Homeschooling Advice from a Noob


I have been homeschooling my kids for a grand total of six months. This makes me completely qualified to give advice, right? Right?

Of course not.

But, it does make me qualified to talk about what we have learned in the six months that we have been doing this. Just like with all things kid-related, each day is multiplied by 10 so it actually feels like we’ve been doing this longer.

Everybody says to think of the child’s learning style. But, what about your style?

This is a pretty big statement. In every seminar, every conference, every conversation I’ve engaged in , the first thing people say is that homeschooling should be tailor-fit to the needs of the child. Is your child a visual learner or a kinesthetic learner? What’s the typical reaction to feedback? The Montessori approach, which we use more often than not, always emphasizes to “follow the child”.

But, I find that this is only half of the formula. The more we homeschool, the more I realize that it is a collaborative activity between myself – the teacher – and my children – the students. While, I do my best to make sure that they enjoy the lessons, I can’t just ignore my needs. The reason for this is simple: I won’t be able to sustain it.

My daughter, H, loves games. She loves movement and outdoors. That’s the best environment for her to learn. On the other hand, I am the complete opposite. I would rather sit through a lecture and take down notes. Games are not fun. I think they’re a waste of time. (“You must be so much fun at parties,” you think as you roll your eyes. Well, joke’s on you. I don’t attend parties.)

H and I have to meet halfway if we’re going to make homeschooling work for us in the long-term. We play one game a day and then spend some time doing worksheets or reading together. If she gets bored, I let her have a break and play. Instead of making the first two days the best schooldays ever and then burning out the rest of the week, we’ve settled with having okay days all throughout the week.

Exercise restraint even if you don’t want to.

The sheer volume of books and materials that can be used for homeschooling is enormous. Think of all the DIY craft possibilities! If you’re like me, who gets intoxicated at the smell of stationery and newly opened books, it’s like a giant playground.

But like all playgrounds, it is still governed by the laws of physics. You can’t be at the swing and the slide at the same time. It’s the same principle when it comes to homeschooling. Do things one at a time.

Early on, I made the mistake of cramming so many crafts in a day. But eventually, H got tired of cutting and gluing things. I got tired of prepping materials. Plus, it got a bit too costly to keep up with the supplies.

I still pin a lot of projects that pique my interest on Pinterest, but we’re now better at pacing ourselves.

Get a support system.

I’m from the Philippines and there are a lot of misconceptions about homeschooling. Mostly it’s because not a lot of families choose to educate their children in this method. If homeschooling were a human, it would be in its toddler years — already walking, but not yet old enough to walk to the store alone.

For us, this translates to a lot of side-eyeing whenever we say that we teach our kids. I noticed that I have become quite defensive when I’m asked about it. Fortunately, our provider offers a great support structure. Our family is assigned an academic adviser as well as a family adviser.

There are also a lot of workshops and events we can attend. But, most of the support that I get is from the online community. I’ve joined groups for homeschooling families and it is a fantastic source of encouragement and information. Normally, the internet is a vast, terrible place full of trolls ready to pounce on you, but my homeschooling groups are the equivalent of warm hugs at the end of a long day.

On that note, check out how to transform holiday stress. It’s a link-up with other homeschooling blogs to find other friends who are on the same boat.

Don’t be afraid to make a change.

One of the best things anyone has ever told me about homeschooling came from my friend Rheea of Rainy Days and Mom Days.  She told me, “don’t be afraid to switch materials if they’re not working for you.”

At the time, my daughter was freshly enrolled with our provider and our books were newly purchased. I took her advice with a polite nod, but internally, I didn’t really let it sink in. I did browse through the books before buying them. That should be enough to make a wise purchase.

Turns out she was right. About a month in, I realized that the books weren’t working for us. Sadly, the ones published here in the Philippines were sorely lacking. For one thing, her science book dedicated a whole chapter on classifying animals as “harmful” and “harmless”. Tigers and lions are harmful, while dogs and cats are harmless. Obviously, the author has neither seen a cranky cat nor encountered the terms “untamed” and “domesticated”. Also, there’s this:

This is going to be all innocence for a five-year old. But really, adult who wrote this? These words have such a common connotative meaning that it couldn’t have been a coincidence.

I knew I was being picky with the details and tried to make it work for a while. But, those little things bugged me so much we ended up using different books in the end.

We’re coming on the tail end of the school year and wow, it’s been quite an experience. It has been easier (knock on wood, throws salt over the shoulder!) than I expected, mainly because I was expecting asteroids to rain down while wildebeests stampeded around us.

H has learned to read full sentences and she can now add and subtract whole numbers. But, the most surprising thing about this is that it turns out, she’s not the only one learning. So am I. For the H and myself, the most important lesson is this: we both still have a lot to learn.




Tower of Babel Worksheet

tower of babel

It’s so easy to push back lessons on our faith, mainly because it’s the science and math questions that are on the list of standards for first graders by the government. “It’s The Man, I tell you,” I rage as I shake my fist to nothing in particular.

Orwellian jokes aside, it’s really my fault. I simply haven’t prioritized it.

I’ve resolved to study the Bible at the beginning of class rather than the end of it. It’s also good practice for me to remind myself of why we’re homeschooling in the first place.

Today’s lesson was all about the Tower of Babel. We first read the story from the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones. Then I used these guide questions to test comprehension:

  1. What did the people try to build? A tower that reaches the sky
  2. Why did they want to build it? To make a name for themselves
  3. What did God do? He changed their language to stop them from finishing the tower

I then explained that Babel means confusion. Speaking different languages made it difficult for people to understand each other so they couldn’t finish their work.

Conveniently, there’s a condominium building being constructed across our street and we could see it from our window. I then explained that God wants us build and create. He gave us brains to think and hands to make things. But, God doesn’t want us to have pride in our hearts.

Pride is a sin that puts ourselves first before God. The people built the tower it so that they can glorify themselves. God knows that anytime people do that, they are doomed to fail. He is the one who provides for us. Pride makes us think we can do it for ourselves. Like all sins, it separates us from God.

We also used a worksheet. You can download it here.


Learning Tagalog

My daughter would rather do 10 hours of math than five minutes of Tagalog lessons. She knows a total of – let me see – seven Tagalog words. She knows siya (that person), ikaw (you), ako (me), bata (child), lalaki (boy), babae (girl), and matanda (old).

This is a problem because first, she’s Filipino and Tagalog is our national language and second, the government requires certain subjects to be taught in Tagalog.

I need to be extra creative whenever we have our language lessons since she doesn’t really want to learn. For a lesson on body parts, I drew a girl on a large mirror in our dining room. I called out body parts and she would try to hit it with wet tissue paper.

It was a mess, but that’s the way kids like it, right?


Montessori at Home

Did you know that a three dimensional oval is called an ovoid? It comes from The Latin word ovum, which means egg.  I did not know this until I purchased these Montessori toys online. I had to research what these shapes are called.

In this video, Raf is learning the process of placing an object from one container to the other.

It always surprises me how engaged he can be, even if the materials he’s working on don’t really have any colors, sounds, or lights. But, I guess that’s pretty much one of the beliefs of the Montessori system: no unnecessary distractions.