Max’s thoughts on homeschooling

Max loves all the creatures - and they love him

Max loves all the creatures - and they love him

How we handle each subject is different from public school systems, we teach math and logic through programming and well, programming by programming. For English, history, and other languages we sail around on our boat meeting new people and visiting new countries. I’ve picked up a bit of French and Spanish as we sailed around.

In the past year and a half I’ve been programming in Python primarily but as of this time writing (June 6th 2018) I’ve recently picked up C++11 and I am really enjoying it. During this past year and a half I’ve done several Python projects (most of which were all done by myself)

My Python Projects:

  • “Translate App”
    • Created on Jan. 25th 2017 this was my biggest solo project where I created a tkinter application which would translate words from a large variety of languages using a translate library which used google translate, and it could also quiz you on different words using what my dad calls “y-probability scores” which is a form of stochiastic integration.

  • “Pew Pew”
    • Created sometime January in 2018, it was a small kivy application which was meant for a test on how kivy handles image collison where you were a ship that shot down other enemy ships.

  • “Wolves Bats Rocks”
    • This is an on-off project of mine, which was just a small sterotypical text RPG game, these were one of my first projects but I recently picked it up again with new loot systems handling rarity and the items could actually change your statistics

  • “Text Parser”
    • Created March 2018, this is a fast text file parser that would give you most frequent words, number of vowels, number of words, number of special characters and more. It wasn’t terribly complex but more of an excersise to teach myself how to manipulate strings more.

  • “Million On Mars”
    • Saving the best for last, this project is a collaborative effort with our entire family on a Mars based realistic simulator to simulate what happens and what to do when you finally land on Mars. Employed by Leon Dusk using their ZeeSpace rockets you have to purchase your rocket’s inventory using the 10 billion dollars that they have invested into your colony, beware though as colonists will soon start arriving and if you don’t have enough resources for them they you will lose - and they will die!

As I mentioned before, I’ve started programming in C++ as well, although I’ve only worked on a single project on C++ so far (Piling on whatever I learned into it) I’m quite impressed by C++’s level of explicitness (why does main run automatically though?). The only project I’m working on in C++ is another basic text RPGS (I recommend any programmer to start with a text RPG if they’re learning a new language - after they get the basic hang of hello world and inputs)

Kyle’s comments on homeschooling

[insert Kyle’s comments here]

Our approach has evolved over time

Packaged Online Curriculums

We started homeschooling in 2012 (Max 5, Kyle 8), when we went to La Rochelle, France to take delivery of Ad Astra. Kaiwen would take the boys to various cute french bakery/coffee shops around the massive marina and they worked through some online curriculums together.

We did the packaged online curriculums for about two years. They are fine and in our experience it was a great step-up in terms of productivity and happiness for the boys.

Homeschooling groups

Then we became more integrated into the secular homeschooling communtities of Austin. They split their time between a co-op set of classes, a Science Olympiad team and Elite Martial Arts where they did about 20 hours a week of MMA. These experiences were fantastic, with longer-term project-based work, team building and significant personal challenges. They still strong relationships with their friends from these communities and we have hosted over a dozen of them on Ad Astra.

Kyle in red plaid on the science team in Austin

Kyle in red plaid on the science team in Austin

Our dojo helping us sell our house!

Our dojo helping us sell our house!


Going in stages from first following an online package, to developing our own program with the local community gave us a very smooth transition to homeschooling while afloat.

We see four core pillars for educating Kyle and Max: * Life Skills - tablestakes, yet missing from most school-based experiences * Being Good People - multi-culturalism, world citizenship, history, economics * Food on the Table - a variety of practical skills that they can turn into blue collar jobs anywhere * The Professional - the white collar job, if they so wish

Snowcrash after a big day of painting

Snowcrash after a big day of painting

Life Skills

  • cooking! We pride ourselves on the food on Ad Astra
    Kyle cooking Steak and Potatoes

    Kyle cooking Steak and Potatoes

  • provisioning by foot, dinghy, bicycle, bus, and rental car - no postmates deliveries here
  • home economics - living off of savings and the side incomes from charters, diving and tech consulting takes much more planning and skill than our old life where saved an embarassing little from our incomes.
  • talking to strangers - this is a core skill! Including the over-hyped security aspect, homeschool and especially boat kids have the strongest conversational skills for kids that I have seen. At Pycon 2018 Max and Kyle did over 20 presentations of our game in progress Million on Mars to folks representing Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and many more.
  • getting around and getting stuff done - both Kyle and Max can independently source parts in town, or sail Ad Astra across the Caribbean and check her into a new country.
  • dealing with change, stress and expectations - the full-time cruising lifestyle is quite humbling - critical stuff breaks at night and under heavy weather, people often miss their appointed times, parts and food inventories are often not what you expect - Kyle and Max have really extremely low expectations and entitlements in check. I was quietly thrilled how much they commented and appreciated the skylike and architecture of Cleveland Ohio
Kyle and Max demoing to Amazon Web Services

Kyle and Max demoing to Amazon Web Services

Being Good People

Arguably the hardest one, being good people. People that have emapthy, can understand where someone else is coming from, can understand radically different socio-economic levels, cultures, languages.

Kyle and Max looking out of the north window on the lighthouse of Klien Curacao

Kyle and Max looking out of the north window on the lighthouse of Klien Curacao

People that are immersed in the environment of the world who would dive off the boat to get some passing plastic, people who would give passage to a person in need. People that look forward to breaking bread with new and different people. People who will be leaders of their generation.

Kyle loves to climb trees

Kyle loves to climb trees

How to teach this? I do not exactly know, but both Kyle and Max are better people than I am (Erik speaking). The experience of true, slow and deep world travel is working well for us. We discuss current affairs, politics and economics both local and global with all kids of people. The boys are curious and carry on a conversation with anyone on about any topic. They are kind.

The strong martial arts experience back in Austin helped them have a very solid sense of self confidence, the diving gave broadened their knowledge of the world’s vast nature and more confidence in their technical skills.



Practical Skills

The core purpose of education is for a young person to emerge into adulthood and be able to make a living and to contribute to society. Nothing like being crew on a blue-water sailing catamaran to accelerate these skills.

Marine Captain

  • navigation - both boys routinely make and follow our waypoints as we cross the Caribbean Sea
  • sailing - both boths know how to sail a 40,000 pound, 45 foot catamaran - mainsail, genoa, gennakr, reefing, mooring, anchoring
  • guest management - we have had by now well over a hundred guests - from daysails to month long sailing adventures, it is a lot of work to take care of folks who are new to life afloat. Service Industry skills for sure.
  • WTF - getting Ad Astra off a sand bar in a gale, repairing the auto-pilot in the middle of the Caribbean - at night, etc

Gas & Diesel Mechanic

  • Changing oil (finding the correct filters!)
  • Changing belts
  • Replacing brushes in gensets
  • Complete salvage of a 2-stroke engine in salt-water including a carbuerator re-build
Max and Kyle now handle all of our oil changes

Max and Kyle now handle all of our oil changes

Electricians and Electronics!

Kyle ended up selling our old batteries for a few hundred $

Kyle ended up selling our old batteries for a few hundred $

Dive Instructor, Commercial Diver

  • diving - both boys are technical divers and are comfortable making decompression dive plans, night dives, current, boat and shore diving.
Kyle and Erik heading out to the Windjammer on Bonaire

Kyle and Erik heading out to the Windjammer on Bonaire


  • complete rebuilds of clogged and poopy toilets
  • repair & replacement of varioues bilge pumps
  • repair & replacement of water maker pumps and parts

Being Thrifty

  • Rough construction, sewing, general repairs and tinkering - they will not be spending their hard-earned early-years cash for someone else to change their oil, or hang a door. Complementing the core skills of provisioning and cooking, these core self-sufficiency skills will save them literally millions of dollars over their lifetimes.

The Professional

Making the big bucks! Right!? Well. After decompressing on the boat for a couple of years, our perspective is much broader. Yes, of course, we want the boys to have the options and opportunty to make a bunch of cash - if they want. But first and formost, all the stuff above, we feel is more important. Even if your goal is to make stacks of cash, you have to be able to save some of it for there to actually be stacks. All of those life and people skills above lay the correct foundation to enjoy a solid professional career.

Kaiwen has a Master’s degree in Communications and Erik has a BS, MS and dropped out of a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, together we have built several game companies. Both Kaiwen and Erik have plenty of academic and professional experience to draw upon.

Erik has more than 20 years in the game industry starting as a junior programming working in scripting languages to becomming a full-stack C++ programmer and then later the founder and CEO of my game development companies, Kyle and Max really could not find a better mentor to becoming strong software engineers and game developers.

The game industry is one of the most dynamic, challenging and frankly brutal industries. There are almost no regulations, the competition is completely global and there are practically no barries to entry. In my opinion, if you can make and sell a game - you can do any other software development job.

Can we teach them how to be a research biologist? Not really. Can I teach them dentistry? No. Laywer? No. But software engineer (for games)? Yeah, I got this one. Being a game developer is one of the few careers in the modern workplace that still values polymaths - game design, client & server programming, db, security - community and marketing. Sure people specialize within games, but to really get your dreams expressed, you need to be full-stack.

Very neatly, this focus on game development, pulls in so many subjects - math, engineering, science, community, writing, business planning, etc that it really does pretty much handle our core needs as a curriculum. It is also a team-based project, with very long-term goals. All of this fits into our meta-theme of making sure the boys are efficiently preparring for life (and not simple a row in someone else’s budget spreadsheet).

They need to learn to code, learn to debug, learn to use version control (github), learn to create code-tests, produce audio, create digital art and animations, and so. You can follow our progress on Million on Mars, but as an educational framework I am confident that we have developed a strong solution for our family.

Max coding in a pub in Cleveland after a day of sessions at PyCon 2018

Max coding in a pub in Cleveland after a day of sessions at PyCon 2018