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

 

 

Not In Front of the Kids

For the most part Edric and I avoid “SHAMING” one another in front of our children. We don’t make each other look bad so that our kids are forced to pick a side when an argument or conflict ensues between the two of us. In fact, we avoid contradicting each other when our kids are around. I said, “for the most part.” There are occasions when we don’t follow this rule because we forget to be more prudent. Unfortunately, our kids end up being spectators to our back and forth dialoguing about who’s perspective is right.

Some weeks ago, the kids joined the Biz Kidz event of TMA Homeschool. Edric encouraged the kids to participate, so the boys and I conceptualized a business idea for their origami hobby. Prior to the Saturday event, the boys and I slaved away. We put together the book they authored and illustrated, had it printed, and worked on the origami products they were planning to sell.

When Saturday came around, we were exhausted. I was frazzled as I finished topping their cupcakes with their origami designs. About two hours before we had to pack up the van, Edric started interrogating me with questions like, “Did you calculate your profit?” “What was the kids’ business proposal?” “Are you guys going to make ANY money?” He went on to criticise my planning skills.

While he thought he was being helpful, his timing couldn’t have been worse. We were about to load the van. I was dead tired from lack of sleep the night before. The kids were excited about the effort they had put into their projects and products. But at that moment, they looked on with discouragement as Edric made his inquisitions and negative comments.

I felt hurt. I couldn’t believe he was cutting me down in front of the kids! Plus, if it mattered to him so much that the kids do a good job on this, then why was he coming in at this point, when we couldn’t do anything about his suggestions? I was discouraged and irritated. His very valuable business perspective could have helped us a lot…two weeks before! These were some of the thoughts raging through my head as I distracted myself with packing our products.

Edric got the inkling that I wasn’t too thrilled about the things he said. I praise God that he has a sensitive gene built in to him that knows when I’m hurt. So he came up to me. I quietly expressed to him how I was feeling…that he had shamed me in front of the kids and that he was discouraging all of us. I praise God that he was humble enough to respond with a public apology. Immediately, he turned 180 degrees around to say sorry to our children.

He repaired his mistake by saying something like this, “Kids will you forgive daddy for saying those things to mommy? I am so proud of you guys and mommy for working so hard!”

That changed the tone of the morning and we went off to Biz Kidz together. He also promised to assist us with the set-up of our booth during the event.

Although, the kids didn’t make a ton of money, they bagged the MOST PROMISING BUSINESS IDEA award. Edric and I were very proud of them.

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I wanted to write this article because I’ve counseled people in the past who feel like they are caught IN-BETWEEN the conflict of their parents. It is very difficult for children to feel pitted against one parent by the other, or forced to take a side. I’ve also witnessed spouses cut-down, embarrass, and criticize their husband or wife with their children present. This sort of family culture breeds contempt, hurt, and stress. It also increases the likelihood that sons and daughters will grow up to do the same to one another, and to their future spouses (and children).

I’m reminded that we need to create a climate of respect for one another in our homes, where we treat our spouses with dignity and honour, and do the same to our children. We may not always favour our spouses’ methods, perspectives, and personality quirks, but we can address these sort of differences privately. And if it isn’t an emergency to get our point across, we can sort out the issues during a more appropriate time.

Yesterday, I came across a poster on Pinterest which read: THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. It proposed very thoughtful questions about the things we say and how we say it.

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Is it inspiring?

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

1 Peter 5:5 “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

 

 

 

Biz Kidz Version 2

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

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

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

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

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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)

Christmas Trees and Homeschooling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live with Anticipation

Yesterday was my first attempt at homeschooling four kids since I gave birth to Catalina. She wailed several times during the morning so I had to teach while breastfeeding. Had my four older kids been more cooperative, this wouldn’t have been such a bad set-up. But, they got used to the liberties they had while I was busy with Catalina this past month. It was hard for them to settle into study-mode.

Edan seemed so disinterested, Elijah was distracted, Titus kept gravitating towards the IPad, and Tiana didn’t want to do her Sing, Spell, Read, and Write material. I sat there, on the bed, with my disheveled hair, nursing bib, Catalina in one arm, and the tears started to fall. This wasn’t going well.

“Why is your face red, mommy?” Titus asked in his curious way. Elijah said sorry because he knew why I was upset. Edan looked over, quiet and concerned. Tiana was clueless.

I didn’t want them to worry about me. So after admitting that I was having a hard time, I shifted emotional gears, sucked it in, and continued.

I proceeded to teach Tiana her numbers. She kept getting confused with numbers 1 to 10. So we tackled just 2 numbers — number 1 and number 2 but even that was hard for her to grasp.

My impatience started to kick in. What?! She doesn’t know her numbers?!

Tiana’s face began to show signs of distress. “Mommy, don’t be mad.” She could tell I was agitated so I had to apologize and watch my tone.

Edan actually said it was his fault for not teaching her so well this past year. He was supposed to be my teacher’s assistant. Of course I didn’t blame him. He is 7 years old! I’m supposed to be on top of these things. I really didn’t do much with Tiana this past school year in terms of academics. Therefore, she is at ground zero.

For the remainder of the morning, I homeschooled while sitting on a bed and surprise, surprise…My kids actually got through science, world history, local civics, and some Filipino (for the older boys). Edan squeezed in a little bit of math. Titus and Tiana did their phonics and math. It was a bumpy morning but we survived.

This is going to be a fun year. I’m trying to be very positive because I know it’s going to be incredibly challenging.

I like what my mom says. “Live with anticipation.” She is a model of what it means to smile at the future and anticipate what God is going to do — how he will solve and fix a problem or issue.

Years ago, she had symptoms indicative of multiple sclerosis. The doctor told her she most likely had MS. She left the hospital imagining that she could end up in a wheel chair in the near future but when she got into her car, she said, “Thank you Lord (in advance) for what you are going to do. I know you are going to take care of me.” Her nervousness was replaced with faith and calm as she applied the verse,
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6, 7 NASB)

When we found out what she was up against we were all concerned, especially my dad. But we all prayed and committed her health to the Lord. She also did a lot of research on how to combat her nerve degeneration with natural remedies. After a few months her symptoms did not progress and she got well! We all believe that God cured her, but my mom said the key was applying the “thanksgiving” part of Philippians 4:6-7. She lived with anticipation that God was going to do something miraculous and he did!

I may not be battling a sickness or disease, but I find myself at a point in my own life where I must live with anticipation, trusting that God will give me favor as I homeschool. Yesterday was a foretaste of my new normal. It’s not going to be easy to give each of my kids the attention they need, but I am excited. I’m looking forward to how the kids and I will grow and mature this year. God has something special in store for us.

This passage ministered to me…
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:35-39 NASB)

Snapshots of the kids at work…

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Kids Mandarin Club Program

Our Friday playgroup joined a trial mandarin class at Kids Mandarin Club. Their classes are play-based and incorporate singing, games, story-telling into their language instruction. They opened just this past June and their teachers are a good mix of personable, patient, and authoritative.

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20130705-193705.jpg According to Dr. Gao Lan who facilitated the older kids’ class, “children learn best when they are having fun and they learn effectively from each other, too.” She is from Beijing and has taught at International School Manila and European Campus, and she is also a journalist.

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If the kids’ faces were a positive indicator of whether the classes were indeed fun, I saw most of them smiling! Kind of hard to believe when you think of how difficult learning Mandarin can be. But since it was just a trial class, some of the content was breezed through a little too fast. And the younger class seemed to be more effective at engaging the kids. However, I like the club’s philosophy which is to make the learning experience more interactive and less lecture and drills-based. They don’t call themselves a school but a club because the emphasis is more on conversing in Mandarin, getting the kids to practice speaking with one another.

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Having an option like this gives parents the flexibility to enroll their kids in a school of their liking and not necessarily a Chinese school. Or, they can homeschool and still get the benefit of learning Mandarin, which is very important to Filipino-Chinese families.

Mandarin Kids Club
Unit 301 McKinley Park Residences
3rd Avenue cor 31st Street
Bonifacio Global City

Telephone no: 519-9148
Email: kidsmandarinclub@gmail.com
Facebook: KMC kidsmandarinclub

We Did Art Today!

The kids always enjoy art. It’s one of their favourite activities. And it’s fun for me, too. I asked them to do two projects today — collaborative work to do a group art work. They were very pleased with the final results especially since they worked so hard. There was a big mess in the process but I suppose that meant they were having a good time! 
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I Have Missed This

I have missed teaching the kids since we lost our househelp. So I have been trying to get back into the routine of our daily homeschooling schedule. The kids were “rusty” when I asked them to do their work a few days ago. They responded a little reluctantly, but we managed to kick things off once again. I am nearly a month behind where I should be with them. But I am not going to panic. Okay, just a little. By God’s grace, we will finish it all soon!

Oh and someone asked me recently if my kids get a summer break. We don’t take an extended break away from learning because learning is a natural part of our daily life. We may take a two week break so I can regroup for the next school year. Otherwise, the homeschooling goes on. And if there are interruptions during the year due to trips, family vacations, or untoward incidences, we can take a few days off from studying and make it up as the year goes by. In other words, we are pretty flexible when necessary but we don’t need to stop homeschooling for two months straight just because its summer. And we still get to enjoy summer. :)
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Homeschooling Solutions Grand Launch!

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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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Green Farming

We took a day trip to a farm for our homeschooling today. The kids learned about “green farming” from an agriculturalist who explained how to plant seedlings, do hydrophonics, vermiculture and the like.

It was fascinating for the kids and for me! I learned alot about organic ways to plant and farm. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Vermiculture is a way of composting using earthworms to speed up the process.

Lord willing, when we move to a house, we can have a little garden — Edric’s fantasy. For the time being, this knowledge went to the kids’ science files. What better way to learn about innovative farming methods than to experience it for yourself? The kids (well, the boys) liked the worms part the best. Of course they did. Yehey for learning experiences that are not confined to four walls of a classroom!

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