Many years ago, I wrote about why we homeschooled, but what keeps us tethered to this very particular lifestyle?
Our family’s style of homeschooling has always been very hands-on, unstructured and casual. From the very beginning, I saw that the boys picked up the most information from ‘doing’ things, rather than reading about them – apple picking, beach trips, family vacations, board games, fairs, festivals, camping trips, museums, and visits to state parks, etc. have always produced much more meaningful knowledge than any textbook. I would rather help my kids develop a practice of ‘how to learn’ than attempt to fill them with facts. They can go on to learn anything they want once they can gather the resources to teach themselves. I want them to know and believe this.
This year, Gavin is a senior in high school. He entered school for the first time as a freshman and I have seen him use school as a tool instead of depending on it as his sole source of education. He continues to educate himself in more ways outside of that structure than he has within it. He has maitained a good balance of experiences that he has wished to have during his high school years – most of which were not academic in nature. I am glad his education has been self-led. I firmly believe that I would never have made as good of choices for him as he has made for himself.
Mikey went to school as a 7th Grader for a myriad of reasons. He REALLY wanted to go. He needed to experience what was going on in those buildings and see for himself what ‘school’ was like. He was also working with an educational consultant at the time who felt that school could provide many academic supports and services that were not available to homeschoolers. While he enjoyed the structure of the school day and the social aspects and chaos, I can tell you that they did not, at all, provide what was promised and his experience was very flat, narrow and dull. School was limiting for him and it cut into valuable time he could be developing skills that will be more meaningful for him in the future. It became clear to Dennis and I that the opportunity cost of going to school was just too high for Mikey.
This summer, when we began to assess his strengths and challenges, it became clear that what we wanted for him could not and would never be addressed by school. He has several short years before he is an adult and we believe the time is best spent on an education that is extremely practical and as broad and experiential as we can create for him. During his time in school, Mikey came to believe that you are to sit still (which he did NONE of) and a teacher spoon feeds you information that you produce for a ‘test’. I can think of few things as dangerous as that for Michael. Seriously.
So, we are here. Back to basics in a very true sense.
Sean continues to attend the same ‘school’ that Gavin did at his age – The Costello Academy for Feral Children. His current focus is an obsessive pursuit of All Things Yo-Yo. Sometimes he watches videos and practices techniques for hours on end. He reads about the physics and how to repair and modify yo-yos. This might seem frivolous if you are not looking through the lense of self-education. Sean is laying a basis for a lifetime of learning. He chooses video series wisely, weighing the quality and camera angles for their ability to clearly show how tricks are mastered. He found reputable websites containing products and articles about the ‘art’ of yo-yo-ing. Although the topic might seem questionable to some, the skill set of teaching yourself ANYTHING is worth allowing him to spend as much time as he needs down this rabbit hole.
The truth is, some of my kids are living without school, but don’t confuse that with living without ‘An Education’.
Have you ever watched anything by Sir Ken Robinson? Watch one. Then watch them all.
It’s 1:30 on a Friday afternoon, when yet again, it hits me that Clan Costello is strange and different and seems to function outside of many societal norms.
This year’s two homeschoolers have begun a tea party. They have decided that they need tea – Mikey for his sore throat and Sean for his incessant love of herbal teas (this one purchased at last Sunday’s Renaissance Faire). I realize ‘Make Tea’ is a task in Michael’s home economics book, so the task becomes a little broader and intense.
Gavin walks in from school. He has taken an ‘light’ senior year, completing only the requirements he has left to graduate – English, gym and photography. Even with his welding shop and lunch, he is home very early.
Dennis works from home more and more these days. Why? I am unsure. Certainly the office is quieter and more civil. If I could go to an office, I would. He is chatting away on a conference call and it adds to the din.
Ethan, who is supposed to be at his day program, is not. 50% of weeks that go by, he insists his program is closed on Fridays. We, of course, know that it is not, but he thinks he’s tricky. He colors at the dining room table and requests ‘cowboy music’, which is my country music station. At least it’s not his Christams Music. I comply and it adds more decibels.
I occassionally pan out on our life and think that it’s nuts and wonder how we ended up with such a messy, crazy life. Dennis has a mantra that kind of goes like this – “What have we done?” Yeah. We live in a very small house and I try to convince myself that moments like this are sweet. But then I brought back to ‘crazy’ and I guess for some folks, that’s just fine.
My sister’s and my kids were raised more like siblings. For several years, I was my niece and nephew’s childcare provider and the kids were raised all together.
I never intended for this motley little crew to grow up. I have no idea what I expected to happen, but I could not have aniticipated what today looks like back when I had a lovely little brood of ducklings following me around. Once, during a discussion that Gavin and I were having, he asked if I thought that I was just going to make pancakes and take them to the park and everything would be just fine!?
‘Yes.’ I replied. ‘That is exactly what I thought and I did not have a Plan B’. Everything is fine, but they don’t want to go to the park and definitely DO NOT follow me around.
They grew up anyhow, against my best advice and deepest wishes. Turns out they are doing pretty well. This weekend we bid farwell to the only girl, who intends to go rule the world. Have at it, Samantha!! Go, Ospreys!!
I used to post a series called ‘Sunday Scenes’. It was very helpful to my overall feelings about life.
**Disclaimer: ‘Sunday Scenes’ are in no way intended to pretend that life is perfect. It is an exercise that allows me (and you should you choose) to see that despite the fact that my life is less than perfect, there are sincerely perfect moments – and cookies.**
Do you know how I feel about making the bed? I feel very strongly about it.
The kid who NEVER plays with anything, has been playing with these for days.
I might deny that I bought white bread in the bargain bin and made 25 homemade ‘Uncrustables‘ for spoiled children who LOVE them! I have been informed that my ‘seal’ on them was poor and the engineering aspect needs improved. Duly noted.
Neil Gaiman and Mrs. Meyers help me clean the kitchen when I am completely unmotiviated. But it must be done.