Motivating Children To Learn

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have positively splendid learning days every single day…where our children have voracious appetites for reading, rise to the challenge of difficult assignments, and approach life with an insatiable curiosity to discover, know, and develop new skills? Wow. Wouldn’t homeschooling be a dream?! Okay, okay, every single day may be asking for too much. But I think it’s fair to expect that the good days can outweigh the tough ones.

Every homeschooling parent will encounter days when his or her child is not thrilled about studying. It’s completely normal. If this sort of de-motivated behavior starts trending, then a parent may have to take drastic measures to fix the problem. But the occasional attitude hump and bump along the way is to be expected.

Here are some helpful questions to ask…How do we kick-start our children’s internal sparkplugs? What is within our control to change, alter and improve? Could it be aspects like our perspective on our kids, the methodology we use, the materials we have chosen, or the environment we have staged for learning to happen? Is it something outside of our control? Like our children’s physical conditions, their attitudes, or heart issues that are spiritual in nature?

Answering the above questions will allow us to isolate factors that contribute to our children’s frustration or de-motivated approach to learning. For example, author George Harris, said, “When a child is given the right degree of difficulty in his studies so that he enjoys the challenge and experiences a feeling of accomplishment, he will improve in those subjects and carry those positive feelings into other areas of his life. A bored and frustrated child, on the other hand, will feel like a failure; that feeling too, will be carried into other areas of life, causing him to be afraid to try new things or learn new subjects.”

Dr. Raymond Moore says that a home teacher is confronted with the onus to make classwork and all learning for a child both challenging and exciting so they will want to return to it again and again. Is this possible? Shouldn’t our children simply swallow the bitter pill…that learning is hard work and they must accept this as their reality and get over their negative attitudes about it?

I’ve tried that approach. “Just do your work because you have to.” On the one hand, there are moments when this is applicable. But it’s very tiring to force a child to learn when he isn’t interested in doing so. Can you imagine multiplying this sort of scenario 5 days a week x 10 months in a year x 13 years of homeschooling (if I homeschool from K to 12)?! I would give up in the first year for sure!

With a little creativity, I believe every child can be ENCOURAGED to learn and homeschooling can be a positive experience for both parent and child.

After experimenting with several approaches on my kids (they tend to be the guinea pigs for all my homeschool experimenting, especially when it comes to curriculums and methods), I came up with a simple system that has been working so far. I’m saying “so far” because seasons come and seasons go. Sometimes, what works for one year won’t do for the next. What works for one child will have zero effect on another. But I praise God that SO FAR, this system is producing desirable outcomes.

For the longest time, I have placed post-it tabs in my children’s books. These tabs mark the “stop” points for each day of work. For example, if I want Elijah to cover 5 pages of his math book, I will stick a post-it tab on the fifth page. When he sees the tab, he knows what he has to cover. I also put several tabs in each of their books so they can go past the tab and proceed to the next one if they are feeling particularly inspired and energetic about their work that day.

Using tabs as markers lets my kids know their daily goals. But this school year, I added another component to this tab system:

  1. The kids complete their assigned task(s) for a certain subject area by working until they reach a tab. (The number of pages is pre-determined by me or agreed upon with my kids.)
  2. After doing so, they pull off the tab and bring it to me.
  3. I will check their accomplished work and sign the tab, indicating the date and subject area as well.
  4. They will take the signed tab and stick it beside their name on a wall chart.
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  6. This process repeats itself with every subject.
  7. By Friday, the kids count the number of tabs they have collected during the week and they can do one of the following: get 5 pesos for every tab or accumulate at least 20 tabs so they can draw from the MYSTERY JAR. (they may combine their tabs with their siblings’ so their points are higher).
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  9. The MYSTERY JAR is filled with fun rewards that they get to pick from. (1 mystery jar draw = 20 tabs.)

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Last week we didn’t get to do more than 3 days of homeschooling, so the kids pooled together their tabs and drew from the jar. They pulled out a prize that read, “Date with Mom.”

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When Friday came along, I took all the kids to High Street for lunch and we also went to the bookstore. That was our “date.” My mother-in-law joined us, which doubled the fun.

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This week, the kids collected 60+ tabs which entitled them to 3 draws, 1 of which allowed them to have an extra draw. Here’s what they drew from the mystery jar:

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Somehow this tab thing is encouraging my children to go beyond their daily requirements. They use the tabs as a means to compete with one another (in a healthy way), and they look forward to redeeming mystery prizes for their hard work.

I hear them yell out, “I want to get more tabs!” and I see them dig into their books with eagerness. It’s a lovely sight to behold for this mother of five! I’m grateful that my kids are generally easy to teach, but witnessing their added spunk and gusto energizes me, too!

Simple ideas like this one can help to motivate your child, especially when they are younger. Ideally, however, you want to get them to the point where they really enjoy learning, no matter how hard it becomes. I’m beginning to see this happen in my eldest son, Elijah. While the tab system inspires him to get his tasks done, he likes to learn with or without this system in place. As an older child, he feels fulfilled when he grows in knowledge and wisdom, and he enjoys the challenge of learning.

Eventually, I’m hoping that his younger brothers and sisters will be the same way. Edan is showing signs of progress in this area. Nevertheless, I will keep up this tab system, until I have to come up with something else. After all, my kids aren’t the only ones who need motivating. I do, too! And getting to teach motivated children motivates me!

This Is What It’s About

When people ask me how I homeschool several children, I tell them the secret is to teach my kids obedience. Character is key.

If a child has learned obedience, he or she can be taught attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and the importance of having the right attitude. These traits can make or break the homeschooling experience for any parent.

There’s no way I can teach my five energetic, gregarious, and very curious children if these character traits are not present or, at the very least, developing in their hearts.

Yesterday, I was homeschooling seven children. My niece and two nephews were over to homeschool with us. They did great! But my two older boys, Elijah and Edan, didn’t start out too well. They had a conflict that resulted in Elijah throwing his hands up in exasperation and Edan chucking a pencil on the floor. They were going over Filipino together and Elijah was frustrated that Edan didn’t seem to be listening. Edan was annoyed that Elijah was forcing him to do his work.

We couldn’t continue our homeschooling without dealing with this. So, I called the two of them aside and we transferred to a room where we could have some privacy.

“Auntie Joy! I need help!” I had to ignore the calls of my nephew at the door and request that he wait till we were done.

In the room, I asked the boys to sit close to me. Both of them were fighting off the tears.

“Let me ask you something, boys…we’ve been memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-6. Which of the aspects of love have you NOT been practicing?”

There was an awkward silence but they looked up at me and began to speak voluntarily…

“Love is kind. Love is not rude,” was Edan’s response.

“Love does not keep a record of wrong,” admitted Elijah.

How I love the word of God and its power to convict the hearts of my children! I asked them a simple question but they were convicted.

We recited 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 together again. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love is not proud. Love is not rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices when the truth wins…”

Their faces softened which told me that their hearts did, too. They knew that they had not honored God’s word, which was the greater issue.

“I know you guys love the Lord, you love one another and you don’t want to hurt each other. How can you improve?”

They proceeded to share their feelings and frustrations. I let them talk freely so I could find out why they were being so reactive towards one another. Elijah was deeply upset that Edan apologies for unkindness didn’t seem sincere. He felt that the same offense was bound to happen because there was no “real repentance.” Edan, on the other hand, didn’t like being ordered around by Elijah.

I helped Edan to see that he was not practicing “Love is not proud,” too. To both I said, “We are an imperfect family. Mommy and daddy are imperfect. All of you are imperfect. That’s why we need Jesus. We need to keep applying God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in our relationships.” I went on to admit my own struggles. “Honestly, when I was teaching Titus about rhyming earlier and I asked him ‘what rhymes with pin and he said cup’ I felt like smacking him. But I didn’t because that would be very wrong. But I want you to know that I understand the frustrations you feel towards one another.”

They began to laugh because they heard me teaching Titus earlier and it was kind of a comedy!

We must have spent ten more minutes talking about how to change and apply God’s word in our lives. We ended by praying together.

I said, “I want each of us to pray and confess to the Lord our sins.”

At first the boys resisted. “I don’t know what to pray, mom,” quipped Elijah.

“Don’t worry. I will start, and then you can listen to what I say.”

So I prayed to give them a template of how to acknowledge and confess our sins before one another and to the Lord. Afterwards I invited the boys to do the same. Why did I want them to pray aloud? I wanted them to humble themselves. The best way to do that was to pray.

It’s one thing to say sorry and then walk away from the situation. It’s another thing to come before the Lord and say, “Father will you forgive me for my wrong attitude. Please forgive me for the way I treated my brother. Please help to me to change and improve so that I can become more like you…”

They didn’t pray using those exact words, but in their kid-version way, they said the same thing. I listened to them pray and they started to tear. There was a brokenness that took place that was necessary. I got teary-eyed, too. They were honest and sincere as they spoke to the Lord.

We all embraced and I told them how much I love them. Afterwards, we returned to our homeschooling. Their hearts were ready and we had an amazing day with their cousins.

I’m sharing this story because this is the key to homeschooling. We need to prepare our children’s hearts before we can instruct their minds. Godly character is the bedrock. We must pause to address what’s going on in their hearts – especially when their spiritual compass is off. In fact, we need to drop everything if necessary, and minister to our children spiritually when their attitudes and behaviors are displeasing to the Lord.

How could I possibly continue teaching Elijah and Edan, forcing them to do their Filipino just because they had to, and ignore or postpone the more important matter of their heart condition? Would God bless the work of their hands if they were continuing in sin? How would he allow me to teach well if I wasn’t faithful in prioritizing what really counts in his eyes?

I must always seek to understand where the real “battle” lies. Of all the teaching challenges that may confront me as a homeschooling mother — dealing with the academics, equipping my kids with the practical skills to succeed when they enter into a university, and passing on godly character traits — the latter must precede the others. It’s imperative to instill character traits upon which a successful education can be built.

For my younger kids, obedience is the first priority. The optimum window to establish my authority (and Edric’s) has always been between the ages of 0 – 2. Catalina is at that point where she is exhibiting brattiness. At 10 months old, she intentionally throws her head back, bounces up and down while crying, or she flings her body on to her bed for dramatic effect. Edric and I recognise that it’s time to address these things. After two years old, we know it gets harder. Once a child has experienced what it is like to get his or her own way, there is greater resistance to submission.

I know a child whose parents started implementing effective and consistent disciplinary action later rather than earlier. The child had already grown accustomed to getting her whims accommodated by those around her. Her parents also tended to be child-centric in their childrearing. As a result, she was difficult to teach and train. It was complicated to get her to do simple things like eat vegetables or keep silent when appropriate. She tended not to listen to other authority figures, too. Because the parents are now course-correcting their parenting, she is improving. But like anything in life, prevention rather than intervention is the way to go.

We have to start teaching obedience before a child gets into the habit of defiance. Once obedience is established, we can turn our attention towards other character traits like attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and having a positive attitude. As I said earlier, a child who has these traits will be much easier to homeschool. It won’t be a flawless experience. However, when unpleasant, ungodly behaviors and attitudes surface during a homeschooling day, our children can be REMINDED to revert back to what they know is correct and pleasing to God.

Let me end this with a story about Titus that personally blessed me as a mother. Titus is my youngest “official” homeschooled child. Tiana, who is just 3 years old, is not yet enrolled with a program. And my baby girl is too young for formal instruction. As a kindergartener, I don’t expect the same sort of self-directed learning that I encourage my older sons to have.

However, a few weeks back I had to leave the house in the morning. So I assigned the kids their work and told them I would check on them when I got back. I wasn’t too sure if Titus would be able to do his Filipino on his own, but when I got home, he showed me his notebook. His finished work was inside it. I was very pleased!

In the evening, when I was feeding Catalina, he peered into my bedroom. “Come in,” I motioned to him. He smiled and skipped over to my side, snuggling under the covers. I told him I was very proud of him for doing his homeschool work. And I asked him, “Why did you finish it?” He said, “Because I wanted to obey you.”

I loved that answer.

Titus can be a highly distracted child because he is so curious. For him to finish his assigned task without someone peering over his shoulder to remind him to do it made my day! I was happier about his motivations rather than the actual output. He valued obedience.

My prayer is that my children will internalize godly character and experience the blessings of doing so. Our family is a work in progress. God deals with my heart daily as a homeschooling mother and he is molding the hearts of my kids, too. We make mistakes and struggle with our weaknesses but I can’t think of doing anything else with this season of my life. As a mother to young children, I want to be where the more important battle is. For me, the battle is at home…winning my kids for the Lord by teaching them what really counts. This is what homeschooling is about.

From enemies to best buds again…
 

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Group Homeschooling

What a beautifully chaotic morning I had homeschooling 7 children and breastfeeding two babies. My sister-in-law, Jenny, is sick so I invited two of her four kids to come over to homeschool with us. (One of my nephews had a fever.) And my sister, Carolyn, left her three-week old daughter behind because she had to attend to an event in Taytay. I asked her if Natasha would last the two hours that she was gone. She assured me that she would…and, worse case, if she didn’t, I was to feed her.

Ack. I love my sister. But, I’ve never fed another person’s baby. It was a first for me when Natasha started acting up and her yaya handed her to me because I was the only option. Thankfully, she was easy to feed. It felt bizarre and familiar at the same time.

I group-homeschooled until about 12:30 and the kids did just fine. We started off with a morning devotion followed by an art project. I taught the kids how to create textured paint cards using a toothbrush, cotton buds, blocks, straws, a comb, etc. And then we let the cards dry and I cut them up into various sized rectangles. Afterwards, I let the kids make personalized works of art. They had to use the texture cards to form the first letters of their name. With the left-over pieces we made a collage.

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In between waiting for the cards to dry the kids did their writing, reading, mathematics, and grammar work. I didn’t get to do much with Tiana so she just colored. I also had to breastfeed two babies at different occasions. And while I was away, some mayhem ensued but I was always able to return just in time to get things orderly again. And, I had a reporter – Edan.

At one point, I heard really loud singing and Edan came to the door and said something like, “I think you need to come back.” There was a tone of urgency in his voice. So I did and got them back to their seats to continue working.

Elijah and Edan are pretty independent learners so I assigned them their work and they got right to it. As for my niece, nephew, and Titus, I had to be in close proximity to them. I hovered around them to assist them when I was needed. But they all did great. They wanted to “surprise me” with their progress.

I’ve used this tactic with my kids to get them to focus. I will say, “Okay, I won’t look, and then surprise me when you are done!” It becomes a challenge and a game. They are motivated to accomplish their material. The kids were also excited to finish early so they could play with one another afterwards. This is one of the advantages of homeschooling with other children.

What are some tricks to homeschooling many kids and not going crazy? These are the tips that worked for me today…

  1. Prepare materials in advance. Once the kids are all present, they need to have something productive to do. If you aren’t ready with your supplies, books, and activities, you end up wasting a lot of time and the kids get restless.
  2. Lay down the ground rules, one of which is, “If we are going to homeschool together, then I want you to focus on your work.” Another one is cleaning up after they make a mess.
  3. Put tabs on the pages that you want the kids to get done if they are working in books. They will know their goals without having to ask.
  4. Pray aloud before you start.
  5. Use an authoritative tone that tells the kids you mean business but speak kindly to them. Be in control but don’t be too controlling.
  6. See yourself as a facilitator and not as a teacher standing in front with a blackboard. I move about the room checking on everyone while they are seated around a large table. When they need me I respond. If I see a child struggling, I attend to them. But as much as possible, I let them do their work on their own.
  7. Allow the kids to see one another’s progress. It encourages them to keep up and it fosters healthy competition, for as long as there is no comparing going on. I don’t say things like, “Look at what so-and-so did, you should do your work like that, too.” Instead, I say, “Look at what so-and-so did!” Then, I address the person and say, “Great job! I’m so proud of you!” I also find something to affirm about everyone.
  8. Give feedback as often as possible. If you notice that a child isn’t quite getting it, spend some time beside them to show them how to do their work correctly. But don’t cripple them by making them dependent on you. Show them and then let them figure it out. If they still don’t get it, review again, and then give them space to do it on their own. When they are successful, commend their effort. (If they still don’t understand, especially in an area like math, they may have a learning gap so back track a little so they can master previous content.) Tell them, “I’m going to help you to learn,” so they know you are committed to their success. Don’t say things like, “I already taught you this. Why can’t you get it?!”
  9. When it’s reading practice time, invite the other children to listen to the person reading. I did this with my niece and I said, “Let’s take turns reading. You read one word and I will read the next one.” And then I put Tiana on my lap to listen to her cousin. We did this back and forth reading for about three pages and then my niece confidently read the rest of the book aloud by herself.
  10. Be enthusiastic about learning together. It keeps everyone positive. Make comments like, “This is so fun!” “I’m glad we can do this together.”
  11. Give breaks (especially to the ones who like to move). I sent two of the boys to the kitchen and asked them to come back with sliced apples to share. They distributed these to everyone and then returned to their seats.
  12. Use rewards like stickers, smiley faces on their completed work. I pulled out a bunch of stickers and the kids were like, “I want one!” So I said, “Whoever finishes first, gets to choose first.”
  13. Seat children in the right areas. Generally, I use a big table where everyone can sit. But, Elijah needed his own space so he could concentrate. He was at another side of the room. Titus and my nephew were looking forward to sitting together so I put them side-by-side. When my nephew struggled through a page of his phonics work, Titus looked over and was eager to help. Tiana sat beside my niece (whom she looks up to). For as long as my niece was seated, Tiana didn’t move either. She sat still coloring for a long time.
  14. Give older kids responsibilities. Edan finished his work earlier so he made “prizes” for everyone at a separate table. He handed these out to the kids and created awards for best art, best work, etc.
  15. Do group activities that require cooperation and collaboration. Art is always a great way to do this because it cuts across ages.
  16. Rely on God’s grace to enjoy and get through a day like this. I always believe that God supplies for the occasion. He sustained me this morning and kept the kids teachable and focused.

After lunch, you can bet I was pretty exhausted so I locked my door to hang out with Catalina and take a nap!

Here is my take on group homeschooling…It works well with children who have been trained by their parents to obey and respond to authority. Praise God my brother and my sister-in-law have done a great job training their kids. I would also say that up to 8 young children is “doable” but more than 8 may require the help of another parent.

 

 

 

 

The Danger of Self-Centered Homeschooling

My imperfections as a homeschool mother have been magnified as of late…especially my impatience. It is a real struggle every time the kids don’t cooperate the way I hope they will. And this has been my very problem. I want my kids to cater to my needs right now. I need them to be easy to teach because I don’t have an easy baby to take care of. So I hold them to a set of expectations and I feel frustrated when these expectations are not met.

Today I put this pressure on my little three year old, Tiana. She blanked out half-way through our lesson like she didn’t know anything and I was so irritated. I tossed her work on the bed. She cried, I cried. I felt like a monster-mom. I WAS a monster-mom!

Tiana inched away from me, took hold of her stuffed tiger, walked over to the other side of the room, and climbed up on to the bed. She curled up in a fetal position facing the window. This was the first time she ever saw me lose my temper. She withdrew from me, emotional pained by my outburst.

God, I need your help. This is not the kind of mom I want to become. I feel like such a failure.

I have always told moms to make learning enjoyable. Sigh. I even give seminars about this! However, I did the very opposite. Tiana was not motivated by a love to learn this morning. She was afraid of disappointing me. I saw it in her eyes. She would point to the answers (the ones she was guessing) without confidence. And she would gaze up at me to see if she had my approbation. When I seemed stern, she would look down at the work in front of her, uncertain of how to proceed.

When I realized how I had hurt her, I said, “Tiana, please come to mommy.” (I was kind of immobile because Catalina was nursing.) Tiana walked over with her big brown eyes still watery and red with tears. I pulled her close and embraced her. “Will you forgive me? I was wrong. I am so sorry. Mommy will help you to learn.”

She looked up at me and started to sob again. But she said, “I forgive you, mommy” and she reached out to touch my hand. I held her for a while and kissed her head. How could I have hurt someone I love so much?

A few minutes later, I told her we would try math again. Our take two was much better. There was joy and laughter in it. I decided to appreciate her small victories and I made the effort to be positive and encouraging.

This was a lesson on parenting for me. I can’t ever think that homeschooling is about me. It’s not about my agenda — my own goals. I have been entrusted with the fragile and vulnerable hearts of my kids. And I am accountable for that trust. It is about stewardship.

My main responsibility is to disciple them — to teach them to love God and obey him, and to help them develop their gifts and abilities for his purposes and glory.

If I get angry because my kids don’t know their academics as well as I want them to, then I am violating the trust of stewardship. If I wound them emotionally because they fall short of my expectations, then I cannot disciple them effectively. I become a self-centered teacher. And self-centered teaching does not amount to the greater good of my kids.

Lord help me to be a Christ-centered teacher and not a self-centered one. I need to improve in the area of patience and I cannot have victory if I am always thinking of what is most convenient for me or what I would like to accomplish. Direct my teaching so that I accomplish what you want me to in the lives of my children.

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Your Child’s Best Tutor

I wrote this article for Smart Parenting last year and found out they re-published it on their website. If you stress out when tutoring your young children, check out this article. The same principles we apply as a homeschooling family are applicable to moms who tutor, too! Being Your Child’s Best Tutor

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Multi-level Homeschooling

Homeschooling 4 kids has often elicited the question, “How do you do it?” And I must admit that at times, I think to myself, I have no idea! But, there is some madness to the “science” of teaching more than one child. I don’t claim to have the best methods but I can share what has worked for our family. Hopefully, you can get some ideas on how to homeschool more than one child without going crazy!

The eldest child sets the example. Elijah, my 10 year old, is a sponge when it comes to learning. He loves to learn, primarily through reading literature, story books, encyclopedias, documents, articles, manuals…basically, anything with text. God has gifted him with a capacity to absorb and process information. And I’m saying this not to put him up on a pedestal or myself (he is waaaay smarter than I am). I’m sharing this because the time you spend with your eldest child, before any of the other munchkins come along, is very special. No other child will have as much attention. So maximize the years you have with him.

I would talk to Elijah all the time. He began conversing very early and was speaking whole sentences as a one year old. Edric and I made him attentive to the environment around him by pointing out shapes, numbers, letters, colors, objects, etc. I read to him every single day, several times a day. And I helped him to discover and pursue his interests – dinosaurs, airplanes, origami, and architecture. He was around adults so often, which greater enhanced his communication skills.

His interest in learning began early. And when you have an eldest child who is an eager learner it makes a big difference! He sets a positive and inspiring example for his younger siblings to follow.

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Master the essentials. There are at least 10 different subjects that children have to cover in the Philippines. It’s just ridiculous. But only a few skills, in my opinion, are really important – reading, comprehension, the ability to communicate and express one’s thoughts and ideas clearly (writing and speaking falls under this), arithmetic, problem solving, and critical thinking. So, I spend the early years of my children’s education enhancing and developing these basic skills. These are foundational.

I don’t, for example, make penmanship an on-going source of conflict between my children and I. Three boys. They prefer not to do tons of writing work. Is that a big deal to me? Not really. I’m gentle about the whole penmanship issue. Titus is just learning how to write his letters and numbers and he is 5. He knows how to write his numbers better than his letters but he still struggles with writing. Does he know the sounds of the letters and what numbers represent? Yes. Those things are major to me. But being able to write his letters and numbers perfectly…he’ll get there.

I didn’t force Elijah and Edan to do pages and pages of handwriting practice, but they both wanted to do cursive early. Cursive? Boys? Sounds like an oxymoron. Surprisingly, Elijah wanted to try writing in cursive when he was 8. And Edan started practicing his cursive a few months ago. They developed the inclination to do so on their own.

The point is I don’t get hung up on subjects that are of minor importance. I spend more time mastering essential skills.

Add variety to routine. Some materials you may purchase for your child are workbook based and text-booky. That’s not even a word but you know what I mean. If you don’t, then what I mean is these materials can be BORING. Kids do the same thing everyday. There’s no spice.

When you homeschool, you have the liberty to incorporate more creativity, mix and match, add here, take away there, enrich, skim through…In other words, you don’t have to be bound by the curriculum. See it as a guide for what your child needs to cover but don’t make it your bible.

For example, if the book says, “Color the correct answer,” and I know that it is going to take my son 15 minutes to color one object, I will say, “Circle the correct answer.” Why? Because the objective is to find out if my child knows the right answer. I don’t care about the coloring. We can do coloring for art. If he can tell me the answer right away, then I prefer that.

Here’s another example: If your child has to do 30 math problems that pretty much cover the same concept, do they really have to do all 30 problems? I ask them to do 15 out of the 30. And if they can answer those 15 problems correctly, I don’t require them to do the next 15. But if they have a lot of errors, then I know they need more practice or I need to review the concept with them.

With language arts, I mix it up for the boys. Sometimes, I allow them to dictate the answers to their questions. Other times, I will take turns writing sentences with them. On other occasions, I will allow them to use the computer. Or, I will ask them to complete the writing assignment on their own but motivate them with an incentive for finishing. It really depends on the circumstance.

Encourage independent reading and research. I’ve often told my children that reading unlocks the door of knowledge. Once they learn how to read well (with comprehension), they can answer their what, why, and how questions without being dependent on me. If they know how to read, they can be taught how to research.

When Elijah wants to go in depth about a topic that he is curious about, I let him research on the Internet or we get more books. I don’t spoon-feed him by being the source all the time. And the truth is, sometimes I can’t answer his questions because I don’t know enough about the topic.

The other day, he wanted to learn about venomous snakes in the Philippines. I put the computer in front of him and said, “Here, research about snakes in the Philippines and we will print out your findings.” He showed me his findings after 30 minutes and was very pleased with himself. I was too. All I had to do was press print!

For a while, I required Edan to read a children’s encyclopedia because he needed to improve his vocabulary. I asked him to read a couple of pages everyday as part of his work. Since he was a reader but I didn’t have the time to do intensive vocabulary instruction, I handed him the book and he reinforced his vocabulary on his own.

Keep everyone preoccupied with productive activity when it is work time. I do the academics with my kids in the morning. But since they are all at different levels, I can’t have them all sitting at desks quietly doing work on their own. This would be ideal and magical but it doesn’t always happen that way. So I have to plan the day by having independent writing or reading work for one child, while I dialogue or teach another. And then we do a switcheroo.

I usually lay out Elijah’s work on a table, in a private area where the noise pollution is minimal. He is an auditory learner so sounds are a distraction. When he is finished reading his Bible, he will proceed to work independently because I mark all the pages he has to cover with tabs. If he has questions, I can come over to his side to answer them. But usually, he doesn’t need me too much for this part of his day.

While Elijah is busy, I will spend time with Titus. In a period of about 45 minutes, we cover math, writing, reading, Bible, and a bit of science. In the meantime, Edan will be assigned to teach Tiana in yet another room. Since Tiana, my two year old, wants to be included in our daily homeschooling routine, she always comes up to me and says, “Mom, can I do my work? Where’s my work?” The thing is, I need to prioritize the older kids. So, I ask Edan to help me out.

Edan is my teacher’s assistant, something that he is very good at. He will very patiently teach and explain to her basic concepts. While he does so, I handle my two other boys. And then Titus and Edan switch places. Titus will have break time with Tiana, playing, doing art, or using manipulatives, so I can give attention to Edan and Elijah.

If Elijah finishes quite a bit of work and needs a break, I let him do Kahn Academy online. He likes to do the math and computer programming. It keeps him very engaged. This frees me up to be with Edan. We do his math and language arts together and then I can give him sit down work with his science notebook or character journal. While he is doing sit-down work and doesn’t need me hovering around him, I discuss science and history with Elijah.

It’s a little bit of a juggling act but we finish by noon most of the time. After lunch, the younger kids nap, and I can continue working with Elijah and Edan if necessary. Or, they have quiet reading time in their room. This is when I get my own personal space to write or even take a nap myself!

By mid-afternoon when all major responsibilities are covered, the kids can play or practice their violin.

Make character instruction a priority. The kids cooperate with our routines because they have internalized obedience. It would be difficult to handle four children without going insane if they didn’t obey, listen, and respond to my instruction. I don’t have to force them to work because they are willing to learn. They are teachable. There are days when they don’t have the best attitudes but that is normal. They still need training.

Edric and I spend a lot of their earlier years (between 1 and 3) instilling obedience. And we introduce them to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior early, too. So, by the time they are 4, 5, 6, 7, we can move on to other traits like responsibility, having the right attitude, attentiveness, hard-work, self-control, kindness, etc., because they have a reason to internalize these traits – to please God.

I don’t think it is possible to have peaceful homeschooling if parents neglect character. At the end of the day, this is the key to teaching several children effectively and enjoying them, too!

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Proverbs 23:24-26 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you. Give me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways.

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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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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This Shouldn’t Be Taboo

The other evening, as I was about to meet Edric for a date, Titus asked me, “Why do you have to go out on a date?” So I turned the question around and asked him, “Why do you think mommy and daddy go out on dates?” His adorable reply was, “Because you love each other and you want to make babies!”

This moment of comedy made me think about how innocent our children are. It is something that Edric and I try very hard to safeguard. We are careful about what we watch as a family, the music we listen to, and the access our kids have to the Internet. But at the same time, we answer the questions our children have about sex. We don’t evade the topic or dismiss it.

They don’t ask about it often. In fact, these sort of conversations rarely happen. But when they do, Edric and I are ready to explain sex. And there is no malice or silliness about our dialogues because we make it clear that sex is something special that is shared between a husband and wife. It is an expression of intimacy and love in the context of marriage. It is God’s beautiful design. There is no corruption in it.

Recently, Edric spoke to one of our sons about it once again. His explanation was well-received. It was treated like any other conversation. But what I really appreciated was when Edric said to him, “I want to be the one to tell you about these things because I am your dad. No one taught me when I was younger. I found out the wrong way…from my friends.” He also added, “If you have any questions, you can always ask me because we are guys and I can relate to the way you think. You can also ask mom, but mom is a girl so she might not always understand guy stuff.”

Admittedly, I felt a little bit bad that he had to add that last part but I also realized that certain areas are really Edric’s department. I was happy that Edric made our son feel like he can tell his dad anything, that no topic is off limits.

I really believe that sons need their father to talk to them about sex as God designed it to be. Who really mentors their sons in this area? It’s not something we commonly practice because there is so much taboo surrounding sex. We have made it such an awkward topic. We get embarrassed to use correct terminology or talk about the details. But it is the world that has made sex something dirty and carnal. As parents, we can present it to our children as the pure and undefined thing that it is. We don’t have to divulge all the details at once, but as they ask questions, we should answer them truthfully. After all, the Bible says, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15 NASB)

I remember an instance when one of our sons said his friends were laughing and pointing at a poster that showed a woman who was not wearing much. He turned away and his friends noticed, so they made a big deal about it and said, “Oh, he’s not looking! He’s not looking!” This son of ours narrated the incident to me and I told him that he did the right thing. I have no idea what the poster was or how they even saw it. But it was one of those times when I was thankful that our son knew he should close his eyes to protect himself.

Edric and I want our kids to be informed correctly so they recognize that there is sex as God designed it and a corrupted version of sex out there that they need to run away from. If they are not taught early, they may very well discover the corrupted version first from others, making it difficult for them to perceive sex the way God designed them to. So we need to lovingly guide them to desire holiness and purity and of course, we have to model this ourselves in what we think, say, and do…

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NASB)

It Takes All Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was he ready to be instructed after that? Yes.

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

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

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

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

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“No”

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Titus, who has a special attachment to marbles, wanted to bring some from our house to my parents’ place. When he asked me if he could pack them, I said, “No. You can’t bring your marbles.”

He started to pout and cry. He wanted sympathy from our househelp, but I was stern and clear that he could not bring the marbles. I explained to him that the last time he brought metal marbles over to my parents’ place, he lost them. So he would not get to bring anything over.

It’s hard to see my kids disappointed when they don’t get what they want. But they need to learn to accept “no” for an answer with the right spirit. When they show resistance and anger, this concerns me.

Titus was lingering in his negative emotions. He sat behind me in the car sulking. I saw him give me that hard, upset look.

Instead of scolding him for it, I appealed to his heart. “Titus when mommy and daddy say no, what are you supposed to say?” He turned his head away to avoid eye contact, but I didn’t let him get away with that. “What are you supposed to say?” I asked him again and I told him to look at me.

He had to force it out of himself but he managed to say, “Okay, mommy.” This is the response I ask of my kids when I give them a rule or command, or when I tell them “no.” It reveals to me that they acknowledge what I am saying and there is a spirit of agreement and submission.

But I could still sense that he was not okay. So I encouraged him, “Where is your smile, Titus?” He resisted. I pursued him. He tried to bury his face into the arm of his yaya. I did not relent.

“Would Jesus want you to smile? Jesus is in your heart right?” This was my attempt to appeal to the good that was in him, courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

And then I saw his countenance change. There was a tiny smile followed by a genuine sparkly one and his eyes became kind.

“There it is! That’s a wonderful smile!”

When we got home, I pulled him aside and affirmed him profusely. I complimented him for changing his attitude and for smiling when I asked him to, even when he didn’t get what he wanted. And I gave him a big hug and kiss. He was beaming.

Toward the end of our conversation, I asked him, “Who helped you do the right thing?”

“Jesus!” was his joyful reply.

As parents we need to appeal to the spirit of the Lord in the hearts of our kids. Otherwise, it’s hard to teach them and train them. To do this, it is important to connect them to Jesus when they are little. Share the gospel with them as soon as possible, so God can begin his sanctifying work in their lives. This does not guarantee that they will be perfect angels, but it certainly makes them more receptive and responsive to correction and discipline.

Of course, we need to do our part by being positive when we teach and train them. We need to avoid shouting. We need to exercise authority without being cruel or despotic, assuring them that we love them. And our goal must be redemptive — reconnecting their hearts back to the Lord.

I have noticed that it helps alot to just mind my tone and decibel levels when I address my children’s wrong behavior. Keeping a calm talking voice also allows me to consider my words more carefully. It’s not always easy but it is more effective.

I like how Galatians puts it. We must correct with gentleness and not from a position of self-righteousness. And we don’t need to lose our temper to be taken seriously by our children.

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:1-3 NASB)

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Rest While Homeschooling

Yesterday, I shared with my dad a story about homeschooling one of my sons, and he asked me to share it during his message today to illustrate what it means to rest in Gods presence, from a parent’s perspective.

As a homeschooling mom of four children, my patience gets tried pretty often. My kids are between the ages of 2 and 9 and God gave me a mix of different personalities to train my character. One of the challenges of teaching my own kids is remaining spirit-filled when they are unmotivated about studying. Perhaps all parents can relate when I say that there are many occasions when I am tempted to give in to irritation and frustration by reacting negatively and harshly. But, by God’s grace, when I practice the presence of God, he gives me victory in this area. He gives me his rest to replace my distress.

For example, some time ago, I assigned one of my sons an activity. He had to write and draw about the life cycle of a fern for science. Mid-way through his assignment, he dropped his pencil in a dramatic manner, slumped back into the chair and said, “I can’t do this! I don’t want to write anymore.” I struggled to respond positively to him because he had this reoccurring issue with writing. He would become negative and demotivated when I assigned him writing tasks.

But God reminded me, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

I prayed, “What is the right response, Lord?” because I felt the heat rising to my neck and head, and I wanted to lecture him on the importance of writing and perseverance. But instead of doing so, I asked him, “Is there any way I can improve as your teacher to help you develop a love for writing?” He said, “I don’t know” and he started going on and on about how he just did not like to write. According to him, he wasn’t a good writer. So I tried to say very calmly, “Why don’t we pray together, why don’t you pray about it?”

“I don’t know what to pray! You pray, mom!” and he sounded agitated and discouraged. Wow, this was a serious issue for him! This was my one thought and the other thought I had was “This is ridiculous! Get over your dramatics, snap out of it and just finish your work!” But again, the Lord reminded me, be an encourager, be positive. So I didn’t say those things.

Instead, I prayed with him, “Lord, please help my son to develop a love for writing, to understand that it is important to learn this skill, and to change his attitude.” Afterwards, I asked him again, “Are you ready now?”

“No I still don’t want to write.” And he slumped further back into his chair and started to tear. I felt my anger start to rise again because in my mind, I was trying every spirit-filled tactic, but it was not working. I was at the tipping point.

Yet once again God spoke to me and gave me another idea. “Your son belongs to me, remember? So turn him over and let me deal with him. Don’t make this writing assignment more important than your relationship with him. Let him speak to me about it.”

That was a great idea! I told my son, “I am not going to force you to write right now. But I want you to go to your room and spend time alone with God. I know that Jesus is in your heart and he will tell you how you should change your attitude and what you should do about this writing assignment.” My son looked at me and he was kind of shocked, but I insisted that he go and have alone time with God to pray.

In five minutes, my son came back to me and said, “I am ready, mom.” “For what?” I prodded and he responded, “To write.” Really? Why? “God spoke to me and told me to.” By then, his tone and his posture had changed. He went back to his desk and finished his work and even did so while singing, too! God had changed his attitude completely.

Years ago my husband and I shared the gospel with this son of ours and he made Jesus his Lord and Savior. And so this experience was not just about experiencing rest in Gods presence as a parent, but about teaching my son to do the same. I learned that the responses we have towards our children must be redemptive in nature, restoring them to the Lord, causing them to draw closer to him instead of pushing them away because of our temper, anger, irritation, or ungodliness. I still struggle with patience as a homeschool mom but God is my source of strength, joy, grace, and peace when I teach my kids. He is my rest! All glory goes to him!

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)

If you are interested in viewing the message during today’s service here it is…

Rest In God’s Presence — Message by Peter Tan-Chi