Monday, November 30, 2009

In response to disadvantages of homeschooling

I wonder why we always find the need to find divisions. This is a picture taken last year at a Ropes Course in San Antonio. A group of kids both homeschooled and public schooled. Can you tell which is which? I'm betting not (unless you know the kids). The kids themselves, don't care. They recognize there are pros and cons to all choices and that it is simply a matter of differing choices. I think we should learn from them.

Okay. I stumbled across this blog last week, while trying to teach myself how to create links.(don't involved hitting lots of buttons and not-so-nice words on my part) Anyway, I found an article listing perceived advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling. It was a blog created by a college student as she reflects on her various class projects. Overall she is not too harsh and she has some interesting insight. Feel free to see at this link. BEGINNINGS ON EDUCATION: Home Schooling (okay..fingers crossed..seeing if I learned or not).

Yay..I'm learning! I thought I would take a few moments here to respond.

First off, I would like to say, that I agree with the author of this blog. There are disadvantages to homeschooling. Like any educational choice a family makes, it is a give and take of sorts. I'm just not sure this would be my own particular list.

1.Time Restraints-parents lives are turned completely upside down when they choose to homeschool their children?

Strongly disagree. When our children were in school, our lives were constrained by a school schedule. Once they returned home, each individual family member discovered (parents included)that we could take control of our own time.

2.Financial Restraints- for married couples, many times one parent will take on the full time financial responsiblity while the other stays home to homeschool. This can be a big hit to financial situations.

I would have to say there is some truth in this. Although, many homeschooling parents do both work and there are quite a few single-parent homeschooling families as well. What we see are parents restructuring their lifestyle (including career choices) and putting things on hold to spend time with their families. There are, however, many non-homeschooling families who do this as well.

3. Being with your children "24/7". Making the decision to homeschool your children means they are around all day long. There is no time off.

It's true when children are younger especially, that you are with them a lot as homeschooling parents. Is this a disadvantage? Most homeschoolers would say, no..they LIKE being with their children. We personally found, that when our children were at home full-time, they were less needy in general. For example..when my children were in school and I answered a telephone, they were constantly demanding my attention. Once they were with me all the time and the phone rang, they vanished. I was free to have an uninterrupted phone conversation. They did not feel the need to compete for my time and attention.
I have also found that when homeschooled teens are older, they tend to be around less than many of their schooled peers. Reality is these teens are flexible to work hours their schooled peers are not. Many start college courses in their teens. These teens spend hours a day on specific interests (dance, music, soccer, airplanes...). Homeschooled teens hang out with their friends late on school nights because they can sleep late in the mornings. I have found that once my children can drive, I see them less and less all the time.
Brian moved out of the house and into a dorm at the ripe old age of 16.
Cody often says things like "I'm staying at Grandma's after my game, working at the tire shop on Friday and then going to Galen's for the weekend. I'll see you Sunday." And then returns for dinner with la familia on Sunday.
Austen? He's still letting me drive him places.

Limited activities-If a child does not attend school it has limitations.Your child will not be able to join a school sports team or club. Also school related activities such as dances and events will not be in the cards for them. This can cause friendship restraints.

This is just crazy talk. It is true that they can't usually play school in a school. However there are other non-school teams around. Cody has played soccer with a homeschool team for two years..after 9 years in local leagues, where they compete against (gasp) real brick and mortar schools. Like in the same league and everything. Kids are not limited to school sports teams.
As for dances, etc. Once again..a big misnomer. Co-ops often offer these opportunities, and many homeschooled teens go to dances with their schooled friends.

Soccer tournament last year..can you tell which is the public schooled team and which is the homeschooled?

Cody with the Boys and Girls Club team (private school, public school and homeschooled kids working together) receiving the Renatra Fusca (big deal) to move on to World Finals in Ohio. Two years in a row for Cody. (Maryland with a homeschool team the year before)

Brian and Angee get ready for prom. Once was public schooled, one was homeschooled. In the end? They are going to the same prom!

Now academic competition? Interestingly, that is never mentioned in the blog. That's another story. While many homeschoolers compete in Odyssey of the Mind, DI, robotics, Spelling Bee, Geography Bee, History, debate, theater...etc. At this time homeschoolers are still not allowed to compete in Academic Decathalon. This, I feel, is a true disadvantage as I know several homeschooled teens that would enjoy this particular venue..but that is a whole 'nother blog.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brilliant, Good-Looking and Goofy!

About a month ago, I was taking a walk on the UTAustin Campus with Big B, Brian-Scott, and Angee. Brian was teaching us the "etiquette" of properly shooting tapioca balls out of a straw. I was walking with his girlfriend Angee ..and asking her.."why?" Angee is a very talented young woman. I love my son..but come on..he is teaching us how to spit!
Being the typically supportive family that we are, my uncle and I had been wondering why young, intelligent kids are drawn to these boys of ours..because..well..they are weird.
Angee perked up. "oh..she said...W and I were just talking about that... The Bates Boys ..all of them.. are brilliant, good-looking and goofy! "

So apparently, my husband and I have raised brilliant,
good-looking and goofy boys.

Here Brian and Cody are checking out Austen's new laptop...and then the goofiness begins!

I write this because recently, I have been asked how we homeschool. What do we do? What is our philosophy? What do our days look like..and I never feel I have an honest answer because things change so often.
So to give these questions an honest answer..I need to start from the beginning and assure you that "brilliant and goofy" were not our life goals...but we'll take them!

In the husband and I intended to send our children to Catholic schools. Our oldest son did attend a Catholic School for two years...and then we pulled him out. The school was not a good fit for him..and he had been wait-listed on another school's list. So we decided to homeschool for "just a year". We chose a pre-packaged catholic curriculum..and Brian and I would sit around an old army trunk in our living room, listen to Traci Chapman and "do 2nd grade" for a couple hours a day..while his brothers played...and then he would skate or skate-board until his schooled friends came home...after a few months we "did third grade"...and then we decided we liked homeschooling and would continue.

We moved...we put curriculum aside and just made a daily routine of reading, cooking and fishing together.

Then I panicked and sent the boys to the local public school. (no private options in our new location)

So..Brian went to 4th grade..we did not want him skipped ahead, Cody started 1st grade and Austen started Kindergarden. To make a long story short..Austen came home at Christmas. At the end of the year Cody had refused to participate in anything and Brian had started running a numbers game at the elementary school.

Big B and I knew we were going to return to learning at home...this time, for good.
So we began questioning what was really important. We decided that we wanted our children to have 3 traits as adults...compassion, responsibility and humor.

The question to do this?

Since we had three very differing ages and personalities, I knew that our catholic pre-packaged by grade level days were I discovered SonLight. It was a great literature based program for multi-levels. Perfect! I ordered a curriculum...I organized our morning room into a make-shift study area..and we were ready to go.

The boys played along for exactly 3 weeks..and then they were done. Their books would "disappear", they wandered off...and could not be found...they would say things like "oh..I forgot" and I found myself interrupting their own self-found "projects" to say they had to "do school".
I had been reading about unschooling..and missed the freedom we had when we had been at home before. "That's it!" I proclaimed. This is your education. You can learn what you want. I'll support you in whatever you want to do. ..and Brian built skateboard ramps for almost a year. We went to the library often, the boys played, and played and played. We read together daily(I still had all those great Sonlight books) and played lots of boardgames.

Then? Panic set in..again. I had stumbled upon some Waldorf Homeschoolers. We went to some conferences, met many in the Waldorf world..and it caught our imagination. I realized we really needed more rhythm to our days...I was drawn to many of the ideals of Waldorf...but I knew we would not be "purists" ever. We ate junk-food (think Hot Pockets), my children occasionally watched t.v., I liked the freedom of unschooling.
So we established a co-op...and when asked I would tell people we were "Waldorf Inspired Unschoolers with occasional Sonlight panic".

For the next couple of years, our children met 3 days a week with other families, we started these days with yoga, hired a Spanish tutor, introduced the Waldorf lesson blocks (Creation Stories, Norse Myths, Greek Myths, Geometry, etc.) and participated in Odyssey of the Mind.
The boys also became involved in gymnastics and karate at this time.

As Brian out-grew these Waldorf years, my uncle began to tutor him in math and computer-programming and Brian began taking science and more formal Spanish classes at Friday School (a co-op in San Antonio)
When I began working at the Boys and Girls Club, things changed again. Brian was in highschool. He knew he wanted to go to the Texas Academy of Math and Science his junior year. I decided this would be a good time to return to SonLight. Brian would study several hours a day. He knew what he wanted to do, where he wanted to go, and what he needed to do to get there..and so he did.

Cody and Austen, however, have never been so consistently spurts maybe..but not all the time. Unlike Brian, Cody and Austen like to slow down and just soak up atmosphere sometimes. They returned to complete unschooling my first year at the Club. They read, practiced instruments and worked on math when and how they wanted, before the Club kids arrived. They were pretty much free to study/explore whatever they wanted. Then they played and hung out at the Club.

Cody was the first to ask for more structure. He knew his older brother had at one time used a Catholic curriculum, and was curious. We ordered this for him. I told him if I ordered this stuff..he needed to actually study it. He did. Cody began to study with a vengance for a couple of years...and then he decided he was "done". He decided he was "done" about the time that Austen decided he needed more structure. At this time the younger boys were late junior high and early high-school.

We (Cody, Austen and I) talked, a lot. Brian was now at TAMS. We encouraged Cody and Austen to think about their futures. What were some of the things they are interested in? Cody wanted to travel. He spent a year saving money for a trip to Europe..during which time he began learning to rebuild transmissions. Cody did spend most of a summer traveling in England, France and Italy. When he returned, Cody was interested in a few small liberal arts colleges..we made sure he knew what he needed to meet their requirements..and provided him with the resources to meet those requirements. (tutors, Sonlight (again) and Friday School) Cody has since decided he may not go to college and has started his own transmission repair business. He is currently studying auto-mechanics from both an on-line program and with Big B(who is a mechanic). He informed me today, that he is considering getting an internet marketing degree through an online program...possibly from Full Sail.

Austen? He wants to run his own cafe' or join the air force. He would like to get a pilot's license..but wants to make sure he stays seizure free for another year before attempting this. He doesn't want to go to Friday School...and like his brother, after spending a lot of time studying for a year..decided he needed a year to "just be" (not as dramatic as "I'm done"..I admit) So we remind him to study 4 hours a day..something..anything...lately he has been studying/exploring wine-cellars, book binding, art and reading lots of fiction. He stays busy just hanging out with the neighborhood, at the Club..wherever we happen to be.

We have a very democratic style co-op that runs out of our home. These kids only meet two days a week, so Austen studies for co-op...when we remind him. Math, drafting, architecture and a very liberal-arts approach to chemistry/physics.

I occasionally panic, but I know that I have no idea what the future of these boys hold. So I try to support them as they study/explore whatever interests them.

We were striving for compassionate, responsible and humorous. According to their peers, we have brilliant, goofy boys.

What we have, are boys who are fully engaged in living..and for that I am grateful.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Accepting the Refrigerator Challenge

My friend Carol at has created a mini-challenge of sorts. She points out the healthier habits of some of the other blogging families, and then asks, what is in our fridge. Oh geez I think. I'm frightened to look.
So before we begin..let me set the stage of my refrigerators surroundings. First of is hard to find. There is a bag with nebulizer resting on the floor next to it. Leaning over the nebulizer would be a level. I don't know why this level resides in this spot, but it does. The top of our refrigerator doubles as medicine cabinet and empty egg-carton holder. It is a bit intimidating...and yet no refrigerator to be seen?
Why? Because it is covered in magnets and pictures. We haverandom words "they" "other" "ocean" literally littering our fridge. I once had the delusion my children would use these words to create some sort of great literature on our fridge. (You see..homeschoolers sometimes try to educate their children by placing stuff on their fridge. I tried this tactic years ago. Obviously, my children would not play and then we soon forgot that all these words were there) I do see one placement of words that says "gone to dream".
Who knew?
Most of these letters, however, cannot be seen because our refrigerator is covered in pictures. We have pictures of our children, neices, nephews and friends. I don't know who puts these pictures up..but they are all over! We do have written (in huge magnetic letters) "The Beast." I'm assuming that is Cody or Mason who like to say the "beast" in soccer...oh...and we have a small magnetic "Bill of Rights" that Michael seemed to think we needed to complete our incomplete education. My favorite, however, would be the home-made magnetic guitar pics that seem to complete the decor.
Somehow, we open these doors daily without things falling off. We must have "magnetic personalities" or something. for the frightening part. Let us see...
Top shelf: 1 half drank bottle of Hot Damn, several containers of yogurt, pre-made pie crusts (because we are still doing a lot of bulk cooking), chocolate from Oaxaca..for home-made hot chocolate and jalepenos.
Shelf 2: A bit scarier..left-over steamed carrots, pinto beans and random condiments
Shelf 3: eggs, eggs and more eggs..and leftover quiche, leftover ravioli's. Note to self: Please clean out this fridge!
Shelf 4: Milk, juice, pancake mix and a box of wine
Drawers? Hey..I think we might be getting healthier here. We have..watermellon, pineapple, eggplant, chives, cabbage and lettuce.
Next drawer...ugh..more left-overs. Steak. Ick!..and cream cheese? Good grief.
Door pockets? Very random..sauces (picante, soy, worstershire, etc.) dressings, wine and more pancake mix. Well..that was weird.
Okay. How about others? Do you dare? What is in your fridge. Feel assured, that it will not be more unorganized or unhealthy than ours.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nicole and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good ......

You get the drift.

Yesterday I woke up. I wanted to sleep late but my body was too stiff. I'm getting older. I thought.'s just all this humidity. I bet there's no humidity in San Francisco.

I straggled to the kitchen, but the coffee was almost gone. I tried to make some more...but the grounds had hit the floor. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Austen is sick. So we will not be going out. Big B wants to wake him up to work. No! I tell him. Just let him be.

He might want to work. Big B insists. I'll just wake him up and ask. (sigh) B is not listening..
I bet they would listen to me in San Francisco.

I'm going to cook..a lot. I pronounce. What for? the family asks
Because we like to eat?! I respond.
Mm..they look at each-other conspiratorily.
I thought you hated to cook. Says Big B.
I't you just burn the fish sticks?

They are not very nice, this family of mine. Do they want to cook? No they do not...they have chickens to clip, wicker to paint and holes to dig (later). I need some money for groceries.I say.
I know my family would not be busy with chickens and holes in San Francisco.

Brian and I go to the bank to cash a check. We cannot cash this. They say. Your license is expired and the new one has not come in.

I know. Says Big B. That's why I also have the paper copy. DPS is backed's on the news and everything.

Nope. Says the banker with a smirk on his face. So you mean to say that the current paper version from the state of Texas with the old license will not suffice? I ask, to clarify. The banker roles his eyes. Maybe some places..but not here.

It takes a few hours, but the check is finally cashed. Finally. I think. I am off to get my groceries with no further delay.

Where are you going..interrupts Big you have amnesia? This wicker is yours and you need to help us spray.

But I want to cook all day..not start at 5 tonight I groan. I get the stare. The one that says.."it's your wicker room"...and I cave.

What? I ask Do I need to do? Well..see here, Big B explains. The wicker is falling apart. That is what is making everyone itch. The wicker is splintering and your friends are covered in splinters. We have to spray..and spray..and spray. I have at least 10 cans of spray yourself.

I bet my friends wouldn't get covered in wicker splinters in San Francisco.

I leave around much for getting an early start. I get a ticket in Helotes. 57 in a 45.

This is exciting. I tell the officer. His eyebrows raise. I family will be amused..they think I drive too slow. He smirks..and I wonder what he sees. I quickly assess the situation. I am dressed in football jersey and jeans, my bifocals are broken on one side, I have spray paint on my fingers..and I am rambling about the joy of getting a ticket. I have become a caricature of myself.

Thankyou sir. I say...and drive away.

I do not like to drive. It makes me uncomfortable. There is no decent public transit in Texas.

I would not have to drive in San Francisco.

The grocery store is crowded...they only have some of what I need. I unload my groceries and get stung by a bee!

This. I think. Is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day...and I begin to cry.

I visit my parents. A nice reprieve.

..and I return home for my cooking marathon at 5:30. You're right..laughs my family.
You will not start cooking at 5...but rather must be too much speeding.
They think they are funny..

I think my family in San Francisco will be nicer.

La Familia has dug a hole under my house. Even Austen..who is wearing a mask to protect others (the dirt?) from his germs. It's a wine cellar! they say...and they all pile in the hole..Mason peers over the top with a grin.

I can't help but we all pile under our porch.. I play make-believe in a hole with my family.

This , I think...Would not happen in San Francisco.