Homeschooling Spells P.P.L.A.N.

When Peewee and I decided to teach Coby at home in 2008, we were not that aware of the responsibility we have put upon our shoulders. First of all, the decision was not made on impulse. I researched about it, attended orientations, talked to other homeschooling families and prayed to make the right decision and God was very clear.

As a newbie parent-teacher, it was both exciting and scary because I don’t know if what I was doing was right. Good thing our family had very a very supportive team from TMA to back us up. But ultimately, it was only Peewee and myself trying to figure out what we got ourselves into.

I don’t claim to have all the knowledge about homeschooling because up to now, I am still learning how to do it. I’m still finding better ways to teach our kids.  I only knew a handful of homeschooling families from church when we started so there were not too many people to ask around.

Nobody ever told me how much I needed to invest in providing quality education to our children. Not only did we invest  financially but emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually as well.  I may not harvest the fruit of our decision yet but I know we will very soon.

Again, I’m not an expert but what I want to share is what works for me.  These are the things I take to heart as I continue to fulfill the fun yet daunting task of home education. I’ve come up with the acronym P.P.L.A.N. to highlight what I learned from my journey. As we plan our daily tasks, our menu, our vacation, we also need to plan our homeschool.

The first P stands for Prayer. I believe the key is preparing my heart for the day. I don’t know what’s going to happen midmorning or after lunch, so I need to have my heart checked first by the Lord. Commit my day to Him first thing in the morning. I lift up my plans, my lessons, even my emotions to Him. I need to get strength from Him for the entire day. I need to do this with him. He has not called me to be a wife, a mom or a homeschooling mom for that matter just to leave me on my own. When he called me, he assured me that He will be with me always. I just need to remind myself that I am not alone in this path that I’m taking. My God is with me moment by moment. And even if it’s just mid morning and the day has already been stressful, I just excuse myself and take a breather. Utter a short prayer to God to help get through the day without releasing bitter words.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Jeremiah 1:9

Second P is Preparation. As a parent-teacher, we need to take our job seriously. I’m the scheduled-type of person so having no schedule or planning freaks me out and so does Coby. I have to prepare the lessons in advance so I know what to teach them for the week. I make sure we have Math and English everyday. Coby loves Science so we have it at least twice or thrice a week while twice a week for Social Studies and Filipino. The quizzes, exams, field trips and projects are also scheduled as we also follow the local school calendar.

But then there are other homeschooling families especially those from other countries who are more of the unschooling type, more laid back, more relaxed and that works for them.

But then I’m not that strict too. There are just days when I feel blah and forcing them to study will only create undue stress on all of us. So we don’t do anything formal. They are free to draw, paint, do imaginative play using blocks and Lego or just be a scientist and explore the outdoors. Most of the time the lessons they learn are not from the books.

L is Learning Style. I have to know how my child learns best so that I could provide the best learning environment for him/her. If the learning style is supported then the creative mind will work to their advantage. They will be able to express this in their projects because they are confident learners. Coby is about 60% auditory and 40% visual learner.. He enjoys listening to music, he hums while working, and still loves to sit and listen to bedtime stories. He understands what he is reading if he reads them aloud.  I encouraged him to do that because I realized that if I let him read a passage quietly he doesn’t get it the main idea. But when I asked him to read it aloud, he not only reads the text but hears it as well. This has helped him tremendously especially in Social Studies. I’m still figuring out how Jianne learns but I could sense she is visual and kinesthetic. She loves to move and dance a lot. She is showing signs of being interested in sports too. I have to look for activities that would support her inclination.

A is for Application. I believe lessons are just words until experienced or applied. It doesn’t matter if Coby memorized a poem or a historical figure. What matters to me is how he uses that poem speaks to him. How does he interpret the poem. What is the poem trying to tell him. If he finds the connection between him and the poem and he was able to translate it to me in an artwork, in writing or in a project then I think my I did my job. What is essential to me is that the kids not only know the facts and know them by heart but find a way that is relatable to them. They learn about God in Science. How God’s creation always points back to Him. God’s design for every living creature is specific and unique for that animal or insect or plant. He has artistically designed man and woman to be different but complementing each other. When they realize how everything in creation works, they are just in awe of how wonderful the Creator is. Learning this on their own and seeing God in every subject is a good foundation to teach them to love and honor God in their lives. Application encourages them to ask the why and how questions.

N is for Negativity. Negativity would come in many forms. First, it would come from people who would criticize me for choosing to homeschool our kids. They would doubt my capability to teach and the “negative” effect it will have on the kids socially, which is a misconception. There would always be people who would discourage me and tell me to work rather than spend my time with my children. I would always respond with “This is what the Lord has assigned me to do while the kids are this age. While my husband has been assigned by the Lord to provide for the family.” Sometimes, I get tired defending myself or my family but honestly, I have learned the art of pretending to listen and not to let those malicious comments bother me anymore.

Negativity would also come from me. Impatience and anger work well together to bring me to that point of exasperation and say things I regret saying. The Lord let me realize that this would stem from unrealistic expectations from a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old. I would always assume then that I am speaking to adults and so I expect too much from them. I have to remind myself that I am speaking to children who are just learning now. I don’t have to assume that they already memorized multiplication table in a week. I have to bring myself to their level, how they think, how they process things and not to take them to my level. That’s what I’m here for, to teach them and guide them, not to have a debate with them about the current political state of our country. 🙂

Ultimately, I am still their Mama. I am just trusting the Lord who called me for this purpose that He will also guide and protect Coby and Jianne from anything that is not pleasing to their eyes.

While I’m writing this, Jianne called my attention and said, “Mama, I’m going to send you something. Please read it.” Then I saw she slid a paper under the door. I picked it up and read it and this is what it says: (verbatim, no edit from Mama)

Dear Mama and Papa. I am happy God made you. Thank you for all the kindness you do to us. And Papa I think you’re going to be a great engineer because your great at fixing things. And Mama you should open your own restaurant because your awesome at cooking. So I think this is the best family I ever had and next time try to control your anger so I’m happy. And your a great parent that a kid could ever have. Love Jianne

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I said Peewee and I are looking forward to reaping the harvest of our investment… I think I’m already enjoying the fruit.

How do you spell homeschooling spell in your family? I would love to hear your tips too.

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When Will I Go to School?

Jianne is almost done with school. We are wrapping up her lessons in Preparatory as she would be graduating and moving on to the first grade 1 next school year. It has been her first official year of homeschooling. Official, meaning, she is enrolled her in The Master’s Academy (TMA), our homeschool provider.  When she was four years old, I just bought a reading curriculum and she learned how to read in about two months. We were both excited to learn about Math, Science, Filipino and Bible for the first time. She had no difficulty with reading and writing. Overall, our first year of homeschooling was not as difficult as it was when Coby and I started. 

To begin with, they are very different individuals who are so unique in their own way. They have different learning styles Coby is more of an auditory learner and visual while Jianne is kinesthetic and also visual. The only problem I had with Jianne though is that she does her work so fast that sometimes she doesn’t read the instructions anymore. As soon as she sees a word, she assumes that’s what she’s supposed to do. Visual learners are like that. They see the letters and they already know what word. I had to remind her that she still needs to read the instructions because there are times when the instructions get tricky.  

One time, I left her with some work to do. I asked her to do, let’s say pages 56-60 of her reading book. When I came back, she told me that she finished the entire book! What? When I checked, she did complete her entire reading textbook! I scanned the pages and reviewed to her the extra pages and 99% were correct. She just had problems with spelling few words. She was very proud of herself and of course, me too! 

This is my challenge now. I need to keep up with her because she learns fast and easly gets bored especially if you keep on repeating the same lesson over and over. I repeat and review because I wanted to make sure she gets it but she will tell me, “Mama, I know that already!” I need to find a challenging curriculum for her which hopefully I could find soon. 

Homeschooling Coby, on the other hand, has been a challenge ever since we started. Primarily because I was a rookie homeschooling mom then still finding my way. Honestly, up to now, I’m still finding my way… out! hahaha 

I thought he was a visual learner in the beginning because he loves looking at pictures and loves to draw and paint too. He was good at his art classes and spent his spare time drawing on his sketch pad. But then I realized, as he grew older, he loved to talk! As in really talk! He could host his own talk show and just talk all day. He can talk about anything. He will tell you that about History, about prehistoric animals and how they evolved. He would show you his scientific inventions with matching master plan. If you want to know what happened to our neighbor, ask him and he will give you the complete details. I am guilty at times because he loves to talk to me while I’m busy doing something and all I could answer him is, “Okay! Nice!” 

In Science, Civics and History, you would hear us discussing the lessons. It would be like what I said earlier, a talk show. These discussions help develop his criticial thinking skills. Say for example, we would talk about Ancient Filipino  Culture. He asked me what would happen to a country if it has no culture? I threw back the question to him because I want to know how he thinks. He was able to share his ideas well and expressed them verbally with matching hand gestures. 

But there would be times when he is inattentive and not focused at all. These are the times, I really get frustrated and these would become our crying moments, angry moments, swear-not-to-homeschool-you-anymore moments and other monster mom moments. These are the times when I want to throw in the towel and just doze off. But these are the times, I need to take a step back and just breathe… take myself out of the situation and PRAY! Only by the unfailing grace of God do I find strength to continue. 

A few weeks back while having breakfast, Coby expressed his desire to do to conventional school. It was a shock for me because I know he doesn’t want to go a regular school. Unfaced, I asked him why. He said that he’s kind of bored to do school at home. I responded calmly and said that we will let his Papa know about his decision and pray about it. In the afternoon whild doing some errands, he again brought up the same topic. So casually, I asked him why. This time he said he wanted to meet new friends. I just listened and again said we will pray about it. I even asked his help to pray about it. 

The following day, I asked him to help me find a school for him. Then I saw the look on his face, he was surprised at what I said. I asked him why he looked surprised. I added that I want to check out the schools where you will be transferring next school year. Then he blurted out, NO! I don’t want to go to a conventional school. I still want to be homeschooled. “I thought you said you that you were bored at home and you wanted to meet new friends?” He kept disagreeing with me and insisting that he still be homeschooled. Then he said, “I already prayed about it Mama, the answer is, I will continue homeschooling.” 

After all the challenging days of homeschooling, just the thought of taking him out gives me goosebumps. Is he ready? Will he be able to cope? Will the teachers be patient with him and take time to teach him? Or should I ask, Am I ready? 

 I am seriously thinking of letting him go next year. I want him to experience what these students go through everyday. I am not belittling conventionally-schooled kids because I am a product of one. But it’s really for his appreciation of homeschooling . I want him to see the benefit of having one teacher is to one child ratio. Not one teacher to 30 or 40 students. I want him to see the freedom he has in learning. He is a highly verbose and I don’t think a tired teacher would appreciate a student who keeps interrupting the lesson by asking questions again and again? Or a student who would giving out his opinion even without being asked. He might be labeled as talkative or uncooperative if he keeps sharing his thoughts with his seatmate. How about the freedom to redo a test over and over until he finally masters it. The freedom do learn in his own pace, to take it slow in Math and read more challening stories in History. To learn together with a sibling and have a family discussion about a Bible character of a scientific discovery.  

I am praying. Half-hearted. Praying.