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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He Pulled Off A Mannequin Hand Again

Titus’ mechanical ability is escalating in power, kind of like Elsa’s freezing ability grew stronger in the movie, Frozen. Almost everyday he will dismantle something. Today it was the hand of a mannequin at a souvenir shop in Puerto Princesa. He looked up at Edric from under a table holding half the arm of a mannequin.

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When he does things like this and I ask him why, his usual response is, “I want to see how it works,” or “I want to see what is inside.”

As a mom I don’t want to punish his desire to learn or quell his curiosity. So my challenge is to keep him productively busy. Here are some ideas that have worked:

Sand. (Explore Sandbox sent me a kit with sand in it. It’s a very soft sand that doesn’t get stuck under my children’s nails.) Titus has asked to play with this almost daily since he got it.

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Clay or play dough. I prefer play dough because it feels nicer and smells better, but whenever the kids leave it out it hardens. Plus it’s more expensive. Clay, on the other hand, is so reasonable and it will stay mailable for a long while even if it is uncovered.

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Mining Kits or Digging for Treasure Kits (available at Toy Kingdom or Toys R Us)

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Paper folding. Elijah, my eldest, was the first to get into origami. But his brothers are interested in it too. They learn from Elijah and invent their own folds as well. One of their favorite things to fold is paper airplanes. Titus can spend a long time making planes and throwing them off the balcony.

A bicycle. Edric needs to replace Titus’ old one which we sold at a recent garage sale. When we move to our new house he will get one. In the meantime, he has been pretty content peddling around on his cousins’ bike.

A pet. When my mom had a kitten, Titus would play with it as often as he could. As a child, I had all kinds of pets, too. Most of the day I was outdoors with my monkey and dogs. I learned how to be a responsible pet owner. When Titus is a little older he will be ready to have a pet, too.

Scratch art. I used to order these from the US. But they have something similar that is available at National Bookstore. Kids take a scratch pen and use the friction to reveal colors under the black paper.

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Art supplies like paint, glue, scissors, hole punchers, staplers, tape. Titus spends hours drawing and making works of art. I often have to replace the art supplies in our home but I don’t mind. If my kids are inspired to create it’s worth it! I am so glad Art Attack sells products at National Bookstore, too!

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Cooking and baking. My kids enjoy cooking and baking. They had a couple of sessions at the Cookery Place in Fort which they thoroughly enjoyed. But when they are interested, I let them cook and bake with me. Titus especially likes making sugar cookies because he can cut out the dough and decorate with icing.

Old boxes, sticks, rocks, coins, marbles, plastic cups, leaves, toilet paper tubes, paper, string, and even dirt! When a child’s time is not cannibalized by gadgets, computers and television, they can make anything into a toy or source of entertainment. The other day, Titus brought me a plastic cup with flowers, rocks and leaves in it. It was a beautiful arrangement that he put together himself. My kids enjoy hanging out at our construction site playing in the dirt. (But I am one of those moms who is okay with dirt.)

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Making tents or forts. On certain days the kids take blankets, sheets and pillows and make tents or forts in their room. Even if it makes a big mess, I am all for it. I used to do this when I was a kid.

Dress up. Girls aren’t the only ones who like dressing up and role playing. My boys like it too. They have a container with wigs, clothes, swords, and other items they can use for costumes. They have put on “plays” and performances for us several times.

Swimming. I don’t know any kid who doesn’t like to swim. Over the past two months we have been to several beaches and visited a number of pools. They can spend all day swimming if we let them.

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Playgrounds and open space. Kids, especially boys, need to expend their energy. When we aren’t traveling, we encourage our children to walk to the park and exercise almost daily. It helps that their cousins are nearby so they usually go together. By the time they come home they are ready to eat, too!

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Science experiments. I let Titus participate in our human anatomy experiments even if this isn’t a required subject for him.

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Exploring with a flashlight. I got the kids color coded flashlights for their Christmas stockings. We don’t always take walks at night, but when we do, they can bring their flashlights with them and look for night creatures.

“Mix-mix.” Sometimes, I hand Titus and Tiana a simple mixing bowl with a variety of items on hand, like a cup of flour, water, sugar, soy sauce, etc. I let them mix everything together, using measuring spoons and cups, and a wooden spoon as their mixer and they have a blast.

Sports. Currently, Titus is enrolled in a Muai Thai class with his older brothers. It was Edric’s idea to get the boys into a martial arts class so they can protect one another and their sisters. I especially agree with the latter.

Learn a musical instrument. Following in the footsteps of Elijah and Edan, Titus is learning violin. We have violins for every age so we just pass them down as our kids grow to save money. He used to tinker with their violins but now he can have one of his own and put it to good use.

Young children, especially the wiggly ones like Titus benefit from activities that encourage productive play and hands-on learning. Otherwise, they get their hands into everything, even things you would rather they avoid! So they need opportunities to learn, build, create, explore, and invent in order to channel their energy and intelligence in positive ways. As a general rule, with Titus, what works is providing an environment that allows freedom within boundaries.

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Real Socialization

Do homeschooled children know how to relate to other children? A lot of parents ask this when they are considering homeschooling.

From an outsider’s perspective, I get it. Homeschoolers seem weird. They are at home while most children sit in populated (and sometimes overpopulated) classrooms at school. To a certain extent, homeschoolers appear to be cut-off from daily contact with their peer-aged counterparts.

But over the years of homeschooling I have learned a couple of things about children and socialization, particularly homeschooled children and how they relate to others, that will dispel the notion that they are socially-starved.

Recently, I was having a conversation with my eldest son, Elijah, who shared that people who talk to him about homeschooling almost always ask if he has any friends.

Out of curiosity I asked, “What do you say?”

“I tell them I have SO many friends! I have playgroup and coop friends, friends in my music and pe classes, and bible study friends.”

Whew.

Most homeschoolers have a network of relationships like Elijah described. They may not have typical same age, uniform social class groupings that would be more common for school-based kids. Instead, they often have friends of varied ages and backgrounds who give them a richer context for social development.

In our playgroup, for instance, my kids interact with girls and boys ages 0 to 15 years old. We represent different ethnicities and we bring our kids together on a weekly basis. Our kids look forward to this time of socialization. And of course, as moms, we look forward to the fellowship. We are like a community of families with distinct heritages, experiences, values, and expertise. So our kids learn to adjust and get along with all kinds of people and accommodate what is not familiar, too.

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I am not one of those homeschoolers who isolates her children from other kids. (Some families can be extreme, but most aren’t.) However, I am particular about whom they spend a lot of time with. Unlike a school, where parents can’t pick their children’s friends, homeschool parents can.

Some may argue that this isn’t representative of reality. Shouldn’t children learn to deal with the daily stress of bullies, peer pressure, and survival-of-the-fittest sort of scenarios?

Oh come on! Is there any parent who really believes this is going to do their child any good? Haven’t we instead seen good kids physically and emotionally wounded by the bad ones, and the bad ones spawn evil clones of themselves?

So no, I don’t think it is beneficial to subject my kids to that sort of daily social stress. Instead, I believe in teaching my children to respond appropriately and positively to people who are unkind and ill-mannered. Whether they are in school or not, my kids encounter bullies or socially disruptive sort of children. Edric and I explain to them that these kids probably don’t know Jesus and we ask our kids to model kindness and goodness to them. Since they aren’t perpetually subject to negative social experiences, they aren’t likely to adapt other children’s bad behavior or be harmed by them. But these instances give Edric and I enough of a chance to help our kids process what the proper, Christ-centered response ought to be.

I have to admit that it’s not easy to tell our kids not to fight back and take an eye for an eye. When Elijah was pushed by another child in Sunday School, I wanted to push that child over myself! Elijah was only one at the time and so was the girl that pushed him. As a first time mom many years ago I didn’t know that one year olds could be so cruel. Now that I have five kids, I know that folly is most definitely bound up in the heart of a child just as Proverbs says. My own kids pick on each other!

I also remember an instance when Edan was punched and chased by a kid in Active Fun. Edric happened to be there and he was so upset about it, he told the yaya of the boy to watch him closely. The kid still harassed Edan. By this time Edan was wailing and Edric told him to hit the kid back if necessary. (Not his proudest moment.) Edan didn’t want to but at a few moments later he jabbed the kid in the stomach in self-defense.

Edric also called out to Elijah, Titus and our nephews to protect one another and “put the kid in his place” if he went after any of them. This kid was like a wild animal. It turned out that he had special needs and Edric felt so guilty afterwards. He had a conference with our boys and nephews to address what happened and go over what should be done if they come across true bullies in the future.

But the point is, homeschool kids don’t have to be in school to experience the “real world.” In our family alone, our children are exposed to the realities of man’s fallen nature. They see our imperfections as parents. We all see one another’s imperfections and we must all practice forgiveness, long suffering and unconditional love — character traits that are indispensable to relating well with others.

My kids know that the world we live in isn’t rose-colored. But as early as now, we can teach our children to choose the right kinds of friends — friends who will cause them to love God more, who will encourage them to make wise choices that lead to blessing. If they experience what it is like to have meaningful relationships like these now, they will have a benchmark for what to look for in others when they are older. Of course the added benefit is we get to pass on to them how to develop godly convictions so they can influence others positively, too.

Relationships are important. God intended us to be in community — the family providing the first stable and secure relationship that our children need to experience. Afterwards, children can relate in healthy ways with others, and they ought to be given opportunities to do so. Children get to live out character traits in the context of interacting with others. My kids have to share when they play with their friends. They have to take turns and sacrifice their preferences. These are valuable lessons.

My son Edan doesn’t like mess and gets stressed whenever his friends come over and don’t clean up afterwards. Our family value is to leave a home arranged and not tornadoed by our five children. So when others don’t do the same, he feels upset. But I have talked with him about this. He is learning to be flexible and enjoy his friends without creating so many rules for how they will play with his toys or what rooms they can enter to play in.

Do kids need a lot of friends? Well, if you ask me I would say just give them more siblings. But that is me! My children are blessed to have one another.

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When they aren’t together, they miss each other. On Tuesdays, Tiana is home without her brothers because they have their music, art and pe classes. She is 3 years old so a nap in the middle of the morning is strange. But, she is such a social child. When her brothers, aka playmates, are not around, she tells me, “I am sleepy.” And she will curl up on a bed and fall asleep!

There are homeschooled kids who can get lonely like Tiana does. To address this, parents can provide venues for their children to hang out with other kids. But trust me, kids don’t need 100 friends and they don’t need to be with them constantly.

I was just listening to a talk by Gerry Argosino, managing director of TMA Homeschool, who presented a very interesting topic on the commonalities between child geniuses. It was observed that these children didn’t frequently socialize with their peers so they tended to be more creative. Being alone pushed them to invent, play, design, and entertain themselves using their imaginations. While children benefit from friendships, they don’t need a classroom full of friends and they don’t need to be around them all the time.

Furthermore, even though children aren’t in daily contact with other kids doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to be friendly or acquire social skills. My kids go with Edric and I everywhere, as often as possible. This allows them to meet all kinds of people. It also means they get to practice manners and develop an appreciation for other cultures and traditions. We are right there with them so it’s hands on learning.

If we notice that they don’t acknowledge a person who asks them a question, we say things like, “Please look at them in the eyes and answer them. They are asking you a question.” If they act shy and self-conscious we show them how to be friendly. We don’t let them get away with ignoring people.

When Tiana was smaller she wouldn’t respond to people who tried to get her attention. So I would take her hand and say, “This is how you say hi,” and then I would wave it in the air. I didn’t say, “Oh she is shy.” In fact, when people would say that she was, I would respond, “No, she is not,” and make sure that Tiana would reciprocate a greeting in whatever way possible. Shyness, my mom used to say, is rooted in pride. It’s thinking of yourself. Well, at one point, Tiana started waving at everyone, even strangers! Sometimes she still gets self-conscious, but we are working on this.

Having five kids and dealing with their different personalities has taught Edric and I that it is our responsibility, as parents, to teach our children how to behave in social situations and how to treat others. Politeness and deference aren’t traits they will pick up automatically. They have to see these things modeled and demonstrated. They have to be guided and mentored.

For example, saying thank you when a sales clerk helps them find something…apologizing when they accidentally bump someone while walking…modulating the loudness of their voices…giving up their seat for an elderly woman…not running around like monkeys when they are in a mall (this is a hard one)…asking for permission before going into a room when they are house guests… including a kid who looks out of place…looking at a person in the eye when they are sharing a conversation with them, etc. Our children aren’t likely to learn these behaviors when they are with their friends. They may pick up some things here and there, but learning about social graces requires intentionality from parents.

A few weekends ago, while swimming in the pool there was a boy who didn’t have any friends. Our kids were busy entertaining each other. Edric and I saw the boy swimming all alone so we asked our sons to invite him to play. The boys gladly did so.

Edan swam up to him and asked what his name was. At first the boy seemed guarded but he warmed up as Edan engaged him in conversation, asking how old he was and what kinds of games he liked to play. Edan also called Elijah over and introduced Tiana and Titus to the boy. They had another homeschool friend, Santiago, who was friendly to the boy in the pool, too.

After a while, Edan was like, “do you want to play sharks and limmos?” (He meant minnows.) The boy said he didn’t know how to play it. But Edan assured him that he would teach him the rules.

The kids included the boy in our family game of sharks and minnows. Edric and I were the minnows and all the kids were the sharks.

I watched them interact with this boy but I was most blessed when Edan came up to me afterwards and asked, “Does he know Jesus?”

It wasn’t even something that had crossed my mind, but Edan was concerned. It’s one thing to be well socialized, to be able to get along with people. But it’s another thing to care about the spiritual condition of a person — to be purposeful about being friendly and kind to others so we can tell them how much God loves them…that he wants to have a personal relationship with them.

We need to impart to our children a higher reason for being well-mannered, kind, and considerate of others. For our family, the desire to reflect Jesus Christ and glorify him pushes us to look beyond what is comfortable or default-mode in us. We want to be a light and testimony that attracts other to Christ. Cultivating a good relationship with others ought to have as it’s intention the desire to connect them to the most powerful, amazing and loving person of all so they can enter into a life-changing relationship with Him! That’s what real socialization should be about!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NLT)

Group Homeschooling

What a beautifully chaotic morning I had homeschooling 7 children and breastfeeding two babies. My sister-in-law, Jenny, is sick so I invited two of her four kids to come over to homeschool with us. (One of my nephews had a fever.) And my sister, Carolyn, left her three-week old daughter behind because she had to attend to an event in Taytay. I asked her if Natasha would last the two hours that she was gone. She assured me that she would…and, worse case, if she didn’t, I was to feed her.

Ack. I love my sister. But, I’ve never fed another person’s baby. It was a first for me when Natasha started acting up and her yaya handed her to me because I was the only option. Thankfully, she was easy to feed. It felt bizarre and familiar at the same time.

I group-homeschooled until about 12:30 and the kids did just fine. We started off with a morning devotion followed by an art project. I taught the kids how to create textured paint cards using a toothbrush, cotton buds, blocks, straws, a comb, etc. And then we let the cards dry and I cut them up into various sized rectangles. Afterwards, I let the kids make personalized works of art. They had to use the texture cards to form the first letters of their name. With the left-over pieces we made a collage.

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In between waiting for the cards to dry the kids did their writing, reading, mathematics, and grammar work. I didn’t get to do much with Tiana so she just colored. I also had to breastfeed two babies at different occasions. And while I was away, some mayhem ensued but I was always able to return just in time to get things orderly again. And, I had a reporter – Edan.

At one point, I heard really loud singing and Edan came to the door and said something like, “I think you need to come back.” There was a tone of urgency in his voice. So I did and got them back to their seats to continue working.

Elijah and Edan are pretty independent learners so I assigned them their work and they got right to it. As for my niece, nephew, and Titus, I had to be in close proximity to them. I hovered around them to assist them when I was needed. But they all did great. They wanted to “surprise me” with their progress.

I’ve used this tactic with my kids to get them to focus. I will say, “Okay, I won’t look, and then surprise me when you are done!” It becomes a challenge and a game. They are motivated to accomplish their material. The kids were also excited to finish early so they could play with one another afterwards. This is one of the advantages of homeschooling with other children.

What are some tricks to homeschooling many kids and not going crazy? These are the tips that worked for me today…

  1. Prepare materials in advance. Once the kids are all present, they need to have something productive to do. If you aren’t ready with your supplies, books, and activities, you end up wasting a lot of time and the kids get restless.
  2. Lay down the ground rules, one of which is, “If we are going to homeschool together, then I want you to focus on your work.” Another one is cleaning up after they make a mess.
  3. Put tabs on the pages that you want the kids to get done if they are working in books. They will know their goals without having to ask.
  4. Pray aloud before you start.
  5. Use an authoritative tone that tells the kids you mean business but speak kindly to them. Be in control but don’t be too controlling.
  6. See yourself as a facilitator and not as a teacher standing in front with a blackboard. I move about the room checking on everyone while they are seated around a large table. When they need me I respond. If I see a child struggling, I attend to them. But as much as possible, I let them do their work on their own.
  7. Allow the kids to see one another’s progress. It encourages them to keep up and it fosters healthy competition, for as long as there is no comparing going on. I don’t say things like, “Look at what so-and-so did, you should do your work like that, too.” Instead, I say, “Look at what so-and-so did!” Then, I address the person and say, “Great job! I’m so proud of you!” I also find something to affirm about everyone.
  8. Give feedback as often as possible. If you notice that a child isn’t quite getting it, spend some time beside them to show them how to do their work correctly. But don’t cripple them by making them dependent on you. Show them and then let them figure it out. If they still don’t get it, review again, and then give them space to do it on their own. When they are successful, commend their effort. (If they still don’t understand, especially in an area like math, they may have a learning gap so back track a little so they can master previous content.) Tell them, “I’m going to help you to learn,” so they know you are committed to their success. Don’t say things like, “I already taught you this. Why can’t you get it?!”
  9. When it’s reading practice time, invite the other children to listen to the person reading. I did this with my niece and I said, “Let’s take turns reading. You read one word and I will read the next one.” And then I put Tiana on my lap to listen to her cousin. We did this back and forth reading for about three pages and then my niece confidently read the rest of the book aloud by herself.
  10. Be enthusiastic about learning together. It keeps everyone positive. Make comments like, “This is so fun!” “I’m glad we can do this together.”
  11. Give breaks (especially to the ones who like to move). I sent two of the boys to the kitchen and asked them to come back with sliced apples to share. They distributed these to everyone and then returned to their seats.
  12. Use rewards like stickers, smiley faces on their completed work. I pulled out a bunch of stickers and the kids were like, “I want one!” So I said, “Whoever finishes first, gets to choose first.”
  13. Seat children in the right areas. Generally, I use a big table where everyone can sit. But, Elijah needed his own space so he could concentrate. He was at another side of the room. Titus and my nephew were looking forward to sitting together so I put them side-by-side. When my nephew struggled through a page of his phonics work, Titus looked over and was eager to help. Tiana sat beside my niece (whom she looks up to). For as long as my niece was seated, Tiana didn’t move either. She sat still coloring for a long time.
  14. Give older kids responsibilities. Edan finished his work earlier so he made “prizes” for everyone at a separate table. He handed these out to the kids and created awards for best art, best work, etc.
  15. Do group activities that require cooperation and collaboration. Art is always a great way to do this because it cuts across ages.
  16. Rely on God’s grace to enjoy and get through a day like this. I always believe that God supplies for the occasion. He sustained me this morning and kept the kids teachable and focused.

After lunch, you can bet I was pretty exhausted so I locked my door to hang out with Catalina and take a nap!

Here is my take on group homeschooling…It works well with children who have been trained by their parents to obey and respond to authority. Praise God my brother and my sister-in-law have done a great job training their kids. I would also say that up to 8 young children is “doable” but more than 8 may require the help of another parent.

 

 

 

 

Educational App Reviews – MoMA Art Lab

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I’ve asked my sons to start reviewing educational apps that they have enjoyed using. This is partly because they wanted to get some new apps and I told them they have to earn the privilege to do so by reviewing apps. Of course, they made their opinions short. They are boys, after all.

I can vouch for the added value of these apps as a homeschooling mom. My kids are pretty discriminating about the apps they get because we give them guidelines for choosing good ones. They often have to show us what makes an app educational — how it will help them grow in a skill or ability that they can use in the present or future. So these apps also have our parental seal of approval.

Here is their first review…

MoMA Art Lab

Developer: MoMA, The Museum of Modern art .

About: MoMA art lab is an app that allows users to create various works of art like collages, drawings and many other artworks inspired by famous artists.

Educational Value: This app is great for kids who want to learn about how artists create modern works of art. They will also learn some basic principles and elements of art.

Key Features (From Developer):

• Create and save your own artwork

• Play with shapes, lines, and colors

• Nine activities inspired by works of art, including:

  • Create a mobile

  • Experiment with paint

  • Draw from instructions

  • Create a sound composition

  • Draw with scissors

  • Make a line design

  • Collaborate on a group drawing

  • Create a shape poem

  • Make a chance collage

• Creative prompts for extra inspiration

• Audio for pre-readers

• Learn about works of art at MoMA. Artists include Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Elizabeth Murray, Sol LeWitt, Jim Lambie, Brice Marden, and others.

• Share your artwork

Educational Value Rating:  4 Stars (★★★★☆)

Recommended Age: 4 years old and older

Why we like it: You have complete freedom to create whatever art you want.   

Teaching Children to Make Wise Choices

My kids like to use the IPads and computers for games. For about 4 months they were banned from gadgets so we could finish our homeschooling year. But after I gave birth, online educational programs and apps were a big help to keep the kids productive while I was busy with Catalina.

We stuck to certain parameters.

1. Is the game or app educational?
2. Will it help to develop an important skill?
3. Will it allow you to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men? (Luke 2:52)
4. Playing games have time limits attached to their use.

Our kids know my apple ID and password. But they don’t abuse it. They will always ask for permission before getting an app, even if it is free. And they know what their boundaries are in terms of criteria.

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About two years ago, my second son, Edan, got hooked on Plants vs Zombies. He was obsessed with it. It was the first time I became concerned about letting the kids use the iPad for fun. I felt like we had opened a Pandora’s box as a family and let in the game monster. Edan of all my other children seemed to have a greater tendency towards addiction. He was more vulnerable.

In fact he admitted to me recently that the danger of computer games for him is he thinks about them even when he isn’t playing.

Every child is different and as parents we need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Elijah, for example, can self regulate and say, “Okay, I don’t want to play with gadgets for a week because I don’t want to get addicted.” And he can busy himself with reading and other interests.

However, Edan is different. He has a harder time controlling his desire for gaming. So we need to help him and avoid putting him in predicaments where he can “feed” that side of him.

A few days ago he came up to me asking if he could install a certain app. It was a game. It wasn’t educational. I struggled as a mom. Edan is a good son. By God’s grace, he is obedient, too. When he asked me, I could see the DESIRE in his eyes. He wanted the game and his happiness seemed to hinge on my response.

So I gave him the opportunity to present why he liked the game, to hear him out. And then I asked him very gently and thoughtfully, “Is this game educational?”

He answered, “No.”

“Is it a business game? Will it teach you business principles?”

“No.” His shoulders hunched over and he seemed disheartened.

“Will it help you to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man? (Luke 2:52)

He shook his head and started to tear.

“Do you think you should get it then?”

When I asked this, he started to cry out loud. He already knew the answer.

Oh my heart broke as a mom. I hugged him. I knew it was important to him and he wanted the game very badly. He had taken a step of faith when he asked me. And a part of me was tempted to give in and then to remove the app later
on if it really was destructive.

But I had to be consistent. I had to consider his greater good and not just his present happiness. So I said something like this…”Edan, mommy wants you to enjoy playing games. I like you to have fun. But you need to find a game that will help you to develop a skill. It can’t be for entertainment purposes only. So why don’t you find something that is educational and present it to me as an option?”

Well, he was able to find an incredible app called Paper 53. It’s a great app for artists. Edan understands balance and symmetry without having learned these concepts so I know that he can hone his artistic abilities. When he showed me the app, I heartily agreed to get it for him because it would be a profitable use of his time.

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I wanted to share this because we need to teach our older children to make wise choices, to weigh the pros and cons of a decision. When they are younger, we can pull off the “obey because I said so.” But this has to change as they grow up. We don’t want them to obey on the outside but harbor resentment and rebellion on the inside. So it helps to get them to think through their decision making process, especially when it comes to dealing with the desires of the heart.

My parents used the same approach with me when I was interested in dating someone who would have been a poor choice. They took me out to dinner and asked me the right questions. Over the course of the conversation, just like Edan, I cried, but I knew what I had to do. I was able to arrive at a discerning conclusion and I did not entertain the guys attempts to pursue a relationship with me. I was 15.

We don’t want to raise children who have an underdeveloped capacity for sound judgement. So it helps to start off with clear principles that we want to live by as a family. And then we need to teach these to our children, reinforcing these principles by our own adherence to them and our consistency in upholding them in the home. When they are in predicaments that can lead to a violation of a principle, the asking-questions-part comes in. Let them consider whether their choices or actions favor those principles or go against them so they take ownership of their decisions. It also helps when we communicate trust in their capacity to make wise choices that please God because he is present in their lives.

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out. (Proverbs 20:5 NASB)

PARAPHRASED FOR PARENTING: “The intentions in the heart of a child are like deep waters but a parent of understanding draws them out.”

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