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.


Renata said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! Brilliant and goofy sounds great. I hope my girls will one day have the opportunity to know boys like that :). They know one already - their dad, lol.

I like how your journey is all over the map. Sort of like life, right? Panic and all.

It helps to see that we are not the only ones who go back and forth, doubt, and also enjoy the ride.


grillledcheesechic said...

I think all over the map is more common than many acknowledge...I was trying to think about what has been consistent with us. Consistent has been Odyssey of the Mind(still have kids involved), reading together and conversations galore.

Sardine Mama said...

Fun read! Especially since I know the goofy geniuses.

Anonymous said...

I also enjoyed your post. And yes, all over the map seems to describe so many of us homeschoolers until we find what works, and even that can change after a few years. But I agree, also, that reading together and having wonderful conversations is the key to great kids and amazing experiences. I think about the books we have read together, the laughs we have shared, the tears we have shed, and they are the best memories.
Thanks for sharing your journey!