Why Children Learn Best at Home

At the recent Global Home Education Conference in Brazil, I met Debra Bell again. She is one of my homeschool heroes. She was an educator who taught her own kids so she understands the differences between homeschooling and conventional schooling better than most people do. Her book, Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, has helped countless families navigate the challenges of homeschooling. Furthermore, she has gotten her PhD on learning psychology and done extensive research on how children learn. In her workshop, she explained 8 reasons why children learn best at home.

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I want to add just two other points that I covered in the talk I gave in Cebu. Firstly, learning happens best at home because parents are able to focus on the heart of their child.

The amount of time I have with my kids allows me to study them thoroughly and prepare their hearts to receive instruction. A few days ago, I found out that Edan was tempted to run away sevearal times. Edan? My sweet son? Run away?!!! I started to cry. But instead of panicking, Edric and I decided to take him out to lunch for fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and ice cream (some of his favorite things, especially the latter.)

During this lunch we asked him to explain what was going on in his heart and he told us that he gets very angry inside. Sometimes, he gets angry with Elijah, Edric or me. Oh dear. When he does, he thinks, Maybe I will just run away. This was shocking to me because I think our home is a pretty loving, stress-free home environment. But apparently, Edan doesn’t always see it this way.

For one thing, he doesn’t handle conflict with his brother, Elijah, well. (We are working on this.) He likes to avoid getting into discussions when he is frustrated. Furthermore, he gets hurt when Edric or I correct him with a negative tone. He actually used the phrase, “When you get mad at me.” His love language is words so he is very sensitive to what people say.

We both encouraged Edan by saying, “Edan, you can talk to us about anything. Anytime you are going through something, you can come to us. We want to listen to you, to help you. We love you and you are important to us.”

I also told him a story about a boy who grew up in a wonderful Christian home where he was deeply loved. “However,” I continued, “this boy grew up and chose the wrong friends who invited him to do drugs. So he got addicted and fell away from the Lord. When I interviewed the parents to find out what happened to this son of theirs, they revealed that he hid things in his heart. He didn’t share what was going on inside. As a result, he listened to the lies of the evil one. It’s the same way with any of us, Edan. Imagine a sheep on a field by itself. To a wolf, it will seem like vulnerable and easy prey. But if that sheep was beside the shepherd and with the other sheep, the wolf would think twice. It will be harder for him to attack the sheep. As a Christian, it’s difficult to follow Christ alone, just like that sheep. We need others.”

Edan smiled at Edric and me. He knew what we were getting at. He came away from our lunch feeling like he was treasured and special, that we love him no matter what.

Does this mean that he will never feel like running away again? The temptation may still come. In fact, he recently said, “Mom, I am getting that feeling again,” when Edric and I were about to go out on a date! Hmm…was this manipulation?! I talked to him about his feelings and the next day, we took all the kids out for a movie and dinner date.

Why is the heart so important when it comes to homeschooling? If my kids don’t trust me or don’t feel secure in their love for me (or Edric’s), they will not listen to my (our) instruction. Furthermore, if their hearts aren’t spiritually okay, their minds won’t be okay either. Homeschooling gives us a lot of time to get to know our children and to invest in their hearts.

Three years ago, I attended Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s seminar in Berlin on Why Home Education Works. He presented an interesting conclusion from the view point of a developmental psychologist. I wrote about his theory a few years ago, which I found to be very insightful. (He isn’t even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development.) According to Neufeld, homeschooling provides the optimum environment for a child to mature in to a healthy and whole person who can achieve his fullest potential. Years of research and study show that a child was designed to be raised and educated at home because the most important element in a child’s development towards maturity is his attachment to those who are responsible for him (aka parents).

There’s another aspect to focusing on a child’s heart, which is to help them internalise obedience and respect. This is a prerequisite to effective learning. Imagine trying to get five children to sit down and do their work if they don’t obey? Nightmare. My focus will be diverted to behavioural management instead of valuable hours spent acquiring knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

It’s challenging for Catalina right now because she is in obedience-training mode. But I’m amazed at how big the change has been since we became intentional about disciplining her. I can tell her, “Catalina, sit down.” Or, “Catalina, don’t be fussy.” Or, “Catalina, wait, because mommy is still talking to your brother.” She will listen. Not perfectly. But she’s improved significantly. Therefore, it is now plausible to teach her. Her heart is ready. Some months ago, it would have been crazy to attempt this.

Yet another critical aspect of focusing on the heart is imparting convictions to our children. When they understand that they are accountable to God to live for His purposes and glory, they will make wise choices about the use of their time, the thoughts they entertain, the habits they develop, and the friends they hang out with. When it comes to education and responsibilities, they will try their best even if no one is watching them.

Another reason why learning happens best at home is more practical in nature. The skills needed for the 21st century are not achieved through the conventional methods of schooling. I’ve been reading Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need – and What We Can Do About It. He describes 7 Survival Skills for the 21st Century for Work, Learning, and Citizenship. Academics are great but they don’t rank as high with CEOs and owners of some of the largest and most profitable businesses in the world. Tony Wagner interviewed top CEOs and business owners and they revealed certain abilities that they look for, which I’ve posted below:

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Interestingly, all these skills can be honed in the context of the home and through parental instruction! When I read Wagner’s book, I got so excited! It made me realise that homeschooling is not just about creating an optimum environment for learning, focusing on their hearts, and providing the foundation of character and conviction in our kids. Homeschooling can prepare our kids for the REAL world.

1. Critical thinking and problem solving —  We  can teach our kids to ask questions, to be resourceful, and to find sensible solutions to learning challenges they face. It’s not about memorizing facts or content mindlessly. It’s about making logical and intelligent choices.

2. Collaboration and leading by influence — We can teach our kids to work together, love and forgive one another unconditionally. We can also teach them to deal with personalities and engage people they may not naturally gravitate to. More importantly, we ought to remind them to pursue Christ-likeness and encourage others by their example. Good leaders inspire followers. They don’t lord it over others.

3. Agility and adaptation — We need to train our children to be flexible. Learning doesn’t always happen in a predictable fashion. Everything doesn’t always go as planned in life either. Sometimes we need to pursue the same goal but change our methods in the process and our kids have to learn to adjust. For example, we need to learn about math concepts but if the book doesn’t cut it, what other sources can we use?

How about when a child doesn’t get his or her way? We can teach them to respond with the right attitude. And when a child fails at a task, we can gently push them to keep going.

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism — Many homeschooling families do home-based businesses. Our kids have tried doing this several times. But we need to give them even more opportunities to practice creating a business idea and executing it, and how to earn money even while they are young.

With older children, we can apply initiative by making them responsible for their learning. Don’t hover over them all the time. They have to take ownership of their learning goals and proactively improve themselves.

5. Effective written and oral communication – This is self-explanatory but apparently, many students today have problems articulating themselves well when they write or speak. Our own kids can be prone to the same problem if we are not intentional about building these skills. At the same time homeschoolers can have an edge because they have access to experiences that conventional schooled children may not.

A few weeks ago, my friend’s 10 year old, homeschooling daughter stood along side her dad to give a short testimony about how her father is loving to her mom. She helped give examples to the audience about how a husband should cherish his wife. She was articulate, poised and she memorized her entire talk. She did an amazing job!

I have used Institute for Excellence in Writing to help my eldest son develop his creative writing skills. He used to abhor writing. But after using this material he wrote a 52 paragraph narrative about his Mt. Apo climb. He did a great job, too. When I met author, Andrew Pudewa, in Brazil I thanked him for the blessing he has been to us all the way in the Philippines. If Elijah displayed a negative attitude toward writing in school, I don’t think a teacher would spend hours searching for a better way for him to learn to write. But mothers will do this kind of thing for their kids.

6. Assessing and analysing information — With the overwhelming amounts of information accessible to children today through the Internet, we need to teach them to evaluate and process content. Will they take everything at face value or will they think twice about making decisions based on what they read and see online?

Elijah makes stock reports and submits them to his dad. He reads through articles and updates about the businesses he invests in and gives recommendations based on his research. But he must do so thoroughly because his investments are at stake. As a result, he trains himself to sort through the information before coming to conclusions. By God’s grace his portfolio is doing pretty well, too.

7. Curiosity and imagination – Everyday our kids have time to play, explore, discover, invent and create. We don’t cannibalise the hours of their day with school work. To my horror I was told that some conventionally schooled students in highly competitive institutions have to study into the late evenings during the week then wake up ridiculously early to avoid the traffic to school. This makes me want to cry. These kids are missing out on the wonders of childhood which should include day dreaming, exploring, inventing, creating, and mastering their areas of giftedness.

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Finland is at the forefront of revolutionary educational methods and their methods have been proven successful. In an article written by an 7th grade math teacher in the U.S. who completed his Fulbright research assignment in Finland he explained, “We (in Anerica) can’t even stick to ONE philosophy of education long enough to see if it actually works. We are constantly trying new methods, ideas and initiatives. We keep adding more and more to our plates without removing any of the past ideas. Currently we believe “more” is the answer to all of our education problems— everything can be solved with MORE classes, longer days, MORE homework, MORE assignments, MORE pressure, MORE content, MORE meetings, MORE after school tutoring, and of course MORE testing! All this is doing is creating MORE burnt out teachers, MORE stressed out students and MORE frustration. Finland on the other hand believes less is more.” Source: 11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us Less Is More

I also believe in less is more to give way to pursuits and activities that do more for kids. Over the weekend, I spoke to parents from Cebu who encouraged their 12 year old daughter to study fashion design while she was homeschooling. She competed with students much older than she was. But she turned out to be the most imaginative of them all, according to her teacher. She presented her first project in an unconventional way, displaying a 1920’s outfit to explain the uniqueness of that era in fashion design. At 14, she continues to study design and is excelling at it! If she is amazing now, how much more when she actually studies it in college?!

What’s her big advantage? Her parents didn’t choke the creativity out of her by cramming her mind full of academics. She spent many hours sketching and drawing before she ever took up fashion design. And she did this during her childhood years.

Knowing that learning happens best at home brings me great comfort as a homeschooling mom. It also affirms our family’s decision to choose this lifestyle. Furthermore it is starting to look like the future of education is headed in the direction of home education. Or, at the very least, something very similar to the way learning transpires at home and customizes learning for a child.

The world is changing fast and educational models are becoming outdated more quickly than institutions and governments are able to adjust to these changes. Homeschooling parents may seem crazy to those who anchor their sense of security on school systems and on reputable school brands. This article is not about criticizing those parents. I believe parents who homeschool and parents who send their kids to school are well-meaning and love their kids just the same. But maybe one day soon, people will applaud the brave parents who had the foresight to recognize that their children could learn more, be more and accomplish more in their home instead of in a traditional classroom.

Junior Preneur 2016

This is our children’s first time to join the Junior Preneur event. It’s been a difficult two weeks for them because they did a project that was technical and involved many stages. They made concrete geometric forms to hold succulents.

 First, they developed templates for the molds, measuring them out meticulously. Then they created the molds using cardboard, duct tape and polycarbonate. (The polycarbonate was a pain to cut. That was my job!) Afterwards, they mixed several batches of concrete, both light and dark, with sand and without sand, depending on the desired effect. Once the concrete was ready, it was poured into the molds and left to cure for several hours. Twenty four hours was the ideal time period. At the beginning we were all so eager to see the finished products that we prematurely opened the molds. This was a disaster!

   
   
After multiple tries and fails, they finally got a cement mix formula that worked well and they followed the right curing time. The succulents were placed in the geometric planters, ready to be sold. 

   

 The final step was preparing their booth concept. Thankfully, Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas (both for the geometric designs that inspired the kids and how to create an organic look for their display). 

    
 I don’t know if this product is a repeat but the hard work and character training was certainly worth it. Furthermore, I got to know my kids’ personalities better in the process. 

My eldest, Elijah, is a perfectionist and struggled immensely each time we failed. He had to deal with disappointment and follow through even if it wasn’t easy to keep going. Edan, my second son, experienced getting dirty and uncomfortable which he usually avoids. Mixing the concrete and pouring it into the molds was a messy activity. He also got to execute his sense of orderliness when he set up an assembly line system for the finishing stages. Titus, my third son, tried his best to contribute where he could and he didn’t complain even if some of the tasks were beyond his ability level. My daughter, Tiana, was positive and cheery as usual but it made a big difference when she would sing spontaneously to lighten everyone’s mood. Catalina got in everyone’s way but her siblings decided to give her tasks to keep her productively busy.  

As for me, I had to block off the past two weeks to prioritize helping them. So there was no writing for me. Plus I smelled like concrete powder almost every day! But I thoroughly enjoyed the bonding and fellowship that transpired between the kids and me. And I never get bored doing artistic or craft-related things. 

At the end of it all, the struggle to come up with a business idea and execute it was obstacle-ridden, exhausting, and discouraging. But, as my husband, Edric, so wisely put it, “Hard work is a reward in itself.” This is so true. 

    

  
 The kids may not recover their monetary investment (or mine!) but they invested in a learning experience that taught them skills, character traits and values that will allow them to be wiser entrepreneurs in the future.

How to Get Kids to Be Motivated Learners

I often get the question, “How do you manage homeschooling 5 kids?” To be honest, it isn’t always easy. And my default answer is to say, “It’s God’s grace.” Truthfully, that’s what keeps me going. There are days when my kids aren’t the perkiest students, and I think to myself, Oh no. This is going to be a tough day!

Yet, for the most part, I remain hooked on home education. I can’t imagine doing anything else in the world at this season of my life as a mom. Furthermore, I try to get my kids to the point where they don’t need me to hover over them (which can be exhausting). My goal is to help them become motivated learners, rather than children who are non-functional unless I incentivize them or push them every single day.

Over the years, I’ve implored a few “tricks” that have been working so far. Here’s hoping you will be able to pick up a few that will benefit you, too:

1.Prioritize reading and comprehension. When my kids are 5 and below, this is my primary focus. I introduce phonics when they are 2 or 3 (I started a little later with Tiana). Usually, this happens through song. I still use Sing, Spell, Read and Write, which hasn’t failed me yet. With much repetition, my kids are able to identify letters and their sounds, which then give way to putting sounds together. They begin to read CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant). As they build confidence and understand how words are formed, they move on to longer words and sight words.
Instructing a child to read must be balanced with lots of read aloud time. Otherwise, learning to read feels like a chore. The inspiration to read comes from time with mom, as they sit beside me, on my lap or around me, and trips to the bookstore or a library to explore the wonders of books!

With my fourth child, Tiana, I didn’t do this early enough and she wasn’t as excited about learning to read. However, a few months ago, I decided to commit to reading aloud with her more often and it has made a big difference! She will come to me with a pile of books and we go through them together.

The Sing, Spell, Read, and Write workbooks have a lot of spelling lists, but I don’t panic when she can’t spell everything. My personal belief about spelling is that good readers get spelling. I’ve seen this with my older boys. The more they read, the better they spell. It’s the frequency of exposure to words that makes an imprint in their minds.

My second son, Edan, who just recently grew in leaps and bounds as a reader, now says, “Oh mom, I saw that word, I remember reading it.” Whenever I give him spelling quizzes, he can write down words correctly, not because we do lots and lots of practice spelling but because he has improved as a reader.

Give books as gifts. Toys are fun to have, but make books a premium. I’m always on the lookout for book series’ to bless my kids with. By the time kids are in 2nd grade (and earlier for some), they can read chapter books with confidence. They may not be as fast as their older siblings, but if they like the story or topic, they will read the book.

Last Christmas, I got my fourth grader, Edan, a set of Boxcar Children Books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Edan read one for his Language Arts last year and asked if he could get more of them for Christmas. We are currently trying to build his collection. He read 12 of the books in 2 weeks and they are about 200+ pages long each! Titus wanted to be a part of the action so he read a couple of them, too. Every time he would come across a word he didn’t know, I encouraged him to ask me, which was a very “relaxed” way to build his vocabulary.

When children have the skill to read, they are eager to read books with topics that they like. So I tell moms, buy books that are interesting to your children. Don’t rely on the list of children’s classics. Find out what your child is into then take him to the bookstore to get a book on that topic.

As a five year old, my eldest son, Elijah, was obsessed with dinosaurs. Every good book I could find about dinosaurs I got for him. Then he moved on to airplanes and I did the same thing. Today he is an avid reader. Sometimes, I need to tell him to rest his eyes because he will go on and on!

  It brings me deep joy to see my children on a couch or bed with books around them. This means they are learning without being dependent on me! When Edan took a liking to Botany, he requested books on plants. It didn’t matter whether they were above his reading level because he was driven to learn more about Botany.

Reading is the key to unlock the door of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. So don’t give up until you have a confident reader who enjoys books. For some children, their time table for proficient reading is longer. Keep going. A very intelligent guy I know didn’t learn to read well until he was 10 years old, but then he picked up a Charles Dickens novel and read it cover to cover.

Sometimes, children aren’t interested in reading because they are distracted by computer games and media. Investigate what activities may be competing with your child’s interest in books and eliminate them or set restrictions.

What about comprehension? Comprehension can be taught through dialoguing. Some of the curriculums I particularly enjoy teaching are those that involve reading to my kids and asking them questions. Most of the time these are materials that I get for Bible and character, science, history, and social studies. Furthermore, these lessons are interesting to me, too! I was never talented at memorizing facts so it helps to go over science, history and social studies again. Whenever I read to my children, I pause at reasonable points (for younger kids, after a couple of sentences or a paragraph, and for older kids, after a couple of paragraphs, a page or a number of pages.) Depending on the age and ability, I start with bite size bits of information to make sure my kids are being attentive before asking comprehension questions.

The ability to comprehend begins with the discipline of attentiveness. Whether it is reading words on a page or being read to, a child needs to be trained to be present and engaged. Asking questions is one of the most informal and effective ways to do this. When I ask a question and my kids can’t answer, I read the parts again, or I give the answer to demonstrate how they should answer. Then I say, “Be ready, because I’m going to ask you a question again soon.”

With younger kids, you may have to say this often, but you can also inspire them to answer by complimenting them a lot when they do. When Titus, who is not as verbose as my other kids, shares his insight on a topic, I affirm him a lot! Maybe I will even throw in a hug or a squeeze to let him know that I’m proud of him for putting in the effort.

2.Logic matters. I have found that my kids benefit from logic exercises, puzzles, and solving problems that require critical thinking. Acquiring math skills becomes a lot easier because they have worked out the left hemisphere of their brains. Catalina is eagerly doing Logico Primo with me. I started this with her recently, and she pulls out the material herself in the mornings so we can do it together. This Grolier product is pricey but I personally feel that the investment has been worth it. It’s reusable and it feels pretty indestructible, too (the plastic part). That’s important when you have lots of kids! (Grolier has a lot of other products that develop critical thinking skills.)

The great thing about homeschooling is that home affords the best environment for kids to experience how math makes sense. Classifying, sorting, counting, learning about time, ordinal numbers, basic arithmetic, and the like happen in the context of everyday activities, and most especially play. Furthermore, these pre-math skills are vital to more complex operations and applications of math in the later years.

3. Play is important. My children have lots of time for uninterrupted, unscripted play. This has especially benefited my third son, Titus. When he was younger, I went a little easy on him with formal instruction because he was and is a more mechanical and physical child.

 Today, he hardly needs me to explain his math. Just the other day, he told me how much he likes multiplication. Granted, it isn’t complicated multiplication yet. But I do credit his penchant for understanding math with all the playtime he has had. And he still plays a lot!

Games are also a great way to develop logical thinking skills in children. I’m referring more to strategy board games that involve physical interaction with family members. My husband, Edric, likes competing with our kids over board games. Through the years we’ve seen how board games push our boys to apply mathematics. Titus, although younger than his brothers, wanted to be involved in these games. His math skills vastly improved when he got to use his simple knowledge of arithmetic to calculate his points during or after a game, and when he had to think critically to solve problems he encountered.

Our sons like riddles and mindbender games, too. For example, an app that they recently used is called Can You Escape? It requires you to use logic and math to get out of a building you are trapped in. Last year, a kind relative also donated Puzzle Mania books to our kids, which contain all kinds of creative and unique puzzles to solve.

4. Harness the power of music and art. I didn’t realize how beneficial music instruction was to our children until I began to see, first hand, how it connected to their ability to learn.

Our sons take up violin. It is one of those instruments that will screech in an awful way when it is played incorrectly, but will completely enthrall when it is handled properly. Because it doesn’t give room for error, it trains their ears so they can hear even the slightest off-pitch note that is sung by a person or played on an instrument. More importantly, since it requires both abstract movement from the bow and precise note playing, it taps into the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Learning an instrument like the violin not only increases intellectual capacity, it demands hard work from my kids, which spills over into their studies.

The arts also play a vital role in our children’s academic success. An article published by pbs.org explained the connection between art and academic achievement. “A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.” Why is art so good for our children’s intellectual health? It develops a child’s motor and language skills, creative thinking and expression, visual perception and attentiveness, as well as traits like determination and perseverance.

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5. Use technology and creative resources. When children have a solid foundation in reading, comprehension, and arithmetic skills, instruction can be supplemented with apps, educational games or educational sites. This liberates a homeschool parent from having to be the expert in a subject area. It allows a child to learn independently and figure things out on his own, too.

Sometimes, they may be better off with an educational site or DVD Rom as the mode of delivery for content they need to learn. In the last two years, I’ve relied heavily on Khanacademy.org for Elijah’s mathematics. He also takes Coursera or Udemy for classes that are relevant to him since I am ill-equipped to teach things like programming, website development, app development, photography, graphic design, etc. Although these aren’t required of him for his level, they are practical life skills that he can use later on.

DVD courses for older children are also effective. I got Elijah a DVD course for his writing called Institute for Excellence in Writing by Andrew Pudewa. Years ago I heard about this curriculum but I didn’t really need it until now. It dramatically improved Elijah’s writing skills. I love to write but Andrew Pudewa is a better teacher than I am, so I conceded to his expertise in this area. Recently, Elijah wrote a 52-paragraph narrative of his Mt. Apo climb, something he could not have done last year. Thanks to this program, his skills have been greatly enhanced!

With the younger kids, I don’t need as much technology. I prefer to interact with them myself. But as they get older and understand how to control their time on devices and can make responsible choices about media, I give them the flexibility to use online sources, DVD Roms, etc. to make the learning experience more engaging and effective for them. The wonderful thing is I don’t have to be seated right beside them. I can be in the same room minding the younger kids while my older ones do their work independently.

6. Address learning gaps. When a child has academic areas where he or she is weak in, it’s hard for him to move forward with confidence. My sister, Candy, is a dentist in the U.S., but when she was homeschooled, my mom noticed that she wasn’t good at spelling. How can you become a dentist and memorize technical words if you are a bad speller? My mom didn’t know she was going to become a dentist, but she knew that Candy needed remedial work in this area. As positively as she could communicate it, she told her, “We will work harder on spelling to catch you up to where you need to be.” Candy improved significantly when my mom took the time to address this learning gap of hers.

Sometimes our children are held back because there is a missing piece to their academic puzzle. When Elijah was in his early elementary years, he wasn’t that interested in math. There were aspects of it that didn’t make sense to him. To cover all possible gaps, I asked him to re-learn basic arithmetic and work up to his level. Since he had covered most of the topics in the past years, he could go through the lessons quickly. In the process, however, he was able to cover weak points in his math foundation. Today, he really enjoys math and is delving into pre-calculus topics on his own. I don’t think he would have been at this point if I neglected to address the gaps in his learning.

7. Be a facilitator, not a teacher. While I am called to instruct my children’s hearts and point them in the way they should go, I prefer the term “facilitator of learning.” I believe in a child’s God-given ability to learn. Given the right factors and environment, they will most certainly learn. However, it’s also my job, as educator Ken Robinson said it, “to control the climate” of their learning environment rather than “to command and control” their education.

When my kids call for my help, my first instinct is NOT to rush to their side to spoon-feed them with what I know or what I think they should know and do. As often as possible, I ask them to figure things out on their own. They may struggle a bit and even express their frustrations, but I let them stew in their emotions for a while before rescuing them. Or, I will explain parts of what they need to know without divulging complete solutions. In the process, they discover how deeply gratifying it is to come to their own conclusions, accomplish or discover things without my interference…especially when their effort index is high. If they need me to show them everything and explain everything it imparts the message, you need mom to learn so don’t do anything until she helps you. There will be occasions when they do need me, especially in the early years, but as they grow in their abilities and skills, I lovingly ease them “out of the eagle’s nest” and let them soar on their own.

A facilitator is not absent. She is present. She watches carefully, asks the right questions, sets expectations and communicates them, course corrects when necessary, gives helpful directions, encourages a child to focus, points a child toward resources to accomplish a task, and supplies opportunities to achieve learning goals. She also communicates confidence in a child’s ability and builds them up.

One of the ways I enable my kids is by telling them things like, “You can do it. Try and do it without me first and then if you really need me, I will help you. You can even surprise, mommy.” When I say something like, “You can surprise, mommy,” they are enlivened by the dare.

They will reply, “Okay, okay. Don’t look, mom!” Some moments later they will proudly present work that they did all by themselves. Tiana is just 5 so I don’t use this trick on her too often, unless it’s something like handwriting practice, coloring a picture, or doing simple math. This especially works for someone like Titus who is 7 years old. He steps up to this sort of challenge.

If my children really are lost after trying their best, of course I come to their aid. However, as soon as I can, I will leave them alone again to apply what I just helped them to understand and comprehend. This strategy varies for each child and subject area. Some kids can breeze through math but slow down when it’s language arts. The longer you homeschool your kids the easier it will be to tell the difference between when they truly need help or when they are simply distracted and lazy.

8. Communicate responsibilities clearly. On one wall of our homeschool room is a list of responsibilities and a daily schedule for each of my kids. At the beginning of our homeschool year, I sat down with them and explained what was expected of them on each day of the week. Responsibilities included their daily assignments for academics and extra curricular activities. I’ve included a copy of their schedules for your reference. Feel free to copy or modify them. This list keeps my kids accountable. They know they have to get all their responsibilities done before spending their discretionary time. I added independent reading time, outdoor exercise, music practice on most days as part of their responsibilities. As a result, they aren’t constantly coming to me to find out what they need to do each day. In fact, my older boys try to get their lists checked off as early as possible. Mendoza Kids’ Homeschool Schedule .

Edan, who is my more structured child, appreciates knowing exactly what he needs to do. He thrives on order. The point is I give my kids the opportunity to take ownership and to be disciplined. Kids actually feel more secure when they are provided with a framework. They appreciate knowing what their restrictions and liberties are.

9. Reward hard work. Even God is a rewarder! Hebrews 11:6 tells us this. Similarly, rewarding our children does wonders. In an older post I wrote about my tab system for motivating my children. Every so many pages in their books, they collect tabs for work accomplished. At the end of the week, they count their tabs or pool them together. If they earn 20 or more, they get to draw from what we call, The Mystery Jar. This jar has pieces of paper with rewards written on them that appeal to my kids, things like a trip to the bookstore, ice cream, a free educational app, a science toy, eating out, etc. Because they can’t anticipate what they will draw (or change it once they’ve drawn it), it’s exciting for them to pick a prize from our Mystery Jar. It’s easiest to use reusable plastic tabs like Post-its or more reasonable versions that work the same way which can be purchased at Office Warehouse or National Bookstore.

10. Finally, make a child accountable to God and to do his/her best for His glory. When I encounter learning issues with my kids because they aren’t motivated or focused, I have to spend time addressing their hearts. At the end of the day, their ability to learn and their drive to do so isn’t for me or Edric, or even for themselves. They are accountable to their creator, God, and they need to remember that the choice to do their best is a reflection of their relationship with Him.

Furthermore, because they have a relationship with Him, He will enable them, equip them, and faithfully fulfill His plan for their lives. When I’m tempted to panic and lose sight of this, I have to re-orient my own reasons for homeschooling, relax, and pray. My job is to create a learning environment that gives my children the best opportunity to build foundational skills that will allow them to seek after and know God, and glorify Him. Even though it’s valuable for them to be excellent at the academics, the more important question is, “What’s the point of it all?” And I still go back to Deuteronomy 6:5-7, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

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A MOTIVATED LEARNER is someone who…

…takes the initiative to get his/her responsibilities done.

…is eager to learn and enjoys the process of discovery.

…steps up to take on difficult challenges.

…perseveres through failures and mistakes.

…knows where to go to get the information he or she needs.

…can process content and information critically.

…contextualizes what he or she has learned and makes it practical and applicable.

…can effectively communicate what he or she has learned to others.

…internalizes the conviction to do his/her best for the Lord.

Global Home Education Conference

Edric and I will soon be in South America to attend the Global Home Education Conference (GHEC). Although I’m not thrilled about leaving our little ones behind, I also need to extract myself from my daily routine as a homeschooling mom, from my myopic perspective, and look at home education from a global perspective.

Edric is actually part of the GHEC board, a team of movers in home education around the world, who have been planning this event for the last 18 months.

What is the GHEC? 

GHEC 2016 is a leadership conference for policy makers, researchers, movement leaders, and parents interested in home education…The GHEC 2016 is a three-day event that brings together those with an interest in freedom of education and home education in particular to provide a stimulating environment to gather the best cross-section of research and to cultivate a commitment to parent-directed education. Home education highlights the most crucial factors in the freedom of education discussion. Who is responsible for education? What role do parents play in the education of their children? To what extent is the state responsible for education of children? Source: About GHEC

The last time I attended the GHEC in Berlin I learned so much from the speakers and connected with people from all around the world. It was inspiring, encouraging, and life-changing. One of the talks that I liked the most was given by child development psychologist, Dr. Gordon Neufeld. He gave the audience this thought-provoking question, “When did your child first fall in love with you?”

His point was: we can’t influence children if we don’t have their hearts. Furthermore, children don’t mature in a healthy way when they aren’t secure in their relationship with their parents. Read more about this in my article: Why Home Education Works

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This year I am looking forward to picking up more insights from veteran homeschoolers, policy makers, and influencers who are making an impact on education around the globe.

Somehow, I also became part of the workshop speaker’s pool to talk about the support systems that we need to make available to homeschooling families. It’s a super small role and I’m slightly terrified about it because it’s outside of my comfort zone to speak with amazing moms or people who have a lot more experience than I do. But Edric and I are here to serve. (He will be a speaker, too.)

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Please pray for me, that I will be a blessing and encourage the attendees with some practical wisdom (Edric, too). Furthermore, please pray that both of us bring glory to God. (Of course, please pray that we don’t get bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus!)

Why is the GHEC important to Edric and me? I will quote GHEC’s goal here:

The ability to choose home education is a right. It’s a right well-documented in international law. It’s our right as parents to direct the education of our children. And it’s the right of children to receive an individualized education experience that best suits their needs and goals.

This concept cuts across cultures, methods, and beliefs. It exists regardless of motivation or methodology in home education. This conference is a gathering for those who have an interest in engaging the important questions surrounding home education.

We are blessed to be able to home educate our children in the Philippines because the government is supportive of it. But we must seek to defend the rights of all families who want to choose home education for their own families and cannot because the laws of the land deprive them of this right. Furthermore, what affects one part of the world will eventually impact all of us. So this is for our children’s future, too.

If you want to attend the conference but can’t fly to Brazil to be there physically, you can catch the live stream.

I’ll try my best to post my learnings, too!

 

Homeschooling Interview on Mommy Hacks

In case you missed this episode of Mommy Hacks last year, I am posting the interview I had with beautiful moms Rica Peralejo Bonifacio and Cheska Garcia Kramer where they grilled me (in a positive way) with questions about homeschooling. Find out what a typical day is like for the kids and me, or get the answer to your socialisation question. Plus, find out why homeschooling is my favorite job in the world! Check out the video here: Mommy Hacks Interview

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The Benefits of Group Learning

I think it’s possible to have the best of both worlds when you homeschool — customized and individualized instruction, as well as the advantages of group learning. For the former, there’s home. But for the latter, there’s our weekly coop.The easiest way to do this is to initiate activities that require children to gather together in groups to solve problems or work towards a goal. 

Our weekly coop is a mix of amazing moms who are talented, dedicated and generous with their time. Moms take turns teaching for a quarter then switch it up again. Personally, I feel that our older children probably get the most out of these weekly meetings because they are challenged and pushed in a positive way. 

When an oldest child is homeschooled, he is naturally top dog — the one whom siblings look up to and follow. Well, in a group setting with kids who are different ages, skilled in various ways, and opinionated, it’s good for their character development to learn to work together for common goals. Plus there’s the aspect of healthy competition.

At present, our older kids are taking up entrepreneurship, taught by Amanda Ross, and Make Your Own Country, facilitated by Andi Miller. The kids are especially enjoying the social studies one because it involves collaborating to create things like the name of a country, language, geography, history, commerce, etc. 

Interestingly, all of the alpha kids, the ones who like to take charge and give their opinions, were lumped together. And the other group was a mix of “calmer” students who were doers and knew how to organize themselves. The second group got more done and was many steps ahead of group 1. 

However, both sets of kids are benefitting from this activity. The aggressive and domineering ones are learning to put their ideas together and listen to one another to move towards a goal. And the more silent ones are learning to express themselves and give their inputs. Both must organize themselves and work as a team without parents hovering over them. 

   
 While it’s possible to homeschool without attending coops or playgroups, I do see the pros of allowing kids to connect with other children who will stretch their capacities, sharpen their minds, test their personalities, and not always agree with them. Character gets put to the test and friendships are forged as children get to bond with one another through by sharing challenges.

   
 Furthermore, everyone has the opportunity to shine and contribute without being under the shadow of their older siblings, which I have found to be true for my second son, Edan. 

    
 Edan was in group 2 and he stepped up to organize everyone. I don’t think this would have happened if he was in the same group as Elijah. And I am sure he is loving the fact that his team is, at present, “beating” his older brother’s. As for me, I am totally amused and thankful that our kids have other children to homeschool with and I have parents to share the journey with. 

If you aren’t in a coop yet, consider forming one with a few friends and then let it grow from there. Ours started out with a handful of moms who would meet in a park while our kids ran around to play, and now we have grown to a sizable number with sections for age groups and organized classes. We adjusted as our kids’ needs changed, and we continue to think through what we can offer them to maximize their time together. If you want to read more about how to set up a coop, check out my post: You Don’t Have To Know Everything. I included a section that details how to start one. 


Highlights of 2015

 

Before January gets really busy, I would like to thank the Lord for the year that was and thank you, my readers, for taking the time to visit this blog. Your comments, messages, and prayers have been a blessing to me, and a motivation to keep writing whenever I get lazy or tired. Many of you have come up to me in person, too, to take hold of my arm and whisper that this site has been a part of your life, and you can’t imagine how your words have brought me joy.

I slowed down a little bit this year with writing, primarily because it felt like our family lived two years in one this 2015. This was probably the most hectic year I’ve ever survived. Writing kind of took a backseat at times to give way to motherhood and wife duties, homeschooling, ministry, work, speaking, traveling, or much needed rest. But this site is still important to me and I haven’t lost the desire or drive to keep using this site as a means to reach out to people and talk about what God is doing in my life, marriage and parenting. This is what keeps me pressing on.

Indeed, He did much in 2015. I would even call it the best year I have ever lived. God is amazing in this way. Every year that I walk with Him, every year that I give to Him turns into the best year. This doesn’t mean that my family and I are free from problems or crises, but it does mean that His grace and faithfulness abound.

These were my personal highlights of 2015 and I hope that going through these will remind you that God is a loving Father who knows the needs of his children, the desires of their hearts, the purposes He has called them to, the mistakes they make, and the correcting that is painful but necessary along the way.

Our family capped off 2014 and welcomed 2015 with a trip to the U.S., where we survived a month without household help, the cold, and learned to serve each other through sleepless nights and endless chores. We came back to Manila in the second week of January recharged and ready to jump into 2015.

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One of my first challenges was running in a 21K, which I thought was going to be a killer but Edric and I got through it by God’s grace! (I actually finished ahead of him which was another surprise but I couldn’t have run it without him so he helped me “beat” him.)

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Soon after we had our family commercial for Cetaphil which was an unexpected blessing. Catalina acted up a couple of times which is why she wasn’t in the final video edit but they included her in the print materials. Edan actually had a fever that started the day of the shoot (look at the photo below and his eyes), but he was a real trooper and the team behind the production was very easy to work with. It’s been a privilege to be brand ambassadors for a product line we really believe in and use as a family.

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Shortly after, Meg Magazine featured my testimony. They asked me to talk about how God brought healing to my life.

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Our homeschooling had its highlights, too. Edan discovered an interest in botany. He grew his carnivorous plants for a season. Unfortunately they eventually died which was a lowlight but he continues to be interested in animals and plants. Looks like we will be buying more carnivorous plants again this year!

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Elijah graduated from elementary and moved on to high school! This opened a new chapter in our homeschooling, especially for me! More grace, strength, and wisdom needed from the Lord!

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Titus took his first achievement test and did well! He also excellent at math this year which I didn’t even know was a strong point for him. But praise God. He knows that I’m not the best math teacher. I also discovered that Titus has a God-given musical talent. He started harmonising at the age of 6 and taught himself to do this!

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My fourth child, Tiana, started to read which was a big milestone!

 

 Catalina, my youngest, became a real a chatterbug. She grew in her ability to express herself and comprehend, and has showed an inclination to learn and be part of our homeschooling. She got exiled many times because she was disruptive but I hope to include her as often as possible this year.

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One of the kids’ homeschool field trips was to Costales where they learned about organic farming. God saved Ethan (my nephew on the right) from drowning, too! He got sucked down a drain and it’s a miracle that he popped out the other end and my brother was able to pull him out!

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Over the summer the boys attended Coach Siot’s basketball camp, which they will be joining again at the end of this month. They learned to push themselves physically.

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They also enrolled in Ninja Academy’s Parkour course, which has been incredibly fun for them. What boy doesn’t want to learn to scale walls, jump over bars, free fall off a ledge, and swing from ropes?

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Tiana finally made it through her ballet classes without crying through them. She turned out to be quite a graceful dancer (most probably from Edric’s side of the family).

The boys improved immensely in their violin playing.

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We also got to fix our homeschool room which made a big difference in our kids’ daily learning.

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God opened up opportunities to be featured on television to talk about homeschooling. The first was on CNN’s Mommy Hacks.

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I was also interviewed about homeschooling for Mommy Mundo’s new show which should be airing soon!

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Throughout the year, the kids spoke with us during retreats, business speaking engagements, and other ministry activities. This was a great way for them to use their communication skills to bless people.

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Our homeschool Coop gave our kids the opportunity to develop some great friendships. I also enjoyed connecting with other homeschool moms and team teaching with them. By the end of the year, when we celebrated our Christmas party, we were nearly 100 people! We had to cater the party!

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Our coop covered culinary arts, art history and theory, speech, ethics, apologetics, science, social studies, history, and it culminated with a Kid’s Praise musical thanks to the talented moms who contributed their expertise for directing, teaching dance, singing, and designing the set. The kids performed for an audience of underprivileged children at Revelation Church in Sta. Mesa.

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TMA Homeschool did some much needed expanding this year. We did several roadshows to connect with homeschoolers around the Philippines…

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TMA Homeschool also moved into its new office to help serve parents better, and Learning Plus, our homeschool bookstore, opened to provide curriculum and homeschool-related materials to parents. Our guests from the U.S., Mike Donnelly of Homeschool Legal Defense Association, and Davis and Rachel Carman of Apologia Press graced the ribbon cutting.

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The portal, Homeschooling Solutions, became available for families who can’t come to the Learning Plus Bookstore because they live farther away or out of the country. Materials are delivered within 48 hours. A lot of non-TMA Homeschool families used this site for their homeschooling needs.

We had two big homeschool conferences this year. Set Them Up for Success and Ready for the World, where we partnered with Manila Workshops ,  The Learning Basket and HAPI. These events brought the homeschool community together.

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On the Family Ministry front, God provided an amazing team to mount three very special events —  The Before and After I D seminar for engaged and newly married couples, Family and Finance, and Counterflow. We intend to make these events a yearly thing for young couples and families who want to know more about biblical marriage, finance, and parenting.

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Here’s a super big one which was made possible only by God’s amazing grace! My book, When A Good God Allows Rape, got published and was launched at the Manila International Book Fair by OMF Lit Publishing. It’s now available in bookstores around the country like National Bookstore, Pages, OMF Lit, and as a online ebook via Amazon, buqo, and others.

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Writing the book opened doors for me to talk more about the Lord. On CNN Philippines’ Real Talk the hosts devoted the entire 45 minutes to asking me questions about my book and my faith in Christ! I was thrilled! My dream for this book is that it will inspire people to follow Jesus. May He get all the glory!

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We had some favourite family photoshoots over the year. The first was done by Mayad Studios, who ventured into lifestyle photography with their Mayad Beginnings. They captured our family so naturally. 

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Another one was done by Alex Adiaz, which we also appreciated very much. He shot this one in our backyard.

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Another super highlight was Elijah getting baptized. 

 Yet another personal favourite of 2015 was how God worked in our Thursday couples’ group. We grew closer to the Lord and to one another, and most of us got to attend The Executive Couple’s Retreat in Baguio Country Club, where we learned and re-learned marriage principles. Some of us also served by facilitating other couples’ groups.

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As a group, we put together a surprise wedding for the Avelinos. This really knit our hearts together in a special way.

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Our bigger discipleship group family grew, too! Unfortunately we didn’t get to see everyone as often as we wanted to because we moved far from the area where we used to meet every week. But, we got together for “trimester” fellowships. These people are our extended spiritual family for life and we love them dearly!

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The year had some sad turns. Steve, who was like family, died tragically a day before he turned 30. My grandfather, angkong to us, passed away at 96. Both knew the Lord so we shall see them again, but it was difficult to lose both of them.

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We didn’t do too well in the pet department. We lost three of our Siamese cats – one committed suicide off the top of our roof, and two got run over by crazy drivers. Our Myna bird fell over in its cage and expired, and several of our fish were found floating lifeless in their tank. We also had to give away two dogs to more deserving and caring owners. (They are still alive and much happier now.) We hope to have less tragedies with our animals in 2016.

  
Our family also lost a very loyal and hard working household help who went to work abroad. We gave her our full blessing and support but she continues to be missed.

A definite high was celebrating the wedding of Edric’s sister, Danie to Vince Valdepenas. 

(null)(null)I started sewing dresses this year. I sewed the dress I wore for the wedding and made 6 yards of mistakes in the process! Experience is the best teacher! Thankfully, the material was only P80/yard. Ssh.

Another endorsement fell into our laps when we were asked to do an online commercial for Vernel Fabric Softener as a family. We love these family endorsements! We are so thankful! It’s an undeserved bonus from God whenever we are asked to do these things.

 (null)The year ended with a number of parties and engagements (my last count was about 20) but my favourite part was being with family (Edric’s side and my side). The Mendozas were almost complete for Christmas this year. The Tan-Chis most definitely were which was extra special for all of us.

We left a spot for Edric’s sister, Nicky, who was terribly missed.

My sister, Carolyn and her husband, Joel, were MIA in this photo because she gave birth over the holidays. But we were together for opening presents on December 26th.

 

 

I am a pretty simple gal. Edric and I always have a lot going on, but my best memories of the year were the quiet ones… being at home, enjoying our house (we finally completed a year in it), exploring the outdoors as a family, getting to know our kids better and growing closer to one another, playing board games, curling up on the couch for some me-time, watching movies, going on dates with Edric, eating around our kitchen table…These are the moments that made up the best of 2015 for me.

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 When I take stock of this year, I am thoroughly amazed at God’s hand in everything. There’s no success mentioned here that can be attributed to Edric or myself. Everything that happened that was good was due to God’s grace. Everything that happened that was unfortunate was part of his grand plan. 

I’m posting this in the middle of our fasting week as a church, while I am praying for God’s direction and leading for 2016. A few days ago I began by asking Him, “Lord what is your will for me this year?” I expected answers like, “Say yes to this speaking engagement or say no to this one,” or, “Pursue this venture,” or, “Write another book,” or, “Do this for your homeschooling,” etc. Instead, this was the answer I received:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me, and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” John 14:21

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done fore. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:7-11

We all want to experience a life of joy. I certainly do. And sometimes I mistakenly think that what I do with my abilities will determine how great a year I will have. But God simplified it for me when he said, “Love Me. Abide in My Love. Obey My commandments.” This is the path to a life of joy, a year of joy!

So my new year’s resolution is not a long list of things I would like to do or avoid. Instead it is dedicating 2016 to loving God, and abiding in His love by obeying His commands. How does God want you to live your 2016?

 

 

 

Philippine Homeschool Conference 2015: Ready For the World!

Every homeschooling parent needs to recharge and revisit the commitment they have made to educate their children at home. Because we are in the trenches of teaching our children it’s difficult to see the bigger picture. Where are we headed? What is the goal? How do we navigate through the daily challenges without getting lost or discouraged?

Sometimes the best way to regroup is to take a pause from the homeschool teaching in order to be taught for a change! We need spiritual, emotional and intellectual feeding ourselves. The great teacher Howard Hendricks said, “The philosophy that you as a teacher should embrace is that you are a learner. Would you rather have your students drink from an overflowing living stream or a stagnant pool? What have you learned lately?” (Seven Laws of the Teacher)

As homeschooling parents, we need encouragement and fresh ideas, to correct our approaches and perspectives, or revisit the fundamentals that have gotten buried under our doings. Maybe we need to stop doing or start doing something. And of course, we always need more materials, books, resources, and curriculum. But, most of all, we need spiritual reviving from the Lord, and connectedness to other homeschoolers. In short, what we need is a homeschool conference that puts all these elements together for us!

This October 17, Homeschool Association of the Philippine IslandsManila Workshops and The Learning Basket bring you the largest homeschooling conference this year – “The Philippine Homeschool Conference 2015: Ready for the World!”

As a precursor to the “Global Home Education Conference” (GHEC) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in March 2016, two well-respected homeschool advocates and speakers from the United States will be gracing the event as keynote speakers: Michael Donnelly, Director for Global Outreach of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Secretary of GHEC 2016, and Rachael Carman, mother of seven and best-selling author and publisher of popular homeschool curriculum Apologia. Rachael’s husband, Davis, the President of Apologia, will be speaking as well.

Other speakers include Edric Mendoza (Homeschool advocate and host of ANC’s On the Money) who is my wonderful, and motivational speaker and wealth coach, Chinkee Tan.

Homeschoolers and those exploring this educational option will be inspired, informed and empowered in this biggest homeschooling event. Definitely bigger than the past years’ homeschool conferences, “Ready for the World!” will be held at THREE venues at SM Aura Premiere. Keynote talks will be held at the Samsung Hall, while smaller workshops and the much awaited homeschool expo will be at the SMX Convention Center.

An All Access Pass (pass to go in and out of all three venues, including the exposition venue) is at Php 1000 per person for the early bird rate. Aside from the inspiring talks, there will be a huge expo of the various learning providers, educational tools, toys, books, etc. that will help homeschooling parents and aspiring homeschooling parents in their daily lives. This expo will be open to the public for a minimal amount of Php 100 per head, but this fee is already included in the All Access Pass.

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Homeschool Association of the Philippine Islands (HAPI), a non-stock, non-profit advocacy of Filipino homeschoolers, together with Manila Workshops, a company dedicated to continuing education for professional and personal goals, and The Learning Basket, an advocacy that inspires parents to be their children’s first and best teacher, offers an event jam-packed with information and inspiration about homeschooling that will help parents get their kids ready for the world.

To register, please visit: Manila Workshops

For inquiries, please contact: manilaworkshops@gmail.com

Visit http://facebook.com/manilaworkshops or Instagram @manilaworkshops for updates and info.

 

My Response Is My Responsibility

My sweet son, Titus, did it again, in the way only his mind would have thought to do. He acted upon his God-given curiosity and put a coin inside his violin right before he was about to perform for a recital.

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his turn, he came down the aisle to my seat in the back and whispered, “Mom, I did something. I accidentally dropped a coin into my violin.”

My first thought was, You’ve got to be kidding me! Right now?! You do this?! What if it affects the sound of your violin when you perform?

Yet, how could I be upset at him? I looked at him as he bit his lower lip in anticipation of my response. I knew he didn’t mean to jeopardize his entire performance by getting the coin stuck inside his violin. And scolding him for his carelessness would not help his performance.

My sister stepped outside the room and attempted to shake it out. After several vigorous attempts, she resigned and returned the violin to Titus.

“It’s okay, hon,” I reassured Titus. “You can play with the coin inside.”

And that’s exactly what he did. When he got up on stage and lifted up his violin, I heard the coin travel to the base of his violin where it stayed during his piece. Thankfully, the coin didnt get in the way of his performance. However, the coin will live in his violin forever.

As I watched Titus get through his song, I thought about how much I love him…everything about him. Like all my other children, he has aspects of his personality that stress me out sometimes, but he is uniquely designed and gifted by the Lord.He is so often a reminder to me that I cannot control my children, too. They make choices and mistakes that can be frustrating but my job is to respond in God-honoring ways.

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend who lost her temper with her son as she homeschooled him. She lashed out at him when he met her attempts to teach him with resistance and disinterest. So she took his book and tore it up and when he began to cry, she plugged his mouth with a pillow in her irritation. When she realized the emotional hurt she caused her son, she asked for his forgiveness.

When she came to me for advice, she was deeply troubled about her display of anger, and she felt unqualified to be a homeschooling mother and a mom. We talked for a while about practical ways to take the frustration out of her homeschooling which had to do with curriculum choices and methods of instruction. I also encouraged her by sharing some of my own struggles when I teach my kids. However, the more important conclusion was that being a mom (a homeschooling one or otherwise) requires us to be directed, filled, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As adorable and lovable as my children are, they are going to make choices that reveal their folly of heart. And the solution is not to battle the outward behavior but to address what’s going on inside and then respond to the behavior in a Spirit-filled manner.

My friend’s confession to me wasn’t a unique one. I have heard other moms tell me similar accounts. Whether they homeschool or not isn’t the commonality. Instead it is the desire to control their children and force them into compliance and obedience. And a lot of times the default reaction is to get angry.

The Bible tells us, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God,” which is a great principle to remember when we are tempted to lose our temper in front of our children. Our anger will not make them righteous, and it won’t make us righteous either. We may think it will produce RIGHT behavior from them but it doesn’t transform them for the better on the inside.‭

Here are the suggestions I gave to my friend that have helped me when I am instructing my children, especially my OLDER ones.

1. Identify the root of the behavior. Whether it is a bad attitude, defiance, carelessness or irresponsibility, ask the why question. Why are they acting this way?

– Are they affected by my own negativity?
– Do they feel pressured to perform?
– Am I rushing through the material or their work?
– Is the skill level required of them greater than their capacity?
– Is it a character issue — laziness, lack of discipline, a sense of entitlement, or a deeper emotional or spiritual concern?
– Was the undesirable circumstance a result of an accident versus malicious intent?

2. Respond with wisdom.
– My child may need some time to pray and reflect about their attitude before continuing with their work.
– I may need to humbly apologize for my own shortcomings — my teaching style, tone or actions.
– My child may need his work to be broken down into easier steps so he can build confidence in the skill required of him.
– I may need to change my methodology or the material so it’s more engaging for my child.
– I may need to spend one-on-one moments with my child where we can bond and fellowship outside the context of instruction, where we can get to know one another better so that my child feels secure in my love for him.
– Dad may need to help with the emotional and spiritual aspect.
– A family devotion at night may help to instill or reinforce Christ-like character.
– More time with dad may help to fill my child’s emotional tank.
– Perhaps my child does not have a personal relationship with Jesus and I need to share the gospel with him.

3. Cradle instruction with positive words and actions.
– Tell my child that I appreciate them and enjoy being with them.
– Give them healthy praise.
– Call out instances when they put in the effort and try their best.
– Be affectionate with them.
– Challenge them appropriately and reward them appropriately so they are motivated to do their best.

4. Create an environment and systems that are conducive to instruction and learning.
– Organize and plan out my homeschool room.
– Prepare or think through lessons ahead of time so I am not fumbling through my instruction.
– Have a schedule that is reasonable, predictable and visible.
– Safeguard my homeschooling time so I am focused enough to give my kids all the attention they need.

Here’s a copy of my kids’ schedules for them to refer to and check off (and yes, each one is laminated).  
5. Pray for my kids.

As a mom, I have to remember that my response is my responsibility. It is my choice to be Spirit-led or to get mad when challenges and obstacles arise in my homeschooling or parenting. A bad learning day can turn into a great one when I reject the anger or disappointment and replace it with God-honoring responses. And a good learning day can turn into a horrible one when I focus on the negative and lose sight of the goal of raising my children to love God with all that they are.

 My job is not to force or manipulate my kids to learn or behave perfectly but to do my best to…

…make them feel loved and secure

…equip and enable them to develop their talents, and abilities

…teach them the skills they need to be successful and make a difference for Christ

…apply discipline when their character needs shaping

…pass on biblical truth to guide their choices

…model Christ-like attitudes and behaviors for them to copy

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭

“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” ‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:11‬ 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭

  
  
(He actually got the coin out tonight! A miracle!)

God Always Provides For Our Homeschooling

Sat Apr 11 2015 02_36_51 GMT+0800-2

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord continues to prove faithful as we homeschool our children. Homeschooling gets challenging every year in new ways. With a 7th grader and other kids moving up the elementary ladder, my instruction requirements become more and more difficult. In some ways, my kids become more independent when it comes to their subject studies. However, their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs increase. They need more mentoring and discipleship, they also need us to be more involved and attentive to what’s going on in their hearts.

I found this to be true with our son, Elijah, who is becoming his own man as he transitions into his teenage years. A lot of times Edric and I have to help him process what’s going on his head — the fears, the doubts, the worry, or the frustrations. We praise God that he loves the Lord because it makes it easier to reconnect him back to the biblical perspective as he deals with his feelings and his thought life. But I realize, that parenting never quite ends. We get through one stage and one season and feel like we’ve mastered it, only to enter into an entirely unchartered one where we are faced with the thought, We have no idea what we are doing! This is the wonderful adventure of being a mom and a dad. It’s never boring!

As a homeschooling mom, I have to come to terms with my own limitations, even intellectually. Teaching mathematics at the higher levels is not easy. But thanks to programs like Khan Academy, I can augment my lack of expertise. This year, there was a subject area that I finally surrendered to. FILIPINO.

I can teach math because I studied math. I may struggle through it, but if I can do it if I need to. But Filipino was never a subject to me until I got into college in Ateneo. And even then I enrolled in the Filipino for foreigners class where we learned phrases like, “Magandang Umaga and Mabuhay.” (I know. It’s pathetic.) But I thought it was great! Learning how to speak in Filipino more fluently came as I interacted with people in school. However, I never took it as a formal subject.

So to teach it now is like my version of a homeschool mom’s nightmare. I can’t get through a lesson without having to translate everything word-for-word into English in order to teach it to my kids.

As I planned for this homeschool year, I decided that I would focus on my strengths and supplement this area of weakness. Edric was sweet enough to give me the go signal to hire a Filipino tutor. I’ve never had to do this in all of my homeschooling…hire a tutor. But how nice to have it as an option!

I praise God that homeschooling offers me the flexibility to customize my children’s learning experience. I don’t have to be an expert in every subject area. I can outsource where I lack. Yeah!

So I had the plan to hire a Filipino tutor but I didn’t know where to find one. Thanks to Facebook, it took just one post, one cry for help on Facebook. Sympathetic and kind-hearted friends sent me several options.

Last Saturday, Elijah and Edan had their first session with their tutor and they loved it! I was so happy. It’s amazing how quickly the kids pick up content when the teacher knows what they are doing!

As for me, I marveled once again at how good God is. He called Edric and I to homeschool our children. He put the conviction and desire in our hearts to raise them to love Him with all that they are. And when the journey hits an obstacle, God is faithful to provide for our homeschooling needs.

I always tell moms who are having a hard time with homeschooling to remember that God is our partner in all of this. God is our enabler. His grace is sufficient. There is no homeschool problem too big for Him to solve. So be encouraged whenever you come up against a road block because it means that God is going to do something that will make you smile and say “Thank you, Lord! I can keep going!”

 

For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5 (NASB)

Sat Apr 11 2015 02_34_09 GMT+0800

 

 

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!