Monday, February 20, 2017

First National Homeschooling Day of The Philippines

I got all excited for the first ever Homeschooling Day in the Philippines and you can learn more about HAPI here. I am delighted by the openness and that it's being organised in such a way that everybody can pitch in and do what little they can and it's does not have a groupie 'we know better' or 'its just us' vibe. 

I posted this in the Facebook group Davao Homeschool support group, then I posted it in the other homeschool groups I am in:

Would you guys like to participate? Here is what I have in mind:
Let's meet up and just say hi to each other.

Date: 3 March, Friday
Venue: Lasislawa Swimming Pool (just order your own food)
Time 3:30 to 5:30 pm 

If you are game just leave a comment with the following info:
                                   Your name:
                                   Children's name and ages:
                                   Homeschool Provider:
5 moms/ dads or both is good enough I think. But of course, the more the merrier You can bring your children. There is a playground or they can swim too if you like (Pool Fee: P100.00 per person) 

So far 8 people said they are interested. We have a theme, we have a hashtag, I can't wait for the meet up on March 3.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Nervous System

I am happy to share that my nervous system plan which I mentioned here is a success. I am going to interrupt my narrative with questions that I anticipated while writing this post, because I feel so giddy at the moment and the questions are coming up. I brought up the topic of the nervous system along with 2 books for with my 13 year old 3rd daughter and my 8 year old son.

We sprawled ourselves on the floor to learn about the nervous system after lunch, around 2:30 on Wednesday. Within 10 minutes, we were on "daldalan" (talkative, see Tagalog dictionary) mode.
Question 1: There is daldalan during academic lessons? 
Yes, I know it was bawal (forbidden) in the school I attended. I recall the heart palpitations and teary eyes and rage I experienced when I first saw my name on the blackboard under the heading most talkative. But I grew up and gained perspective, forgave everyone including myself, so that's behind me now. Yes, there is interruption and daldalan as we learn about the nervous system. We pause and segue a bit for connections, comments, suggestions and reactions. Example:
When I read this, “The midbrain and the hindbrain are considered the primitive brain because all organisms have them- or atlas the ones with a brain- from worm..." my 3rd daughter said, “Ew I don't like to think of a worm's brain” and my son said,  "Worms think..." And this prompted questions like Do worms think? What would they think about? Is the brain just for thinking? Etc. etc.

Sometimes I am the one needing the pause to make an exciting connection, examlple: When we were going through the parts of the brain and I read about the cerebellum and cerebrum scenes from the movie and the cartoon series Xmen flashed by with Professor X going to and being inside cerebro. I think that thought should be shared! Cerebro Cerebellum Cerebrum, cool right?

Question 2: If there are interruptions, am I not concerned that my children won't develop good listening skills? 
For me, the best guarantee that my 8 year old is listening is when he is excitedly participating. I used to be a bit more formal and asked my older kids to raise their hand or let me finish the sentence before asking but I now know and accept that at age 8, the joy of saying, " Hey I know that," is so genuine and urgent that my older children probably did not here the last few words of the sentence I was reading while signalling me that they have something to say. It does not mean that I never ask this two younger ones to raise their hand and let me finish the sentence. From time to time the need does arise but I no longer see interruptions as unnecessary or a sign of some future tragedy.

Question 3: So whats going to happen to my children when they go school and join the real world? 
They are in the real world. They are not in school and both are not likely going to go to school soon. They are at home with me, their mother and my son who at the moment is, Mr Aha I know That, is not going to be 8 forever. He is going to be 9 soon. There is time to improve. 

Going back to our afternoon, by 3:00 pm we have identified and coloured all the parts of the brain and we were moving on to the spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system. My son lost interest somewhere between the brain stem and the spinal cord so he was not mentally with us by the time we were reading up on reflex. He was still in the room but he was playing with his lego.

Question 4: Am I not worried/ annoyed that he is missing out on the topic/ subject?
Yup he is missing out! And I suppose he is saturated already. I am sure we will have another opportunity to tackle this and I would rather give my full attention to my third daughter who is interested. What a waste of momentum if I have to stop and reel in my son who has moved on to another activity on his own. I am highlighting what he has done like; coloring parts of the brain and connecting new information with what he knows rather than fret on the fact that he is missing on the  rest of the nervous system topic I prepared for. 

Question 5: Don't I feel bad that I prepared and he is not interested?
As Budhist monks can just throw away their sand art so I too can let go of my nervous system preparation. He participated long enough to give me a chance to work with my 3rd daughter better. 

I was able to demonstrate to my third daughter how one avoids and reacts to pain and how one's anticipation of pain can magnify pain itself. I got to show her how she can work with her breathing to cope with pain: sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system etc. I am very pleased with this.

Finally, time is up bu 4:00 and my third daughter requested for a quiz and time to read the book by herself when she comes home for swimming so she can have another quiz the next day!

Question 6: Did I give a quiz to my son too? Wouldn't a quiz be a perfect opportunity to show him what happens if he does not listen to the lesson?
Heck no! He is 8 and can hardly read on his own why would I give him a quiz? What's to gain? There is more to loose if I give him a quiz, like my hair that I might start pulling out while waiting for him to finish the quiz that I created (waste of my time) and he does not care about (waste of his time). 

I am going to make another nervous system quiz by request for Monday and because my 3rd daughter requested it, then it is not a waste of time but a challenge to partake in. I want to push things further by having a return demo of the breathing technique we did. She was not so into it last time, but I am and maybe my son will join in again...

 The human body topic/ unit study is in high gear now and by next week we should be able to move on to the skeletal system and maybe visit the bone museum or we can learn about the circulatory system and get a blood test done. I will ask them if they know their blood type.

Have a happy weekend!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Wrapping up Grade 10

What does that mean, wrapping up grade 10? That's what we call our decision to send our second daughter to Manila. She isn't exactly doing grade 10 and she is not senior high school coz she isn't even grade 10 yet based on the PEPT she took a few years ago she is grade 3. She is doing high school academic work and pursuing what sparks her. Because this whole Senior High school thing is new, we felt its best to give her the option to go to Senior High school if she wants too and we decided after doing the math and pros and cons list, this is the way to go for the following reasons:

Here in Davao it is given twice a year; June and November. Last year the November 2016 schedule was postponed and as of last week there was no schedule yet as to when it will be given here in Davao, but in Pasig you can walk-in and get a schedule. We don't expect our second daughter to pass this test in one sitting so it would be too expensive and unnecessarily time consuming if she stayed here and we have to fly to Manila for the PEPT which requires the following:
1. Go to Pasig, submit requirements, get a schedule - can be a week to 3 weeks away.
2. Go back to Pasig on the scheduled PEPT to take the test, and
3. Go back to Pasig to get results and repeat step 1 to 3 until she gets to Grade 10.

The first time she took the PEPT we skipped step 1 as the schedule was arranged for us. But this time we are doing it ourselves.

II. Violin Class, Orchestra and Music Theory
Her violin teacher told us last year that she is moving back to Manila and recommended another teacher in Manila too. And my second daughter learned that UP College of music has an Extension Program she can join. She also hopped to be able to join an orchestra.

III. Memories with the sister and other activities not available in Davao.
This move has got to be the ultimate bahay-bahayan! Sisters living together for a year! They have to run their little place, do their own cooking and grocery, coordinate and manage their time and watch shows together- something they like that we don't have much of in Davao. 

I have moments of restlessness and fear, like last week, she rode the jeep alone for the first time, you can read it here. She has never taken the jeep all by herself here in Davao. My 3rd daughter who rode the jeep when she went to Laguna for PhilSwim Short Course Swim Series 2016 had a lot say. I miss my two daughters. The house is different without the two of them. The sound of my second daughter practicing used to fill the house. I came home from the grocery with my son last Monday and the house was quiet. I used to hear her violin from the gate.

When I am worried and I miss my girls, I go back to the reasons why they are away. I call them and thank the heavens for FaceTime but there is nothing like a hug and a face to face chat. The hope is that they will blossom, in ways that we can not see how if they stayed with us. It is this hope that I hold on to when I long for them and my heart aches and my tears well up.

Have a hopeful week ahead...

Friday, February 3, 2017

How has interest-led learning shape the path of your children when choosing what college degree to pursue?

Part 5 of 5 Questions received after the Philippine Homeschool Conference 2016.

Out of out 4 children, its only our eldest who is in university. Yes she chose a course she was interested in. My eldest enrolled in ALS because she liked the idea that she might be able to go to university when I told her that I would like it if she had that option. And we talked about why its a good idea and possible courses. She did not decide on what course to take over night or on the eve of enrolment which is what happened to me when I enrolled for college 22 years ago.

When she got her high school diploma after passing the ALS, my husband asked her, "What is it that she really wants to do? As she is only passing through this life once. - This is so my husband, very open ended. While I asked her, "What do you want to do for college?" - implied that she is going to college. From here we worked out what is available and possible.

My second daughter is in Manila now wrapping up her grade 10 (more of this in another post). Her being in grade 10 is an estimate based on her age now. Mainly she is in Manila because her main interest is there and to take the PEPT. I don't know yet how we will do Senior High school and college is about 2 years away for her. So lets leave it at this for now.

May you have an interesting weekend... 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How do you measure if your child has learned enough based on what he is interested in?

Part 4 of 5 Questions received after the Philippine Homeschool Conference 2016.

My question is, Why should I measure their learning? What kind of yardstick should I use?

To gauge something means to set measurable parameters and that in itself can set the limit. Not that limits are wrong, but the fact is, this is their way of life. My children were not sent to school and I don't want to bring school home for them. The world will want to measure them, eventually, so I don't see the need to do it when they are young or worse because they happen to be interested in a subject/ topic: I suddenly have the right and/ or duty to come over and lord over the situation like some all knowing goddess who says what should matter when learning something because I will check it? I don't want that for myself.

My son asked for piano lessons. I think his older sister convinced him that playing the piano is a good idea. And here she is, reviewing the baby brother. 

Yes the big sister calls the little brother to review. They talk about piano stuff and what teacher Wendy said about this and that. Big sister is even more strict than the piano teacher according to the little brother. 

There's dynamics here that I can't even begin to explain but I see it and I am aware of it. Should I grade this? Should I give a star stamp to my son for being obedient to the older sister? Should I reward the older sister for helping the younger brother? I don't think so. 

I am not eager to put marks on what we are working on, even with Math, our only consistent academic work. Here is my son's math work a few months ago. As you can see he did not draw a line from the shape cone to the word cone. 
When I pointed this out to him, he said he has never seed a solid cone. All cones are hollow like an ice-cream cone and a party hat. And then he asked me if I have seen a solid cone. I said I couldn't think of one at the moment. I told him that there must be a solid cone somewhere, maybe a paper weight or something like that. He just nodded and we left it at that. If I were focused on scoring his work then I might have asked him to draw a line to the cone so I can give him a check mark and a score, discounting the fact he just mentioned. Would a move like that be fair or right?

As I have seen with my eldest child and now my second daughter, they are willing to do things needed when they are up to something. When they understand why they need tests like SATS, ALS, PEPT, ABRSM etc. they go ahead and do it. For my eldest child she now regularly reviews for quizzes and exams in University. Something that was not a regular thing when she was homeschooling. I am now convinced that such tests should not be part of childhood specially when there are very limited resources and opportunities to begin with, which seems to be the case with my second daughter.

Monday, January 30, 2017

What if, after starting a lesson/ activity or learning a new topic, your child loses interest?

Part 3 of 5 Questions received after the Philippine Homeschool Conference 2016.

Do you convince them to carry on or do you just allow them to move on?

I do not persuade them to carry on. It might just be a step as high as an ant hill but if they see it as a useless climb up Everest, why carry on? We don't have grades or quizzes unless we are playing and I don't keep tab of the scores. I am talking about academic and creative pursuits, not housework or taking care of pets or handling relationships/ friendships.

We encourage our children to write their thoughts (essay, poem, diary, blog). They all know that we look forward to reading what essay or poem(s) they comes up with. Which brings me to a realisation that I haven't read a written piece from my eldest for sometime now! There are no grades or prices for a job well done.  We talk about what they have written and sometimes point out misspelled words, grammar, capitalisations and punctuation marks. But the best correction will come from them in the future when they look at their work and see what they missed. They might even expand the work they started years ago...
Photo of my second daughters work that I read and kept.
No need for red marks for the budding writer/ artist.
When I want to do something, I tell my children why I want them to do it or why I think its important that they try it. Right now, I am planning to work on the human body, just a short part about the nervous system. This is a subject that I don't think my 12 and 8 year old will pick up on their own. I want to do this because I think it will be useful for them and I found some good materials that we already have. Its up to them to read more or move on from there. Maybe I will make this our theme for February. What could be a good field trip for this? Now I am excited! 

Friday, January 27, 2017

How far do you take "interest-led" learning?

Part 2 of 5 Questions received after the Philippine Homeschool Conference 2016.

 Do you pursue every interest your child mentions to you? The question sounds dreadfully tedious. I am a supporting role when it comes to my children's interests. Its awesome when I happen to be interested in what they are into, but if I am not, then I just let them be. They have the freedom to take it as far as they want because they do have the time for it. Our only fixed academic work is Math. And how long do they work on Math:
For my 16 year old its about 30 minutes to an hour depending on the lesson and the lecture from Mondays to Fridays.  
For my 12 year old, it's 45 minutes Mondays to Fridays, and 
For my 8 year old its about 30 minutes on M, W, Th, F . 

Whatever they are interested in is also what we talk about, laugh about and ponder on. Everybody in the family gets to pick up something from the other's interest. And this is where I come in; to listen, give feedback, make sure its safe and look up resources that I show them. Some interests stay for years, others weeks, days only. There is no need for a paper or a quiz or an oral recitation to check on what they have learned.

Here is a sample of  pursuing an interest: Last year, my third daughter rescued a hen and a rooster that she named Beatrice and Axl. The hen, Beatrice laid eggs which got her into reading about chickens.

Correction: more than 3 eggs were laid 2 hatched but only 1 survived

Now she is still at it. Bebitka, the egg that hatched is so loved. So far, aside from feeding Bebitka, there are dance moves, a sort of lullaby and games for the beloved chicken. If you happen to be interested in chickens you might like this blog. Here is the latest photo of Bebitka. I still can't believe my daughter can carry the chicken with such confidence!
Bebitka wrapped in newspaper because it is a cold day. 
When they are interested in something they naturally talk about it, and it gets everybody in the house a bit into it too. The next thing we know, we have invested in it already: a field trip,  a book, we visit a friend or enrolled in a class etc. I think it is vital to have enough space, physically and mentally that they are able to say: let me go try that or I want that, or I will do that. 

If you are thinking about interest led homeschooling go ahead. It does not mean that you won't initiate or introduce topics but do lay low on the lesson planning and scoring/ grading work.  Instead go for feedback, conversation and experiences. Prepare your heart and mind to learn with your child and discover what they can do. I often find myself being taught.

What if what they are interested in is wrong? Then they are likely not going to talk about it openly. People make mistakes and it happens that young people can choose unwisely. What's wrong is wrong.  Instead of punishing and judging its better to retrace one's steps, understand why the decision/ action is wrong and move forward.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why Interest Led Learning?

Part 1 of 5 Questions received after the Philippine Homeschool Conference 2016.

When we started homeschooling the children were ages 9, 6 and 2 . At first my mind set was to teach/present the subjects to them vey much like how I was taught. About 2 years after we started we had a new baby in the family and between breastfeeding, changing diapers, catching up on sleep etc it wasn't possible for me to be available to teach/present/work on the subject the way thought I should. Instead of feeling low, I started asking myself:
Why do I even have to do all the things I think I should do? 
What really mattered to me when I was child? 
When was I happiest? What was memorable? 
What am I interested in? As oppose to, what should we be learning?
Photo from 2008 that  I share during the PHSC 2016 breakout session.

From my answers, I felt I can relax and so I lessened my goal and told myself that I will just read one book in the afternoon for all 3 children since I have a newborn to care for and I do need my rest. We became laid back and the kids played a lot and did a bit of math. Until our baby was about a year old and things became more predictable.

What are the advantages?
There's no prodding needed. Each child can go as far as they want with a given topic/subject and because of that I have less to do. They are motivated because they are interested. I think now that I became respectful of where my children are in that season of their lives. I think it was at this time that I saw how the what ifs of the larger world can be momentarily cast aside. I also discovered that I have forgotten how to play for the sake of playing and how liberating it was to be included in a make believe game that isn't really going anywhere. Yes, it was a melancholy way for me to waste time. I could have organised my table or clean my drawers but instead I played a make believe game for the whole morning. I remembered the games I had with my playmates and my sister and I hope my kids will remember that I played with them. They were dead serious when they told me to say silly lines and reminded me to change the way I talk so I can stay in character.

Is there a downside to this approach?
Yes, something's always got to give no matter how good the deal is. I notice that my kids can go in-depth with subjects they are interested in but can abandon subjects that they don't like. I have also been asked; what if what they want to learn is wrong?

What about the core subjects like Math, Science, Language Arts, Filipino?
Subjects sort of intertwine. Example, when my eldest daughter was into ballet she read human anatomy and was well verse with dancers' injury , etc., She also knows a lot about Russia than anybody in our house. Let's take a look at the core subjects mentioned:

I am not good in Math and my kids know this. Early on we established that this is a subject that must be done. No matter how slow or fast, we will do it. The only way I can think of doing math is through baking but I am not creative enough to expand this. So, I rely on workbooks. 

We don't do science every year. It's very sporadic. My 12 year old daughter did grade 3 science earlier last year but lost interest. The 3 times I bought science materials, they were not maximised unless I initiate. Its a bit different for high school, my eldest did Biology and Chemistry. My second child who is currently in Manila wrapping up her grade 10 did Biology and is now doing Chemistry. I hope she goes ahead and do Physics. I did Physics and I don't even know how I passed.

For Language Arts, we don't have it every year. I read aloud to my children and my 16 year old reads to my 8 year old (before she left for Manila).

We don't do Filipino at all. I feel certain that if I forced it, I will just ruin it for them. I am surprised that my eldest who is now in university and has never been taught Filipino as a subject is considering minoring in Filipino now. I tried doing Filipino, but it always went nowhere. I would buy a book then read the first 2 to 5 pages then we somehow forget it exists. My eldest learned Filipino when she attended the ALS review. I had Filipino in school and again I don't know how I levelled up. I just did.

Although geography was not mentioned as a core subject, I think a geography workbook will be really fun, but we are still waiting for the Geography Book my son and I ordered last September in Book Depository. It's still not here to date!!!

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