Final College Visits

 Though it seems as if the season came and went, Dad and the oldest took what should be the final two college visits earlier this spring.    This trip actually came on the heels of the Titus 2:1 Conference in Washington, D.C., and after I headed home, those two kept traveling north to look at a couple of intriguing places for our daughter’s new home.   She’d never experienced the northeast before, with all of its hussle and bussle, its pace, and its “real-ness,” so to speak, so Philadelphia was a great place to see very different sides of a different part of the world.

You’ll forgive me that, between recuperating from illness as well as taking too long to post this entry after the actual trip, my summaries are alot shorter than some of the earlier visits we took to different campuses.  

Philadelphia University was in many ways a perfect school for our daughter.    It is suburban , but still allows access to all of Philadelphia.     It is a smaller school, which we wanted for her, given that she’s leaving from a school population of 3.   The college had wonderful opportunities within her intended major, both academic and otherwise.    She could stay an extra year and receive a Masters’, which was a strong plus.    Also, the University had done a great job of incorporating current trends and issues into the program design, making it more relevant for a person just entering school.    There was a significant emphasis placed on using your knowledge, skills and talents to give back to the community through service; I think this is where our volunteer queen began to fall in love.   

Yet, its rustic charm and secluded campus left her with a looming question: will I really fit in here?   Everything about the school is northeast suburban; there were no cheap chains at which to eat, no student-friendly places to shop, and in general, no obvious love for the have-to-ask-cuz-you-can’t-afford-it crowd.

We move on.

Drexel had nearly everything that our budding academician wanted, especially the focus on co-ops as an integral part of the graduation process.   The campus was large enough to offer numerous extracurricular opportunities.      And she still recalls that, unlike Philadephia U, she did see a Chick-Fil-A  🙂    

There was just one BIG problem, at least from where the oldest stood:

Drexel is in the heart of downtown Philadelphia.   Though our girl is a city girl, a city of this size was a bit overwhelming for her.    Her dad also took her on a short city bus ride and through the subway system so that she could get an even more realistic sense of what her life would be.    She left convinced, at least for the moment, that this school might not be as high on the list as some others.    Bear in mind that my comments about public transportation are not meant as a slam on anyone who has to or chooses to use these ways to get around.   But as a southwestern girl who has lived in a town built for wide open speed all her life, the oldest’s experience was…an adjustment, shall we say?

I give her this credit, though.   After getting home and thinking about it more, she didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and is still taking  a hard look at both schools.

Perhaps the best part of this trip for me is that she got to see Washington, D.C., as well as Philadephia.   These are, for whatever other issues they may have, two of the most historically significant cities in our nation, and ground that I’ve wanted to cover with all the children.   

Though most of these places you can’t just walk up and touch or take a tour as you did when I was there, it is still a history moment like no other when you see the place that you spent weeks reading about in a book and realize the spirit of what came before you.

Rocky Balboa climbed these same steps in his now infamous celebration dance.   May she soar equally as high, whereever she goes.

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Senior Year: Rigorous or Relaxed?

There is an amusing wall photo traveling the Facebook circuit right now regarding homeschools.   

You’ve probably seen it, but the bottom line, so to speak, of the photo is that what actually happens in most homeschools is very different than the perception of outsiders–the neighbors, the government, public school friends, professional teachers, etc.    Indeed, I talked in an earlier post about that impending moment when your homeschool environment must somehow conform itself into what the outside world (read college admissions offices, in our case) wants to see.     If your child is college-bound, those final four years must somehow fit into the format that is friendly for those who’ll decide if your seemingly avant-garde methodologies measure up to their standards.   There is another side of this equation, however: what happens when the educational requirements in your home actually exceed what is  required by a college?

My husband and I were having this conversation on the way back from a recent family mini-vacation.   With hours in the car, I chose to catch up on some neglected reading materials, including the oldest’s college information packages from all of her recent tours.    As I began to read through the required courses at the high school level, that light bulb that you see in cartoons was suddenly waaaaaaaay bright: after this academic year, she’s finished with most of the requirements!

Before I could settle into that moment of elation mixed with relief, I began to seriously ponder what this revelation meant to us in the coming school year.   Should I continue in a more rigorous path, or should I just teach/ plan for someone else to teach those few remaining classes that must be taught, and then allow a whole lot of “masterly inactivity,” as Charlotte Mason calls it?

Our daughter has personal and professional interests that are almost polar opposites of the direction I chose at her age.   Yet, she also has “closet” interests that are more similar to mine, so I’ve stuck to a fairly rigorous academic plan for her: much focus on writing, reading Western classics and great literature from around the world, exploring various areas of science, and making sure she conceptually understood math as opposed to mastering drill sheets.    We’ve been very strategic about her college courses and why we chose this path, when to take what class, and making sure that her choices of class aligned well with her interests.   Our goal, in part, was for her to have a good introductory experience to the pace and the many possiblities of college.   But now, I sit in the midst of a dilemma.    Dependent upon where our daughter applies for college entrance, all she needs to take to complete her required courses is 1 year of English.   That’s it!  I also have planned a World Geography course.   Otherwise, she can spend her time completing some of the courses required for college, she can get more involved in volunteerism or dance assistance/ instruction, she could potentially work–the world is her oyster!

Not coincidentally (as least I think so) during that extended ride, I also thumbed through one of my favorite homeschool “how-tos” and found this jewel:

‘If you ask a secular educator about learning theory, he would likely describe learning as a mental process centered on the child’s material brain, and measured by the retention of discreet facts and information.    He would emphasize the role of the teacher and the acquisition of knowledge…As a Christian home educator with a biblical view of education, …you would describe learning as a personal process involving both your child’s heart…and mind, and measured by wisdom, understanding and knowledge of truth...You would be more concerned with your child’s understanting of important ideas and concepts, than with the accumulation of discreet knowledge.   Your child is not just a soulless brain that needs to be filled up with facts by a teacher, but a person in relationship with you and God, who has eternal value, dignity and purpose because he or she is made in the image and likeness of their Creator.’

Sally Clarkson, Educating the Whole-Hearted Child, pg. 43

As a brief digression, I think every homeschooling parent needs to periodically go back to the old landmark, so to speak, and remind himself/ herself why they began this journey in the first place.   The trip back didn’t disappoint.   I needed to remember that this journey wasn’t, and isn’t, about cramming every moment with books and notebooks.   It is about pouring into the children, and then sealing upon their hearts and minds a confidence in knowing as well as a thirst for growing.     On that same page, Ms. Clarkson continues:

‘A child is not educated just because he’s logged enough time in classrooms, or performed well on certain tests, or completed a formal curriculum.  In God’s economy, to be “educated” is not a matter of something you know or have achieved.   Rather, to be educated is something you become.   A truly educated child is one who has the desire and the ability to learn and to grow.   The desire to learn (will) is from the heart; the ability to learn (skill) is in the mind.’

It is possible to do both–rigor and relaxation.   The question is not rigorous or relaxed, but instead, how to combine the two to give her one final, memorable experience of being at home, learning and loving with those who will miss her dearly.   Blessings, dear friends.

More College Visits

As I posted in my highlights for February post, in addition to the busy-ness of home life and homeschool, we are also in full swing with the process of helping our oldest make a decision regarding where she’ll spend the next several years once she leaves our home.   You can see our first college visit here.   Dad hit the road with her this month (envision Martin Lawrence with Raven Symone in “College Road Trip”)–two universities, two markedly different experiences, two consequently different impressions.

The first stop:

Visiting Texas Womens’ University was more of a parent-driven activity than anything encouraged by the oldest, and that bit of background seemed to shape the day.   If it is any indication of her lack of interest, these pictures were captured by my husband on his cell phone; the oldest took none with her camera.

Pros

We really liked the size of this campus.    Although the oldest envisions herself at a larger state school (though not too large), we see the potential for large state school-related distractions, and would prefer a more intimate environment.   She also had no interest in attending a single-sex university, so it is good, at least for her,  that TWU is now opening its doors to males.   Though male enrollment is small, it is a step in the right direction for our daughter’s perceived needs.   The campus is also very near Dallas, where there are a number of outside cultural events related to her interests.  Last, but certainly not least, this campus is the most cost-effective for us of all the places that she’s shown interest in thus far.   It is not far from home, and the tuition, etc., are very affordable.   This was perhaps the point where we were willing to push her to at least take a look, pointing out to her that her brother is not far behind her, so we have to make decisions that benefit all parties involved.

Cons

The biggest disappointment was that TWU did not sell the program that interests her well at all.  

First, the program head had a scheduling conflict, and consequently, students were there to represent her particular school.    Though there was some value in this, and students can definitely offer a perspective, there was no one to speak to the program at a high level–approach to learning, philosophy behind the what and why of courses required, availability of internships and how they happen, etc.  I loved the fact that this level of conversation was so critical to our daughter; where did this mature young lady come from? 😉

My husband was also not pleased by the limited housing offered to students–a big consideration for me, at least, as I’ve experienced the horror of having to find apartments, inconsiderate roommates, etc. when housing was no longer available.   My husband also felt that there was no ideal “perfect” housing for a student’s needs (internet access, safety in the evening versus traffic through the university, etc.)

Our daughter returned home a bit more in like, but definitely not in love, with this campus.

Not long after, she made her second trip in as many weeks.

 

 I’ll answer the obvious question first, with all the candor that is me: “Why is a black girl from Texas even considering Iowa State University?” I’m glad you asked!  😉

In the fall of 2010, the oldest attended a local college fair.   For obvious reasons, the lines to see representatives of UT (in these parts that’s Texas, not Tennessee) and Texas A&M were long.   Other schools were helpful, but not necessarily engaged in a conversation that “sold” their school, so to speak.    The ISU rep impressed the oldest, and she was increasingly intrigued when we shared that my middle sister completed work for her Doctorate there–largely at the University’s expense.   Indeed, the rep spoke of a number of scholarship opportunities that could possibly be available to the oldest, and went out of his way to follow up on all of her questions.   They have subsequently “courted” the oldest with a barrage of e-mails, post cards, etc. from then until now.   In short, they spoke all of our language.   BUT, this is also our cold-natured girl who walks around the house with a bathrobe on top of day clothes–in July.   Our immediate reservation was that Iowa in the winter would be entirely too cold for her.   She was insistent that she could handle it, so we bought her the warmest category jacket Land’s End sold, insulated all-weather boots, and packed her off for a trip up to Ames in the midst of a snowstorm.

From my husband’s perspective, this was a very different experience from dragging the horse to water at TWU; she LOVED it.

 

 

 

 

(Notice the immediate difference in quantity and quality of pictures!)

Pros

Perhaps this is the case with all larger, state schools, but this place knew a thing or two about how to recruit a potential candidate.   We were called days before her visit to be sure that we were coming; they knew her intended major, who would be there, and all the amenities were laid out.    She spoke with everyone, from a resident advisor, to the admissions director, to the department head for her intended major, and of course, to other students.    The facilities were exceptional.   I feared momentarily that she’d had a brief love affair with the snow–rare in these parts–but she returned home sharing a number of advantages of their program:

1) it is one of the top rated in the country for her field

2) internships–domestic or overseas–are required as a part of graduation completion

3) housing is guaranteed for all four years (again, more peace of mind for me than for her)

4) strong support system in terms of mandatory meetings with various advisors

5) there is a dance program in addition in addition to her field of study

(Incidentally, TWU had several of these benefits, too, but you had to work much harder to find these things out).

Cons

Our first concern was the level of diversity.   When my sister attended this same school years ago, our niece remembered vividly going to church and having someone ask to feel her skin.  In fact, neither of them left the area with fond memories.  Before we as a family of girls embraced our natural hair, finding a salon once our daughter left home was a huge concern.   Thankfully, the Lord has ordered our steps such that she won’t have to worry about that quite as much.   The University is more diverse than I would have thought, but there is still the reality that Iowa isn’t exactly what one would consider a melting pot.

The weather poses some obvious concerns as well, as I stated earlier, for our cold-natured daughter.   I’m still not convinced that she’d survive 4 winters of 26 degrees as a high–very different than 1 day.    However, she feels as if she can make it, and each time I’ve questioned how realistic is this opportunity for her, her response has been, “Well, Mom, you just have to layer and bundle up.”   I simply don’t want our money bundled up in beauracracy if she decides this wasn’t as she thought after the first close encounter with months of winter.

Closely associated with the weather concern is the transportation issue.   Our vision was that our daughter would probably take what is now our second car to school with her.  She’s in no hurry to drive in Texas heat; how in the world will she navigate  in Iowa snow?    She quickly caught wind of the shuttle system that is widely available throughout the campus and around town (Ames is a big college town), and has stated numerous times that the shuttle is a viable option to her having to drive around in conditions that are not comfortable for her.

She obviously enjoyed the tour.   So as of right now, it is a definite possibility.   She has one more trip to take in late April.   I look forward to the “come to Jesus” we’ll have this summer regarding her fantasies versus our realities.  Start praying, friends.

Current Events:1st Crack

In my last post, I shared my youngest’s desire to add current events to her course work, and, to a larger extent, to emulate her brother and sister.   She’s completed her current events for 2 weeks now, and her results are well worth capturing.    Here is a sample of her summary.

“Stitches of Hope”

 

 

‘There is a 30-foot flag that represents the country of America.   When our American flag got badly torn with holes almost everywhere, but our flag survived.  Seven years later our flag was sent to Greenburg, Kansas.  After a terrible tornado, member[s] of Kansas used flags from around the world to repair a flag from 9/11.   Then, the flag took a vacation and had more Americans help the poor little flag.   Even the local navy sewed the flag.’  

 

Definitely some work to do, but I love a child’s way of figuring life out.   My personal favorite is the flag’s decision to take a vacation–too funny!!

Cancer through a Child’s Eyes

This was a post our youngest daughter wrote on her blog.   Two weeks ago we attended the funeral of a dear friend who battled cancer on three different times in the last few years.   By way of explanation, during this final bout, the cancer spread from her lymph nodes and through her body, even into the bone marrow.   The ‘arms being bigger than anything I had ever seen’ that our daughter speaks of were the result of the cancer spreading through her arms and skin.  

 

 I thought our daughter’s perspective on cancer, death, and attending her first funeral was interesting.  I pray that it blesses someone else who reads it.

 

 

First Week of Summer

If I had it to do all over again, I would have taken last week off completely from school and then begin on tomorrow after the holiday.    I can always tell when my mind is spinning, and the product of that level of angst and confusion usually isn’t good.    Yet, I was so determined to not waste our summer by sleeping late and staying plugged in all day until I had the kids in books the next day after our official school year “ended.”    The result was that neither the kids nor I felt as if we’d truly ended anything, and the youngest, with all the boldness of a child’s unbridled tongue, let me know it.   “When do we get a break??!!”   

This is sooooo not the way that I want to school during our summer downtime.     So I began explaining that school wouldn’t look exactly as it did during the year, but the true proof in the proverbial pudding was when I began to relax and not pressure them with getting up at a certain time, getting this and that done, and taking away from the fun of life (like time with Dad) in order to complete said page.    Lesson learned.    Moreover, once I did relax, I was able to think through what I wanted the kids to accomplish during the summer–more on that later.

When we weren’t around the table, we were unusually busy for almost the whole week.   It went by in such a blur until I almost can’t remember it.    I spent 2-3 days washing and pressing hair in preparation for team pictures on this past Friday.   I’m hoping against all hope to make the flat-ironing last until time for the dance recital on next weekend.    That process of straightening the girls’ hair is so labor-intensive for me until I almost dread doing it.    I think the ill feelings were compounded once I began to embrace our natural hair; I now fully realize what I’m doing to their tresses by applying that much heat.

I found out Thursday that a dear friend went home to be with the Lord after an extended battle with breast cancer that eventually spread throughout her body.   She was a mentor to our oldest daughter and to me, truth be told; we “adopted” the grandsons she parented as the brothers our son never had.    I know she’s in a better place, and cancer-free with the Lord, but I sure do miss her. 

Saturday we spent at a wedding during the day.   A dear friend married a 2nd time after a long and prayerful season of waiting on a Godly man.    The season was more stressful due to a teenage daughter that, at least from the natural eye, seemed to turn away from everything she was destined by God to be.   It’d been a tough road for this woman of God, and my heart rejoiced to see her happy and radiantly in love.

Saturday evening we were blessed with a rich Word from Bishop T.D. Jakes while he was in town.     Luke 15: 1-8 leaped off the page for me as the Bishop delivered a life-changing message about recession, resurgence, and remaining.   Wow.

My husband loved me enough to give me a much-needed break on Sunday morning, and he taught our Sunday School class by himself, bless his heart.   I felt bad about leaving him with a class that is still establishing its personality with us (ha ha), partly because I wanted to see the lesson!     He performed a couple of magic tricks as a lead-in to the story of Simon the magician, and how we, like Simon, can crave the power of the Holy Spirit (or just church presence) for all the wrong reasons.   The class was small, but well engaged in the lesson, from what I’m told.     This group of kids is markedly different from previous classes we’ve had because of their candor.   There’s one thing I can say about them: right or wrong, you never have to guess what they’re thinking. 

Somewhat well rested, I hussled to get everyone ready for an evening event put on by the local chapter of the NAACP.    During April, the oldest competed in their academic olympic event (ACT-SO) in Earth Science, and Sunday evening was the presentation of awards.     She had returned from April’s competition with a message of doom and gloom about how she fared with the judges, so I had no reason to believe that she would place.     That said, man!    Was I overjoyed when she was announced as the silver (2nd place) award winner!     We couldn’t have been more proud.

Incidentally, it’s odd to see myself with my “poofy” braid-out–a combination of hair that needed washing and the Texas humidity.   Who is that woman with my daughter?!   (But, let’s not make this about me–smile).    Here she is with Dad, and then with friends who also participated in this year’s competition. 

Today, Memorial Day, was a day of semi-rest once again after having a well-traveled, eventful weekend.   Whew!    My in-laws joined us for Cajun fare–crawfish boudin and blackened tilapia.    Good times with family and great food.

Believe it or not, I actually did, somewhere in the midst of all this activity, get to settle my mind and think about what I want to do with the kids this summer.   In short:

  • We will work on 3 days/ week.
  • The youngest: read together and work  on math and handwriting all 3 days, with grammar added on one day and science on another.
  • Our son: read together, make sure he continues with “free” reading times, and complete math on all 3 days.
  • The oldest: help her adjust to college English, read together, and complete math on 3 days.

I will not get in the way of informal studies masterly inactivity, as Miss Mason would say, with my own agenda.

I will not plan the fun out of summer for the sake of completing academic work.

I will get some things done (like scrapbooking and sewing) that I’ve wanted to complete for forever.   That means I will relax.

Pray for me, saints.   God bless.

Excerpt from Caddie Woodlawn

 Caddie’s father’s words to her, reflecting upon her fear of growing up and becoming a young lady:

‘It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful.   What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way!  A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness.   It’s a big task, too, Caddie–harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers.   It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things.   They have them just as much as the men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness.  A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s.   But no man could ever do it so well.   I don’t want you to be the silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady.   No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl.   I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind.’

from Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink