Tag Archives: The Learning Place

when homeschoolers go to “school”

for the first time, the boys are spending a significant amount of time in “school” 

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This year, I (as de facto principal of our bahaySKUL) decided that the kids should have more time interacting with other children of their age in a school setting. Because this school year we have been on top of our school work more than we’ve ever been since we started homeschooling four years ago. Continue reading when homeschoolers go to “school”

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how to plan for a well-planned school year

the planning nut is at it again

We had previously had qualms about finding an affiliate homeschool provider as we embark on our first year of bahaySKUL for Ari. We prayed hard on this one, as with every other major decision we make, and we feel that we have been led to decide on sticking with TLP. 

Our bahaySKUL trial last April, I would say, was quite successful. We did take a long break last month, but Ari and I are now back to reading practice until the end of June. We stopped math lessons for a while, as I know Ari’s got this one covered, and chose to concentrate instead on tougher reading lessons — digraphs, silent letters and all that jazz. 

By July, we should be following a stricter bahaySKUL schedule, since we no longer only have math and reading but four other subjects to cover. In addition, Ari needs to attend P.E., arts & crafts, computer and leadership classes in school. Turo and I have divvied up the teaching load: I get to teach reading and math, plus world history & geography; while he gets science, sibika at kultura, and filipino. We haven’t finalized our daily schedule just yet, but we’ll be limiting study time to 2 subjects per day, maximum of 1 hour each subject. Although I doubt if we could stick to a single topic for that long.

I am also planning on a cooking class, on free weekends only, and maybe have Ari master 1 recipe a month. I have also arranged for us to volunteer at the CDL children’s library, one day each week, which means free library use and plenty of book choices for the kids, and lessons away from home just to add variety to our study routine.

Sounds good so far? 

I am really itching to get down and put together a lesson plan, at least for the first month of bahaySKUL, just so I could ensure that all the materials (books, supplies, worksheets) that we need will be ready when we need them. The thing is, we still haven’t gotten hold of our curriculum and the set of modules that are supposed to go with it. This is really causing me a lot of undue stress lately. I am especially not comfortable with the idea that our child’s education rests upon our shoulders and that right now we are still totally clueless about how to do it, where to start.

This is precisely the reason why we decided to affiliate. So we could shrug off some the early pains of homeschooling because we have an established institution to guide us along. But that is not what’s happening. TLP’s way of administering things simply sucks. I come into their office with lots of questions (I’m clueless, remember) and leave with an even bigger question mark than when I had came in. Hopefully today, after the TLP Homeschool Orientation, I will have most of these questions answered. We are also very eager to meet other homeschooling families and to start to be part of an active homeschooling community here in Los Banos. 

Moving along, as we don’t have yet our curriculum, we will be using first grade LifePACS by the way, I decided to first list down the skills we want to build in Ari and how we plan to integrate teaching these skills alongside formal lessons.

First is better retention. We are inspired by the Charlotte Mason method of narration and we will be exploring on this further as we go along with homeschooling. For this purpose, we have assigned Fridays as ‘review day’ and we would be employing various forms of narration to further Ari’s mastery of concepts learned over the week. We envision our weekly review to come in 2 formats: first is a creative format, using lego blocks or clay dioramas, or writing/reciting a story; second is a paper-and-pencil test, because we feel we also need to train Ari to have good test-taking skills.

Second is life skills. We now ask Ari to set the table. Turo will teach him to plant from seed during their science and nature classes. I will teach him to cook. And maybe later when he’s taller he could also wash the dishes (and cookware).

Third is the love for reading. All this time I had been spending a lot of money on books. Uri loves books even if can’t read yet. Ari picks up a book occasionally, reads it end to end, and that’s it. He’s not the type to read a book over and over. So, thank God for ebooks. We are currently hooked on the Project X Series over at Oxford Owl. Ari loves them. He’s nearly finished all titles in the series, and I’m still on a hunt for the next series he’ll be hooked on. We make it a point to read together 1 ebook a day. When bahaySKUL days officially start, we will be keeping tab of all the titles we read, as well as the vocabulary words we encounter with each story. These would form part of Ari’s recitation grade to be submitted to TLP.

Fourth is handwriting. I’ve read a lot of studies linking handwriting and motor skills practice to better cognitive abilities. With this, copywork will be a major and recurring activity in our bahaySKUL for all subjects. I’m also looking to purchase the Draw-Write-Now series to make handwriting practice even more fun. The books contain step-by-step drawing instructions followed by short descriptions of the picture to copied on a separate worksheet. I am planning to learn some art skills myself with these books.

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I guess I can say that these could be our bahaySKUL goals for this school year. While we still don’t have specific activities planned for the coming school days, at least we’ve chosen some of our guideposts for teaching our kids, and learning alongside them. This is going to be another full year for us. But I am hopeful that if we take it a step at at time, we’ll find ourselves breezing through a year of bahaySKUL, no sweat! 

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.