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Only the best

I thought I’d share excerpts of a speech I delivered for the commencement exercises of The Master’s Academy (TMA), which is a home schooling institution. While the speech is mainly for parents who home-school their children, I was thinking also of a growing number of Filipino parents who are becoming much more involved with their kids’ education instead of leaving everything to the school.

But first a brief explanation about home schooling, which has many different forms but which mainly grew out of parents’ dissatisfaction with regular schooling, and is also a response to special needs (for example, people living in certain circumstances, like being in remote areas). With TMA, we have had Filipinos who are living overseas with their families and who prefer using a Filipino curriculum.

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The home-schooled child studies at home, supervised by parents, sometimes with the help of a tutor (but with the main responsibility still on the parents). Home schooling uses standard curricula and textbooks, with parents and children going to the institution for regular evaluation (in TMA’s case, more or less every three months). The children can also sign up for special activities and classes (for example, in sports and music) of the home-schooling institution, or other groups.

Students receive grades and take an evaluation exam each year as they move to the next grade. The Department of Education recognizes some of these institutions, with the students able to move into regular schools, even into college. (In this graduating batch where I delivered a speech, there were six who had passed the University of the Philippines’ College Admissions Test.)

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Patience and boldness

Here is a modified version of the commencement exercise:

Some time last year I wrote about the advantages of home schooling in my column. In that column I mentioned that I was home-schooling my son, who is rather hyperactive.

I was surprised to get a comment, posted on the Internet, complaining that I had given the “wrong impression” that hyperactive kids need to go through home schooling. In effect, this reader was insinuating that I was endorsing something bad for hyperactive children.

I do not usually respond to comments on the Internet but if I did, I would have replied, “Hyperactive children are just like other children, perhaps a bit more gifted in some senses. All children deserve the best education, tailored to their needs. Which is why I home-school my son.”

More than a year after writing that column, I am even more convinced that home schooling is the way to go—“only the best,” I have argued.

I will admit that I have other children who are not being home-schooled, but this is because as UP Diliman chancellor, I have to take care of almost 27,000 other children, from kindergarten to college, not to mention 2,100 faculty and 1,500 staff members.

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Despite the heavier burden of responsibility, I do find that home schooling has given me lessons that I use as an educator in UP where we want, again, only the best for the best young minds.

In the sometimes trying times of home schooling, I have reinforced the values of patience and perseverance because parents become involved 24/7. That patience and perseverance are so essential to running a university.

In preparing materials for my son’s home schooling, I have learned the value of teaching discernment to children, educating them to be critical and careful and not believing everything that is printed or posted on the Internet or even in our textbooks.

The discernment that I teach to my son also comes in handy for myself, as an administrator, who needs to be above gossip, intrigues and Facebook postings. I am teaching my administrative team to do this as well, to learn when to be above the fray—huwag pumatol in Filipino.

Home schooling has revived boldness, a trait which I thought I was beginning to lose with age. Just making the decision to home-school is as bold an act as agreeing to be UP Diliman chancellor. And as we go about home schooling, we embolden ourselves to defend what is right, and what is just. Let me say here that that includes the right of home-schooled children to go to college, and UP if they pass the entrance exam.

The boldness of spirit that comes with home schooling should be differentiated from conceit or arrogance. In tackling the often formidable duties of home schooling, I have appreciated even more the value of humility, translated into an openness to learning.

Home schooling has taught me the value of recognizing each individual’s worth. Children have such different learning styles: Some pick up quickly just by listening, others need to see something done, and still others are “kinesthetic,” needing to move all the time as they learn. Learning about these differences in styles has made me more sensitive to the needs of our university students.

Values and character

At the end of each day, I reflect on what has transpired, and that includes the home schooling experience. These reflections reinforce the value of honesty, of recognizing both accomplishments and shortcomings (pagkukulang). Part of that honesty is the cultivation of forgiveness, and I am referring to forgiving not so much our children’s lapses as our own.

We need to demand only the best from ourselves, but should be more forgiving, too, when we stumble, when we fail. I will be very candid and say this has been one of the most difficult of virtues to cultivate, and underlying that inability to forgive ourselves may be a form of destructive pride, the idea that we should never fail.

Fail we must, from time to time, not to humiliate but to humble, and to better appreciate the times when we do succeed, when our children succeed.

At the end then of each day, humility and honesty come together as we heed Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

A final point: because you face many social issues on a daily basis with your children, discussions about virtues and values become more real.   An example here was when my son asked why his textbook discussed Filipino hospitality as being manifested through many celebrations for birthdays, weddings and other occasions. It took me a while to explain that hospitality should be balanced as well with responsibility, especially when we talk about spending too much money for parties.

When you home-school, you’re also under greater pressure to live what you teach in terms of values. It all boils down to parents and children learning together about character, and appreciating that without character-building, the best minds go to waste.

Whatever one’s decision may be about schooling, we all want the best for our children. And that means parents must be ready to become teachers as well. And as we become more involved with our children’s education, we will find that we become better parents, too.

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E-mail: [email protected]

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TAGS: DepEd, education, home-schooling
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