What’s the Game Plan?

Do you have a game plan for your child this summer? Would you like them to learn a sport or hone their existing athletic skills? Do you want them to develop character traits that will impact their choices positively? 
This year, Mega Sports Camp 2015 will be holding its second run of the successful weeklong sports, fitness, and values event for children ages 6 to 13 years old. There’s no other camp in the Philippines quite like it! Organized by CCF’s NXTGen Children’s Ministry in cooperation with a team of incredible coaches like PBA’s Coach Siot Tanquincen, Plana Forma Trainer’s Gino Ong, and many others, this is one camp you won’t want your kids to miss out on! 

The theme of this year’s camp is GAME PLAN, echoing the verses in Jeremiah 29:11-12, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”
If you prefer to wait for your children during the camp days, you can attend scheduled talks for parents (topics to be announced). Even though the camp aims to accommodate 1,500 kids, slots are limited for each sport. So the earlier you sign your kids up, the more sports options you will have to choose from. My boys are all signing up for basketball!  



View this video to get an idea of what last year’s camp was like:Mega Sports Camp Highlights

Dealing With Meltdowns

When my kids have their once-in-a-while “meltdowns” during our homeschooling, I am faced with two options. The first is to be annoyed, which is a very real temptation that may involve a response like, “Get over it and do your work. I have no time for your drama.”

Obviously, this would be counterproductive as it is unfair to expect my children to turn their emotions on and off like a switch does to a light bulb. So I usually go for option two, which is to give my children space to feel the emotion that is overwhelming them, to process what they are feeling, and then to pray about it. After all, I have several children to teach so having one absent from our homeschool room actually makes my life easier! But the more important objective is giving my kids the opportunity to hear from the Lord, and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to them more effectively than I can, especially when the meltdown is at its peak. This type of response is more effectively applied with older children who have a relationship with Jesus Christ because they are Holy-Spirit-equipped to process their circumstances.

Yesterday, my oldest son, Elijah, pushed his IPad away while muttering, “I can’t do this! I got everything wrong! I don’t like math anymore!”

“Are you okay?” I asked calmly, attempting to diffuse his frustration.

“No, I am not and you can’t help me. Nobody can help me.” (He tends to use superlatives in his sentences when he is emotionally charged.)

It wasn’t the most respectful thing to say to me, but I knew where he was coming from as a perfectionist. So I requested that he take a break from his Khan Academy work and go to his room. He got up, huffing and puffing about what a failure he was and threw himself on to the bed to cry.

When Elijah makes mistakes, his morale plummets due to the high standard he expects of himself. Even if I tell him, mistakes can be positive when we learn from them and it’s okay to make mistakes, mistakes are part of growing, that’s not what he wants to hear. More often than not, the best recourse is to back off and give him space to cool down.

After thirty minutes, I lay beside him on the bed and gave him a big hug and kiss. “I love you.” I assured him. And then I listened to his ranting about how upset he was and how he didn’t want to try because he couldn’t do his math well.

When he quieted down I asked him if his mistakes were due to an understanding issue or just carelessness. He admitted that it was the latter. I suspected it was probably so because he prefers to solve math problems mentally, without writing down the solutions.

Since it wasn’t a matter of understanding the formulas involved, I didn’t think it was a big problem. He just needed to slow down and take time to review how he arrived at the answers he did. Furthermore, I asked him if I could sit beside him and do the problems with him.

He really perked up with this suggestion! The idea of sitting side by side to tackle the work gave him renewed incentive to try again. (He is a time person.) So that’s what we did, as a team.

With each problem, we raced to see who would get the answer first. When I needed to review my math formulas I asked him to help me, which he enjoyed doing. In fact his mood changed completely. He was enthusiastic as he demonstrated how to solve the problems and as we compared our answers. I let him take the lead and he gladly did so, assuming the role of instructor as I played the part of student. In the process he answered every problem correctly. What began as a meltdown turned into a fun bonding and learning experience.

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When we finished, Elijah turned to me and said, “Thank you, mom. Thank you for listening and not lecturing me. And I really like it when you are with me.”

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19‬ NASB)

One of the sweet privileges of homeschooling is being able to ask my kids to take a pause from their “school” work in order to assess and pray about their emotions and attitudes. This gives the Holy Spirit room to convict them and minister to them. It also allows me to think through how I should respond so I avoid the default reaction of irritation when my kids say, “I don’t want to do my work, mom.” After the beneficial pause, which lasts between five to thirty minutes, I can come along side my children to walk them through the challenge of a difficult assignment.

This wouldn’t be realistic in the conventional school model, so I praise God my kids aren’t in a classroom. We aren’t rushed to finish course work during the day when it’s more necessary to stop and address a heart condition or encourage the love for learning. I also get to know my children better — what enlivens them, what demotivates them, what they need to improve on. Best of all, I see the grace of God at work as he helps them deal with their struggles and come out of them positively. God works in my own life, too, teaching me what to say and what to AVOID saying (which is my number one area of improvement in life…keeping quiet and being gentle!)

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭32‬ NASB)

I once read that parenting needs to be about long term goals rather than short-sighted ones. Short-sightedness is stressing out when my children aren’t eager to do their homeschooling work or when they don’t seem to get the material as expediently as I hope they will. I can fall into this mode of parenting which turns me into a tyrannical teacher, one who is pressured to MAKE my kids succeed academically. Or, I can set my sights on the long term goal of parenting.

My long term goal is to raise my children to love God with all that they are and to develop their gifts and abilities for his glory, so they can effectively declare the gospel. When that is my fixed mark, the kids and I can set aside the homeschooling task at hand because there is a more redemptive cause at stake — recalibrating my children’s hearts to adapt Christ-centered perspectives and attitudes. I want their minds primed for instruction rather than forced to receive it. I also want them to know that my love and acceptance will cushion their failures.

When these elements are present as we homeschool, the joy of purposeful learning and teaching returns and the atmosphere is one of peace and calm. But everyday births a new challenge or resurrects an old one so it’s only by God’s grace that we survive each year of homeschooling to pursue another one!

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Do We Really Need to Be Stressed?

My older sons were de-motivated at the beginning of the morning. When they looked over the homeschool work they had to get done, they sulked and complained about being “stressed.”

I am partially to blame for using this word lightly. When I have a lot going on, I will loosely say, “I’m stressed.” As a result, my kids have adapted it as a descriptor to explain how they feel when they see their books piled up beside them.

My example has not been profitable for them. It has caused them to misunderstand what REAL STRESS really is. So I decided to have an enlightening conversation with them once and for all to stop the misuse of this word in our home.

Stressed, I said emphatically. Do you really know what stress means? The word “stressed out” is more appropriately used by those who don’t have a home, who don’t have food, or clothing, who are deathly sick, and don’t have a family to love them. You and I don’t have stress in our lives, we are privileged…privileged to have food, clothing, shelter, to be sitting on this couch with one another, in the middle of a beautiful family room, where we are reading books we can afford to buy, and enjoying one another’s company. And most of all, we are privileged to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to know where we are going one day if we die. That’s being privileged, not stressed. I know I have used that word “stressed” and you have copied me, and I have been wrong. (Please forgive me was added later on.) But from now on, we are banned from saying that word. Everyone who says it will loose points. Even me. You can fine me for saying it.

The expressions on my children’s faces changed from frowns to smiles as they realized that God has been good to us. He is good to us. Period. There may be times when our family experiences trials but in comparison to what we have in Christ, to having eternal security, stress doesn’t have to impair us from accomplishing the tasks we have been entrusted with or steal our peace and joy.

…May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled andwill not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:2-9)

It’s so important to teach our children perspective and to remind ourselves, as parents, that we can choose to look at our circumstances positively or negatively. When we focus on the privileges we have, it encourages our children to do the same. When we bicker and complain about hardships, our children will do the same. However, this isn’t just about our attitude on present circumstances. I shared the passages in 1 Peter 1:2-9 because we are supposed to look beyond this world, to the heavenly future God has in store for us which is certain and secure in Jesus Christ. We may go through very real problems and issues that may warrant the use of the word “stress” but in light of eternity, these remain for just “a little while” as the apostle Peter states. So let us “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of our faith the salvation of our souls.” That’s what faith is!

Growing up, my parents role-modeled putting on spiritual lenses in the face of challenges and trials. My grandfather had once upon a time been very wealthy. He had an office in the Empire State Building and owned a textile company called Riverside Mills. He was featured in Reader’s Digest’s Who’s Who In Asia. So my dad was raised with, what he called, a platinum spoon. When he graduated from college, he worked for the family business. However, due to a series of bad decisions made by the company (not my father), one of the late Ferdinand Marcos’ cronies kicked my dad out of the family business and took over. It was incredulous. (I have simplified the story.)

My dad witnessed the humiliation of his father and the entire family. At one point, he admitted that he wanted to change his last name because so much ridicule was attached to it. However, he believed God had a purpose for allowing this to happen. Since we were very young children at the time, we didn’t feel the sting too much, but my parents had to figure out how to survive. (We ate fish most of the time, which I grew to love!)

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One of the things my parents tried to do was buy a cow to sell its meat after it was butchered. After all the effort, part of the cow had rot in it, and by the time they sold what they could, they only made P500 pesos. But they gave that to the Lord as a first fruits offering. They believed that God was in control and entrusted their future and ours to him. But my dad did his part. He didn’t give up. He even went to the Asian Institute of Management business school and graduated with honors, thinking he might need to become an employee.

Years later, my dad started a real estate company. (This happened after he acted on the conviction to give up a logging business because of the compromises he was pressured to make.) God blessed his real estate company. But the best thing that happened was the Lord worked in his heart and burdened him to start a church. He never wanted to become a pastor. He enjoyed teaching bible studies but pastoring was not his desire. However, he responded to God’s prodding. In the 80’s he began a bible study to minister to his businessman friends and their spouses. Eventually, this group grew and today, Christ Commission Fellowship is a movement of over 50,000 followers of Jesus who are committed to evangelism and discipleship in order to make Christ-committed followers. All honor goes to the Lord who has done this mighty work. Today my dad is still a self-supporting pastor (with my brothers running the family business so he can give his time and attention to ministry.)

I don’t say this to boast but to add emphasis to the point that a person’s spiritual perspective on problems is important. Had my parents, especially my dad, wallowed in suffering and misery, they would have lost sight of God’s hand in their circumstances. Worst of all, they would have forfeited the privilege and blessing of ministering to people all around the world, teaching about Biblical principles on leadership, marriage and family.

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Whenever I think about my parents’ history and their faith journey, I am reminded to be a better example to my children. They need to be encouraged to hope in God and his plan for their lives no matter what they go through. Training them to embrace this perspective begins at home, with the challenges they face as children.

Sometimes, a homeschooling assignment can feel like a big challenge to my kids. Heck, sometimes homeschooling can feel like a big challenge to me! Instead of caving in because it is difficult, the better thing to do is remember that we are children of God, with uncountable privileges to be thankful and grateful for. While stress may be a valid feeling, it can’t be a valid excuse to give up and stop trying. We need to do what we can, within our control, and then entrust the results to God, believing that these are the circumstances that he has elected for us to go through in this season of our lives.

My kids and I are a work in progress. There are some days when I want to stay in bed and avoid facing the day because the responsibilities I must attend to resemble the stack of books my kids don’t like seeing. Yet, I praise God for the daily grace he supplies to keep us all going. His resources are infinite. His strength is supernatural. His joy is incomparable. And his rewards are worth whatever we may count as “stress” in this life. But, hey, do we really need to be stressed when He is our Heavenly Father?

Montessori And Homeschooling

My friend, Betty, is organizing a Montessori training for moms of young children. I don’t usually advertise events on my site but I am particularly supportive of this one because I have experienced the benefits of the Montessori method on my own kids.

When Elijah was little, we sent him to Abba’s Orchard (a real Maria Montessori school!) twice a week and homeschooled him the other three days of the week. It was just for a semester but Edric and I really liked the hands-on learning, one-on-one attention, purposeful play, and emphasis on practical skills and discipline that perfectly complemented Elijah’s homeschooling.

I have incorporated Montessori into my own homeschooling, using its very helpful techniques to introduce concepts to my kids. It’s an approach that parents can replicate very naturally at home.

For parents with pre-schoolers, or those who need creative ideas to engage their children in the learning process, or for parents who prefer a more wholistic, developmentally-sensitive approach to educating their children, this is a workshop worth attending.

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Diane Angping is an AMI trained Montessori teacher with a Masters in Early Childhood Education. She taught as Primary head teacher for 2.5-6 year olds and 6-9 year olds for several years in the U.S. but is now focused on raising her two sons and blogging for her site whenhippostalk.com.

Fifty First Lessons

It sometimes feels like fifty first lessons when I am teaching my sprightly and sweet daughter, Tiana. At four years old, she struggles to remember concepts.

Part of it is probably her age and the other is I haven’t been as intentional about teaching her. I probably wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it if she was my first child, but since my three older boys all read early and got mathematics quickly, sometimes I get worried and frustrated about where Tiana is at academically.

After I teach her letter sounds and numbers, the next day, she will casually forget when I ask her, “What letter is this? What sound does it make? Or what number is this?” It reminds me of the movie, em>Fifty First Dates, where Drew Barymore plays a woman whose day resets every morning.

Tiana gives me a “Huh? Ummm,” and a blank stare. On the one hand, it’s awfully cute, the way she cocks one eyebrow up and makes a ridiculous frown with her bangs dangling over her face. She looks like the little kid in Despicable Me. The one who says, “It’s so fluffy!”

It almost seems like she is kidding around when she acts so clueless. But then I start to panic when it becomes obvious that she has totally forgotten something like what the numbers 1 to 10 are. As I vacillate between incredulous and forgiving, I think to myself, is she mentally challenged? Should I have her tested for a disability? Is she too young? Am I doing something wrong?

Deep in my heart I know she is a bright child. She has the gift of insight and sensitivity which is often times better than displays of academic ability. She is also a joyful child and very obedient.

However, when I am in the homeschooling zone, where I must put on my “parent-teacher” cap and cover pre-school concepts with her, I can be reactive. Since my boys were able to “get it” pretty quickly when they were her age then why can’t she? This isn’t complicated stuff. It’s basic. It’s simple.

Today I was tempted to compare her again when she couldn’t identify number 5. A few days ago she was confidentially doing so and then it was back to ground zero. I was about to give in to the annoyance that was building up inside of me, but God reminded me to apply what I tell other homeschooling moms.

I need to begin with the premise that she is capable. What I have to do is change my approach and methodology, even my goals. I may want her to be at a certain level in her academics at four years old but even if she isn’t, that’s alright. With repetition, consistency, intentionality, and creativity, (and prayer!) Tiana will most certainly learn. She learns everyday, even if she may forget her letters and numbers. But she definitely needs my guidance and my hopefulness. I need to encourage her and be positive.

So today, I adjusted my lesson plan and focused on the number 5. Just number 5. She has no problem counting, and she understands 1 is to 1 correspondence. But sometimes she guesses when she looks at the numbers, especially with numbers 5 to 9.

First, I made a list of 5’s on our white board easel. And then I had her write number 5 many times, as many times as she could. I repeatedly asked her, “What number are you writing now?

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“Number 5!” She would say with enthusiasm. Because she was writing with a white board marker, she didn’t mind at all. It didn’t feel like work.

After she wrote each column, I would play a “bring me” game with her. She had to bring me objects like 5 spoons, 5 stuffed toys, 5 pillows, 5 rocks, 5 shirts, 5 shoes, 5 books, etc.

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“This is game, right mom?”

“Yes, it is!” And she would go all around the house looking for the items. While Tiana was busy hunting for the objects, I attended to my sons. The game worked in my favor, too.

Every now and then I would call out to her, “What number is that?” “How many ________ do you have to bring me?” How old will you be this year?”

“(Number) 5!”

By the time Tiana finished her “game” she had unknowingly written one hundred number 5’s! Afterwards I gave her a blank sheet of paper and she victoriously wrote down the number 5 without looking at the white board. I tested her again in the afternoon and she still remembered.

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We shall see what happens tomorrow morning! Her brain may reset again but that’s okay. We will get through these fifty first lessons somehow, one day at a time, and by God’s grace!

You Don’t Have to Know Everything…

Being able to educate our own children in a day and age when resources abound is an advantage we must absolutely take advantage of!

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My personal conviction is that these are the best years in history to homeschool children. During the years when my mom was teaching us, she would go to the bookstore and pick out a stack of books (very often without teacher’s guides) and use those to educate us. Well, those days are long gone! Praise God! And hey, my siblings and I turned out okay without all the resources that children today have access to. What more today!

Today, it’s not so much about what you know but if you know where to go to equip yourself and get the help you need. The key is resourcefulness. If you can’t teach a topic or a subject well (or FEEL like you can’t), you can do one or more of the following:

1. Get a tutor for specific subjects that are difficult to teach (if you can afford it).

2. Supplement your instruction with online resources and educational apps. 

Take for instance a site like Khan Academy. When my kids don’t understand a math problem or I’m going crazy trying to explain a concept, I ask them to visit Khan Academy. The great thing about this site is how easily and clearly skills are explained and broken down for kids. Elijah has educated himself using Khan Academy. It counts more for him because he needs higher level math instruction. The math aspect of Khan Academy provides lessons and exercises (and rewards) for the most basic arithmetic all the way up to Calculus.

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What a relief it was when I stumbled across this site three years ago! And it’s free!

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If you have a learner who is struggling with math or you are a homeschool mom who doesn’t feel very confident teaching it, then use this site! An added plus is Khan Academy also has topics like science, computer programming, arts and humanities…However, Elijah primarily uses it for math and computer programming. We prefer a creation-based approach to science.

3. Join a coop and team teach with other moms who are experts or passionate about certain subject areas. I love our coop! The kids enjoy classes like music theory, arts and crafts, science, bible & character, speech, Filipino, local civics, literature studies, and physical fitness.  Soon, we will be adding a cooking class! It’s getting to be super big so I can’t keep inviting people to it. But the idea of it is easily replicable. Find out who is homeschooling in your area. You can send out a random Facebook post if you have no idea where to start. I asked the ladies in my bible study group if they would like to do group homeschooling. That’s how we started.

 

The first thing you have to do is have a general assembly. Pick a day in the week to gather together.  During the first meeting discuss…

– Purpose and goals (ex. group learning experiences, specialization classes)

– Venue. It can be at a home or at a church. We rent our church’s facilities because we can’t fit in a house without tearing it apart.

– Set a date, time, and frequency of meetings

– Kids’ groupings (example: 0 to 3, 4 to 6, 7 to 10, 11 to 13 etc.)

– Activities/subjects to cover for each quarter

– Assign moms who can teach or assist (rotation can be on a quarterly basis so no one gets “abused.”)

– Set blocks of time, like 30 to 45 minute slots for each lesson.

– Agree on costs involved

– Start a Facebook, Viber, or WhatsApp group to stay connected.

– Set up coop rules so everyone is aligned on expectations. These are the rules we initially started off with but we’ve relaxed and become less legalistic! Okay, I HAVE BECOME LESS LEGALISTIC because I wrote these rules!

GROUP HOMESCHOOLING RULES: (Not all of these are applicable anymore because we moved our meetings to a different venue but you can still get some helpful ideas from this list.)

  • Please inform your children that they are attending this activity to learn cooperatively. If they can’t sit through the sessions and they are interruptive, please take them aside and talk to them. Please don’t assume that whoever is teaching is going to be able to manage all the children. So, please make sure your kids know that attentiveness is required. Let’s create a culture of good listeners!
  • If your children make a mess, please encourage them to clean up before leaving. This is part of our character training for the kids. They need to clean up and pack away properly after themselves.
  • No jumping on furniture or eating in the 2nd floor rooms, living room, and family room. This is for pest control purposes and we have couches that I would prefer don’t get stains on them. I know you mommies will understand. 
  • Group Class will be held in the family room (for Bible and character). Classes for the older kids will be held in the kitchen. Classes for the younger kids will be held in the dining room. Babies can play in the playroom. Art will be done on the patio or lanai, not inside (unless it is raining). In case the kids work with messy materials, there’s nothing to “destroy” out there.
  • No babies hanging around during the older kids and younger kids’ sessions. They will be a distraction.
  • Please bring a dish to share for lunch.
  • Please bring your own art supplies/kits/paper/notebooks.
  • To make this sustainable, everyone who joins must be willing to teach or assist at some point. That’s a requirement for joining the group.
  • If you plan an activity as a “teacher,” please inform moms ahead of time about supplies and materials.

4. Enroll your child in a class at a center or club.  Check out centers like Learning Library, Coach E Basketball School, Abacus Math (SIP Academy), Mathemagis, Bert Lozada Swimschool, Futbol Funatics, Team Socceroo, Club Gymnastica, Perkins Twins Tennis AcademyKidzArt, Global Art,  etc. Smart Parenting has an exhaustive list of summer classes from 2014 with helpful links to centers and clubs that may offer classes all year. It’s worth checking out their article: A Guide to Summer Classes And Activities 2014.

5. Ask a school if your child can pay to attend some of the classes. Elijah did this with The Abba’s Orchard when he was in Kindergarten. He attended two days of Montessori classes for a semester. I’m not sure if they are still offering this but The Abba’s Orchard is a great option.

6. Link up with an support group, like Homeschoolers in the Philippines. Donna Pangilinan-Simpao, a mother of four, is the moderator. Her two older sons are in Brent and Beacon school for High School (after successfully homeschooling them). Her younger two are in Grade 5 and Grade 3 and still homeschooled. Donna is actually a doctor! But she decided to focus on homeschooling her children. She has over years and years and years of glorious homeschooling experience. She is one of those homeschooling moms that has always made everything look so easy…very organized and intentional. More importantly, she is a godly wife and mother, and she would tell you she does it all by God’s grace. That’s why I admire her.

The group has 2,300 members and counting. It is one of the best support groups I’ve seen in the Philippines. With a conglomeration of homeschoolers from different backgrounds, who use various approaches, you will find help for every topic that’s homeschool-related. To join, Donna suggests that you…Type the name Homeschoolers of the Philippines on the Facebook search box, and request to be added. It’s as easy as that!

7. Ask friends or relatives who own businesses or who are professionals to let your child apprentice with them. Okay, so they have to be a VERY GOOD friend or loving relative to invest time with your child. But it’s worth looking into. Homeschoolers develop an idea of who they want to be pretty early on. They don’t have to wait until college to learn their craft if you can connect them to someone who can teach them now.

8.  Take a trip to a museum, gallery, site or city to make the learning hands-on. When we were in San Francisco, we took the kids to the Exploratorium with their cousins. They were like ballistic missiles, darting in every direction in this sensorial arts, humanities, and science wonderland.

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9. Attend seminars and/or classes to educate yourself. For example, TMA Homeschool recently tied-up with International School of Theology so it can offer a Master’s Degree in Education option to parents of enrolled students. Pretty cool, eh?! The concept is earn a degree while homeschooling.

10. Pray! Pray! Pray! “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) This verse always encourages me. When I lack creativity or need to improve as a parent-teacher, God gives me ideas.

No one who homeschools is an expert at every subject and topic they need to teach. So be encouraged. You don’t have to know everything because it’s so much more about resourcefulness these days. If there is a will, there is a way. Find a way!

Fun Filipino Books For Young Children

My kids are loving these books by Ana de Borja Araneta and Krie Reyes Lopez, which were published by Anvil Publishing:

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The Motivated Learner

Edan might have fractured his wrist yesterday. I am taking him to the doctor just to make sure. He was jumping off our backyard swing when he slipped and landed on his right arm. Since he usually doesn’t express much of what is going on inside, Edric and I became concerned when he was bawling everytime his arm was jostled.

Interestingly, Edan’s entire countenance magically improved and his whining desisted when the mailman delivered his package from Pitcher Plant Farm last night. I announced, “Your plants arrived!” He perked up and smiled. I presented his eight carnivorous plants to him on the kitchen island and his eyes lit up.

They didn’t look like much but Elijah and Edan mouthed out their scientific names (in Latin, of course), going back and forth with one another about each one’s peculiarities and what they had to do to revive them. When I pulled them out of the package, they all resembled wilted leaves to me but the boys knew what to do.

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Prior to our trip to the U.S., Edan asked if he could get carnivorous plants as his Christmas present. We had been covering Botany and he zoned in on the Venus fly traps, Pitcher Plants, Bladderworts, and Sundews as his favorites. On his own initiative, he did further research about where to get these plants and discovered that there was a German horticulturist based in Bukidnon who specialized in carnivorous plants. (Pitcher Plant Farm is located in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon Province about 90 minutes south of Cagayan de Oro on Mindanao island. It is owned by Volker Heinrich.)

Edric ordered the plants online and Volker Heinrich was pretty specific about how to care for the plants. Thank goodness too because I thought the purchase was a disaster when I opened up the plastic to survey what looked like dying plants and dirt. But Edan couldn’t have been happier. His excitement eclipsed his pain. After all, he had been anticipating the arrival of these insect-digesting wonders for weeks. This was one of the reasons why he was eager to get back home from our vacation in the U.S.

I attribute his interest towards Botany to home schooling. He gets to pursue topics that he is drawn to. The same goes for my other kids. I cover the essentials during instruction time but they have the liberty to dig deeper if they want to. Edric and I provide them with the tools and materials to further their discoveries. These days Edan is not only fascinated by plants, he likes anything related to science. (Before he hurt his harm, he and his brothers made slime. I saw the gooey outcome of their experimentation when they proudly showed off their creations — glow in the dark slime, metallic slime and color-changing slime! One for each of my boys.)

Children will learn with gusto when the environment encourages autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This is something I picked up about motivation from a TED Talk given by author, Daniel Pink, who wrote the bestseller, Drive, some years ago.
He said that the dangling-of-a-carrot-on-a-stick form of motivation can only go so far because the driver is external. The best form of motivation ought to be intrinsic. Don’t just pay employees higher to manage their outcomes. Instead, organizations ought to cultivate an environment that encourages autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Most jobs today rely on “heuristic work” rather than “algorithmic work.” Algorithmic work is predictable problem solving, where a line can be drawn to a singular answer. This sort of thing can be outsourced and automated. Heuristic work requires experimentation with possibilities to come up with new solutions. It needs creativity.

I would like to believe that this verily applies to education as well. At the collegiate end of our children’s learning journey, we don’t want them to be rote thinkers. We want them to take the initiative to apply their skills and knowledge (autonomy and mastery) to better the world they live in, a goal that is beyond themselves (purpose). For our family, this means making a difference for Jesus Christ.

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose begin at home. I need to trust my children’s natural desire to learn. Even though I set parameters as their instructor, I don’t restrict them to paper and pen tasks or textbooks. As I mentioned earlier, if a topic we studied piques their curiosity like carnivorous plants, I give them free time during the day to research and read about it.

As for mastery, when a task or skill is important, I require hard work and discipline from my kids. But I also slow down if necessary so they can proceed to the next task or skill only when they are equipped and ready. This is more applicable to subjects like math, reading, spelling, writing, and comprehension.

Unpreparedness only fosters discouragement and insecurity. But a child who isn’t overloaded with information by an instructor or hurried along for the sake of keeping up with the lesson plan, will develop the confidence level to take on more challenging work as he or she masters bite sized portions of learning. Challenges ought to be discernibly matched to ability so a child can progress to more difficult ones knowing that his best effort will produce favorable results.

Finally, there is purpose. My oldest son, Elijah, used to dislike math with a passion. He doesn’t even remember this anymore. But he would resist my attempts at teaching him when he was four or five years old. Until I explained how meaningful math is to our very existence and how practical its applications are in everyday life, he considered it a chore. I had to let him see math’s significance first and then his attitude changed. Today math is one of his favorite subjects.

As my children grow up, Edric and I emphasize that their education is part of God’s plan for them, to accomplish his will and to influence this world for Jesus Christ. So they need to do their best and be excellent, not to become smart or to do well on tests (that’s a small part of the bigger picture), but to prepare themselves for the greater work they will one day do for the Lord. It’s a purpose that is higher than themselves or even our family.

None of my kids are perfect students in the sense that they ALWAYS have a good attitude when they are homeschooling. But I am happy to say that they are motivated learners because homeschooling provides them with an environment where autonomy, mastery and purpose can flourish. Why else would an 8 year old want to learn the latin names of all the carnivorous plants and grow them on his own?! It may not be the most important things to memorize or do but he’s certainly learning how to learn about difficult content and that’s a valuable skill for success. Plus he is having a lot of fun, even with his sprained arm. It is a sprain after all and not a fracture according to our doctor. Whew!

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The Benefits of Homeschooling With an Accredited Program

There are many ways to go about homeschooling. Sometimes I get enamoured by the idea of homeschooling without accountability. Just going about it on my own without the pressure of submitting portfolios, grades, and getting assessments. Accredited programs have requirements that need to be met on top of the actual homeschooling. This added work can be unpleasant.

For example, I would prefer not to submit portfolios (which we have to do for TMA Homeschool). But over the years of having to turn these in to show my children’s work, I have amassed a wonderful collection of their homeschool years. Their portfolios serve as memory books of what they learned and how far they have come. My kids like going through them and seeing how they have grown, too. Interestingly, when Edric and I met with a very important DepEd official, she said that portfolios are one of the best ways to assess a child’s progress. Yeah! Go TMA Homeschool! As far as I know, TMA Homeschool was the first accredited homeschool provider in the Philippines to implement this.

Even though homeschooling under a program can be more challenging, it has many valuable perks. Accredited programs provide transcripts and records which makes it easier to transfer your children to the conventional school in the future. Some programs also track your child’s progress and give you feedback on a regular basis. Others organise events to gather enrolled families together, or set-up cooperatives where families can meet together in smaller groups on a more regular basis.

There are no perfect homeschool organisations. Some may do a better job than others but at the end of the day, an accredited homeschooling program’s biggest plus is the security of knowing that your child’s work is validated. After all the effort you and your child put into the homeschooling experience, this matters a lot. With records to prove that they have moved from one level to another, these documents save a parent the hassle of having to convince schools that their child was actually receiving an education.

In a perfect world, homeschoolers shouldn’t be given a hard time when it comes to transitioning to conventional schools. Yet until that point when Philippine education catches up to homeschooling, we have to be smart about the choices we make. I am all for homeschooling, and I want to safeguard the right of a parent to teach his or her child. But there are many ways to preserve this right. One route is to find a dependable homeschool provider that allows parents enough flexibility to choose how their child will be homeschooled and what materials they will use, but dictates helpful parameters that are intended for the good of the family and their homeschooling experience. For now, this happens to be the option our family has taken.

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So far, I’ve been pleased with where we are headed. My third son, Titus, just had his moving up ceremony last week. He was promoted to 1st grade.

How do kids get promoted to the next level? At TMA Homeschool, parents submit grades for their child and these are reviewed by their Family Advisor or Academic Consultant. A kindergartener is assessed based on a checklist of skills. Being able to read is one of the more important requirements because they will build on this skill in first grade. For elementary students, a portfolio is submitted quarterly along with the grades. For more seasoned homeschoolers, a portfolio can be submitted every semester or at the end of the year (with the approval of a consultant to do so.) The consultant provides a check and balance for parents and meets with the homeschooled child during the portfolio evaluations. These evaluations are generally informal but they allow the consultant to dialogue with the child. The child is also given the opportunity to present his or her work.

At the end of the year, elementary and high school homeschoolers are given an achievement test. This becomes a diagnostic for the parent to refer to – what did we do right this year, how can we improve, what are my child’s areas of strength? of weakness? Personally, I find these assessments very helpful because they provide an objective measure of where my kids are at. (There’s no need to have kids study for these assessments, either, so it’s a more accurate portrayal of what they know and do not know so far, the way they think, problem-solve, and process content.)

Graduation for TMA Homeschoolers happens at three stages — after kindergarten, 6th grade, and Senior year.  At TMA Homeschool, graduation is unique. Besides receiving certificates, children also receive a character award from their parents. This award is announced during the ceremony.  

We gave Titus the character award of being loving. He is a kind, thoughtful, tender-hearted son who thinks about others before himself.

Another special part of the graduation is a child reads a letter of appreciation to his parents which is very sweet because they say things like, “Thank you mom and dad for homesechooling me…” which is always wonderful to hear!

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To celebrate his transition to 1st grade, we also ate out as a family. Congratulations my dear, Titus! I applaud your hard work this year!

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A Greater Purpose For Learning

I have often told my kids that language skills are important. Reading, writing, composition, and comprehension are all necessary and worth the hours of arduous study and practice required to hone them. They aren’t always eager about my pep talks. But they are beginning to experience why these are valuable beyond the discipline of learning academics.

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As often as possible, we ask our kids to speak with us when we teach at retreats or events. This gives them a venue to apply what they learn. Elijah speaks more frequently with Edric. Edan is getting his own version of speaker’s training as well. The point is to let our kids see how they can be a blessing when they develop a skill or ability that would otherwise seem insignificant to their childhood ambitions and preoccupations.

What kid likes to learn things like grammar and other tools for good communication? My children don’t naturally gravitate towards these disciplines. In fact they would prefer NOT to do their language arts subject. But nowadays they have good reason to.

A person who can read, write and speak well can be used by God to communicate his truth and bless people.

Most young children think of learning as their inescapable day to day reality. They can’t wait for semester and summer breaks. I know this because there was a season of my childhood when I was in a conventional school. I studied but I wasn’t inspired to do so. It was my duty, a responsibility that felt very much like a chore.

On the one hand, kids need to accept that they have to study well whether they like it or not. I had this conversation with Elijah this morning when he told me he wasn’t motivated to do his homeschool work. How wonderfully humbling that this surfaced right after I wrote an article on using creative ways to motivate a child to learn! He is an older child so I tread more carefully with him, trying to respect that he will soon be a young man. I don’t want to be an overbearing mother. But I did tell him that sometimes we decide with our head first and the feelings follow. We may not always feel like doing our responsibilities but we have to. So we make the choice to and God will bless the effort. By the end of the morning his mood changed. (Thank you, Lord.)

Going back to our children’s involvement in public speaking…

This is one way to get our kids to apply what they learn in a very practical manner. But the more valuable reason is we want them to see the bigger picture. Their education is profitable for the fulfillment of God’s plan. If they give their best now to train their minds, they can use their talents and abilities to make a difference for God’s glory.

The Bible tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NASB)

God invites even children to participate in the building if His Kingdom. At a young age, they can serve him and others. They can look beyond subject studies to seek a higher purpose for learning.

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“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭4‬:‭12‬ NASB)

Motivating Children To Learn

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have positively splendid learning days every single day…where our children have voracious appetites for reading, rise to the challenge of difficult assignments, and approach life with an insatiable curiosity to discover, know, and develop new skills? Wow. Wouldn’t homeschooling be a dream?! Okay, okay, every single day may be asking for too much. But I think it’s fair to expect that the good days can outweigh the tough ones.

Every homeschooling parent will encounter days when his or her child is not thrilled about studying. It’s completely normal. If this sort of de-motivated behavior starts trending, then a parent may have to take drastic measures to fix the problem. But the occasional attitude hump and bump along the way is to be expected.

Here are some helpful questions to ask…How do we kick-start our children’s internal sparkplugs? What is within our control to change, alter and improve? Could it be aspects like our perspective on our kids, the methodology we use, the materials we have chosen, or the environment we have staged for learning to happen? Is it something outside of our control? Like our children’s physical conditions, their attitudes, or heart issues that are spiritual in nature?

Answering the above questions will allow us to isolate factors that contribute to our children’s frustration or de-motivated approach to learning. For example, author George Harris, said, “When a child is given the right degree of difficulty in his studies so that he enjoys the challenge and experiences a feeling of accomplishment, he will improve in those subjects and carry those positive feelings into other areas of his life. A bored and frustrated child, on the other hand, will feel like a failure; that feeling too, will be carried into other areas of life, causing him to be afraid to try new things or learn new subjects.”

Dr. Raymond Moore says that a home teacher is confronted with the onus to make classwork and all learning for a child both challenging and exciting so they will want to return to it again and again. Is this possible? Shouldn’t our children simply swallow the bitter pill…that learning is hard work and they must accept this as their reality and get over their negative attitudes about it?

I’ve tried that approach. “Just do your work because you have to.” On the one hand, there are moments when this is applicable. But it’s very tiring to force a child to learn when he isn’t interested in doing so. Can you imagine multiplying this sort of scenario 5 days a week x 10 months in a year x 13 years of homeschooling (if I homeschool from K to 12)?! I would give up in the first year for sure!

With a little creativity, I believe every child can be ENCOURAGED to learn and homeschooling can be a positive experience for both parent and child.

After experimenting with several approaches on my kids (they tend to be the guinea pigs for all my homeschool experimenting, especially when it comes to curriculums and methods), I came up with a simple system that has been working so far. I’m saying “so far” because seasons come and seasons go. Sometimes, what works for one year won’t do for the next. What works for one child will have zero effect on another. But I praise God that SO FAR, this system is producing desirable outcomes.

For the longest time, I have placed post-it tabs in my children’s books. These tabs mark the “stop” points for each day of work. For example, if I want Elijah to cover 5 pages of his math book, I will stick a post-it tab on the fifth page. When he sees the tab, he knows what he has to cover. I also put several tabs in each of their books so they can go past the tab and proceed to the next one if they are feeling particularly inspired and energetic about their work that day.

Using tabs as markers lets my kids know their daily goals. But this school year, I added another component to this tab system:

  1. The kids complete their assigned task(s) for a certain subject area by working until they reach a tab. (The number of pages is pre-determined by me or agreed upon with my kids.)
  2. After doing so, they pull off the tab and bring it to me.
  3. I will check their accomplished work and sign the tab, indicating the date and subject area as well.
  4. They will take the signed tab and stick it beside their name on a wall chart.
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  6. This process repeats itself with every subject.
  7. By Friday, the kids count the number of tabs they have collected during the week and they can do one of the following: get 5 pesos for every tab or accumulate at least 20 tabs so they can draw from the MYSTERY JAR. (they may combine their tabs with their siblings’ so their points are higher).
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  9. The MYSTERY JAR is filled with fun rewards that they get to pick from. (1 mystery jar draw = 20 tabs.)

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Last week we didn’t get to do more than 3 days of homeschooling, so the kids pooled together their tabs and drew from the jar. They pulled out a prize that read, “Date with Mom.”

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When Friday came along, I took all the kids to High Street for lunch and we also went to the bookstore. That was our “date.” My mother-in-law joined us, which doubled the fun.

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This week, the kids collected 60+ tabs which entitled them to 3 draws, 1 of which allowed them to have an extra draw. Here’s what they drew from the mystery jar:

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Somehow this tab thing is encouraging my children to go beyond their daily requirements. They use the tabs as a means to compete with one another (in a healthy way), and they look forward to redeeming mystery prizes for their hard work.

I hear them yell out, “I want to get more tabs!” and I see them dig into their books with eagerness. It’s a lovely sight to behold for this mother of five! I’m grateful that my kids are generally easy to teach, but witnessing their added spunk and gusto energizes me, too!

Simple ideas like this one can help to motivate your child, especially when they are younger. Ideally, however, you want to get them to the point where they really enjoy learning, no matter how hard it becomes. I’m beginning to see this happen in my eldest son, Elijah. While the tab system inspires him to get his tasks done, he likes to learn with or without this system in place. As an older child, he feels fulfilled when he grows in knowledge and wisdom, and he enjoys the challenge of learning.

Eventually, I’m hoping that his younger brothers and sisters will be the same way. Edan is showing signs of progress in this area. Nevertheless, I will keep up this tab system, until I have to come up with something else. After all, my kids aren’t the only ones who need motivating. I do, too! And getting to teach motivated children motivates me!

This Is What It’s About

When people ask me how I homeschool several children, I tell them the secret is to teach my kids obedience. Character is key.

If a child has learned obedience, he or she can be taught attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and the importance of having the right attitude. These traits can make or break the homeschooling experience for any parent.

There’s no way I can teach my five energetic, gregarious, and very curious children if these character traits are not present or, at the very least, developing in their hearts.

Yesterday, I was homeschooling seven children. My niece and two nephews were over to homeschool with us. They did great! But my two older boys, Elijah and Edan, didn’t start out too well. They had a conflict that resulted in Elijah throwing his hands up in exasperation and Edan chucking a pencil on the floor. They were going over Filipino together and Elijah was frustrated that Edan didn’t seem to be listening. Edan was annoyed that Elijah was forcing him to do his work.

We couldn’t continue our homeschooling without dealing with this. So, I called the two of them aside and we transferred to a room where we could have some privacy.

“Auntie Joy! I need help!” I had to ignore the calls of my nephew at the door and request that he wait till we were done.

In the room, I asked the boys to sit close to me. Both of them were fighting off the tears.

“Let me ask you something, boys…we’ve been memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-6. Which of the aspects of love have you NOT been practicing?”

There was an awkward silence but they looked up at me and began to speak voluntarily…

“Love is kind. Love is not rude,” was Edan’s response.

“Love does not keep a record of wrong,” admitted Elijah.

How I love the word of God and its power to convict the hearts of my children! I asked them a simple question but they were convicted.

We recited 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 together again. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love is not proud. Love is not rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices when the truth wins…”

Their faces softened which told me that their hearts did, too. They knew that they had not honored God’s word, which was the greater issue.

“I know you guys love the Lord, you love one another and you don’t want to hurt each other. How can you improve?”

They proceeded to share their feelings and frustrations. I let them talk freely so I could find out why they were being so reactive towards one another. Elijah was deeply upset that Edan apologies for unkindness didn’t seem sincere. He felt that the same offense was bound to happen because there was no “real repentance.” Edan, on the other hand, didn’t like being ordered around by Elijah.

I helped Edan to see that he was not practicing “Love is not proud,” too. To both I said, “We are an imperfect family. Mommy and daddy are imperfect. All of you are imperfect. That’s why we need Jesus. We need to keep applying God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in our relationships.” I went on to admit my own struggles. “Honestly, when I was teaching Titus about rhyming earlier and I asked him ‘what rhymes with pin and he said cup’ I felt like smacking him. But I didn’t because that would be very wrong. But I want you to know that I understand the frustrations you feel towards one another.”

They began to laugh because they heard me teaching Titus earlier and it was kind of a comedy!

We must have spent ten more minutes talking about how to change and apply God’s word in our lives. We ended by praying together.

I said, “I want each of us to pray and confess to the Lord our sins.”

At first the boys resisted. “I don’t know what to pray, mom,” quipped Elijah.

“Don’t worry. I will start, and then you can listen to what I say.”

So I prayed to give them a template of how to acknowledge and confess our sins before one another and to the Lord. Afterwards I invited the boys to do the same. Why did I want them to pray aloud? I wanted them to humble themselves. The best way to do that was to pray.

It’s one thing to say sorry and then walk away from the situation. It’s another thing to come before the Lord and say, “Father will you forgive me for my wrong attitude. Please forgive me for the way I treated my brother. Please help to me to change and improve so that I can become more like you…”

They didn’t pray using those exact words, but in their kid-version way, they said the same thing. I listened to them pray and they started to tear. There was a brokenness that took place that was necessary. I got teary-eyed, too. They were honest and sincere as they spoke to the Lord.

We all embraced and I told them how much I love them. Afterwards, we returned to our homeschooling. Their hearts were ready and we had an amazing day with their cousins.

I’m sharing this story because this is the key to homeschooling. We need to prepare our children’s hearts before we can instruct their minds. Godly character is the bedrock. We must pause to address what’s going on in their hearts – especially when their spiritual compass is off. In fact, we need to drop everything if necessary, and minister to our children spiritually when their attitudes and behaviors are displeasing to the Lord.

How could I possibly continue teaching Elijah and Edan, forcing them to do their Filipino just because they had to, and ignore or postpone the more important matter of their heart condition? Would God bless the work of their hands if they were continuing in sin? How would he allow me to teach well if I wasn’t faithful in prioritizing what really counts in his eyes?

I must always seek to understand where the real “battle” lies. Of all the teaching challenges that may confront me as a homeschooling mother — dealing with the academics, equipping my kids with the practical skills to succeed when they enter into a university, and passing on godly character traits — the latter must precede the others. It’s imperative to instill character traits upon which a successful education can be built.

For my younger kids, obedience is the first priority. The optimum window to establish my authority (and Edric’s) has always been between the ages of 0 – 2. Catalina is at that point where she is exhibiting brattiness. At 10 months old, she intentionally throws her head back, bounces up and down while crying, or she flings her body on to her bed for dramatic effect. Edric and I recognise that it’s time to address these things. After two years old, we know it gets harder. Once a child has experienced what it is like to get his or her own way, there is greater resistance to submission.

I know a child whose parents started implementing effective and consistent disciplinary action later rather than earlier. The child had already grown accustomed to getting her whims accommodated by those around her. Her parents also tended to be child-centric in their childrearing. As a result, she was difficult to teach and train. It was complicated to get her to do simple things like eat vegetables or keep silent when appropriate. She tended not to listen to other authority figures, too. Because the parents are now course-correcting their parenting, she is improving. But like anything in life, prevention rather than intervention is the way to go.

We have to start teaching obedience before a child gets into the habit of defiance. Once obedience is established, we can turn our attention towards other character traits like attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and having a positive attitude. As I said earlier, a child who has these traits will be much easier to homeschool. It won’t be a flawless experience. However, when unpleasant, ungodly behaviors and attitudes surface during a homeschooling day, our children can be REMINDED to revert back to what they know is correct and pleasing to God.

Let me end this with a story about Titus that personally blessed me as a mother. Titus is my youngest “official” homeschooled child. Tiana, who is just 3 years old, is not yet enrolled with a program. And my baby girl is too young for formal instruction. As a kindergartener, I don’t expect the same sort of self-directed learning that I encourage my older sons to have.

However, a few weeks back I had to leave the house in the morning. So I assigned the kids their work and told them I would check on them when I got back. I wasn’t too sure if Titus would be able to do his Filipino on his own, but when I got home, he showed me his notebook. His finished work was inside it. I was very pleased!

In the evening, when I was feeding Catalina, he peered into my bedroom. “Come in,” I motioned to him. He smiled and skipped over to my side, snuggling under the covers. I told him I was very proud of him for doing his homeschool work. And I asked him, “Why did you finish it?” He said, “Because I wanted to obey you.”

I loved that answer.

Titus can be a highly distracted child because he is so curious. For him to finish his assigned task without someone peering over his shoulder to remind him to do it made my day! I was happier about his motivations rather than the actual output. He valued obedience.

My prayer is that my children will internalize godly character and experience the blessings of doing so. Our family is a work in progress. God deals with my heart daily as a homeschooling mother and he is molding the hearts of my kids, too. We make mistakes and struggle with our weaknesses but I can’t think of doing anything else with this season of my life. As a mother to young children, I want to be where the more important battle is. For me, the battle is at home…winning my kids for the Lord by teaching them what really counts. This is what homeschooling is about.

From enemies to best buds again…
 

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