23 Apr What I’ve Learned From Our First Year of Homeschooling
We’ve just wrapped up our first “official” year of homeschooling! By that I mean the first year we are enrolled in a DepEd-accredited homeschool provider. We have been homeschooling for as long as I can remember (since birth, I guess? Haha!). But it wasn’t until when Timmy turned five that we enrolled him at Peniel Integrated Christian Academy, an educational institution with a regular school (located in Rizal) and a homeschool arm. c”,)
We actually started our school year last January 2016 and finished by December. Yup, we homeschooled the whole year because learning never stops! We had multiple breaks in between so it’s not like we labored the whole year. Haha! Besides, we only allot a couple of hours a day for homeschool so that it’s not too taxing for my then five-year-old who turned six last December. Although he is advanced in Math and Reading, I still have to keep in mind that he is a child first more than a wizard of some sort. He needs more play than study time at his age. Besides, learning through play works wonders! c”,)
As a parent-teacher, I’ve learned a lot last year and I’d like to share them with you! I hope this encourages those of you who plan to homeschool or are currently homeschooling. c”,)
ORGANIZE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.
Organizing is my weakness. My husband can attest to that. Haha! When you’re homeschooling, you’ve got to have the most basic organizing skill. As much as we finished Kindergarten way ahead of schedule, I found myself cramming weeks before his graduation. I was checking papers, recording grades, and sorting his worksheets by quarter for his year-end portfolio. My stress-free homeschool mantra went down the drain as I was so stressed with paperwork! I really like learning the hard way. Huhu. This school year, I am committing to be more organized for my son’s sake and mine. Haha!
I have an organizer cardboard bag that has dividers inside where I’m starting to put Timmy’s worksheets by quarter. I wanted something handy that I can carry and sift through easily. It’s not sorted by subject yet but at least it’s a start. I started with my lesson plans last week for some subjects. I’m pretty much set for the others. Hopefully, I’ll be able to sustain it with the Lord’s help! c”,) I don’t want to cram again! Not going back to college habits. Haha!
GET YOUR HUSBAND INVOLVED.
My husband, Omar, is really my hero in the truest sense of the word. I am mathematically handicapped so you can just imagine how overwhelmed I was looking at the grading sheet template sent to me by our provider. Omar swooped in to rescue me and helped me in encoding and computing some of Timmy’s grades, sorting out the grading system, and explaining to me how it worked. He used to be a teacher anyway! He did the first two subjects while I encoded the rest with confidence. Haha! I learned from the best! But my husband played a bigger role than just helping me with the grades.
He is my partner in raising Timmy to be a God-fearing and God-loving person. We are on the same page when it comes to biblical discipline and controlled gadget use. Obedience and respect are the two biggest things in our household. We both believe that molding our son’s character is more important than grades. An obedient heart is a teachable heart. Thus, it directly affects our homeschooling. If we don’t instill obedience and respect, I would have a difficult time homeschooling him. The success of a family’s homeschooling lies heavily on the character of the child. Is our son perfect? Absolutely NOT. But is he growing in character? Yes, and that’s all that matters. c”,)
Omar supports the rules and conditions I set at home and I do the same. We try our best not to override each other’s decisions. It also shows a unified front before our son. No good cop, bad cop. Mom and dad are always on the same page. If I say, he’s not yet done and he can’t play yet. Daddy reinforces it.
This also applies to non-homeschooling rules I’ve set like for every new toy/book that Timmy gets, he gives away the same number or more. And I let him decide. If I tell Timmy that he needs to save up in order to buy something, Omar encourages him to save and do more chores so he can add more to his piggy bank. We can leave a store not buying what our son wants with Daddy’s full approval. Below is a picture of Grapes, the first toy Timmy bought from his cleaning up, washing dishes, and other chores!
He is our principal and head accountant so I consult him with my homeschool purchases to make sure that we stick to the budget. c”,) I tend to overspend on books sometimes and Omar keeps me accountable. I sort of work on a monthly budget and when I go overboard, I abstain from buying the following month. He still has the final say on our major homeschooling decisions after considering my input as well. He even helped me organize the South Homeschoolers meet up during the National Homeschool Day celebration! Having your husband involved will make a huge impact in your homeschooling journey. c”,)
YOUR CHILD IS THE CURRICULUM.
We first started doing Five in a Row at the start of our school year. My son loves books so the literature-based curriculum was perfect for him. However, somewhere along the way, I got lost in the pressure of following the regular school’s syllabus. Let me clarify that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I would actually recommend homeschoolers who want a complete, laid out curriculum for the year to follow their provider’s syllabus.
Peniel makes it easy for newbie homeschoolers to get a feel for how they can make homeschooling work for them by giving a quarterly line up of what a parent should teach. They even give a copy of their quarterly exams so if you want to check your child’s level based on what is being taught in regular schools, you can actually let your child take that for assessment purposes. I highly recommend Peniel to every parent I meet who plans to homeschool. Plus, Teacher Au is super nice and accommodating. c”,)
But if your child has different interests and pace (like mine) then you should definitely follow his lead. Believe it or not, your child will help you with what you teach. Timmy shows me if my technique is not working. He also makes me realize if the subject is not relevant to his age and how he needs me to make it relevant to him. A teachable moment for my son also becomes a teachable moment for me. This school year, I’m going back to the drawing board and create a customized lesson plan and syllabus for Timmy. Which brings me to my next point.
ALWAYS GO BACK TO THE REASON WHY YOU HOMESCHOOL.
We homeschool for many reasons (i.e. values formation, flexibility, more dynamic learning, etc.) but one of the biggest reasons is tailored education. You can personalize lessons for your child, following his interests and leveraging his strengths. I am super excited about our full Astronomy science this year (Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy)! I’m also eager to start Story of the World with Timmy for his history, First Language Lessons and Explore the Code for English/Reading, and Writing with Ease for his writing. We are still using Learning Math with Albert in conjunction with Math Mammoth Blue Series. I’m going for a local textbook for Filipino. c”,)
I spent a couple of weeks comparing, researching, and contrasting different materials before finally deciding on the books we will use. Thanks to some input from other homeschooling moms, I was able to choose a curriculum for each subject that fits Timmy to a tee! c”,) I’m sure there will be learning curves along the way especially now that I have to do Timmy’s quarterly assessment exams because we’re using different curricula. But with total dependence on God and guidance from my husband, I know it will be a fun and exciting learning journey!
The truth is, there are good days and bad ones. When the latter happens, ask the Lord to remind you why you homeschool. Sometimes I find myself extending our session despite knowing full well that my son’s attention span is only good for a certain amount of time. I fall into this trap whenever we miss homeschool days. This usually doesn’t end well because I end up pressuring him and he ends up losing concentration. There are days when I should’ve just let go and continued the next day.
But momma can be stubborn and forgetful, too. (Sorry, Lord! And sorry, my dear son!) I tend to forget that homeschooling gives us the freedom to be flexible—a luxury that I sometimes refuse to avail of because there are days when I can’t shake the nagging feeling that we’re behind in a non-existent competition.
Learning is a journey, not a race. Homeschooling allows you to relish this journey and nurture the naturally inquisitive and creative mind of your child. You shouldn’t allow outside pressure to take this learning adventure away from you. Don’t allow paperwork to take precedence over passion for learning. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m also saying these things to myself. Haha! I need God’s grace to remind me time and time again why we homeschool so I can move forward with a renewed mind.
KNOW WHEN NOT TO HOMESCHOOL.
Homeschooling parents are excellent in finding opportunities to teach on-the-go. We can use anything as a learning opportunity wherever we are. The downside to that, in my case at least, is not knowing when to draw the line. My husband does a good job of nudging me and saying, “Homeschool na naman!” (Homeschool again!) Hahaha! Gotta love this guy. I’ve learned that there are moments when I just need to relax and enjoy what we’re doing without having to consciously teach something unless of course, Timmy asks. c”,) Chill, momma, chill.
But yes, it takes experience and self-control to know when to pull back and when to make something a springboard for learning. I’m still growing in this area! You know what? Even if we don’t teach, our children learn something! Their natural curiosity fuels them. Sometimes all they need from us is to be ready to answer when they ask a million whats and whys. c”,)
APOLOGIZE AND APOLOGIZE SOME MORE.
In homeschooling, I am nurturing two relationships with my son—the parent-child and teacher-student relationships. Just like any other relationships, we have our disagreements, too. It’s not as complicated or blown out of proportion as adult conflicts but it has the same power struggle and tension. I have apologized to my son on instances when I raised my voice at him because he wasn’t focusing. I’ve asked for his forgiveness for overextending our study time because I knew I stressed him out.
Our children are more understanding and forgiving than what we give them credit for. Timmy would say “It’s okay” and “I forgive you” as easy as 1-2-3. While I struggle doing so when he disobeys me! I would say I forgive him but my heart would still be racing due to frustration. It’s hard but the Lord is teaching me a lot about humility in our homeschooling journey.
I remember preparing a nice visual for his math activity and Timmy didn’t want to use it because he couldn’t get the concept using the two hands with foldable fingers. Regardless if I spent a lot of time doing it if it’s not working, the logical thing to do is to ditch it, right? But no! I still forced it a couple more times before giving up and finding another approach that would suit him.
The new approach worked! It required more preparation but it helped him. I had to swallow my pride and throw away what I did and tell my son, “I made this for you, Timmy, a new one. I noticed you really had a hard time with the other one that mommy made. I’m sorry.” He quickly got the number bonds concept using the new approach. He was happier, too! c”,)
Don’t be too hard on your child and don’t be too hard on yourself. Be generous in giving a clean slate to each other with lots of allowance for mistakes. Remember that the thrust of homeschooling is character formation—humility, patience, hard work, integrity, love, and more. The academics will follow when both our hearts are in the right place. c”,)
RELY ON THE LORD.
This should’ve been the first point but I wanted to give you a rundown of the realities of homeschooling to build my case that you need to be 100% dependent on the Lord. You need His guidance and wisdom. I’ve struggled with carving out a special time with Him last year and I realized that the busier I was, the more I needed that quiet moment with Him every single day. Nothing can strengthen us more than praying to Him and reading His Word. We need Jesus to fill us so we have something to give to our husband and children.
Most of you know that I have Lupus and the verse that I’ve always hung on to was 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. I realized that this verse is so applicable to homeschooling, too! God’s power is really manifested in our weakness.
During days when I’m second guessing myself, the Lord will encourage me with a random comment from my son like, “I’m so happy you’re my teacher, mommy.” or “I really, really like it when we homeschool!” Jesus knows exactly when I need a boost of confidence. After Timmy’s graduation, my husband gave me a gift for all the effort I gave last school year. I got teary-eyed because I knew that it was God’s grace at work. I mean teaching Timmy was all in a day’s work but to even get a reward of some sort was humbling and heartwarming. *sniff sniff*
Our first official homeschool year was a great kindergarten adventure! We had more memories than memorization, more laughter than lessons, and more playtime than paperwork. c”,) And just like any other adventure, we had gone through some learning curves and conflict caverns. Nonetheless, we always end up at the right destination with lots of hugs, kisses, and tickles. c”,) I am grateful to have cherished every single day of my son’s kindergarten year. It was a year of growth for me as well. Am I excited this school year? Absolutely! Am I scared? You bet! But knowing that the Lord goes before me and that my husband is walking alongside me makes homeschooling a whole lot easier. c”,) Cheers to more homeschooling adventures this year!