Wondertime. Rotating Header Image

We Are Learning

Throwing stones - Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, South IslandA well-meaning family member recently asked us the question that every single long-term travel family hears, and often: but what about school? Aren’t they going to get behind?

I must admit that I am a reluctant homeschool mum. When we moved back to Olympia last year and the big yellow school bus picked the girls up for their very first day of American public school, I went back into the house, turned up the stereo full blast and may have danced in joy for a couple hours (or at least that’s what it felt like). I had hours and hours to myself to read and write with Michael off to work and the girls off to school.

But then the homework was sent home in my all-day kindergartner’s backpack. And the tears from dealing with mean kids at school. Also, complaints about the computer reading tests foisted upon our 3rd grader and how so-and-so got a higher score than she did. Fall conference time arrived and we sat in front of our daughter’s kindergarten teacher and tried to pay attention as she went over pages of data on our 5-year-old’s current progress. On her 6th birthday I brought in class cupcakes and asked when I should come back for the party. “Oh, I don’t know when we’ll eat them,” her teacher told me. “I like to surprise the kids sometime during the day.” In other words, get lost.

A month later I took Holly out of school. We played. Read books. Counted stuff. Shopped together. Made art. She was a happy 6-year-old again.

I took Leah out a month after that. She was becoming increasingly distressed about school. She had made some very good friends, but was bored silly in class. Most of the kids didn’t listen to her teacher and they would have to stay inside and miss recess. Totally makes sense, right? Ever since she was little she’d pick her fingernails when she was anxious; hers were bloody and sore.

So even though my days since have been a little more hectic and it’s been a challenge to carve out time for myself to write, I know that we made the right choice. The past five months of traveling aboard Wing’n it has only reinforced that: not worrying about tests, evaluations, curriculum and pointless busy work has resulted in them being kids again. Happy, curious, thoughtful, patient, and pure sponges of knowledge.

Together, we are learning constantly. We read things, we count things, we draw things. We look up topics that interest us. We look at maps and decide where to go next. We talk about history, geology, wildlife, ecology, conservation, sociology, economics. We visit libraries and read for hours, picking books off shelves that strike our fancy. We’ve learned how to get along living in a teensy space. We talk about budgeting and how we must give up one thing to choose another. We’ve learned how it’s far better to have experiences rather than wasting money on climbing the “property ladder” or buying the latest plastic junk. We’ve learned how to set goals and then go for them.

I honestly don’t know if they are ahead or behind in school. But I do know they are leaps and bounds ahead in life and I think what we’re learning together will serve them well.

Puzzling World, Lake Wanaka

Puzzling World, Lake Wanaka

Queenstown/Cardrona Snow!

Queenstown/Cardrona late spring snow…first time in the white stuff in over 5 years!

Clifden Caves near Fjordland. (I totally chickened out when crawling became necessary. Luckily Michael is braver than I and he and the girls kept exploring underground.)

Clifden Caves near Fjordland. (I totally chickened out when crawling became necessary. Luckily Michael is braver than I and he and the girls kept exploring underground.)

McLean Falls, Catlins, South Island

McLean Falls, Catlins, South Island

Dunedin Telephone Booths

Dunedin Telephone Booths

World Famous Moeraki Boulders

World Famous Moeraki Boulders

Learning about earthquakes in crumbling Christchurch

Learning about earthquakes in crumbling Christchurch

Center of downtown Christchurch, 5 years later. The stones in the giant cairn are each written upon with a wish for the city's rebuild.

Center of downtown Christchurch, 5 years later. The stones in the giant cairn are each written upon with a wish for the city’s rebuild.

NZ fur seal pups frolicking in a waterfall. It's a 10 minute walk from the ocean; the mothers leave them here in a sort of seal pup daycare. Cute overload. (Kaikoura)

NZ fur seal pups frolicking in a waterfall. It’s a 10 minute walk from the ocean; the mothers leave them here in a sort of seal pup daycare. Cute overload. (Kaikoura)

Beer tasting in Marlborough Wine Country

Beer tasting in Marlborough Wine Country

Happy to be back in Welly

Happy to be back in Welly

8 Comments

  1. Todd Huss says:

    We unschooled our daughter while cruising who is now in college. When I hear parents who have their kids in public school I want to ask them “aren’t you worried they’re not going to learn anything”?

  2. dale roberts says:

    Your well-meaning relative should read about the other families that travel. From what I’ve read over the years, most homeschooled kids on boats are actually ahead of their classmates when placed in ‘public’ school. Students coming back from overseas assignments of their parents in the military find the same thing. The DoD schools are usually miles ahead of the Stateside counterparts. The kids, sometimes referred to as ‘military brats’, quite often find themselves not fitting in with the local cliques. They quite often have real adjustment problems with the dumbing down of the learning process that goes on in the public system here in the Stateside schools.

  3. Paul Lambert says:

    My sister-in-law home schooled her three daughters and is now doing the same with her granddaughter. They all went on field trips to knock your socks off. Oh, how I wish my education had been like that. All the girls are doing well and never suffered from no regular schooling, whatever that means. “Good on ya” for doing what you are doing.

  4. Leah says:

    Seal pup daycare?? Cuteness overload!

    Your girls are so sweet; I love seeing pictures of adventurous sisters 🙂

    Are they keeping any sort of journals? One of my favourite pastimes is reading our old journals… entries like “we r stll sailen. dad sez mabee onlee 2 mor dayz untl port” are priceless (if a little hard to read!!).

    Thanks for sharing another little peek into your adventuring lives!!

  5. Leslie says:

    I love your adventures! We homeschool our 5 kids too–well, the three that are school-aged right now anyway. We live in the States but have been thinking about an NZ move for a while. I’ve wondered about homeschooling there, and what you are required to report, etc. Looking forward to hearing more about your homeschooling journey.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Leslie! Here in NZ you have to apply to legally homeschool (it’s called an exemption, i.e. from compulsory schooling starting at age 6). We’re still–cough–working on our application (but technically we were on summer break when we arrived and now the school year here is mostly over soooo….) Here’s more: http://parents.education.govt.nz/secondary-school/secondary-schooling-in-nz/homeschooling/ There are also lots of NZ homeschooling groups on Facebook. It seems to be getting more common here than when I first looked into it 3 years ago. Cheers!

      1. Leslie says:

        That’s great, Sara! Looks like from the website you posted that they actually give you financial support for homeschooling in NZ. 🙂