Cruising Kids

I’ve been reading a book about raising kids in a cruising environment (ie. living aboard a boat and sailing around the world), and it makes the claim that kids raised in this environment tend to be extremely responsible and well-adjusted, as well as having a very high standard of education, probably in part because of the level of responsibility and focus required — “need” definitely facilitates development — and likely the happiness and freedom and sense of amazement that the lifestyle brings. I think that farm life quite often has a similar effect due to the dual forces of responsibility and a life of wonder and joy, although I think that in farm life parents have to be more dedicated because there’s more opportunity to stray!

Sort of rambling here, but on one hand the city life is really nice because it has many wonderful programs and opportunities that a concentrated population of people generate, but I think the sort of creative play that really brings personal growth happens by transforming simplicity into magic… Nefarious would far rather go to the grocery store and find boxes to drag home to build houses with than go to the toy store for something that has glittery desire-appeal but zero play potential — and I don’t think there’s anything unusual about that. It’s totally fun — pick through the boxes for the perfect ones, build a structure, recycle some of the boxes, go to the store for upgrades… There are of course a million variations and an infinite number of ways to play. Companies spend billions of dollars trying to convince parents that they’re letting their kids down if they don’t spend a mountain of money on junk, but the reality is that loving time and the freedom to play is the extent of what’s needed, and that’s pretty much zero cost. Unfortunately the alternative — canned and shallow entertainment — leaves kids with no vision, kids that are actually able to be “bored” in this amazing world.


  1. ak girl wrote:

    ari is such a lucky girl to have such an awesome dad!

    Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  2. Maika wrote:

    I remember having all sorts of fun making forts out of boxes when I was a child – lots of cutting and decorating and camping out inside. I work in a shop that’s not so much a toy store as it is a place full of lots of bins of odds and ends and creatures and science surplus goods, etc. and it’s very interesting to watch those people [kids and adults alike] who can entertain themselves exploring and scheming about what to do with all this stuff, and those people whose eyes just seem to glaze over because they aren’t being hand fed instant, homogenized “entertainment.” I’m glad your daughter clearly seems to be part of the former.

    Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
  3. Not to mention that they might end up with dirty feet….

    Monday, September 22, 2008 at 4:13 am | Permalink
  4. Elizabeth wrote:

    The modern parent in our culture isnt deserving of the name. No time spent with their children but so long as they have spotless nails and designer clothes, all is well. Nevermind that a child raised on the doctrine of “looks are all that counts” usually grows up to be vapid at best, calculating at worst. Hurrah to the parent who goes against what is accepted as parenting in this modern day. Play and education should never be separated since humans have a natural desire to learn, only discouraged by rote memorization and lack of creative playtime with their overfilled but impressive sounding lives. Show me the kid happily playing with a toad and I see a whole and happy individual. Show me the child that eschews play in favor of keeping neat their appearance and I’ll show you the beginnings of a fine case study and almost sure fire future perpetual client. These types once grown can be found at the attorney, MD, and therapists but will change often, bored, maladjusted and mistrustful as is their inherent nature. A sad lot, these smiling clock faces, wound too tight. A happy and bright future is certain for the child of freedom. Taking the time, that is love.

    Monday, September 22, 2008 at 5:49 am | Permalink
  5. LotN wrote:

    Oh yeah, I still remember that one of my favorite “toys” as a child was a refrigerator box which I spent countless hours converting into a spaceship…

    Monday, September 22, 2008 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  6. wlfdrgn wrote:

    I think that farm-raised kids have exactly the opposite experience of the sailing-around-the-world-raised kids.

    Farm-raised kids, assuming it’s a stereotypical, small, family farm, have plenty of responsibilities from an early age. What they lack, however, is much variety of experiences, at least relatively speaking. Sure, you have to feed the cows AND the chickens, but you’re still exposed to a very limited variety of social and cultural experiences.

    Compare that to the ship-raised kid. Assuming the parents are making the most of the trip, spending in time with every culture they encounter, making sure the kid has some immersion in those cultures, contact with local kids, etc, I think that beats milking a cow anyday.

    Monday, September 22, 2008 at 3:02 pm | Permalink
  7. Shannon wrote:

    There’s actually a ton of responsibility on a boat.

    Monday, September 22, 2008 at 4:32 pm | Permalink
  8. wlfdrgn wrote:

    I agree that there certainly can be as much responsibility on a boat (please don’t bring the cows. They get sea sick). The advantage of the boat is that there’s a new set of cultural encounters ever week or two. Hard to get that on a farm.

    Monday, September 22, 2008 at 7:29 pm | Permalink
  9. Carmen wrote:

    I wonder though..a kid on a boat..would the kid feel like he didn’t have a “home” to speak of? Would he feel like he had roots? I’m not sure how important that is to a child…but it seems like it would be. Also, would their be problems because of not being able to maintain long term relationships with children their own age?

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  10. Shannon wrote:

    I disagree with you on the “feels like home” point, but I do agree that the relationship issue is something one has to do a very careful cost-benefit consideration on.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  11. Carmen wrote:

    I’m sorry I didn’t mean that a boat couldn’t feel like home…what I meant was the child having a tie to a geographical location. But maybe the boat would be that for them, even though it goes from place to place.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 5:21 pm | Permalink
  12. Shannon wrote:

    I think so, yes…

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  13. Rob wrote:

    I just stumbled upon this in Technorati.

    I’ll be 51 this month. I grew up in a midwest family farm setting. I moved to New England, and had a “gentleman’s” farm with horses, where my children still live.

    We currently live on a sailboat, with a now 11 year old boy. We have been living full-time on our sailboat, Bella Rose, for over 3 years.

    So I think I have a pretty good understanding of both lifestyles. I will admit we are NOT world cruisers constantly on the move.

    In my opinion, what kids need growing up is love. Of course kids spell love, T-I-M-E. We get up and have breakfast together. In the evening we have dinner together. Quality time AND quantity time. Whether on a farm, or a boat, or an apartment in the city (I was born in Chicago), kids want to be a contributing member of a loving family.

    Check us out –

    Thursday, October 9, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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