Lesson Plans Ahoy! is an excellent educational guide for cruising families. Author Nadine Slavinski is a teacher, a parent, and a sailor, and has capitalized on her knowledge in each of those roles in this fine book. She has a master’s degree in education, has taught in international schools for 15 years, and took a year-long sailing sabbatical with her husband and 4-year-old son.

The book opens with “How To’s of Home Schooling on a Boat,” which encompasses information on choosing an approach — a balanced look at the pros and cons of both packaged home-schooling programs and self-designed home schooling. Slavinski’s book is an effective component for either end of the spectrum. She goes on to offer general strategies for home schooling aboard a boat and structuring the curriculum, from creating an overall educational plan for the cruise all the way down to daily lesson plans.

Units include:

  1. Earth & Space Science
  2. Biology: Fish Dissection
  3. Chemistry
  4. Mathematics: Data Management
  5. Mathematics: Measurement
  6. Writing
  7. History: The Voyages of Christopher Columbus
  8. History: The Voyages of Captain Cook
  9. Navigation with Map & Compass
  10. Physical Education: Heart Rate & Exercise

Each of these 10 units of study is directly related to life aboard a cruising boat and all are accompanied by suggestions for enrichment activities, cross-curricular links to other subject areas, and resources, including books and educational web sites. Each unit can be condensed to be covered in just a few lessons or expanded for in-depth study. “The idea is not to strictly follow the text,” the author says, “but rather to use it as a guide for student-driven inquiry.”
Slavinski has provided directions for differentiating the lessons that allow parents to modify the material for the individual child, as well as to easily adapt the lessons to children ranging in age from 4 to 12 years old. It’s amazing!

It is difficult to convey in a short review how applicable the lessons are to life aboard a boat. For example, the section dryly labeled “Mathematics: Data Collection” is actually about graphing water consumption on board, though it can be modified to cover fuel consumption, the nationalities of boats in the anchorage, or most anything on which the family chooses to practice simple to complex graphing. “Earth & Space Science” covers the lunar cycles, eclipses, time zones and the moon and tides. The history units on Captain Cook and Christopher Columbus are divided into subsections that cover a variety of curricular areas taking a sailor’s point of view and emphasizing that history can be seen through different perspectives. Navigation covers map reading, topography, taking fixes, compass exercises, and dead reckoning. Yup, all of this adaptable even for 4- and 5-year-olds.

Appendix A demonstrates how the units can be divided into manageable daily lessons of 45 to 60 minutes each. In order to help parents identify how each of the 10 units related to schoolwork back ashore, Appendix C offers a comprehensive cross-reference for science, math, and writing units with the national or state curricula from four different countries. This covers the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom for grade levels from early childhood through grade seven and helps families to recognize expectations in their land-bound schools.

There’s a whole lot more packed in this 267-page book, and I strongly recommend all “boat schooling” families check out this valuable resource!

Lessons Plans Ahoy! Hands-on Learning for Sailing Children and Home Schooling Sailors by Nadine Slavinksi (Slavinski-Schweitzer Press, 2nd Edition, 2011, 267 pages)