From the early days of my adventure, I have had the joy of cruising with sailing families, kids raised on the sea. I loved to follow the “kid boats” to different anchorages and watch them bond together, oblivious to age, nationality even language they formed fast and lasting friendships. I also found these kids to easily interact with adults always curious and respectful. Now I am a father of a cruising son.
The compelling debate: what will guide our son into becoming a well-rounded, curious, self-motivated, experienced and joyous young man has been our challenge. It is has been said, the strong person recognizes his or her strengths the stronger one their limits. None of the three of us are cut out for full time Home Schooling, we just don’t have it. We need help. Oddly the Pandemic provided the solution.
For the last two years the school has been strictly online. This allowed us the freedom to travel, and the opening of so many doors for Xyke Priam (or Priam as his family calls him). Pandemic over and regular face to face classes resumed, we had some choices to make and tradeoffs to consider. We saw the social values of face-to-face childhood interactions that traditional school provides, this has to be part of the mix. We also saw the unique benefits of extensive travel for a young man. It was with these two seemingly conflicted values that we have arrived at our current program.
Our life is also divided, six months at Subic Bay Yacht Club, enjoying marina living, land travel, international adventures and the social circle it provides. Then, rainy season well over, we head out for our cruising life, exploring the 7600 Filipino islands. This mix opened the doors for our hybrid school program. Working with our great school, First School of Subic Bay Freeport Zone, and their incredible staff we now mix online and real time instruction.
From this process this year, Xyke has passed his PADI Advanced Diver classes, logging nearly 50 dives. Diving is the portal to another world, and instills a curiosity and love of all the creatures God has put under the seas. He has learned to sail with the Puerto Galera Small Boat Program. We set Xyke up with his own small dinghy and motor, the motor runs just bad enough to give him a real lesson in mechanics! Together we have rebuilt the carburetor and other mechanical jobs. The dinghy provides him a degree of freedom and the ensuing responsibility. As we entered a new anchorage, he would take his laptop to the bow and show his classmates where we are now. It also is a path to expanding his social skills, we hit an anchorage and off he goes often returning with a boat load of new friends.
His math skills have been put to the test over and over, navigation, anchor chain length, fuel use, all practical math lessons. The world is his science class, collecting and observing sea creatures, interesting rocks and plants. He has become a junior “Doc” Ed Rickets, famed biologist of whom John Steinbeck wrote so much. Our back deck often resembles a marine biology lab.
The Philippines is a proverbial history lesson, early Moro influences, Chinese, to later Spanish and Americans through the Vietnam War. The Philippines played a dramatic role in WWII, many site are kept as monuments. Priam has experienced the history of his country like none other, from the very place where Lapu Lapu ended the life of Ferdinand Magellan, expelling foreign invaders to the United Nations Vietnam refugee camp. Recently we visited the “center for the Philippines” the first Datum marker by which all charts of the islands are made, this facilitated an excellent geography lesson, I always say, a yacht, a dinghy and a motorbike open up centuries of fascinating history. We visit as many as we can, always learning. A kid can learn far more seeing the actual places than just reading in a textbook.
Not all fun and games, Xyke has a full array of class books to use for his weekly assignments which we photograph and send for grading. He prepares for the quarterly exams with his online tutor at least 4 times a week giving one on one instruction not found in a regular classroom setting.
We returned to Subic Bay and Priam to his regular classes, reuniting with classmates, and doning his unform. Priam granduated from the Sixth Grade with Honors! This right of passage is taken very seriously here, as the kids step up to high school. Donna fussed about what we should wear, only owning one pair of actualy shoes, my beat up running shoes, i was dispatched to the shoe store. i now have big boy shoes again for the first time in 15 years, socks as well. The school prepared a grand celebration for the graduating class.
The last number was a heartfelt song of appreciation to the parents, MaPa, each kid delivered a red rose to their parents. That one got to me as i teared right up. I have watched him grow, struggle, win, and come out smiling for 5 years at this school. A few trips to the prinicipal’s office, a few awards, some struggles some real achievments all came with that song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcCAuKFu4Uw
No parent knows what the results will be. With our unique approach the mystery increases. Will seeing the world, stamps in his passport, solving real mechanical and logistic problems make a better man? Will the multinational social encounters create a more open and accepting mind? We simply do not know, but I do believe Priam will look back at these years with a smile.