One thing we never even considered when planning our trip, is the fact that we were to take 2 pre-teens on board with us. On certain days it looks like a continuous comedy of errors: unexplained haste to get from one end of the 4 meter-wide cockpit to the other – shoving whoever is in middle out of the way without a thought; almost total loss of short-term memory - parental requests or suggestions insignificant compared to life's larger pursuits; countless spills - needless to say that we have strict rules about allowing drinks near the computer. Our fault entirely if we didn't specify clearly enough actually how close is close ... so we had a few very close calls. Scott and I hover forever between exasperation and amusement.
The size of the our living space is, of course, totally working against them. It demands continuous awareness and attention to their surroundings, and where to find that in those awkward years of adolescence? They are learning, though. We see increasing signs of positive problem solving, co-operation, developing respect for other people's personal space, and capability for real conversations. Of course, developing these traits requires a lot of energy, and we never seem to be able to stock enough hummus and crackers, corn chips and salsa, granny smith apple sauce, apples, watermelon, mangoes, passion fruit, cucumbers, tomatoes, orange juice ... The quantities that disappear on a daily basis are truly astounding!
Another thing that needs concentration and energy is doing school work. Every hour of concentrated work needs to be followed by a “tea and bikkie” or by a “fruit- peeling” break. Maybe that's the reason we have days in which it seems hard to keep them going: we're out of bikkies and fruit! Schooling is going well, though. There are those days when I feel like handcuffing them and sending them to detention, when I take screen-time away for disrespectful behavior or I threaten them with sending them back to school if they continue behaving like they are (which is a meaningless threat in Nikki's case, as she will ask to return to a normal life and go back to school when the going gets tough), but generally I'm enjoying learning with them along the way, and they seem to be enjoying those moments also (most of the time). It's an interesting thing: spending almost every waking minute of the day together as a family. It feels like we are closer than ever and have come to know one and other on a deeper level. We've come to appreciate each other's strengths, and accept each other's weaknesses a little better. Even though the bond between us is the stronger for it, the downside of this current lifestyle of ours is, of course, that we spend every waking minute of the day together as a family. Struggling to find quality time to spend with your kids is not an issue if one has such a large quantity of time to spend together, you would think. But it also means that as parents you are solely responsible for almost every aspect of their overall education, and I must say that I miss having “a village” around to help us with that. Then again, the other side of the coin is that I can give their education a bit more of my personal spin than what would otherwise be presented.
We have just finished our science unit on the weather. “No, not really,” you might be thinking, “she's not really going to talk about the weather now. Has she already run out of interesting things to write about?” Well ... weather really isn't as banal a subject as we often think. It all depends on the world you life in. Because of its complex, interrelated and dynamic nature, it is a fascinating phenomenon to study, albeit at the same time very frustrating. Living in coastal northern California these days, one can pretty much ignore the weather. It can be beautiful or it can be a nuisance when it is stormy, but it doesn't really have much of an impact on one's daily life. Even remembering living in Colorado or growing up in Northern Europe doesn't leave me with a picture of the weather being something that has generally had a major impact on my life: you dress in layers, take the bus instead of bike, take an umbrella ... and you go on with what you have planned. Things are different when sailing, however. The weather plays a major role. We're dependent upon it for comfort, safety, speed, peace of mind ... Once that realization has really taken root, you start looking at it from a different angle, believe me. We learned the hard way. We've thankfully have had a much more pleasant sail down the coast of Australia those last couple of months. I found the comfort zone for sailing to be when the wind blows between 7 and 11 knots. Talking about this with Scott, I was informed that this happens to be the average wind speed around the globe! Makes you stop and think for a moment, doesn't it? So we watch the sky, the movement of the clouds, the time of the day, the wind direction and speed, the barometer, the thermometer, the phases of the moon, the movements of high and low fronts according to the weather forecast ... Fascinating!
But also very complicated at the same time! The science reports slowly took shape through many hours of discussion and rechecking information. Just when we thought we'd grasped something, something else confused it all over again. If nothing else, we will have learned to observe our surroundings in a different way then before. It's like noticing smell differently after having enjoyed “Emperor of Scent”. I've also been reading “Sophie's World” by Jostein Gardner with them. This is a novel about a 12 year old girl, incorporating the history of philosophy. We've had the most pleasant exchanges of opinions during these readings. I'm not nearly as far into the book as I had planned originally. But who cares, really? Knowledge they can pick up anytime in life. What I focus on is creating an understanding of the concept that they are part of a much larger universe than the one that contains their own little self. The David Suzuki book “You are the Earth” is full of scientific facts, activities and ideas to help children understand the relationship between society and the environment, and what they can do to help the Earth. The first scientific exploration to illustrate how all Earth's creatures are joined – in past, present and future – examines one of the gases in the air: Argon. The interesting bit is that argon molecules never change, they stay around forever, with the implication that some of the same argon molecules that we are breathing now, have been breathed by dinosaurs, by slaves who built the Egyptian pyramids, by Joan of Arc, by Napoleon's horse, and some of them will be in the noses of the next generation of children, of fruit flies ... Tristan was thrilled to find out that he has been breathing some of the same molecules as Alexander the Great and Julius Ceasar. Imagine that!
Add to this receipe a bit The Simpsons, American Idol, Legally Blond II, Charlie's Angels II, Bruce Almighty, Scooby-doo ... - while we're in an apartment for a couple of weeks because the boat is up on the dry - and who could ask for a better education!