Friday, February 10, 2012

School on the docks

The life of a home-schooled kid on the water...

My youngest daughter, Juliet is thirteen now.  She has been on boats consistently for the past three years.  We moved onto the schooner Zodiac in 2009, before that she was on for an entire summer sailing season.

Jeff and I pulled her out of school a year prior to our move, knowing that we'd need to transition her into this new life. Also, I was watching her fourth grade classmates become mini- Miley Cyress wanna-be's and I didn't want that to happen to my child. No way, no how.

Her sisters and brothers were products of public schools. Trent, who is now a father and actively involved in school sports as a coach, did alright as a student. His early years were spent in the Corvallis school district- funneling teachers straight out of Oregon State's education department. Dane and the twins grew up in Seattle and didn't fare so well with the public education they received in the big city. In fact, they got the shaft.

Sometimes I wish that Juliet had more social activities, easier access to friends and classmates. Her older siblings tease me for sheltering her from public school....

What they don't see however is her day to day life "in school" on the water.  She finishes her class work around 1 or 2 PM  with the help of (or at times in spite of), her cat Lucky Jack. She then heads outside and interacts with a blue heron she named Theodore, unless we're docked in Fairhaven where her blue heron friend is named Thurston Howell the III. She knows the mama otter and her three kits, the juvenile seagull that has adopted us named Kwaietek Jr. and she is on fairly good terms with a harbor seal that hangs out near our boat.

When on the Zodiac, our passengers come from all walks of life.  My daughter has made fast friends with many of them. I love to watch her spend afternoons sketching with various artists or learning about the orca pods with some of the naturalists. (She now knows enough about our local pods that she can teach passengers about them).

It isn't an ordinary life. She does miss out on some of the cool things that school kids on land get to experience. On the other hand, as she nears completion of auditing the eight-week USCG 100-ton Masters program, (and doing exceptionally well), I believe in the long run, she'll be a cooler person because of this.


  1. Wonderful post, Chris, and oh, this sounds familiar. When my family sold our home and moved onto a 45' trimaran, final destination unknown, I was home-schooled for 3rd/ 4th grade. In theory, anyway - sounds like Juliet's getting a much more structured, consistent home schooling experience than I had! When I did finally re-enter "regular" school, it took a long, awkward time to learn how to engage with my classmates. They couldn't relate to any of the nature/mariner stuff I valued, and I didn't understand any of their social cues or crucial pop culture references. To this day, most of my best, most enduring friends are other boat kids. Though we didn't always enjoy everything about our different lifestyles in the moment, most of us are hugely thankful for the unique gifts (and life lessons) of growing up at sea. Sounds like Juliet's taking advantage of some of the privileges of such a life, already.

    I bet your instincts are right on, Chris... Juliet already sounds like a very cool person, far cooler than many adults I know! (I'm super envious of her seal and otter friends, and smiling at the memory of a pet seagull I had when I was 9.) Though 13 is a hard time to feel "different," my best wishes to her in finding the joy and magic in those differences.

  2. One of these days we shall have to sit down with a beer or two and swap stories, Tele!

    Until then, have a great season up north. Stay safe!