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

 

 

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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Biz Kidz Version 2

Our kids participated in the Biz Kidz event of TMA Homeschool last Saturday. It was such a well-planned event. I am not tooting my own horn here because I had nothing to do with the planning (even if Edric is the Managing Director of TMA Homeschool :) ). What I especially enjoyed about being at the event was seeing all the ideas and creations of the homeschool kids who were present. Plus, there was that homeschool community vibe that made the place feel like we were among family. This is one of the benefits of being a part of an accredited program like TMA which has over a thousand students enrolled in it. It’s like a huge family where collaboration and fellowship can happen among parents and kids.

Biz Kidz held its second year run and the kids were required to submit their business proposals before getting the approval to participate. Our kids did origami art like they did last year. This time they also added a published book based on a story they wrote. It was illustrated with origami figures.

Honestly, they didn’t really make money because the printing wasn’t cheap but the experience was worth it. The kids worked hard to sell their products. They put in the time and effort. By the end of the day they sold all their cupcakes with origami toppers, almost all their books (about 40 of the 50 we had printed) and they sold some of their origami cards, too. I was very proud of them for trying their best.

My applause extends to the other families and kids who were there. Everyone did a great job and some of the ideas were super creative. Events like these make me appreciate our homeschooling lifestyle. Our kids aren’t getting a typical education. I feel like they are getting so much more, especially when they get to be a part of an activity like this that requires them to apply practical life skills.

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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)

Praise God, They Don’t Drool Forever


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Titus used to drool everywhere. He would drool on toys, on furniture, on people, on himself…In fact, he had to wear a bib until he was about four years old! The saliva would just dribble down his chin. Good thing he was a cutiepie because his cuteness offset the drooling.

For a while I wondered if it was something neurological, so I did some research about it. There were some studies that indicated a connection to neurological disorders.  I was also a little concerned because his speech ability developed later than his siblings. He had a hard time articulating his thoughts in a coherent way. His memory was not too good either and he had difficulty holding a writing instrument.

So here was a drooling, not-too-communicative, writing and memory challenged child who was highly curious and got his hands into everything. I could have been worried and stressed but I decided to relax. I knew that these things didn’t have to define his future or his success. God had a plan for him. (He has a plan for him.)

If he had gone to a preschool he might have been labeled all kinds of things but at home, he was free to develop according to God’s time table for him.  I was able to enjoy him without feeling pressured by standards and measures. My role (and Edric’s) was to provide him with an environment and climate that encouraged his growth and was accommodating of his uniqueness.

For his drooling, I would tell him, “This is how you swallow your saliva.” And I would literally show him how to sip it in and swallow. But I did it like a game, something fun, making the sipping sound exaggerated. I taught him how to keep his jaw closed so his mouth wasn’t gaping open.

No one was allowed to make fun of him or make him feel uncomfortable and self conscious about his drooling. The kids were instructed to be understanding and I wasn’t negative about his problem. I would just remind him to close his mouth and swallow his saliva everytime I noticed that his jaw was hanging open.

Well I am happy to say that when he turned four he didn’t need a bib anymore. I know most babies outgrow bibs by two but I was thrilled when he learned to control his drool and keep his mouth closed!

As for his memory, Edric got him to memorize bible verses along side his brothers. At first it seemed impossible for him to commit verses to memory. But Edric would work with him using actions and eventually Titus was the one telling his older siblings what words came next.

When I had to teach him sight words and he couldn’t get them, I made up songs for him and it worked! Since he was inclined to music, this aided his retention.

With expressing his ideas, I tried to be extra patient when I would ask him questions. This gave him time to think through his answers. He wasn’t rushed or made to feel like his silence was unacceptable. He was allowed to process his thoughts.

Eventually he learned how to use the right words and phrases to say what was on his mind. His vocabulary expanded and he became very vocal and opinionated. Of course, he is still growing in his ability to articulate himself.

When I remember Titus as an adorable drooling baby and observe him today, I am just amazed at how much he has grown and developed. By God’s grace, he is a happy, obedient, independent, easy going, kind, intelligent, and confident 5 year old.

We still have a long way to go with training and discipling him to become the man that God wants him to be. In the meantime, I live with the continual hope that Titus’s future (like all my other kids’ futures) is full of God-given possibilities. I focus on the positive, not the negative.

When my brother was a child, he used to stutter. It didn’t manifest itself in his speech but it was apparent when he would read aloud. As a result, he was very self-conscious about reading in public. In fact, he would have a hard time reading in front of our family. When he was asked to read bible verses, he would struggle through them. However, no one made a big deal out of his problem. We didn’t even think of it as a problem. Amazingly, he preaches and teaches the Bible today. He is a great Bible teacher. Through God’s help, he was able to overcome his difficulty. 

My mom used to say, “Don’t see people for who they are now but who they can become in Christ.”

Through Christ, our children can do all things if he wills it. By his grace, they can overcome their present limitations, character weaknesses, childish thinking and behavior. So we need to connect our kids to Christ, and fix our faith on Christ who is in them. And with hopeful expectation, our part is to train them, to speak to them with life-giving words, to love them towards Christ, to disciple them in the area of character, and to use strategies that encourage their growth. If we do this then we can entrust their strides, successes, and accomplishments to the Lord. God knows exactly who our children need to become in order to accomplish his purposes.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Teaching A Toddler

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Alot of eager-to-teach-moms ask me what I do with my 3 year old daughter, Tiana, so they can get ideas. Honestly, I don’t spend too much time laboring over academic material. I feel that she is too young to be learning to read or mastering her numbers. My older boys were more ready than she was at the same age. She has her own time-table so I don’t want to compare. Our homeschooling is more “come what may” at this point.

I encourage parents to be sensitive to their child’s readiness. Not all children are ready for academics at age 3. They can be forced to learn but it is easier to wait a few months or even a year or two. When they are ready, they will absorb material much quicker and more confidently. This will eliminate alot of the battling that goes on between an impatient parent and a frustrated and pressured child.

Trust me…I have tried to pressure my kids to learn concepts against their time-table mostly because of pride and this approach turned out to be disastrous. I wanted to showcase homeschooling or I wanted my kids to get ahead of others their age so people would say, wow, look at their family. Choke and gag me. How insidious pride is!

So what to do, what to do with a 3 year old…

1. Let them tell you. I let my little kids ask for work. It takes an amount of trust to wait for this point. But kids are naturally curious and eager to learn. When there is no pressure to perform, they actually want to move on to more intellectually challenging activities. All my kids after Elijah were the ones who wanted to be included in our homeschooling. I would only “test the waters” by introducing concepts but if they weren’t ready, I would leave it for a later time or change the methodology — more games and play as a teaching tool.

Tiana is at the stage when she wants to do work. Almost everyday she asks to do “work.” Her question is, “Can I do my work?”

One day she asked me about 10 times while I was still eating breakfast. I kept on telling her, “Yes, we will do your work, but you have to wait.” She trailed me all the way to the study room to ask again. I finally said, “I told you we will do your work but you have to wait,” with a little more conviction. “Okay, mommy.” A few moments later he was about to ask the question again but she stopped herself and melodically said, “I REALLY like doing my work!” just to make sure I did not forget.

2. Start slow. A child’s interest may indicate readiness but it may not always mean they can take on loads of content. Their enthusiasm may simply mean they want to be included in the day’s homeschooling to be like their older siblings. However all they need is a piece of paper to draw on and they are content. But it could also mean they are ready to learn their numbers and letters and shapes and patterns and whatever else we consider to be sooo important to the survival of the human species.

In this case, break them in gently. I made the mistake of assuming that Tiana could identify numbers 1 to 10 in one sitting. Wrong. We both ended up in tears. She could count but that was completely different than knowing what the numbers actually looked like and what quantities they represented. So I decided to tackle one number at a time. (She is three years old. Slowing down the pace is not going to kill her future.)

3. Make learning very natural. You don’t need a black board or white board. Homeschooling is side by side learning and teaching. It also involves a lot of dialoguing as you go about your day.

For example, I started to panic when Tiana did not know her colors because her same-age cousin did. So I tried flash cards and books and she didn’t seem to get it. Since this wasn’t working, I took her outdoors instead and we went for walks, identifying colors as we went along and playing games like, “I see the color red, can you point to something that is red?” I also modified it to, “What color is this gate? What color is the grass? What color is that car?” to see if she could name the colors. Well, with the exception of gold and silver, she knows the basic color wheel now.

4. You can use work books but proceed with caution. I understand how workbooks can make a teaching parent feel incredibly secure. After all, everything has been laid out by supposed experts and all you have to do is go through each page faithfully and that constitutes educating a child. No, honey. A workbook can be a reference and if your child likes it then yippee. But don’t feel discouraged if filling out workbook pages with answers doesn’t appeal to them. Workbooks aren’t even the best way for a child to learn. Real life should be the main context for learning. Workbooks are a supplement.

Titus wasn’t really into workbooks at Tiana’s age because he wasn’t writing yet. And when a child isn’t able to write proficiently, workbooks are difficult. So, I had him draw and color a lot first. After a few months of doing this, he started writing letters and names and spelling words. Recently, I let him write out words more formally but I waited until he was comfortable with holding a writing instrument.

If a child clamours for a workbook but needs help handling a writing instrument, then assist them. That’s ok. No one is looking over your shoulder. It’s not cheating. It’s allowing your child to develop confidence while they don’t have very good finger dexterity yet. Give them some time and they won’t need you anymore.

5. Use manipulatives to concretize the learning experience. Young children learn better when they can involve more of their senses. I’m always on the lookout for educational toys. This year, I got Mathtacular for my kids. It’s a great math program that includes manipulatives, a DVD, and an instructional guide with all kinds of math-related activities to explore. I got the educational package for my younger kids.
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6. Prioritize phonics instruction. I like to get my kids to learn their phonics sounds even when they are young. This can be done very informally. For example, I use Sing, Spell, Read and Write (SSRW) music to teach the sounds of the letters. I got Tiana the All Aboard Book but I go through it very slowly. She is only able to learn one letter per week.
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I also downloaded and printed alphabet mini books from Sparkle.

7. Have read aloud time. I need to do a better job of this. Tiana really enjoys being read to. She’s at the age where she can sit through a book and focus. So I need to take advantage of this. I’ve got a whole box of books coming to my door step two weeks from now. I’m so excited to share them with her (and all the other kids). Soon to arrive…

Time for Bed by Mem Fox
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barett Barrett
Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Rod Campbell
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
First Little Readers Parent Pack: Guided Reading Level A: 25 Irresistible Books That Are Just the Right Level for Beginning by Debora Schecter
First Little Readers Parent Pack: Guided Reading Level B: 25 Irresistible Books That Are Just the Right Level for Beginning Readers by Liza Charlesworth
Favorite Thornton Burgess Animal Stories Boxed Set (Sets) by Thorton W. Burgess
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Boynton’s Greatest Hits: Volume 1/Blue Hat, Green Hat; A to Z; Moo, Baa, La La La!; Doggies (Boynton Board Books) by Sandra Boynton
Classic Characters of Little Golden Books: The Poky Little Puppy, Tootle, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Tawny Scrawny Lion, and Scuffy the Tugboat
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Story about Ping (Reading Railroad) by Marjorie Flack
First 100 Soft to Touch Numbers, Shapes and Colors by Roger Priddy
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
Biscuit Storybook Collection by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Classic Starts: A Best-Loved Library (Classic Starts Series) by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Classic Starts: Tales of Adventure by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
My Rainbow Fish Book Box by Marcus Pfister
My Little Pocket Library Early Learning Fun by Roger Priddy
Brown Bear, White Bear by Svetlana Petrovic
Nanuk Flies Home by Christa Holtei
God Gave Us Love by Lisa T. Bergren
A Father’s Touch by Joni Eareckson Tada
The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson
Max Lucado’s Wemmicks: Punchinello and the Most Marvelous Gift, Picture Book by Max Lucado

Arch Books…
Born on Christmas Morn
King Josiah & God’s Book
Parable of the Prodigal Son
Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Servant
Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
Jesus Heals the Man at the Pool
Jesus Returns to Heaven
Get Up Lazarus!
Samson

Happy Day Books…
Don’t Do That Dexter
God Made You Special
Jesus is My Special Friend
God Made Our Bodies
God Made Dinosaurs
God Made Outer Space
Keep Trying Travis
God’s Special Rule
I Can Follow Jesus

God I Need to Talk to You Series by Dan Carr…
God I Need to Talk to You About Stealing
God I Need to Talk to You About My Bad Temper
God I Need to Talk to You About Disrespect
God I Need to Talk to You About Being a Bad Sport

With five children, books are a great investment. I always want to surround my kids with many options for books so they develop a love for reading.

8. Emphasize character instruction. I really believe there is a window of opportunity for teaching character traits like obedience, learning to wait, sharing, kindness, respect, etc. Take advantage of the toddler years to impact the heart in these areas. If I were to jump into all the academics without my children’s hearts being ready to receive instruction, it would be a constant battle to get them to learn. And I don’t want to have that kind of relationship with my kids. I want them to find joy in learning but the prerequisite to that is a teachable heart.

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Christmas Trees and Homeschooling

We took a break from our usual 9 am to 12 pm homeschooling in our study room to visit my pregnant sister, Carolyn. She wanted help decorating her newly bought Christmas tree. So the kids and I came over to her place and got to work.

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When you think of learning as a way of life, any activity can be an opportunity to understand something new, develop a skill, explore, discover, invent, or create.

I had the kids string the ornaments and tie knots to secure the string which was a practice in fine motor skills for the little ones.

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The kids worked together which encouraged collaboration. Some would string and others would tie the knots. They had to conceptualize a process to get their task done.

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They had to use an artistic eye to determine which ornaments should go where to achieve balance and symmetry.

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To incorporate math, I asked the boys to figure out how to divide the ribbon into equal parts so I could make bows. I asked Tiana to count the ornaments.

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Completing the decor was an exercise in perseverance because I didn’t let them take a break until we finished the tree.

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The longer I homeschool, the more I realize that books aren’t the only way learn. But, as parents we can be too set in the idea that learning must happen in a classroom, with a certain set of parameters that we miss out on opportunities that surround our children every day. We need to remember and trust that children are learning all the time. With a measure of intentionality, every experience children have can incorporate content and subject matter that would be boring for them to read in a book. And when knowledge is purposefully applied it becomes meaningful. It is also more fun!