Most parents put a huge amount of stress on themselves wondering “am I doing this parenting thing right?”. It seems like a natural part of parenting, the self-doubt. None of us want our kids to turn out to be complete idiots or rejects, so we do the best we can to raise them “right”. But the questioning is never-ending. Throw in the alternative boating lifestyle we have chosen for our little ones, and now not only are we constantly questioning our choices, but so is the outside world. “Isn’t what your doing TO your children selfish?” “Shouldn’t they be in school, or around more children?” At my weaker moments I add the “outsiders” questioning into my self-doubt.
And then comes homeschooling. Now, not only are we shaping who are children are as individuals, but we are also taking on their education! This is a lot of pressure! Even more questioning! For myself, with all this questioning and educational pressure, I feel a lot of weight resting on my shoulders (I mean, I am trying to mould two people to be the best individuals that they can be, how hard and stressful could that be?!). If I fail, what happens to them!?
There are days when I, as a teacher, as a mom, have no desire to homeschool. Where homeschooling two kids at different education levels, on my own, feels like a lot of work. And on those days I feel guilt. Homeschooling guilt. On these random days I feel like I am hurting our daughters’ education by not being a chipper teacher, by not following a set curriculum that day, or by not doing any sort of curriculum at all in a day.
The cycle continues: guilt – questioning – self-doubt.
Add to the homeschooling stress the fact that I feel I am constantly with my kids. By being the teacher I am pretty much with my kids ALL THE TIME! I am mommy in the morning, teacher till noon, and mommy again for the rest of the day. Times that by 7 days a week/365 days a year. That’s A LOT of time to be with your kids, no matter how much you love them. Sometimes I feel I just need some time alone.
I got to the point where I needed a break. Too much pressure, too much guilt, not enough me time. So we had to go back to the drawing board to figure out what would work for best all of us.
We had a lot of chats about our options, what our “life choices” of this upcoming year could mean for our daughters education, and realized that if we are planning on staying on the dock for a lot of next season then maybe I didn’t have to homeschool if I didn’t want to. Enrolling them on the island could be an option.
Although this sounded great, some negatives presented themselves as well. The cost of schooling in St Thomas was the biggest issue. Even if the school was willing to work with us, we were looking at spending around $10,000 to enrol both of them (one in kindergarten and one in grade 2). The idea of having them in school and making friends, and me having more “me” time sounded wonderful, but it would come at a high cost. We knew that if this is what we (meaning me!) really wanted, we could make it work. Eben could pick up some more work, but it would also mean that he would be away from the family a lot more. Enrolling them in school also meant that we would be committing to being “around” for 5 days a week, for the entire school year. Also a tough one for a family that has been used to being nomadic for so long.
After A LOT of back and forth debating, I decided to switch gears. “Land” school didn’t seem like the best option right now, but I would use the dock life to my advantage. The perk of having two excelling kids, is that they are almost to the point of being able to do a lot of their homeschooling on their own. So I set to work researching a ton of different online programs. If I could find something online, that could guide them through their lessons, then the “education weight” would not solely be on me. After about a month of testing out a few different programs I found one that both the girls and I like a lot. This means while they are doing the online aspect of their schooling, I get more “me” time, which works out great.
Our homeschooling now looks like this:
Complete Canadian curriculum Grade 2 workbook for Arias and Kindergarten School zone workbook for Ellia. To be used when we feel like sitting down and doing written work. These books cover Math, English, Science, and Social. I like using these because they keep our girls “on track” with what the kids back in Canada are learning. It also helps me a lot by not having to make up curriculum and activities, its all in there.
The online program I found: Reading Eggs + Math Seeds. These are online programs that teach the girls English and Math. They are extremely interactive, well laid out, have a ton of extra materials, printouts, guidance for homeschoolers, and have good graphics/animation. The girls can pretty much do them all on their own with the iPad app. They have their lessons, reading books, quizzes, testing after every ten levels, and send the parents emails of the child’s progress so you know where they are excelling and where they could use more practice. I especially like that they have reading books and workbooks (for purchase) if you want your kids to have more than just the online aspect. The books follow along with the online levels but get the kids practicing what they learned and working on their handwriting skills. For the quality of their programs the cost is extremely reasonable…and it’s way less than school tuition!
Reading: Arias is now reading chapter books and has a few personal favourites. We were there to guide her in the right direction as both Eben and I felt that as a 6 year old she does not need to be reading books that have children displaying bad behaviour/attitudes, fighting, sassiness, love/crushes, parental disregard, etc. You’d be surprised the types of books that are out there! So we guided her towards more “adventure” style books. She enjoys the Ivy & Bean books, Nancy Clansy, and the Magic Tree House collection books. As for Ellia, she is still a beginner learner, so the Bob books and Reading Eggs books appeal more to her, short and sweet! (She doesn’t have a long attention span for reading!)
We also decided that even though we are not enrolling the girls in school, we would like to enrol them in some extra-curricular activities on the island, be it sports, or music, or whatever. This way they will get more time with their peers, and I will get an hour here and there to myself! Win-Win!
As for the rest, the days where I don’t feel like being a teacher, well they can continue on with their online learning, or learn through play, or child-led activities, or just have a day off, since I’m sure I will still have some of those lazy days! I am excited about this new teaching path we have chosen, so far it is working really well (as we bounce across Alberta and BC, Canada), and I look forward to keeping it going once we’re back on the boat in the Virgin Islands.
*We have received sponsorship from both the Reading Eggs program and Bob Books. I had reached out to both companies AFTER trying their sample programs and reading some of the books and deciding that I wanted to add them to our homeschooling program. After learning about our lifestyle both companies wanted to support us in our endeavours and we are proud to work with them. If you decide to check them out you will see for yourself why I chose them, they are good.*