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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In the Trenches – What I Like

Last weekend, I was in Cebu with Edric and the kids. No yaya. Wow. It was slightly crazy and wonderful at the same time. Part of the reason we were there was to talk about homeschooling. I was asked to give a testimony as someone who is in the trenches of it. That’s definitely me! So here is my take on homeschooling in a nutshell. I’ve broken up my testimony into two parts and taken bits and pieces from old posts to summarize What I like About Homeschooling and What I’ve Learned as A Homeschooling Mom

What I like About Homeschooling:

Free-flowing Lessons. Learning happens very naturally in the home. Teaching and training my children are not confined to a set period of the day. It doesn’t just happen in the study room of our home. I have four kids at different stages of learning so if I were to do a classroom set-up, I wouldn’t have enough time in the day to teach my kids like a conventional school would. Instead, I let my kids’ learning happen outside of textbooks and workbooks. Learning happens naturally through dialogue and discussion, hands-on experiences, modeling, games, reading and telling stories, socializing with family members or friends, and lots of creative play. I do give my kids workbook and textbook time, as well as writing exercises and tests. But, these conventional learning methods don’t dictate how, what, and when my children learn.

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A typical day for our family would be the kids waking up at 7 AM and we have breakfast as a family. By 8:30 or 9 AM we start our lessons. With each child I will cover three to four subject areas. My older son, Elijah, is a pretty independent learner so he can do most of his work on his own. We will read History and Science together because he likes the discussion and interaction time we have when we go through these subjects. In the meantime, my second son, Edan, will be doing his lessons with lots of breaks in between. And when I’m preoccupied with my youngest son, Titus, Edan act as my teacher’s assistant or entertainer. He will help teach Tiana, my fourth child, and keep her busy. I work more closely with Titus because he needs one-on-one instruction. And after about 45 minutes he is done with his “academics” and will work with manipulatives or have free play time with his sister. Everyone is doing something productive between 9 and 12 noon, but it isn’t always sitting down at a desk. In the afternoons, the kids can read, pursue their hobbies, practice their violin, and rest. I rest, too!

A Customized Education – tailor fit to my child’s needs. At home, with one-on-one instruction, it is much easier for a parent to adjust to the learning needs of her child. Titus is a kinesthetic child but like my two older boys, he learned to read early because I modified my approach with him. Phonics instruction was kept short and sweet. We didn’t do too much writing until he was really ready. And I let him have lots of time to play with dough, scissors, glue, marbles…basically anything to help him develop his fine motor skills.

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My simple philosophy for teaching my kids is this: All children are equipped to learn and they can develop a genuine love for learning, but a parent must be willing to discover and investigate how her child learns best, welcome the adjustment it requires on her part, and look to the Lord for the supernatural creativity, insight, wisdom and ability that this kind of inspired teaching requires.

At home, children have true play. They can engage in self-initiated activity without the pressure of outcomes. They are challenged to be creative, to conceptualize, and to problem solve while they play. And they have hours and hours to play! I really feel like they get to have an extended childhood that isn’t cut short by the over scheduling and time consuming homework that school-going kids have to deal with.

Learning along-side my children. I have never been excellent in math. I used to dislike it immensely until I started homeschooling my kids. When I became a “math teacher,” I had to re-learn math from the ground up. From pre-school math to upper elementary math (where I find myself now), I am both student and teacher to my kids. When Elijah was in 3rd grade, I peaked at the answer key in the back of his math book when we encountered a word problem I was stumped on (can you believe it?! 3rd grade?!) and he got really upset. He said, “Now you won’t solve the problem with me!” He enjoyed the fact that we solved the problems together. It didn’t matter to him that I wasn’t a math expert and this didn’t keep him from learning. He wanted me to learn along-side him. Nowadays, he uses Kahn Academy to teach himself math.

I call this approach to homeschooling the “teamwork” approach. It is experiencing the process with my kids, encouraging them and inspiring them to learn by making it fun. And often times, their definition of fun is having me beside them.

Cultivating relational intimacy between siblings / between parent and child. Adidas used to have a tag line for basketball. Basketball is a brotherhood. Well, for my boys, homeschooling is a brotherhood. My kids are growing up to be best friends and they often say they are. Homeschooling has a lot to do with it because they are together so often and have to work out their differences, defer to one another, and love one another unconditionally. God has really knit the hearts of my children to one another. They hold each other accountable for responsibilities like violin practice, reading their bibles and praying together. And they have each other’s backs. Elijah recently told me, “I protect my brothers and I stick up for them.”  Someday, they will benefit from each other’s spiritual support and encouragement to weather the storms of life. Developing a loyalty to one another when they are young will have a lot to do with that.

My siblings and I were homeschooled for a time. And it proved to be such an amazing bonding experience, we remain close to this day. We enjoy getting together with our families, sharing meals and conversations, watching movies, playing games and sports, etc. My parents taught us to prioritize loving your family members before friends and this has carried on into our adulthood.

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a foremost child developmental and clinical psychologist from Canada made this statement during a talk he gave on Why Home Education Works. ”Homeschooling provides the optimum environment for a child to mature into 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 – his parents.” He is not even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development.

He cites the following reasons:

  • At home, children have continuity of contact with their parents. Schools separate children from their parents and foster competing attachments with peers.
  • At home parents taken on the responsibility of pursuing their child relationally. This gives a child rest from the work of attachment. He doesn’t have to strive for the attention or affections of his parent. When children have to work for love or affection, they do not grow or mature.
  • At home, a child faces less separation and less wounding (ideally) so that his heart stays soft and pliable. At school a lot of wounding occurs, especially among peers. This causes a flight from vulnerability and a child develops hardness of heart.
  • At home, parents can support the maturity process. They can handle the stages a child goes through, the questions and the struggles.

I would like to add that at home, parents can continually assure their child, “nothing will separate you form my love…not your attitude, not your behavior, I love you no matter what, but because I love you, I am committed to helping you change and improve.”

Homeschooling has most certainly turned the heart of Edric towards our kids. And he has chosen to be very involved in their lives. This has been a special blessing for our family. The conviction to be a hands-on, intentional father came when Edric began to think about the goals of our parenting and homeschooling.

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Influence. Dr. Neufeld also explained that children want to be like those whom they are attached to. They will give their heart to those whom they are attached to. They want to be known and reveal their secrets to those whom they are attached to.

He brought up this very important point: When did your child fall in love with you? When did you child give you his heart? We were never meant to deal with a children whose hearts we did not have. If you do not have the heart of your child, you will not have the context in which to bring him to his fullest potential. If you do not have his heart, you will not have his mind.

Homeschooling allows Edric and I to impact the hearts and minds of our kids because they are very much attached to us. Because we spend the most time with them, we naturally have the most influence, too.

Teaching a Biblical World-view. No education is neutral. No child is neutral. Every child has an orientation towards God or away from God. Edric and I don’t want our children to be bombarded with secular messages and worldviews that will turn them away from a God-ward orientation. So we filter what they learn through the word of God. We protect our children from wrong kinds of indoctrination by peers, teachers, school curriculums and systems that promote humanism vs. theism.

David Sant said, “All education is indoctrination into a religious worldview…All education is undergirded by presuppositions about the origin of the universe, the origin of man, the purpose of man, ethics government relationships between men, and the continuing existence of the universe in an orderly and predictable manner. It is an inescapable fact that all of these basic assumptions are fundamentally religious. Therefore we must view the schoolroom as the place where children are indoctrinated into the religion of their society. The school is, in effect, a temple.”

In a climate of postmodern thinking which has removed God from the picture and promoted the ideas of moral subjectivity, pluralism and relativism, there is a need more than ever before to teach our children the truths that God has given us in his word. When Elijah was 3, he asked us, “What if there is no God…what will happen?”  It was a valid question. Who would have answered this for him if we weren’t around?

As parents, we need to be able to answer key questions that will impact our children’s belief system and determine their choices and actions: Who is God? Who Am I? What on Earth Am I here for? Edric and I aren’t willing to gamble our children’s future convictions by leaving this task up to others.

The faithfulness of God. We chose to homeschool in faith, in obedience to the Lord. We continue to do so, despite our limitations and imperfections to find that God is faithful. Every year that I teach the kids, I look back and think, how did we survive last year and manage to finish everything?! I’m always in awe of how God comes through for us. He is the one who makes my kids excited about learning. He is the one who helps them to learn. They are doing well inspite of me!

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My T.A.

I have a teacher’s assistant, also known as Edan, my second son. He is an incredible help to me when it comes to homeschooling Tiana. With his methodical and systematic way of doing things, he comes up with activities for her to do when the others are homeschooling or like a good soldier, he will implement assignments that I delegate to him. Tiana calls him “Teacher Edan” during her lessons and what a relief it has been to have him preoccupy her so I can give attention to Titus when he needs one-on-one instruction.

I have told Edan many times how valuable he is to me. And the thing is, he really enjoys being a teacher. He gets a deep sense of fulfillment out of the experience and he is quite patient. Sometimes, he does get annoyed when Tiana doesn’t focus. But hey, she is like 2 years old. Her attention span is 5 minutes or less.

Today, I laughed when Edan said, “Mom, it is going to take Tiana ONE YEAR to learn all the things that you asked me to teach her!” She was a bit distracted when he was asking her to complete a pattern. But most of the time, he’s got her attention and she is participatory and engaged. The benefit to Edan is that he is learning communication skills and reinforcing his own knowledge of academic matter…not to mention putting character traits into practice.

Seeing my kids look out for each other is one of my delights as a homeschooling mom. It’s not easy to teach four kids who are at different levels and have varying needs, but Edan’s assistance provides me with daily encouragement. Multi-level homeschooling is so much easier when siblings contribute and help one another. Furthermore, I am realizing that children respond to the expectations you have of them. Whenever I see Edan volunteering to teach Tiana, I say, “You are such a great teacher, Edan!” It motivates him to live up to this positive label.

One time, a bunch of his cousins were coming over and he told me, “Mom, I am going to take care of all the younger kids. I will plan the games and activities. I will be in charge.” He named each one of the kids he was going to be responsible for. He left out Elijah and an older cousin because, according to him, they could fend for themselves.

I took a couple of photographs of Tiana homeschooling under “Teacher Edan.” Some of the activities were ideas I learned from reading about the Montessori method. :)

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It Takes All Day

It takes all day to homeschool. I’m not talking about the part where we use books and workbooks or do homeschool “projects.” I’m talking about everything in between.

For example, today I had a talk with my second son, Edan. He was in a difficult mood yesterday when I was homeschooling him. But I knew that if I had tried to correct his attitude then, it wouldn’t have been effective. He was not ready.

He hovered over his math book like it was some form of torture. I looked at the page he had to complete and I knew, as his teacher, that it wasn’t anything beyond his capacity. It was merely a review of concepts he had already understood just a few weeks prior. I took the book away from him and told him to go to his room and pray about his attitude.

The last thing I want to do when I’m homeschooling my kids is force them to learn when they aren’t spiritually ready. Since I am available to them almost 24 hours, I know we have many more moments in the day to address the heart issues they face. I am not going to ballistic over a page or two of math work. But I won’t let my kids’ negative attitudes linger without addressing them either.

When they act de-motivated, I take a step back, compose myself before losing my cool, and let my kids isolate themselves to think and pray about their actions and attitudes. When they are ready, they will come back to me with some sort of resolution. If not, then I pursue them relationally and sit down with them to talk.

I had asked Edan in the car yesterday if he would like to explain to me why he didn’t want to do his work. He asked me if we could talk privately. This morning, I invited him to a conversation, just the two of us.

It’s amazing how a serious dialogue between a parent and child, without time pressure, can do much to unlock what’s going on inside a child’s heart. I suppose one of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that I’m not rushing my kids off to school or stressing out at the end of the day about their homework, test-preparation, etc. We can be together for extended periods of time to deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. Top on my list is the discipleship of my kids…their character.

So we sat there, on the bed and I asked him a few questions. He can be a tough nut to crack because he tends to be quiet about his feelings. When he is upset, he will go lie on his bed and cry. Rarely will he display dramatics. My eldest, Elijah, tends to be the more intense one so he’s more entertaining to watch when he is upset. (Did I just say that? What I mean is, it’s not difficult to guess what he’s feeling.)

With Edan, he has to be pried open gently and the right factors have to be present. When I asked him to come to my room to talk, he knew it was a safe place to tell me whatever he was thinking or feeling. “Can you tell me why you didn’t feel like doing your work yesterday? Mommy wants to be able to help you.” The conversation began along those lines. At first, he wanted to bury his face in a pillow and look at me out of just one eye, while the other one was covered. But I asked him to look directly at me. After a few seconds, he began to share about how he didn’t like books that only had two colors. That made absolute sense coming from a child who is a visual learner. I just didn’t know it made such a big difference to him. And so, I asked, “Do you think it is okay to have a bad attitude if you don’t like your book?” We talked some more about how he was feeling and then I reminded him about the character trait of gratefulness.

A couple months ago, we had covered this topic for our family bible study. My husband, Edric, had asked the kids to memorize the verse, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I shared with him that it was important to thank God for the blessings that we do have. We talked about how we could apply this in our homeschooling.

In between, Titus tried to spy on us. He poked his head around the door and stood there for a while, hoping to find out what we were talking about. I asked him to close the door and leave us for a bit. He acted like he was closing it but kept a part open so he could still spy on us. I saw his shadow, and said, “Titus…close the door.” Curious little Titus finally shut it.

The conversation between Edan and I resumed. It took a while but we finally arrived at a conclusion. Edan said he would choose to do the right thing and change his attitude. We prayed together. I also shared with him that there are times when I don’t have good attitude…like when “Daddy asks me to do something,” so I also have to work on this area. We both confessed our sins and Edan was back to his old smiley self.

Was he ready to be instructed after that? Yes.

When parents ask me, “How long do you homeschool for?”, I usually say, the kids do their work in the morning. But a more accurate answer to that question would really be, homeschooling takes all day. It’s not just about covering subject matter and saying, “Yes, it was a good day. We got all our ‘work’ done.” So much of what happens in between the work, throughout the many interactions I have with my kids, is the actual homeschooling. I consider this to be the more important part of what I do.

It’s very hard to explain this to parents who are on the outside looking in. And I understand where they are coming from because their concerns center around, “How many subjects do I have to teach? How much time will it take?” After all, this often seems like the most intimidating aspect of homeschooling. Many parents feel inadequate before they ever begin because the very word “homeschooling” sounds a whole lot like school-at-home. And we associate “school” with school-related work like learning about math, English, science, history, Filipino, social Studies, geography, music, art, etc. (Oh and don’t forget Bible and character!) We look at the line up of subject areas and it’s like, “How the heck am I going to teach all that?” I’m not a professional teacher!”

My encouragement to parents who feel this way is this…teaching subjects is the easier task when discipleship is a priority. Discipleship is primary. Once we make the acquisition of knowledge the priority, we start homeschooling for the wrong reasons and we can start teaching the wrong way, too. Outbursts of anger, irritation, impatience will surface when we feel that our “academic” goals for our kids are blocked. For example, when they aren’t cooperative and they aren’t motivated we get annoyed. And we want to push, push, push. What are we pushing towards? They may comply externally and complete ten pages of their math workbook in one sitting but their heart is far away from us, far away from the Lord.

I can’t settle for that kind of education in our home. My prayer is that each year our children grow deeper in love with Jesus, that their hearts remain teachable and receptive to our instruction, and they make leaps and bounds in the area of godly character. That is homeschooling. And that takes all day, every day, until God says they are ready to go out into the world to be his instruments of change, to bear his gospel, and to pursue the mission he has called them to.

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Emoticon Tiana

Just for fun…

I asked Tiana to do facial expressions and I took a video of her. If you want a minute of entertainment to break up your day, watch this silly thing…

Emoticon Tiana

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You can take the idea further and make expression cards using your toddler’s face. Take photos of your child and print them out. You can discuss them together to encourage language skills.

 

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Happy Face

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Sad Face

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Surprised Face

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Scared Face

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Sleeping Face

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Laughing Face

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Praying Face

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Shouting Face

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Silly Face

 

Questions you can ask:

What kind of face does this show? When do you feel this way?
Can you show me what face you have when you are tired?
Which face shows you praying?

You can also say things like…
“When I see you, I feel happy!” Then show the happy face card.
“When you tickle me, I laugh!” Then show the laughing face card

You can also make a little book of expressions for your child.

Etc…

Stages of Writing

Gently introduce pre-school aged boys to writing, especially if they are not very confident or skilled at handling a pencil. I have found that exposing my kids to various writing instruments and craft-related materials (like glue, tape, playdough, clay, safe scissors, etc) has helped them to develop their hand muscles in preparation for gripping that pen or pencil!

However, I often feel that conventional schools overemphasize penmanship and writing so that parents tend to stress out on their child’s handwriting. But pen and paper methods are not the only way to teach kids to write. In fact, most children who have difficulty with their penmanship simply did not have enough opportunity to work out their hand muscles, develop their hand-eye coordination, vision, right posture, appropriate grip, etc.

“The development of handwriting is actually a process that involves the mastery of several important aspects –
vision, coordination of the eyes, arms, hands, memory, posture, body control and posture, and the ability to hold a pencil and form text.” (Source: Child Support )

So before penmanship related issues cause undue stress in my relationship with my kids, I expose them to many pre-writing experiences. I have them draw letters in the air, roll dough into the shapes of letters, numbers and shapes, practice in a tray of sand or flour, cut out or tear pieces of paper to form them, glue or assemble objects together to represent them, practice the strokes on an Ipad or Iphone app, and use all kinds of fun writing instruments like crayons, markers, chalk, colored pencils, and paint to inspire writing. Frequent exposure to text in books or in the surrounding environment (like identifying letters, words, numbers, shapes, etc) also gives my kids better recall of their forms, too.

Writing will happen in stages so I tell myself, “relax, my child will get there.”Stages of Writing In the meantime, I praise their efforts and give them positive feedback.

Titus, my third son, often hands me scribbles that don’t seem to make much sense but given the opportunity to express what his picture is about, I often discover there is some logic to all the lines and swirls. He brought me a picture once and I was not sure what it was. However, he took the time to explain it. “Mom, this is a maze…you go up here and there, and there’s monsters in this one part but don’t be scared. Jesus is in your heart, right? Right? So you will go to heaven.”

It was the cutest description of a drawing I had ever heard. I laughed and told him I loved it!

Here is a photo of him practicing his writing on a chalk board.

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Notice how he is holding his chalk. It’s not even the correct grip. But he is getting there and he is enjoying the process!

Balloon Color Lesson

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Titus’ birthday balloons became an instant color lesson for my little girl. I let her play with colors and I helped her identify them. She’s still a long way from getting it, but these balloons provided a great hands-on color lesson. Homeschooling toddlers is so much fun!

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Do You Have What It Takes?

I am not incredibly smart. I am not an expert in all subject matter that I teach my kids, but I made a commitment when I said yes to homeschooling. And it is this commitment that gets me up each day to keep parenting and teaching my kids.

Whatever fears parents may have about ability, it is not the biggest challenge of homeschooling. The hardest thing to do is to stay immovable, steadfast, resolute.

When Edric and I made the decision to homeschool our kids, there wasn’t any other option we preferred over it. We were dead-set on teaching them ourselves because of Deuteronomy 6:5-7. And we gave ourselves no exit. Indefinitely…until God says so.

My greatest hurdle so far has not been the actual teaching. My greatest obstacle is often ME. But when my commitment starts to wane, I hold on to a vision, a beautiful hope.

I look forward to the day when I can present my children before the Lord — grown men and women, who are 100% in love with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Men and women who are fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives and making a positive difference in the world, for the glory of God.

When I fixate on this purpose, it’s like getting my gas tank refueled with the motivation I need to press on. And my source of strength is not my own will or drive. As 1 Corinthians 15:57 and 58 says, “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

I love this passage. It reminds me that Jesus has given me the capacity to homeschool victoriously. Because of finished work at calvary, he conquered sin, death, limitations, human failure. His victory makes me able. I just need to wake up and be willing to homeschool one more day, one more week, month, year.

When I had my fourth child, I had the craziest homeschool schedule. It had to revolve around breast feeding, my exhaustion, and the demands of a baby. But I gave it what I could. I did not give myself excuses. And somehow, in spite of my great inadequacies and the many distractions that interfered with my daily routines, my second son learned to read, and my eldest scored in the 98th percentile on his achievement test. I am sharing these academic progresses because it matters to those who worry about the “school” part of homeschooling. In reality, however, it is the spiritual maturity of my kids that matters more to me.

But their academic progress represented God’s faithfulness. It was his personal encouragement to me. When I saw the results of my son’s assessment, I cried. It was God’s personal encouragement to me. If I could have put it into words, it felt like he was saying, “You keep homeschooling, just stay faithful, and I will be faithful. Keep nurturing your children spiritually. You do your part and I will do mine.”

God has not failed to fill in where I miss out, to remedy my errors, realign my perspective, recharge my battery, or take over when I have reached my limits.

Homeschooling, for me, is a testimony of the “in spite of.” My kids are turning out okay (so far and by God’s grace), in spite of me. I just do what is required. COMMITMENT. Duty not drama, faithfulness not feelings, resolution not revolution. Just do it.

My confidence is this — If I am homeschooling because of God’s call, through him and for him, then I can surrender that vision and beautiful hope of my children to him. He asks for faithfulness but he is the most faithful. His faithfulness is completely dependable and trustworthy. Like his word says, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24 NASB)

Death by Popcorn?

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Death by popcorn? Not quite. Just my Titus showing me his new way of eating popcorn. Yes, that’s my three year old…my creative, persistent, active child who is a constant source of entertainment. And with that kind of a personality comes the emotional, volatile, and moody side which needs guidance and leading.

For example, when he brought his ice pop into the master’s bedroom and onto our bed, I said to him, “Hon, no eating on the bed.” He replied, “But look, mom, it’s in my mouth.” He showed me how there was no possible way to make a mess with his method of sucking on the ice pop. “I still want you to get down and not eat on the bed.” Titus inched over to the edge of the bed and said with a smirk, “I’m not eating.” And it was true. He was “drinking” his ice pop. He wasn’t eating anything. (Smarty pants!) “Okay, but you still have to do that off of the bed” was my response. He did obey but this was an example of how he tends to insist on his will over mine (We are working on this).

God gave me my Titus to teach me dependence and humility. I have had to lift up my son in surrender every time I reach the maximum human capacity meter for parenting a strong-willed child. And I have been brought to my knees in humility, recognizing how inadequate, unworthy, and clueless I am to raise a son who needs extra special attention.

Having a son like Titus has taught Edric and I how to be more sensitive to the needs of our children, and how to be more patient as we train them. Lately, we have stepped up our “game” by being more intentional with Titus. And it has been working.

Two days ago, Edric took him to buy Pixies Bangus for a dinner we had to go to. They bonded together as they waited for the fish to be cooked. Edric bought him a “special” juice drink. And when he got back to the rest of us, he said, “Dad bought me special juice and I really like it.” He went on to narrate about how he squeezed the glass of juice and it spilled on him, but that it was okay because he got to change his shorts. In the meantime, my two other sons asked if they could drink Titus’ “special juice” and he let them. I could tell he was very happy because he animatedly chatted about his glass of juice some more.

Another positive Titus moment was when Edric was teaching him how to pray. Titus used to have a difficult time praying. When it would be his turn to say grace, he would either mumble or not say anything. Edric decided to try a different tactic. During one of our family devotions, he picked Titus up and put him on his lap. While hugging him and holding him close he said, “Go ahead Titus, you pray.” Titus was quiet for a few seconds and then he spoke the sweetest prayer, “Dear Lord, please help us to memorize our verse. And please help Ging to come back.” (Ging is our househelp who went to the province for a long vacation.) I felt like crying when I listened to him pray. These were just simple words but they were heartfelt and sincere. Finally! A prayer that was all his! Edric and I talked afterwards about how holding him must have made him feel secure and confident.

Why were these seemingly small moments significant to me? Because Titus is sandwiched between two older brothers who are very close to one another and a baby sister who gets a lot of attention. So Edric and I make extra effort to make him feel equally loved and important.

My dear Titus is a constant reminder that God gives parents the grace to raise all kinds of children. Each one can be unlocked, discovered, trained and gently ushered in the direction God wants them to go.

When Titus showed me how to eat popcorn like a dog, it was God’s way of reminding me that I need to “chillax.” Have fun parenting Titus! Don’t force him into a mold! He has a God-ordained purpose. Enjoy and cherish him and his unique perspective on life, but keep training him in the way he should go. God will supply the grace and capacity!

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Where Do I Start?

About a month ago, a reader expressed that she was interested in homeschooling but didn’t know where to start. I wasn’t able to see her comment until today and I feel horrible about it. But this post is dedicated to her and her very important question.

“I’m interested in homeschooling, but where do I start?”

Attend a homeschool orientation. Homeschool providers usually give free orientations about their programs and an overview of home education. Attend several if necessary to get a big picture perspective on home schooling in the Philippines. Here are some providers to choose from:

Get connected to other homeschoolers. Join their social networks or email groups. Homeschoolers are very friendly and accommodating. They don’t mind being spied on! You can ask your questions and get answers from a number of people who have “been there and done that.”

Attend the Philippine Homeschool Conference 2012 on May 19, 2012. This is an annual event organized by  HAPI (Homeschool Association of the Philippine Islands) for homeschoolers and parents.

Be in agreement with your spouse about making the decision to homeschool. Homeschooling is a way of life more than it is an education. When a family decides to homeschool, every member of the family participates. Fathers may be in charge of devotion time or physical education, and mothers may handle the majority of the subjects, but at the end of the day, both husband and wife must be 100% committed to home education.

Read and follow blogs by homeschoolers in the Philippines. Homeschooling blogs have useful review on books and curriculum that you can use for your own kids. They also talk about upcoming homeschool events, and give practical tips on parenting and teaching. Most of all, they make people realize that homeschoolers are normal people who have their own struggles, shorcomings and frustrations but manage to successfully educate their children (by God’s grace!).

 Do your homework.

  • Read up on homeschool teaching methods.
  • Call the Department of Education (NCR) to get an updated list of accredited homeschool providers. 928-0104; 921-4274
  • Check out the latest facts on homeschooling by Dr. Brian Ray’s National Home Education Research Institute. NHERI
  • Be aware of the Philippine government’s legal stand on homeschooling

Homeschooling and Open Universities in the Philippines 
Homeschool Legal Defense Association on the Philippines

Consider the cost. Homeschooling will require your time, energy, effort, and positive parenting.

  • Instruction Time: Pre-schooler (1.5 to 2 hours daily); Elementary (3 to 4 hours daily); High school (4 to 5 hours daily)
  • Energy: Being with your kids all day can zap you! Realize, however, that you are making an investment in your relationship with them and their future success.
  • Effort: Homeschooling involves goal setting, planning, scheduling, and actual instruction. You have to prepare for your lessons. Some subjects can be done spontaneously and without much planning ahead. But when you have projects or experiments, you will need to have all your supplies and materials ready. You will also need to understand certain lessons and subject matter before presenting these to your child (especially for older children.)
  • Positive parenting: A good relationship with your child will greatly help your homeschooling. Children naturally respond to parents’ teaching and instruction if they feel loved, accepted, built-up, and when they are disciplined appropriately. A Christ-centered home is the best environment for homeschooling.

If you have the opportunity to, spend a day with a homeschooling family that you know and observe how teaching and instruction happens in their home. See how they set-up their “homeschool area.” Ideally, this should be a family whose children are “good products” of home education. ;-)

Pray about it! Make a list of your fears and apprehensions. Surrender these to the Lord and ask him for confirmation and clear leading about whether you should homeschool.

Have the right motivation. Why choose to homeschool? Don’t let your number one reason be an economic one. My husband, Edric, and I decided to homeschool because we want our children to grow up to love, know, serve, obey, and worship God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Every family that wants to homeschool needs to ask themselves the why question.

 

MORE HELP:

Really Good Smart Parenting Articles on Homeschooling you may also find helpful:

Homeschooling In the Philippines – FAQs and Tips for Parents

How to Choose a Program for Your Child

Why Homeschooling Is Best for Your Preschooler

Homeschooling Your Big Kid – 6-to-7-year-old

The Benefits of Homeschooling Your Child

What It Takes to Homeschool Your Child

 

Black and Red Flash Cards for Your Baby

I drew black and white animals and made flashcards for my daughter, Tiana, to teach her phonetic sounds. You can use these for your baby. Babies like high contrast images! Click on the links below:

Letters A to F

Letters G to L

Letters M to R

Letters S to X

Letters Y to Z and Numbers 1 to 4

Numbers 6 to 10

 

Animal Alphabet

A – Alligator

B – Butterfly

C – Cat

D – Dog

E – Elephant

F – Fish

G – Goat

H – Horse

I – Inchworm

J – Jellyfish

K – Koala

L – Lamb

M – Mouse

N – Newt

O – Octopus

P – Pig

Q – Quail

R – Rabbit

S – Snake

T – Turtle

U – Umbrella Bird

V – Velociraptor

W – Whale

X – Fox (X is usually a letter that appears at the end of a word.

The sound of X should be taught as such.)

Y – Yak

Z – Zebra