Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ways we Worldschool

Worldschool -   Education typically defined by schooling on the "go", while using the world as                               a classroom with or without textbook instruction.

Most nomadic families fall into the category of worldschoolers.  For the past few years while sailing around Mexico and the South Pacific we have been keen to take advantage of our surroundings and the educational experiences they offer.  

Here are some of our favorite ways to worldschool.


Local food helps define a country's culture. From pointing to illegible words on a menu and gambling with dinner, to attending a Tongan pig roasts to seeking out true "hole in the wall" type restaurants, we love to eat local. Eating local food can easily be turned into a time for learning.

 Why do countries eat different foods?  How does geography influence what is available to eat? How are local dishes influenced by immigrants? The Indian population has had great influence on dishes in Fiji. Often the discussion of how local dishes came to be a staple within a culture transforms into a history lesson. And you thought eating tacos wasn't going to be educational

Celebrations and Festivals
Another substantial component to a country's culture, is their unique celebrations and festivals. If you're fortunate enough to be in Mexico, there's typically a celebration every day that ends in Y.

 Almost every country celebrates their own independence day (unless it's a country that has never been under anyone else's rule..history lesson right here!) which provides great learning opportunities surrounding politics, history, and people. Rather than show up only to spectate, use these opportunities to understand their significance.
Int. Film Festival in San Miguel de Allende


We have found volunteering at local animal shelters to be one of the most rewarding learning experiences yet. Our eldest daughter has wanted to become a veterinarian since two years old. In Mexico we volunteered a few times a week at the S.P.A. in San Miguel de Allende (which was a great place to meet expats). Our daughter Jessica was able fund raise for the S.P.A. and donate much needed money. The learning experience most valuable was when Jessica realized that one person, even at only 12 years old can create a difference for others. Currently in Fiji, our daughters are once again volunteering for the local animal shelter and receiving hands on educational experience. 

Learning before the museum

Museums area a great way to expose yourself to local culture, history and customs, especially if you know the significance of what you are looking at.  We have our girls study and then produce age appropriate reports before heading off to a museum or historical site. When they were younger, "studying" was achieved by reading DK Eyewitness Books (highly recommended). In Mexico our girls used the Aztec, Inca and Maya book to study and were then able to understand the significance of the pyramids we climbed, creating an impactful experience.
Aztec Chacmool in Mexico City

At the anthropology museum in Mexico City, Emma quickly gravitated towards the Chacmool ready to explain that it had been used to hold sacrificed human hearts. (Had you not known what a Chacmool had been used for, you would think he's a dude doing yoga resting a bowl on his belly). Now that our girls are older, they research local history, culture and customs online and create digital presentations before visiting local museums. Educational opportunities go lost if  the museum is unable to provide adequate information in one's native language, another reason to study before you go.

Hire Local Talent

We are currently staying on our boat during cyclone season in Fiji, which has allowed us to seek out local talent. Starting with a nearby resort, that sometimes offers art classes, I was able to get in touch with a local artist to teach our girls art. If you plan to be somewhere for an extended period of time, check with local resorts as they can be a resource for finding local talent.

Local library

The local library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico offered many amazing educational opportunities. Three days a week Phil and I attended free conversational Spanish lessons. While we spoke Spanish for a few hours, the girls sat in the library completing homeschool assignments.  After lunch in town, it was back to the library for free painting lessons for the girls.

 The best part of art class, was the girls painted San Miguel de Allende scene's, creating some of the best souvenirs. The library in S.M.A. was a special gem, also a great place to meet expats, who thankfully had kids for our girls to play with.

Homestays and living local

Our trip to Guatemala was made complete by staying with a host family in a homestay which we found off of Airbnb. For $60 a night we were able to stay with a welcoming family, who fed us two delicious meals a day and helped us practice our Spanish skills. We stayed with half a dozen other people from around the world who had all come for Antigua's well known language schools. Our girls are still dreaming about Violeta's homemade dishes. 

If you are looking to absorb true culture, live local. Skip the neighborhoods packed full of expats and look to rent a place that will confuse the taxi driver when telling him to take you "home" only to give directions to the least "gringo" part of town (something that happened to us several times in SMA). 

Worldschooling doesn't have to be complicated. If you use you current environment and a little creativity you can create engaging educational experiences. 

One of our classrooms aboard SV Terrapin

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Cost to Cruise as a family of four in Fiji

Our cost to cruise the South Pacific has been lower than expected. We had repeatedly heard how expensive it is to cruise this area of the world. I think most people remember cruising the South Pacific and refer to it as expensive because they recall sailing to French Polynesia which is undoubtedly expensive. Maybe they forget that countries (Samoa, Tonga, Fiji) in the middle are more reasonable and then it gets expensive again once they have landed in either New Zealand or Australia for cyclone season. We purposely chose to stay in Fiji because we had always heard it referred to as "Australia's Mexico" implying, among other things, that's it's inexpensive to live here. 

Many people have been interested in our health insurance policy. We purchased our plan through Patriot at a cost of $108 USD per month to cover the 4 of us. Each of us carries a $2500 deductible. In the two years we sailed Mexico we self insured, as health care is affordable (noble concept). You read more by clicking here about living in Mexico without having health insurance.  Honestly speaking, the only reason we purchased our plan was because French Polynesia requires health insurance upon arrival. You can read more by clicking here about what else French Polynesia requires upon entry.  We decided to keep our plan and will be renewing it, because it offers piece of mind at an affordable cost. 

Fun Facts: We get 140 GB (you read that correctly) of data for $25 per month. What are you paying for your internet? We pay $3.50 a month for cell minutes to use on our local phone. Expect random cost categories to show up like, Cat fostering if sailing with teenage girls. The cat did find it's furever home! 

Looking for more months of Cost to Cruise? Click here!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Sights of Suva, Fiji

After the successful delivery of a catamaran to Port Denarau, we caught a bus for the 4 hour ride across the big island to Suva. Suva is Fiji's "big city," boasting universities, shopping malls, a movie theater, restaurants, craft markets, museums, etc. We treated ourselves to a modest hotel room and explored, shopped, ate and then ate some more. The variety of delicious food in Suva is plentiful. Indian food - check. Chinese, Dim Sum, - you bet. Local Fijian meals - indeed.

The girls and I  were extremely excited at all the hair salons to choose from. Finally, a haircut not performed off the stern of Terrapin with a less than adequate pair of scissors. We spent $26 including tip, for all three haircuts. 

A haircut by someone other than mom, off the back of the boat? Yes please!

Passionate about our girls education, we use the excuse of exploring new places as reason to learn about local history, culture and customs. Our trip to Suva was reminiscent of the time we toured the pyramids in Mexico, where the girls demonstrated their knowledge of Mexican history by acting as our tour guides. In Suva they each presented their Fiji history slideshows before heading off to the local museum.

Jessica presenting her Fiji history slideshow.

I adore that my teenage daughters still hold hands while walking together.

China Cat Sunflower enjoying their last Fiji sunset.

Before submitting to the ways of missionaries, native Fijians were cannibals. Crafts shops are full of brain pickers, clubs, cannibal forks, and skull crushers. Apparently Fijians were much more intimidating back in the day, as police now don't so much as carry guns.  

We loved Suva and thought it was the perfect combination of  "big city" mixed with quiet beautiful neighborhoods. If you ever find yourself in Suva wondering 'where's the pretty part,' head up the hill by taxi to where most of the embassies and consulates are. Another beautiful spot is the University of South Pacific campus (close to a large Cost U Less for Costco like provisioning).

Looking at tadpoles on the University of South Pacific campus.