This is the article I authored for Smart Parenting. It came out in the March 2011 Issue. I hope you will find it helpful.
When people ask me where my kids go to school, my answer is, “They don’t. They are homeschooled.” More often than not, I get a follow up question like, “What’s that?” Being a die-hard advocate of homeschooling, I enjoy answering that question. It helps that I was homeschooled myself, I homeschool my own kids, and I ran a homeschool program in the past. I have seen homeschooling from a 360 degree angle and experienced the benefits first-hand.
Homeschooling is not easy, but it is worth it. It is not easy because it means taking on the responsibility of teaching and training your child; it may entail giving up a second source of income; it requires you to re-program your understanding of education; you need to model what you teach; and society has preconceived notions about it that aren’t always positive.
Yes, there are times when I feel a little bit of that pressure to be conventional. For example, I sometimes wonder what people think when my kids are with me at the grocery and it is a weekday morning. Other kids their age are sitting in classrooms, listening to a lecture, or maybe taking a test. But my worry quickly passes when I see the delight on my kids’ faces as we make a learning experience out of picking fruit and vegetables. So, in a sense, the grocery is our classroom for that morning.
The grocery, the check-out counter, the walk back to the parking lot, and the trip home become part of their homeschooling for the day. If picking out fruit and vegetables is about science, the check-out is about mathematics. The walk back to the car is about survival skills such as safety and awareness. The trip home gives us time to play language games like “find the letter or word” on billboards and signposts, or it is when we discuss the applications of a story we just read.
Free flowing lessons
With homeschooling, teaching and training my children are not confined to a set period of the day. It doesn’t just happen in the study room of our home. As parent-teacher to my boys, aged 7, 4, and 2 (my 5 month old daughter is still exempt), I let my kids’ learning happen outside of textbooks and workbooks. Learning happens naturally through dialogue and discussion, hands-on experiences, modeling, games, reading and telling stories, socializing with family members or friends, and lots of creative play. I do give my kids workbook and textbook time, as well as writing exercises and tests. But, these conventional learning methods do not dictate how, what, and when my children learn.
Here’s a typical homeschooling day in our family: The boys wake up at 7 a.m., and we have breakfast as a family. After, the boys take a shower and get dressed. They will be given time to play first (which is also part of their learning experience). In the meantime, I feed my baby girl, bathe her, and put her down for a morning nap. I get some alone time to read my Bible or do some remote office work. By 10 a.m., the boys are ready to start. I work more intentionally with my two older sons, while my youngest is given a book to color or some manipulative to work on. My older sons will cover three or four subjects (sometimes less, sometimes more), and by lunch, they are done with their “school work.” In the afternoon, we might read a book or two before they nap. Then it’s delight-directed learning time. My oldest son is into origami so he practices his folds and hones his skill. He is also an avid reader so he might read through several books in one sitting. My second son is interested in art so he mostly draws or paints. On Thursdays, they have Taekwondo lessons and it is their special time with dad. My husband takes them out to lunch and he calls it Boy’s Time. It is his time to mentor them on how to be men.
This is a glimpse of homeschooling in our family. But other families may do it differently.
You can customize the education of your child depending on what goals you feel are important for his growth and development. You can also decide on when you will teach them during the day and how many subjects you want to cover or integrate. If you feel that a written test might not be the best way to find out if they are learning, you can have him respond orally to your questions. If you spot a learning gap, you can spend more time to address it. Similarly, if you see an area of strength and giftedness, you can help your child excel all the more by giving him the tools and support he needs.
But let’s be realistic. I don’t think every parent will homeschool. I believe every parent can do it if they really want to, but not everyone is willing to give what it takes. My husband runs a homeschool program so he and I meet all kinds of parents from all walks of life. There are some commonalities among those who actually get into it. If I were to profile the parents, I’d say they are educated, idealistic, Bible-believing, and hands-on parents who put a high premium on the character development of their child. They have a strong belief that God has called them to homeschool their kids. Academics are important to them, but raising their child to love and know God supersedes this. And more often, it is the mom who teaches while the dad works. But both take care of character education.
The secret to successful homeschooling is both parents’ commitment to teaming up to teach and train their child. The goal must be higher than providing a good education. A good, solid education comes naturally when a child is obedient, respectful, responsible, disciplined, and God-fearing. Successful homeschool parents focus on capturing the heart of their child first and the academics follow.
Most of the homeschooled kids I’ve encountered are articulate, confident, intelligent, good natured, and well socialized. This is because their parents are so involved in their children’s lives and use a tutorial type of teaching, which is very effective. Other benefits of homeschooling include the quality and quantity time you get to spend with your child; protection from negative peer influences; the opportunity to shape his values and character; instilling in him the love for learning; and saving money on tuition. You can use that money on the curriculum of your choice, learning experiences, specialized classes for music, art, family vacations, and more.
If a family decides to homeschool, here is a guide to getting started.
- Do your research on the Internet. There are many sites that will answer concerns like socialization, academic success, teaching ability of a parent, curriculum, learning styles, and methods. Try Home-school.com.
- Attend an orientation. I personally recommend the one my husband gives, not because I want everyone to enroll in our program, but because it is very complete and informative. It will help dispel a lot of the initial fears that you may have about homeschooling and clarify a lot of misconceptions too. And, it is free. Call (02) 633-5267 to ask about TMA Homeschool’s schedules.
- Connect with homeschooling families. They are everywhere! Homeschool families often group together in cooperatives to support one another. Post a query on your Facebook profile and you will probably get some responses.
- Call the Department of Education to find out the accredited organizations. An accredited program will help your child transition from homeschooling to a conventional school. They issue official transcripts and forms to you and to schools so your child has up-to-date records. There are families who homeschool independently and opt to take Deped’s Validation Test or Placement Test. The safest route is to homeschool with an accredited program; the downside is that you will be required to follow Deped’s learning competencies and subject requirements. Thus, you will have to follow a sort of scope and sequence similar to the conventional school.
- Set Goals. Think about the areas your child needs to improve and grow in. How do you see them 5 or 10 years from now? What is the most important thing you want him to know and learn? Write these down and commit to them.
- Set-up your home. All you need is a designated place of study at home. This will be your “base.” Place your books, study materials here. Have a desk and chair for your child to use when writing. Learning doesn’t have to be confined to this space, but when you do work here remove distractions like toys, noise, or a younger sibling.
- Choose your materials. If you enroll in a program, they will assist you in this area. If you homeschool independently, I recommend ordering most of your materials from the U.S. as you won’t have problems with teacher’s guides or answer keys. Use pobox.ph to ship them to Manila. Filipino and Civics books can be bought from your local bookstores.
- Create a schedule. You can have three or four days for your routine and scheduled days, and then a free day for trips or exploration. Don’t allot more than four hours for academic seat work. For younger children, keep instruction time to two hours or less. And give them lots of time for creative free play.
- Give yourself time to experiment and get the hang of it. Be patient with yourself and your child. He might not learn the way you expect him to because he has a different learning style. You might find that your personality clashes with his’. Relax. These are the road bumps you need to work through together. If learning starts to get laborious and tense, something needs to give. You need to change your style or method and use a different approach, or you may be setting the academic standard too high. Your child might be feeling too much pressure so you need to work on getting them to love learning first.