The world is our classroom; how we home-school on the road

Many people ask us how we handle school while travelling.

The answer is: Home schooling on the road!

Fortunately we only have one kid in formal school age so far (Dave). That’s one of the reasons why we decided to do this trip now, and not wait. Home schooling one child is managable – if we had waited, we’d have to home school 2, 3, or even 4 kids while on the road

We brought both physical and electronic course material, so any environment can become a classroom. Here are some examples of “class rooms” that we’ve had while on the road:

So how do we stay in sync with Dave’s class back home?

We talked to the teachers and obtained a list of learning objectives for the whole school year, and the most important course material (such as math workbooks). We turned this into a system of “school points”, listing each learning objective and each workbook, and assigning a number of points to each depending on the rough amount of effort. For example one chapter in the math book is one point, learning to count to 10 in English is one point, etc. We also added a system of “country points”, where David has to research 10 questions in each country (what is the population of the country, where is it in the world, what language to people speak there, etc, here is an example). Each question worth one point. And so on.

The total is 211 points, and the length of the trip is 165 days. So we have 165 days to finish 211 points! That’s very concrete. We use that to measure progress and decide if we are behind or ahead of schedule.

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The two bars at the bottom of the page illustrate our progress visually. The first bar is how many travel days have elapsed (in %), the second bar is how many points have been completed (in %). In this example (from Feb 15) we had done 89% of the school points, and had finished only 84% of our travel days, so we were ahead. We also get weekly class letters from Dave’s teacher in Sweden, which tells us what is going on so that we can update our schedule accordingly.

In Thailand (2 months) Dave and Jenny actually attended a school, so I didn’t need to home school. But here’s how it worked for the rest of the trip:

Every morning, typically after breakfast, we do 1-2 hours of school. Just me and Dave, sometimes with Jenny (when she is interested). Jenny is not in formal school yet, so for her school-on-the-road is not as important.

The locations vary a lot, could be anything from the hotel room, a park bench, or a local café. As long as we get away from the smaller kids for a while (it’s really hard to focus on intellectual stuff with a 3 yr and 1 yr old kid nearby).

The length of the “school day” varies depending on if we are ahead of the plan or behind. Usually 1-2 hours per day (including weekends) is enough to stay in sync. Not long time, but very focused and effective. Sometimes we do as little as 0 hours or as much as 4 hours.

In addition to the predefined school points, Dave reads stories and writes in his travel diary every night. And there’s also plenty of opportunity for on-the-fly schooling for all kids through the School of Real Life, here is an example from Beijing. In fact, I’m surprised at how much learning opportunities there are when travelling, such as:

  • Writing on this blog
  • Converting between different currencies and figuring out what stuff really costs (“what is my weekly allowance in Peruvian Soles?”)
  • Conversational English, and some basic words from many other languages such as Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.
  • Communicating and negotiating with people that don’t speak your language, using sign language and body language.
  • Time zone conversions (“I want to call Grandma on Skype, what time is it in Sweden right now?”)
  • Geography and politics – learning where countries and continents are on the globe, and comparing political systems (capitalism vs communism, censorship in china, european imperialism, etc).
  • History – for example while in Peru we discussed how the Spanish invaded South America and looted Inca gold, and while in the West Indies we discussed how the pirates in that area would attack the Spanish ships transporting the gold back to Europe. While walking on the great wall of china we discussed the mongol invasions and the Qin dynasty.
  • Culture and religion – seeing how each country and their people differ from each other, learning that Swedish culture is just one of many cultures in the world. Visiting temples, monestaries, and churches of different religions.
  • Entrepreneurship – seeing how people make their livings in all kinds of imaginative ways.

I’m sure Dave won’t be perfectly in sync with his class when we get home. There are probably some things that his class has learned that Dave hasn’t, and vice versa – things that Dave has learned that haven’t been covered in his class. But I think the gap will be manageable.

All in all I’m pretty sure that travelling for 6 months and visiting 8 countries is a richer educational experience than any school can provide, even a really good school like Skå Skola :)

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Sand castle at Fort Recovery

The last chapter of our BigFamilyTrip is here at Fort Recovery on the West side of Tortola. We are staying in a beachfront apartment and, after a couple of weeks living on a boat, we really appreciate basic things like electricity, warm showers, and Internet. Oh, and not having to keep checking that all the kids are still on board….

This evening we built a sandcastle together while enjoying the sunset. Well, actually, the male half of the family + Jenny was focusing mostly on the castle building :o)

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Perfect ending to the sailing trip

The trip from Norman’s Island to Tortola (with brief snorkeling stop at The Indians) was the best sailing we’ve had during the whole two weeks in BVI! And with all the great sailing we’ve had that’s saying alot! Beautiful weather, strong wind (but not too strong), comfortable seas (no elephant waves from the Atlantic showering the deck), and the kids on deck laughing and screaming with glee all the way to Tortola. What a great way to end the sailing trip!

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Sia & Henrik snorkeling – together!

On the last day of sailing, on the way from Norman Island to Tortola, we passed by a great snorkeling spot called The Indians. We’ve passed it several times before without stopping, this time the weather was calm around there and we couldn’t resist the temptation.

Snorkeling alone together just us two doesn’t happen often, in fact the last time was probably Thailand in November! However after almost two weeks on the boat, we felt secure enough to leave the kids alone on board for a few minutes, especially since Peter was sleeping and securely strapped down in his carriage. We gave the other kids the iGadgets, told them to stay inside, or signal us if there was any problem (since we were pretty close).

It was a short snorkeling tour, but very very nice! We even brought the underwater camera and took some pics :)

We saw lots of different types of fish along the coral cliff walls, and on deeper waters on the way back to the boat we saw a manta ray gliding along the ocean floor. Would never have seen it if it wasn’t for the great visibility.

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Rough ride to Norman Island – and spending the last night at our favorite place

Our first stop during this sailing trip was Norman Island, and we decided already then that we would probably come back at the end of the trip when we’ve sailed around Tortola. And here we are!

Why we like this place? Pirate atmosphere (they even fire a real – but small – cannon every day at Happy Hour), wonderful nature, great snorkeling, a small but very kid-friendly beach and really friendly staff at the restaurant – they’re now on first name basis with our kids and seem genuinely happy to see us back!

We’ve had a very nice and relaxing time here, after a hard and wet crossing from Jost van Dyke with very strong winds and big waves. Some of us (no names but we can call him.. Henrik!) were drenched all the way through to the underwear. The kids were delighted, every time I got showered they laughed long and hard! And when they got showered they laughed even harder. Note: I got drenched repeatedly while standing at the helm, and the boat is 41 feet long, so the waves were big! Later we heard on the VHF about boats in distress, one of them lost the rudder on along the same route, so we were glad to have made it safely.

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How we punish naughty kids aboard…

There are many ways we punish naught kids aboard, such as:

Sending them to the rear cells (did you know that modern yachts come with kid-sized cells in the back?)…

Cutting their hair…

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Strapping them down in chairs below deck…

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Forcing them to do hard labor…

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Locking them into closets…

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Exiling them to the dingy…

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Tying them upside down in trees…

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Strangely, they seem to enjoy these punishments! So we have to keep trying different things until we find something that works…. :)

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Jost van Dyke – White Bay & “Bad Luck Bay”

Vi var på väg mot White Bay på ön Jost van Dyke redan dagen innan. Men det var ont om plats i viken (då krävs is i magen för att gasa på för minskad svängradie när det är trångt…!), inga gästbojar kvar och ankaret fäste inte tillräckligt bra för att garantera god nattsömn, timmen började bli sen så vi drog till grannviken, Great Harbour. Numera omdöpt till Bad Luck Bay av oss.

Först hann en annan båt precis före oss till sista bojen (trodde vi). Och hedersknyfflar som vi är snodde vi den inte trots att de tappade den efter första, andra (då de sänkte bojen) och tredje försöket. Grannbåten på svaj applåderade när de till slut fick tag i den. Men sådant ska man inte skratta åt… vi ankrade först en gång, draggade, grannbåten (den applåderande) la försmädligt ut en fender, vi ankrade igen och den här gången fäste det. I en sten. Som följde med upp och satt fast som berget i ankaret, därmed obrukbart. Här krävdes en brygga tänkte vi! Och det gick faktiskt bra, hittade brygga komplett med snäll gubbe som hjälpte oss få bort stenen (det skönaste Plumset den dagen!) och tipsade om bra ankringsställe intill. Så vi drog dit och kastade i kroken, eller snarare, tryckte på fjärrkontrollen till ankarspelet. När vi underkänt fästet och drog upp ankaret för uttifjuttonde gången den dagen så fastnade… kabeln till fjärren… i ankarspelet… som därmed var obrukbart… grrr…  (tur ankaret var nästan uppe så gick bra för hand sista biten). Då sneglade vi på Den Förbjudna Bojen intill. Och tänkte vafanken, nu behövs tankepaus, vi tar bojen och funderar lite. Vänta förresten, även om färgkoden antydde förbud så står det text på bojen om ‘yacht mooring fee’ blabla – hurra, den är tillåten! Lyckligt slut eftersom vi hann få en boj (vi litar inte helt på ankaret till denna båten även om vi sovit på svaj, men nu var det hård vind och vågor). Tur iaf att vi hann få en boj, sedan kom ett dussin båtar till som fick ligga för ankar. Väldigt hjälpsamma barn som under hela ankar-strul-tiden inte fick spunk utan rentutav hjälpte till. Och sedan fick ingenjör-sia lite tröst av att skruva isär ankarspelet och få loss kabeln (som var sönder och fick ersättas dagen efter) och skruva fast lite andra saker (rangligt GPSfäste, ngn lucka och lite lösa skruvar i huvet ;)

Lärdomar? Inget jordskredsomvälvande nytt men:

  1. kom fram i god tid (före 16, helst före 14) om man ska till en populär vik.
  2. i en trång vik med begränsat djup, ha mycket marginal…
  3. utgå inte från att en boj är förbjuden innan man kollat på den
  4. skratta inte åt andras misstag (det gjorde vi inte! Bara lite!)
  5. inte fastna med sladdar i ankarspelet. Eller andra saker heller för den delen!

Dagen efter stack vi tidigt till White Bay, tog paradplatsen mitt framför Ivan’s Stress-free bar, ett härligt ställe att hänga på med totalt avslappnad atmosfär. Kanske inte världens bästa krubb men skön familjehängmatta och fin strand! Skum frånlandsvind med vridningar och kastbyar – här har varit ung. 10-12 m/s hela tiden, med upp till 22 m/s i byarna. Ganska krånglig windsurfing… men lugn nybörjarvind närmast stranden, lånade ut brädan till nyfiken aspirant som fick prova på lite. Massa snorkling i ljuvligt vatten. Enda förlusten hittills: Davids cyklop försvann och kunde inte återfinnas. Men det var inne på sitt nionde liv och hade börjat läcka så struntsamma. Skön kväll med fin solnedgång och gitarrplink i sittbrunnen!

På kvällen kom moderna fullriggaren “Wind Surf” förbi, och morgonen efter ankrade det upp två fyrmastare modell Ä, som tog in folk till ‘Soggy Dollar Bar’ i andra änden på viken (namnet kommer från att man förr i tiden simmade in och då blev dollarsedlarna blöta).

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Great snorkeling waters here in BVI!

The waters here are amazing! Crystal clear warm water with great visibility, beautiful colorful fish (and no scary sharks), caves, coral walls, etc. Even in some places that weren’t marked on the map as snorkeling spots. Just jump in anywhere! On Norman Island (our favourite spot in BVI) there were hundreds of tropical fish swimming just a few feet from the beach! Most of these pictures are from Monkey Point on Guana Island north of Tortola, where we stopped for Snacks & Snorkeling.

The most entusiastic snorklers are Henrik and Dave. Sometimes Jenny and Emma are in snorkel-mode, sometimes not (and then it’s hard to force them, even if you KNOW they’ll like what they see).

As for sia (me) I like diving and snorkelling, but must admit something /switching to secret scandinavian code/ om ni inte redan hört det så japp, jag är lite bottenrädd, framförallt att simma bredvid stooora båtar och kolla på roder och kölar – det har jag alltid haft svårt för. De andra familjemedlemmarna tycker det är läbbigt också, men efter att David och Henrik lyckades träna bort det mesta av sin rädsla, erbjöd sig David att coacha mig! Har försökt inte vara nojjig inför barnen men nu passade jag på – och barnen växer lite när man erkänner sina egna rädslor :) Så jag började med att ligga på surfbrädan och speja mot rodret och propellern och kölen… sedan simma närmare och närmare (och David höll betryggande min hand, eller simmade runt framför rodret). Detta vid White Bay (på Jost van Dyke) som hade världens snällaste botten, vit sand och god sikt. Inte riktigt Östersjön med grumlig sikt, mörka djuuup, tång… isberg… LochNessmonster… ;)

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Windsurfing and relaxing at Marina Cay

Vi fick tips att lilla gulliga ön Marina Cay skulle vara bra tillhåll för barnfamiljer… det visade sig också vara suveränt windsurfingställe – tvärsöver viken håller Windsurfing BVI till i Trellis Bay så det fanns lite sällskap på vattnet. På revet intill var det fin snorkling, och bredvid beachen en liten servering. En bit bort skön livemusik som hördes långt ut på vattnet. Många korallbitar på stranden – som att trampa på legobitar – och bakom oss ankrade en svenskbåt! Kul att höra svenska, annars har vi bara sett ngn enstaka norsk båt.

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Pool and Windsurfing at the Bitter End

We are at the Bitter End on the northern tip of Virgin Gouda, a big island north-east of Tortola. Here you can find Bitter End Yacht Club, hence the name of the surrounding area. But it isn’t a very bitter place, quite the contrary. Among many nice things we found a resort here with a great swimming pool, so we parked the kids at the pool today (with me as lifeguard) to give Sophia some time to go windsurfing. Our rented windsurfing board has been mostly lying on deck so far on our journey, waiting for Sia’s toe to heal up, and now she’s finally good to go! In the meantime I have some minor wounds of my own to heal up…

Despite the nice-looking pictures, surfing conditions weren’t too good, with strong gusty winds. In addition the board was really slippery (worn out anti-slip surface), so it was frustrating. However after putting on some shoes it worked much better and the smile came back on her face!

PhiloSophia adds:

…after having had to wait for swimming and windsurfing and longing and hearing all about how fantastic it is here, I guess my expectations were high. And windsurfing in Brazil was fantastic. So when the first session here in BVI turned out bad… well, I got some ‘revenge’ on the wind the second session, even managed to land dry on our boat’s rear platform, having a friendly encouraging audience on the next-moor-neighbour catamaran (thanks for the crackers :)”

Later on we visited our neighbour’s boat – The Dreamboat for our kids if you remember, big catarmarans with at least two levels are their wish… dream on, we’re going cayaking next time…? ;)

Talking about neighbours, here’s some gossip: just nearby are a couple of private islands, there’s ‘Virgin Air Island’ (Necker Island, owned by Richard Branson), next to ‘Google Island’ (owned by the Google founder) and just across the bay is Mosquito Island, also private. We don’t know who lives there… maybe Johnny Depp? In his pirate outfit (yep, we’ve been watching the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’-movies a lot as you can guess. Along with Pippi Långstrump på de sju haven. Emma is constantly being our Pirate Guard patrolling the deck, wearing her version of a pirate outfit (bandana, pretend-sword, and a general evil grim outlook). So we’re completely safe thanks to her!

PS: After finding Internet ashore and googling it turns out that Richard Branson owns Mosquito island, not Johnny Depp.

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