Texas Tech University

Having reindeer milk tea with the Tsaatan.

Having reindeer milk tea with the Tsaatan.

TRIBE

TTU K-12 allows a family of five to sail the world, meet the Reindeer People and walk the Great Wall.

by Lucy Worley

October 09, 2017

The Alexander family boat, TRIBE.

The Alexander family travel the world on their boat, TRIBE.

The Alexander family boat, TRIBE.

The Alexander family travel the world on their boat, TRIBE.

Not everyone who enrolls in an American school is chasing the American Dream. The Alexander family traded in their white picket fence for a boat – a South African Catamaran Leopard 47 to be exact.

Their boat, TRIBE, carries the three Alexander brothers and their parents to many different parts of the world each year. Sixteen year-old Nakai is the oldest, followed by 15 year-old Kekoa and 13 year-old Kikko.

The family of five spends half their year traveling at sea and the other half traveling on land.

“TTU K-12 lets us ‘world school' as we like to call it, not home school,” said the boy's mother, Yogi. “Our kids speak fluent English, Mandarin, Spanish and are now working on French. We are able to spend time in other countries and work on those languages while immersing ourselves in their culture.”  

The fast-paced, adventurous lifestyle of the Alexander family demanded an education that could keep up with them.

“If it weren't for being able to do online school, we wouldn't be able to do what we do. This really allows us to learn more about life, languages, people, culture, history – just everything. We recently were reading about the Great Wall for school, while we were literally walking the Great Wall of China.”

The Alexander family just wrapped up their season of land travel as they do every year during hurricane season. After docking TRIBE off the coast of Mexico, they traveled to Mongolia, China, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, France and are currently in Texas visiting family before they head back to sea.

Reindeer

With Tsaatan reindeer.

Reindeer

With Tsaatan reindeer.

During their time in Mongolia, the boys backpacked into a remote area to find the nomadic Western Tribe of the Tsaatan, otherwise known as the Reindeer People. They used navigation skills they have picked up from sailing along with a 1940's Russian military map.

From there they spent a few weeks in China, practicing their Mandarin and spending time with friends.

“In all our travels, we have discovered that learning is a sort of web. From standing in the places where these events happened in history, to the discussions that produces, to the assignments and all of the connections you make from there. These lessons tie into other subjects and those connections just keep going on and on.”

From China, the family headed west towards Europe.

“When we were in Rome, we were able to visit the Coliseum and the boys were discussing the topics they had learned about ancient Roman history while standing in the midst of where that actually took place,” Yogi said.

As much as the boys have enjoyed their travels over the past few months, they are all undoubtedly excited to return to TRIBE. Some of the family's favorite memories are from the boat and their time at sea.

“We were in Suwarrow once, which is an island in the South Pacific with a population of like, two people,” Yogi said. “There was a gentleman on the island who was telling us that he had seen us diving with the manta rays off the shore earlier and he said he wanted to show us something. So we walked with him to the shore and he starts yelling out a name. All of the sudden, a huge fin pops out of the water – it was a shark! Then he calls another name, and another shark swims up. And these sharks are just swimming around waiting for him to throw food in the water. I never had known you could train a shark!”

The boys agree that their favorite memories are also along these islands and on the boat.

“We have actually seen a lot of sharks in different places we've been,” said Kikko, the youngest of the three boys. “People display sharks as such cruel and mean creatures in movies, but some species of sharks are not like that.”

The oldest brother, Nakai, is also enthusiastic about sea creatures that they encounter, but even more than that, just being on the open sea.

“My favorite place to be is to be far out in the middle of the ocean where you can not see any land. In the future I'd like to be an astronaut, so anything with vast, open space really excites me,” said Nakai.

Kekoa, on the other hand, has enjoyed their adventures away from the boat, especially places such as New Zealand and Italy.

“I loved being in New Zealand most of all because of the surf they have out there and really mild weather, unlike Texas,” he said with a laugh.

It is no doubt that the Alexander family is unique not only in their schooling preferences, but in the entire way they approach life. This is just the beginning of the stories they have to tell, so make sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter to catch the next installment of their story!

Alexander family teaching English and learning Mongolian with the Tsaatan in Mongolia.

The Alexander family teaching English and learning Mongolian with the Tsaatan.

TRIBE: Part Two