Saturday, December 5, 2009

Calm seas, light winds, but no smooth sailing aboard this vessel

I know I said my next post would be about life in La Paz, but I need to vent a bit. While these blog posts make it seem like life is a constant vacation, I'd feel more understood if you got a piece of reality as well.

Homeschooling is not easy.

We probably hit our proverbial brick wall two days ago (Thursday, December 3) when we left Bahia San Gabriel on Isla Espiritu Santo for our rendez-vous with some buddy boats on Isla Partida. We got up early to get the boat ready to leave. We had discussed with the kids that we'd need to be ready to leave early so that we wouldn't waste the whole day, which meant our morning checklist (other than breakfast and schooling) completed: Get dressed, tidy your room, make your bed, brush teeth, take vitamins, do chores (salon duty or cockpit duty includes tidying up those areas, taking off or putting up clothes on the lines, wiping down tables, vacuuming the floors, rugs and seats). We said we'd have breakfast once underway, followed by school. No problem there.

Got underway, practiced maneuvering this 3-bedroom/3-bath condo on the water (I've only ever had to hold the wheel straight), and we even raised the sails although the winds were really light. We then ate breakfast and cleaned up. Pulled out the school books. That's where it all went downhill.

Harrison couldn't focus. Danielle was bored. Kids start arguing. I'm trying to help them both get focussed, answer questions and correct work. Michael and I are trying to get our course sorted out and figure out where we're going to be to meet visitors on time. Being pulled in a million directions. Missing all the beautiful scenery as we go.

And then it's time for lunch.

After lunch, Harrison couldn't focus. Danielle was bored. Kids start arguing. I'm trying to help them both get focussed, answer questions and correct work. Michael and I are trying to get our course sorted out and figure out where we're going to be to meet visitors on time. Being pulled in two million directions. Missing more beautiful scenery as we go.

And yes, I lost it. Yelled at Michael. Yelled at the kids. Threatened that I can't continue doing this without cooperation. Yelled that it's not worth it for me to be schooling all day even though there's this beautiful nature all around us because I don't EVER get to see it. I'm the ONLY ONE who cooks and cleans. I'm the ONLY ONE who works on keeping the schedule. I'm the ONLY ONE blah blah blah. It did quiet everyone down, which makes me feel even more like an ogre. But boy was I pissed. And ridiculously frustrated. If I sounded like a two year old, I sure felt like it. And I probably looked like it too. Nothing I'm too proud of, but thought I'd come clean.

Danielle finished her school work around 3, and Harrison and I abandoned his by 4:30. Michael read them the riot act. I chimed in no less than a half dozen times. Bottom line: not a pleasant scene. By this time we had arrived at our destination, but I couldn't even greet our friends off the boat. Danielle and Michael went for a quick visit, but Harrison and I stayed on the boat.

By dinner, we barely ate. Harrison called a family meeting saying he wanted to go home. The kids were crying, I was crying, and it was just awful. We all went to bed early, but I couldn't sleep thinking I had destroyed my kids, and that mentally they will never be the same. I ran through the dilemmas in my head: Should I just abandon school altogether, have a great easy year, and deal with the consequences when they re-enter their regular school once we return on land? Or do I keep at this, and let them know that we mean it when we say that school needs to be done early so that we can do stuff in the afternoons? Or do I make them do school on their own (Danielle already does) and if they are not done by 1, I leave them and let them stay on the boat to finish it? And then I keep going back to the fact that if I don't get angry, I don't get results.

I've already stripped down Harrison's subjects to reading comprehension, writing, phonics/spelling, Hebrew - and he's chosen to keep science and geography. We don't do poetry, mythology, art and some other odds and ends. We occasionally throw in an American President. Danielle has kept most of her program's assigned subjects except for the program's reading selections as she'd prefer to read books of her own choice and I'm okay with that. Somehow I'm also supposed to begin teaching her Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream - I've got the Cole's Notes for it, a child's version, and we've already studied the life and times of Shakespeare - but I have never liked Shakespeare myself - how am I supposed to teach it with any verve? And while I love teaching (my friends will attest to the fact I always have advice on most topics), I find it incredibly burdensome going off the assigned daily checklist provided by the homeschooling program - I don't see myself as a creative person in this area at all. When we took the day off to do a field trip hike to examine desert life, no one was interested in hearing the details. Perhaps I should have done a scavenger hunt - except I didn't know what to expect myself. Dead end again.

If anyone out there has any other advice or options on homeschooling, please come forward, as I can use any and all help you are willing to give me.

Michael, on the other hand, takes all this in stride. He's way more anxious about keeping afloat than about what the kids are doing. His view is that I have been too relaxed about the schooling schedule and that they need to know that we mean business. He assured me that we needed this day to get on the right track. And although he may not always do or say things in the gentlest of ways, he is usually right about most things. And in this case, he was, once again right.

We woke up the next morning (yesterday) at 7 a.m. The kids ran through their checklist and were doing school by 8:30. Done before 11. Which was also before the other boats were done. We had a great day.

All's well that ends well.

As a side note, I will take the blame for some rocky starts of some of our days because I get up and ready after the kids are awake. My entire life I have battled getting up in the morning. It's not actually being awake early as I love being awake early, when all's quiet and fresh. Rather, it's getting from the horizontal position to the vertical. I honestly don't know what it is. Today, I was on 6 a.m. anchor watch so I HAD to get up. Even after checking the anchor, I stayed up to see the sunrise (it was too cloudy) and even enjoyed it. I recall loving the nighttime baby feedings once I had started. And it's not that I'm going to bed too late - we have eased nicely into the cruisers' life of being in bed early (as early as 9 p.m. some nights). Bottom line is that I MUST get up early to help the kids get a smooth start to the day. Woops - In coach-speak, 'having' to do something will never work - there's too much dissonance in it. So I'll correct my wording to reflect my true perspective: Getting up early is the only way for me.

Right here, right now, I am committing to getting an early start every day. Please check in with me down the road - I'll let you know how it goes.

Signing off from Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida,
24 degrees, 33.631 minutes N by 110 degrees, 23.771 minutes W,


  1. Boy, that was a great venting session - I could feel and hear the anger and frustration. Just remember these days happen at home also. As far as giving you advice, you gave it yourself -wake up early and give the kids ultimatums - let them be more independent - if they don't finish they don't leave the boat (and stick to it!) - like Michael says, show them that you mean business. You saw the results the next day. You are also way too hard on what else is new? It's great that you are all (kids including, I hope) getting to bed early.
    Zachary and Daniel slept over last night and we all went to shul (got there at 11 am!). The turn-out has been great the last few weeks. Even the Family Shabbat had a great turnout (with the new Rabbi)...loads of people at kiddush. By the way, Rabbi Allen just received his PHD (I guess Rabbi Grover eased up some of his time).
    Deb has been feeling a bit under the weather this week (right after her H1N1 shot) but is now feeling a lot better (taking a multitude of prescriptions).
    Roz is returning from India on Dec. 8. I just returned from visiting Miriam - she's not doing too well...says she's had enough (a broken pelvis so can't walk, besides her other many "krenks". She's still a delight to speak to.
    Allan and I are going to Ottawa next weekend to visit Natalie and family. She's feeling great, writing a book about Canada that's about to go to various agents - however still needs to wake at around 5 am each morning for Toby. I hope this will change soon; she's expecting end of March.
    Hope to hear from you in a brighter frame of mind (I'm sure it already is).
    Love you and miss you. I wish I were with you so that we could laugh a little together...

  2. WOW!
    I can tell you one thing....if you come back to zero clients to coach, you could easily become a writer!
    I'm telling you....your adventure this year would have made for a great reality show!
    Barb - you are human and it ain't easy being a mom (on the boat or on land). I think all of us moms wonder how you have managed not to lose it until now. You are an amazing mom, wife, friend and sister-in-law (of course). The homeschooling is going to be tuff no matter what if you ask me and I think that some days it will go better than others. You had a bad day that was followed by a good day and it might just go like that sometimes but what your kids are getting out of this adventure is way more than poetry has to offer so don't stress out about the schooling. You have bright kids and you are offering them an education this year that will give them a lifetime of memories. The rest they will catch up and figure out at school next year. Enjoy and have a glass of wine (or maybe something even stiffer if needed).
    love ya

  3. My friend, I am giving you a virtual hug. Your post brought tears to my eyes (not a difficult thing) but I feel your pain. I have bad days here (just had one on Thursday) and what's my excuse?? You have a huge task on your shoulders and it must feel like a huge responsibility. I don't mean to make it worse by stating the obvious, but remember that you are doing something that is totally new for you (and new for the kids and Michael too). Most of your friends couldn't imagine doing what you are doing now (really, we have talked about it), and the fact that you are doing it speaks volumes about the person you are. Trust me when I say your children are going to be just fine (you would say the same to me after the bad day I had last week) fact, they are going to be (and are) terrific. I don't have to tell you that the adventure that you and Michael are taking them on is one that they will remember and cherish forever. And is isn't likely that they will remember that mom lost it one day (maybe two), but they will remember that it was great, and challenging at times, and you all worked through it together. This is a great life skill you are teaching them (maybe more important than Shakespeare??) and they are so incredibly lucky to be given this gift. (Ugh, there are those tears again!!) I miss you terribly and wish I could help more than these words. But at the end of the day, you know what a great mom you are and these moments of stress and frustration are to be expected for any mom in any situation, and perhaps you get a pass for a few extra given the floating condo thing. You are a strong person and you will get through this with grace, and I am sure with a lesson to tell and some greater wisdom. Keep posting, your writing is terrific and keeps me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens next. Another virtual hug going out to you.
    Lots of love,

  4. A question for Harrison and Danielle - what do you guys think will help your mom and you get through the home schooling so you can enjoy the rest of the day?
    How about some regular scheduled family meetings (great initiative, Hus, by the way) for the next few weeks to work on this schooling thing, and regularly check in with each other to see if you are meeting your mutually agreed upon goals - that everyone has a part of creating?

    Barb- if we only had the solution to getting to the vertical in the early AMs...
    I love and miss you tons
    from one stressed out mom to another - taking time to enjoy the beautiful moments in between...

  5. The notes written already (before I had a chance since we were in Montreal all weekend) of course echo my thoughts and I couldn't word it any differently or more beautifully.

    I'm just glad I'm not publicly blogging about my own parenting moments. Let's just say....last week was UGLY!! Can you say "made Sam's tooth fall out when I washed his mouth out with soap"?

    Hope that got a laugh from you guys for a moment, after your gasp, of course. But rest assured, it was followed on my end by some hard core tears (mine) in private! Ah...the joys of parenting!

    Love you and miss you tons. Have Fun!!