Words by Frances Leones
Photos by Althea Catipon
Homeschooling, while considered a fairly new style of education in the Philippines, has actually been around since way back when. In the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi, “There is no school equal to a decent home, and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”
From the moment we’re born, our parents are our primary caretakers and teachers. One needs only to remember our national hero, Jose Rizal, who was first taught by his pious and intelligent mother, Teodora Alonzo, to see that homeschooling in the Philippines was already existing way before the Department of Education came to be.
For most parents, the idea of homeschooling their children comes with more costs than benefits. There’s the fear of financial strains since one or even both parents might not be able to have a stable income if they’re staying at home. Some worry if homeschooling will have an adverse effect on their child’s socialization skills, which are usually developed in a typical public or private school setting. And then there’s the question, “Am I capable of teaching my child the necessary skills needed to succeed in life?”
The Founders of Educating for Life and Organizers of the PHC
These doubts and fears were talked about and put to rest during the 2019 Philippine Homeschool Convention held last September 7, 2019 in SMX Aura. With the theme “No Place Like Home,” the convention’s speakers provided valuable advice to homeschooling parents and newbies to the homeschooling scene. Yes, the task of managing your child’s education yourself may be daunting, requiring a lot of time and sacrifice. But for these parents, it’s all worth it.
For Homeschool Singapore founder Dawn Fung, the home is the place where we learn the importance of managing our “gaps” – the tensions between our expectations for our lives and the realities of what our lives are really like. What’s important is that your family has space where it can grow, and that space requires cooperation among all members of the family. To create a space for the family that can be also useful for homeschooling, according to her, requires the following: Communication, Sacrifice, Creativity, Literacy, and Reflection.
Dr. Donna Pangilinan-Simpao
Donna’s journey as a homeschooler began when she returned to the Philippines from London with her sons, whom she was very hands-on in caring for. Through homeschooling, she discovered the importance of relationships, which are the foundations of a child’s education.
The primary relationship developed throughout a child’s life is the relationship with the parents. School, while capable of providing education, ultimately takes the children away from their parents who miss out on crucial milestones since almost everything happens in school for their children. Imagine missing your child for at least 8 hours every weekday. Who knows how many things you’ve missed?
While she had doubts at the start of her journey, Dr. Simpao revealed that homeschooling helped her become a whole new person. From a strict routine life in the medical field, she learned to be more patient and laugh at herself whenever she made a mistake or two. Homeschooling has become her vocation and has brought her closer to her children who, under her guidance, have become good people first – persons of good character – before excelling in academics.
Originally from Ohio, Marla Taviano has lived in Cambodia with her family for five years. This has taught her a lot about adapting to change, particularly in homeschooling her daughters. Her motto is “Not all classrooms have four walls” and this applies to how she taught them. She took risks and innovated, paying attention to her daughters’ needs when it came to their learning style and what needed to be taught. Apart from textbook knowledge, Marla puts an emphasis on life skills like cooking that will ensure that kids are able to take care of themselves when they grow up.
Something Marla learned in her experience of being a homeschooler is that learning comes best to people when they love what they’re learning. Another is that failure is the better teacher than success as it’s merely another way to learn again but with a wiser outlook, and that you should never stop learning and unlearning. There’s always going to be something new to learn every day with your children so, while they’re still young, cherish every second.
When it comes to the cost of pretty much everything here in the Philippines, it’s never too early to teach your children the value of money. To Kaye Ang, this is something she and her husband have been teaching their three-year-old daughter. Kaye makes her money education inclusive and intentional, letting her child into the discussion on monetary matters using age-appropriate terminology. Teaching your child the purpose and finiteness of money at an early age will also help them understand the value of every peso earned from work.
The Catholic Filipino Homeschool Orchestra performs during an intermission
As one of the founders of Educating for Life, the organization responsible for bringing the Philippine Homeschool Convention to life, Michelle has had quite a journey as a homeschooler. A homeschooler since 2002, she knows the value of a good education and has done her best as both mother and teacher to get her children to value their education. And it shows as one of her children shared with her a story of her first time in college. For Michelle’s daughter, it was a shock to see her classmates have a “Pasang Awa” mentality, meaning that they were okay with getting low grades as long as they passed. Sadly, that seems to be a growing reality among most of the Filipino youth allowed the privilege of going to college – going to college just for the sake of going without ever really internalizing whatever they’ve learned to use in hopes of using it to bring about change.
What drove Michelle to dedicate herself to homeschooling was the belief that educating her children herself would help them grow to become good citizens that can help our country. She encourages parents to be more involved with their children’s education and to think generational. If parents decide to homeschool their children, they’ll be able to teach them good values and principles that they’ll, hopefully, pass on to their own children. This is a pretty good point to consider if thinking about homeschooling. Our social environment has, honestly, become quite toxic and children are at risk of picking up bad behavior and habits if left unsupervised. For Michelle, teaching your children well will mean a better tomorrow for them and our country.
In the past, parents would use scare tactics like the threat of getting smacked on the rear with a slipper to discipline their children. For Jayson, a better method he learned while homeschooling his two daughters is treating each other as peers. This allows him to relate to them and also identify their key personality traits – which he classifies with quirky names like Dominant Eagle, Influential Rooster, Steady Carabao, and Corrective Tarsier. With these personality traits in mind, Jayson is able to discern what strengths and weaknesses his daughters have and guide them accordingly.
To parents and homeschoolers alike, he encourages them to be aware, to accept, and to adapt, to love their children equally but to treat them differently as each child is unique.
No Place Like Home: Panel with Families
Finally, in a special panel, parents and their kids shared their insights on homeschooling and how it has impacted them. For the moms, homeschooling allowed them to spend more time with their children and focus on character development rather than just academics.
For the dads, it’s a chance for them to assume some responsibilities usually reserved for moms when their partners need a support system. The father is usually looked at as the disciplinarian in the homeschooling environment. But, when needed, they reveal a softer side to themselves as they juggle the responsibilities of parenthood and teaching their children.
As for the kids themselves, homeschooling has helped them develop a closer bond to their parents, taught them how to value being a good person first over being a good student, and has allowed them to really delve deep into the subjects they’re passionate about.
Whether you’re already homeschooling your child or still choosing between homeschooling or the mainstream education system, always remember that every child’s education begins with their parents in the safety of the home.
Want to learn more about Educating for Life and the PHC? You can check out their website here.
Know a parent who’s a homeschooler or thinking about homeschooling their kids? Share this article with them and have them tell us their stories in the comments!