Non-Linear Schooling

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My then-2-year-old student playing with and scooping colored ice as an intro to science, and to practice motor skills.

We’ve been homeschooling for about three years now. We started early, when our son was just two. I guess it’s by the same reason that schools now open a toddler program and parents have been eagerly flocking to enroll their chubby tots in them. It’s exciting to watch them learn and do new things. Not to mention cute.

We considered homeschooling because we loved spending time together as a family. Plus the preschool years are a lot of playing and answering curious questions, more than anything. And we do that already everyday.

However, it’s another thing altogether to plan lessons. My first job was as a preschool teacher and the worst thing about it for me was lesson-planning. Only because I had to cough up some activities everyday for a child to do.

My eager student

My eager student

Now with homeschooling, since it’s a natural extension of parenting for us, we find that the lessons are integrated in our daily lifestyle and implemented proactively  with our student. And one of the many, many things we appreciate about homeschooling is that it, absolutely does NOT need to be straightforward and linear. We study whatever interests us at any given time. We learn as life deals with us, and as we deal with life.

For example, we first learned about numbers as Gabbie started to walk up the stairs as a toddler. We simply counted as he went up and down. We naturally had to learn about how tadpoles grow into frogs, and caterpillars to butterflies when our friend lent us the book, “The Tadpole’s Promise”. We tackled the “tricky” lesson of getting pregnant, pregnancy and birthing when else? When we got pregnant and did our water birth! We delved into the solar system when Gabbie devoured anything Star Wars.  All of these were child-initiated, and the lessons imprinted themselves onto Gabbie’s brain simply because he was interested.

His drawings and activity sheets

His drawings and activity sheets

The curriculum that we use supports this way of learning for us. We’ve been using Five in a Row for almost a year now, and the memory of my son cuddling next to me as we read wonderful stories is my best takeaway. As for my son, he’s learned so much and more importantly, he said he enjoys homeschooling! Among many memorable lessons, we’ve discovered many different countries and culture, the complex emotions we deal with, the different characteristics of people, the important values we want to imbibe as well as the various parts of a book and a story, simple machines, steam shovels, nutrition and the different kinds of food and quilting.

Now, to a traditionally-schooled and “type A” gal like me, this kind of seemingly “random” learning is too chaotic and unpredictable. It seemed so disconnected, and I didn’t want my child to be lacking by the usual standards. But, it soon became pretty clear to me that my son was learning, and learning well. There was a thirst and he had the initiative to quench it. Whatever it was, whatever we were doing, as a mother and teacher, I am extremely contented and excited with his learning process and journey. It may seem that if I looked at Deped’s milestones, our four-year old may be lacking in some areas (he doesn’t know how to count by 2’s or 5’s yet), but completely off the charts in another (he can put together a book on his own with title, table of contents, page numbers, copyright, dedication with a complete and interesting storyline and detailed pictures).

What I’m saying is that learning does not need to be confined. It can, and should be continuous and unbound. I say this even as I am sometimes delayed in implementing lesson plans from our curriculum. “School” does not really end because Gabbie does not stop asking questions, and we don’t stop answering either. He does not halt creating, as proven by the books, Lego structures and Play-Doh figures he makes everyday. And what makes homeschooling extra special in my mind is that he (and we!) is learning parallel to life and the current season we’re in.

And this is why I am so excited for another season in our family journey which is also our homeschooling journey. We are set to go on a long trip very soon, and I am so excited for our son who will surely enjoy learning about so many things. I’m excited for him that the places we’ve only read about will finally come to life. Or that he will be exposed to a different culture, to a different music scene, and go on another adventure with his family.

And we might be able to purchase the curriculum we’ve been wanting to try for so long–Sonlight. My heart skips a beat just reading through their full-grade package. We can’t wait for our next school year.

School. It’s never looked this interesting in my whole life. Whatever, and however we should learn–I’ve thrown out practically all notions I’ve had out the window. I don’t need to confine my son to a desk all day, five days a week, nor does he need to go through textbooks for a given school year. In fact, he does not have to have a “school year”. We can just keep going and going while he’s interested, and move on the next that piques his curiosity. We love homeschooling! And it is a privilege to be able to do this with my son, and hopefully with our daughter too.

Patiently looking for the flag of Canada.

Patiently looking for the flag of Canada.

As their teacher, I just have to make sure I don’t stay confined or boxed too. We learned a new word today, “flexibility” from the book, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”, and I am reminded that I need exactly that to maximize and enjoy homeschooling to the hilt!

 

God Doesn’t Meet Us Halfway

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit out of my element. My son continuously asks for some time with me, I’m behind in our homeschool planning and implementation, I’m struggling with this new nutritional plan my husband and I are trying out, I’m feeling unattractive with my new post-partum body and I can’t seem to get into a routine with all my to-do’s. Yes, yes I know we just had a baby and all these are normal. But, being me, I feel like all my shortcomings would somehow lead to even more disasters.

If I don’t spend time with our son, our relationship might suffer. If I don’t homeschool, my son would fall behind. If I don’t make good dishes, my husband won’t eat it and be healthy. If I don’t get back my body, I’d be fat and losyang forever.

Oh no. My baby is eating her arm and I just sprayed bug repellent on her, my son is waiting for me by the door to do homeschool, and my arms are too meaty! Not seen in photo: the mountain of company receipts for tax computations, lesson planning materials and unfinished menus. WAAAH!

Oh no. My baby is eating her arm and I just sprayed bug repellent on her, my son is waiting for me by the door to do homeschool, and my arms are too meaty! Not seen in photo: the mountain of company receipts for tax computations, lesson planning materials and unfinished menus. WAAAH!

Okay, I’m going way over the top but it’s not uncommon for a mom to feel like so much depends on her, right?

It’s telling of how I take things from a short-term perspective. I see only as far as my eyes can see. What’s more, I seem to have this big idea that I am in so much more control than I truly am. As if the whole world rests on my shoulders. And my success, and my failure, would mean the success or failure for the rest of my family. Truthfully, this is where I’ve gone into troublesome quarrels with my husband especially during the first years of our marriage. Because of the mistaken “scope” of my control and fear at the heart of it,  I’ve tried to tell him what to do far too often with so many things.

Yet, countless times as a wife, mom, woman, I felt confronted by my own set of limitations. I make too many mistakes, and I am stubborn in making them again and again. On top of that, my own emotions can sometimes still the best of me. These are the moments that I kneel to the Lord and ask for help.

“Forgive me, Lord for my shortcomings.”

“I’m sorry, Lord for the hurt I have caused.”

“I need your help in changing myself because it’s too hard to do it alone.”

As Christians, we are called to move from glory to glory. To move forward from craving “infant milk” to “solid food”. Yet, time and again, I realized just how quickly I can go back to square one as if I had not learned anything at all. And how can I teach, how can I influence when I see all my imperfections before me?

And this is where my prayer takes a turn. “Lord, amidst the mountain of failures and shortcomings, if you see a small part of goodness and righteousness in my heart, even if it’s as small as a mustard seed, please acknowledge, bless it and make it grow.”

As I prayed, I realized that in my life, in my struggle with my own mistakes, miscalculated judgment calls, and wrong mindsets, God did not even meet me halfway. He met me where I can…even if it meant I was only at the starting line AGAIN, and again.

Of course I am grateful. But more than that, I am encouraged.

I love yesterday’s devotional, “Working Through Failure” from Theology of Work. It cited the passage where Peter boldly declares that he will go where Jesus will. And Jesus gives him the chilling prediction: “Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Then, the passage continues to say that Jesus added, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus knows Peter will fail him, yet it doesn’t deter him from assigning an important task to him. How encouraging it is for me to know that our God chooses to see beyond our failures, and continues to make His purpose for us come to pass. The devotional goes on to say, “It’s important to learn from our mistakes, but we can’t let them become obstacles. We have to move forward, trust God for both forgiveness and guidance, and prepare for what’s next.”

God has always dealt with me in such a way that surprises me. Coming from an unhappy home, I never really dreamt of having a family of my own. Yet, He gave me a loving husband and two beautiful children–gifts I had never even thought of having, so I never even prayed for such. But that’s how a gift is–you just accept it and enjoy it.

In my heart, I’ve always been a writer. Yet, I didn’t pursue that path in my career right away, as my own passion daunted me. So I taught preschool in an international school for awhile. Then, I went into Publishing where I enjoyed many years producing magazines. After that, the lure of a higher position as a Marketing Manager got me to leave the job that I loved. Then, I went to Public Relations. There I truly felt that work was work. I did it, but always wondered why I was doing what I did. I didn’t last very long with the last two jobs. Too often, I wondered why I had even accepted the preschool, marketing and PR jobs. Though I didn’t regret the experience, I felt that those were precious years I could’ve spent doing what I really wanted to do–which was to write, edit and produce publications.

Years later, I found myself homeschooling our son and utilizing skills I had learned in that preschool stint. It taught me how to teach and to break lessons down to a small child’s level. The marketing position opened the door for me to another industry and I got into PR, where I met some of my much-loved friends, one of them even becoming the ninang (godmother) of my son! It also paved the way for us to meet one of our most treasured clients now in our video production company. And that editorial job I loved in a publishing company? That’s where I met my husband! Put together, all those jobs I did taught me skills I need now in being partner to my filmmaker husband in our company, and a homeschooling Momma. Who would’ve thought?

My point is: I didn’t make those career choices in wisdom or careful discernment of my future. My reasons varied but they were mostly focused on the short-term returns and for some of them, I truly believed I was making a mistake. Perhaps I was, but what’s more important is what God has done with those choices.

These days, I spend 80% of my day breastfeeding my three-month old Emma.

These days, I spend 80% of my day breastfeeding my three-month old Emma.

All these I am reminded of as I was busy reveling in all my shortcomings lately…that there is a God who makes sense of the mistakes, who weaves together seemingly insignificant details to make one beautiful piece, who meets me where I can and pours out His grace on me. Of course I am grateful. Of course I am encouraged. But more than that, I am inspired. To try again, to do better, to be better. And perhaps face tomorrow, with all my strengths and imperfections, bravely and joyfully, fully expectant of God’s glorious purpose.