What better way to learn about the world, its geography, people, plants, and animals than to experience it firsthand? The Society Islands are a French archipelago 450 miles long that are part of French Polynesia in the central South Pacific. They create the illusion that one of the high islands of the Marquesas has plopped down into the middle of the Tuamotu Atoll breaking into several smaller islets. White foam of crashing waves can be seen on the fringing reef circling the islands under a southwesterly breeze. One of the biggest differences here is that there are many more people and thus less fish in this region than in the more remote islands. We haven't seen a shark since we left the Tuamotus; on the other hand, tourists and tourist-industry workers abound here in this chain of islands, Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora Bora. Large Love Boat type cruise ships often share anchorages with tiny cruising boats. The lesson plan of voyaging under sail and its destinations unfolds a little differently each day.
In fact, our children have never been to school. We have homeschooled all along in preparation for the cruising life. We do not use a packaged curricula, such as The Calvert School, which supplies books and curriculums for grades one through eight. Instead, we make our own curriculum by perusing through catalogs like The Education Connection, John Holt's Bookstore, and Tobin's Lab, and use them all in our selection of materials. This year we brought a chemistry set with us and have had a fun and informative time doing experiments and learning about the 'scientific method.'
We also read a lot, as most cruisers tend to do. Tristan loves to be read to, and for the last six months has become totally obsessed with The Adventures of Tintin from the 1940s by Hergé—
The cruising lifestyle helps our children understand that the learning process is theirs. The rewards, discoveries, and insight foster more motivation to learn. As our daughter Maya so eloquently puts it, " Who wants to be stupid?" Certainly not us parents, although homeschooling can make us adults feel like we don't know much when our kids ask questions to which we don't have the answers. But the beauty of being a learning facilitator is knowing when to say, "Let's figure out how to find the answer to that question." This usually sends us to our laptop to open the Encarta Encyclopedia in search of some answers. Homeschooled children and their parents quickly realize that they are learning together, and that learning is something most people do their entire lives.
We decided to haul out now because we will not be in New Zealand during this winter's cyclone season like most of the other South Pacific cruisers, but instead plan to stay in the tropics and avoid cyclones by staying close to the equator. We have also considered spending winter in this part of the world in the Marshall Islands, just north of the equator. The Marshall Islands, a former US territory still affiliated with the states, are next on the syllabus. There, we're looking forward to the US Postal Service and flights to Hawaii. As we venture farther west into the Pacific, we'll continue to research our options, and are certain that en route the learning process will continue for all.