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Thursday, August 10, 2017

I am happy with Independent Homeschooling

Because of my last post, I received a follow up question that goes: 

Hi, Alex Hao! I listened to your talk at the last HAPI homeschool conference and was much inspired by your courage in going the indie route. Still teetering on the brink of taking the plunge ourselves and so I wondered if you could write a similar blog post on the benefits of independent homeschooling. And if you could do it over again, would you? What would you do differently, if any? Thanks for the inspiration!


Turns out writing about the advantages of independent homeschooling is much harder than I thought for the simple reason that this is our way of life. When I think of advantages its like saying on top of things or on top of what is normal or compared to another norm or situation independent homeschooling is better for the following reasons. I don't see how I can fairly compare our way of doing things to how others do it and call it an advantage. But I am happy that our decision to independently home school our children translated to: 

1. I get to spend a lot of time with my children. My husband and I get to share ourselves with our children doing activities that matter to each of us, if not to all of us. We have unhurried mornings. My husband comes home for lunch everyday and we are able to take advantage of that too. We get to talk about all sorts of things and answer questions that begin with "During your time..." - a general reference to when mom and dad was younger.

2. It is so satisfying to watch my children choose what they want to learn and it makes things easy for me to impart what I think needs to be imparted since we can pick up and let go our own topics. 

My 3rd daughter remembers countries and historical events because she likes reading about real life princesses. Such information might be useless but I am not here to judge on such matters as I have other more important and sometimes pressing issues to consider and address. The fact that she can relate it to historical events and use it to prove a point is in some days brilliant and funny. And who knows where she will be in the future it might come handy for her. It was also her decision to take care of the chickens given to my husband and she is following through that decision. Its not a subject or a project, its the way things are for her because she wanted to save those chickens. So after breakfast and on most afternoons before going to swimming in the afternoon she attends to them.

3. Academic work is an accepted necessity and not a matter of levelling up. There are basic stuff like spelling and math, but how fast they go is not an issue. How far they want to take it is up to them and of course the resources around them. I go back to #2. Its easier to teach a bit of spelling or geography when the topic is already interesting. Its easier for me not to explode like a roaring volcano when they don't get the topic at hand. I can't imagine not freaking out or having panic moments if we had a deadline.

When the children were young family activities are the highlight and become the main activity rather than academic work. This means that when somebody has a birthday academics are set aside to brainstorm and make birthday cards and/or posters or buy a gift etc. As they got older this died off slowly and I started hearing my older kids  prioritize finishing a book or math work or practicing the violin over making a birthday card with their younger siblings. Which brings me to #4.  

4. I am happy there was a time when family and family happenings took precedence over everything else. Now this is a memory no longer our reality. Our family is changing and we can never go back to how it was. We can only remember it now. 

5. I am happy that things/ trends etc gets filtered. Though I did not realize how important this would be as this was not the goal when we made the decision to home school. 

Example: 

Books: When my eldest was a teenager (oh gosh!! I can't believe i just typed that! She turned 20 last week) I banned popular teenage books and called them a waste of brain space. Teen magazines are not welcome in our house too. What with all the must have lists that one would be better off with out at an age when they don't have income or allowance. I threw them out whenever someone gave one to my kids.

Here is another example:
Last year, while lining up in the grocery,  a boy of about  6 years old was begging his mother to buy him a trendy snack. My son looked concern as the scene was beginning to escalate, meaning the little boy's voice was getting louder than the bleep sounds of the code bar machine and grocery music. The mother held her ground despite the loud begging from her son. When they left a Lola behind me said, "And bait ng anak mo. Buti sya hindi nagpapabili." I smiled but what I wanted to say is, "Hindi po nya kasi alam ano yan." Heck! I would be out of my mind and inviting trouble to introduce trendy snacks to my kids. Though I was not able to explain this to the Lola in the grocery, I don't think I have a particularly well behaved child. I just have less challenges because we have less exposure to what is hot for the season.

I am happy when I get compliments about my children's good behaviour. But I think it boils down to the time I spend hanging out with them and the fact that things/ trends filtered out for them. My children know what's going to tick and please me and vice versa. I have come to accept that expecting my children (less than 12 years old)  to gamely check out shops or line up for whatever when they are hungry is stretching things far enough for them. So I don't do that. Teenagers though have a different stretch.

6. I still celebrate what I believe to be savings I am making though I don't have a mathematical way of putting this. I am happy when we buy/ choose materials together, but I feel like a winner now that my younger children are reusing materials that my older kids used a few years ago! 
 
I would home school my children independently again because the days are long but the years go by in a blink. I like where we are now and how my children are. I like that independent homeschooling allowed us the space and time to just be by ourselves as we were. The choice to take the children out of school  was a practical one rather than a sentimental or ideological one for our family. My children are OSY (out of school youth). They are not palaboy, but they are not in school. I embrace this fact as a choice we, their parents made for them.  Yes they are being educated at home but the education they are getting is not necessarily better than what schools are giving or what an umbrella school may provide and I don't see how it is less. To get back to mainstream school there's PEPT and ALS. And my eldest chose the ALS route while my second chose the PEPT route. Each have their own reasons. And both test have pros and cons.

 If I could change anything in our journey, I would change our house. I want a color coded organized space. I should have had a bigger kitchen with aircon, space for pets: dog, cat, chicken, rabbit, and fish and I would not keep moving the piano because as my second daughter said: its not furniture, its a musical instrument that has to be tuned. And I think tuning the piano costs a lot since I can not tell anyway if the piano is untuned, but my kids can. Or better yet, I really ought to have changed my attitude about our house not being perfect. 

I have written about our choice to home school back in 2013 as guest of the Learning Basket's Heart of Homeschooling Series and you can read about it here. I don't want to convince others to go independent on account of what seems to be the advantage of doing so. My take is, go independent for the realistic, practical and hopeful whys that you have in your head and your heart.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What are the Disadvantages of Independent Homeschooling

This is not to discourage my reader from going independent and our family don't represent all independent homeschoolers in our city more so the country. I have been asked this question 3 times already this year and saw it this morning in Homeschoolers of The Philippines Facebook group. Here is what I know:
  1. If I need proof of academic learning in the form of a numerical or alphabetical grade then I don't have any. 
  2. If I need to declare a grade level, it can be confusing. We don't  have grade levels. Example, my 3rd daughter turned 13 in the first quarter of the year. She is doing grade 7 math, occasionally reads science books, is currently learning about Napoleon Bonaparte, is listening to me read The Count of Monte Cristo, crochets in the afternoons, is having a very hard time with her grade 4 Filipino workbook, takes care of 2 hens and a rooster and swims everyday, what grade level is she?
  3. We often fore go student discounts in establishments/activities that offer discounts because we don't have a school ID.
  4. When our eldest child said she wanted to go to university, we had to navigate through the requirements. Not a bad thing but very challenging for those who, like me, don't live in Metro Manila because provincial DepEd offices from what I have experienced 4 years ago are not used to handling uncommon cases. And now for my second child there's the whole senior high school thing. 
  5. I noticed with my children that when they are interested in an activity/ topic / academic subject they are super into it and spend a lot of time on it. They become pretty good at it but they remain poor in academic subjects that they are not interested in. And I think this is also because:
    • there are no good materials available or 
    • we could not find a good teacher/ tutor, or 
    • there are no clubs/ tutor service/ activity related to the subject as is the case with Filipino which I cannot teach because I am neither good at it nor am I interested in it. 
  6. There are educational activities or pursuits that we put resources on: time, money, etc that friends, family and our own upbringing consider folly and this is the pitfall of almost all mothers I know, guilt. And guilt can bite! Throw in self doubt and blame and there's the perfect recipe to freeze. 
  7. It did not save us money in the long run. My husband and I have not been in the habit of paying school fees that when our eldest entered college, the tuition fee was a regal shocker and it gobbled up what little we were able to set aside from not paying school fees in one go! Yes, we were able to save a bit in the beginning and we also did not spend money we did not have on school fees but there are lesson fees and field trips and the list can go sky high.
Freedom is not all rosy and independence can sometimes mean feeling all alone even when surrounded by all that is familiar. Thanks to the Facebook groups I am in where like minded people culminate.
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