Sunday, September 14, 2014

3 Lessons I Learned From Our Homeschool Experience

When I was new to homeschooling, I felt a lot of pressure to be a good teacher. I thought, "I can't fail to be a good teacher, my son's future is at stake." This thought was aggravated when my husband and I got confirmation from our son's developmental pediatrician that he is a potentially gifted child. "What if I run out of things to teach him?" What if he doesn't respond positively to the activities I have prepared?" "What if he doesn't learn what I'm trying to teach him?" I had so many questions and doubts. I realized that choosing to be my son's main teacher is a big responsibility.
Fast forward to three years later. My eldest son is now almost six years old. He has learned a lot through the years. He's now in various levels -- Grades 1, 2 and 3. And I have learned valuable lessons in the past years through our homeschool experience. Let me share some with you.
1. Kids can learn on their own. - Yes, I've taught my son many things through the years that we've been on this homeschool journey. BUT there were also things that he taught himself. One example of this is reading in Filipino. The first language that we taught our son when he was born was English. He eventually learned to speak Filipino when he was around three years old when we had maids who spoke more in Filipino instead of English. He picked up easily. But he didn't like to read Filipino books even if I was offering to read Filipino books to him. I didn't force him. Then, there were a few occasions a couple of years ago when he read some road signs that were in Filipino. That surprised me and my husband. Still, I had no luck in convincing him to read Filipino books. That went on until he surprised us again last month by reading a Filipino book on his own from cover to cover! I was really surprised! He read fast and quite fluently! I didn't teach him that! I figured that he learned to decode the language on his own. (You can read more about this here in one of my previous blog posts.)

Yanthy reads a Filipino book on his own for the first time.
Another area where I know he is learning on his own is music. He learns songs fast. In truth, he learns songs faster than me. He picks up tunes easily and he learns how to play them in the piano fast. I'm not skilled in playing the piano and I'm not that gifted in music; so, I know for sure that I can't be his Music teacher. It's a good thing that my husband is also gifted in music so he's the one guiding our son in this adventure. But since my husband is also working on weekdays, most days, our eldest son is learning music on his own. He learns by observation. He observes the singers and the musicians that he sees in church and in our prayer meetings. He learns by exploring with our keyboard at home. Then, some days, he would just surprise us by mastering a song either by singing it or by playing it in the piano. Below is a song he learned after practicing for a few minutes for three consecutive days.

This is a humbling realization and lesson for me. The great thing about this is that it's also very liberating! It took a lot of pressure from my shoulders! Experiencing this firsthand in our homeschool enabled me to homeschool with less fears in my heart. This homeschool lesson I learned brings me to the next lesson I want to share with you.
2. Parents need to provide an environment that fosters/encourages exploration and learning. - Since kids have a great capacity to learn on their own, one of the important things that we parents can do to help them learn is by providing them with the right environment. I think that this is crucial because even if we try to teach them concepts or principles but if we do not provide the right kind of environment for them, it's possible that they will still not learn or respond positively to the things we are trying to teach them.
I think that one of the best things that my husband and I have done for our kids is providing for them an environment where they can learn all the time. Learning happens in our family not only during structured activities. Learning happens during our conversations, our daily routines and our other family activities. Books are readily accessible to them around the house. We provide them with toys and materials that facilitate learning even through play. Learning is not compartmentalized to "school activities." Learning is fun and a way of life. Reading is not a chore but an activity that we all enjoy at home. Discovery is something that can happen anytime. Exploration and play is the norm.
Last year, I got another pleasant surprise when my 21 month old baby boy started reading sight words. I have not even formally introduced the alphabet to him. But he started recognizing some sight words. It's amazing! Raising kids is an amazing job! I'm so thankful that we chose to homeschool our children because by being their main teacher, I get to witness firsthand their learning milestones.

It was with this book that Mateo
first started reading sight words.
3. We learn with our kids. - Like most parents who are new to homeschooling, one of the things that pressured me when we were starting was thinking that I need to know a lot so I can be a good teacher to my kids. But as we experienced more of homeschooling, I realized that learning is something that is not exclusive to my kids as we take on this adventure. I realized that I'm learning with my kids as I homeschool them. Surely, it meant being reminded of the many lessons I learned when I was a student myself. But I continue to be a student of life through my experiences. And I learn with my kids as I research and prepare their programs, activities and lessons. It's another humbling lesson. It's also an exciting realization!
My kids and I still have so much to learn as we continue in this adventure called homeschooling. But these lessons surely will make the next phases of our homeschool adventure more fun. It's like travelling with less baggage (fears and self-doubt). I thank God for these experiences and insights. They give me greater confidence to face whatever homeschool challenges we would encounter in the coming months or years, especially that I'll be giving birth to another boy soon, another child that I will homeschool.
What lessons have you learned so far in homeschooling your child/children? I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to share by leaving a comment.   

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