A year ago in June we were in the cross-roads of becoming a cruising family with no permanent address and no school for our children to attend to. We had an idea that we could “world school” our kids while cruising the seven seas on our sailboat and make every moment, every new country and every new social interaction a learning experience. So, how have we succeeded so far? We have now sailed over 7000 nautical miles, visited 20 countries and spent 2/3 of the time anchored on beautiful bays far from normal access to internet or other means for standard schooling. We started our sailing adventure in Turkey last year in June. We crisscrossed Mediterranean for six months, passed Gibraltar Strait to Atlantic and sailed to Cap Verde via Morocco and Canary Islands. We crossed Atlantic Ocean to Caribbean and have now visited many beautiful islands on our way to Colombia.
Well, it is. The most important thing is to make kids want to learn new things. If you succeed in that, it really flips the learning process upside down. The teacher becomes a coach more than a teacher.
The boat is our home and it is a school for our children Aarre, 8, Kerttu 6 and Martta 4 yrs. Of course we were excited but also little bit scared of the home schooling part of our new life. We are no teachers. We studied business, for God´s sake. How did we think we could manage? To take kids out of Finland´s world famous schooling system might seem odd to some of you. “You are mad to do that”, some folks said when we left sailing.
Now after one year we are very happy that we had the courage to jump into the unknown and explore the possibilities of personalized learning in somewhat untypical environment even if there were no guarantees of pulling it off. It has not been easy always, we must admit, but what is with kids. It´s all about finding the right way to learn for each child. And it´s all about making every moment a learning moment. This happens if the teachers (parents) are enthusiastic enough to observe each child all the time which would be naturally very challenging in normal classroom environment. This is where technology comes into the picture. Right tools like Claned can make that possible in any school.
We talk about history, nature and culture as we explore new islands. We calculate how many square centimeters is the of the pancake surface area as we are cooking them. And we also make navigation into a math lesson.
We understand that our way of schooling is not something every family wants to do nor is this going to be large scale method for schooling in the near future. However, there are many learnings that can be taken from our experiences and then scaled into more main stream schools. With the help of technology personalized learning can truly change education systems globally and raise education level in third world countries. Claned is one tool in this revolution.
We try to find best ways to utilize technology in our learning process. This means many things. We download new learning games and apps whenever we are hooked to decent wifi and let kids explore which they like best. It is crucial that they work also when we are offline as we are not hooked to internet most of the time. Some apps are very long lasting and some get boring after two hours. We have found that more serious and simple apps are actually a lot more interesting than flashy learning games. Whenever we have internet at our disposal, kids are searching information for their school projects (in between watching Minecraft videos on Youtube).
We take schooling seriously but we still do not spend too much time with books or computers. Maybe two effective hours is an average time we keep the school “open” daily. It pays off to have two parents/teachers on board; when another is losing the nerves, the other can take over 😊.
After one year of boat-schooling, we are very confident that this is the best way for children to get most out of the early years of education. Our eight years´ old son is very keen reader and has read thousands of pages extra material, not to mention countless comic books. His second year math books got “too easy” already before Christmas and we have now covered the third grade math and most of the fourth grade math as well. Learning about geography, cultures, history, nature and science come very naturally in our nomadic school and learning English has become an everyday task for all the kids. Next year we are spending 9 months is Spanish speaking countries (Colombia, Panama and Ecuador) so it is very natural to include Spanish in our curriculum.
All in all we are very happy with the way schooling is going and we are eagerly looking forward to years ahead.
Tuomo and Riikka Meretniemi
Tuomo and Riikka Meretniemi, navigating the Meretniemi Family Expedition around the world. Read more of their amazing adventure and their crew here.