Life at anchor

We wake up without an alarm clock. Usually the kids are up slightly before us and we can hear them play in their cabin. It’s somewhere between 9 and 10. 

Breakfast is either freshly baked bread from our bread-maker, bought toast or sometimes breakfast cereal. 

After breakfast we clear the table and we (me and the girls) begin school. Rene uses this time to do projects or repairs around the boat if needed. Whenever there are kid boats around, or other people we’d like to notify, we hoist the school-flag – a Sierra (letter S) flag, white with a blue rectangle in the centre- to indicate our kids are not available for play. We usually don’t bother when we are alone or in an anchorage without people we (came to) know.

School is a much condensed version of what the kids were used to. I have school books, but found that with Robin there were some things I needed to work on first, like a certain discipline, focus and reducing her anxiety when it comes to anything related to numbers (or large-ish assignments). I can’t teach a child who freaks out at the sheer sight of math problems or multiplications. 

So usually I write my own assignments in her A4 notebook, starting with the things from the previous day she needs to review. When she is working, I don’t correct her work. That comes later, when the girls have gone to sleep or in the morning when they are having breakfast. I don’t want her to worry about getting things ‘right’. She has been coping with a fear of failure and this is my way to try and diminish that. I want her to work, focused, and feel a sense of accomplishment when she is done. 

I don’t set a time limit to the hours of schooling. For Robin, I started with writing down 3 assignments that needed to be completed, no matter how long it took her. Now we are up to four, of which the first one is always to read a set (and slowly increasing, we are now on 20) number of pages in a children’s novel of her choosing (for Dutch readers: Dolfje Weerwolfje series). I wanted her to be in control of how long she was working, with the only ‘catch’ that she couldn’t play or do other fun things unless she was all done. I wanted her to figure out that stalling or daydreaming (or having fits) wasn’t getting her anywhere, as was writing down nonsense in an attempt to be done sooner (because then she has to do over most of her work the next day again, after I have marked what she has to review). The pillars of “my” curriculum for her are reading, math and writing, mirrored after the inspiring book Homeschool Teacher by Kate Laird and whatever I find useful, like telling time. I use downloaded Dutch songs about the tables of multiplication and a lot of repetition. Robin loves to draw so I occasionally let her do handlettering and drawing marine animals from the Mediterranean Field Guide (and let her copy the info about that animal with her drawing). She also sometimes writes and types short ‘posts’ for her classmates to put up on this site (behind a password).

I make my own worksheets and assignments for Lauren, too. After a week or so trying to emulate kindergarten, we both got a bit fed up with drawing and crafts as part of school work. They do plenty of that in their free time. She saw Robin do math and wanted to do the same; “real school”, as she called it.

So I got out some tabletop dice and let her roll to dictate how many pieces of playmobil she needed to find. Or write the numbers down on a piece of paper. Or make dots according to the number on the die. Or simple math adding numbers up to ten. 

Next up was reading. Before we left the Netherlands we had downloaded a lot of ‘school tv’ (educational videos broadcast on television and used in the classroom), so I started her on Leesdas Lettervos (a Dutch show on learning how to read, with puppets.) which she LOVES. 

I reused an empty teabag-box as a letter-box and filled it with small handwritten cards in the same font as some of the letters (and sounds, like oo, aa, uu, ee – this makes much more sense in Dutch than in English) in children’s books (Is this a Dutch thing? When kids learn to write they use a different a, for example. Strange, when you think about it.) I’m slowly increasing the number of cards, saving the trickier ones for last. I’m holding off on learning her how to write for now, there is enough time for that later and I don’t want to confuse her by the different fonts. At this point she can read (sometimes with a little jogging her memory) words like ‘ik’ (me), ‘maan’ (moon), ‘hut’, ‘vis’ (fish), ‘vuur’ (fire), ‘oog’ (eye) and ‘roos’ (rose).

Robin made a memory game (with 2 of every card that you need to find in a grid) for Lauren that we regularly use to train her letter recognition. And we read a lot together.

When school is done the kids can play or use the ipad to play games. In order to use the ipad they need to do chores (like clearing the table, cleaning their room, doing dishes, sweep etc) to earn 10 minutes per chore, which we write on a whiteboard. They can use it right away or save them to have more time later. Robin loves to play Minecraft and she got Lauren interested now, too. 

Then we sit down for lunch, which can be pretty much whatever. Ramen, pancakes, bread, fajitas, leftovers, salad or, like today, French toast from leftover bread. 

After lunch the day is ours to do as we please. Swim, snorkel, read, work on the laptop, take the dingy to go ashore, go to the beach or explore. Or, like today, stay in and sort out all the girls playmobil and give their bedroom a thorough cleaning while Rene uses data to watch the last part of formula 1, because we had pretty strong winds that kept us from going in the water. This is also the time we run the watermaker (every other day or so) and the washing machine, after we made sure the batteries are completely recharged by the solar panels. 

At 5 or 6 we usually have a drink and a snack. Dinner anywhere between 7 and 9, depending on our appetites and whatever we have going on that day.

Sometimes we play a game after dinner, do the dishes, clean up (the boat and the kids), read to the kids and put them to bed. The last 2 hours of the evening are ours. We sit outside, make plans, read pilots and charts, check the weather, watch the stars and other boats in the anchorage, have a drink, chat, set the bread-maker and go to bed. 

We don’t ‘do’ weekends. Instead, our rhythm is determined by our plans. We are currently at anchor in Cala Binnerás in Ibiza and our days go as above. When we are sailing, we either do school or we don’t (mostly depending on my seasickness), or we do a ‘school light’ version. 

This is just how we do it now. Having guests on board changes up the routine (like we found when my sister and brother in law with their baby visited recently), as does the time probably. We’ll have to see how our daily routine evolves over time. I’m sure when we will be going on longer passages (we only did up to 24 hours since we left Almerimar) things will be different. Right now I can’t really imagine doing school (or doing anything, really) when sailing in high or rough seas. Only time will tell. 

In a couple of days we’ll leave Ibiza and head to Mallorca!

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