It’s been three years since our kids were enrolled in school. When we left, Niall was in third grade. Mairen had just finished kindergarten. Siobhan… well, I guess she’s never been enrolled! It’s been boatschooling ever since.
Finding a homeschooling path wasn’t always easy, but I had some pretty amazing mentors to help find it: Laureen and Jason, Frank and Ronnie, the Seven Cs– all parents of amazing kids. Once we started cruising, we learned so much by sharing with other nomadic families. We don’t all approach it the same way- in fact, we are wildly divergent!- but there is always something to be learned from each other
There isn’t any one way to go about it. Which is what makes it, as a parent, a little scary. Our children mean more to us than anything: what- and how- they learn now, shapes their future.
Although we have absolutely no regrets about boatschooling- and for a variety of reasons, have not enrolled the children in Australian schools- I confess to still crave signs from outside our little circle that we’re doing OK. I don’t want to need mainstream approval, but can’t deny how powerful it is.
Which is part of the reason why, I suppose, it was so exciting when Niall was recognized for an essay he wrote recently. The essay was submitted to a local contest through the public library system, judged by professional authors. But the deepest pride is in seeing how he grew with this process, from start to finish.
It began when he saw the announcement about the contest at our local library on one of the gazillion visits he and his siblings make. A poem or story, up to 750 words- with prizes given to the winners in 5 age groups from 11 to 18. He worked hard on his piece: for about two weeks, he wrote and spun and rewrote. He invested so much into it, I worried about how he’s respond when he didn’t win.
His topic is ultimately about environmental responsibility. He shares it by looking at a unique experience from our travels, but something most people can identify with: walking along, and seeing plastic trash- and how it fits in the bigger picture. So proud that this is what he felt was important to express for a broader audience.
What finally melted me as a parent was to see my kid get up there behind the podium to read his work to a crowd. He could just barely see the 200-odd gathered over the top. I’m quite sure that I couldn’t have handled that at his age- he was a pro! Although, he confessed later- he had to keep shifting his weight so his shaky legs wouldn’t knock into each other.
So homeschoolinng, boatschooling, unschooling… it seems we haven’t messed the kids up. They are thriving. We have ups and downs. I always worry that we’re missing something (and I know I’m not the only one!).