This post has been a long time coming, but since there will be another year of pandemania that will continue to plague us, I am hoping to write these things down to help some parents decide whether or not they will homeschool their children. I have already written the following posts to begin with, providing the reasons for why we chose to homeschool in the Philippines, at the same time, giving a description of what it means to homeschool.
Although this post will primarily benefit those who are in the Philippine context, I sincerely hope that this will also help those who are in still in the early stages of planning, or those who are still on the fence about homeschooling.
How do I homeschool?
Before you get into the nitty-gritty of picking the right curriculum or choosing the best homeschool provider for your children, here are some of the important things that you must consider before you start deciding on anything.
Determine your reasons for homeschooling.
There are many reasons why people get into homeschooling. Off the bat, my main reasons were practicality, personalization, parenting, and ultimately, providential. I say practical because of monetary and other reasons such as implementing routines and schedules. Homeschooling also affords us a way to personalize learning according to our children’s needs and differences. At the same, it allows us to implement parenting principles that we are convinced should be best practiced in the home. And looking back, particularly with the events of the pandemic, it is providential, by God’s grace.
Before you get caught up with the details, do a real assessment and determine the reasons as to why you would want to homeschool your children. When push comes to shove, and it will get difficult, remembering the reasons that set you into this path will help get you right on track. There is no one right answer here. I am not of the camp that believes that homeschooling is the only way to educate our children. The important thing is to be honest about our reasons, and then, thoroughly discuss these reasons with your spouse or other close family members. Check and see whether or not homeschooling would still be a good decision even after knowing the purpose for why you want to get into it in the first place. Also, be sure to recognize if this reason will be enough to carry you through the challenges that lie ahead.
Develop an educational philosophy or formulate goals.
I know what you are thinking. It seems counterintuitive to sit down and think about your educational philosophy and at the same time, formulate goals for your homeschooling while you’re at it, when all you want to do is to start picking and choosing. But I am convinced that having a well-thought-out philosophy will help you with a lot of decision-making in the future, such as choosing a provider (or not) and even some curriculum picks or activities for your children. Having a working educational philosophy will also help you set the goals, which will in turn, help you embrace the things that suit your family and reject those that do no align with your overall beliefs. Notice that I say working philosophy instead of a final one. I believe that some of the things that we have come to terms with, particularly in relation to how we educate our children, are not really set in stone yet. We may change our minds once we learn a couple of things along the way. Just as well, we teach our children every day, and we may have principles that already in practice. However, here are some of the questions that will help you arrive at a working philosophy, if you haven’t written them down yet:
- What is man? What is a child? How do you view a child?
- How do you educate? What is the best way to educate a child?
- If you are a Christian, it would be wise to check whether or not your principles (or preferences) align with Scriptural witness.
If you still have a baby or a toddler, I reckon that now is the best time to prayerfully consider many aspects about your children’s future education. But I would argue that any time spent thinking about matters for the sake of our children is worthy of our time.
Find your homeschooling style.
After acknowledging what your educational philosophies and goals are, it would now be good to identify which homeschooling style best suits the principles that you have set down. Chances are, your ideas are not original, and learning about the different homeschooling practices will help shed light on what is closest to your ideals. There are different homeschooling styles out there. In my observations, these are the most common educational philosophies that are practiced in the Philippines:
- Charlotte Mason
You could gather books and read articles which speak about these different philosophies. Simply Charlotte Mason provides a good summary on the Five Homeschooling Styles. On the other hand, although it may not be full-proof, you could take a quiz by HSLDA or Homeschool Compass to check what your homeschool style or philosophy is.
Not only that, my friends at Shaking Parenting Podcast has interviewed different educational proponents from the Philippines to talk about their philosophies and practices. I am happy to be part of it and was interviewed for Classical Education.
Pick a homeschool provider or go indie.
Now that you have identified which homeschool philosophy aligns with your beliefs, it would now be the proper to pick a homeschool provider. If this is not what you want for your family, you could go completely independent, which means that you are not enrolling with a provider at all. This decision is completely up to you. The Philippine system allows for either of these choices.
Whenever you sign up with a provider, or have been enrolled in a regular school, each child is given a Learner Reference Number (LRN) by the Department of Education of the Philippines (DepEd), which remains the same until the collegiate level. That is, if you choose to remain in the Philippine educational system.
Having a homeschool provider could give you the structure or organization to help you process some homeschool requirements on your behalf, namely the grades or portfolio. Otherwise, you could apply for a Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT) and have your children take the test for each of the thirteen years in K-12. Some families choose to take the PEPT annually. Likewise, your child could take several tests for each level in a day. Another alternative that would be good to look into if you are keen on being independent is the Alternative Learning Systems (ALS), particularly for those who are differently-abled.
Here are some of the questions that may help you decide on a homeschool provider:
- Does it fit with our theology, philosophy, and goals?
- Are they DepEd accredited?
- Closed or Open curriculum?
- What is their track record?
- What is their partner school?
- Do they require portfolios or quizzes? If yes, how often?
- How do they calculate grades?
- How involved will the provider be? Will you have a family adviser?
- How involved will our family be? Do they offer activities for homeschooling families?
- How much is the tuition?
Choose a curriculum or make your own.
When you have made up your mind about picking a homeschool provider or should you choose to go the independent route, you may now determine which curriculum you wish to follow. You could either choose a ready or boxed curriculum, or make your own by collating different books and materials.
One thing you need to ascertain while you’re on the look for out for a homeschool provider is if they offer a closed curriculum or an open curriculum, or a mix of both. When a homeschool provider offers a closed curriculum, that means that you are not allowed to choose your own books or materials. You need follow their curriculum picks for each grade level. Nonetheless, if a homeschool provider offers an open curriculum, this means that you can choose the books and materials you will be using for your homeschool. Other providers allow these two options by giving only recommendations, but not necessarily requiring homeschoolers to strictly follow their curriculum choices. How much liberty you will have in choosing the materials would depend largely on the homeschool provider you choose to enroll with. If you are independent, however, the choice is all yours.
How do you choose materials? Some people could get lost in a massive site like Rainbow Resource, a hub for all sort of homeschooling materials. I wouldn’t recommend it for first-timers. Helpful sites such as Cathy Duffy Reviews provide helpful feedback and reviews for different curricula. The best way, I think, is to inquire with your favorite homeschooling family to ask which materials worked (or did not work) for whatever subject you are curious about. You could also ask for a quick summary of their most favorite finds. In my experience, fellow homeschoolers are always eager to help!
Get the whole family involved.
One important thing that you need to remember with all the planning and preparation is that you need to get the whole family involved. Homeschooling is not just a small faction of your life. More often than not, it will become a huge part of your home and work life. It could either interfere with your present circumstances, or blend well with your family dynamics. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration on my part to say that homeschooling will change your family forever, in one way or the other. This would also be a time to carefully discuss with other family members or relatives who may be opposed to the idea of homeschooling.
Pray about God’s guidance in your decision-making. Ask for your spouse’s opinion about the matter. Request assistance from relatives, friends, or your church community, if these are possible options. Involve your children by setting the goals that they hope to accomplish. Create a routine that works for the whole family.
I also believe that not everyone is called to homeschool. So part of the planning process is to ask these questions:
- Who will be the primary teacher at home?
- Is the primary teacher qualified to teach? (Some providers require credentials)
- Will we outsource: tutor, classes, activities?
- Is our family committed to do this?
All in all, make sure to get everyone on board, big or small, because homeschooling will affect everyone in the family, whether they like it or not.
Set a budget.
Oftentimes, people ask this question first, before taking the time to dwell in the earlier points. This item is a no-brainer and requires absolutely no explanation. But it does not mean that it is of lesser importance. Sometimes the budget could affect planning, too. However, listing down the homeschooling needs does help those of us who are quick to make a purchase, especially when it is all conveniently happening at a click of button. Some people say that those who do not have a plan actually plan to fail. So be smart about planning your homeschool. Setting a budget alongside knowing your goals will help ensure that you would be making decisions and purchases that align with your overall philosophy or beliefs.
Never stop learning.
One thing that you should never cease on doing before, while or after you are homeschooling, is to keep learning all you can, whenever you can. Research by reading homeschooling helps given by experienced practitioners. Attend homeschooling seminars or workshops to equip you with the tools to help your own children. Keep asking good questions to help you navigate through your own homeschooling journey, which brings me to the next important thing.
Get some help.
As with everything in life, there will always be a learning curve. Do not expect to get things right the first time. It may be tough, but having family, friends or a community will help make the load a bit lighter. Visit a homeschooling family to see how they do it. You will certainly learn (or even unlearn) a thing or two. Perhaps, join a homeschooling community or cooperative to get involve with other people’s lives and invite them to yours. This is one way to get some support, not just with homeschooling, but in many aspects as well.
Recognize that you do not have all the answers—this is why we never stop learning—and get help whenever you can. Seek God’s wisdom by meditating on the truths of the Gospel. Keep praying for your family. This is God’s means of grace to us in this journey called life.
Now that you have these elements in place, what do we do next? After the planning stage, it is important to know how to put your plans into action. In my next instalment for Homeschool 101, I will write about how to implement our plans and make them work for our family.