“Are these your kids?”  It’s a question I tend to get frequently, usually with a kind of sense of wonder and amazement.  I guess we just don’t look like we go together.

“Yes these are mine.”  I already know where this conversation is going, I’ve had it many times before.   I’m blessed with two daughters who are naturally very kind and polite, but we have worked hard to nurture this wonderful tendency.  While they are far from perfect, their strengths are noticed by many casual observers and I tend to get the credit.  I’m so proud of my little treasures.

The girls are not shy at all about our lifestyle, and love to tell people they are homeschooled on a boat when I am quizzed regarding the school they attend.  Responses have always ranged from confused, to outright disdain, and everything in-between.  For the last couple of years, though, I’ve noticed an increasing trend.  More parents have been responding with:   “Oh, I’ve considered homeschooling too!”  Suddenly, my counter-culture lifestyle is cool and trendy.

The reasons people homeschool are as varied as the families themselves.  Some of them cite religious reasons, others have special needs they feel the schools can’t address, and yet others just don’t like their local school.  So we all take on this grand experiment in educating our own children.  At first it is completely overwhelming. The amount of knowledge they are expected to attain feels monumental and if our kids don’t grow into successful, happy, socially responsible people, we can’t point fingers at anyone else.  A special kind of bravery is required to take the plunge and challenge the status quo.

Why do I homeschool?   It’s pretty simple, I live on a boat.  As time has progressed, though, I find I have so many other reasons to continue homeschooling.  My kids are helpful at home, they get along with one anther because THEY HAVE TO, and we can spend as much or as little time on anything as we want.  We have a great relationship and work out our differences while trying to focus on our family’s core values;  my kids have had a lot of experience figuring out compromises and treating one another with love and respect.  They hang out with other children who likewise have been socialized by their families.  This has created in my daughters an expectation of how others SHOULD be acting and they are, as a result,  selecting their friends based on this expectation.

My daughters first pointed out to me that kids on playgrounds at school sure yell a lot, whereas the kids in homeschool groups tend to be very calm.  They have a  lot more free time to run around, and frequently less homework to do in general.  Homeschool kids I interact with are incredibly respectful, and usually delightful.  I’d like to add that includes kids with all kinds of disorders.  ADD, ADHD, ODD, spectrum and 2E kids are all capable of fantastic behavior with devoted parents willing and able to work with them and pay attention to their constantly changing needs.

Homeschooling is hard work.   I’m working harder now than I’ve ever worked in my life.  But as they say, nothing good comes easy.




Lemonade Stand

“What’s the first thing we do when we cook, girls?” I asked, hoping for a specific answer.

“We wash our hands!” came the exuberant reply.  The girls ran to the sink and washed for all they were worth.  I meanwhile, focused on disinfecting the counters.

Next came the lemons.  Not just a few, no.  We had an entire Costco bag of lemons, and they needed to be mushed into something tasty and sale-worthy.  That’s right.  The kids begged me for a lemonade stand.  At first I thought it would be a great way to keep the kids busy.  Then suddenly, the homeschooler in me spoke up.  “Dear lord, woman!  Do you know what a great learning opportunity this is?”

Living on a boat means we don’t have a garage.  That doesn’t seem like a big deal until your kids want things like bikes, skateboards, scooters, and lemonade stands.  Necessity being the Mother of Invention, I had an idea.  We picked up a dispenser from Costco, along with the lemons and paper cups.  After a quick trip to Whole Foods, we had Stevia for our sweetener and everything was prepped.

The girls squeezed lemons for what they described as  “about a million years”. This means they were actually at it for about ten minutes.   “Mommy, can you help us?”  No one can resist a request to get elbows deep in lemon juice.   I jumped in, quickly discovering that squeezing a massive bag of lemons actually IS work.  Who knew?

Into the beverage dispenser went our water, lemon juice, and stevia concoction.  We loaded up our wagon and went for a walk.  Our first paying customer was our much adored Harbor Master.  He asked the girls what they were charging.   Oh dear, they hadn’t thought of that.  He suggested 25 cents, to which the girls quickly agreed.  They were so excited to have made a sale, we hot-footed it over to a public trail next to a nearby business park.

I figured we would run into people on their lunch breaks, and boy was I right.  One of the first potential customers was saddened to inform us that he had left his wallet in his car, but offered some advice. “People here don’t usually carry change.  If you charge a dollar and give half to your favorite charity, you’ll double your profits right away.”

The girls seized upon this idea and immediately thought of completely different charities, both refusing to compromise with each other.  Sensing a headache initiating argument on the horizon, I suggested the girls each give half of their portion to their own charity.   Problem solved.

Our first time out, the girls brought in $10.  Not bad for a lemonade stand.  A week later, we gave it another go and they brought in $31.25.  I whipped out my laptop and introduced the girls to Excel.  They are now tracking expenses, logging sales, and after we have a few more days of sales to log, we’ll get into charts.

It’s things like this that make me so happy to be homeschooling.  My daughters are building their confidence, learning a little bit about how businesses work, and learning computer skills in a pertinent and relatable way.  So awesome.



Buckets OnBoard

We finally did it.  We left the bay and ventured out onto the vast Pacific Ocean.  As we passed underneath the Golden Gate Bridge into 6/8 foot waves and a whole lot of chop, the youngest of our intrepid crew was hit with a wave of nausea.  After years of sailing on the bay, this was the first time we have ever delt with seasickness.
I responded to the plaintive cry of my seven-year-old, stumbling downstairs to her assistance as Reverie plowed and bobbed through the mess outside.  Opening the door, I was greeted with the image of my daughter clutching the nearest handhold with a massive pile of vomit spewed on the floor between us.  This had “not fun” written all over it.  Bracing myself, I swiftly picked her up and relocated her to the shower, where I proceeded to clean her up.
The weather was getting rougher.  I was quickly succumbing to the same illness that had claimed my poor girl.  Somehow, I managed to get her clean and dressed again, fighting back that dreaded feeling of sick.  My daughter stared at me with the biggest, saddest, puppy dog eyes ever.  “Mommy, I’m so sorry you have to clean that up.”  My heart melted.  She uttered not a single complaint, just sympathy for me.  “It’s okay, sweetie.  This is what Mommies do.”
We left the head, sidestepping the dancing pile of vomit.  I slammed the door shut and announced,” NO ONE use that head!  It’s not getting cleaned until things settle down!”
After getting my daughter snuggled with a blanket and a bucket, I ensured her easy access to both the horizon and fresh air.  Now I could focus on me.  I stumbled and crab-walked my way to the stern, clinging to the boat as it bucked and wildly.  I hadn’t felt this bad since the last time I had morning sickness.  Gluing my eyes to the horizon, a calm stretch of water we were insanely heading away from, I fought back thoughts that this really was going to be the end of me.  What kind of fool does this for fun?  I was steadily approaching rock bottom, and considering approaching the captain with a demand to turn around, when up from the water leaped a dolphin.  I felt the universe was giving me a sign: “Stay strong”.  I took a deep breath of fresh air, letting it imbue me with renewed strength, and smiled through the suffering.
That’s when my daughter came out behind me.  “Mommy, I’m going to be sick again.”  I held her hair out of her face while simultaneously plastering her onto the boat with my body.  I’ll spare you the details, but that was the last time she threw-up that day.  I realized as I was cleaning her up, we inadvertently were downwind.  Well THAT was a happy accident!
Meanwhile, my other daughter had been stationed next to a bucket and told not to move.  She said she felt fine, got up and went about her business.  A moment later she ran to the sink in the galley.  I held her hair back as she vomited.  Now I had a real problem.  How does one clean up that amount of let’s-just-call-it-non-liquid from the sink while hanging on for dear life?  I briefly thought of the work ahead of me in the head downstairs.  Ugh.
I donned a pair of gloves and scooped the offending junk into a bucket.  Outside it all went.  After disinfecting the sink, I realized the bucket fit inside of it perfectly.  This was my Ah-ha moment.  That bucket lived in the sink for the remainder of the trip.  By day three, I had it down.  One bucket in the sink, another next to our designated “sick corner” outside.  The girls would come upstairs in the morning, immediately throw-up in the sink bucket, and get cozy outside until they felt better.
Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  The one-woman bucket brigade was in action.  I battled to keep the bucket full of nastiness steady, nervous that a particularly obnoxious wave would render my efforts futile and cause me to spill it all over our living quarters, or worse, on me.
When we finally dropped our anchor in Half-Moon Bay, I quickly went to work getting every thing cleaned up.  Project number one was the head (bathroom for non-boaters) where my daughter had first vomited.  Throw- up was dripping from the ceiling.  It was literally EVERYWHERE.  This was probably a better scenario than the proverbial excrement hitting the fan, but not by much.

I took a deep breath and powered through it.  Being at anchor, we had to be cautious of water usage, so I used my handy-dandy bucket and washed the bathroom down first with saltwater and followed with bathroom cleaner.  Then, I had to clean the clothes my daughter had been sick on.  The bucket made itself useful yet again.  Now it morphed into a washing machine!
The next day, the girls wanted to do some fishing. We didn’t catch anything worth keeping, but my bucket was nearby just in case.
By the time we made it back to our home port, I had come to a very clear conclusion: buckets onboard are a necessity.  You probably can’t have too many.  I had also started putting together a mental list of everything I could use a bucket for, not the least of which was an emergency toilet.  I felt proud of my bucket, and all the things it can do.  Never had I used it so much in such a small amount of time.
After docking, I pulled out my bucket again for one final job.  I filled it with water and marine soap, and we all washed the outside of the boat.