In the fall, I “did school” with Owen each day. We sat down to work through a chapter of math, a page or two of handwriting, and a little bit of written language. Then we got busier with homeschool park days and museum visits, as well as multi-hour library visits and our dedicated morning time became more erratic. One day we realized it had been at least a week since he had sat down to formal school, and neither of us was longing to return to it.

I can’t say I’m too surprised by our transition away from formal schooling. Owen has never been the kind of kid you can force into something, the more Alex or I push about something he’s not interested in, the more he digs in. Owen has always done best when allowed to dive deeply into his passions. Homeschooling offered him the freedom to learn in his own way, if I was willing to step out of his way. It’s not easy to take a step back and trust your eight year old to lead, but that’s what I did. I put aside the workbooks and gave Owen room to find his own way.

Since moving aboard, Owen’s interests have moved towards world building. It started as creating a number of imaginary animals, moved into map making, and developed into a whole economy. His Google drive is rapidly filling with imaginary land forms, plants, and a complicated magic system. After months of brainstorming separate details, Owen has started writing a book set in this imaginary world.

With some gentle nudging he ventured into Scratch and has learned to design simple video games. Right now he has five games that he has finished and is working on a couple of other ideas. He’s also very realistic about about the limitations of Scratch and has begun expressing interest in programming languages that will allow him to make more complex games.

One day this winter he remembered about Khan Academy, an online mathematics program which tracks your progress and offers instruction in everything from kindergarten through college. He began spending a few hours a day logged in completing practice and challenge problems. In three weeks he completed all of arithmetic, though he rightfully complained about problems combining fractions, decimals, percentages, and negative numbers.

As always, books are devoured in all forms, paper, electronic, and audio.

With all of this free form schooling, I was a little concerned about submitting his end of year report to the Boston Public Schools. Once I started though, it was clear that Owen had a very well rounded year, non-traditional though it was. It has been a year of real learning for everyone aboard. My letter to the district is below.

End of Year Summary 2015-2016

Social Studies- state and local history

National Parks Junior Ranger Programs

Spectacle Island

George’s Island

Boston Harbor Islands

Boston History, Freedom Trail

See reading list and field trips


Arithmetic currently at 6th grade level, beginning work on pre-algebra

Science- engineering, water cycle

Museum of Science engineering challenges, make a satellite, bobsled race, trampoline design, create a claw

Programming using scratch, intro to binary, hour of code

Maze construction using legos, found objects, recycling for Hexbugs

Hurricane tracking

Weather forecasting, reading a barometer, water cycle

Written Language

Handwriting, intro to cursive

Spelling, personalized based on words used

Written selections including narrative, descriptive, comparison, and persuasive based on field trips and books of interest


Currently reading a 7th grade level with high comprehension and recall

See partial book list below

Books Read, a sampling


The Secret Science Alliance by Elenore Davis (3 books)

How People Learned to Fly by Fran Hodgkins

Stephen Biesty’s Amazing Cross Sections by Stephen Biesty

Ship by David Macaulay

Boat by Eric Kently

The Picture World of Warships by R. J. Stephen

Sink the Bismark by Tom McGowen

Ships by Moria Butterfield

Social Studies

Colonial Comics 1620-1750

George vs George by Rosalyn Schanzer

If you Lived at the Time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore

Road to Revolution by National Geographic

The American Revolution by Jamie Armimi

Nathan Hale, Patriot Spy by Shannon Zemlicka

The Top Secret Adventures of John Darrage, Revolutionary War Spy by Peter Roop

The Boston Tea Party Steven Kroll

The Revolutionary War by Elizabeth Raum

Kidding Around Boston by Helen Byers

Beneath the Streets of Boston by Joe McKendry


Norse Myths and Legends by Anita Ganeri

Aesops Fables

D-Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths

Gods and Heroes by Matthew Reinhart

Heroes in Training by Joan Holub (6 books)

Jason and the Gorgon’s Blood by Jane Yolen

Go for the Gold Atalanta by Kate McMullan

Keep a Lid on It Pandora by Kate McMullan

Have a Hot Time Hades by Kate McMullan


Redwall by Brian Jacques

Magik Series by Angie Sage (6 books)

Cat Warriors by Erin Hunter (41 books)

Spiderwick Chronicles by Toni DiTillizi (8 books)

Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers

13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers

The Alchemaster’s Apprentice by Walter Moers

Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan (8 books)

Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (3 books)

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (7 books)

Tiffany Aching by Terry Prachett (3 books)

Graphic Novels

The Adventures of TinTin by Herge (7 books)

Mouseguard by David Petersen (4 graphic novels)

Asterix by Goscinny (4 collections)

Amulet By Kazu Kibuishi (7 graphic novels)

Flight (7 graphic novels)


Vile Verses by Roald Dahl

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein