Boat schooling

It was a huge shock to us all when Aidan failed his mid-term exams. He’d gone back to SA to see his dad, and the school arranged 2 days for him to come in and write the June exams for English, Afrikaans and Maths.

I thought we’d been diligent enough about his school work on the boat. We were more or less on track with the work according to the text books, and Aidan is a bright child who I thought was coping well with the work.

It was a big wake up call.

Sivota Bay - home schooling

I’d like to explain what went wrong, and how I set us up to fail. Mainly, I misunderstood that a child needs repetition to embed new learning, and that Aidan is very good at rushing through work to get it done whilst retaining almost nothing!

I have learnt just how poor a small boy’s concentration can be, when a swim in the sea or a bicycle ride ashore is calling. I want Aidan to have fun, and I know he is learning about life and new cultures and new places on this trip, and I’ve allowed myself to think that we could handle the school work on the side.

This post is for all the parents who’ve told me that you can cover your kid’s school work in under an hour a day. We were doing our hour a day, and we were moving through the material at a nice pace, until an outside party checked how much Aidan had actually learnt and we came face to face with reality.

I’m sure there are kids who do fine on a small amount of home schooling a day, but I also suspect that home schoolers are not always subjecting their efforts to outside scrutiny. We have learnt to beware complacence!

Now I am doing what I hate – teaching by testing. I bought a collection of SA subject tests for grade 5, and we rigorously test each section of work. My printer is working overtime, as I print out tests for Aidan to do for each subject. We have also increased our school work time per day, and aim at between 2 and 3 hours a day, 6 days a week.

Aidan will go back to his school for the final month of this school year, and will get another chance to show that he has learnt his work. Maybe the wake up call has been good for him as well as me, as he has always sailed through school with little trouble, and is now learning about working for what he wants (progression to grade 6!).

From my side, I would only recommend home schooling if the parents really understand how much work it is. Kudos to our teachers for all the effort they put into our precious children – I will never take teaching for granted again!

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7 Responses to Boat schooling

  1. Nomad says:

    There are so many different theories about teaching, but I am sure you are correct when you say repetition is the key for a young mind to retain the information. Even for adults, learning a language which is not your native tongue is difficult. I know from experience the best method is through immersion in the foreign language – and I guess that is really just a form of repetition.

    As a mother whose kids are now finished with the schooling system, and having a daughter who is a maths tutor (soon to be a maths teacher), I have seen that maths too requires repetition. In the later school years the syllabus moves VERY quickly, with little time for repetition. Kids learn a topic, and believe they have grasped it. BUT, when you throw in a problem out of context, they often do not recognise what type of question it is an then fail to answer it correctly. So you can see this whole experience as a lesson preparing Aidan for later life. In the later years of schooling, students need to arrange their own “repetition” as part of their study habits.

    Keep at the maths, as basic skills are fundamental to advanced maths learning. However, with regard to English, in my opinion, Aidan’s writing of his blog (which has shown a great leap in structure and sophistication over 8 months), is going to be a far better tool for him than knowing what an adverb, noun etc is. Certainly in Australia, the later years of the English curriculum at school is not about language structure (or even correct spelling), but about being able to write a structured, reasoned, logical piece in response to the question. It is much deeper than grammar. However, I believe basic good grammar is being lost, so at this stage, keep going.

    Well done to you both. Formal schooling when the blue seas beckon is difficult, and going over the same thing can sometimes seem a little less important. 🙂

  2. JaneF says:

    I can echo Kaz that the new CAPS syllabus does seem to have thrown everyone for a bit of a loop, but I think you make some valid point too. I think homeschooling can be good, but I think there is something to be gained from the school system too. In your case I think Aiden IS learning a tremendous amount on your trip, so it is by no means wasted time at all, but he may need a little formal academic catch up when he gets back.But I doubt it will be too hard for him, esp if he puts in the effort for the rest of the year. Good luck!

    • lor342 says:

      Thx Jane. Not much time left in the year though! One more month on the boat, 2 weeks back at school, then exams 14 Nov. frightening how fast it all goes…

  3. Linda Ray says:

    I think Afrikaans must be even more challenging and alien when Aiden doesn’t hear it at all, not around him, not on the TV or radio and he doesn’t see it in print. It’s amazing how quickly it becomes unfamiliar and a lot more difficult to grasp. Keep it up, I’m sure he’ll do well.

  4. Kaz says:

    Lor – Thanks for your insight and honesty. Need to let you know thought that all the boys are struggling with the Afrikaans this year. There has been an enormous leap in the amount of work but also in the depth of the subject. This was as a result of the introduction of CAPS. It also doesn’t help when our boys are being taught the language by someone whose first language is NOT Afrikaans. We (like many parents) have enlisted the help of an external tutor. English has also been a huge leap – Aiden was cruising last year and has dropped horrendously – it is still a case of regurgitating the facts parrot fashion and no room for interpretation. Agree with your point about having to reinforce all the time. Sigh!

    • lor342 says:

      Thanks Kaz. My Aidan messed up the same stuff in English and Afrikaans – adverbs, Proper nouns, synonyms etc. he seems to have forgotten what everything is called! This according to the teacher who marked his efforts…

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