Welcome to our mid-life crisis! These are the chronicles of Laura and Patrick, their young son Jack, and their goofball Labrador Retriever named Evinrude (Rudy), as they travelled the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico in their catamaran. We went cruising in search of a change of pace, a closer knit family, and peace of mind. We found all three and more. The fun all started in October, 2008 and nearly four years later the Mexican adventure came to an end August 3rd, 2012. With our mid-life crisis cured in Mexico, we are excited to start a new adventure - life back in America.

Patrick has since joined the Sales Team of Marine Servicenter as a boat broker. Whether you are looking to make your dream of sailing away come true, or ready to sell your boat he can help. He can be reached at http://marinesc.com/about/crew/patrick-harrigan

Candeleros Chico

Candeleros Chico
Just another beautiful day at anchor on the Baja. 2010

Dolphins at play in the bow wake 2011

Dolphins at play in the bow wake  2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Contract

As I mentioned earlier, Jack has been resistent to learning/school since the beginning, stemming from his feelings of failure caused by his dyslexia. By the time he was in 4th grade, I knew school was not the place for Jack to learn and grow. However, by then he had spent years in a setting that had destroyed his self-confidence, and made him feel like a complete failure. To protect himself, he had stopped trying to learn and was picking up a "class clown" attitude. I knew that our biggest hurdle was going to be getting Jack to believe in himself again.

Man, has that been a big hurdle. For kids who have been victimized by a school setting, they need to decompress for months before they can even start trying to learn. The standard wisdom in homeschooling support groups is that decompression takes about one month for every year spent in school. For Jack that would mean 7 months of decompression. So he stopped school in June of 2008 and we began homeschooling in earnest in January 2009.

Since January 2009 we have struggled through homeschooling's ups and downs. Jack's attitude to learning was slowly getting better if we kept up a constant day to day effort, but anytime we had to take a break, his resistance was immediately up again. We continued on in this manner until about July 2010. Things were slowly getting better - he was doing well reading, he stopped saying negative things about himself, and he actually enjoyed taking the Standardized Test (that was a miracle!).

Then all systems broke down. You see, it all kicked off when we had back-to-back visitors on JaM which took out the entire month of May, then we tried to get back into schooling in June. And then in July, Jack and I went home for two weeks. When we returned after that trip, homeschooling had plunged down into the worst situation yet. I think it mostly had to do with Jack's burgeoning hormones as he was nearing 13. Suddenly he had the worst attitude ever. He was disrespectful, angry, moody, and uncooperative. It is impossible to teach someone anything when they have that attitude. I think he honestly thought that if he made it horrible enough, I would just stop trying and he wouldn't have to have any schooling!

We kept struggling on, but I was getting angrier and angrier at the way he was treating me and the things he would say to me. Who needs it? It was destroying our mother/child relationship. Finally I had enough. I told Patrick I was done cruising since we needed to get Jack into a school again since he was telling me that I was a bad teacher and he couldn't learn anything from me. It was September and I wanted to get Jack into a school at the beginning of the year. I wanted the boat driven immediately to Loreto so we could be on the next plane out. It took a few minutes for Patrick to realize I was serious and we began having the heart to heart talk about how we would make it happen. It took Jack about twenty minutes to realize that we were serious.

And then miracles began happening. Over the next 24 hours we three had many heart to heart talks. And so "The Contract" came into existence. It is a document that hangs on our wall signed by Jack and myself which says "I will: Try, Be Cooperative, and Be Respectful." That's it. It doesn't say anything about What he Learns, it's about How we Act. And I mean "we" since I was getting a bad attitude toward him in response to his attitude toward me. Then every day of the year, Jack either gets a star on the calendar for meeting that goal or he gets an "X". If he gets three "X's" in one month, then we are on the next plane home and he is back in school. If he makes it through the month without any "X's" then he gets to take three days off in the following month. The contract still lets Jack have a bad day, even two of them every month - but if he has three of them, we are on the next plane home. The contract started in September, 2010.

Since then, homeschooling has been a dream. It is always pleasant, is usually fun, and is filled with great discussions about history and science questions. I absolutely love being his teacher now and he is learning so much. In the last four months, he has become a self-learner. I can set out a list that has his subjects on it and the expectations for that day and he can complete the assignments on his own (you know- Do page 45 and 46 in Math, Read pages 384 through 392 in science and answer these questions, etc.) It is a miracle. Always before this, homeschooling meant I was sitting next to him the whole time keeping him on task.

Jack has competely changed his attitude towards us, also. Now that he realizes that his actions can stop our trip, he has taken on a whole new ownership of our adventure and is extremely helpful with boat chores and other things. The Contract has changed our day to day life. Sometimes you have to reach rock bottom before you can find the steps to make things better.


  1. What a success story! So happy that JaM will continue cruising - we love running into you!

  2. We've never met, but I'm very happy for you. What a nice story and heartening outcome. Jack's a fortunate young man. Best wishes and maybe we'll run into you in the future. Michael of s/v Del Viento.

  3. Thanks very much, both of you. The people you meet cruising are the best part of the trip. Looking forward to spending time with both you in the future.

  4. Good on Jack! With great parents and your teaching, he's really growing up into wonderful adult.

  5. Thank you so much for writing about your boatschooling experiences on JaM! Every homeschooling family has a unique path, but we can learn SO MUCH from sharing them with each other.

  6. Thanks Pete and Behan,
    It was hard to share such a personal struggle with everyone. But I am happy to speak the truth. I think homeschooling can be such an amazing gift to kids and parents, yet it is a very hard thing to share with others, since I think we all struggle with the idea of "are we doing enough". It is much easier to send your kids to school and then blame their teachers if they don't do well. Who can we blame when we are the teachers and they still screw up???!!! Oh well. It was easy for me since it was obvious that Jack was not going to do well in school. You want to think, "How much worse can I do?" But in answer to that, I see that I did far better. I see how much Jack has grown in confidence, in love of self, and acceptance of the world. I think homeschooling is a wonderful thing for parents and kids. I am very happy we took the leap.