We are now on Part 3 (of 8) of this blog series on the breakout session assigned to me during the last Philippine Homeschool Conference 2016 held last October 22.  Part 1, my very first topic, was on parenting.  Part 2 was on teaching.  Let’s move on to part 3, experiencing.

What kind of experiences did our daughters have when they were in high school? Or what kind of experiences did we give them rather?

Compared to grade school, creating experiences or providing opportunities for our high schoolers was deeper and more intentional. If during their younger years, trying out something was simply to experience something new, in high school we were more intentional in the experiences or opportunities we allowed them to engage in. Instead of simply trying out for the sake of experience, it was our intention to know if they would like to explore it more. Would they like to learn more about it? Is it something they find themselves comfortable and competent doing? Will the experience help them narrow down or identify the course they plan on taking in college? Will the experience help them see themselves doing it as a career or a job?

Therefore, aside from the NEWness in the experience, we added another dimension to it, which is their GROWTH and INVOLVEMENT in making choices and decisions on the activities they would want to do or experiences they would want to have.

Before setting her goal on animation which is visual arts, Arielle became very interested in performing arts. She was able to join a professional theatre production at the age of 9 and joined auditions here and there, and have gotten callbacks. That was one experience which helped her really identify what she can do, compete with professional and amateur performers, and it taught her to face rejections and bounce back from them. That she can sing; that she can perform; and she’s always bold and brave to take big challenges of the real world, in the real world setting. If there’s one thing I learned from Arielle, it is bouncing back! She also co-started a group of young bloggers called I Know Write where they were able to organize a few events inspiring teens to blog about their passion.

Kayla, on the other hand, got very interested in culinary when she was younger.  We thought that was going to be her choice for college. So, we enrolled her in a few culinary classes, and let her work in the kitchen. But she lost interest in it and is now exploring the option of sports, particularly golf, as a way to enter college.

The opportunities and experiences our girls had (and Kayla continues to have) in their high school years were opportunities to let their roots grow deeper, securely and firmly. I believe this is where their roots have begun to strengthen them. Giving and supporting them in their experiences teach them to think bigger, see the bigger picture, make their own decisions, and even train them to think of opportunities that encourage them to come up with better ideas, better solutions to problems, and to give back to the community.

As a summary, we made the high school experience of our daughters even more intentional by consciously identifying where our their interests and strengths lie. It was finding where those interests, strengths, and learning environment all meet that we made sure they were given the opportunities for deeper learning, improvement, and enhancement  of their skills.

Next post will be about the “S” word!  SOCIALIZATION! It will be the longest post I will do as this was the topic that I felt God wanted me to really spend more time on as I was preparing my talk for the conference.  I had lots of prompting from God through various posts and articles I came across while preparing and it’s amazing how God clearly spoke to me in many instances!

Watch out for Part 4!


 

I bared my heart in my last post.  It was a sincere one.  I wanted to let you know that I’m not a SuperMom or a Super HomeschoolMom always with her red cape on.  There are actually many times in our homeschool journey that I am just as lost and vulnerable as other moms are out there.

I received a feedback from my friend and art playmate (Yes, I do have a playmate!), Dette Ramos of Bananabellieboo, on my last post.  She told me that what I shared triggered a loooong discussion between her and her husband on how they could also encourage their young kids to dream for themselves and how they want to be able to support them in their dreams.  I was surprised when she told me that it actually took them about one whole hour just talking about it from her office to their house!

It made think how Mike and I started “dreaming” with Arielle and Kayla.  To be honest, I can’t seem to clearly recall what we did first or when the dreaming phase all started because to me, their growing up years, especially when they were toddlers, were more of just teaching them basic skills, making them wonder how and why things work they way they do, and checking if they are actually enjoying whatever they’re doing and interested to doing more.

Let me just share what I vividly recall doing with Arielle and Kayla when they were still very young and we were all trying to discover their potentials, talents, gifts, preferences, and inclinations.

1.  Books

I surrounded them with a lot of books, magazines, and newspapers.  That’s one thing for sure. Picture books, storybooks, chapter books, coloring books, activity books!  I remember I was able to take a video of Arielle with a book upside down in her hands, babbling on and on as she pretended to be reading the book she was holding 🙂   We noticed, on the other hand, that Kayla grew up liking Almanacs.  She would look forward going to National Bookstore or Fully Booked and buy the new almanac that comes out every year.  This mere observation made me see the personalities of our two girls.  One prefers lengthy books and that would be Arielle, while the other prefers bite-size chunks of information (Kayla).

It is through books and a lot of reading and printed materials that Arielle and Kayla were able to “see more” than what’s around them, explore possibilities, and express their thoughts and feelings after reading and having a casual conversation with them.

2.  Arts and Crafts

Being and arts-and-crafts person myself, it wouldn’t be a surprise that I also exposed Arielle and Kayla to a lot of cutting and pasting, drawing, painting, lots of paper, crayons, markers, pencils, paint, etc.!   Doing art activities was one way of discovering more of who they are through the images they drew, the colors and strokes they used.  Art, being a visual and tactile activity, was a self-expression activity that I was able to use to know more about Arielle and Kayla in their younger years.  As they grew older, I saw all the more, through their works and time spent in the activities, that Arielle’s interest in arts was becoming more pronounced and Kayla wasn’t as much into it.

3.  Music and Theatre

Music has been part of their lives as early as probably when they were 4 to 6 months old when they were still in my belly.    I had headphones on my tummy with classical music on for them to listen to, and I remember playing the classic children’s songs (still in cassette tapes!) when we would play in the living room, when we would take afternoon naps, or when we would ride in the car.

We also watched musical plays for their entertainment value and a trip to the theatre was what made us discover that Arielle had this “dream” of performing on stage…as the lead role!  Yup!  We watched Peter Pan at CCP in 2007 and Arielle said, “I can see myself on stage doing the main character.”  She was watching at the edge of her seat (I’m not kidding!) the entire time!  And true enough, the next year, at 8 years old, she bravely tried out performing arts for the first time.  She took a summer theatre workshop and she loved it!  She landed the lead role (as Jack in Jack in the Beanstalk) in the workshop’s production and we knew that the stage was “part of her world” (as the Little Mermaid would sing it 🙂 )  A year after, she did “A Christmas Carol” professionally and it was one experience she’ll never ever forget!  It gave her the confidence to try out audition after audition, go to callbacks and open auditions) and even if she didn’t make it to the cast, it was still a dream for her to show to others what she can do and what she’s got.

We also convinced Kayla to try out theatre since she saw her Ate enjoying it immensely.  So she did too at age 7 and played one of the main characters, Pinocchio, in a summer workshop.  She confidently performed on stage, but she herself said that she liked it, but it’s not her thing.

Up to now, watching movies and plays, especially musicals, is a family activity we enjoy.  It is a way we support the visual, musical, and kinethestic personalities of Arielle and Kayla.

4.  Sports, Physical/Kinesthetic Activities

When we shifted to homeschooling, competitive swimming has been their P.E.  They did it for 5 years.  They got tired of it and found themselves trying archery and golf.  I admit that at times I still wish they stayed on with swimming but I know that even if they didn’t stick with the sport, they have learned the discipline in training for a sport and the other character traits that they have developed while at it like obedience, perseverance, working with team members, humility, among others.

Now that Kayla’s liking golf again (Thanks to Mike who is also playing again after giving up on it for a while), I see that this could be her “dream”.  Although she may not fully admit YET that golf is a dream of hers, I see that she’s BEGINNING to realize that this is a strength of hers, after being given positive feedbacks on how she plays the sport, and that this could actually open doors for her to somewhere we don’t know yet.  Kayla is also currently at the stage where she is starting to question what she really wants to do in her life.  Knowing that her Ate Arielle clearly knows what she wants to take up in college and what she really wants to do, Mike and I can sense that she is beginning to search for her unique path and calling in life.  So for now, we are here to support her in a strength of hers that is obvious and hopefully, it will really take her to bigger dreams.

Prior to golf,  we thought that she wanted to do cook and bake.  That she wanted to take the culinary path when the time comes.  We enrolled her in summer cooking classes. We tried recipes at home.  We baked cookies, cakes, and cupcakes.  We bought her cookbooks and encouraged her to print out recipes she would like to try and keep a file of them.  But again, her interest in it wasn’t sustained although she still likes to work in the kitchen.

5.  Travel

Another worthwhile activity we do as a family when we have the finances and time to do it is travel locally and abroad.  It is through first-hand experience of other culture and lifestyle that our girls learn for themselves what they would want to change in their own way of life and how they would want to live their own lives when they go to college and after.   Seeing for themselves how other people do their day-to-day activities in another place or country teaches them to think of better ways to do things and improve systems.  It is a way of dreaming for themselves and for our country. It also opens their eyes to opportunities that may not be available to them in Manila or in the Philippines, making them dream bigger and bolder.  It was when we went to the U.S. and Singapore that we all dreamed with Arielle in taking up Animation and being an animator someday!

6.  Meet other people

Of course, as we were doing all these activities…buying books, doing arts and crafts, watching musicals, enrolling in workshops and classes, traveling to places, we were able to give Arielle and Kayla the opportunities to meet other people in their natural settings who, in one way or another, were able to inspire and encourage them.  What can beat SOCIALIZING with REAL PEOPLE from different professions, from different fields, and from all ages?

So you see, encouraging our girls to dream involves a number of things:

1.  a hands-on and intentional parenting

2.  a discovery process which includes trial-and-error; It really is exposing your children to VARIED activities and finding out in the process which ones they are wired to do or where their potentials are.

3.  influencing them by our (parents’) own interests at the onset of or during the discovery process, but not dictating to them

4.  having faith in God, our Maker, who designed each one of us with a unique purpose, who ultimately knows what we are cut out for and who can make dreams come true

The words of Pope Francis when he visited our country a few weeks ago are still fresh in my mind. He stressed how important it is to dream in the family.   It was truly an affirmation of our decision and chosen lifestyle to homeschool our children because it is in homeschooling that we are all able to dream as a family and support one another in our dreams.

What are your and your children’s dreams?  How do you hold on to and pursue them as a family?


 

Some of you may be wondering what we’ve been up to in our homeschooling and probably, if I’m still alive (LOL!).  Yes, I very much am!  It’s just that our homeschool life seems to have taken a different turn and things aren’t anymore like “This is our schedule for today” or “It’s time for me to sit down and teach Filipino to Kayla, and after this, it’s History for Arielle.”

Now that Arielle’s in her senior year in high school and Kayla is in 8th Grade, they’ve been pretty much on their own.  Yes, that’s how it’s been.  They’ve been independent.  They managed to come up with their own schedule that they feel would work best for them and where they will be most productive.  I thought my past method of making schedules for them every year (yes, every single year for the past seven years) would still work but apparently, I had to keep my hands off already in this area of our systems and routines.  This setup may not be totally perfect but it’s a learning curve that they must go through. Also, it’s another parenting lesson for me on letting go.  The fear and question that they might be missing out on a lot of things in terms of academics do haunt me so I still make it a point though to check up on them regularly so I know what they are doing and where they may be needing help on.  I also remind myself that I cannot and won’t be able to teach them E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G, as Debra Bell had said in one of the homeschool conferences I’ve attended.  What’s more important is to teach them the skills on how to learn and how to be a lifelong learner.

So what’s been my role to them?  I can sum it up in two words:  a coach and a counselor.  I now wear different hats or let’s say, I now have new (or is “more” the more appropriate word?) hats to put on.  Here’s what it now looks like homeschooling our two teen girls.

With Arielle, Mike and I have been having a lot of discussions with her on the following:

  1. Responsibility and time management  –  Clearly knowing what is expected from her and when
  2. Identifying and setting priorities  –  Knowing what needs more of her time, attention, and efforts, and also the willingness to give up what shouldn’t be taking up much of her time
  3. Proper work habits and ethics  –  Learning how to handle and manage tasks and projects with diligence, persistence, patience, willingness, punctuality, responsibility, and maturity
  4. Dealing with different kinds of people and that includes difficult people in the “workplace”  – Since we’ve been exposing Arielle to (1) real-life professionals, mentors, teachers, speakers, trainors, who are older than her, and (2) kids of her age, via workshops, trainings, camps, and projects that she herself initiated or collaborated with other people, we’ve been telling her “facts of life” and realities that she is going to face in the real world when she goes to college or starts working.  This is a tough one to teach and impart wisdom on since we are talking about relationships and how to present herself to others and clearly communicate to them what she has to say, without appearing domineering, arrogant, or as someone who can be pushed around.
  5. Decision-making and facing consequences of her own decision  –  Taking responsibility for the choices she made and ownership for her actions

These areas are enough to drain me mentally and sometimes, emotionally, after a lengthy conversation and processing of thoughts and emotions with her.   I believe this is where most of my energy goes.  In the P-R-O-C-E-S-S-I-N-G, which is ultimately character-building.   I cannot emphasize enough how parenting teens can really be challenging and quite exhausting.

With Kayla,  parenting her these days is different since she has just entered the teen stage.  I cannot say that it’s easier the second time around since Arielle has been through this early teen stage already.  As we all know, every child is different.  Every child has unique needs.  Every child has a different love language.  Every child calls for a specific parenting style.  So for her, our conversations and discussions often revolve around these:

  1. Time management  –  Learning to identify what’s important and what must be done first
  2. Decision-making and facing consequences of her own decisions  –  Learning to make her own decisions and owning them
  3. Making and choosing friends with good moral character  –  Being conscious of her own and other people’s behaviour, character, virtues, and manners
  4. Money management  –  Need vs. want;  That money is a resource that must be used wisely and with care
  5. Identifying her God-given strengths and interests  –  Making her aware of her talents, gifts, capabilities and things that she can do naturally and with much potential, and believing that she is as unique as her Ate Arielle

 

It’s a new chapter in our homeschooling life and I myself am learning and being trained new skills as a parent.  It is sometimes so easy and tempting to just fall into the trap of just following what everyone does but I am constantly reminded by God that Arielle and Kayla were wonderfully and fearfully made by Him.  As the saying goes, they were born not to fit in but to stand out.  Now that’s where my parenting challenge lies.  To make sure that I am raising and molding them into the persons that God designed and purposed them to be.  I am hoping and praying that my efforts in doing so are close enough!

What homeschooling challenges are you faced with right now?  I can probably learn a few things from you.