Homeschooling in the Philippines: Why I homeschool
“Oh, you homeschool?! But why?”
It’s a question that comes up whenever I mention that I am teaching my son at home. I understand the curiosity, but oftentimes the way the question is asked sounds like I’ve gone stark raving mad. I’ve learned to take it all in stride, even from well-meaning family and friends who worry that my son might not be getting the socialization he needs (Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that!). People are so accustomed to traditional homeschooling that idea of taking a child out of regular school and educating him/her yourself at home comes across as either admirably radical or inconceivably insane.
When asked about the reasons why I homeschool, I simply say that traditional homeschooling is not the perfect fit for my son right now and that it shouldn’t hurt to give homeschooling a shot. In fact when I think about my circumstances (I am a stay-at-home mom, possess an education background, and have my son’s loving admiration) I wonder why I hadn’t homeschooled sooner. Homeschooling can seem like an indictment of traditional schooling–and, in some cases, it probably is–but it doesn’t have to be. I am a product of traditional schools, and it’s worked out wonderfully for me. But then again, I didn’t have the same challenges that my son does. For many families, homeschooling in the Philippines is a better alternative to a one-size-fits-all education that can often be short-sighted about children’s different learning styles and need for accommodation. Still, that is only one of many reasons why families homeschool. The reasons why I homeschool are completely personal, but I’d go far as to assume that for many families, it often starts with a dissatisfaction with the school that the child is in. And with that statement, I begin my list of reasons why I have joined the growing number of families who are homeschooling in the Philippines:
Reasons why I homeschool:
1. I became dissatisfied with my son’s school and couldn’t find a suitable replacement
I won’t go into detail about the things I disapproved of at my son’s former school. Let it suffice to say that despite the apparent advantages of the school–it was five blocks from our house and had a low teacher-to-student ratio–I could no longer go on sending my son there. Half-way into the previous school year, I began my search for a new school. My criteria were admittedly shallow. One, the school had to be an easy commute via public transportation. Two, the school had to have a decent library, ample play area, and designed with the students’ safety in mind. Third, students’ interests should be encouraged through extra-curriculars and student organizations (or clubs, as we oldies like to say). I kept my criteria straightforward because factors like quality of education and teaching staff and approachability of the school’s administration are a little more difficult to tease out. What I’m saying is that you’ll never know how good (or bad) the school is once you’re in, so I set my sights on the tangible aspects. I’d managed to narrow my choices down to two schools before they, too, stumbled on my fourth, not-so-tangible criteria: that the school must be willing to make simple accommodations for my son’s slow, atrocious handwriting and prompt him to stay on task whenever he gets distracted. None of them was prepared to do that.
2. I want to teach more than what the curriculum prescribes
Another reason why I homeschool is I want my son to have an education that is both useful and relevant. I have chosen to follow our homeschool provider’s curriculum, which is aligned with the Department of Education’s K-12 program, but I see no reason to stop there. My homeschooling goals are quite ambitious, to be honest. I am looking to supplement the basic computer skills taught in the Computer textbook with computer coding instruction. I’d like to start my son on World History and align it with the concepts introduced in Araling Panlipunan, like the effects of modernization on society, the functions of the government, democracy and human rights, etc. I admire the classical education movement’s focus on the liberal arts and rhetoric, so I will have to find a way to integrate its ideas into our homeschool.
3. We can move at our own pace
We started two weeks ahead of the school-year and are now finished with Motito’s Reading and Language textbooks. We’re also half-way through Math and Computer and have managed to stay on pace with Filipino and Araling Panlipunan (AP) but not without some difficulty. If we are pedal-to-the-metal on a four-lane superhighway with Math, Science, and English, then Filipino and AP is a slow climb up a craggy, steep slope because of my son’s struggle with the national language. I should’ve spoken more Filipino with him when he was much younger. Now we are playing catch up, and the process has not been easy. I have to read and translate the texts to English and have him re-read and restate in Filipino. It’s tedious and frustrating but we are making slow progress. The ability to move at my son’s pace is one compelling reason why I homeschool. We can proceed to advanced topics in subjects he enjoys and take our time with the subjects he struggles with. He gets guidance where he needs it and challenges where he is ready.
4. My son will have more time to learn stuff that might not seem fun today but will pay off in the future
By payoffs, I mean the non-economic rewards, the kind you reap when you learn how to play a musical instrument or take up a sport that might turn into a leisure activity. An average school day lasts six to seven hours, excluding the time it takes to get ready for school and to commute to school and back. This leaves little time for meaningful leisure, with parents succumbing to junior’s pleas for one hour of Skyrim as a reward for slogging through a ton of homework. Because our homeschooling takes up an average four hours a day, Motito has time for both mindless entertainment (yes, I allow him his Jack Septic Eye and Annoying Orange video watching spree) and the stuff that Mommy wants him to do. He has recently restarted guitar lessons. It is slow going, and he complains about how his fingers hurt from fretting the steel strings. I impress upon him that guitar players are the coolest guys ever and that he might want to form his own rock band someday. And whenever he groans about the physical exertion of playing tennis, I point out how much his reflexes and balance have improved. The ability to play sports or a musical instrument can not only expand one’s social circles, but it can also boost neurological development as research has unequivocally shown.
5. I can do a better job of educating my own son
Another reason why I homeschool is I can do a better job of teaching my son than an overworked, underpaid teacher managing a class of 40 students with different abilities can. My son thinks the world of me and values my opinions highly, although that hasn’t stopped him from dawdling over his schoolwork or questioning me at times. I know his strengths and weaknesses and can modify my instruction when the situation calls for it. And because I am both his parent and teacher, I have a lot at stake when it comes to his education. That means I must resist the temptation to take short cuts, which is somewhat of a challenge because I am inclined towards a laissez-faire parenting style. I will also not tolerate rote knowledge and mediocrity, especially in areas where he shows potential.
I hope I have adequately explained the reasons why I homeschool. There are a few more reasons, such as the benefit of spending more time with my son, being able to turn a mundane experience into a teachable moment, the freedom of traveling on weekdays, etc. The bottom line is the reasons for homeschooling are as unique as the families that are taking this road less traveled.