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!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

And just like that 2016 is over.  I regret not updating this space. I blame it on life and Instagram. I don't even know what to highlight from last year as so much happened and I think that if I try, I might spend all my energy looking back. Still, I want to share one highlight from last year; The Philippine Homeschool Conference.  I am stating this year by sharing some of the questions I received after the Philippine Homeschool Conference talk. I hope to attend the conference again this year, assuming there will be one. I hope the stars align for this.

Sharing the poster and some pictures from PHSC 2016.

My profile that the organisers made that made me feel extra special.
And they made one for Ashley too. I wish I took a better video of her.

The most memorable question I got during the breakout session Q and A came from a homeschooling dad. His question was something like: What does your husband say/ do or where does he fit in all this?
My answer: My husband is the promotor (the guy who rallies everybody to carry on), general manager, financier and the calm that I need. He seems to be in the back burner but homeschooling the children was something he thought we should do and here we are 10 years later.

I wish that I had more time to go around and say hi to other moms and families. My next 5 posts will be the questions I got after PHSC 2016. Happy New Year to all!!!
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