How I Got a ‘B’ in Homeschooling


To be completely honest I gave myself the B.  That said, we don’t actually use grades here.

Thorin and I started our 3rd year of homeschooling/unschooling* on September 3rd. Of course we learn all year long but given classes outside of the home and my schedule we do follow a more structured schedule between September and May.

I have learned eight essentials for me to be an averagely successful unschooler:

  1. Start with scat. This year the first topic we covered was poo. The first day we went to an animal park that conveniently provided scat in their artifact cases. I took several photos. I also found several informational sheets online with color photos or drawings of different animal scat. Please do not make the same mistake I initially did and just search: ‘scat.’ Let’s just say it’s more than you ever thought was possible. By starting with two of Thorin’s passions– animals and scatological humor we learned a lot about poo, like pheasant scat looks like soft serve ice cream.  I don’t like speaking in generalities but I think this might be more of a male topic.


    Thorin’s delight at deer scat

  2. Ignore nudity. Assume nudity is an attention ploy. Rather than making a big deal about it see it as performance art. It is a brave, bold and provocative stance that is saying something. Try to celebrate that and move on.
  3. Stop thinking in terms of compliance. See #3. There will be a day when all of your thoughtfully made plans are rejected. Don’t take it personally. Don’t push it. If you do both of those things then it will happen again. It will become a game of ‘How to Make Mom Mad or Sad or Want to Run Away From Home.’ If all that happens that day is your kid reads in their room sitting in pj’s realize that day is a win. And if you are very quiet you can watch something with Benedict Cumberbatch in it.
  4. Be an active learner. In learning about vertebrates this fall, I learned about vertebrates! I had forgotten everything from whenever I first learned it. And when your child calls you: “an old mammal” rejoice! I also got a refresher in nouns and proper nouns which can only help me as a writer. And don’t get me started on the history of Halloween. In brief, Celts + Catholicism + Potato Famine + Immigration + Commercialization = Halloween.
  5. You didn’t always know everything and you still don’t. You know that boss you had who knew everything and watched over your shoulder all the time to make sure you got it right? Now take a minute to think of the private nickname you had for them. Learning is not about getting it right it’s about understanding. If that sentence confuses you click here: know-it-all.
  6. Chop Wood, Carry Water. Housework is meditative and a joy to be shared. Have your child fold laundry, do dishes and be your sous chef. They will do all these things horribly at first just as you did, unless of course you were raised by The Great Santini. They will get better at it if you let them. Once they get the hang of it you can enjoy a few moments of solitude while they meditate on dirty dishes.
  7. Be outside. When you learn with your child you can go anywhere because learning is everywhere. That sentence would have made me puke a few years ago but now it’s just practical. Plus you will get cabin fever if you stay in doors. Most of the nasty arguments between co-learners happen indoors. When tensions rise somebody has to be able to say: “Let’s walk!” The dog also appreciates it very much.


    October 17th was 75 degrees and it was Boss’s Day

  8. Laugh. Seriously have fun! You are rejecting  400 years of public education in favor of learning with your child in the world. You did this so your child could explore their natural sense of wonderment. You did this because you wanted your child to know that the way they think and process information is right– for them. So please do not crap on this by being all serious and stern.

Team Wagner-Peck

* We do a mix of homeschool and unschool which for us means child directed learning with some curriculum.


My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Conversation with Author, Amy Silverman


cover-this-oneI had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Silverman — a blogger I have long admired– about her book: My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story Of Science, Love and Down Syndrome. It’s over on Huffington Post: click this link to awesomeness.


Close Encounters of the Third Kind –


This post is four years old but still relevant today. Oct. 3, 2016, Kwp

When we are in a hurry to pick something up at the grocery store Ward will wait outside with car running and he is apt to instruct me:

“Just go to the _______ aisle, grab the __________ and go to the check out.

When I get back in our car and immediately point to some older gentleman loading his groceries in his car and say something like:

“That poor guy lost his wife and his son lives in Ohio and doesn’t call him.”

Ward asks me “How could you possibly know that?”

“Which part?”

“The whole thing. How do you know any of that?”

“Well, this lady and I were talking to him and…”

“Lady? What lady? You talked to more than one person in there?”

“The lady who just had a hernia surgery and has a daughter who could care less. Her daughter lives…”

“Stop, I don’t care where the daughter lives. Is it possible for you to go in a store and not strike up a random conversation?”

“Probably not.”

Sometimes these encounters go beyond a fleeting conversation and sometimes they don’t. This week I found myself in an intimate conversation with a woman I met on the beach about our son’s strengths – hers with autism and mine with Ds. I gave her my email.

Ward can’t fathom these chance encounters of mine and I can’t understand this thing he calls ‘gardening’.

When we first moved in together we lived in what could only be described as a hovel – for Hobbits. Everything was slightly built – rooms, doors and windows. About a hundred years before, it had been a stable where I imagine freakishly small and likely disgruntled horses lived.

The yard wasn’t more than a patch of dirt. Over the course of several months Ward built a curious arrangement from the dirt. The process began with weeks of sifting the dirt, which he accomplished by setting an old window screen on the discarded cast iron legs of a sewing machine. For hours at a time alone in the yard he moved dirt across that screen.

Prior to this, I had never heard much less seen dirt sifting. I didn’t delve too much because we were newly living together and there seemed to be bigger things about Ward I was trying to decipher that sifting dirt became low on the list. Plus as my mom and I watched him from the porch one morning she said, “He seems content. I would focus on that.”

Overtime the sifted dirt joined rocks and plants becoming an organized pile in the center of the yard not unlike the structures Richard Dreyfuss created in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Dirt sifting and combing the neighborhood for rocks and bricks has mutated through the years ending up in more recognizable things to me such as re-built patios and lovingly made garden supports.

Ward will never understand how I end up in personal conversations with complete strangers and I will never understand his gardening.

Thorin has embraced both of our endeavors as valid and normal. He engages with people in the check out line, kids on the beach and he likes to work alone outside moving rocks and dirt from randomness to meaning.