Monday, November 30, 2015

Learn with Joy: Homeschooling Preschool

Hello! It's another homeschooling post and I would like to share with you about what I have learned (so far) as I homeschool my preschooler. Also, beginning today, you will see that every homeschooling post is now entitled Learn with Joy. It's just that I realised that if my student (who is my daughter) learns with joy, she learns better and more effectively. Not to mention that that's also my name, so, if she learns with Joy (that's me, her mom), she's happier. Enough said. :)

Homeschooling a preschooler could be exciting and enjoyable for you and your student while at the same time nerve-wracking (only for you not for your student)! It's a gentle (and fun!) way of introducing a little bit of structure and schedule to your learner without you experiencing the pressure  of being tied up to it (or guilt if you're not able to follow your schedule). It's a good opportunity for you to check if your kid/s is/are now ready to transition from an informal set-up to a little more formal one.

Inform the preschooler.
We started our "a little bit formal" homeschool last August 2015. Of course, a couple of weeks before that I informed my preschooler about it. I didn't expect it but she was very excited. She was already thinking of what dress to wear (on the first day of "school"), what school bag to use, what her table will be, what crayons and coloured pencils she will use (she has lots as gifts for her last year's birthday). She was so thrilled about it and just couldn't wait for the "big day" to come.

My preschooler on our first day of homeschool

Prepare the homeschool/learning area.
We just came from the US and currently stay at my mom's house. A lot of our stuff from our apartment where we used to live (before we left for the US) are lodged in our bedroom. So, just imagine how packed our tiny room is! But I still managed to find a corner where we can have our learning time. Also, I used what is available such as side/night table, my old study table, my old chair and my daughter's stool. I make sure that our area is always clean and bright (that is, I always open the window blinds to let the sunshine in); conducive to learning.

Free printable (Daily Learning Notebook) from Confessions of a Homeschooler
Free printable (Daily Learning Notebook) from Confessions of a Homeschooler

Keep the curriculum simple and fun.
When my preschooler was just a year old I was on the lookout for a curriculum that I could use to "teach" her. Then in March 2014, I came across The Learning Basket's  invitation to their Start Your Homeschool Preschool seminar/workshop. Of course I grabbed the chance to attend this event. The seminar/workshop was an eye opener to me. It made me realise that I don't need an  expensive curriculum, I don't even need to buy. I just have to create an environment that would spark love for learning of my tot schooler. The mantra "better late than early" stuck to my mind like a sticky note that whenever I itched to introduce "academic learning" to my precocious toddler, I backed down a bit. You may ask what then was my curriculum at that time? Well, it was just pure play, hahaha! Because that spelled f-u-n for my daughter and if she's having fun she learns quickly and better. The good thing was, my toddler was (and still is) always curious. I provided opportunities for her to ask questions, and when she asked them, I made sure I gave her an appropriate answer (which means, based on her ability and capability to grasp and understand the concept). And since it was always fun for my toddler, I never thought I would always hear this from her, "Mom, come on let's go. Let's homeschool already!" This is music to my ears. :)

This year, aside from "play", we are doing the Letter of the Week and hopefully before the school year ends we will be able to do the Before Five in a Row. I am so thankful for the availability of free printable from some of the "joyful links" that I have found in the net, such as, Confessions of a Homeschooler by Erica Arndt, Delightful Learning by Michelle, Homeschool Creations by Jolanthe,  Homeschoolshare and of course, The Learning Basket (though I haven't gotten any printable from TLB, the wealth of ideas that Mariel and Sanne share are just awesome). In one way or another, they have helped me create a simple and fun curriculum for my preschooler. One day, I hope to share with you some of our joyful learning together.

Recognize your preschooler's learning style.
For me, it is imperative to know and acknowledge your student's learning style. Learning style is how, or the way your student processes and learns new information. When you know your learner's learning style, you will teach effectively and efficiently. Most preschoolers are auditory, visual and tactile/kinesthetic learners. My daughter is a little bit of everything but predominantly kinaesthetic/tactile so when I prepare  our lessons and activities I make sure I take this into consideration.

I also acknowledge that my preschooler's attention span is definitely shorter than mine. So when I still feel like doing our lesson for the day and she is becoming restless, we stop and let her rest for a while. I also let her have her snacks even if she has just eaten breakfast. She just loves to eat, what can I do? :)

Be prepared... Always!
I mentioned above that homeschooling a preschooler could be nerve-wracking at times. That is, if you're not prepared. One time, I thought I had prepared everything that could be done in an hour or so but since my daughter is quite a quick learner (in some areas), what I assumed to get done in 30 minutes she finished in 10 minutes and she's like, "What's next, Mom?" So, I always come prepared. If everything else fails, reading a book or two always saves the day. :)

Pray! Pray! Pray!
My husband and I prayed for it before we decided to homeschool our daughter. I pray for our homeschooling regularly. My daughter and I pray before we start our homeschool. Everything begins and ends in prayer. That's how powerful it is. I know I can do this only because of God's abundant grace in my life. As I have mentioned here, the struggle is real. To be honest, there are times I almost would like to give up. Whenever it happens, I stop, "look up" and ask for the Lord's strength, wisdom and grace so I can continue on. Refreshed, I go back to the reasons why we do what we do. :)

Homeschooling a preschooler is not a piece of cake but the effort and time you put into it is definitely worth it. How about you, are you homeschooling too? Please feel free to share your thoughts about your homeschooling experience in the comments section. Thank you.

Friday, November 13, 2015

All I Ever Have to Be

There comes a time when I feel like I would like to do more than what I am doing right now (as a wife and mom); to be somewhere more "exciting"than when I am right now and to become somebody than who I am right now. It's a gnawing sensation that doesn't seem to stop unless I do something about it.

Oftentimes, I find myself living in the past; thinking what could have happened if I had only chosen the other path of the bifurcating road that was in front of me then. I could have been this; I could have done that; I could have been there. What adds fuel to the fire is that, in many cases, I compare my life and myself with others. Why am I not like him/her?

Then this song I learned when I was younger than today (heehee) reminded me of where my perspective should be...

When the weight of all my dreams
Is resting heavily on my head
And the thoughtful words of help and hope
Have all been nicely said
But I'm still hurting, wondering if I'll ever be the one
I think I am
I think I am

Then You gently re-remind me
That You've made me from the first
And the more I try to be the best
The more I get the worst
And I realise the good in me is only there
Because of who You are
Who You are

And all I ever have to be is what You've made me
Any more or less would be a step out of Your plan
As You daily recreate me, help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do what I can find
And all I ever have to be,
All I have to be,
All I ever have to be
Is what You've made me.

It's not about me. It's not about what I do. It's all about Him who has wonderfully created me and purposefully placed me in this world. Like the potter to a clay, He designs me according to His divine will and reasons. He directs me towards the path that He wants me to traverse.

It's not just about the dreams (whether immense or small) that are seemingly sleeping inside my heart but it's about the Giver of these desires and aspirations. It's about being obedient to His call. I may be doing "great" or "more" things in people's eyes but if they're not part of His perfect design for me, then that will mean nothing; those are nothing. And since He lovingly placed those dreams in my heart, He is also faithful to fulfil those through me. All I need to do is to trust Him; obey and believe that all I ever have to do, all I have to be, is what He has made me.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Learn with Joy: Why We Do What We Do

"If there is one thing we can give you all, our children, that'll be education." Those were the words I heard from my parents when my siblings and I were just littles. We are not wealthy but our parents made it a point to send us to school, good schools for that matter. So, I grew up  valuing education and its benefits. I told myself at the time, "When I have my own kids, I'll make sure to send them to the best schools in the country." After completing one college degree, I even pursued a Certificate in Professional Education and took a licensure exam to become a licensed educator. Fast track to today, I am now married with a precocious daughter in tow. However, my idea about education has changed a lot. It is no longer about being accepted to big and "best" schools. It is more about the quality of education that we (my husband and I) would like our daughter to attain.

My husband and I decided to homeschool our only daughter (yeah, only daughter and to be homeschooled, quite a recipe for "socialisation problem" huh?) the moment we had her. We want to give her the best and like every first time parents we want to give her the "world". I started asking family friends about homeschooling and although not all the ones we asked are familiar (and agreeing) with homeschooling, there is a missionary couple who gave us an idea on how they did it. The more I seek, the more I got interested and the more I learned about it. Thankfully, a lot of parents nowadays are opting to homeschool their children. There are also hundreds of blogs about homeschooling that are indeed helpful and useful.

After much prayer and contemplation, "against all odds", we took the less traveled road. To be honest, it's not always a walk in the park. Just like what other homeschooling parents say, (hashtag) "the struggle is real". It really takes a lot of strength and grace from the One who made it clear to us that this is the path we're going to take; it takes commitment and dedication on our part. But why still do what we do?

We Acknowledge that we are God's stewards.
My husband and I have always said that "we are owners of nothing but stewards of everything", and that includes our daughter. Being entrusted with a precious gift, we must prove ourselves faithful to Him. As stewards, we want to make sure that we are giving our daughter what we ought to give her, not holding back what is due her. Homeschooling her is accepting that we have been given a responsibility and taking care of what the Lord has charged to our care.

We want to give the "Best" to our daughter.
Every set of parents will agree, I know, that our (yours and ours) offsprings deserve the very best. As I have mentioned above, as parents, it's like we want to give the "world" to our children. Not that I could literally give the world to my daughter but it's the desire for her to receive the good things in life. The best may not always be the most expensive. It could be something that comes from the heart knowing that it's "all of you" offering it and using it for the well-being of someone. Homeschooling my daughter is giving all of me to her. A lot of people have asked me why I opted to stay at home, breastfeed my daughter and homeschool her when in fact I could have chosen to pursue a career and live my dreams. And when I tell them, "This is my career. I am living one of my dreams by being with my daughter," most of them would shake their heads in disbelief. I know it sounds crazy to them but to me and my husband, specially to my daughter, it says, "We love you that's why we give you our very best."

We believe that Character formation and development begins at home.
It is my belief that the heart of education is the education of the heart. A person with a knowledge-filled brain may succeed at first but won't necessarily endure. However, an individual with the right character will definitely survive in this broken world. More than loading her brain with a plethora of information, we would like our daughter's heart to be filled with experiences that will shape her heart to live for God, that is, produce a character that is approved not only in the sight of man but most importantly in the eyes of God; a character that is strong enough to stand for what is right, true and moral; not influenced by peer pressure nor agitated by unfavourable circumstances. I am not saying my husband and I are perfect enough to be able to do this. No, in fact, we're just ordinary people with perfect imperfections. However, I know that by and with the grace of God in our lives, we will accomplish it.

We desire our daughter to be a Disciple of Jesus. 
As believers and followers of Jesus, we would like our daughter to have the same relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. I firmly believe that it's the best legacy we could leave her. When we homeschool, it's not just the facts that we share but the faith as well. The Bible says, "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

We aspire to Excellence in education.
Every Filipino child deserves not just education but a quality education. That has been my "mantra" as an educator. As a homeschooling educator and parent, I know my husband and I will be able to give our daughter the quality of education we would like her to get. There will be no pressure to strive for perfection but encouragement to pursue excellence.

These are just some of the many reasons why we do what we do. If you noticed (I hope you did), I gave you our A to E reasons :). Hopefully, I'll be able to add some more sometime.

How about you? Are you a homeschooling mom/dad too? What are your motivations in doing so? I would love to hear from you! :)