Homeschooling despite it all

After a very challenging 2020, we were looking forward to a better 2021! But this year has proved to be another tumultuous year for us. So much loss and heartache.

As I wrote in my previous post, I suffered a heterotopic pregnancy and lost twins in the last quarter of 2020. So I spent the first few months of 2021 nursing my surgical wound from last year's laparotomy. At one point, I went back to the hospital because I could still feel pain after two months. 

In February, we lost one of Amara's young cousins to cancer. He was only 17. 

In April, my husband and I got COVID. It took me more than a month to recover, and it has left me with asthma. My husband was in danger of very low platelet count at the end of our COVID journey, but we thank and praise God that we were able to recover! And that our little girl was spared despite being exposed to us.

But in an effort to spare our dogs from COVID, we did not go out to them much during those weeks. As a result, I did not notice that my dear Izzy had gotten sick with a blood parasite. By the time we noticed she was sick, it was too late. I still cannot think about it without breaking down. This is one of those things I will carry with me forever.

In the months that followed, we lost loved ones to COVID. In August, my brother's family got infected, and the father of my sister-in-law Jica did not make it. A few days later, I got news that my good friend Victor succumbed to the virus. The following month, we lost the father of my other sister-in-law Rea to the same disease. All losses were so sudden and shocking.

Recently, my grandmother Liling left us to be with the Lord. We are still in mourning.

All of life's twists and turns - enough to knock you down if you dwell on it. But life had to go on, and we still needed to work and homeschool throughout all this.

We started our 6th year of homeschooling in October 2020, right before my devastating heterotopic pregnancy, and the school year continued throughout everything that happened this year. By God's grace, we were able to successfully finish Grade 4 despite it all.

How to homeschool in the face of adversity

This list is by no means complete, and not in any order, but I am sharing from experience, and I hope this will be helpful for you. 

1. Have a support system

When I look back at our extremely challenging school year, I can't help but be grateful that we homeschool. This afforded us time to take breaks when we needed it, and wiggle room to adjust where required. It helped that we were able to reschedule our Portfolio Review target dates with our advisor Teacher Christine Amador - she has been very understanding and helpful throughout the school year.  The Learn Group (aka homeschool co-op) my daughter was part of was also heaven-sent: the monthly activities that the teacher facilitators prepared were (and still continue to be) my much-needed, once-a-month rescue from planning and teaching lessons for the day. We wouldn't have been able to finish strong if it weren't for the support from our advisors and provider. (Thank you Teacher Christine, Teacher Joan, and Teacher Bles!)

I would also like to note that we don't have a yaya or household help. So my husband had to take on the brunt of household chores. There are not enough words to convey how grateful I am for my husband. 

2. Choose the right curriculum

It also helped that the books and curriculum we chose for Grade 4 were tailor-fit to the interests of my daughter. For example, one of the highlights of the year for me as Teacher Mom was letting her do business math. We used the Charlotte Mason Pet Store Business module as a supplement, and it was perfect for her because she wants to be a vet someday. Working with decimals, fractions, and percentages is so much more enjoyable when there's a relatable, real-life angle to it. She even learned accounting! By using the interests of the child as a jump-off point, lessons are less of a struggle.

3. Remember your why's

It is easy to get lost in all the turmoil, but it will be helpful to remember why you started in the first place. It was helpful for us to have clear goals: we homeschool because we want our daughter to grow up with good character, with a life-long love for learning, with a well-rounded education, and with love and faith in God. So the activities and projects we choose to do must not only address her academic needs, but most importantly, must work towards our goals. This meant that life-skills are integrated in most of our lessons - so instead of rote memorization, we are focused more on hands-on, practical skills.

4. Integrate

Our projects almost always integrate multiple subjects together. For instance, baking and cooking projects are not only for HELE, but also for Math. Her social entrepreneurship project integrated Araling Panlipunan, Math, English, and HELE. Her research project for the 3rd Quarter - wildlife conservation - was not exclusively for Science, but also for Araling Panlipunan and Filipino.

We also divided big projects into quarters. For instance, her culminating project for Grade 4 was a fund-raising project - with proceeds donated to the Philippine Eagle Foundation. This started out as a business plan in 1st Quarter, a research project and report in the 3rd quarter, and the final fund-raising project in 4th quarter. So in this sense, all quarters are integrated. And because everything is interconnected, it takes less time to finish the curriculum, but learning is more in-depth and engaging.

5. Delegate

If I had to teach all the subjects by myself, I don't think we'd be able to accomplish as much as we did. We enroll her to musical theater classes every year with Trumpets Playshop, and this accounts for her MAPE grades for two quarters, and part of her English grade. We also enrolled her into coding classes with Whitehat Jr./BYJU for part of her HELE subject. We love Teacher Sreechithra's energy and patience! And we appreciate how the report card is not all about academics, but instead focuses on good character!

6. Teach good character early on

Through this all, I observed that the seeds we planted in the early years of our homeschooling - building her independence, making learning fun so that she becomes a self-motivated and joyful learner, and introducing perseverance and resourcefulness through arts and crafts early on - has helped us finish the most-challenging year of our homeschooling. 

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6

7. Pray without ceasing!

All the successes of last school year, despite all the darkest days, we can only attribute to God's ultimate plan for us. Without His guidance and blessings, we wouldn't have been able to finish strong.  Where would I be now if I didn't have God to turn to! When I can't find the words, I turn to the song Shout to the Lord, which goes: 

My comfort, my shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am 
Never cease to worship You 
Shout to the Lord, all the earth, let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar 
At the sound of Your name 

We started our 7th year of homeschooling last month. Amara is now in Grade 5. We continue to pray for grace and guidance, and we are ever so grateful for the blessing of homeschooling.

Please read Part 1 of this post here: Darkest Days.


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