Two weeks ago, I attended the 2016 Philippine Homeschool Conference. Unlike last year, I went alone because my husband was coming down with the flu. A day later, my son followed suit. So my initial plan of sharing my notes shortly after the conference had to wait because I needed to take care of my boys. More than halfway through their recovery, I got the bug as well and had to hold off my blogging for another week.
Today I’ve mustered enough strength to write and share with you all the things I’ve learned from the conference! I attended all the keynote sessions and picked three breakout sessions after lunch. I got there 15 minutes before the first keynote started. I was pleasantly surprised that the ushers and those in the registration tables were homeschooled kids! Our hosts were homeschoolers, too! It was such a delight to see them so confident on stage. 🙂
The conference kicked off with Senator Kiko Pangilinan giving the welcome remarks. He announced that the official Philippine National Homeschooling Day will be on March 3, 2017!!! Senator Kiko added that he would push legislation for more support to the homeschooling community. How awesome is that?! 🙂
To finally have a day for homeschoolers is a big step for the Philippines! We’re so excited to celebrate it! Senator Bam Aquino also gave a short video message to all the attendees of the conference. It was pretty cool, too! After that, the first keynote session started and it was headlined by the mother-daughter team and homeschool advocates Deonna Tan-Chi and Joy Tan-Chi Mendoza. 🙂
Keynote session on Building a Firm Foundation
Deonna shared about the importance of establishing one’s family foundation. She discussed the wise and foolish builder (Matt 7:24-25) and emphasized the necessity of choosing the foundation we want to build in our child’s life. As parents we should be the one to ingrain in them the values and truth we want them to live by because if not somebody else will do it for us. In our household, we value obedience and respect very highly. We also value truthfulness, humility, and kindness.
More than knowing Bible stories or verses, we want our son to truly develop the character of Jesus in his life. Deonna also said that modelling is the most powerful way we can influence our children to love God. If we love the way Jesus loves then they will be encouraged to do the same. I was also reminded that Proverbs 22:6 is a PROMISE.
If we train our children well, when we let them go out to the real world they will navigate life anchored on the truths and values we instilled in them. Deonna also gave tips on how we can encourage our kids to obey:
1. Remind them that obedience comes with a blessing!
2. Even Jesus obeyed His parents!
They also shared the 4 key areas where we need to train our children:
1. Wisdom (mental)
2. Stature (physical)
3. Favor with God (spiritual)
4. Favor with men (social)
I was reminded again of this quote,
“If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.”
If we don’t tell our children the truths they need to stand by, they won’t have any convictions. Joy shared the powerful video below that shows how today’s generation struggle with objective truths. As the host said at the end of the clip, “It shouldn’t be hard to tell a 5’9” white guy that he is not a 6’5” Chinese woman. Why? What does it say about our culture?” Watch and see for yourself.
Short session on Educational Funding
Up next was a short talk by Eric Nicdao on planning for your child’s college education. Based on Timmy’s current age, which is five, it will cost us 1.2 million to get him to a private college and 3.2 million to get him to an upper-tier private college. He gave some tips on proper budgeting such as monitoring one’s expenses, assessing how much should be allotted for homeschooling, and sticking to that budget. He also shared some graphs showing how much you need to save and where you should invest it depending on your financial goals. The talk was short but substantial! 🙂
Keynote session on Motivation
Andrew Pudewa’s keynote was my favorite in the entire conference along with his breakout session on Language Arts (more on that later). I really needed this because as a homeschooling mom there are days when my child doesn’t feel motivated to study. This session opened my eyes to a lot of things.
Andrew emphasized the importance of RELEVANCE. When it is present, learning is easy. When it’s not there, learning is difficult. This is true based on personal experience. If I am not able to relate our lesson to Timmy’s current interests or circumstances, he doesn’t see the reason why he needs to learn it. He quickly becomes disinterested.
There are 4 forms of Relevancy:
1. Intrinsic – your child’s natural interests; capitalize on this more
2. Inspired – picked up from someone the child respects and makes that interest his own
3. Contrived – taking something not so relevant and turn it into a game
4. Enforced – the topic is not relevant at all but we’re forcing it because we have to
I want to share a little bit about how my son is motivated when he learns something from intrinsic relevancy. Timmy loves basketball and any lesson we have that involves the NBA gets his full attention. Whenever he’s doing his shooting, we practice our skip counting. When he writes scores of NBA games on his whiteboard, it becomes his subtraction practice because he wants to find out the winning margin of the winning team. 🙂 The possibilities are endless!
Andrew said it best, “When kids have more freedom pursuing what they’re interested in, they learn better.” When they go deep, they absorb the subject more. Recently, Timmy’s been obsessed with planets. He just gobbles up every resource I give to him related to the subject. I made him a DIY Earth fact sheet and after thanking me his next response was, “Where are the ones for the other planets?” OKAY! Talk about pressure! Haha!
He is so fueled to learn astronomy on his own that he knows the moons of the planets already. 🙂 I’m just letting him go as deep as he wants as long as he’s interested in it. It’s pretty amazing when they’re self-motivated! 🙂
Andrew mentioned something about GAMES in the contrived relevancy. He said that games can bring about attitude shift. However, there are two rules for any game we’ll come up with: 1) It must be possible to win. 2) There should be a potential gain and a potential loss (both should exist).
There are 3 Laws of Motivation according to Andrew:
1. Children like to do what they can do.
2. Children want to do what they think they can do.
3. Children hate and refuse to do that which they believe they cannot do.
Having said that, he suggested that we spend 60% of our time on things our children can do, 20-30% on things they think they can do, and almost none at all on those they cannot do. My husband and I both agree on this as we are staunch believers of strengths-based learning.
He once told me about his student who spent a lot of time improving on math to the point that she neglected her other subjects already. When she refocused her efforts on the other subjects which she was better at and just managed her Math weaknesses, she was able to excel in the areas she was interested in!
Andrew closed the session saying that positive learning happens when our children know that we love them. At the end of the day, it all goes back to nurturing their heart first before their minds. 🙂
Keynote session on Leaving a Legacy
It was my first time to hear Bo Sanchez speak. I missed all of his talks at the National Book Store/Powerbooks head office when I used to work there. Who would’ve thought I’d get my chance in the conference?! 🙂 Bo opened his talk with a great quote, “The only way to hold on is to let go.” As parents, letting go is very hard to do but when we change our parenting style along the way every phase will be easier. He referred to this as “changing hats.”
Bo shared that we wear three hats over the course of our parenting years:
1. Controlling hat – when our kids are young; we set structure and boundaries; build a family culture and rituals (e.g. mealtime together)
2. Coaching hat – starts around 9 or 10 years old; we choose our battles and focus on more important things; provide guidance and give room for mistakes; “I trust you to make decisions”
3. Consultant hat – adult kids or when they’ve moved out already/married; like a consultant, speak only when you’re hired or asked
He said in closing, if we don’t change our hats we will lose our children. They won’t mature, our grandkids won’t mature, and we won’t mature. I couldn’t agree more. 🙂
Breakout session on the Ins and Outs of Homeschooling
Edric Mendoza talked about Homeschool 101. He said that “personalized education” is one of the main reasons why parents choose to homeschool. A 40:1 student-to-teacher ratio won’t cut it in today’s age. According to studies, “lack of personal interest” is one of the reasons why students drop out. If a child is forced to learn what everybody learns, he tends to sacrifice his own interests.
Edric also said homeschooled students in the Philippines increase by 27% per year compared to the 1.2% increase in regular school. He added that the homeschooling movement in the country is reaching a fever pitch and it really is the best the time to homeschool with all the support we have right now. 🙂
Breakout session on Language Arts
Andrew Pudewa’s breakout session on Language Arts was a gold mine! He shared so many insights on how we can help our children develop in the four language arts: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Let me go through them one by one.
Listening – There are many impediments to listening such as auditory pollution (too much noise), visual hyper stimulation (from using multiple devices), and digital culture (technology-driven lifestyle). Andrew said that the best solution to that is reading out loud to our children in HUGE quantities. He even suggested read aloud time be at 2 hours a day!
Listening is the foundational skill for speaking, reading, and writing. I remember the quote from Greek philosopher Epicetetus,
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
Andrew said that hearing is an automatic function but listening is a trained ability. We shouldn’t stop reading to our children even if they can already read on their own.
He brilliantly suggested the use of audio books to help the listening habit! Andrew gave librivox.org as a great resource for free audio books. 🙂 He also said that we should read above our child’s reading level so that their vocabulary and comprehension will continue to grow. I am also enjoying the audio books!
Speaking – It is useful for memorization and recitation as well as building language patterns (vocabulary and syntax or sentence formation). Andrew said that memorization grows the brain and that we should encourage our children to narrate what they’ve read. Narration promotes fluency, attention to detail, and is a precursor to composition. We can help facilitate writing by making a “key word outline” of our child’s ideas/content.
He added that memorization of poetry is great practice, too! Other ways we can help hone our children’s recitation skills is by exposing them to famous speech experts, drama, speech, and debate. Some resources he gave include “Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization” at the Institute for Excellence in Writing and involvement in organizations developing speaking skills such as Toastmasters International.
Reading – It is more of a brain function than it is an academic subject. Andrew shared the story of his son who didn’t read till he was 11 years old. But what helped him was he was being read to and he listened to audio books in huge quantities. Now he’s 19, a university student, and he can read anything. Parents must not despair because late reading is not a curse.
We should keep teaching with appropriate materials and continue to read aloud a lot to our kids. Again, he emphasized that we can read with our ears through audio books. 🙂
Writing – When you have a reluctant writer, Andrew said that content-based writing is a good place to start. It is when you use a source to retell existing ideas. He emphasized the value of copywork or copying text. It builds stamina and develops the child’s attention to detail. Copywork also reinforces the content and it acts as a bridge to composition. For my preschooler, we do short copywork after our story time. 🙂
That is an excerpt from Dr. Seuss’s “Lorax” and Timmy’s handwriting is the green one. He even added a sad face in the end because as we all know, the story ended with all the Truffala trees being cut. 🙁 Some of the free resources Andrew gave include the Reaching the Reluctant Writer mp3 found on his website iew.com and The Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing podcast series. 🙂
Breakout session on Interest-led Learning
Speaker Alex Hao is a homeschooling mom of three who is living out interest-led homeschooling. She said that this approach to learning involves fueling your child’s interest and just going along with it. Alex said something I’ll never forget,
“Your child is your curriculum.”
Get to know your child and you will know what to teach. Her approach is very free flowing because she is not limited by standard core curriculum. She takes her cue from her kids!
While listening to her, I wrote down all of Timmy’s current interests such as speedometers (Maybe learn about speed? We just got done with his weighing scale obsession. Haha!), sunrise and sunset (astronomy), and clocks (Perhaps explore clock making and time zones? He’s bored with telling time already. Timmy has exhausted telling time down to the minute like 7:53 instead of just 7:50. So yes, time to level up! 🙂 )
I was able to go to the expo where I got some really good Filipino story books, one of which was written by my Filipino literature college professor Michael Coroza. 🙂 I also got some 4D augmented reality cards, too!
I initially got space and dinosaurs then I changed the dinos to animals because I know Timmy loves animals more than dinosaurs although I like the latter more. Haha! Special shout out to Mars of Montessori on Mars for sharing her fantastic 4D finds! And best of all, meeting and catching up with fellow homeschoolers! Woohoo!!!
I also had a great lunch with my friends Sean and Apple Si (we forgot to take photos, guys!), wonderful parents who are planning to homeschool their kids. 🙂 So excited for your family! The whole time, though, I was wishing that my husband was with me. Next year, honey, we’ll overdose on vitamin C to make sure none of us get sick! 🙂
Hope you guys enjoyed reading through my lengthy post. I tried to be as complete as I could. 🙂 This conference encouraged me to be bolder in personalizing my child’s education more. It motivated me to become more interest-led rather than common-core driven. I was inspired to go deep, as far as my son wants, rather than go wide touching lightly every subject there is. What an eye-opening conference, indeed! Thank you to all the organizers! See you at next year’s Philippine Homeschool Conference!!! 🙂