What’s it like to sail around the world with a child or children? What happens with education? What’s the scoop with voyaging with kids?
When we tell someone that we’re in the process of sailing around the world, the person often has many questions. When we tell someone that we have a six-year-old daughter there’s usually one main question. That question is, ‘what do you do about your daughters education?’
Voyaging with Kids – Homeschooling
The quick answer is homeschooling.
Our daughter, Sienna, is just like any of the other 1 1/2 million kids in America currently being taught at home. The long answer is that we also make use of traditional schools when the opportunity presents itself.
For example, while we wintered in the Mediterranean in Sicily for six months, Sienna went to an Italian pre-school. She was 4 at the time. And for the past year, while we’ve been preparing for our next leg of the trip – heading out into the Pacific, Sienna has been going to 1st grade in Charleston, South Carolina.
Homeschooling, for us, consists of curriculum-based workbooks, project based learning (which this video will demonstrate for you) and loads of experiential learning.
What I mean by experiential learning is that Sienna learns whenever the opportunity presents itself.
And those opportunities are often. For example, when we see a whale, we pull out our book on whales and learn about what they eat, how large they grow and what we can do to ensure their environment thrives. When we climb up a volcano we later reflect back on an iPad app that lets us climb inside the volcano to find out how it’s actually functioning.
What I’ve come to realize with homeschooling, and voyaging with kids in general, is that it’s not a 8 to 3 job or something that necessarily gets done within a few hours. Homeschooling, for us, is a lifestyle. We’re always guiding and teaching and I have to say that Sienna is often guiding and teaching us too.
The above video that I’ve created for you to watch will hopefully give you an example of how we allow Sienna to choose her own projects and then guide her on them.
And just before I get started, a bit of background.
Sienna and I decided to make fake Playdough cookies to sell to the boats in our area. We went as far as creating the cookies, making a promotional video to share and drawing up a sign. Once were finished Sienna asked me if she could make real cookies and sell them for real money.
One thing led to another and Simon and I found ourselves mentoring a 6 year old on how to start her first company.
What I love about project-based learning is that it’s play for the student. Sienna didn’t realize that we were making sure she did her writing, spelling, math, reading, and so forth. She just thought she was starting a business…So, I’ll leave you with that. Watch the video and find out whether a profit was made or not!
One last note – Sienna also wants her own YouTube channel.
I have mixed feelings about that. But it’s important to realize that on top of learning her age appropriate academics, Sienna is also learning about business and social media.
My hope with the video above is to perhaps provide entertain as Sienna is a natural entertainer. But to also inspire you if you’re thinking of doing a long-term trip with your child or children or even grandchildren.
There are no rules. The limitations we live by are in place because we put them there… So…on with the show.
If you prefer to read rather than watch the video, allow me to describe the journey we took with Sienna’s business creation. The above is the script I used to create the introduction to our Voyaging with kids – Homeschooling project but the below is off script.
Sienna decided that she wanted to sell real cookies for real money.
Previous to Sienna’s decision we role-played with Playdough. Sienna made Playdough cookies, created an advert displaying the name of the company, a logo/picture of the product and the cost. Sienna also made a short video explaining the benefits of the product in addition to the cost.
After spending several hours role-playing Sienna, Simon and I started to discuss what it would take to sell real cookies. Within a couple days of the initial brainstorm, Sienna and Simon went to a café for WIFI to find the best cookie recipe.
A recipe for chocolate chocolate chip cookies was found and a list of ingredients was created. Thus far Sienna has had to use the following skills (to name a few): reading, research, writing, decision-making…
With the list of ingredients in hand, Simon took Sienna to the store to buy everything she needed.
A loan was granted for Sienna to get her set up but the money would be paid back over time.
Once Sienna was back on the boat I helped her get organized. We laid all the ingredients out on the table and discussed what everything was. She was excited to taste the various raw ingredients – especially the coco. And of course, I was eager to see her reaction!
Sienna and I followed the recipe and tasted most items as we went along. She was surprised with the taste of the coco, vanilla extract and backing soda. Sienna certainly learned an important lesson that ingredients, alone, might not taste very good but when you add them together not only do they change shape and consistency but they also form to create something worthy of taste sensations.
Once the cookies were done we extended our R&D (research and development) to include Charleston Harbor Marina ‘B Dock’ testers. Sienna notified a few of our neighbors that ‘tasters’ were required. Within minutes we had three boats and five people for the tasting session.
The vote was unanimous – the cookies were excellent.
Sienna and I then tallied up all the costs of making the cookies and estimated the actual cost of each cookie. We came up with the figure of 30 cents per cookie. We then designed the packaging. Sienna thought the cookies would look best wrapped in a light plastic back with a gold twist-tie (not silver!). We also created a card using printable business cards listing Sienna’s company name, Sienna’s Sweets,’ in addition to instructions on how to reorder and how to follow our blog.
Once the cookies were all packaged up, Simon spent an hour role-playing how to deal with orders, take money and offer change. It was an excellent way for Sienna to understand how to make change and work with American currency. She also started to gain a perspective on how much work is involved to create an income. And then how much money it takes out of the income to pay for new ingredients. Finally, what profits are left over to spend on something she wants.
Sienna’s goal was to achieve $400 to put towards a trip to the Harry Potter attraction in Florida.
We discussed the importance of also ‘giving back’ and charity so Sienna decided that 10% of profits would go to the local animal shelter.
With a basket full of cookies and her change purse Sienna went to an Oyster Festival put on by the resort we’re currently berthed at. Within five minutes she sold out making over $64.00 for 20 cookies. Many people offered her money and told her to keep the cookie, which was interesting (I’m still trying to figure out what lesson I need to extract from that…help!)
All in all, however, she experienced success.
We took around $20 from the proceeds to buy a few more ingredients and the business moves on.
Reflecting back over the process, the whole family enjoyed working on the project. Sienna had loads of support and learning lessons. And it was very interesting to watch Sienna think of marketing ideas and extra profit earners. For example, she thought it would be a good idea to make coffee on the boat and invite customers to eat on our back deck. Sienna also offered a boat delivery service for $1 delivery charge.
Sienna’s Sweets is still going but interest has waned somewhat.
Sienna probably needs to sell cookies at eight more events and I’m not sure if a six-year-old has the tenacity to keep going. I’ll do my best to push her along but on the other hand I don’t want her to become disengaged. I don’t want her to be put off by real work. Am I being too protective?! I mean she is only six-years-old!!
Looking back I think it would have been better if I guided her to select a goal with a lower price point? Perhaps instead of $400 I could have suggested $100. And then Sienna could have gone to the store and spent a bit of profit more immediately. Then again, our world is already too focused on instant gratification. Perhaps the higher amount and longer journey is better?!
The project has thus far lasted over three weeks. We’ve concentrated our efforts in bursts of one to two hour time slots. Around the dinner table we discuss ideas. But we’ve discovered it’s good to do a little work, get something finished and then let that sit for a while before moving on to the next step.
The project flowed very well and Sienna benefited academically, socially, mentally and more.
Furthermore it was great to do something as a family.
So…when voyaging with kids, education is an interesting topic. There are families that work solely with company supplied curriculums. And then there are families that don’t have any formal education guidelines knowing that their child or children will simply learn by life itself.
But voyaging with kids isn’t just about education!
Gosh – there’s loads that needs to be considered and I’m definitely not the best person (or only person) to learn from. My friend Behan Gifford co-wrote an excellent book titled ‘Voyaging with Kids – A Guide to Family Life Afloat. If you have children and are going to sail/live on a boat, this is a must have guide: