Tag Archives: education

bahaySKUL midterm review

we try to pick ourselves up from a vacation in paradise and get back into full swing

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We have completed our first term right smack at the end of January. The boys have each taken their midterm evaluation tests at TLP, our homeschool provider – and passed! We had a little ravioli lasagna party to celebrate this success, just the three of us. Continue reading bahaySKUL midterm review

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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. Continue reading photo-finishing first grade

what our bahaySKUL day looks like

everyday is different. some days seem like the others. other days are filled with adventure.

We have been homeschooling for over 6 months now. The early months were a struggle, but now we are settling down into some kind of routine, building a familiar structure to our bahaySKUL day.

7:00 am We start our day by snuggling together in bed. Post-Christmas months are always cold, and nobody wants to be the first to get up.

8:00 am I start making breakfast. These days we eat bread with ham, egg or cheese, a handful of greens, such as lettuce or spinach or kale, and a glass of milk, choco or a tub of yogurt. We also used to eat rice in the morning but it just takes longer to prepare and more dishes to be washed. If all else fails (i.e. we wake up really late), we can always turn to a good ol’ bowl of cereals and milk. Continue reading what our bahaySKUL day looks like

homeschooling outside the home

it is an irony how much freeing, rather than confining, homeschooling can be

In my previous post I described how we’re trying to make some adjustments after four months of bahaySKUL with Ari. So far the changes we’ve made (and still experimenting) seem to be working and we’ve made a ton of progress over the past couple of weeks.

One of the major changes we did was to take our bahaySKUL outside of our home. And I mean outside literally. Every afternoon, we troop out, Ari with his “big boy bahaySKUL bag” containing his LifePACS modules, writing and coloring materials, math manipulatives, his calendar, a change of clothes, water bottle, and any other stuff needed for the day’s lessons. Continue reading homeschooling outside the home

the first four months of bahaySKUL

four months into homeschooling and we barely covered ¼ of the lessons for the first semester

We are officially homeschoolers since July. As much as I’d like to say we’re making tremendous progress homeschooling Ari, things aren’t really going as easy as I had hoped. We are way beyond schedule with the lessons and modules. At the rate we’re going, there is no way we could finish our bahaySKUL year in sync with the regular school year, which was our original goal. Continue reading the first four months of bahaySKUL

distar: our reading program of choice

“Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” almost sounds like its coming from a home TV shopping commercial.

We’re not the type to catch up on trend purchases, nor are we the types to rely on “instant” and “pre-packaged” products. Whenever we can, we try to make things from scratch. And the same goes with how we educate our children.

We’re past that phase when we were willing to pay for anything and everything that we think would be beneficial for our children. Seriously, almost everything on the market nowadays is likely to be beneficial in one way or another. And we obviously can’t afford to buy everything. We’ve learned this the hard way, and now we are much more discerning about when we make our purchases.

So, moving back, a book titled “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” is not something that would easily attract our attention. In fact, if we see titles like this on a bookshelf, we’re most likely to head on to the next shelf. Again, not a fan of quick and easy, instant stuff.

I taught my children to read. And all the while I thought that after they learned phonetics and blending, they’re good to go. They’re reading books by themselves with minimal interruption on difficult words by me. They’re reading books, end to end, almost entirely by themselves. They should be good to go.

And then came Ari’s assessment with TLP, which was the cause of so much worrying for Turo and I. The assessment revealed that Ari still had gaps in terms of reading proficiency. And because I was the one who taught him how to read, this was not the easiest for me to accept. But of course, as adults, we couldn’t be throwing tantrums when somebody else point out our shortcomings. Especially if it involves our children’s education and future.

And so we obliged when TLP’s school director recommended that we used the Distar program to reinforce Ari’s reading skills. “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” is a book by Engelmann, Haddox and Bruner, adapted from the Distar Fast Cycle, under copyright from Science Research Associates, Inc. (SRA). I am a huge fan of the SRA program when I was in elementary, so at least there was some level of comfort for me in using this material for teaching my son.

Basically, the title of the book says it all. All it takes is a hundred easy lessons. The material is no-nonsense. Doesn’t take any taxing preparation. All you need is to get familiar with the Distar alphabet before starting with the first lesson so you can sound out the letters and words correctly, and avoid confusing your child. The lessons spiral and ensures that the child masters even the more difficult skills required for long vowels, silent letters, digraphs, etc. It also allows the child to master reading irregularly sounded words by integrating them in the word exercises early on. Writing exercises are also included, which is always a good thing.

About a quarter into the book, your child begins to read paragraphs which later turns into short stories, then longer stories, then two-part stories, with accompanying pictures and questions to support comprehension.

Even when Ari already knows how to read when we started with the program, we had been religious in covering all lessons from the start. We are now in Lesson # 89, and according to my schedule we are only 2 more days from completing all 100 lessons. Then by the end of this week Ari and I will head back to TLP for his reading skills assessment.

I’m now very excited for Ari to finish the program and find out that he would be able to do well in the assessment. Even more, I am thrilled because I know he is much more equipped to tackle any reading material by himself. Because he knows all phonics rules and he’ll be able to apply this knowledge to 3- or 5- or 7-lettered words, or even longer.

Before I always worry that my children might not like reading as much as I do, because I really want them to be voracious readers and learners. But every time they ask for story time, which is no less than once in a day, I couldn’t help but give myself an invisible tap on the back for a job well done.

p.s. We have recently started reading chapter books. Reading just gets better and more exciting for me and the kids.

a test of conviction

For a time I thought I had overcome my personal issues against testing. Am I wrong. Here we go again..

Yesterday, we (all four of us) trooped to The Learning Place school to give Ari our moral support as he took a Learning Skills Assessment test, which is a requirement to attend the school. We had been earlier advised that the test will take an hour and a half covering 3 subject areas: Reading, Math and Language Arts. The truth is, Ari had never taken a written test as comprehensive as this one. We were concerned about his overall preparedness for taking such kind of a test, and so we spent nearly a month and a half trying to get him ready to take on such an overwhelming task.

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Ari is a very active young boy and has a difficult time sitting through long activities—movies, paperwork, hearing mass, you name it. But he can be a quick learner if given the right kind of guidance and instruction. We know he has the ability to focus on things that he is interested in. For instance, he can spend a long time building, unbuilding and rebuilding LEGO figures, following instructions all by himself. And over the past year, he has greatly improved his focus and attention span, and perseverance to complete tasks, including paperwork.

In mock tests that we try to do at home, Ari can sit through several worksheets for a duration of 30 minutes, at most. We also ask him to read aloud one story book each day, which he does with much fervour. We do not push him to complete more than he feels he could finish, and we are more than happy with the 30-minute chunks of him focusing on a particular activity several times in a day. To tell you the truth, a lot of things can be learned in just 30 minutes.

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All the while, we had been guided by the scope and sequence of LifePACS curriculum (the curriculum TLP uses), which we used to check Ari’s mastery of Kindergarten concepts. I also reviewed his worksheets from the previous school year to validate this. When we felt that he had mastered most of the concepts in the LifePACS scope and sequence, we gave him a one week break from all the mock test-taking at home, psyched him for the impending assessment, and walked together to TLP on the scheduled testing date.

Before the test, I told Ari he can ask the teacher questions if he does not understand something, and request for a break if he needs to. An hour and a half into the exam, I was getting nervous. Ari was still in the testing room and I was starting to think he was having a tough time with the questions. I was less concerned about him getting the answers right. My biggest anxiety was that he might end up feeling bad about the test, his performance, and end up traumatized about the school and taking tests in general.

After two hours, Ari came out of the testing room asking for a break. He ate an apple and drank some juice, and then said he was ready to finish the test. I was relieved to see Ari being very cool about the test. He said he’d done math and that it was easy. I was so proud of his very positive attitude toward the test. He finished 30 minutes later.

There was supposed to be a parent interview after the test where the school director will discuss the result of the assessment. This didn’t happen yet because the director was out for some reason and we will be scheduled sometime later (which totally pisses me off considering that we had scheduled weeks ahead). Although the teacher who administered the test did show me Ari’s test paper and pointed out that Ari had a lot of “learning gaps” as he failed to answer some of the test questions.

I will not go into detail about the test questions, but our general observation was that it was too advanced for Ari’s level. Way too advanced. Both Turo and I felt strongly that the test could not provide an accurate assessment of what a child already knows. And it was not presented in a manner that was friendly to a six-year old child. We were not surprised that Ari was too overwhelmed to answer most of the questions. After seeing the kind of assessment tool TLP uses to gauge its students, Turo and I are suddenly apprehensive of participating in their homeschool program. We suddenly felt that the school’s educational philosophies may not run parallel with the kind of learning goals we have for our children.

As of today, we are waiting for the schedule of the interview where we get to hear what the school has to say about their assessment of Ari. In my mind, I am anticipating that it will be about Ari’s learning gaps and areas that he will need to improve on. Something that we somehow disagree with because our family goes by the principle of focusing on strengths, not weaknesses. Our personal biases aside, I am still praying for an open mind and heart that will allow me to listen to and understand what they will tell us. A part of me is hoping that maybe TLP would still be a good institution to partner with for our homeschooling journey. It is by far the most practical option available to us. But we now have our reservations and if we feel that we would not get the kind of support that we need from this homeschool provider, then we would need to reconsider our other alternatives.

As it turns out, finding a homeschool provider is never easy.

 

the beauty of affiliation

homeschooling is a daunting task by itself. it wouldn’t hurt to have some extra hands to help out.

For the longest time, I’ve been stressing out on whether we will go the independent track (that is develop our own curriculum and go by our own standards on what the student needs to learn and whether he has learned them already) or affiliate with an institution (follow their curriculum and subscribe by their methods for learning assessment).

I’ve always been inclined towards the first option because I have qualms about the way testing and assessment is done in some schools. For me, personally, I don’t buy the idea that real learning can be measured through a paper and pencil examination. The only downside to independent homeschooling is that we have no legal institution to provide us with school credentials for Ari. The only way to get the necessary credentials is to let Ari take the Philippine Validation Test (PVT) given by DepEd once a year. But then again, that means we’ll have to go back to my issues about written examinations, blah, blah, blah.

On a separate note, I also feel that if we go with option 2, we will be limited by the curriculum being used by the homeschool provider. I have read in countless blogs by homeschooling families that the best way to go in choosing a homeschool curriculum is to not stick with a single, integrated curriculum. Taking this advice, I did my homework and chose a specific curriculum for each subject–language arts, spelling, math and religion. Then for other subjects like Filipino and social studies, we can stick with locally published textbooks. Science and art will be covered by Turo when he takes Ari to the farm for their “nature and farm classes.”

If Turo and I were the superparents of the century, it would have been an easy choice–go independent and teach our children anything and everything they want to learn without having to subscribe to standards set by traditional educational institutions. However, despite the kind of learning goals we have for our children, the society and its standards might one day tell them otherwise. We don’t want our children to suffer the consequences later on just because we are too stubborn to accept the kind of educational system that exists at present.

It’s a tough call, but what we’ve decided on is some sort of a compromise that would allow us to: 1) be 100% hands on in our children’s learning and development process, and at the same time, 2) expose our children to the traditional educational system. We have chosen The Learning Place (TLP) Distance Education Homeschool Support Program mainly because it is part of the community we belong to here in Los Banos.

TLP is using the LifePACS curriculum by AlphaOmega Publications for its homeschool program. While I still subscribe to using a combination of curriculum choices for different subjects that is suited to a child’s particular learning style, we realized that we can still use the LifePACS curriculum and just supplement it with other materials if we feel that there is a need. There goes problem number one.

Aside from the curriculum materials, they will be the one to administer quarterly evaluation tests where Ari’s school ratings for academic subjects will come from. For this part, while I am totally against grading based on a written examination, I have decided that this is a part of life that my children will just have to deal with. Because we are homeschooling, we would still know whether they have mastered the skills they need to master, and we can judge this mastery by our own standards, and we don’t need examination results to confirm this. Then there will be nothing wrong with letting our children take the school’s periodical exams because they HAVE to. Because in real life there are some things that you just “have to do.” And we realized that is one important thing we should also teach our children.

For non-academic instruction, Ari will be allowed to attend regular classes in subjects like PE, arts and crafts, leadership and computer. These classes will be his window for socialization with other children his age, and his time out and away from our bahaySKUL. Ari is super excited for the computer classes. But Turo and I are also considering to let Ari be involved in sports training with a qualified instructor. We are firm believers that the discipline and perseverance a child can learn from being involved in sports is something that he will carry throughout his lifetime.

The TLP staff also informed me that their homeschooling families have formed an active group, with regular meet-ups, even organising field trips for homeschoolers. We are more enticed by the fact that there is an active homeschooling community right here where we live and we will be more than eager to join and support their activities in the future. We also look forward to learning from the experiences of these homeschooling families. We are encouraged by the fact that they have continued on with the homeschooling lifestyle and this, more than anything, will keep egging us on in this direction.

Finally deciding on a homeschool provider is another important step in our homeschooling journey. We are grateful that we are being led to the right direction and decisions as far as our bahaySKUL aspirations are concerned.

deciding to homeschool

another turning point. big, bold decisions, one after another. 

Beginning April 2013, we will be embarking on a whole new educational journey for our children. We are not yet 100% confident nor 100% ready, but both Turo and I have decided firmly that homeschooling is the best way for us to form and mold our children into the kind of persons that we want them to be.

Deciding to homeschool is the first step towards homeschooling, but it is not an easy first step. And so far, this step is the farthest we’ve gone. Although we do recognize that homeschooling is going to be a long and continuing process.

So why did we decide to homeschool?

Because we couldn’t find a school whose goals match ours. Believe me, we tried. We really did. We went from school to school, and went back to each school, twice or thrice. We interviewed school teachers and principals. We looked at the school’s mission and vision boards. We observed school children in their school setting. But we weren’t satisfied. Not that we have too high standards. We don’t. In fact, we felt that a lot of the schools we’ve visited were too academically superior, to the point of being extremely competitive. Unfortunately, academic superiority is not on the list of things we look for in a school. We wanted a school that offered a well-rounded curriculum. We found one, which had a great sports, music and arts program and was very strong on academics at the same time. We wanted a school that had a short duration of school hours. We found one, where a school day lasts no more than 3 hours. We wanted a Catholic school that emphasised values and religion education. We found one, where it felt like the school became a caring community for all children. What we didn’t find is a school that offered all of these things. All of these are important to us. And when it came to our children’s education, we weren’t willing to compromise.

Because we felt we can provide the kind of learning environment that we want our children to be educated in. We are going out on a limb here just by saying that. But the thing is, if we, our children’s parents and family, cannot provide the appropriate educational environment, then who else can? We needed to trust ourselves that we know what is best for our children and that we are willing to do everything we can to be able to give it to them.

Because we want to instill a love for learning in our children. One of the reasons why we never cared about science high school passing rates, or student averages among the schools we’ve visited is because we never believed that these are an accurate measure of real learning. If there was a school that measures inquisitiveness or curiosity in children, we would have been sold pretty easily. The thing is, apart from wanting our children to learn new things and new concepts, we also want them to develop an innate habit of always wanting to discover, or try something new, or attempt understand what seems perplexing to them. We want this process of discovery and understanding to come out naturally to them. Even without teachers or school requirements nudging behind their backs. We want our children to love to learn, all the time.

Because we want flexibility. We are the type of family who takes long, spontaneous vacations. Or extend scheduled vacations without notice. We cannot stick to a highly structured regimen for long periods of time. We always feel the need to take a break in the middle of something serious or stressful or hectic. We cannot fit ourselves in a box, though we sometimes try just to keep with the norm. This is our secret to productivity. Otherwise, we just end up dawdling around wasting away precious time and energy. While we are not sure that this is always the right thing, we are certain that this is the way things work for us. And if we can make our children’s education just as flexible, then maybe homeschooling could work for all of us too.

Our homeschooling journey has begun. We realize that it’s a long long way to go, but we are counting on the support of the people around us, and our commitment to this as a family, to make this work, and become the most exciting and enriching adventure our family will ever take.

goals for learning

Is it just me or is choosing a school for your child really that traumatic?

Earlier this year, Turo and I felt like we’ve been through hell and back in choosing a school for Ari for Kindergarten. We were blessed to find the perfect school for Ari at least for this schoolyear and we are confident that with the help of the school, Ari is well on the right track towards learning and total development.

This morning we met with Ari’s school director and teacher. As always, it has been an enlightening conversation with Professor Garcia. We not only learned of Ari’s progress since the start of the school year up to the end of the first semester, but our belief that learning occurs differently from child to child was further reinforced. Continue reading goals for learning