Monday, February 28, 2011

Non-traditional in Business Casual or Traditional in Flip Flops

After much deliberation, day-dreaming and occasional angst. Cody has narrowed his college choices down to two.  Cody is choosing between:

Schreiner University. A small , fairly traditional, liberal arts college in Kerrville, Texas.  The upside being that it is close to home and he can come home when he wants. The downside being that it is close to home and he would like us not to be-so-close.

and then there is...

 Kettering University. A small, non-traditional/hands-on/co-operative ed. science/engineering/tech school in Flint, Michigan. The upside being he is far from home. The downside being..he is            far-  f a r - f  a   r        from home.

Both schools are small. Like really, really small -(Think 1000ish total student body) Both have extremely small student-teacher ratios. Both offer Business degrees with a major or concentration in management information systems. Both offer free-tutoring (A BIG PLUS in Odio's financially oriented head) and although we originally had a bit of sticker shock at price of one of these institutions of higher the end, it turns out that both will be financially doable.

And that? Is where the similarities end. So we visit the campuses. We start with Schreiner because it is so-close.

 It is a nice, Texas Spring day when we arrive. Cody is asked to come an hour early to visit/interview with an admissions rep. They spend a lot of time discussing dorm options, work-study options, soccer;), test-anxiety and the differences (not good or bad) between the type of learning Cody will encounter at Kettering versus the more traditional Schreiner.

Here is a pic of an MIS class taken outside is a nice day. Cody is invited to come back and sit in on an MIS class (if he is still interested) after his visit to Kettering.

We join 4 other students for the campus tour.

The president of the campus comes out to greet each student individually. We visit the turtle sanctuary. We discover that one of the exercise bikes in the gym has a game where you chase a dragon. Cody's eyes twinkle at the possibilities... We pass kids playing Ultimate Frisbee and in true South Texas fashion are treated to a ghost-story about one of the buildings on campus.

Cody leaves saying the campus was much nicer than he expected.

Next we are off to Michigan for a Prep for Success Conference. All Kettering students participate in a minimum of 5 semesters of a co-op. Cody is placed in Section B. Meaning? He would work July-Sept. Go to classes Oct.-Dec. work Jan.-March and return to classes April- June for the next 4 1/2 years. At the end of which he would graduate with not just his BA but 2 1/2 years of professional work experience.

But first Kettering is hosting a dinner in San Antonio. At dinner,Cody gets the opportunity to meet a few students who have co-op jobs here in Texas. The students are very impressive. Cody also meets both his admissions rep and his co-op rep. Cody's co-op rep hands him a booklet on  resume building and encourages him to create and upload his resume before the upcoming conference so that they have time to look at it and edit as needed.

Also? Cody and I go shopping, because unlike Schreiner where Cody and other prospective students showed up in jeans and t-shirts, Dress for Success kids? Are instructed to wear business casual..and a very specific description of business casual is included. So Cody and I are off to find a jacket that will keep him warm enough for the weekend..and look okay with his dress pants, shoes and nice shirt. We realize that the coat he fixes cars in..isn't going to cut it.

As we spend the day shopping..Cody and I discuss some of the different purchases each school will require.

We realize that if he goes to Kettering he will need a much more energy efficient car than the gas-guzzling Blazer he currently drives. Also? More than one or two business outfits seem to be in the future.

As for Schreiner..well...Big B and I had agreed that if he stays nearby he can purchase a scooter. (Cody is shooting for a motorcycle but Big B is saying no way) and Cody adds..could I have a nice pair of flip-flops?I still have my old ones for after soccer games.

So we agree. Schreiner-flip flops. Kettering -clothing for business and business casual.

And then we are truly off to Michigan.

Kettering informs us over the phone that there is another prospective Kettering family on our flight (from our transfer in Atlanta, Ga.) and that they will be returning with us as well. We are encouraged to locate them and take a shuttle from the airport to the hotel together.

We find them immediately. Alex and his mom..Eva..are from Southern California. Both boys and moms hit it off, so we hang out quite a bit over the weekend. (Most of the Kettering pics have been taken from Eva..because..well..we all know I take lousy pics.)

Flint has snow!  For us snow-deprived folks..this snow is magical.

We arrive in Flint on Friday night. Cody and I play in the snow before heading for lunch at Applebees. We return to the hotel to watch movies on HBO (we don't have HBO at home!) then meet Eva and Alex for dinner. Along the way we meet another Kettering family from Colorado. Johnathan and his dad join us for dinner.

We arrive on campus early Sat. morning.. Here are Cody and Alex before the day gets going. We moms promise them we will limit our picture taking of them (except of the snow!!) if they will pose for us now.

The boys agree to humor us.

and I only cheat on my non-photo promise once(during the day..that is)!

We start with tours of the dorms. Everyone at Kettering has a single room in a suite. Murals are allowed to be painted on the walls in the hallways.

Then...we are off to the classrooms. There are a handful of traditional looking classrooms. Most..not so much. We couldn't really take many pics of the classes. For those of you who have participated in Odyssey of the Mind, worked in Think Tanks, or any government understand the need to keep works in progress quiet. There are works-in-progress everywhere. But we were allowed a few pics. These we can share.

Here the prospective students discuss a car in progress with a current Kettering student. At this moment they are discussing what operating systems are being used to run a certain program as part of this project.

Here are pictures of the names of some of the classrooms which I found particularly amusing.


After the tour we catch the end of a session on affordability. This session is followed by an expo of various opportunity to have your resume edited. Cody spends almost 20 minutes with a faculty member as they work together on his resume.  Lunch with faculty. Visiting classes. Applied math and a business class for Cody.

Cody meets and visits with his potential academic advisor. They spend some time discussing the most-likely direction for his co-op. It is a fascinating opportunity...very tempting...a tad intimidating at this point in time. Also? He probably will only have the opportunity to visit family and friends (and girlfriend!)4- 6 weeks out of the year for the next several years. That 4-6 weeks is including summer and Christmas break.

Then we are back for more sessions on resumes and interviews. More sessions on student life..a student panel. Things start to become a blur..and just when you know you can't absorb one more thing...

The parents and students are separated. Our kids spend the evening eating pizza and playing games with current Kettering students. Parents are bussed to a local museum. Here is a picture of me and Eva in front of museum..because we wanted a picture to prove to our family and friends that we were in snow!!!! The parents have an evening of amazing food (see pic below) and lots of conversation with other parents and Kettering faculty.

 We are bussed back to Kettering to pick up the kids. Here is one last shot of Cody, Alex and Johnathan before returning to the hotel for the evening.(and yes..they were allowed to change into jeans for the evening)

We are now back in Texas. Trying to finish processing all that we saw and heard over the weekend. Kettering is truly a unique and incredible opportunity. And Cody is the first to admit that he feels extremely comfortable with the other students. Cody is not so sure he will have as much in common with the students on the other campus....but he also realizes that he would like to know more of what a traditional education is like.

Cody is a boy who has spent most of his life as a very hands-on, self-directed learner..and he is drawn to the idea of being just a regular college student in a traditional setting.

So after a bit of late-night research and soul searching, Cody decides that  business casual can wait until grad school..for now?

Flip flops it is.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It Takes a Village

We have all heard the saying It takes a village to raise a child.

I have been thinking about how true that is, lately.  Big B and I have 3 sons..Brian-Scott, Cody and Austen. But along the way (in the past numerous years) our lives have been profoundly touched by another 8 children who have spent considerable time in our beds and at our dining table.   In other words? (whisper) we have our own village.

  We don't go into too much detail with our "other kids" because..well..their lives are a little more private. Their stories are theirs to tell. But I can give you a glimmer of their personalities.

  First there was K ..a niece who stayed with us quite a bit for several years. K was only 5 when I met her...We nicknamed her "fingers" because she was ALWAYS into everything. K would only wear Big Bird socks,  loved to pet the goldfish and was (and still is) one of the most inquisitive people I have ever met.  As life unfolded. K did eventually find a permanent adoption with grandma..and we keep in touch.

  Next was Manuel - a neighbor and friend of Brian-Scott..who Brian Scott brought home from pre-k. Manuel was (and is) so serious.  He loves to fish. He's almost always carrying a puppy.  Loves to draw...and when they were younger,  was willing to participate in any imaginative game the other children created as long as he first clarified with them that  this was just pretend. Manuel lived with us off and on for 5 years. We keep in touch.

  But Manuel was not the only friend Brian-Scott brought home. Shane came also. Actually, we just watched Shane during the week while his parents work. Shane was an indian (of Irish decent). Literally. He wore an indian costume f-o-r-e-v-e-r. As he got older..he traded in the costume for camo. Shane's favorite past-time? Paintball! Shane hung out a lot..and moved in for a short spurt or two in his late teens. We partnered with his parents in raising Shane. Shane still keeps in touch.

We have my other nephew C. C stayed with us during the week when he was a baby so his parents could work. We lost contact for a few years. Then C lived with us during the week for a year so he could homeschool with us.C is in the autistic spectrum, and is a bit overwhelmed at times by his need for structure and routine. He can -and WILL- recite almost every Sponge Bob episode by rote. C is an avid reader, budding cartoonist, and aspiring cook. C (like K) now has a more permanent living arrangement. We keep in touch!

Mohammad is our host-son from Lebanon. In the world of exchange students. Mohammad was pretty young (15) when he spent the year with us. Mohammad is a very gifted boy who LOVES drama, singing, cooking and fashion design. Mohammad visits when he can. We keep in touch.

I guess since Brian-Scott brought home two kids..Cody and Austen didn't want to be left out!

 First was Austen's friend S. S stayed with us for a little while, after the death of her father. (single dad). We all knew it was transitional at the time...We like to refer to Austen  and S as "the James Bond twins". During her stay with us  (when both Austen and S were about 13) S would tell everyone that Austen was her twin brother. They were both  into a grunge look for awhile...but somehow always found a collar to play James Bond. The two would make eye contact with each other, flip their denim jacket collars and say "my name is Bond..James Bond"..and crack themselves up. S is now living with a family member..and seems to be creating a new life for herself. We keep in touch.

Finally we have  Cody's friend M. M hung around for awhile even before he moved in.. He was one of the first to claim Brian-Scott's room when Brian-Scott moved to Denton. M (and his dad) stayed with us officially for a couple of years after M claimed a room. M is a soccer player, fairly studious, and deceivingly private. Because..he is quite a chatty guy. But when he and Cody are together. As S likes to say Oh My!.  We often refer to Cody and M as Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Big B and I could never have cared for these children without the constant support of others. Grandmas, Grandpas, close family friends , church community, Boys and Girls Club community, homeschooling community. college friends, all the folks from community dining, and the martial artists (can't forget the Professional Karate Institute families) have been available to surround our motley crew with unlimited love and support...and also? To help with the logistics.

You know things like -I can babysit for you on Monday while you take x to the doctor. 

Here I brought popcorn for the kids.

We can drive Brian to the tournament.

What sizes do you, x, y or z need?(clothes)

and mostly..listening. 

Just yesterday, I found myself venting over coffee with a close friend and again in a private chat with some college friends. Why? Because it has been one of those weeks.

Manuel is off to the Navy. Shane just lost his mom to a battle with leukemia. Brian-Scott and Mohammad are really stressed in school right now. Cody and M are still going through the pre-college maze. Austen is driving! Cody and Austen got into a fender bender (AND ALMOST A FIGHT!!) in town. and K has a whole 'nother slew of things going on.

But this same group of children (along with all their friends) have become protective and available for each other..they have become their own village. And this village? Is now joking about this next generation (smirk and all)  as "Round 2".

Meaning Bug. Lucky Bug!...and (gasp) rumors of more to come?

(sigh) The village that has supported Big B and I over the years..have now incorporated our  young adult village people.

And this larger, stronger village is reaching out with open arms to Round 2.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yes, there ARE homeschooled athletes!

  A few weeks ago sardine mama over at sardines in a can  wrote a response to some questions that are often asked of homeschoolers, and gave a small glimpse into a life of learning at home.

At the time, I read with pleasure and thought to myself's been a long time since anyone has even questioned what we do.

And then? Our son's homeschooled soccer team won the Texas- Christian Athletic League state championship.

And the questions/statements began..

.Oh..they play with other homeschooled teams right?    The answer is not often. Usually they play school teams. Sometimes public, sometimes private.This is a logistical thing. While schools often practice at school, the homeschoolers cover a much larger geographical area in order to have enough members to form a team. Meaning? Less homeschooled teams to play. However, in the State of Texas homeschools are considered a private school. So this makes us legal to play with private school leagues. The T-Cal league throughout the state starts with a little over 90 schooled teams. We are the only homeschooled team in the league.

 You know, I put my children in school so they could play REAL sports.  Wow..don't even know how to respond.

I will tell you that they practice.

They play other teams.
Sometimes they play nice:

 Sometimes they play not so nice:

and sometimes? Their coaches have things to tell them...

and maybe the coaching is where the misnomer of non-real sports (whatever that means) comes in. We do not pay our coaches. They are (gasp) volunteers. Dang good ones, at that. Our coaches this year were previous homeschooled grads. (one is a fireman, one is a cook) who play soccer and came back to coach.

....and like all good coaches, these coaches listen, they yell (only when they get a tad excited),they reprimand. These coaches meet each player at whatever level they play and work to bring them to the next level..both individually and as a team.

and maybe the coaching is just one of the obvious difference between most homeschooled sports team and most schooled teams.

Attitudes of team members towards players of other ages, grade-levels and skill level are also pretty apparent. Why? Because the homeschooled teams I have been exposed to just don't care. They have not learned to separate other people by age, grade or ability. So they don't..

It is this lack of stereotyping or judging that becomes blaringly obvious (not good or bad) in the difference in the overall attitude of homeschooled team-members towards eachother  when compared to the attitudes in many of the teams which they play.

Also? The team members attitude towards siblings. I know it sounds weird. But it's not a secret that homeschoolers come with families attached..often big ones. So at every game, during 1/2 time..all the siblings of team-members..ages 18 months to 22 years..will hit the field and play together. Sometimes family members of other teams will join them.

When schooled players see their siblings on the field, there is usually an initial panic and an urgent whispered "get off the field! You're not supposed to be here!!" These athletes are not acting this way because they don't love their families..they are simply reacting out of fear. They don't want to see their brother or sister get in trouble.And often? Somewhere along the line, they have often been taught that families are embarrassing.

So in these players behalf, let's face it, we are at a game. Games are serious stuff. Brothers and sisters should not be on the field!  Much less playing with the enemy. Once assured they are welcome and no one is in trouble..these schooled athletes, watch wearily from the bench while their siblings play.

The homeschooled athletes? Usually don't even notice.

This is business as usual for them. You will here an occasional "my jersey is here if you want to borrow it." "Do you need some gloves?"..and that is all.  When it is time to start the second 1/2. All the siblings clear the field, and the game resumes.

So, these are basic cultural differences that become apparent on sports fields between schooled and homeschooled athletic teams. These differences are merely  reflections of the weekly routines of these athletes..both schooled or not schooled.

For example, as I type Cody(17- and our soccer player) Austen(16) their friend Devin(17) and Levi(8 months) are hanging around our kitchen table. The older boys are eating pizza. Levi is playing with cheerios.  In the kitchen are Sam (5) and Rachael (3)..they are running to the table for a bite of pizza and then back to the little people universe that has taken over our kitchen.

Meanwhile Cody's best friend Mason (an 18 year old schooled soccer player) is waiting another 30 minutes before his timed lunch break. A break he will share with his same ages peers. This morning? Mason went from one class, to another, to another..this afternoon he will do the same..and then to soccer.

That is Mason's day..every day..every week. 

Since my kids are babysitting today. They spent the morning playing swords. Actually? I believe they started by being "knighted" by "King Levi"..who would watch the battles from inside. Then? The "good knights" being Sam, Devin and Rachael..chased down the evil gnome Austen. While the big troll Cody continued snoring in his cave.

Now that lunch is over, Cody has declined the opportunity to play. He has explained his case to said knights and they are debating whether studying is an excuse not to join battle.  The "good knights" mull it over and decide studying is allowed for a troll. Now? The knights are planning to hunt down the evil gnome Austen (now turned fiery dragon) in the woods, before returning to the castle for an afternoon nap. During which time the older boys will study some economics.

..and that is Cody's life..most days..most weeks

So it is only natural that these types of cultural differences become apparent when you see the relationships between the athletes on schooled teams and the athletes on homeschooled teams. But honestly? I think the differences start and end with just this. The relationships.

What if they want to go to college? What if they want to play college ball? What will they do then?

Okay..that is two separate questions. Pictured above are Cody and the other seniors from his team. (All 5 of them!)

Of these 5 boys. 2 (Cody being one of them) are still trying to decide which college is the most financially suitable for them, 1 has been accepted to West Point, 1 will be attending a local state college and 1 is planning to spend a year doing missions work. At least 3 of these boys have the opportunity to play college ball if they so choose.

So there you have it. You can be a highschool athlete and homeschool. You can practice, win, loose, show good sportsmanship and bad sportsmanship. You can go to college. You can play ball...and you can even, occasionally  WIN A STATE TOURNAMENT!!!