We have found that the key to getting our girls to enjoy their homeschooling is to make it fun. And it has worked, because every morning as I crawl out of bed they are asking me if they can do their homework. We have also found that not being stuck on “core” and allowing them explore through play has allowed our girls to develop beyond their age groups. We are not UBER strict with the homeschooling, the girls will do schoolwork most days, but there are some days where it just doesn’t fit into the “schedule”, but that doesn’t mean that they are not learning on those days too. We have found some good toys that allow us to sneak education in there without them realizing it.

Some of the products mentioned below have been sponsored to us, but that is because I sought them out and contacted the companies, because I thought their products would make great additions to our boat schooling program.


   With the holidays just around the corner I figured I’d share some of the fun stuff that we use to “Teach Through Play”. 
   For their core education, Arias is currently working on her Grade 2 curriculum (she’s 5!) by using the Complete Canadian Curriculum Grade 2 workbook. Ellia is using the many Pre-K School Zone workbooks. We LOVE these books. Arias used them when she was younger too. They are beautifully illustrated and get kids doing school work with the help of fun games and lots of stickers. I have so many of these educational workbooks, that way as soon as one is completed we can move on to the next without skipping a beat.
   That covers their core materials, then we branch out and use other fun books, games, and supplies for additional learning. When shopping for these extras I look for things that the girls will be able to play with on their own, where there is an educational side to the product, and that will store easily on the boat. (Because on a boat space management is everything!)
Arts and Crafts
   We have a huge stash of craft supplies on our boat. (We have water paints, finger paints, a stack of construction paper, crayons, pencil crayons, glue sticks, kids’ scissors, and lots of tape (kids love tape!). I avoid things like markers and glitter glues because I have heard horror stories of kids getting extra creative and decorating the walls with such things. With all these supplies we can start creating whenever an idea pops into our head. These are good for “dead” time or when holidays are approaching, for making good gifts and decorations for the boat. Doing arts and crafts allows our girls to be creative and use their imagination, as well as working their dexterity with things such as scissors and crayons. 

   We also have play-doh onboard, and although some parents hate this stuff and how messy it can get, our girls really enjoy creating with it. They just have simple rules they must follow when using it, 1) only on the table, 2) only 3 colors at a time, and 3) they must have a towel under them. We have discovered that the Play-doh Party Favour packs work best for us because the bigger containers will either dry up or get mouldy because of the tropical weather. Because our girls are obsessed with food (when you meet them you will see how true that is) we bought them a play-doh Double desserts set last Christmas, it is compact, small, and doesn’t get play-doh all stuck in it like some of their other toys. The girls sit there making food creations and “feeding” them to us, restaurant style.
Reading
   I love reading, and it is an important trait that I hope to pass on to our girls. Arias is at the point where she can read shorter books on her own, and Ellia can make all the phonetic sounds that go with each letter, allowing her to read with some help. To encourage them and build their “reading” confidence they have a bin in their bedroom packed with Step Into Reading type books. These books are great because of the range of stories they have, and they are also a perfect size for boats, not too big but not too small. Arias also loves the Now I’m Reading series because they are short and fun. They also come with 10 mini books inside its own case, perfect for storage! When we want to focus on certain reading skills and advancing to new levels, I find the Bob Books are the best. The illustrations are simple, not distracting the kids, and are geared towards getting your young readers to be able to read the entire book on their own. They create a huge sense of confidence and the girls love being able to brag “Mama I read it all”!

While on island we go to the library, A LOT!

   We also do story time every night before bed, where mama reads them 1-3 stories. This is a good way to get them to calm down, to have extra bonding time, and let their imaginations wander, sending them off to a magical dreamland. Some of our favorite books are the Gruffalo, Fancy Nancy, PinkaliciousThe Book With No PicturesStick Man, the Ladybug Girl books, and the list goes on…
Building/Engineering
   Our girls wake up earlier than I do. We encourage them to stay in bed until a certain hour (with the help of the OK to Wake clock which lights up when they can get up). Once they are up, and I am still in bed, they are allowed to play with their toys until the whole family is up and moving. I am always so happy to open my eyes to see both of our girls working away at building their very own creations. There are a plethora of toys out there encourage kids to use their engineering/math/science skills. Yes there are Lego, which are fun (but those tiny pieces all over the place sort of drive me crazy). And toys have evolved so much and there are some great new options out there (that won’t get lost in your bilges). We have found that Ellia gravitates towards Magnatiles. These tiles are not too magnetic (yes that can be a problem for a 3 year old with limited strength) and get her building all sorts of castles and homes for her various ponies and dolls. Castles seem to be her favorite building design. We have the 100 piece set and that gives her more than plenty tiles for any of her creations.

Building while on a very calm passage

More castles!

   Arias, on the other hand, prefers the stronger magnets in the Magformers. She also likes the versatility that the magnets in motions give her. She is also a princess castle builder, but with the extra moving pieces, her towers often have obstacles that the evil dragons have to overcome, protecting the princesses. The girls create all sorts of stories to play with their blocks. These magnet blocks get pulled out and played with daily. And even though the girls are fully capable of playing with them on their own, they are so much fun that Eben and I are often sitting side by side with the girls, creating structures of our own.

Look at that face, can you say “Happy kid”!

  GoldieBlox is another family favorite that gets our girls’ creativity flowing. We have several of their different sets. Their Craft-struction set gives you 245 different pieces that allow for a ton of building option. With the kit comes a poster with instructions to several designs, and then once a week they upload a new instructional video online for the kids to enjoy. I love that this company goes beyond just making toys to creating apps and videos to keep the girls hooked. Their toys are geared towards inspire girls to explore engineering (only 14% of engineers are women), but are fun for all types of kids. Their other sets include storybooks and action figures to go along with the building fun. 

I knew Eben would love these toys just as much as the girls!


Cooking
   It’s not like you need a ton of extras to do “cooking classes” with your kids. Eben does most of the cooking on our boat and our girls love to stand on the settee and watch him at work, sometimes getting to participate in the cutting and cleaning of veggies, and most of the time participating in the food tasting. The girls also love to help with measuring ingredients for baking. Although this may seem basic, teaching the girls about healthy eating, and the basics of cooking, is important so that they don’t turn into twenty-somethings that eat ramen for every meal.





Ipad Apps
   I know they recommend that kids should not spend time on tablets, and such. But we have had nothing but success with using these electronics as teaching tools, and as a way for the girls to have some alone time while playing educational games. Arias uses the Bob Books app to practice her reading skills, while Ellia loves the Bugs and Buttons app to do everything from practicing letters, to sorting, to counting. A great website that we have found is the Smart Apps for Kids site. They have a “free app of the day” section, where everyday they seek out a fun new app that is free, and most of the time they are educational. Definitely worth checking out.

   Not only does the ipad offer all sorts of apps where kids can learn while playing, but we also use Osmo, which is a really neat gaming system that lets our girls interact with the ipad in a whole new way, making it even more “hands on”. This game has the girls playing with letters, numbers, art, and spacial concepts, using their brains and hands, so they aren’t just sitting and watching the ipad. Check out the video we made to get a better look at how it works.

TV Shows

   Again, tv time is supposed to be a “No No”, but lets be realistic, our kids often end up in front of the screen (computer) when they get up before us, or when we are anchoring the boat, or when we just need a few minutes of silence. It happens. But I still like to make it worth their while. I have no issue in saying that one of the ways our girls learned to read so early, and count, was thanks to the Leap Frog movies. With their “screen time” these movies taught them the alphabet and their phonics. As well as basic math skills. They are fun, entertaining, and well made; and good change from Disney.

Hanging at a friend’s house. (This is not one of their educational shows, just entertainment).

   Of course our daughters also have a ton of other toys (mostly small ones) that are meant purely for fun (like their little ponies, baby dolls and such) because we don’t need to be constantly “secretly” bombarding their brains with education. “Free-play” is a great way for them to grow all on their own. And you should see their backyard (beaches and ocean) where not many toys are required!