Boatschooling Aboard the Glass Slipper
We've been homeschooling aboard the Glass Slipper for 6 years. Wow, that seems hard to believe, but it’s true. We started when Coleen was in 1st grade and now she's in 7th grade. We've tried a couple of curriculum along the way in an attempt to find what works best for us. I should start by saying that I’m a stickler when it comes to education and on the Glass Slipper, it’s safety first, education second and everything else after that. I’m determined that my daughter will have options when she grows up and feel strongly that a good education is key.
During our first two years of homeschooling year we used the curriculum from Calvert School. Calvert provided everything needed from school supplies and books to a day by day guide for the parent. It was a great way to start. It only took an hour to read through the next day’s lesson and be prepared. During the first few months we were cruising, our traveling was limited to the weekends, as in addition to Coleen’s lessons, I was still working remotely. After breakfast we would spread her school materials on one side of the table and my work materials on the other. Many times during the day I needed to be on conference calls. Coleen would work quietly and when she would get stuck or finish before I was finished, she would draw a slip of paper from our busy box. It held slips of paper, each with a fun activity designed to keep her busy learning independently and a few fun surprises too. She really loved the busy box. I was blessed that she was a student with a real zest for learning.
We took a different approach for third grade as the demands of my job intensified with me working 60 to 70 hours a week. Yes, I was still working from the boat, which was good, but there was no time to devote to being Coleen’s learning guide. We decided to use the DVD curriculum from Abeka Academy. It’s a Christian school based in Pensacola, Fl. For approximately, $1,000 they provide all the school books, quizzes, tests, answer keys and a box of DVD’s. Each DVD contained 2 days of lessons including, bible, math, reading, spelling, language, penmanship, history, and science. The video was filmed in an actual classroom at Abeka Academy. The teacher often directed some of the questions to the “students at home”, which made Coleen feel part of the class. She started her lessons promptly at 8 a.m. and usually didn’t finish until 3 p.m. This worked really well for us as she was able to stay busy learning while I was working. I was also traveling for business, a couple of times a month, and she was able to easily stay up with her lessons while I was away. I still had to spend about an hour a day reviewing her work and grading papers, and admittedly sometimes I got behind, but mostly it worked out well.
Fourth grade saw us going back to Calvert School as one of our fellow cruising families generously gave us their used set of books. This was a godsend as it was right around the time I was “retiring” from my stressful job and all money saved was good. Once again we enjoyed the Calvert Curriculum with the only drawback that the science textbook taught evolution and being Christians we were not comfortable with that. We did study it but then supplemented it by looking at a Christian perspective on creation.
Coleen begged and pleaded, going so far as to writing her own contract, if I would “please, please, please” let her have the Abeka DVD’s for 5th grade she would be the best kid in the world. My mom said, “You know this means she is firing you as the teacher?” Wow, that was a hard pill to swallow. Just because we nearly killed each other when she was trying to learn long division, why hold a grudge? She presented a convincing argument, so I plucked out another grand from our dwindling cruising kitty and bought the Abeka 5th grade DVD curriculum. I found that in math and language I still needed to give her quite a bit of extra help, but the DVD’s worked well in all other subjects. By the end of the school year I wished we could be more flexible in what we were learning as there were so many awesome things to learn in our day to day life cruising the Bahamas, but the curriculum kept her so busy we had no time for extras. A real plus was that on sailing days, unless the seas were just too rough, she was able to continue with her lessons. We also went through one portable DVD player during the course of the year and had to use our power hungry computer to complete the last 2 months. The ship’s batteries were none too happy about that.
For sixth grade I finally got smart and learned how to order slightly used books from Ebay! We used the Abeka books again, but not the DVD’s. I managed to get all the student books, teacher books, everything for about $250.
Update on 6th Grade
With only a few more days left until Christmas break, I thought I'd give an update on 6th grade.
It seems that 6th grade is a lot of review which Coleen does not find very exciting. She considers it a day wasted if she doesn't learn something new, so in addition to the regular curriculum I've found the need to add a few extra projects to make things more interesting. So far we've had extra projects in history, science, added a book to study Bahamian history, and added Spanish using Rosetta Stone.
We also skipped ahead a few weeks in math, to get past the section on fractions, as she was already proficient in those skills.
One area that's been a challenge is having me as the teacher. It seems I'm not always that patient and sometimes do not explain things well. Imagine that! Plus she is eleven going on sixteen! Given all that we've tried a new approach that seems to be working well.
I keep a little lesson notebook. Each day I make a list of what needs to be done for each subject. I check all the work from the previous day and write comments where needed. I always make a point to include some praise and encouragement, too. If a test, quiz or oral reading, is assigned, she has to request my time, so I can administer it. If she needs help, we look for a youtube video and are rarely disappointed.
This method seems to be working well. She is working more independently and frankly is doing better work. She's had the best grades of her school career.
7th Grade - A new approach
We decided to try a new approach for 7th grade by shopping for what we hoped were the best materials for each subject.
Language - The Cover Story this is an excellent course in creative writing and grammar. The lessons are given by an eclectic teacher on DVD. Over the course of the year Coleen is writing content for a magazine, including poetry, short stories, investigative journalism, reviews, and so on.
French - The Easy French This is an audio and workbook based home school French curriculum.
Spelling - Abeka Grade 7 Speller & Poetry
Science - Exploration Education's Advanced Physical Science So far this one is the big hit of the year! We have science 3 days a week and everyday is a hands on experiment and lab report. Coleen just loves it!
Math - SOS Grade 8 PreAlegbra - A computer based course that has been a bit of a challenge. We are not huge fans of SOS. It does a good job introducing new concepts, but has no review, which is not good. We have had to add other resources, and lot of hands on review with me.
History - SOS 7th Grade A computer based history course. We are not completely thrilled with it, but I'm not too worried, as Coleen is a huge history buff and reads history books for fun.
Reading - Various books using Glencoe Study Guides Books this year include, Where the Red Fern Grows, Across Five Aprils and Frankenstein. We also do current event reading from the New York Times.