“To homeschool or not to homeschool?”

Is that your question? If it’s a reluctant yes with a high pitched tone and your face curls up in some weird way because you feel you’ve been pushed against the wall, somehow forced into this situation, then your heart starts beating fast because you don’t know if you’re making the right decision or not, or if you can do it or not — it’s okay. You’re not alone. I’m sure many parents are going through something similar right now. There’s also so much information out there about it and there are a lot of homeschooling moms and groups who are genuinely willing to help you out.

I’m one of them. If you’re new to my blogs, hi, I’m Owie. We formally started our homeschooling journey in 2011. Our eldest was 6 years old. Did we always have our heart set on homeschooling? Nope. Did we have a lot of time to plan it out and make the decision? Not really.

Kristo, our eldest, was going to a brick & mortar school. A month and a half into his first grade (July), we were already having issues with how things were for him in school (teacher not letting him eat because he didn’t finish copying what was on the board, other kids throwing his bag in the trash bin, him not really understanding what was discussed in class, etc), but that didn’t really make us say, “okay, let’s homeschool.”

Soon after, we found out my pregnancy was pretty delicate. We knew I had to reduce my workload as well and eventually quit my job so I could focus on the kids.  Since as a solo parent, I had tried one year of informal homeschooling from 2009-2010 and saw its benefits, I realized that homeschooling was an option that made sense, given our situation. The turn of events led us to make a pretty quick decision to pull Kristo out of school and homeschool instead.  By August, we were officially enrolled with a homeschool provider.  (Back then, there weren’t a lot of homeschool providers to choose from and I already knew who to choose because of a few people I had met. I can’t imagine how confusing it is to choose from so many providers right now!) 

So if you feel like homeschooling wasn’t really part of the plan and the current situation just led you to it, or maybe you somehow considered it in the past but you never really had to make a decision to make that jump right away – and now here you are – a spot where you may need to just close your eyes and take a huge leap of faith — don’t worry, I get it. For you guys, it’s Covid-19. For me, it was a delicate pregnancy. (I also remember saying that we’d only do it for a year!)

Anyway, the first thing I can do to help you is to tell you that it’s not as scary or as complicated or as horrible as it seems.

Wait. Hang on.

IF your goal is to replicate your kid’s school at home, if you’re gonna keep comparing your home to your kid’s school or if you keep comparing yourself to your kid’s teachers, if you keep saying you’re not patient, smart or creative enough to teach your kids (remember, reviewing them for a school exam and homeschooling them are very different)  – then yeah, maybe the experience may not be as enjoyable as it could potentially be.

If you’re here to look for info about homeschool providers (they help with documentation & Dep Ed requirements) and actual steps on how to homeschool, the first thing you need to do is join the Homeschoolers of the Philippines Facebook group. It now has over 26,000 members and so many blogs about the said topics have been posted there. Others have been doing such a great job at compiling all the important info you need, so check those blogs out. 🙂

So what does it really mean to homeschool then if it isn’t school-at-home?  That’s something I’d like to keep writing about in the coming weeks by sharing stories from our nine-year journey.

Meanwhile, here’s something I wrote in 2013 about what life was like two years into homeschooling two kids, just to give you an idea:

“A day like today makes me feel so thankful we made the decision to homeschool. Everything the kids and I did today reminded me that learning is special, magical, and fun.

Many times I’ve been guilty of bringing the classroom to our home, thinking that I have to conform to what’s the “norm”.  I’ve called Kristo out when he doesn’t sit up straight when I’m discussing a lesson. I’ve refused to let him eat while answering a worksheet. I’ve been constantly reminding him to be quiet when he’s doing his math and writing drills and the list goes on. The bottom line is, I’ve found myself on several occasions mimicking the traditional classroom set-up in our home.

Huge mistake.

Yes I know it’s all about discipline and there are probably a bunch of reasons why we grew up with all those rules in traditional school. Thing is, does it really help him learn and do his work well or does it frustrate and slow him down?

Every child learns differently. Kristo is a mix of a kinesthetic learner and a visual spatial learner. If you’re familiar with both types of learners, you’ll know that to understand a lesson better, they’d have to move around, they like fiddling with stuff while listening or they like doodling while learning and more. They also need lots of breaks, pictures, colors, graphs, and manipulatives. Since he’s this kind of learner, I can’t expect him to sit up straight and not fidget for long periods of time. I constantly have to remind myself that the goal is to have him learn as much as he can and enjoy the process too. The worst thing I can do is have him associate learning with torture.

Usually, Kristo isn’t too keen on reading tests and word problems. However today, when I allowed him to do these two drills while lying on his belly on top of the slide — he was done in less than half an hour which is his record time so far! =)I also had him go around the park to take photos of different plants and he came back with pretty impressive photos!

I have to be honest, none of the activities I’ve told you about were in my master plan for the morning. I also had a good ten to fifteen minutes of frustration when I couldn’t sit down with Kristo and discuss a lesson I had prepared because his little super active sister just wouldn’t stay still! But as soon as I let Audrey explore and learn, she was able to go up and down a flight of stairs for the very first time without my help! Kristo got so excited about this milestone too! It was such a beautiful learning moment that happened because she was ready! Nerve-wracking, but awesome!

I am thankful we homeschool because every day I get to discover so many new things about my kids. God constantly reminds me that each child is different, each child learns differently and at their own pace. Each child is special and my role as their mother and teacher is not to put them in a box.

My job is to see how unique they are. I need to support and encourage their interests. I’m here to help them be the person God created them to be. I need to make learning as fun as it can be for them. They are kids and I want them to enjoy these magical years through learning AND play. My husband and I need to make sure the kids know that we live in such an amazing world and God wants us to discover His creations. We have to remind them that learning should never stop for any one of us.”

***

It’s crazy to read how our main learning philosophy back then still holds true to what we believe in and advocate for now. Yup, we still homeschool and unschool.  Nine years in and we are still firm believers that learning is just way more natural and exciting when it’s interest-led.

What does that even mean to be “interest-led” and what is that like? Will your child really learn anything and everything they need to know if you just let them learn about their interests? There’s only one way to find out. Try it. If you’re brave enough, you can treat it as a short experiment. Give it a week or a few days. Instead of telling them what they should be learning or doing, ask them what they want to learn or what they want to do. Listen to them. Respect what they want to learn or do (even if it’s a game!) Let their curiosity lead you. Welcome their endless questions. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers to their questions. Search for the answers together. Learn together. Share what your interests are to them. Show them how you learn. Go on this journey together as fellow learners. Experience learning together and let it bring you closer to each other. I’m not saying totally drop whatever program you plan to use to teach your kid if going totally interest-led is too radical for you. I’m just saying this experiment could help you incorporate their interests while studying to make homeschooling more enjoyable for everyone.  Maybe you could find a balance between having a  standard program and have lots of interest-led activities too.  What have you got to lose, right?

I’d love to hear about your experience! Share it in the comments section or send me an email at owiedelacruz@gmail.com. I hope you enjoy the experiment!

 

They’re 15 and 8 now. Kristo now teaches Audrey her Science lessons via Time4Learning.com and he also makes sure to teach her whatever he thinks would interest her. 

 

 

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