My daughter is turning four next month, and a lot of people are asking me if she’s in school already.

For me it’s a strange question. It just shows some well-entrenched ideas about “traditional” schooling. And the answer is no and yes. No, because our daughter does not go to a brick-and-mortar school. And yes, because we teach her at home. We’ve been doing that for almost four years now.

Whether parents like it or not, they begin teaching their kids when they are born. Parents should ideally be their children’s first and best teachers.

I am happy that we’ve nurtured our daughter’s love for learning this early. It was a challenge for me and my husband as she is such hyperactive preschooler. But we were delighted with the early results. She started reading simple words when she was a little over 1 1/2 years old, or about 20 months, and was able to count up to 50, thought with a lot of pauses. At a little over 2 years old, she could read simple sentences and count up to 100, but still with a lot of pauses because she’s still easily distracted.

At almost four years old now, she can recall events that occurred long ago, what she did at that time, and who she was with. She has also memorized dialogues of educational videos and favorite movies and even conversations during videos taken on our vacations. She seems to have perfect pitch and rhythm, and she can read like a second grader now.

Did home schooling do all that? We have no idea. But it looks like any form of consistent teaching of discrete topics, done in a spontaneous and fun way, can help children learn better.

 

Why does our family love homeschooling? Here’s why:

1. We can do it anytime, anywhere. My daughter is more attentive in the late afternoon and evening, so most of our homeschooling is done during that time. Even when we go out, we make sure to make that input, like identifying colors and vegetables in the grocery, or counting and reading anything we see. We also try to explain to her what a certain word in a signage means.

2. It encourages creativity, both for the parents and the child. If I don’t have materials, I use whatever’s at home.

Fishing using magnets:

Ranger hunt, animal-naming, and spelling:

3. Our topics can be as simple and as complex as we want it to be. I have a child who is very open to challenges. So, as much as possible, I create activities that would make her think a little harder.

Classifying animals:

Doing rhythm using stick notation (Kodaly flashcards). Here is also the Filipino poem she’s memorized already:

Science workbook discussing the concept of matter and taste buds:

This is one challenging activity for her ears! Singing triads. Daddy sings Do (root), Mommy sings Mi(third) and our daughter sings Sol (fifth):

4. We could play silly, sometimes. Yet, she still learns.

Our daughter uses her Mega Blocks to form letters and shapes:

5. There’s a reason to shop! We purchased a lot of books, but probably not enough, according to my husband. When she was around two years old and was reading simple story books quite well, we were appalled to see her reading one of her favorite books backwards! She started on the last page and then read the words in the sentences in reverse order. It was a sign that we had to buy her more new books.

There’s a study that says that the more books you have in the house, the more that your child will become a reader. So I guess buying more books and other learning materials can help. You don’t actually have to buy brand new books. There are a lot of used children’s books at Book Sale or Books for Less too. You can also buy books on sale.

This shape sorter game is less than a hundred pesos!

All these book for less than P1,000!

6. We’re always on a field trip. Yes, since we’re homeschooling and we have free time, we can easily go to nearby museums or catch a weekday morning concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Our daughter enjoys watching choral and orchestral concerts, as well as musical plays. She learns best with music and she loves singing and dancing, so I try to put some variety on the things I present to her.

7. We get to play games on our computer or iPad. I know that some of you may think that exposing very young children to computers and other gadgets may be harmful. But in my experience, there are cool apps out there that really help young children learn. There are very good free apps too. You may also want to consider investing in some paid apps. There’s usually a trial so you can see for yourself if it’ll be good for your child. Here are some of the apps we’ve used:

Little Reader for iPad (http://www.brillkids.com/teach-reading/little-reader-touch.php)

Elmo Loves ABCs and 123s (https://itunes.apple.com/ph/app/elmo-loves-abcs-for-ipad/id426747278?mt=8)

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Todo Math (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/todo-math-complete-curriculum/id666465255?mt=8)

The three we purchased after we’ve tried their free versions, so make sure you try them out first before purchasing.

There are also a whole lot of free downloadable flashcards and other applications. Smart Apps for Kids website has a lot of suggestions and free downloads.

8. No pressure on learning. One thing I learned about homeschooling is to just follow the child’s learning patterns. Like any other person, each child has his or her own temperament and moods at any given day. So if ever I prepared something and it does not go as planned, I am open to trying it out another time or in another way. Most probably it works after the second try.

For this year, we chose not to enroll her yet because we still want to explore her learning patterns. It also helped that I am only on part-time work now so I could guide her more. Our initial goal is to enroll her as a Kinder homeschooling student next year when she turns five, and to continue to homeschool her until she’s Grade Two. I’m looking for homeschool providers that would best fit our little learner.

Interested in homeschooling your child? Here are some things to consider:

1. Homeschooling is not “school at home”. It’s about taking away the traditional concept of “school.” Homeschooling takes away the structure we find in schools, that’s why our family loves it. Since my daughter is only four, I follow her interests while introducing her to many things.

2. There should be one parent who will dedicate time to homeschool. In our case, it is me. Her father also does some homeschooling when he gets home, usually reading and sometimes, keiko, or Aikido practice. She’s learned a few techniques already!

3. Pray for the grace (and patience!) to homeschool. Homeschooling is a new way of thinking and doing for the parents. And it may not be for everyone. That’s why I am really praying hard for the grace to homeschool, especially now that my schedule is getting busier by the day. A lot of patience is required, too, especially when you have a child as headstrong as ours.

4. One thing will not work for everyone. We have different learning curves, styles, and patterns. Experiment. That’s the only way to learn what will work for you and your child.

5. Take it one day at a time, but make sure to plan ahead. Today might be productive, but tomorrow may not be. It’s perfectly fine. But make sure to have concrete goals and work on them, slowly but surely.

6. Parents are the first and best teachers. Nothing will beat that. Children may learn a lot of things in life but the positive values and good moral behavior is first acquired from home.

With regard to social skills, and this is one thing other people worry about when homeschooling, my daughter is very sociable! As parents, we are there to teach her to respect others before anything else. Don’t forget that during the preschool age, our children should socialize with children their age. We supplement this by bringing our daughter out to play with our condominium neighbors, bringing her to church every Sunday, and sending her to play classes once in a while.

Whatever your decision, whether to homeschool or not, just remember that all of us parents have the duty to raise good human beings, not just smart ones.

Want to homeschool your preschooler, too? Here are some online resources:

I gather my homeschool activities on Instagram (follow @touringkitty)
http://www.kidsactivitiesblog.com/ – Activities from baby to elementary children.
http://www.pre-kpages.com/ – Materials and ideas for Pre-K teachers and students.
http://www.thelearningbasket.com/ – A Filipino blog about gentle homeschooling and also an online book store.
ABC Jesus Loves Me – Free curriculum for ages 2-5
Letter of the Week – Integrated activities for every letter of the alphabet

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