A November to Remember

As you may or may not know, I homeschool my two DDs aboard a 40 ft cruising catamaran in the San Francisco Bay Area.  This can be challenging due to space constraints and losing internet connectivity when the tide goes out or when we go sailing.  (Not so bad now that the harbor has made some upgrades, but still worth noting)

I’ve owned homes before and there were always tasks that needed to be completed, but this in no way compares to a boat’s fix it list.  Our catamaran had a massive issue that needed to be fixed.  It turned out to be covered by warranty.  This was phenomenal news as extensive work needed to be done.  That usually means expensive.  Our boat manufacturer sent two workers from Europe to Alameda for a week to get the job done.  The nature of their work would leave us homeless for about a week; the week of Thanksgiving.  Naturally we decided to visit family out-of-state.  Amazing how things come together!

We put all the cogs into place.  Then the manufacturer called.  They would be delayed until we returned.  What was I saying about things coming together?  Things were now falling apart.  We were going to have to live in a hotel for a week.  My feelings of happy anticipation now were clouded with dread.  Homeschool in a hotel?  How exactly does that work?  I put that out of my mind and focused on enjoying our family in Washington State.  Ever the committed educator, I sussed out local museums and got to work getting the kids out.

We visited MONA, the Museum of  Northwest Art in La Conner.  It’s a great art gallery that features artists from the Northwest.  They made a wonderful effort to include the kids, giving them a nicely put together activity sheet.  The girls were encouraged to ponder the images in front of them, and I was appreciative that all of the art was  family friendly.  I have not had this experience in every gallery we have visited.  “Mommy, what is that?”  Ahem.  Hello awkward silence.

Next on the list was the Anacortes Museum.  This was a very small museum, but so well done we spent over an hour there.  The steam paddle wheeler was closed for the winter, but we made the best of what was available to us.  Being originally from the area, I was surprised at how much I didn’t know about this little town.  It really is worth stopping by if you have the opportunity.

With still more time to kill, we headed to the Skagit County Historical Museum back in La Conner.  This was probably the largest of all the museums we visited.  They have a great collection of Native American artifacts and document the history of the differing populations really well.  The combined history is celebrated in what seems to be a very honest and balanced manner; neither whitewashing atrocities, nor vilifying an entire populace.  We left with a greater knowledge set than we had when we came.

The time in Washington came to an end all too soon.  We headed back to the Bay Area, homeless.  Stopping by the boat prior to checking into the hotel, I got to work packing up.  Clothes were easy, activities even easier; the challenge was what school work to bring.  While homeschooling on a boat can be difficult, whittling down to bare necessities for hotel life was daunting.  Obviously, it was time to rely more heavily on the internet.

We focused on computer programming and reading/English.  Code.org and ReadingEggs.com mixed with reading time and lengthy walks to the park ate up our days quickly.  We utilized Starbucks, libraries, and the hotel lobby for work spaces.  It worked out great!  When the time finally came for us to move back aboard, though, I was ready.

Typically, I think of living on the boat as being in a  small space, but after being in a hotel for a week and a half, it felt luxuriously huge.  Everyone had their own space again, with a door!  We sailed back to our home port, happy to have put that experience behind us.



Where Have We Been?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and all I can do is offer apologies.  What has been going on?

On the Homeschool side, I think I have finally cracked the math nut.  My goal has been to make math fun; that’s where Beast Academy has served us very well.  Unfortunately, we need to do more practice questions.  This typically equals “not fun”.  So, for my tactile learner, we have started Math-U-See.  We took a step back in our math so that I can figure out how to teach this new curriculum. This tactic also provided us with an opportunity to improve already learned skills.  Two thumbs up.

For the book learner, I added “The Life of Fred”.  It’s about a little boy named Fred.  Mathematics are taught in an entertaining story format that was a pleasure to read.  The story engaged BOTH kids and I can now use our math curriculum as a REWARD.  Seriously, where was all this stuff when I was growing up?  I missed out on being a mathematician!

At any rate, we are now using all three math curriculums concurrently to complement one another.  “Math-U-See” works well for introducing the initial concept and practice, “Beast Academy” works for teaching creative problem solving, and “The Life of Fred” shows situational math.  The last two listed are really fun.

So our biggest Homeschool challenge thus far appears to be resolved.  On the boating side things have been really hectic and worthy of another post.

Thank you Neil Patrick Harris

It was late.  I wanted to watch something prior to getting to bed, so we perused the latest on Netflix and started watching “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”.  The entertainment value was high, my favorite actor was brilliant, and I discovered the show was based on a kids book series.  Now before people start cursing me for exposing my kids to something other than “Little House on the Prairie”, let me just say that I’m a cautious parent.  I also realize that keeping my kids in a bubble is not healthy; we discuss things as they come up to contextualize.  Kids are happy, we are happy, it’s all good.  (we finished the “Little House on the Prairie” series a while ago BTW)

Anyway, we checked out the first of the books from the library, and my older daughter is hooked.  This book appeals to her outrageous sense of humor.  Thank you Neil Patrick Harris.  I’m not certain I would have encouraged her to read this series if you had not done the show.  BTW:  If you ever read this, I admire your many talents and have had a healthy (non-stalker, non-creepy) appreciation of you since I was younger than I care to think about.

It’s Raining Again….INSIDE?

It seems like not so long ago when everyone was complaining about the drought in California.  I can say with confidence, it doesn’t feel like a drought anymore.  In fact, we have more water now than we know what to do with!  Dams and reservoirs are overflowing, and yet the rain is continuing to bucket down.  Guess I have no excuse not to wash the boat this summer.  haha.

When the weather is not so great outside, it makes a perfect opportunity to do boat work inside.  Usually I catch up on baking, and hubby does something with his tools.  I make every effort to stay out of his way; Lord knows I don’t want to get roped into one of his multiday projects.

I was on my way to bed, and noticed water dripping from above.   Actually, it was more than a drip.  It was raining inside.  This had to be rectified and quickly.  The next morning, we pulled out the ceiling panels and opened up crawl spaces to track down the source of the water.  It was condensation, and LOTS of it.  We racked our brains trying to figure out what would cause that much moisture.

As I was checking out the crawlspace behind the oven, I happened to look down.  The oven wasn’t vented.  When propane is burned (like in a propane oven) there are two byproducts: carbon monoxide, and water vapor.  Bingo.  We opened all the access panels, plugged in the dehumidifier, and hopped online to order the necessary bits to fix this.    The boat dried out overnight, but I was banned from using the oven until it was vented.  This is a big deal, as I bake a lot of gluten/dairy free foods for the kiddos.

Finally, our order arrived.  Guess who spent the weekend with half their body  shoehorned into a crawlspace, and the other half dangling out over the sink?  That would be me.  I drilled a hole into the outside of the boat (SCARY) and hubby and I worked together to get the vent line in.  We caulked the outside hole and pronounced our project complete.  Firing up the oven for a test run only confirmed the high quality of our work.  Yay us!

The condensation issue is not completely resolved, but we put a big dent in it.  I think we are going to install a small fan later.  Until then, I’ll fantasize about a back massage and ice the new bruises that have sprung up.

History Curriculum

Frequently I’m asked what I use for curriculum.  The truth is, I don’t.  When I find something that works for us, we use it, and then move on to the next thing.  Initially, I made up my own “curriculum”.

We are heavy into history, because I feel understanding the past helps us to deal with the present.  One day, a friend of mine mentioned “Story of the World”.  Open to any and all suggestions, I checked it out.  Low and behold, everything I was doing had already been done!  I decided to purchase this curriculum and have been mostly pleased.  For an in depth study of history, it falls woefully short.  For two young kids who are being exposed to history for the first time, it’s great.

So there you have it, my history pick of the moment.  What do you use?  Comment below with why, someone might benefit from your experience.


Field Trip: the state Capital

Hubby had a an extra day off due to his birthday.  Normally we would take an opportunity like this to drop the dock lines and raise the sails.  This time, however, it was really cold on the water.  Freezing for days is not my idea of family fun.  Hubby, therefore, thought of another plan.

Off we went to the capital of California.  Annoyed at the thought of dealing with notorious Bay Area traffic, we opted to take the train.  The kids were stoked.  We seated ourselves comfortably, enjoyed the scenery, and two hours later arrived in Sacramento.


Inside the Sacramento Train museum is AWESOME!


The station was about a 15 minute walk from the Embassy Suites.  We checked in, left our luggage, and decided to head back to track down the source of an intoxicating scent we passed along the street.

It didn’t take long.  The restaurant was called Lotus.  It was fabulous Thai food.  If you happen to make it there, take the restauranteurs suggestion regarding wine.  It had the feel of a family run place.


Incredible Thai food


We then made our way to the Sacramento Train museum.  My my my how times have changed!  Before our eyes, trains morphed from experimental curiosities to beautiful works of art, and ending with the industrial behemoths of today.  Sleeper and diner cars set for guests invited us to imagine the experiences of a by-gone era.


Leaving the museum behind, we took a walk through Old Sacramento, and then to downtown.  Passing the Wells Fargo office, we noticed a mini museum in the atrium.  That was five minutes very well spent.  An old Wells Fargo stagecoach was surrounded with artifacts from the wild west.  We continued our walking tour of Sacramento.  As I looked up the road, I saw a building that looked like it belonged in Washington DC.  Once we made it there, we googled the structure and found we were on the steps of the State Capital Building.  Not only that, but it was open during the day with tours available.  Homeschool Score!


The next day, we hotfooted it back to the Capital Building; arriving just in time for a tour.  We began with the Governors offices from 1906.  The offices were classically and tastefully furnished.  Our attention was then directed to the stunning architecture.  Truly every where the eye turned there was a something to delight it.  Mosaic and tile floors beautified the hallways.  Our heads were crowned with elaborate crown molding, and the dome was absolutely spectacular.  We visited the Assembly room and were given a crash course in California State politics.



After that, we headed back to Old Town to do the Sacramento History Museum.  The city  built itself up over 12 feet to save it from flooding back in the old west.  We learned a great deal about Sacramento, and I highly recommend this museum.

Next up, we went to the schoolhouse.  It’s a recreation of a one room schoolhouse from the 1800’s.  The kids loved ringing the school bell and writing on slate chalkboards.  I was stunned at the number of rules that teachers had to follow in their personal lives.  They couldn’t even go to the local ice cream shop!

We had some dinner, then went back to our hotel and CRASHED.  What a great day!  In the morning, we packed up, had breakfast, and walked back to the train station.  Getting off at Jack London Square, we met family for lunch, and headed home.  What a fantastic trip!

What’s it like on a boat in a storm?

Everytime there is a storm, I’m asked what it’s like being on the boat in that kind of weather.  So, I figured I would break it down here.  Keep in mind, this is while we are docked.  It’s a whole nother matter at sea.

  1. It’s loud.  Not like “Oh it sounds like there’s a storm outside” loud.  It’s more of a “storm- of- the- century- ushering- in- armageddon” kind of loud.  Every. Single. Storm.
  2. Since we are on a catamaran, we don’t move a whole lot.  We do, however get occasional gusts that  nudge us.  There’s not a lot of movement, but just enough to remind you that you are not on land.
  3. Wind whistles through trees, but it screams through our marina.  It literally sounds like someone opened the Ghostbusters containment system next door.
  4. Halyards slap against masts, and canvas flaps struggling to cling to its vessel.  The water of the marina is whipped up into small waves that beat against the hull with a repetitive splashy/slappy sound.
  5. It’s really, really loud.
  6. Zippers scrape the deck, blocks rattle, and the whole boat feels the vibration  of the lines oscillating in the wind.  It makes an annoying humming sound.
  7. Not sure if I mentioned it’s kind of loud.
  8. Rain sounds like we have a tin roof, so conversations tend to become polite yelling matches as we struggle to be heard over the din.
  9. Everyone in the marina hunkers down in their little boat cocoons giving the area an uninhabited feel.
  10. It’s loud

Guess who doesn’t sleep when there is a storm raging outside?  That would be me.