Tag Archives: homeschooling

When Homeschooling My Teenager Gets Tough

00-13I don’t know many parents who are homeschooling teenagers; most of my homeschooling friends and online acquaintances are homeschooling younger children. So when I am faced with the challenges of homeschooling my 15-year-old daughter, many times I am stumped.

Until very recently, I was struggling with putting together her homeschooling plan for 10th Grade (we had started the school year last June). I am always looking out for what is better, what is new and improved, what will bring the best out of my daughter. While it adds dynamism and flexibility, this approach to homeschooling seems to be giving my daughter a feeling of instability and insecurity.

I wanted a more open, less structured approach because I  believed it would be a better way to enhance her obvious artistic talent and inclination. She wanted to follow curriculum that is simple and clear-cut. I wanted her to spend more time in the living room or in the den with me, her father and her brother. She preferred to stay in her bedroom. I wanted her to enjoy homeschooling with me and her brother. She had more fun learning in a center with her friends. I wanted her to like me, to not mind being with me. But I believed that, like most teenagers, she preferred friends to parents, and that is just how it is.

I started to realize that this wasn’t just about finding the right approach and curriculum or materials for my teenage daughter’s homeschooling. Homeschooling is part of my parenting. And it felt like I was in the middle of a small parenting crisis.

Thanks to some homeschool support groups on Facebook, I came across two wonderful blog posts about parenting teenagers. “Why Teenagers are Amazing” by Rachel talked about slowing down, listening to them, valuing them. Rather than fight against them, we should fight for them, fight for their hearts. And her most important reminder – “Start seeing the good first.”

I was blown away by this blog post “When Did I Last Wash Your Hair?” by Hannah Keeley. First, what happened to her daughter happened to mine in (how uncanny is that?). My daughter was also playing goalkeeper during football training when she blocked a ball and fractured her wrist while doing so. She also needed a cast for about 6 weeks. And during those weeks, I had to help her bathe and get dressed. It was also a strange yet familiar feeling of being needed by my daughter again. Aside from that, what really struck me in her post was her parenting motto: “Make sure they remember joy yesterday, experience joy today, and anticipate joy tomorrow.”

These mothers and their words helped me realize that if I focus on being a loving mother to my daughter, if I look after her heart and help her find her joy, if I see the good in her first rather than the bad or the difficult, our relationship will be alright. And our homeschooling will follow suit.

Even though she is already a teenager who seems to need me less and less, I reminded myself that she is still my daughter whom I love unconditionally. I started with small gestures – kissing her goodbye as I dropped her off at the learning center, giving her a good night hug before bedtime and telling her that I love her. I listened to her stories about her friends and about football. I tried to nag her less and to let her be.

Nowadays, it feels like my relationship with my daughter is in a good place. We’re not best friends, but I don’t expect us to be. It’s not perfect, but what relationship is? But now, there is less silence and more laughter. In homeschooling, there is less tension and ambition, more cooperation and compromise. And I know that before homeschooler or teacher, I am first my daughter’s mother.


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Dream Boards in Progress

With storm after storm coming to the Philippines recently, it’s been a rainy and mostly homebound past few days for us. And with afternoon trips to the park and football training cancelled, I wanted to find something else for my kids and I to do. I figured now would be a good time to finally do something that’s been on my mind – make our dream boards.

I’ve been wanting to make our homeschooling more purposeful, more intentional. I’m hoping that having our dream boards will guide us in making the right choices in our learning journey.

Working on Dream Boards

How we made our dream boards:

1. We listed down our dreams.

I asked them a few prompt questions to help them verbalize their dreams:

  • What do you want to be remembered for?
  • What do you want to become better at?
  • What places do you want to visit or live in?
  • What do you want to have or experience?

Soon enough, we each had a list of about five to seven dreams. We were ready to visualize them.

2. We looked for images and words that represented our dreams.

This is the fun and frustrating part. One gloomy, rainy afternoon, we sat on the living room floor, with piles of magazines and some art supplies around us. We searched through magazine after magazine for photos, illustrations and words that showed our dreams. I saw a photo of Mount Fuji, Japan but none of the cable cars in San Francisco. My son cut out a photo of the latest Alienware computer, but couldn’t find any photos or logo of the NBA. My daughter saw tons of photos of cakes, cupcakes and other delicious pastries, but none of the Seattle Space Needle.

It was like a treasure or scavenger hunt.  We found some things, but not everything on our list. For the things we couldn’t find, we wrote them down.

3. We put the cut-out photos and words on our boards with sticky tape.

I suggested we use small pieces of sticky tape so it will be easier to move the pieces around or remove them if we want to. We filtered the cut-outs and mounted the ones that we liked most (and fit on the boards). Finally, we had our dream boards!

Dream Boards in Progress

We didn’t fill up our boards completely; we left some blank spaces. My son was a bit worried about filling up his board with too many things; I think he wanted it to look neat. I purposely left some spaces on my board because I wanted to have that openness to new images, new words, new dreams.

We’ll be hanging our dream boards on our walls to remind us everyday of what we are looking forward to. Our dreams are mounted with sticky tape because they can move and they can change. Our present dreams have blank spaces in between to welcome the possibility of future dreams. Our dream boards, like our dreams, are works in progress.





My Son Learning 3D Animation with Youth Digital

We’re about a week into our new homeschool year, and my 10-year-old son is finally starting his 3D Animation online class with Youth Digital. This is his first course with Youth Digital, and I was able to buy it for my son thanks to a good deal some months ago with Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

3D Animation Online Course for Kids by Youth DigitalThis is an online, self-paced course that is made for children aged 8-14. No background in animation or any other graphics / design software is needed. For as long as your child knows how to comfortably use a computer and follow video instructions, he can take this course.

I looked into this course when it was offered by Homeschool Buyers Co-op because I read that it would teach your child to use Blender, the 3D animation software that professionals use. My son had told me as early as last year (when he was 9) that he wanted to try making Minecraft animation videos. He told me about Blender, saying that it can make really nice, detailed animation.

So, here he is now, getting his feet wet in Blender. The course has 13 modules, and as of this morning, my son has started the 2nd module. So far, it looks like he will finish 1 module per week (he does the Youth Digital online lessons about 2-3 times a week). I sit with him and listen to the video lessons that are clearly explained by this funny man named Sam (his sense of humor makes the lessons more fun and interesting for us; thanks Sam!).

I like that the video lessons are not too long (about 15 minutes each) and interact directly with my son. When Sam asks my son to do something on Blender, the video automatically pauses to give him time to do it and then switch back to the video lesson on the Youth Digital portal. There are also short reviews and quizzes in between lessons to help my son remember the commands, terminologies, etc. And I really like that one of the first lessons was called Blender Blunders, where my son learned about some of the things that can go wrong, and go very wrong, in using this sophisticated software. It helped my son feel less intimidated by Blender’s user interface (I’m still a bit intimidated but also still very much fascinated) because he was given chances to make errors and correct them. It was comforting to know that people do make mistakes on Blender and that these mistakes can be fixed or avoided with enough practice and discipline.

Here I am enjoying this new learning experience with my son. Here he is enjoying learning how to use Blender (and maybe make his own sophisticated Minecraft or other animations for his YouTube channel). I see exciting times ahead.





Homeschoolers in College: Raffles Design Institute Manila

Raffles Design Institute Manila is a private college in Makati City, Philippines that offers courses in fashion design, fashion marketing and management, interior design, visual communication and business with specialization. Being part of a global network of colleges and universities, they offer a 2+1 program (two years in the Philippines and one year overseas) for their Bachelor Degree programs.

Justin Seow has been the Director at Raffles Design Institute Manila for the past two years. Prior to that, he was based in their Mongolia campus for one and a half years. He shared some information on their school’s policy and experience with homeschoolers.

There are currently three students enrolled in Raffles Design Institute Manila that were homeschoolers in high school. Did they have any difficulties adjusting to the culture and workload in your school?

“They are doing fine. They had some had issues in the beginning, but they managed to overcome them. The initial problem was communicating with other students. For the home schooled students that we have, they never really had a chance to mix with classmates before, so at first they kept to themselves.
“We talked to the students and provided our phone numbers to the parents for them to call us at anytime if they felt that their children need any help. My student services manager and I are always open to talk to the parents and students anytime. What we do is not exceptionally difficult. What we need is patience and time to listen. Offering our help as much as we can is what we do. And being a small school, we are able to concentrate on the students easily.”

For homeschooled applicants who wish to study college in Raffles Design Institute, do you have any requirements that are different from graduates of regular (brick and mortar) high schools?

“We accept homeschooled high school graduates with local (Department of Education-accredited) and foreign accreditation. Similar to other applicants, we require a copy of the high school diploma and a portfolio. For applicants with foreign accreditation, we also require passing results of SAT, ACT or other international tests for college readiness.”

Are the tuition fees for students with foreign accreditation/diploma different from those with local accreditation/diploma?

“Tuition fees are the same for all accepted applicants.”

Author’s note: This article is part of my personal research on the policies and experiences of various colleges and universities in the Philippines regarding homeschoolers. This article is not a paid feature nor a personal endorsement for the featured school.

Of (Homeschool) Parents and (Homeschool) Proms

PROM!A week ago, my teenage daughter went to a prom for the first time. She was invited by her friend in football school. She was excited about buying a dress and getting new make-up. (Thankfully, neither one came out to be expensive.) I was simply excited about the fact that my homeschooling daughter was going to have the opportunity to experience a homeschool prom.

I didn’t go to any prom and I attended one graduation ball when I was in high school. From what I remember then and from what I hear about proms now, I’m guessing this homeschool prom is quite different.

Thankfully, my daughter didn’t mind that her dad and I planned to follow to the hotel an hour before the party would end. I was so curious about how this homeschool prom came about, so I wanted to meet the organizers. When my husband and I got to the entrance to the ballroom, we saw about eight to ten parents, sitting around a table outside the door. They were chatting, having snacks and drinking wine. I met some of these homeschooling parents, whose kids were currently partying inside. As they offered us snacks and wine, I learned that they were a group of less than ten homeschooling families who organized this prom for their teenage children and their dates. They booked the venue, arranged for the food and music, and even strung up the lights and decorated the ballroom. Altogether, there were about 30 teenagers at this prom.

I asked if I could take a photo of my daughter and her date (since I wasn’t able to take a nice one at home). One mom assured me, “Don’t worry.  We hired a professional photographer who is taking all their photos, especially since we’re not allowed to go inside…And that’s also why we are having our own little party here outside.” 🙂

So we didn’t go inside.  But as curious and as excited as we were, some of us took quick peeks in whenever the door was opened. I caught a glimpse of beautiful colored string lights, and of young ladies in beautiful dresses and young men in suits dancing and sitting and talking. And we all heard the loud dance music, of course.

After briefly chatting with some of the other homeschool parents, my husband and I went to the hotel lobby to have drinks while waiting for the prom to end. When it did, I rushed back to take a quick snapshot of my daughter and her date. Then we said our thank yous and goodbyes and called it a night.

It wasn’t a big affair, but it was fun. Not too fancy, yet fancy enough. So that’s a prom, homeschool style.


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Homeschooling Math with Khan Academy and a Whiteboard

KhanAcademy SkillsProgressSince my son has already finished his Brain Quest 4 Workbook and we still have a few months left in our current school year, I decided to find another resource to help him brush up on some math skills. I’ve long wanted to try using Khan Academy, and even had my two children try their programming course some months ago. They didn’t stick to it so we left it at that.

Just a few weeks ago, I logged into my parent account in Khan Academy and started tinkering with it again. I also read up a bit on how some homeschooling families use Khan Academy and I learned about choosing missions according to grade level. The default setting as goal or mission is The World of Math, and all of the skills in that world was too much for my son and me (who aren’t exactly math lovers). So I tried assigning my son the 4th-grade mission for math and that made it much more manageable (not so overwhelming) for us. Yay!

KhanAcademyMissionWarmUp The mission warm-ups are a few math questions every time you log in to determine which are the skills you’ve mastered, need practice in or have not yet learned. It helps the website in suggesting lessons for practice and mastery. Since my son is a gamer, what he enjoys about using Khan Academy is how he earns points and badges for completing practices and answering consecutive questions correctly. And right now, he is motivated to earn several thousand more points because he wants to unlock the Johnny avatars (Johnny is a cool-looking robot avatar).

Homeschooling with Book and WhiteboardMy son has struggled with doing mental calculations for some of the math exercises, and using the scratchpad option in Khan Academy is quite hard since he has to use a mouse to write (not using touchscreen). I brought out our trusty old whiteboard and markers and suggested that he use them for computing. Just like before, the whiteboard was a success (yay)! My son doesn’t really like handwriting, and I think the space to write boldly and colorfully and the ease of erasing things make the whiteboard a more fun way for him to write and learn.

I may soon start shopping around for a new math book for the next school year, but for now (and maybe in the future), it looks like Khan Academy and the whiteboard are a winning formula for my gamer homeschooler.



Inspire Monday: You Can Learn Anything

I love this new campaign by Khan Academy. It speaks some very empowering messages for all of us (and it speaks to me personally as a homeschooling parent and an avid learner).

1. Learning is for everyone. Learning is not only for preschool kids or college students. It is not only for those who are deemed bright or studious. It is not only for those living near university campuses or for those with computers and Internet access. If you want to learn something, you need to open your eyes and your mind to the learning opportunities and possibilities around you.

2. Failing is an important part of learning.  According to Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, studies show that intelligence is not fixed, not at birth, not in your teenage years, not now. She talks about a growth mindset, a belief that you can become smarter or perform better if you work hard at it. People with a growth mindset are not afraid to fail or to make mistakes. They learn from failing. They persevere in the face of a challenge. In that process, they grow smarter.

3. Success comes with persistence. Singer-songwriter John Legend talks about how he didn’t give up on his dream to become a recording artist. For six years, he kept trying and failing. He persisted, learned from failing and eventually succeeded. Talent alone will rarely bring you success. Hard work is essential to success.

I’m a huge fan of free knowledge and free learning.  I admire what Khan Academy is giving the world – a means of learning that is “for free, for everyone, forever.”  Now, add to that their beautiful message of empowerment. If you want to, you can learn anything.


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Inspire Monday: Logan LaPlante’s Hackschooling

I love seeing young people who are so empowered and so inspiring! Their enthusiasm is contagious and their wisdom belies their age. One such young person is Logan LaPlante. I am so glad I saw his TEDx University of Nevada talk online. And since then, I’ve been trying to come up with our own version of hackschooling in our homeschooling.

Listen to What Your Kids are Saying and See What They are Stoked About

Early in his talk, Logan talks about how adults typically expect children to say that they want to become astronauts or neurosurgeons when they grow up. Many adults wouldn’t expect (or perhaps wouldn’t approve?) of kids saying things like “I want to become a pro skateboarder,” or “I want to be a Minecraft player.” But Logan makes the point that kids will give answers based on what they are stoked on (hearing his choice of words reminds me of my own generation gap with my kids; you would never hear me say stoked 😉 ).  This is why my nine-year-old son tells me he wants to be a professional gamer and YouTuber.

 Don’t be Afraid to Hack Your Learning

In learning and in life, Logan employs a hacker mindset.  And he explains that hacking isn’t a negative thing. It’s not about spreading computer viruses. He says, “Hackers are innovators. Hackers are people who challenge and change the systems to make them work differently, to make them work better.” His homeschooling, which he calls hackschooling, isn’t tied to any one particular curriculum or approach.  It is flexible, opportunistic, experiential and community-driven.  “It’s like a remix or mashup of learning.”

Aim to Be Happy and Healthy

Logan reminds us that in many cases, education is focused on how to make a living and not on how to make a life. Children are taught that the focus and priority are getting skills and knowledge needed in the workplace. And many of these kids, while working hard in their schoolwork, end up being unhealthy and unhappy. We should remember that while skills and knowledge are important, happiness and health are much more important.

Logan LaPlante’s hackschooling is a great inspiration for homeschoolers. If we are not afraid to hack our education and if we make happiness and health our priorities, who knows what we can achieve?




Inspire Monday: Sir Ken Robinson on the Organic Process of Learning

I love listening to the TED talks of Sir Ken Robinson.  In his TED talk entitled “Bring on the learning revolution!” he said something that really struck me, something that came as a timely reminder for me as I plan for another homeschooling year ahead.

Sir Ken Robinson said, “…life is not linear; it’s organic.”

“We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”

I’m in the middle of preparing for another homeschooling year with my two children. My teenage daughter is going to start high school lessons, and I’ve been struggling to find a balance between fulfilling the high school requirements of our homeschool provider and helping her find and pursue her talents, passions and dreams. I personally would prefer a relaxed, interest-led way of learning, but I am nagged by my fear of not doing enough. Not enough for her to move up to the next grade level. Not enough for her to be well prepared for college. Not enough for her to establish a good career.

Thanks to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, I am reminded that learning is organic, not linear. I want my children to develop a love of learning, and that happens when learning is natural. When it is allowed to flow from the learner’s interests and passions, and with his talents and strengths.

While we still establish guidelines and follow requirements for our homeschooling (including the labels of grade levels and subjects), these should not be more important than my children’s organic process of growing and learning. My job is to create the conditions under which they will thrive and grow into their best selves.  To let them make less timelines and draw more circles. To let them learn teamwork in a football field. To let them make a social science project in Minecraft. To do experiments, make art, play board games with them. To let them make mistakes and be there if and when they need me. To be excited with them when they are excited.

After all, homeschooling is a part of our family life.  If our family life is organic, why can’t our learning be organic too?


Castles, Cannons and Minecraft Homeschool


It’s Monday, and we’re back with Minecraft Homeschool! After skipping a term because of our recent family holiday, my son is back with Minecraft Homeschool and he and I are excited!

For this 5-week term, he joins the Castles and Cannons Lite class. For week 1, my son has already done his out-of-game work: watch a short online video and read an article about medieval peasant life, then answer a quiz. I was more than happy to watch and read along so I can also learn about the life of medieval peasants 🙂

Today, my son started working on his individual build assignment – a peasant cruck house. He has made the structure with wood blocks and hay blocks, and plans to work on the interior and furnishings tomorrow.

It may be because I’m a parent of a player and also because I don’t play the game, I am still so impressed with how these children can imagine and build such beautifully planned and detailed worlds in Minecraft. I am also very glad that Minecraft Homeschool continues to give my son a way to learn and enjoy.