This school year has been a transformative period in our homeschooling journey. We’ve been doing this for almost six years now and honestly, I haven’t really been an intentional Teacher Mom. Upon choosing to homeschool our daughter, RyRy, who was 5 years old back then, I had this perfect vision that I can handle this smoothly and would stay on track like nothing will go wrong.
Well, nothing actually went wrong. But you know, life is so unpredictable that the same year we started our study was also the same year we welcomed our new baby, moved houses and was the time we were most challenged financially. But with things we have control over, we can adjust. The one thing I overlooked and had no control of is our daughter’s readiness for formal lessons. It was such a struggle to teach her which made it stressful for me and traumatic for her.
It took us two years for her to learn how to read and I regret forcing her during those times when clearly she wasn’t emotionally and mentally ready. Learning became a chore for her. Dreading to wake up in the morning, she would throw a fit which would affect my mood as well. So I took that as a lesson and became more understanding which made me decide I would let our youngest, Miguel, enjoy unhurried childhood even if it means delaying with formal lessons.
Delaying school is not a bad thing.
Alongside our progress in our homestudy, we have made a decision to enrol with a provider to help us with the journey. Since we’ve been an independent homeschooler for quite sometime, RyRy needed to take the Philippine Educational Placement Test or PEPT. A PEPT is for people who did not attend a formal school (or as they call it in our system: Out Of School Youth) and are seeking to re-enter a school or for employment. It is to test the knowledge of a person on the five major subjects (English, Math, Science, Filipino and Araling Panlipunan) and the number of exams will depend on how many grade levels a person missed as an informal student. RyRy missed 4 levels which means this March, she’s taking Grade 1 to 4 exams.
I want her to pass. I want her to be placed in the same grade level most kids her age are in (she’s 10 now). In my heart, I know we didn’t do well over the past years especially when I looked up reviewers online. She’d probably fail two grade levels and I don’t think I can handle people scrutinizing me for choosing to homeschool my children.
WAIT A MINUTE. This is not what homeschooling is about! Success is not determined by high grades alone. A person’s character plays a vital role as well.
When the Department of Education told me that should RyRy fail one test, she can just retake but, if she fails 2, she would have to repeat all exams! At first I was pressured until it dawned on me that she doesn’t need a do over IF she fails. I don’t want to make her feel like her life depends on this test. I will not let grades, an exam, a failure, define who she is.
Which brings me back to the days in the past where people frowned the idea of repeating grade levels. We call them repeaters during those times and they didn’t uphold a very good reputation in school. These kids, these repeaters were treated differently in class. They were the ones being placed at the very back of the classroom because they were dubbed as troublesome kids. It was basically first hand prejudices.
If we only knew back then that it’s okay to fail and to try again. I we only knew that maybe those kids needed more time than others, we would have not called them names. We could have praised them for showing up every single day in school and encouraged them to be more diligent.
“We see childhood as an important part of human’s life and not as a race to adulthood. We believe and respect the fact that children have the right to a happy childhood”
– There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather
And if we think in such way, we could have learned from the people in Finland not to put too much pressure on young kids. In Finnish tradition, they only start formal teaching at the age of seven and teachers don’t actually force a student to learn reading unless the child shows interest in it. Yet Finland is one of the most literate country on Earth. Children were allowed to have a happy childhood who eventually turned out to be happy adults making them the top happiest country in the whole world.
When numbers don’t matter.
One of our toilet’s flush broke down a couple of weeks ago which compelled us to use a bucket to rinse it manually. After taking a shower, I noticed RyRy filling up the bucket and as I stood there in silence she began telling me, “I’m filling it up just in case you need to flush.” My heart. She actually cares. She was courteous enough to think of the next person who will use the bathroom and literally thought how can she make it easier for others. In an instant, all my worries about her upcoming test suddenly went away.
Meanwhile, something similar happened this time with our 5-year-old son. After coming from the grocery, I divided tasks among my children before they went on with their daily afternoon outdoor play. I asked RyRy to tidy up the rooms, making sure toys were neatly placed in the boxes while Miguel helped me unload the car. As my son carries the shopping bag in the house, he gave way and opened the door for me saying, “I’m opening the door for you because that (bags I’m carrying) is heavy.” Again, my heart.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re number one in your class or you get high grades all the time. People will not come up to kids quizzing them what’s x+y, but they will quickly notice a child’s behavior. If we don’t train the younger generation to be mindful of others, they won’t go far in this life.
I’m not saying we’re perfect. We are far from it. We make mistakes, our kids are sometimes unruly, they fight a lot but these things humble us and makes me get down on my knees and ask the Sovereign for guidance.
“Instead of educating the I.Q., we need to educate the H.Q., the heart quotient, the matters of truth, love, justice, and compassion.”
– Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook
Importance of knowing the purpose.
There are quite a couple of other factors why we didn’t succeed in our initial homeschooling. It’s not merely because my child wasn’t ready, it’s also because of a lack of purpose for the teacher (that’s me) and ignorance on the approach (the curriculum).
I’ve just recently watched Cheer, a docuseries on Netflix, that tells the story of this cheerleading team in Texas who were said to be the best in the whole United States. The drama of course came in as viewers were shown the background of this kids, where they came from before joining the team. They were the sexually molested, went to jail, did drugs, suicidal kids who were eventually saved by cheer because of this one person who knew that her purpose in life is not win more trophies but to take care of these troubled children. That person is the team’s coach. She had this great impact to these champions that despite the many hard things that they had to endure during the practices, they had nothing but love and praise for their coach. Couple of kids went on and said, “I would do anything for her. I would literally die for her.” This coach’s purpose was clear and so the work was effective.
You know what? You could be that coach to your own children if you have a clear perspective to start hitting the goal.
I knew what my purpose was from the beginning. I knew that I needed to teach my children but it was pretty much vague when it came to the whys and hows. There was no essence in what we’re doing. The feeling when you drag yourself out of the bed each morning doing the same things over and over again, I don’t want that kind of life for me or for my children. I want reasons. I crave for knowledge not just information and I believe this is where the curriculum comes in.
For one person to have a grasp, to be really intentional about something they want to do, it’s not enough to be just ready. She must be willing to go through lengths of learning by reading, talking to people and did I say reading? It was such a blessing to be introduced to Charlotte Mason by a friend, Gina. At first, I did not understand her and this whole CM thing. But as the years went by, as I saw my children grow older, my thirst for deeper meaning in life increased until I could not contain it anymore.
“…it is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends, in even a greater degree than upon the fathers, because it is the mothers who have the sole direction of the children’s early, most impressible years.”
– Charlotte Mason, Home Education
It was through Gina’s work, her lectures, that I realized Ms. Mason’s approach is very much aligned to the beliefs and values we uphold in this family. Charlotte Mason defined Education as an atmosphere, a discipline and a life which basically translates to everything that has and can impact a child: the environment they live in, the food they eat, the air they breathe, the kind of parents they have, their faith. It is an extensive definition especially if most of us think that we can confine education to the years we went to school which results to why a lot of people stopped learning after they graduate.
After immersing myself to the CM approach, my purpose in life became clear: I want to provide a home for my family. Home as in not the physical structure but ME. I want to give them as much love, security, joy, wisdom, kindness, discipline that the Almighty has given me so that my family, especially my kids can take these experiences with them wherever they go in this world or in this life.
Homeschooling for me is such a huge deal. Imagine influencing the future generation. Lives that are so precious you really need to be mindful on how you would actually do it or else you can break them. I was unfamiliar of this higher purpose at the beginning until I read what Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi has to say about such influence,
“…the mother is qualified, and qualified by her Creator himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child. The most ardent desire for its good is already implanted in her heart; and what power can be more influential, more stimulative, than a maternal love?— the most gentle, and, at the same time, the most intrepid power in the whole system of nature.”
– Letters on Early Education
So why are we homeschooling? Is it for convenience? Is it because we don’t want them to be bullied? Is it because it’s cheaper? Is it because we’re anti-social? Or is it because we want to prepare them for the life ahead and for the one after that?
“The ultimate end of education is not a perfection in the accomplishments of the school, but fitness for life; not the acquirement of habits of blind obedience, and of prescribed diligence, but a preparation for independent action.”
– Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi