Friday, January 23, 2015

How Pope Francis' Messages Affirmed Me in My Decision to Homeschool My Kids

It has been four days since Pope Francis left the Philippines after his five-day visit to the country. But his words during his papal visit still ring loud and clear in my mind and heart. I felt that God spoke powerfully through him to affirm my decision to homeschool my kids.
Let me share some of his words that resonated with me.
1. Focus "on the things that really matter"
My main reason for choosing to homeschool my kids is because I want to focus on educating them with the things that really matter now that they are still very young. I want these important matters to be the foundation of their education.
There are many subjects and topics covered in the traditional school set up. Students are overloaded with these information; yet, many kids do not retain much of these information because they are not ready and because they were simply pressured to remember them so that they would pass their tests. 
As independent homeschoolers and as my kids' main teacher, I get to customize my kids' program/curriculum and teach them what I believe is most important to prepare them for the realities of life and for life eternal.   

One of the programs we have for example is the letter of the week wherein I did not only introduce the letters of the alphabet to my second child but I included Bible verses also and things related to our Catholic faith. My eldest child usually writes a Bible verse related to our letter of the week, which I also ask him to memorize. Then, he and his younger brother do an art/craft activity related to it.

Below are some photos for our activities with the letter P, inspired by the Pope's visit last week.

My second son's art work.

My eldest son's handwriting.

My eldest son's drawing.

My drawing/illustration while teaching them truths from the Bible through storytelling.
2. "What is the most important subject you have to learn at university? What is most important subject you have to learn in life? To learn how to love. This is the challenge that life offers you: to learn how to love. Not just to accumulate information without knowing what to do with it. But through that love let that information bear fruit."
I agree with the Pope! When I heard the Pope say this, I was reminded of a verse in the Bible which says, "If I do not have love, I'm simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing."

My eldest son showing his love for his younger brother Mateo
by kissing him and reading to him.
Again, with the information overload, students are overwhelmed and find it hard to determine how to make good use of all these information they were supplied. The question is: do they need all those details/information for the career and life they want to have in the future? Or is it a waste of the children's time to study too many facts which may not be of value to them in their current situation or in the future?
In most schools, students are given very little time to play and be themselves because study takes so much of their time. When they get home, they need to study again because they have homework/assignments. They need to review for quizzes and tests.

In our homeschool, they have plenty of time to play because formal study time (meaning structured and planned by me) takes only a few hours and is interspersed with play time or meal time. Moreover, we emphasize that whatever they learn or whatever skills they acquire should be put to service of others and of the Church. Thus, when my eldest learned how to read, he would read to his baby brother. He passes on whatever new learning he has to his younger sibling. He has also made it his goal to learn to play Mass songs in the piano so that one day he can serve as pianist in the Church during Mass. He has actually done so once when we got to the Church one evening and there was no pianist.
3. "You know how to give and yet you have ever learned how to receive... Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty."
Society puts a premium on being self-sufficient and independent. But the truth is that we are interdependent. Our children need to learn that no man is an island. That in order to succeed, we need not only be good in our field but we need to also work with people who can help us achieve our dreams and goals. As one of my favorite authors/mentors often say, "Build your dream team."
For in truth, we don't need to learn how to do everything ourselves. We need to learn to be open to receiving help from others. As the saying goes, "No one is too rich not to receive. No one is too poor not to give." 
4. "the Gospel offers us a serene way forward: using the three languages of the mind, heart and hands – and to use them in harmony... To think. To feel. To do. And all in harmony..." 
Schools and universities put too much emphasis on the mental development of students. In our homeschool, I am able to balance both instruction and practice in different areas. Most importantly, because I recognize that my kids are whole persons who have spirits, minds, hearts and bodies, I can integrate into our curriculum materials and activities that will address their needs in all areas.
5. "It is in the family that we first learn how to pray. And don’t forget when the family prays together, it remains together.  This is important.  There we come to know God, to grow into men and women of faith, to see ourselves as members of God’s greater family, the Church."
I'm very happy and I feel fulfilled that I have taught my kids how to pray. I believe that this is important lesson they need to learn in life. By learning how to pray to God, they know that whenever they need something -- be it something temporal or not -- they can turn to God who is omniscient and omnipresent.
6. "...if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us.  And for all our activity, our busy-ness, without prayer we will accomplish very little."
And let me add, we will accomplish very little of what is truly important.
This is something that I also believe is essential in my kids' education. It is only in and through prayer that they will discover God's Will for their lives. That is my second greatest dream for my kids: for them to discover God's will for their lives and live their lives according to His Divine Will. Of course my greatest dream for my kids is for them to spend their eternity with God in heaven.
7. "Faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it.  Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world."
I do not only put much emphasis on our faith in our homeschool. In fact, I have made this the foundation of our homeschool. I'm teaching my kids these things because I believe that these would prepare them to live in the world where wolves abound.
8. "God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm."
There are so many threats to the family as a whole and to its members. Relationships within the family are threatened by many harmful ideologies and concepts, which bring me to the Pope's next statements.
9. “Sadly, in our day, the family all too often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture.”
10. "While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality. The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life."
The RH Bill has been recently passed in the Philippines and this is one of the reasons I don't want to put my kids in brick and mortar schools in the country. I do not agree with the ideas, methods and timing by which our government has integrated sex education in school materials. I feel that these materials that the government wants to use to "educate" kids in our country are actually polluting both their minds and souls. I want to protect my kids' innocence and purity as long as I can. I don't want them to lose these too early when they are not yet emotionally and physically prepared for these concepts and ideas. 

I also do not want my kids to be influenced by their classmates or peers to be materialistic. Kids nowadays are so concerned about fashion and gadgets. Kids want to have what toys or gadgets their classmates have. I also do not want them to be influenced by popular culture. I want them to be influenced by our faith. I want them to discover their own unique styles and preferences without being pressured to act and dress a certain way just to gain friends or be accepted. I don't want them to watch shows that do not add value to them but instead corrupts their values and do not challenge their thinking just to be included in conversations in school. (My kids do not watch tv.) I don't want them to be brainwashed that it's ok to have premarital sex; anyway, one can use condoms.
10. "So protect your families!   See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments."
One of the blessings/benefits of being homeschooling family that we experience is that we get to pray and avail of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as often as we want. We are able to go to Mass daily and we can spend ample time in prayer both individually and as a family.
11. "Do not hide your faith, do not hide Jesus, but carry him into the world and offer the witness of your family life!"
By choosing to homeschool our kids, we are actually making a statement with the way that we live our lives. We are communicating to those around us that it's possible to make your faith the foundation of your family life and of your children's education. It presents a counter-culture to what society considers as the norm.
12. "It is important to dream in the family."
It is a wonderful thing for dreams to start, flourish and be fulfilled in the family. I have witnessed this in our little and young family. My eldest son started dreaming of playing the guitar and the piano when he was still around 2 years old. It was a dream that was born out of our family's service to our community. I was then head of the Liturgical Committee. My family was always busy organizing and serving in the weekly Masses. He grew up witnessing this and it has become his dream to be part of the choir. It has become his dream to learn how to sing the songs in the Mass. It has become his dream to learn to play Mass songs in the piano. And all these dreams of my little boy came true one by one even at his tender age. It brings much joy into my heart to see my child blossom into the child that he is today. All these would have been fulfilled at a much later time or maybe not if he was not homeschooled. Because he is homeschooled, going to Mass has always been a priority. He can practice the piano daily if he wants to, day and night. He can spend hours if he wants to perfect a song. And he has the opportunity to use these skills, his gift of music to serve the Church. 

Below is a video of my eldest son (wearing long-sleeved white shirt with tie) singing with the choir during Midnight Mass last Christmas. 

13. “When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world.”

Values formation is another priority in our homeschool. These are more important to us than academic lessons. I have in truth experienced that values are much harder to teach than academics. We are blessed that our kids learn fast in the area of academics, particularly my eldest son. But it would take them a while to learn and adapt the values that we want them to learn and practice. It is said that values are caught, not taught. It helps to explain and have activities that pave the way for kids to understand certain values. But it is best to be role models to kids and to involve them in activities where they can see these values in action and where they too are given the opportunity to practice them or live them out.  
14. “Families have an indispensable mission in society.  It is in the family that children are trained in sound values, high ideals and genuine concern for others. But like all God’s gifts, the family can also be disfigured and destroyed.  It needs our support.”

In homeschooling, we can emphasize the values and ideals we want our children to espouse. We don't need to expose them to values that we do not approve of but are approved and promoted by the school administration. We are empowered as parents to really mold them according to the values that we believe God wants us to teach them. 

My kids and I were not able to attend the events during Pope Francis' visit but we were able to watch almost all of them live. Thanks to the internet also, I had access to the full text of the Pope's messages and homilies, enabling me to meditate on his words longer and gain insights.
You can read the full text of Pope Francis' messages in the links below:
Homily During Mass in Luneta

Are you a homeschooling family, too? Are you considering to homeschool your kids also? Do these words of the Pope resonate with you as well? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Good morning Mommy TG! I have just read your blog and it is very inspiring! I am getting ready for a fellowship with my members in the spiritual community "CFC-Handmaids of the Lord" today and what you have written have struck my heart and I will share it with them. May you continue to be an inspiration to budding writers! May we all have a truly fulfilling and blessed day! Godspeed on your endeavors! MSC