Our first month of homeschooling

By Kevin

We left Chicago on August 20th and now on September 28th, we are looking back at our first month of homeschooling.

In short, it is hard work. And, very rewarding.

We are able to direct the education of our children and be there with them as they are learning, questioning and exploring.

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For the first two weeks of school we were at our vacation house in New Smyrna Beach, Fl. The last 3 weeks we’ve been living in two different extended stay hotels in the Fort Lauderdale area. But, no worries. So far, the kids have adapted to whatever locale we are teaching in.

School starts promptly at 8 AM every morning. I teach math, science, history, geography and “choice time.” Choice time is a montessori-esque half hour each day. At the beginning of the week, I ask them to think up their own curriculum for that week, with some clear objective. For instance, writing and producing a short video, learning about hermit crabs, programming a computer game, etc. Each week, the subject changes based on their interests.

On Wednesday there is also a half hour chess lesson!

My teaching wraps up at 11 am each morning. Then, after a quick snack, Jennifer takes over. She teaches phonics, spelling, grammer, vocabulary, composition, literature, Spanish and IRA. IRA is the “independent resource activity.” Actually that isn’t what it means but that sure sounds official. (It doesn’t actually stand for anything.) But, IRA time is the last session of the day and is like a study hall where the students can complete any outstanding homework from earlier lessons.

So far, school has been wrapping up between 2-3 PM every day.

Choosing a homeschool curriculum

By Kevin

When we were researching this sabbatical and the homeschooling options available, two programs kept rising above the rest, at least for our needs.

The first program was K12. Though we felt the program was strong, and the online student community impressive, it wouldn’t work for us. Unfortunately, the bulk of the curriculum is conducted online. We will have spotty access to the internet–sometimes going a week or more without high-speed access.

As we read homeschooling experiences of past and present cruisers, Calvert Academy‘s program was frequently mentioned as a high-quality, complete, curriculum-in-a-box. We had several conference calls with Calvert’s educational counselors, teachers who advise parents, answer pedagogical questions and grade student assignments. Besides publishing a homeschool curriculum for decades, Calvert also runs a highly-regarded in-person private school. 

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We were quickly sold on Calvert. Not only do they ship an entire curriculum-in-a-box for each student’s school year, they offer accredidation, an online student community, accessibe advisors and high-quality multimedia and online content. The key for us was that the core curriculum is made up of printed lesson manuals, textbooks, workbooks and tests. This means that we are able to use the multimedia resources when we have internet access but we are not tied to the internet. We can go a week or more without access and lessons can continue uninterrupted.

Besides the core Calvert curriclum, we’ve purchase the Rosetta Stone Spanish Level 1 Home School Edition (Latin America). Madeline is using the Rosetta Stone program to get a head start on next year’s eighth grade Spanish. To reinforce her lessons, we’ll try hard to make it to a Spanish speaking island or two on our trip. The Dominican Repubic or Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands would be fantastic cruising grounds and would give both Madeline and Jen a chance to practice their skills.

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Hurricane Isaac blows by

By Kevin

Tropical Storm Isaac was forecast to sideswipe Miami and Fort Lauderdale, where we have Real Life allĀ buttoned up, waiting out the storm.

Instead of waiting around to get slammed, we headed up to our beach house in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. This small surfing town is on an atlantic coast barrier island just a few hundred miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

The following video shows the nasty surf conditions and ominous clouds we got in front of our house. Fortunately, this was the worst of it.

Fantasy becomes real life

By Kevin

Naming a boat is hard. You remember what you went through when you named each of your newborns? Well, it is sort of like that. Except, you have more options available. You can be very creative. And, options mean choices.

A boat name traditionally has some significant meaning for the owner. And, for recreational boats at least, a double entendre thrown in earns some street cred during dockside happy hours.

For naming our new-to-us Brewer 12.8, formerly Fantasy island, we wanted to find something that conveyed a taste of why we were purchasing it; what this one year family sabbatical means to Jen and me.

This trip is a sabbatical for us, meaning we are purposefully taking a break from the normal lives we have been living in order to recharge and reevaluate.

Particularly for our trip, we want to not only take a break from our everyday routines. We want to get away from the electronic tethers and trivial activities to which we’ve become so accustomed.

But, this trip is also a transition for us, not just a break or an escape. We are trying out a new lifestyle. A lifestyle where all significant decisions are intentional and lead to greater integration of our family, our work, our play and our marriage.

With these themes in mind, after weeks of soul searching, and moments of whimsy, here was our short list:

  • Committed
  • La Vida Real
  • Incommunicado
  • Family Sabbatical
  • Endless Sabbatical
  • Captured Moments
  • Henceforth
  • Off the Grid
  • Cheese Farm
  • Real Life

Each of these names reflects some flavor of why we bought the boat to be our home for a year. As you can see, we were light on the double entendres but we are willing to live with that at happy hour.

Our top choices ended up being:

  • Henceforth
  • Cheese Farm
  • Real Life

We all know how it ended, of course. We chose Real Life because it directly reflects our desire that this change of lifestyle, this new way of being intentional and integrated, is not just a fantasy or a break or an escape. We want this to be our reality moving forward.

It was only weeks after choosing the name that it dawned on us that the boat had gone from being one couple’s Fantasy Island to another’s Real Life.