We’ve been livaboard cruisers with our 2 kids for almost 3 years now. Despite all the turmoil involved in making that decision we seem to have settled into this way of life very well.
But what about the kids?
Over my morning cup of tea today Ive been thinking back to that transition and about all the changes our kids have gone through and how different their life is now compared to how it was then.
I think its normal that some people might look at our lifestyle with disapproving eyes as far as the kids go and wonder how we could have taken them away from their previous life.As parents we were really concerned about a few aspects of those changes and how it would impact their lives.
Were we doing the right thing by them? After all, taking them away from traditional school, family and friends and all that their life entailed isn’t a decision we took lightly.
Im often asked about whether the kids like this lifestyle and what life is like for them onboard so I thought id touch on a few aspects of it. I found theres so much to write about so this is the first article and part 2 will follow next week!
By far the most common question we are asked is about their schooling. In all honesty it was also one of the most important questions we asked ourselves about before we headed off on this adventure.
Should we take them out of school? Would the experiences of travel and sailing be worth it? How the heck can I become their teacher and do a good job of it?
When we started this adventure the kids had only ever attended an Italian school. That meant that they were fluent in the language. They were also doing very well and the teachers were all very positive about us taking them away for what was meant to be a 2 year plan! So that gave us confidence that maybe it was ok to take this leap and sail around the world.
Initially we did all their homeschooling using their italian textbooks and in the second year we transitioned to english books. We don’t use a full curriculum though I’m currently searching for an appropriate one to start using this year. We concentrate on the main subjects of English, Maths and Italian. Geography, History and Science are mainly studied through first hand experience in the places we visit. Then I add a few specific studies. At the moment we are learning about Australian Aborigines and we’ve almost finished a study on The Human Body. Travel brings some wonderful ways to learn about life.
The kids are learning about all the places we visit. As an example, we research information about a place when we get there and learn about their culture, population, food and way of life as we stay there. The actual travelling part itself also teaches kids so much. They’re learning that not all places have the luxuries that people get used to in the different countries we have lived before. They’re learning that people can be happy even if they don’t have much in the way of material things.
They’ve learnt silly little things like not all countries have bus timetables so you just have to go with the flow to get around certain places, even if thats not part of the plan for that day. And talking about making plans, the kids know that you can make a plan but life can throw things at you at any time that can make you revise that plan and it won’t mean the end of the earth. It just means you need to revise and replan.
Despite wanting to sound like I know what I’m doing in the homeschooling arena, I really don’t! I’m not a teacher. I’m their mother.
And that’s where the hard part begins. In the beginning they found it hard to get into it. We would sit down to do school and they would find a million reasons to interrupt it…’my finger hurts’ or ‘look at that cool yacht!’ or ‘I need to go to the toilet’ and any other reasons they could muster up. It drove me INSANE! Mind you, why I chose to start doing school in the cockpit (our outside lounge) I’ll never know?! There’s SO much to divert their attention up there. There’s passing boats to look at, there’s passing boats with other kids in them to jump at, there’s other people swimming and having fun to be envious of…of course it wasn’t gonna work up there! Needless to say our classroom is now inside! Step by step we got closer to easing into school time.
We are in a good place with it now but its taken a long time and a great deal of research and willpower to get here! Not to mention some tears by them and head butting the table by me!
Our schooling isn’t just about the formal education though. I believe our kids are learning so much about life and about the world and about how to be a global citizen. It’s the small things like being involved, on a daily basis, in making decisions on things that need to be done or places we’d like to go. Back in our landlife they were never involved in day to day decisions as they were at school most of the day, but now they are ever present and always keen to add their opinions!
For example, when we are deciding on where to go next there’s a myriad of decisions to me made. We need to look at weather forecasts to determine whether or not we can go in that direction and when we can go. Then theres deciding where to anchor according to the weather or visual aspect or whatever else. We need to know we have enough fuel, that the sails are all in good condition, that all our lines are safe, that our safety equipment is all in good order, that everything is stowed properly so as not to move around while we are sailing. We need to make sure we have enough provisions (food, shampoo etc) to last us till we get to another port with a supermarket.
Theres not much privacy on our little home so the kids are involved in almost everything and in almost every decision to some degree. I think they are learning how to weigh things up and make a decision quickly.They’ve become great improvisors. There are times when I don’t have a certain ingredient, or a certain tool or a certain anything and we need to think of ways to improvise and make do. Cruising liveaboards are all pretty good at that!!
We lead a lot of our life outdoors and even when we are inside the boat we can still hear, see and feel the elements and natural environment around us at all times. I think this has lead to the kids (and us) to be very aware of their natural environment and the nature that surrounds us constantly. Their minds are in tune with looking after ourl surroundings and are constantly actively doing this to help conserve our world.
I guess the hard part about schooling is that I don’t think we will know the verdict on it until they are in their 20’s and find what they want to do in life and see how they pursue their chosen careers but I guess thats the same no matter where or how they are educated!
FRIENDS and FAMILY
This is one area thats definitely not easy. We have always lived away from family so thats always been hard for all of us. We lived in Italy but would spend most xmases in England so we could see Tims family and the kids and I would spend a few months every 2nd year with my family in Australia. But the times in between those visits are always spent longing to be with them. Our kids have grown up that way so that hasn’t really changed much other than our budget doesn’t allow for us to visit them as regularly for now. If only there was that bottomless pit of dosh!!
As far as friends go its another story. The kids were really sad to leave some of their closest friends in Italy. As a Mum it was heartbreaking taking them away and seeing the look in their eyes when they speak about them and tell me that they miss them. The only consolation is that they meet lots of kids here.
There are so many more cruising livaboard kids than i ever imagined. There are times when there are so many other kids around that we cant fit them all in our home.
At other times theres only a few. Yet other times there are none.The great thing about cruising kids is that they don’t discriminate. Our kids will play with kids that are older and younger than them, by a good few years either way, and play happily. It also makes no difference whether they are girls or boys, have coloured skin, appear wealthier or poorer, they all just seem to mesh together. They are also very comfortable in the company of adults because they spend so much time with us and other adults, heck sometimes they won’t stop talking!
Well, its now lunchtime and the kids are calling me to join them. They’ve made a huge, yummy tuna salad and as I sit at the nicely laid up table I’m feeling really grateful that Im sitting here with my family, as I do everyday, to share a meal together and discuss our life. Right now, I’m loving the ways in which the lifestyle of our kids has changed by being cruising liveaboards!
If you’d like to join me next week for Part 2 where you’ll find out of if we really do like being together so much you can receive it automatically by joining my newsletter here.
Until next week…hope you have a great day!