven’t found one story where homeschooling backfired. Yes, parents have issues and difficulties but overall, everyone I’ve come across hasn’t regretted their decision to homeschool.
But is it legal to take your child out of the school system?
At first, I was curious as to the red tape we would have to go through to qualify as homeschooling parents. I also wondered what hoops we’d have to jump to make sure the government/education system were happy with our plans.
Before leaving on our adventure, we were living in England. My husband called the local council, requested to speak to someone about homeschooling and was told that since our daughter wasn’t yet registered in the system we didn’t have to do anything. Yes – you read that correctly. The representative that my husband spoke to told us not to do anything but when and if we come back to England, if we don’t plan on homeschooling our daughter any longer, we simply need to register into the school system.
The law states that parents must provide an education for their children – it doesn’t state that the education must be provided by a school system. So from a legal perspective, if a parent want’s to educate their children, they’re clear to do so.
Furthermore, there’s no standard as to what you need to teach your child. Most homeschooling parents want the best for their children so they’ll research the curriculum for their child’s age and make sure that they cover things to a greater or lessor extent. When it comes to tests, there doesn’t need to be any tests! Tests are just a way for the system to quickly ascertain whether a child is keeping up.
The only tests that parents have to worry about are entrance exams for collage or university
So after researching and discussing things with other homeschooling parents, I felt better about our decision but I hadn’t yet experienced what life would be like as a homeschooling parent. It’s now been one month since we left on our sailing around the world adventure and I am 100% positive that we made the best decision possible regarding Sienna’s education.
Let me give you some examples as to how and what Sienna has been learning. Usually, during the morning after we eat our breakfast and while sipping our coffee, my husband or I work on letters and numbers with her. If she’s not in the mood, we just color, read a book or do a puzzle. No matter what we spend time learning something as Sienna is quite a morning person!
Thereafter, if we’re not sailing, we’ll go on an adventure. While sailing we’ll look up the fish or birds that we see in a book, talk about the ocean or have discussions about where we came from or where we’re going.
Regarding our adventures – they could take us to see animals in their natural habitat, visit an ancient capital city or go to the top of a volcano. In the last month we sat next to monkeys at the top of Gibraltar, walked around the Silent City of l-Imidina in Malta and most recently we went to the top of Mt Etna in Sicily. I’m actually sat on the boat right now looking up at the beautiful volcano right now!
In addition to our adventures, we’ve met amazing new friends along the way
And in many respects, I think our new friends have been just as important to Sienna’s education if not more important! We’ve learned first hand from locals about the language, history, sights, foods and much more. We’ve all learned a lot about how kind people are. Being on a boat and in a foreign environment can be unsettling but not when you reach out to meet new friends! I want to say that we’re teaching Sienna how to make friends of all ages, but in actuality, she is the one teaching us!
When we had to stop off in Algeria because a storm hit, the people of Algiers came aboard and were very serious. As soon as Sienna came up, the men with riffles quickly smiled and each took a turn holding and kissing her. All she did was come up on deck and smile! It didn’t take long for one of the immigration officials to join us for a coffee and teach Sienna about the Sahara dessert.
More recently, when we arrived in Sicily, she befriended a boatload of 6 Italians moored up next to us
Sienna smiled at a gentleman on the boat and he smiled back. Since that day, our boat and his boat have joined in the most amazing friendship ever. Us four on Britican and the six Italians (only one speaking English) have hung out almost every day for the last couple weeks.
We’ve gone out sailing, to dinner (twice), have had many evening meals on the boat, one BBQ, celebrated Sienna’s 4th birthday and have been taken on several sight-seeing expeditions by car. Furthermore, our new friends have spent endless hours helping us to fix a variety of things on our boat – mainly, the generator, which I’m happy to announce that it’s now fixed. And if that’s not enough, we’ve been showered with Sicilian gifts – wine, cannoli’s, sweets, cakes, breads, olive oil, liquors and even clothes!
While spending time with our friends, Sienna counts to ten in Italian, practices saying her Italian pleasantries and learns new words. The other night, boat Britican came up with animals to act out and the Italians had to guess and then tell us the Italian word for the animal. From age 4 to 70, we all had fun learning.
From a sociability perspective, I’m not worried in the slightest any more
Sienna makes friends with anyone of any age. When we visit a playground, she quickly joins other children and plays along. Last week, we spent quite a few days in one place and every day she played for a couple hours with a little boy about 2 years old. His parents owned the local restaurant and he sat in the corner playing quietly. When Sienna came in, he lit up and the two enjoyed time together.
I know that Sienna’s academic education will be incredible and now I’m starting to believe that her social skills will be quite advanced for her age. She’s learning about the beautiful world we live in and the amazing people that inhabit it. So, one month into our new adventure and I can’t imagine any other path for our daughter’s education.