What Homeschooling Is Really About

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SPIRITUAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SOCIAL

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

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

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

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

“Mom I did something.”

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

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

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

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

“Why were you afraid to tell me that?

“I thought you would be mad.”

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

“No.”

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

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

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

 

MENTAL

What is our schedule like when it comes to lessons?

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

7:00                – Bible Reading (as a family)

7:30                – Breakfast

8:30/9:00      – Lessons

12:30/1:00    – Lunch

2:00                – Nap/Play/Exercise

6:00                – Dinner

8:30                – Bedtime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PHYSICAL

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

 

CHECKLIST

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

IS MY CHILD…

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Real Socialization

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellent Homeschool Article by Forbes.com

Edric shared this article with me yesterday. It is worth reading if you are a homeschooler or curious about homeschooling…Want To Tell The State To Stick It? Homeschool Your Kids!

Why Home Education Works

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

“It’s not ever home educators that have to justify what they do, it is those who send their children to school that have to justify what they do.”

The theory he put forth was really quite amazing as he articulated the reasons why home education makes sense. He isn’t even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development. However, he very clearly stated that 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).

A study was done on 19,000 adolescents in the United States and the single most important factor in keeping them emotionally healthy was a strong attachment to a pairing adult.

He says, “The great advantage of home education is not that children are being educated at home but rather that they are at home with those who are educating them and that their attachments to their parents are more likely to be fully developed and safeguarded, enabling the child-parent relationship to serve as a shield against wounding and as a womb of true maturation.”

If a child’s attachment to his parents is developed and safeguarded, then the fruit of his development will be maturity. The fruit of maturation looks something like this:

A viable being who emerges as one who is 

–       Separate in his identity

–       Full of vitality (not easily bored)

–       Has a sense of agency and responsibility

–       Is full of interests and curiosity

–       Has a venturing forth energy

–       Has a relationship with self

–       Has a strong quest for independence

A resilient being, adaptive to stress and able to respond to it positively by

–       Being resilient and resourceful

–       Recovering from trauma

–       Benefitting from adversity

–       Learning from consequences

A social being, able to do ‘togetherness’ without losing his integrity or sense of self, able to integrate by

–       Being well tempered

–       Being considerate and civilized

–       Being balanced

–       Appreciating context

–       Seeing perspective

–       Having egalitarian values

He explains that at home, there are certain conditions present that foster maturation. At home, children have continuity of contact with their parents, preserving a deep attachment to them. In schools, children are not able to develop the same level of attachment to their teacher. They move from one teacher to another each year or have different teachers for each subject. There is no continuity of contact. Furthermore, schools separate children from parents and foster competing attachments with peers. Children will attach themselves to someone. If it isn’t the parents, the next best option for them is peers.

At home, parents take 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. Only in a state of rest can there be growth. Neufeld explains that “our responsibility is to do the work of attachment, so our children can rest. All growth eminates from a place of rest. Emotional growth happens from the resting state. Unless an adult provides more than what a child is looking for, a child cannot grow. When we make children work for love or affection, they do not grow or mature.” Unfortunately, in school, children cannot rest. Their insecurities are exploited. Grades become more important than relationships. A child develops an addictive attachment to marks, grades and rewards.

Play is also a key condition for maturation. It is the home that provides the room and space for true play. Children can engage in self-initiated activity without the pressure of outcomes. In contrast, most endeavors to encourage play in school are still outcome-based and therefore, it isn’t true play.

When at home, a child faces less separation and experiences less wounding (ideally) so his heart stays soft and pliable. In school, there is much wounding that occurs, especially among peers. And when a child is continually separated from his parents, it triggers a flight from vulnerability and child develops a hardness of heart.

Unlike school, there is support for the maturity processes at home. Parents are better able and equipped to handle the stages a child goes through, the questions, and the struggles.

Neufeld uses the analogy of a plant to explain the importance of the attachment that children have to their parents. “What we don’t see is the most important part of the plant. It’s just like humans. It’s not what we see. It’s what we don’t see – the roots of attachment, the bonds, the connections.” If we did see these roots we could understand that children naturally seek those whom they are attached to. They want to be like those they are attached to. They want to be a part of and take the side of those they are attached to. They want to feel important and special to those they are attached to. They will give their heart to those they are attached to. And they want to be known by and reveal their secrets to the ones they are attached to. These roots are the womb of maturation.

I was moved when Neufeld asked the question, “When did your child fall in love with you? When did your child give you his heart? We were never meant to deal with children whose hearts we did not have. If you do not have the heart of a child, you will not have the context in which to bring them to their full potential. If you don’t have their hearts, you will not have their minds.”

The problem with school is that it can sabotage the conditions required for maturation by increasing the separation a child faces and fostering peer orientation. Since attachment is the most important thing for a child, nothing should break that continuity. We have to assure our children often, “Nothing will separate you from my love…not your attitude, not your behavior. I love you no matter what.”

If a child faces separation the dangers are Pursuit (fixes and fixations, clinging and clutching, hoarding and collecting) –> Alarm (anxiety problems, agitation and attention problems, adrenaline-seeking behaviors) –> Frustration (aggression, violence, and suicide problems) –> Defense-reattaching (peer orientation, routines and rituals, belongings and possessions, fantasy attachments) –> Defense Dominance (alpha problems, counter-will problems, bullying) –> Flight from vulnerability (emotional numbness, defensive blindness, defensive detachment)

How do we reduce these problems? We must reduce the separation between parents and children. Homeschooling is the antidote.

PLEASE NOTE: These are not my ideas. All credit goes to Dr. Gordon Neufeld for this information. 

But now, my own thoughts…

I would like to write a quick reflection that takes off from Neufeld’s conclusion that the most important determinant of maturity in human beings is their ATTACHMENT to the adults responsible for them. I do believe that parents are key to a child’s healthy development. However, I would like to add that we are also spiritual beings. Therefore, we must not only foster an attachment between ourselves and our children, but attach our children to the Lord. We cannot let our children remain dependent on us, as parents. While the attachment may begin with us, at home, the attachment must transfer to the Lord. Otherwise, our children cannot realize their fullest potential. After all, their fullest potential must be considered in light of the Creator and his purposes.

I’m not disagreeing with Dr. Neufeld. His science is sound. But we are talking of something more than emotional and physical maturity. There is such a thing as spiritual maturity. And spiritual maturity comes from our attachment, our relationship to God.

Home as the Best Social Context

I was at a convenient store with Edan, when he said, “I want to get something for Elijah because he got me something last time. I want to get him a snack.” I watched him go through each aisle thoughtfully, looking for a snack that Elijah would appreciate. He picked up a soymilk drink and a bag of oatmeal cookies.

It blesses my heart when my kids think about one another and do random acts of kindness for each other without being asked to. And while many people may question the socialization aspect of homeschooling, I really believe that socialization is so much more than children getting along with their peers and learning to make friends.

I think the broader definition should be about raising kids who show compassion, who know how to respond to people who are hurting, lost, or need a friend, who choose to respect others, and look beyond their own wants to seek the greater good of others. Often times, the harder context to develop these qualities is in the home.

My kids annoy each other almost daily and they behave selfishly on occasion. Their capacity to tolerate and accomodate each other’s differences is really put to the test. Because they are homeschooled and have a whole lot of daily interaction they have to learn to get along. Character traits like deference, thoughtfulness, benevolence, and joyfulness must be applied. Our children also have to practice humbling themselves to ask for forgiveness and choosing to extend forgiveness. In the process, they understand what love really means. They realize it’s so much more a choice than a feeling. But by choosing to love one another, they develop an affectionate loyalty for one another. They treasure each other.

The Bible tells us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Luke 12:34 NASB) Similarly, our children need to be taught to invest in the lives of their siblings. The more time they spend together, the greater the bond between them.

I remember just a few years back, my two older sons would constantly react to Titus. They would get so frustrated with him because he couldn’t really communicate well and he wasn’t able to play by their rules. He would knock down things they would build and he was a nuisance when they attempted to include him in their games. It got to a point where Elijah, my eldest, really struggled with being loving and kind towards him. He broke down in anger one day and I had to sit him down to talk. I explained to him that his responses to Titus were incredibly important. If he demonstrated unconditional acceptance towards Titus, Edan would do the same. And Titus would surely change and improve as he matured but he needed to feel our love. It was difficult for Elijah to change his attitude but he tried his best.

Two years later, and my three boys are inseparable. They always want to be together and Titus is very much a part of that trio. Without him, their fun wouldn’t be complete.

Titus is now learning to accommodate Tiana’s personality. But having bigger brothers who have shown him what it means to look out for a younger sibling has helped him alot. He has exhibited the kind of patience and kindness toward Tiana that I hoped he would. Of course, Tiana can be a pest at times and she knows how to harass her brother, Titus. But Edric and I are working on her character, too.

I remember a homeschooling friend who told me that socialization is about teaching kids the hierarchy of relationships — God, parents, siblings and then others. Children must first understand who they are in relation to God and how much he loves them, followed by parents reaching out to their children to pursue them relationally, and children learning to love their parents and siblings. Afterwards, relating to others comes naturally because a child’s most fundamental longings for relationship are fulfilled.

While I may not be a sociologist or psychologist, I have seen this ring true for our family. Our children’s first and best social context has been the home.

A photo of our sons, three years ago…

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Outside of the Coop

A majority of the time, homeschool kids are not weirdos who can’t relate well to children their age. But, I do believe parents have to give their kids opportunities to interact with and learn along-side other children because there are some very important benefits of social interaction.

They don’t NEED to be with their peers on a daily basis to have a learning advantage but they can learn how to cooperate, share, wait their turn, imitate positive behavior, listen to instructions delivered by other adults or older children, respect other people’s property and things, mind their manners, apply contentment, encourage one another, assist others and share the gospel…to name a few.

Personally, one of the reasons why I like to get the kids out and about is this: I get to observe facets of their personalities, commend good character and identify areas of improvement. So Edric and I give our children varied and diverse social experiences as part of their homeschooling.

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For our little brood, Edric and I do the following: We let our kids hang out with their cousins often. They attend regular music classes, sports activities and weekly playgroups. As often as possible, they also accompany Edric and I to our activities where they learn to communicate with adults and behave in socially appropriate ways like not picking their noses, speaking too loudly, or saying excuse me when they need our attention.

Thankfully, cooped up at home does not describe our children (and most homeschoolers). But, allowing our children to have lots of social interaction has its “risks.”

Our kids do encounter negative peer pressure and “undesirable” examples in other children or grown-ups. The key, however, is that we come alongside them to help them process and identify how to respond to the behavior they see in others. Most of the time, they are pretty open and will ask their questions. And our kids, like all other kids in the world, are not impervious to negative peer pressure. But we try to disciple and mentor them, so they have a fighting chance against it.

Yesterday my boys came up to me chuckling and partially embarrassed as they told me that they had a classmate in Taekwondo who was calling other students “Booby and Boobs.” Yet another classmate was saying “Barbie-butt.” (I don’t even know what that means.) Granted, these terms are not as bad as hearing elementary-aged children cussing.

My boys started cracking up as they told me this and I tried to be calm. “Do you know what boobs are?” I asked my boys. They explained. And I said, “Well, that is a private part and you don’t need to say the same things your friends do when it is not appropriate.”

“Yah, we know.” They also revealed that one of their good friends called booby-boobs friend “evil witch!”

“Well, that wasn’t nice either.”

I asked them, “What is our guideline for the words we speak? They must be glorifying to…” And they finished the sentence with,”God!”

I have already come to accept that homeschooling cannot bubble-wrap protect my kids from the world. And homeschoolers aren’t a perfect breed of children who always behave and act in the ways they should. (This includes my own.)

Like all other kids, homeschoolers need parents to spiritually mentor them and shape their character so they are equipped to stand for what they believe. Edric and I don’t always get it right but we are committed to do the following:

— First, we introduce our kids to Jesus Christ and trust in the transforming work of the Spirit of the Lord. “Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2a)

— Next, we build bridges to the hearts of our kids by spending lots of time with them and communicating to them that they are loved, precious, and special to us.

— We train our children so they develop essential character traits — the foremost of these is obedience. (Proverbs 22:6)

— We pass on faith and what it means to love God, seek him and live for him. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

— We tell them that God has a plan for their lives and a purpose that is unique to their gifts, abilities, and personalities. (Jeremiah 29:11)

— We teach them to reject sin while loving the sinful and the broken to Jesus. The Bible tells us, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…” (Romans 12:9, 10 NASB)

— We equip them with social graces to convey respect and appreciation for cultural, societal, and racial differences in people because God loves all people and we should to. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God desires for all to come to repentance.

— We give them guidelines for choosing the right friends –friends who are wise and share the same biblical values.

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“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”(Psalm 1:1-3 NASB)

— We teach them to point people to Jesus by sharing the gospel and living in a way that attracts people to Jesus.

— We encourage them to make it their highest goal to glorify God in everything they do (2 Corinthians 5:9).

— We pray for our children as often as possible, knowing that the task of raising them is beyond our capacity.

Homeschooling is counter-culture but it does not have to produce children who are socially awkward or disconnected from other children. They can be in the world but not of the world. More importantly, they can see greater purpose in winning friends and influencing people.

I don’t believe in isolationism because we are supposed to go out there and be a light for Jesus. Our kids are starting to get this. More than once they have asked me how they can share the gospel. I have tried to give them examples from my own experiences but they have to experience it for themselves. I can feel that time will be soon and I am excited! In the meantime, my encouragement to them is to live like Jesus is present in their hearts so that God can bring them the opportunity to share their faith when they are “socializing” and mingling outside of the coop.

A Cut Above the Rest

I don’t want to be biased without proof, so check out these statistics that show how homeschoolers are doing better than other students in the area of academics. You decide…

Source: Homeschool Domination by College at Home

(This link was sent to me by Grace Flores Osio via Facebook)

 

An Unconvincing Argument Against Homeschooling

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Edric was interviewed on Talk Back with Tina Palma on ANC along with Assistant Secretary of Department of Education, Jess Mateo, homeschooling mom, Moira Bunyi and her son, and homeschool graduate, Julia Garcia. The question Tina was trying to answer was “Is homeschooling an effective alternative to regular schools“?

I thought the interview went very well but they inserted comments and opinions of parents and educators who did not really know much about homeschooling. And their biggest argument against it was SOCIALIZATION.

Ahh, the big myth. No surprise there. This is the never-ending argument against homeschooling, which, in my opinion, is an unconvincing one. Here are two of the more notable points raised by random texters and sidewalk interviewees:

1. It is NECESSARY for children to learn from their peers and with them.

2. Homeschoolers have limited socialization therefore it is a disadvantageous education.

I would like to present a case for homeschooling that debunks the socialization claim. But I will begin with certain premises.

Premise # 1: God created people to be relational. In the garden of Eden he said it is “not good” for man to be alone. So he made a “suitable partner” for Adam — Eve. In the same way, it is not good for a child to be alone. A child needs relationship.

Premise # 2: The family is the first and most important social unit — Husband and wife, then parents with children, and siblings with one another. Every society will agree that the family is fundamental to the survival of their values, cultures, and traditions. The is no debate here. Just go online and research “What is the most important social unit?” and you WON’T be surprised with the results — FAMILY.

Premise # 3: Children who grow up in a Christ-centered home where they feel loved and secure in their relationships with their parents and siblings will not be as peer-dependent. I would like to use my siblings and I as a case in point. But you can ask and interview a whole lot of homeschoolers who grew up with the same set of circumstances and they will probably tell you the same thing. You can also ask non-homeschoolers who grew up with the same set of circumstances and they will probably tell you the same thing.

Given these three premises, I would like to say that socialization cannot be the strongest argument against homeschooling or a strong argument in favor of conventional schooling.

Since the family is the most important social unit in a child’s life, this relationship should have precedence and priority over peer relationships. The school system, which keeps children away from parents for most of day, makes it difficult for parents and children to have quality time together and to connect relationally. The school system promotes peer relationships by lumping children together with the same people (class sections) who are of the same age (grade level) for extended hours each day.

Given that children are relational and long to be accepted and valued by others, they will gravitate towards certain persons within that environment. Some will choose good friends and some will choose bad friends. These relationships will become more and more significant to a child, so much so that they will begin to share the same values and behaviors. A loyalty towards one another will be solidified over time (“barkada”).

Personally, this is what concerns me…So great a premium is placed on socialization without really considering the kind of socialization that schools foster. Schools are committed to educating children and they try their best to do so. Children must be grouped by section and leveled for any sort of teaching to get done in an orderly and systematic way. And there are many excellent teachers out there who genuinely care for the welfare of the children they instruct. However, teachers and educators cannot regulate peer influence. It is something outside of their control even if it is birthed within the walls they have erected.

Furthermore, the claim that it is necessary for children to learn from their peers and with them is true only because the school system cannot give each child individualized instruction. Therefore, children must be grouped together. The best teacher cannot customize instruction for all forty children. It is unfair to even expect this. So the social aspect of education where children learn along side other children is not so much a necessity for learning as it is a means to educate many children at the same time when you only have one teacher.

The other claim, that homeschoolers have limited socialization which disadvantages them, is a perceived “con” amongst those who misunderstand what social development really is. Homeschoolers are not so concerned about whether their children are socialized. They are more concerned about who their children socialize with and how they behave socially.

Children are encouraged to develop relationships with their parents and siblings first. Parents pursue their children relationally. They have lots of time during the day to grow close and fellowship beyond the pragmatic levels. And many homeschool parents introduce their children to the most important relationship of all — with the person of Jesus Christ. With the formation of healthy relationships in the home, children are less prone to look to friends for affirmation or self-worth. Their needs are fulfilled by their relationship with God and with family. Therefore, they do not need friends to fill their emotional tanks. Instead, they can focus on being a blessing to others. They socialize out of security and completeness. In this sense, then, homeschoolers are not socially disadvantaged. Rather, they are better equipped to make friends and influence people positively.

But I must refer back to Premise # 3. Not all homeschoolers practice Christ-likeness at home. (A majority do.) And having a Christ-like home where parents and children love God, obey, serve, and worship him, and love one another is not exclusive to homeschoolers. This is not about superiority of lifestyle choice. Any family who chooses to make Christ the center of their relationship will experience the blessings of socially well-adjusted children who know how to treat others with respect and consideration if their parents have purposefully taught them to do so in accordance with God’s word.

I am not trying to say, “homeschool your children so they will be the best socialized children in the world.” My proposal is this: if socialization is so important then teach your children to love God, love family, and love others (in that order), and model this at home. But don’t say that schools are important because of socialization. Our children need relationship, but in the context of family before the context of school. And don’t also say that homeschoolers don’t have socialization. They are some of the most secure, sincere, and friendly people I have met and interacted with because they know they are loved by the persons who should matter most — God, parents, family.

The Relational Atmosphere

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My two older sons sat through Sunday service to watch and hear their dad preach. At one part during the message, Edric admitted to the audience that, “I still struggle with irritability towards my wife and kids from time to time but by God’s grace, I am improving.” The theme of his talk was “Pursuing Intimacy with God through A Heart Makeover.” He was nearing the end of the morning’s sermon when he revealed that bit about his heart.

Elijah, my eldest son, was seated beside me and he whispered to me, “Dad is so honest! He does get irritated sometimes but he says sorry right away and we forgive him.”

He said this so candidly and without any hint of hurt or bitterness. Edric does lose his cool once in a while. But, he has changed so much over the years. This is really the Lord’s doing (I used to get so reactive when he would snap at the kids, but “correcting” him would backfire, so I chose the better alternative — praying to God while acting respectfully towards Edric. That worked!)

Hearing Elijah’s comment taught me a valuable relationship principle. A home must abound with humility and forgiveness. My dad used to say, “keep short accounts.” Don’t let anger or hurt linger, especially among family members. Growing up, I remember that our family was quick to say sorry and willing to forgive immediately. We saw our parents model this. When they would make a mistake, they would sit us down and talk with us. They would humbly admit that they were wrong and ask for our forgiveness. If they had disputes with each other and their “discussions” became public, they would apologize for the way they spoke to one another in front of us. This meant a lot to us kids. We saw how conflict was resolved and relationships restored easily when people practiced humility, forgiveness and grace.

Edric and I are trying to cultivate this same kind of relational atmosphere in our home. Our children know that we are imperfect people. But they also know that we are committed to becoming better and our standard is to keep maturing into Christ-likeness.

Periodically, we will also ask our kids, “How can we improve?” And they will give their suggestions. This keeps us from repeating actions that damage our kids emotionally. It also keeps our communication channels open.

Recently, I was counseling a friend whose parents were verbally and physically abusive (more verbal than physical.) After their outbursts of anger, they would act like nothing really happened and expect their children to “move on.” But their actions had compounded negative interest in the heart of my friend. She lived with a lot of resentment and pain.

As God continues to work in her life, she is slowly breaking free from the emotional bondages that have prevented her from loving others without fear. But their is still residual junk from the unhealthy way her parents dealt with their parenting and relational mistakes. I believe in God’s time, she will experience complete breakthrough because she has surrendered her life to the Lord completely.

We really need to think through the repercussions of how conflict and offenses are dealt with at home. The way we apologize, forgive and extend grace to family members will carry over into our children’s future families.

When I don’t feel like forgiving others, I remember that God has forgiven me a debt I cannot pay. He has shown me undeserved compassion and loved me enough to die for me. Therefore, who am I not to forgive?

You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:36, 37 NLT)

“…I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations
.” (Exodus 34:6, 7 NLT)

The More the Merrier

Homeschooling four kids can be tiring from time to time so I enlist the support of my older children to create an atmosphere of cooperative learning in our home. I ask Elijah and Edan to be my “teacher assistants” which results in the following benefits:

1. It builds my kids’ confidence when they are entrusted with the task of teaching their siblings. They appreciate the responsibility and derive a sense of satisfaction when they help others.
2. My kids re-learn content and have to use their knowledge in new and practical ways. They have to explain ideas or how to do a task in a way that their younger sibling must be able to grasp.
3. Coming to the aide of a sibling strengthens their relational bond because they look out for each other’s needs and seek to meet them. Valuable character traits like patience, perseverance, deference, and understanding are practiced and applied.
4. Learning also becomes a shared experience, which keeps younger siblings from feeling left-out when I am doing one-on-one teaching. Everyone can stay preoccupied with purposeful activities.
5. My younger kids, who look up to their older brothers, are motivated to achieve the same level of skill or knowledge that their older siblings have and they develop an interest in being homeschooled, too!

So, when people ask me, “Is it hard to homeschool several kids?”, the answer is yes and no. It is challenging to manage time between all of them but cooperative learning makes it easier and fun. This is helpful strategy parents can use when homeschooling more than one child.

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A Little Bit of Heaven

It’s been a wonderful week of bonding with my brothers and sisters. We are complete as a family — four sets of married siblings with ten children between us, a sister who is about to be married, and my parents.

Being able to reconnect and fellowship means alot to all of us because it does not happen often. (Two of my siblings live in the US.) So this week we have maximized every moment – sports, games, sharing meals, walks, conversations around the table, shopping, etc.

I am grateful to my parents for the bond that exists between us siblings. Our spouses also get along so well. It seems that everyone fits together like a glove. Looking back, dad and mom did two very important things when we were growing up. First, they made family time a priority and they made it fun. As children, we spent the majority of each day with one another.

Secondly, they introduced us to Jesus and discipled us individually and collectively. The most common denominator we share till this day is our faith in Jesus Christ. He has been the center of our family, holding it together through the years, preserving the bond of unity, helping us to love one another and forgive hurts and offenses. It is this spiritual connection that keeps us close despite the physical separation and different life stages we are in.

Personally, I feel that our family reunions give me a foretaste of heaven — the joy, completeness, security, and connectedness. (Of course, heaven will be more about Jesus than anything else.)

I remember that people used to say, “Your family is not normal, most people don’t have families like that.” And I had to talk to my dad about this because I felt bad, like it was a negative thing to have a good family. So I said something like this, “Dad, people don’t think our family is normal because we don’t really have relationship issues, our home is happy, and we all get along so well.” Then he replied with a statement that really struck me. “That is NORMAL, hon. God designed families to be that way.”

In other words, there was and is nothing unique about our family. We simply applied biblical principles for family relationships. As a result, one of the blessings has been that till this day, we enjoy each other’s company immensely.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have our discussions, varying opinions, or that our children never provoke or incite each other. But by God’s grace, there is no bitterness, unresolved hurt, or anger. When we get together, we share a whole lot of laughter and meaningful dialogue. The relational atmosphere is light and easy.

One day, I hope that we will not have to live so far apart. Till then, I am reveling in this little bit of heaven!

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Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31, 32 NASB)

A Divine Checklist for Social Development

This is one of the most beautiful passages on relationships — Romans 9:12-21.Personally, I feel that it gives some of the best guidelines for healthy social development. If our children can internalize and practice the guidelines in this passage, they will be a blessing to the whole world and bring glory to Jesus Christ!

I spent some time explaining each concept to my kids. Reading through it again with them made me evaluate my own relationships with people. I have to improve in many ways! May this passage bless you as it blessed me and my kids…

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave croom for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21 NASB)

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