I’m told about one million
American children are home schooled. A couple of
years ago I met two of them when the Crumpler
family of Atlanta came to North Fort Myers and
spent three days on one of our boats.
When they returned home Mrs.
Crumpler assigned her students their real
homework. Her 13-year-old daughter wrote, designed
and published a magazine article on her computer.
Her 10-year-old son wrote a term paper about what
he learned on the boat. You can bet that they
learned a lot more because the learning was fun.
Back home in Indiana when I
was growing up summer school was the worst thing
that could happen to a kid. Today, though, as I
think about it, it seems to me there is an
opportunity for school-age kids to think of summer
school in a fun, new way. Instead of trudging off
to an old school building and trying to stay
focused on a dull textbook, students could start
their school days aboard a charter yacht cruising
the beautiful barrier island paradise of Southwest
In a long summer day, there
is plenty to learn and every bit of it is fun.
Astronomy. Astronomy class
is held on the forward deck when the stars come
out. Away from the lights of the cities the stars
and planets shine bright. Each student (teachers,
too!) finds a comfortable place to lie down with
his or her head on a cushion. Identify planets and
stars. Talk about nebulae. Count shooting stars.
Nature and Marine Biology.
This class is held on the bow just before lunch
when the sun is high and its rays light up the
bottom. Students lean against the bow rail and
look for huge rays hiding in the sand. Soon a
dolphin or maybe two will appear and start surfing
the bow wave. On another day marine biology class
can be held on the shore with young biologists
searching for exotic shells and sharks teeth. Ask
the captain to pull into the marina at ‘Tween
Waters Inn where students can pet the resident
manatee, Mr. Jimmy Buffett. Be sure to bring along
a few of the many reference books about dolphins,
manatees, fish, birds, shells and more.
History: Students of a
certain age are fascinated by the age of pirates.
In the U.S. there is no better place than
Southwest Florida where Jose Gaspar the famous
pirate did his evil deeds and brought the
treasures home to Joseffa, his wife (or
significant other; we’re not sure). Useppa Island
is named after Joseffa. You can go there and even
lead a field trip to the Useppa Island Historical
Geography and geology: Where
does sand come from? How did barrier islands like
Sanibel and Captiva get formed and when? How are
Writing. When our nieces
cruised with us recently, I assigned them the job
of “roving dock reporters” for our company
newsletter, THE YARDARM. They interviewed
dockmasters, took pictures, and wrote stories
about their experiences. Just between us they
didn’t even know it was really a homework
assignment in disguise. After all, it was spring
vacation. After dinner, your boat-schooled
students are not going to be watching their
favorite TV sitcoms. That’s when you bring out
pens and paper so everybody can write letters to
their friends or make a daily entry into their
Reading. There are countless
reading choices, depending on your young matey’s
age. For younger children A Swim through the
Sea is a charming story and beautifully
illustrated. For young explorers there is
Pirates and Buried Treasure, full of tales of
the pirates who once sailed our local waters; or
bring along the classic Treasure Island. To
bring these tales to life you can stage your own
“treasure hunt” when you dinghy ashore to one of
the hundreds of remote islands on your route.
Teens on board may want to immerse themselves in
another voyage – the voyage described in Mutiny
on the Bounty plus two other stories that make
up the Bounty trilogy. No cruise is complete
without Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
What could be better than reading tales of the sea
while living and cruising board a private yacht?
Art/photography. A cruise
inspires our artistic side. So let those young,
natural talents emerge. Make time during the day
for a photo contest or for sketching. Study the
cloud formations and encourage imaginations to
Arithmetic. Students can help
our captain set a compass course or calculate
Recess. Absolutely, you must
schedule recess and lots of it. At this school,
recess can include swimming, diving and snorkeling
right from the transom of the boat.
I think we’ve got a strong
start on an official summer school program for the
2004 summer semester at Southwest Florida Yachts.
What do you think?