photo-finishing first grade

if my planning serves me right, we will complete our first year of homeschooling this month!

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We are so nearly there. Our first bahaySKUL year completed in 12 crazy months. We are actually quite behind, because the regular school year starts next week, and Ari should be prepping for second grade at this time, but we are still finishing up with the fourth grading period of his first grade. But still. We’re really just counting the days. Doing the final lessons. Taking the last batch of tests. Putting together our first-ever bahaySKUL portfolio. So yeah, we have tons of photos to sort and print and organise, test papers to file, art projects to frame, grades to compute. And this is probably going to take us a couple of weeks more. But seriously, another couple of weeks is zilch compared to the last eleven months of this roller-coaster ride that we call bahaySKUL.

Wow! What a journey it has been for us. I’ve always known that we could do this and how committed we were to this homeschooling thing, despite raised eyebrows and random interrogation by some of our friends and family members. But now that we’re actually just a few tick boxes away from completing all of our first grade homeschool requirements, it’s just surreal. Just s-u-r-r-e-a-l. I can’t even describe how ecstatic I am right now. After the agonizing start to our bahaySKUL, knowing that we actually did it and that we’ll have real, valid and authentic proof that, yes, we are able to educate our own child the way we want to, it’s more than a pat on the back for Turo and I. It could even be a slap in the face to people who doubted we can do this in the first place. But let’s not go there 🙂

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So while I’m still on a high from meeting with Ari’s homeschool supervisor earlier today and confirming that we are just inches away from photo-finishing first grade, let me share some of the things we learned from our first bahaySKUL year.

Stop control-freaking. I am a self-confessed control freak. I know a lot of women are. I don’t take pride in being one, and I am seriously taking conscious effort to stop being one. It’s a tough lesson learned especially in the early parts of our homeschooling journey. We were new to homeschooling, we just knew we wanted to homeschool, but barely knew what we really needed to do. The thing is, education and learning is a process. What homeschooling offers is a key to unlocking this process of learning. It is NOT a how-to manual, or a tick-box list of things to do that puts a check mark on education at the bottom of the page. There is no one fixed way to get to the end. My mistake at first was that I thought there was. I was scrambling for ingredients and directions like I would in a baking recipe. I wanted to know what the next step would be, without even going through the first. I wanted an answer without even trying to come up with a solution. I was so frustrated at the beginning with our homeschool provider and the curriculum that we’re using because I felt lost without the answers to my questions. How can I possibly teach this topic? How can my child grasp this concept at his age? Why are the tests designed this way?

Thankfully we carried on. If we hadn’t I wouldn’t have realized that homeschooling is not about having all the answers at the beginning. So what if the test questions seemed weird? So what if there are too many topics to cover? Just go through it. Even if what happens next is uncertain. Because what’s important is the process, not the outcome. It’s about dipping your feet in the water first so you’ll see for yourself how warm or cold the water is, something you wouldn’t know if you’re just looking at the water from afar no matter how long you think about it.

Plan but don’t overplan. I have no background in teaching or education. I didn’t know what a lesson plan looked like, or how to make one. I’ve read from other homeschooling blogs how I’m supposed to plan for the school year, but a lot of it didn’t make sense to me at first. When I got hold of Ari’s first grade modules, I prowled at them from cover to cover, trying to segregate the topics and listing down the pages on each topic, so I could teach each topic in one go. Unfortunately, that wasn’t how the curriculum worked. We’re using LifePACS modules and the topics progress a little at a time, so you get chunks of one topic from one module to the next. I hadn’t figured this out at first, remember we were first-time homeschoolers, with zero teaching knowledge, except maybe teaching our kids to walk, and talk and be toilet-trained. But the bottomline is, it’s not practical to plan for one entire schoolyear in one go. Remember learning is a process and there are adjustments to be made along the way. We found it more beneficial to plan for one grading period/quarter at a time. At the end of each grading period, Ari takes a mastery evaluation test, and we would know how much he’s learned, and how we needed to adjust our plan for the next grading period to devote more time to topics that he didn’t quite grasp or just breeze through those topics he’s already mastered.

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Breaks are vital. Another advantage to quarterly planning is that we can take a break between grading periods. Promising to take the kids on a mini-vacation works both as an incentive for Ari to do well on his schoolwork and finish on time and as a reward for a job well done after his quarterly evaluation. At the same time, Ari the student, and us his teachers, get some time of and re-energize as we prepare for the next grading period.

Clue in on your child. Homeschooling is not a teacher-led process. It should be child-led. No matter how many learning goals and objectives we have for our bahaySKUL year, if these don’t match with what Ari wants to and is eager to learn, it’s no use. Homeschool goals should not be imposed by parents but must come from the child himself. Children are not always going to articulate what they want to learn, but we, parents, should take hints on the things that are interesting for our children. On top of that, we should also pay attention if they are having a difficult time learning something, or are not feeling well and too tired to comprehend lessons, or are simply too distracted by something else. The beauty of homeschooling is its inherent flexibility. When there are downtimes, we can easily stash away our books and put it off for the next day. Or you could do marathon lessons if your child is super interested and feels like learning more. And this can happen a lot 🙂

Ari completing a recipe for arts and crafts
Ari making a recipe of his favourite drink for his arts and crafts project

As brief or as stretched out our first bahaySKUL year has been, it has been an exciting and worthwhile learning process, not just for Ari, but for Turo and I as well. It hasn’t been easy, at all. Maybe at times it seems like it because of all the fun it can get , but homeschooling takes a lot of guts and discipline and commitment, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to build these values as a family through this journey. We can’t wait for Uri to start first grade as a homeschooler and for Ari to start his second year very, very soon.

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