Why choose homeschooling when there are a lot of online schools now?
With the rise of so many new distance learning options with dedicated teachers that basically remove the need for the parents’ direct involvement on their child’s schooling despite being home-based, we’ve stuck with our version of homeschooling — one that is still very much hands-on for mommy and daddy. SY 2021-2022 is quite different than last year’s pandemic induced “homeschool” surge brought about by having no choice but to keep kids at home. Back then, traditional schools scrambled to figure out how to turn their noisy classrooms into one that’s only on the computer monitor, and Gen-Z students whom parents have been trying to limit their screen time were forced to stare at their laptops or tablets for long hours as the only means of interacting with their teachers and classmates.
It was chaotic and challenging, but it also opened a world of opportunities that weren’t there before. Suddenly, a great many people finally realized that it is actually possible to learn at home, and that relationships that work well can be built online. Creative virtual collaboration became the norm, and schools, tutorial centers, freelance teachers and the like found ways to teach and cater to the students’s needs.
Reason #1: We’ve tried many online classes and it’s not for us
We tried it for a while; we explored online classes and tutorials and even considered enrolling our children to what our homeschool provider Peniel Integrated Christian Academy of Rizal offered for this school year: a home education program with online lectures. But, after much consideration, we’ve decided against it. We’re going to do “homeschooling” the way we’ve always done it.
Reason #2: We like to do delight-directed learning
For 10 years, we’ve been doing what is considered as an eclectic homeschool — loosely following the prescribed DepEd-based syllabus mixed in with parent-directed activities and child-led or interest-led type of learning. It is also called delight-directed learning, which involves stepping away from textbooks and boxed curriculums, and doing a lot of integration of different topics and subjects stemming from one initial activity. It’s not as extreme as some unschooling approaches are, which gives the children almost total freedom in choosing what to learn, because in our family, we as the parents still give the kids direction and we go through the minimum basic requirements set by our homeschool provider.
To give an idea of what happens to us on a typical day, I asked my 2 big kids to take charge of the Bible devotion for one morning. They agreed to read the story of the Tower of Babel. After I asked the kids to retell what they had just learned, the kids played with our wooden blocks and built towers. Then, the younger kids got some paper and markers and started drawing the Tower of Babel. Our big kids were tasked to learn how to say, “Hello!” and “I love you!” in at least 5 new languages. Our big sister who was learning about the Norwegian language became so fascinated with Norway with its quaint cottages, majestic mountains, and its history of Vikings among many other things, that she became so engrossed reading about it and even made a brochure — all on her own accord. We do a lot of activities like this that is applicable for multi-grade levels (Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 4, and Grade 8) to do together.
Reason #3: We can be very spontaneous or flexible with our lessons
We also have a lot of spontaneous activities. Just last Saturday, I attended a workshop held by Pueblo Science (RISE 2021: Making Virtual Science Learning More Engaging). One of the experiments demonstrated there was about earthquakes, and incidentally, a relatively strong earthquake occured on that same day in the Philippines. So we studied about earthquakes that day, watching the news about the 6.7 magnitude quake in Batangas, and YouTube videos about fault lines, tectonic plates, magnitude, and intensity. Using what I had just learned that early morning from the online workshop, the kids conducted the Science experiment about earthquakes and had an engaging learning activity together on a weekend afternoon.
Reason #4: We do a lot of integrated lessons
We like to do a lot of integrated lessons, which allows children to learn in a holistic way without the restrictions often imposed by boxing topics into specific subjects. Integrated curriculum emphasizes the importance of keeping the family together, affirms that each child is unique in his or her learning journey and builds upon relevant cultural ideas and the current interests of the kids. For example, we started reading the book, “Maria’s Colorful Banca” and as we read aloud, we tried figuring out how to tell the story in sign language. There’s so much to learn from the book even from just the first few pages, like about mangroves and how they protect our beaches and about typhoons in the Philippines. We also studied a bit about the insects that were mentioned in the book, particulary the life cycle of fireflies and dragonflies. The kids made a dragonfly craft using popsicle sticks, colored paper and plastic book covers. We even watched an interesting short film starring Joonee Gamboa, a famous Filipino actor, called, “Ang Pagbabalik ng mga Tutubing Kalabaw.” It gave us a chance to discuss about the significance of such insects in measuring the health of the ecosystem and how modernization and pollution has drastically reduced their population. It also allowed us parents to reminisce about our own childhood and tell stories to our kids of how we used to chase fireflies and catch dragonflies and beetles when we played outside after going home from school.
Reason #5: We like to learn and grow together as a family
It is this kind of unstructured and flexible interest-led learning that we missed when the kids took part in too many online classes at the beginning of last year’s pandemic school year. Learning together, not bound by strict schedules and daily requirements, and doing intentional-parenting and a faith-based, holistic, and delight-directed learning is what makes homeschooling work for our family. It is what makes us unique and what keeps us encouraged even when things don’t work out the way we hope it would. It may not result in our kids receiving academic excellence awards, but it is our hope and prayer that it instills for them a great love of learning and forges a sibling bond like no other.
And so, we have resolved to continue doing that same kind of homeschooling this school year. The kids will still join some virtual classes every now and then and they are regularly still attending online karate too. One big change is that our high schooler will now be joining Abottala which is a center for self-directed education. We’ll let her join one block and see how it goes. However, for the most part, our daily life is still a mix and match of this and that, believing and trusting God all the way that by His grace, our children will have a lifelong love for learning. As Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” We can and do still make plans and pursue goals, but we submit to the Lord whatever He will allow us to accomplish and achieve this school year, all for His glory.