Sailing 101: Discovering a New Passion

We recently took part in a week-long sailing class offered by a local yacht club. Their mission is to introduce as many people – particularly youth – as possible to this great sport. They also want to make sure they’re learning in a safe, fun, high-quality environment ~ and it certainly was!

Our lead instructor, Carl, gave all the credit for the course to his brother, whose remarkable story is a testament to the human spirit and an inspiration to all of us. Once an accomplished downhill skier, a severe accident left him a quadriplegic. Not deterred by the forbidding prognosis by his physicians, he persevered and discovered the sport of sailing. Wanting to share his new found love of sailing with others, he convinced his brother to be his legs and to teach sailing each summer to area youth.


Just glancing over the course objectives on the first day, I knew this was going to be an amazing class.

  • Learn the nomenclature of sailing (mast, main sail, main sheet, boom, hull, bow, stern, rudder, tiller, centerboard, cockpit, halyards, etc.)
  • Learn how to sail and demonstrate the points of sail (no-go-zone, close hulled, beam reach, broad reach, and running downhill
  • Learn how to tie sailing knots (bowline, etc.)
  • Learn to set-up a Sunfish, launch it, sail it, break it down, & trailer it
  • Learn how to “right” the sunfish (each kid must capsize the Sunfish and then flip it back over)
  • Learn how to be benevolent
  • Learn not be be imbroglio
  • Paint an Impressionist painting similar to Regatta at Argenteuil by Claude Monet

As the school year was underway, we were fortunate to have a small class – just 5 students all together (two of whom were young adults). Being attentive listeners, they were able to cover a lot of material quickly and to everyone’s surprise – even the lead instructor – they were sailing on their own on the first day! It was such a delight to watch their enthusiasm.

On the second day, they learned what to do in the case of a capsize. This was an incredible thing to watch. My kids weigh less then 70 pounds each so the instructor wasn’t sure they would be able to do it alone (the hull weight of the Sunfish is 120 lbs). They thereby went out together the first time and then tried it again alone.

Swallows & Amazons

We also discovered a delightful series of books as a result of this class (recommended to me by the other mom, who also homeschools coincidentally), Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. There are several books in the series and each one is sure to delight. Swallows and Amazons are two groups of siblings; one group has a boat called Swallow and the other group has a boat called Amazon. The Swallows and Amazons start out enemies, but become friends rapidly.

“Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won’t drown.”

Their adventures captivated our imaginations – particularly my son who begged me to keep reading when I set the book down. What young child doesn’t dream of sailing his own boat and having adventures on and around an island! Their adventures are not limited to the island, though, they even visit “the natives” back home. What’s best about their adventures is that all of them are possible!

sailingMy kiddos and I have loved this book from the start and are excited to read the next editions. In fact, before I finished reading aloud the Swallows & Amazons, they begged to listen to the audio for the second book, Swallowdale, in the car. Shortly thereafter, my son began listening to the third, Peter Duck, in his room as he builds with Legos each evening. I hope to add them to our library as they are sure to become treasures to pass on to later generations.

Interested in sailing yourself? Follow my Pinterest board, “I’d Rather Be Sailing” for lesson plans and educational resources.

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Integrating living books into your curriculum is easy! Discover more ideas at the iHomeschool Network’s A Book & a Big Idea Autumn edition.


Air Pressure and Wind Activities

Last week, we read a few introductory selections about weather and narrowed our focus to wind as it happened to correspond to our poetry selection, Robert Frost’s Now Close the Windows.  We then spent a few hours (over the course of a couple days) engaging in a few inquiry lessons to learn more about wind.  Read on to learn more about air pressure and wind activities in which we took part.

I began by asking, “Does air have weight?” They both said yes.

I then asked, “What is wind?” Sweetie replied, “Wind is oxygen and other chemicals. A little bit of dust and stuff, too.”

“Does dust have weight?” I asked. “A tiny bit,” she replied. “How about oxygen and other chemicals?” I inquired further. She said, “No.”

“Okay then, if dust has a tiny bit of weight. Does air have weight?” This time she responded, “Yeah. A little bit.”

We then set up a little experiment with a balance scale made of 2 meter sticks, some string, and 2 balloons. I blew up each of the balloons and they assured me that they were the same size and had the same amount of air inside (more or less). We then tied them to the strings on opposing ends of the stick so they would balance.

As the kids sketched the set-up, I asked them to predict or make an hypothesis about what would happen if I were to poke a hole in one balloon. They both stated that the air would go out but neither inferred that this would cause the balance scale to tip.

We proceeded and they were delighted to see that though the action was slow (it was a small hole), the orange balloon gradually got smaller and the blue balloon got closer to the ground (gravitational pull). I then asked that they record their observations in words or pictures. [Sweetie’s observation and sketch of the results is shown below with the orange balloon.]

Thereafter, I blew up another balloon but did not tie it closed. We then hypothesized what would happen when we let go of the balloon. Of course, they had had some prior experience with this so they both said, “It will sound like a fart and fly all around!” [I chuckled at that…]

I released the balloon and I then asked them to explain what had happened. “What caused the balloon to zip around like that?” Buddy said, “They air went out!” I then explained, “As we blew up the balloons, we forced air into a small space. There wasn’t a lot of room inside the balloon so the air made the wall of the balloon stretch and get bigger. This created a lot of pressure inside the balloon. The pressure in the balloon was high. The pressure outside the balloon was low. When we let go, the high-pressure air inside escaped into the low-pressure air outside, resulting in a rush of air. Winds behave in the same way: air moves from areas of high pressure to areas of lower pressure. The larger the difference in air pressure from one area to another, the stronger the winds.” We then sketched this in our notebook as well. [Buddy’s sketch of part 2 is visible above.]

We also discussed fronts and air masses. We did a little experiment to answer the question, “What is heavier, hot air or cold air?” using a small jar of warm water (“Hong!” – the kids proclaimed in Korean) and an identical jar of cold water (“Chung!”). We covered the blue jar with an index card and carefully turned it over and placed it atop the red jar (mouth to mouth). While one child held onto the bottom jar, I removed the card. We observed the colder, heavier blue water sinking down into the warmer, lighter red water. We repeated the experiment another time, reversing the position of the jars. This time, the warmer red water stayed on top, though there was a little mixing of the two in the middle.

We discussed that in the same way as the jars of water, a cold air mass will push under a warm air mass to create a cold front. A warm air mass will climb over a colder air mass to form a warm front. Sweetie then completed a couple of worksheets on air currents and fronts. She also learned the difference between a sea breeze and a land breeze and of the cause, the Coriolis effect.

In addition, we also began to compile data on a chart to document our local weather. We continue to do so for 4 weeks and thereafter create graphs with the data that we collect. Click here if you’d like a copy of the chart we are using.