Set Sail

I fell into homeschooling quite accidentally three years ago after trying to change the system of education from the inside as a public school educator. The school system never served me well as a gifted child and yet, I grabbed the wheel as the captain of my own classroom vowing to make my little voyage different. In many ways I succeeded and in many other ways I would forever be tethered to the shore. Then, it happened. My safe little harbor shook and I plunged into the stormy seas of homeschooling.

Once the storm passed and I realize I was in for a long voyage, I chartered a new course. One where I gradually turned over the sailing of the ship to my first mate. My first mate has become his own captain of sorts. Yet, as I stand on the shore, I’m faced with watching my son steer right into rough waters.

My son has returned to public school.



It was a decision made over the course of several months. One that I thought, for sure, that he’d change. He made the decision on his own, as he should. Along the way, we both learned many ways to avert our course, but we also often sailed straight for dangerous waters in an effort to really learn more about the vast ocean waters. Let me take you through a bit of our homeschool voyage.

We initially set sail after nearly drowning part way through third grade. While it sounds as though my son was flailing in deep water, it was actually very shallow-too shallow. My son was swimming with the fish, while he was made for deep waters. He left school with As. As that broke my heart.

When a child isn’t working for those As and they come easily, that’s a sign that it’s time to move on, to find waters to test your sea legs. To search for challenges. In many ways we found those in homeschooling.

Homeschooling sounds as though you’re tied to port and in some ways you are, but in others ways you’re just learning to set sail. Along the way, we learned how to navigate some rough waters. I hope these Rules of Navigating Homeschool are helpful to you on your journey.



Rules of Navigating Homeschool:


~Learning the ropes happens daily.

Though we often had a plan, we had to be able to deviate daily or weekly to find our own way. That meant a Minecraft coding course, logic puzzles, and investigations into astronomy. Sometimes you have to loosen the ropes and chart a new course.


~Not to have control over the senses is like sailing in a rudderless ship, bound to break to pieces on coming in contact with the very first rock.~Mahatma Ghandi

We often took time just to talk about what we thought and felt. We learned how to handle frustration, feel pride, and manage our expectations for the learning style we created together at home and hopefully prepare my son for his future endeavors. Times like these were never a waste of time. Days like this are the real preparation for the future.


~If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea…”
  ~ Antoine de Saint Exupery

As a teacher in the classroom, I believed in as much autonomy for the students as I could allow. I did the same at home, often. I let my son mess up, be lazy, catch up, and take back the responsibility in his own way. When he learned, he owned the learning. When homeschooling is dragging you down, loosen up the orders and let the first mate take the wheel for awhile.



~At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.  ~Robin Lee Graham
This one surprised me a lot. There was a lot less STUFF homeschooling than in school. The money that people think they need for school is just crazy. Most of what you need is really free. The bureaucrazy is gone, the time schedule fades, and some days, reading all day is just what you need. Other days, we’d accomplish so much by 10am that it was effortless.


~The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.~William Arthur Ward
Often, our ideas of learning hold us back. Dump the daily grammar practice if it’s not working, why 20 questions in math? If you’ve tried to put your child and yourself in a box, on a time schedule, in a structure that’s not engaging, it may be time to wander a bit more.


~Life’s roughest storms prove the strength of our anchors.~Unknown
Though I painted much of our journey as sailing through calm waters, it wasn’t always so smooth. We hit plenty of stormy days with our conflicting attitudes and ideas. Some days my son needed more of a push to prove that though I would always be an anchor, he could weather the storms alone too. Don’t think that your gifted child can’t tackle that upper level work. We’ve watched tons of adult level documentaries or listened to adult level audios. If your child is engaged and on course, sometimes a push can make a hero out of mere sailor.



So, as my son’s journey has taken him to foreign waters for now, and as I stand on the shore, I worry as any mom would do, but I also thank God for the opportunity to get to know my son a little bit better. I also hope that what I can continue to be is the anchor he needs when he returns to port for a visit or continue his voyage with homeschooling again someday. Either way, I know he’s ready for any waters that lie ahead.


A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
~John A. Shedd


A sincere thanks to Coastal Boating for your inspirational collection of sea-inspired quotes!



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9 thoughts on “Set Sail

  1. Wonderful metaphor and post! Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am looking forward to reading about the next chapter of your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The quotes you’ve chosen here are beautiful, as are your reflections on them. We’re discerning putting our middle child in school. Your perspective and experience is valuable – thank you.


  3. I love this – homeschooling (and you, the parents) helped equip your son to deal with anything he encounters. He may excel in public school, or he may return to homeschooling, but either way you both know that it’s his choice. Teaching your kid to advocate for themselves is such a hard lesson, and sounds like you’ve done a great job! I hope your son’s journey goes well, without any major storms.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My ds11 tried public (state) school this year in Sept too. It was his choice. He wanted to try out what state school was like here in the UK (where we relocated last year from the US). My son didn’t last long at the local state school and I knew he wouldn’t based on what happened when he was in school in the US. It was hard to watch the emotional fallout from it. However, I don’t regret sending him and neither should you. Both your son and my son have to figure out who they are. Part of figuring out who you are is working out who you are not. So they both learned something from the process and that’s what you accentuate. Also, they cannot change how school’s curriculum, level and delivery of instruction, pacing, and many other factors. With school, there’s a lot outside their control and that’s something you just can’t entirely learn until you experience it yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a lovely metaphor to frame your wisdom. Your post reminds me of a conversation I had with my daughter this morning. She’s been weird during maths lately and today I felt resilient enough to dig in and find out what’s up. It turns out she thinks there’s something wrong with her because she finds what we’re doing so difficult. When we talked it through, we realised that the ‘problem’ is that she’s just not used to finding stuff hard! Once she realised it’s not her, it’s that the material really IS of a very challenging nature, all was well. 🙂

    I love all the quotes, especially the Antoine de Saint Exupery one.

    Hope all’s going smoothly in those foreign waters.

    Liked by 1 person

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