Renovating the Homeschool Room

Who messes up on IKEA instructions?! I do! I did! With a day to redecorate our homeschool room before it was going to be documented for an interview on homeschooling, I tried to rush through assembling eight pieces of furniture with my kids and made several mistakes. Of course I felt incredibly inept and discouraged! IKEA is supposed to be dummy-proof…if you religiously follow the instruction manual. I decided that I pretty much got it after skimming through the manual and took it from there, using my own logic and instinct. Well, neither of these worked perfectly. 

I found myself frustrated and stressed. My kids were doing the best they could, and they were having a lot of fun, but after a while, they too realized what we were up against…Too many pieces of furniture to put together for a mom and five kids. (Catalina had to be banned several times because she was stealing the tools.)

Edric came home and saw me in dire straits. His instinctively announced to the kids, as he surveyed the mess we made, “Have no fear, daddy is here!” Everyone cheered! 

Like a general who had total control of his army, Edric organized all of us into stations and roles. He was much stricter than I was and very bossy which took some getting used to at first, but if it had not been for his leadership, I would have struggled through the renovation. 

Could I have organized and fixed the room myself? Probably. I am not a helpless chick. I know how to use a tool box. But was it nice to be rescued by my husband? Of course! 

There was something about his command over the situation that was very reassuring. I didn’t have to bear a burden that he was very willing to take upon himself. And he knew how to follow instructions much more methodically and carefully than I did. 

I actually waited twelve years to have a homeschooling space like this! Thank you, Lord! I hope you enjoy the transformation of our homeschool room which we got done in about 10 hours thanks to family team work and Edric’s able leadership! Tadah! 

Before…   

  In process…

  
    
   
    
   
After…

   
The kids wanted a stage with different colored backgrounds for their “green screen” videos. (Still working on this part.)

    
 Still organizing the shelves…  
    
    
   
Still to add…beanbags and rug for reading area, kiddie table and chairs, and drawers for more storage. Any other ideas or suggestions? 

By the way, I found most of the furniture at Furniture Source Philippines. They are located along Granada Street, right after Ortigas avenue and before Gilmore in San Juan. You can check out their Facebook page and Instagram. Their prices are higher than what I would pay for from an actual IKEA because they ship products in but I still didn’t spend as much as I would have if I had gone with other suppliers.

 
 

Dear Dad and Mom

For his graduation from elementary, our son, Elijah, wrote letters to Edric and me. I just received copies of the letters which were forwarded to me by the graduation program coordinator, Alyssa. These made my day! All glory to God for the privilege of raising our kids and the enabling his gives us!

  

Dear Dad,

I want to thank you for being an example. You are where I draw my example for being a man from, second to Jesus. One of the things you teach about being a man is how to love God. I see it in the way you act. You love Mom and take care of her, even when it’s not easy. You also ask for forgiveness and you improve when you make mistakes. You go out of your way to do ministry. I really appreciate that. Thank you, Dad, for being there for me when I need you. Thank you for teaching me and training me to be a man. I look forward to all the upcoming years we will have together. Love you Dad! 

Your Son, Elijah

   

            

Dear Mom,

Thank you for homeschooling me. I have seen that it’s very hard for you, but still you stay patient and persist. I don’t know any other person that is that patient with me. Through this I can really see that you love me. Even though sometimes you don’t really teach me anymore, what you do teach me is how to love God. Your example (of course, along with Dad’s) has guided me to make the right decisions in my life. You are the best Mom ever (to me). I don’t know what I could do without you. Love you so much and once again, thank you for guiding me along thus far. 

Love, Elijah

   

First round of elementary graduates

  

Elijah with his lola and lolo   

So proud of you, son! I treasure these homeschooling years we have together!

Make Time to Teach Character

 

  

 It’s a challenge to hold Titus’ attention. I suppose this comes with being a more physical child whose hands are perpetually itching to do something. Thankfully, his capacity to sit through a lesson with me has significantly improved. There are days when he is highly distracted and I need to sit him right beside me in order to check on his progress. But he is old enough to recognize when it’s time to listen and focus on what is required of him. 

My job, as a mother, is not to merely fill his mind with content and information but to equip him with the tools to succeed. This is the same belief I hold for all my kids. Character trumps knowledge as a prerequisite to true success in life. So character instruction must be prioritized. 
There are occasions when this involves setting the books aside as we homeschool to teach a character trait instead. This detour in my schedule and plans feels unpleasant. However, when I am able to remove myself from the myopic view of pages-to-be-accomplished to the greater end goal of preparing my children’s hearts for adulthood, I am comforted by the thought that this is the better pursuit for the moment. 
Today, I gathered the kids around me while I read from their Bible curriculum. Very often, to check their comprehension, I will ask each of them questions about what I am reading. Titus couldn’t answer me the first time. So I told him very clearly that he needed to pay attention. He acknowledged. He is an obedient son so obedience wasn’t the issue. This was about focusing his mind on the lesson of the moment, which he is able to do. 
I read a couple more paragraphs then paused to ask another comprehension question. Titus was chatting with Tiana so he couldn’t respond. And he knew he was in trouble. 
“I want you to write ‘I will listen’ fifty times.” 
Titus isn’t too fond of writing as a six year old boy, so I knew this consequence would be remarkable enough to leave an imprint in his brain. He walked up the stairs in tears to get a piece of paper and a pencil. At first he was resistant but then I sat down with him to give him the opportunity to process why this was a consequence. He apologized and I embraced him, reminding him that I loved him, that this was part of loving him — teaching him character.
It took him an hour and a half just to write that sentence fifty times, but by the end of it, I was sure the message sank in. 
“What did you learn?” I asked Titus.
“I will listen,” was his humble response. 
Attentiveness is one of the most important traits a child needs in order to homeschool. If my children don’t know how to listen to my instruction, there’s no point in jumping to the content and forcing them to sit still. They need to manage their attention spans, no matter what kind of learner they are. 
I have all kinds of learners in my home — auditory, visual, kinesthetic, global, analytical, social, independent, etc. The first hurdle is obedience. The second is attentiveness. 
Writing down, “I will listen,” was the only homeschool lesson for Titus today. Regardless, I would still call it a good day because we spent time addressing a spiritual and emotional need, and this is why we homeschool in the first place! 


Checkered Rainbow Cake

Whoa! This rainbow cake making business is hard stuff! No wonder people charge a lot for it! 

The kids’ culinary arts instructor, Andi Benitez, patiently taught them how to put together this amazing creation. Since a normal rainbow cake was not challenging enough, she made them do a checkered one. Argh! Andi! My perfectionist baker friend! 

Our homeschool coop class has appreciated her expertise. And my boys have thoroughly enjoyed her kitchen lessons. Today’s class challenged them in a new way. The cake didn’t turn out perfect but I thought it looked beautiful inside and out, especially because of the effort! 

First they made the cake batter, then they colored six sets of it. 

   

    

Afterwards they baked them for fifteen minutes in six inch round pans lined with butter, wax paper, and more butter. When the cakes were done, they were turned over very  carefully.     

Each cake was carefully carved into three parts, each part was frosted on the inside then reassembled with no two colors touching one another.  

 

  

  

  

Following this, the cakes were frosted on their tops and laid on one another until they formed a tower, about ten inches high. Icing was layered on it again to hold on the crumbs in place, then a final layer for the finished look. 

It’s the inside that looked so magical, revealing the intended checkered pattern. The icing was a bit of a fail and the cake tilted slightly to one side but in the end, I was so proud of their creation! I had a teeny slice to sample the cake and it was pretty yummy! 

  

 

It’s days like this one that affirm why homeschooling is so wonderful. The kids get to “have their cake and eat it too.” 

They experience a customized education at home, but still benefit from group learning activities with   friends, under the tutelage of moms who are so talented and passionate about their craft or hobby! And I get a break once a week, which is like having MY cake and eating it, too! 

 

Set Them Up for Success

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Are you a parent wondering what is the best kind of education for your child where he will learn and be successful someday? Are you a parent interested in knowing more about homeschooling?

If the answer to any of the above questions is a resounding “Yes!” then don’t miss the upcoming 2015 Parents Conference of TMA Homeschool at the Bayanihan Center, Unilab on March 12.

This event, entitled “Set Them Up for Success”, is set to enlighten and inspire you  to raise your children to become happy, responsible, productive  adults and leaders “wherever they are planted”. The event will run for a whole day and will consist of keynote topics like “Set Them Up for Success” and “Catching your Child’s God-given Bents for Success”. Speakers will include Edric Mendoza of TMA Homeschool and ANC’s On the Money and Jayson Lo, author of Younique.

Aside from keynote talks, the conference will also feature the following workshops. You may choose one track each from workshops A & B.

Workshops (A)
Track 1: How to do a Character-focused Education Donna Simpao
Track 2: How to Do Multi-Level Homeschooling Milona Barraca
Track 3: How to Homeschool through High School Bles de Guzman
Workshops (B)
Track 4: How to Adjust Your Teaching Strategies for Effective Learning Joy Mendoza
Track 5: Hooray for Dads Who Homeschool Dennis Sy
Track 6: Q and A Forum

This conference is open to everyone. Register today! Free admission for TMA Homeschool Parents. Fee is P500/head for non-TMA-ers.

We gently encourage you to leave your children at home so that we can all focus on the conference. Should you decide to bring your children, there is a fee of P500.00 per child 2 to 16 years old. We will provide activities for children in the preschool to elementary ages but our children’s room is limited to 20. Older teens will stay with their parents in the conference halls.

Breastfeeding moms can bring their babies along but yayas will also be charged P500.00.

For more information, contact Alyssa Chua via landline (234-0432 loc. 114), mobile (0917-8491409), or e-mail (alyssa@tmahomeschool.org).

Source: manilaworkshops.com

Event Location

Venue:   Bayanihan Center

Venue Phone: (02) 858-1979, (02) 858-1985 to 86

Address: 8008 Pioneer St., Kapitolyo, Pasig City

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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?

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!

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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We Are Brothers

When I shop for my kids, I like to get them matching outfits. It’s easier when you have to buy clothes for five kids. Plus, I think it’s adorable when they all sport the same look in a Sound of Music sort of way. It wasn’t until a friend asked, “So you still dress them alike and they don’t mind it?” that I began to wonder if it was totally corny of me to make them look uniform.

I decided to ask my kids what they thought of wearing matching clothes, and the response I got was, “It’s fun. We like being matching because we are brothers.”

“Yah, we like it! We feel sad when we are not matching.” Another one piped in. (Sometimes I can’t buy three versions of one item.)

“What if other people think it’s silly?” I probably shouldn’t have inserted this but I was curious to know their perspective.

“Why is it silly? We like it, that’s what matters. It’s a brother thing.” Elijah replied with conviction while the others concurred with him. The three of them were sitting in the back of the van wearing orange t-shirts they picked out together, smiling at me.

I don’t know how long my boys will approve of their coordinating outfits. Perhaps at some point they will gravitate towards particular styles that are varied from one another. In the meantime, they will be looking matchy-matchy. It may not be the “cool” way to dress but I am so glad my homeschooled sons don’t care. What they do care about is being associated with one another because they are brothers…they are a team…they are united…they are each other’s best friends.

Thank you to their Tita Danie for these outfits…

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What Homeschooling Is Really About

I talk a lot about homeschooling, but I want you to know that my children aren’t always cooperative, there are days when I don’t feel like teaching, and sometimes I am the less than perfect mother who gets annoyed with her kids.

Two days ago, I was teaching Titus from his Singapore Math book and he couldn’t get subtraction using number bonds. I could tell he was guessing so I elevated my pitch and my tone was agitated. As I explained to him the concept of regrouping by 10, subtracting the ones from each other, and adding what was left, he was confused. I probably did a bad job of communicating this process and I expected it to click in his head right away. Well, it didn’t. I gripped the pencil he was holding and circled and scratched on his book for emphasis as I went over each problem.

Titus began to tear. I thought, Why can’t he get it?! Is there something wrong with him?! It’s not complicated! 

Well, there was something wrong with me. I was making homeschooling about me. What I wanted…my desired outcome…my teaching…my time…my effort…my way…my disappointment…OH, MY!

When I saw him struggling to stay composed, I felt horrible. Immediately, I apologized to him and hugged him, asking for his forgiveness. “Will you forgive me for being irritated? Mommy was wrong.” He readily accepted my apology and we pressed on. By the end of the session he figured out how to approach his math problems with confidence.

As for me, I was reminded that I am prone to reactiveness and impatience when my heart is in the wrong place. The key is to remember why I am homeschooling, to keep sight of the goal, which is to teach my children to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

While teaching a subject like mathematics may be important, this is really a minute aspect of the real objective. Edric and I share a daily responsibility to nurture, encourage, and meet the needs of our children to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. (Luke 2:52) Therefore, our homeschooling isn’t about 4 hours of the day when they are seated in our study room for lessons. It’s a lifestyle that ministers to our children’s spiritual, social, mental, and physical persons.

 

SPIRITUAL

Homeschooling is discipleship. While academics have a place, the greater emphasis is teaching our children to have a personal relationship with Jesus, love God’s word, submit to authority, and develop Christ-like character.

When our second son was little, he was nicknamed the “chairman” for being a very serious and grumpy boy who would often say no. Edric and I talked about his attitude and realized we had failed to be intentional about sharing the gospel to him. A few weeks after Edric did so, our son was a transformed child. His heart became malleable and teachable. He would even tell me, “Jesus is my best friend.” More importantly, he became a kinder, more considerate boy.

Today, Edan initiates reaching out to other children, organizing activities and games for them, and he is also assistant teacher to my younger kids. While he still has character issues from time to time, I can see the fruit of God’s work in his life.

Discipleship is the key to homeschooling. It’s impossible to teach a child who doesn’t want to listen. When my children don’t have the right attitudes there’s no point in proceeding with lesson time unless I address their attitudes first. Otherwise, it will be a battle of the wills between my children and me.

There have been instances when I have asked my older children to excuse themselves from our study room so they can have a moment to prayerfully consider their heart issues. While I don’t believe in asking little kids to stand in a corner for “time outs,” I do believe in asking older children who have a relationship with Christ to take the time to think through their feelings and actions in light of God’s Word.

Are they acting and behaving in a way that pleases God? How can they change and improve if they aren’t?

I prefer to proceed when they are spiritually ready, when they have returned to me after the Holy Spirit has ministered to them. Almost always, he convicts them about the wrongfulness of their responses to the task at hand, to me, or to others. It is amazing how a moment of purposeful reflection leads them to God-honoring conclusions. (Of course I also pray that they will be attentive to what God has to say to them during that period of pause.)

 

SOCIAL

Parents’ apprehensions about homeschooling often center around the socialization question. “What about their socialization?” I’d like to quote Elijah, my eldest. Once upon a time, a friend suggested he should go to school so he could have friends. His spontaneous relply: “I have so many friends, I can’t even count them!” He wasn’t exaggerating. Like my other kids, they aren’t friend-starved.

While we don’t focus on making friends, we do focus on how to be a friend. The emphasis is on social development — training our children to look beyond their insecurities and comfort zones so they can be a blessing and channel of Christ’s love. Furthremore, in the context of family, there are numerous opportunities to practice relationship principles like unconditional love, forgiveness, humility, or “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” In fact, the family is often the hardest place to apply these principles! As much as we all love one another in our family, there are days when we don’t like each other. The challenge is to transcend this feeling by availing of the grace that Christ supplies.

Social development happens most naturally at home. Between a husband and wife, siblings, parent and child, each member of a family must die daily to selfishness and self-centeredness. They must choose to love, forgive, make sincere apologies, and grow in their understanding of one another. A child who can relate to others in this manner will not be in want of good company.

Furthermore, a child who has received love, appreciation, who is accepted for who he or she is, and allowed to fail and make mistakes will be inspired to learn. I remember an instance when Titus came to me in fear. His face was half-visible behind the sliding glass door that separated the room from the bathroom.

“Mom I did something.”

“What is it?” I asked. He was hesitant to confess his deed at first, but then I prodded him to do so.

“I hit the shuttlecock into our neighbor’s yard.”

That’s it?! I thought. Why couldn’t he tell me that right away?!

“It’s okay. I forgive you. It was an accident.” I said reassuringly.

“Why were you afraid to tell me that?

“I thought you would be mad.”

“Do I get mad a lot?” (I had to check.)

“No.”

“Well, I want you to know something. I love you no matter what and I will always forgive you.” I repeated it again until I was sure he internalized this.

He flashed a big smile and then ran off to play again.

I may not lose my temper with my kids and yell at them, but I do get irritated from time to time. So I have to be careful and mindful of the way I relate to them. I need to ask myself this question: Am I cultivating a relational climate that gives my children the liberty to express their heartfelt longings, fears, ideas, or confess their mistakes? The relationship I have with my kids impacts my ability to instruct their hearts and their minds. If they can trust me with who they are, they can trust me to teach them who they should become.

 

MENTAL

What is our schedule like when it comes to lessons?

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

7:00                – Bible Reading (as a family)

7:30                – Breakfast

8:30/9:00      – Lessons

12:30/1:00    – Lunch

2:00                – Nap/Play/Exercise

6:00                – Dinner

8:30                – Bedtime

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On Wednesdays, we get together with other homeschool families. A good number of ladies in my discipleship group are homeschooling their kids and they have women in their groups who are also homeschooling. Wednesdays is the day we have designated to hold classes so our kids can interact and work with other kids. I’m so blessed by the moms in this group who lend their expertise and creativity to teach art, music, bible, character, science, etc. We also asked an awesome physical trainer to teach our kids sports and fitness.

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When my kids and I are at home, our lessons happen around a large table. I assign tasks to my children and act the part of a facilitator. Elijah and Edan can do a lot of work on their own. Titus and Tiana need more attention from me. Catalina is “exiled” so we can focus. She is entertained by our househelp. (Praise God for househelp!)

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Ideally, it would be nice if all my kids sat around the table and stayed put, but I’m a pretty laid-back homeschooling mom. They can do some work on the floor or on the couch. They can even migrate to different rooms if this will help them accomplish their tasks. Sometimes, we even homeschool in the car if I absolutely have to do an errand in the morning!

My philosophy when it comes to teaching is simple: a child needs to master the essentials so he will become a self-directed learner. I am more particular about skills like math, reading, comprehension, logic and reasoning, rather than science, history, Filipino, social studies, etc. If my kids are confident with the essentials, they will have the building blocks to learn whatever they want to. I don’t want them to be held back by me. As much as possible, I try not to hover around them all the time. In fact, I tell them, “you can figure it out.” (Sometimes I have to say this because I don’t know how to explain it either!)

Unless they are really stumped, I encourage my kids to rise up to the challenge of a difficult task. This is one of the reasons why my boys are turning out to be good at math even if I’m terrible at it! I also encourage them to study what they are interested in, beyond what we are covering during their lessons. Since I don’t canabilize the day with instruction, they have a lot of free hours to pursue topics that are meaningful to them. Instead of burdening myself with the responsibility of teaching them EVERYTHING, I zone in on the basics and point them in the right direction by giving them access to a multitudinous number of books, and supplementing their learning with educational apps and internet sites that are pre-approved.

For example, some months ago my older sons memorized the periodic table of elements, just for fun. It wasn’t part of their science requirements to do so, but they were fascinated by it. So I let them use an app (Toca Lab) that helped them to understand all the elements and their abbreviations. When they weren’t using the app, they would play a game where they named all the elements and gave the symbols to match them. I don’t even know the periodic table of elements! I kept getting the symbol for Iron wrong when they would “quiz” me! It’s Se right?!

The point is I am very aware that I have cognitive limitations as their teacher so I don’t pressure myself to be the expert. If they want to learn about a topic that I’m not familiar with, I find out what resources I can connect my children with or to so they can become the experts.

 

PHYSICAL

The physical aspect of homeschooling has to do with developing our children’s talents, inspiring productive hobbies, giving them lots of play time to explore, build, create, and making sure they get adequate exercise and rest. Our children are enjoying a “relaxed” childhood. They don’t have to rush off to school, spend hours in traffic, or come home exhausted only to do more work.

 

CHECKLIST

We evaluate our children’s progress and growth by asking these questions:

IS MY CHILD…

  • Living a transformed life because of his/her relationship with Jesus Christ?
  • Developing a love for God’s Word?
  • Rooted in God’s Word?
  • Submitting to my authority with an attitude of respect?
  • Growing in Christ-like character?
  • Secure in my love for him/her?
  • Loving others, especially his/her siblings?
  • Thinking of others as more important than his/her self?
  • Mastering essential skills that will enable him/her to reason and defend his/her faith, and effectively communicate the gospel truth?
  • Developing his/her talents?
  • Playing and enjoying his/her childhood?
  • Pursuing productive interests and hobbies?
  • Getting enough exercise and rest?

Edric and I keep these questions in mind as we homeschool our kids so we know if we are pointing them in the right direction. When we sense that they are off-course, we re-evaluate and re-calibrate so we can correct where they are headed. We also look at our own lives and examine if we are exemplifying the values and principles we want them to internalize.

Like I said earlier, it’s not a perfect lifestyle. It can be challenging and tiring to keep training and teaching our children. It can be discouraging when we fail as parents. However, I am constantly amazed at the daily grace God provides to keep us going.

I remember an instance when I was stressed about homeschooling, and my older son, Elijah, commented, “You know John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Wesley, had 19 children.” In other words…mom, if she could do it then so can you. You’ve got it pretty easy with just five! More importantly, Susanna Wesley was a woman of faith and spiritual excellence. If I want to raise children who will love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, I have to love God with all that I am first. That’s the secret to successful homeschooling.

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READ ABOUT SUSANNA WESLEY HERE: http://susanpellowe.com/susanna-wesley.htm