I officially began home school last Thursday. I had given Tamsyn and Griffyn math sheets, letters to practice and small writing assignments over the past month - but it wasn't organized - just 'busy work' so Owen and I could focus on stowing things, finding food and supplies (endless shopping trips), dealing with laundry (walking to and from a laundromat, hanging clothes out to dry, unhanging them, stowing them), or fixing the boat (an ongoing process that we don't really ever expect to complete). And each time we'd leave the boat on an errand there were always people we would meet along the way which led to a lot of socializing - extending the length of a trip. Sometimes it seems we couldn't even leave the dock for much longer than we planned - Ivar would be there offering us fresh baked brownies (on his boat), or Lulu would wander by and we have to ask her where she was off to (so we would know where one more thing could be found) or Max would come by to help Owen fix something on the boat, changing our plans entirely. On many of those shopping trips we never found what we went looking for (it took many many trips to find a tea kettle). For so many reasons I wasn't ready to begin homeschooling just yet.
And then one day about a week ago Ranger Owen gave them an hour long lecture/demo on Fossils. They were both very good listeners and really enjoyed his presentation and the drawings they did at the end. Tamsyn had started talking about her school routine, how it made her feel part of something, rather than just a passenger or "in the way" as she felt now on the boat. She and I sat down and discussed how much time she spent each school day on Math, silent reading, writing, recess, as well as things like art, music, gym and cultural studies which she did a couple times a week (rather than daily). Griffyn talked too about what he missed - going to the treasure box, going to the library and of-course recess. I noticed over the last couple of weeks that Griffyn was very studious for short bursts. He had had no trouble completing a page of Math or Writing practice. And Tamsyn was eager to begin and feel part of something again. She wanted a project to work on. So last Thursday morning I decided it was time to begin school even though two good friends came by the boat to ask me to join them for yoga.
We have a beautiful old ship's bell on board. When school begins (after breakfast) I ring the bell (one bell). At each recess, I ring the bell (one bell) and at the end of recess, I ring the bell (two bells) and at the end of the school day (three bells). The kids love to "get in line" at the end of recess. Griffyn races to the head of the line. "Just like we did at Lynndale Elementary," Tamsyn says. They line up inside the cockpit at the hatch waiting for me to call them in. We began our day with Math, using the Math curriculum from Lynndale. Tamsyn worked through 5 sheets and Griffyn one. Then it was recess. Then we worked on phonics, Tamsyn loves to lead and was good at coming up with lots of words and Griffyn is working on letter recognition and sounds. We sat on deck and did this with cards while looking out across the water at whatever we saw. Then we came inside and worked on writing - Owen and Griffyn worked on the alphabet while Tamsyn and I worked on answering emails from her friends back home. (Tamsyn reads the emails, writes out what she wants to say and I type it up). After lunch we sang a round "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and discussed ABAB patterns, rounds and music parts and rhythym.
We all enjoyed school for two days and then it was Saturday and we felt we had earned it. We went for a ride in our dinghy (testing the third repair job) to the peninsula, called El Mogote. We waded barefoot around mangrove swamps, saw a couple different herons fishing and found a dead puffer fish at low tide. There were amazing star-shaped patterns on the sand created by tiny crabs and layers of crushed shells marking the highs of each tide. The water temperature was just like the Rum river (Anoka, MN) in summer, lovely. The day was warm and sunny with a light breeze. The clouds were high in the sky, wispy and whimsical. I watched an airplane's plume disappear into the stratosphere, a sharp line against all those soft thin rounded clouds. Without a working rig or a dinghy, we have only been able to get around on foot or the occasional drive when Owen can drive us. It was quite a treat to be moving over the water - our ultimate goal. We still do not know when we will see the wire for our rig or be able to sail away from the dock, but our friends who have all spent longer in La Paz then us continue to encourage us with phrases like - it will happen, eventually.
Monday was Valentine's Day and it took us a half a day to find Valentine's day treats so we spent the rest of the day eating them (on holiday). Also I had heard that Ace hardware might have some of the things I had been searching for - so I was eager to find out. We found our tea kettle there (the exact same one we had had in Seattle) and also a French Press (for coffee), a French butter keeper, a lovely wooden spoon, a rolling pin, a serrated plastic knife (for cutting up veges) and plastic egg cartons - Wow! So much in one store. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. I love Ace hardware. Tuesday Tamsyn's desire to learn to sew overtook our formal school plans. We had discovered a fabric store over the weekend and she was eager to begin learning how to sew. Tomorrow we will begin by making an Alphabet to run the length of the settee. I want to make labels for everything on the boat that Griffyn can name.
Our school days last around 4 hours, beginning around 9:30/10 AM and ending around 2:00/2: 30 PM. I am the main teacher but Owen generally helps with Griffyn. Because we are still outfittng the boat, finding things we need and figuring out how to live here, we will not have school 5 days a week. My goal is to have school formally 3 days a week with a day or two of "project days" in between. We also have a Spanish Rosetta Stone program so soon I will add Spanish language lessons to our routine. I want to keep up with Math, reading and writing for Tamsyn regularly either during the school day or in the evenings and for Griffyn to work on phonics, letter and number recognition and eventually beginning reading/writing. He is already doing the simplest math equations.
This coming Thursday is Art Day at Lynndale Elementary. We look forward to making playdough (and working with it), beginning our stalagmites project, building sand castles and found object art and learning to take pictures with our underwater cameras.