Saturday, December 9, 2006

Our home, our school

“Our Home, Our School”
Sun.Star Davao, Dec. 9, 2006

When 28-year old Filipino-British mom Alexandria “Alex” Morris Hao visited the Department of Education (DepEd) office inquiring about homeschooling, she was asked “Bakit, saan ka pala nakatira?”.

Alex responded, Davao City”.

The DepEd official said, “Eh, Davao City ka lang pala eh. Bakit ayaw mo mag-enroll sa regular school? Special ba anak mo?”.

“Oo, special siya..”, Alex replied “kasi love ko siya”.  And then, she immediately realized the lady meant if her daughter had special needs.

“No, my child is normal”, she answered with a smile.

That was one of Alex’s most memorable moments before she started homeschooling her three daughters, Amber (age 9), Ashley (age 6) and Allegra (age 2).

“Amber first studied nursery in a regular Catholic school.  After a month though, I decided to transfer her because she would come home from school shouting”, Alex related.  Upon visiting the school, she noticed that there were too many students in the class.  So, the kids would shout competing for the attention of the teacher.  Moreover, Amber was not happy with the assignments as they were redundant and boring.

Through a parent in ballet class, the hands-on mom discovered a progressive school in Matina.  Amber was very pleased with the school because learning became fun.  There were no tedious tests and senseless memorization. The lessons appealed to her child’s young mind.

However, that particular school only offered classes until the grade school level.  Hence, Alex researched on different systems of learning for high school and chanced upon homeschooling through the Internet. 

What is homeschooling?

“Homeschooling provides an alternative educational system whereby the parents become the teacher and the home becomes the primary learning environment.  Parents as teacher (or parent-teachers) are mediators who select, filter, explain and facilitate the application of knowledge for the child.” (Source:  The Master’s Academy Home School)

In addition, homeschooling is legal in the Philippines.  Students can take validation tests, the Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT) or enroll under the accredited homeschool programs of DepEd.

Seeing the benefits of homeschooling, she and her husband-businessman Bion decided to introduce it to their kids earlier than they originally planned.

Alex consulted Amber’s teacher and she was assured that if ever her plans will not work out, her daughter can always go back to the school.

The eager mom initially ordered homeschooling materials worth P30,000. “I got overwhelmed.  Actually some of the books were readily available in the Philippines but just to avoid the hassle, I ordered them all.  They filled one whole balikbayan box”, she recalls.

Homeschool life

A typical day starts between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.  The whole family eats a healthy breakfast together.  As they are not in a mad rush to go to a regular school, the children are given their share of household chores like washing the dishes, fixing their own beds and sweeping the floor.
“The schedule which we are following is much simpler than the recommended homeschool curriculum.  In the morning, I allot 2 hours for Amber to do her math problems.  She has drills and problem solving.  On the other hand, Ashley has addition and subtraction lessons for 20 minutes”, Alex narrates.

After lunch, there is a mandatory rest time.  They continue with the lessons on history, reading, science and religion in the afternoon.  Alex shares that the books that they use explain the subjects in a simple and child-like way.

“I make the lessons interesting, relevant and exciting for the children.  For example, our religion lesson includes the Holy Father’s encyclicals.  There was this one time that the Pope said “Let’s pray for the people of Africa”.  So, I let the kids watch the “Power of One” movie”, Alex discusses. Amber was so affected with the injustices of apartheid. She wanted to get her kickboard to release her anger at the bad guys in the movie.  Furthermore, Alex arranged for her daughters to meet and interact with a Davao-based South African lady.

Based on Alex’s research, there are no specific area requirements for a homeschool classroom.  She assigned a vacant room in their two-storey house for such a  purpose.  The room is filled with books, maps, a computer, art projects, among others.

 “Each family has a different teaching style.  Some families are very structured that they are quite rigid in following the curriculum on a day-to-day basis.  Others are so flexible that they wait for their children to show interest in certain lessons before they actually teach them”, Alex reveals.  She reflects that her own style is more child-directed.

Social butterflies

To develop the children’s social skills, they are actively involved in extra-curricular activities such as taekwondo, ballet and voice lessons. Alex, a certified Lamaze instructress, also brings her daughters to school where she teaches art and the hospital where she lectures about breastfeeding. Likewise, the kids belong to Bud’s Girls Club which meets every 1st and 4th Saturday of the month.

Alex claims that her children’s early exposure to people of different ages and social backgrounds has made them more grounded and adaptable.  They easily mingle with kids from both private and public schools.  Although they primarily speak English at home, her daughters try to adjust to others by conversing in Filipino or the local dialect.

So, you want to homeschool?

This energetic mom advises that if one would like to consider homeschooling, he or she should have the time, a good disposition and must work well with others. She cites that “The advantages of homeschooling are you have more family time, learning is realistic and the children learn at their own pace.  The disadvantage would be you cannot really plan and accomplish your goals all the time”.  For instance, Alex noticed that her brood is not too interested in science so they are lagging behind in that particular subject.

As we ended the interview, the adorable “tres marias” were eagerly preparing their colorful home-made kites and boats.  “We are off to Agro (Industrial Foundation College) field to fly kites and check if Amber’s tissue box boat will float on the river”, Alex said.

Observing how amazingly bright, self-confident and amiable the kids were during my afternoon with them, I believe that indeed, in this case, “A mother knows best!”.

(Are you a Davao-based homeschooling parent?  Alex would love to meet up with you.  You may get in touch with her through my e-mail address:

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