The Socialization Question in Homeschooling

The following is my take on the run-away most overrated or underrated (depending on your own take) question on homeschooling. I wrote it nine (!) years ago when we were homeschooling all four children, and posted it in my now-deleted blog. I have revised certain parts, but on the whole, my stand remains.  And it is this: socialization is a non-issue. The article frequently draws context from the Philippine culture and my own experience.  

Socialization, defined. I define socialization as the process of dealing with and trying to get along with other people. The composition of "other people" includes not just one's peers. It includes older and younger people. It also includes people who are not necessarily in the same undertaking, e.g., being a student, that one is in.

Image courtesy of Vlado
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Family dynamics. Socialization, not surprisingly like charity, begins at home. Homeschoolers socialize with their siblings; some siblings may be close to their age, while some may be older or younger by quite a number of years. My eldest and youngest kids were born ten years apart. The two middle children have an age difference of less than two years. Necessarily, homeschoolers also socialize with grownups because at least one grownup is in personal contact with them the whole time. In the Philippine culture, "grownups" refer to parents, and depending on circumstances, extended family and household help. Everyone living under one roof comprise the family. In my own family now, we do not employ household help, but in my my family of birth, we called our nanny "Inay", the Tagalog word for mother, and the other helpers, "Ate" or "Manang", which mean "elder sister". We call our biological mom, "Ma". This is not uncommon in Filipino families. Properly lived out, the arrangement reinforces - rather than dilute - the children's affection or respect for their parents.

Because homeschooled children have their siblings and at least one parent for company most of the time, the quality of family socialization is potentially better. They eat most or all meals together - leisurely, for schedules are not rigid, and there is time for old-fashioned conversation. They do house chores together and fight over them, negotiate, and may or may not arrive at a consensus. They study together, hush up those who read aloud too often, and reprimand those who use up too much paper and lose pencils all the time. They cheer on the little one who is just beginning to read, and dissuade a discouraged sibling from giving up a sport.

The content of socialization is not limited to academics, teachers and classmates, sports, and other usual concerns of the young. Children listen to their parents talk about rising prices, current events, and issues in the workplace. Gradually, they earn the privilege of joining in "usapang matanda" or grownup talk because they know enough and/or they are confident enough. (I feel some sense of victory when they manifest both.) Of course, children attending regular schools experience this, too, in their respective families. However, because they may be exposed to contradictions outside the home at an age when they are not yet discerning, confusion is likely to set in.

Image courtesy of sattva
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Even counting the people they meet in homeschooling groups and sports and music classes outside the home, homeschooled children do socialize with fewer people. However, I have yet to hear of a "socialization quota" or of a "critical mass" required to raise a well-adjusted child. What I know is that respectfulness, supportiveness, and kindness are traits that are appreciated anywhere one goes.

Awareness of community. Awareness of community is easily inculcated in homeschooled children. In our neighborhood, garbage is collected on Monday and Thursday mornings when just about those left in the neighborhood  are stay-at-home moms, household help, children who are too young to go to school, and my kids (who occasionally get asked if they go to school at all). My children witness firsthand how difficult and risky the job of a garbage collector can be. They know that those who do not cooperate with the waste segregation policy make the situation worse.  They become conscious of the garbage that we generate, and dutifully sort them. When the "diario-bote" (literally, "newspaper-bottle", but refers to recyclable junk) guy was not seen for some time, they worried that he might be sick or might have died, being advanced in years.

Image courtesy of Vlado
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Which brings me to the goal of socialization, for surely, socialization should not be without an end. Any form of socialization should aim to undertake an activity that is beneficial for all members of society, such as education, employment. and governance. How do you train a child to play a meaningful part in the dynamics of these activities when he is all grown up? I am not a psychologist, and as a parent, I trust my instinct. So if there is only one thing that I can teach my children about getting along with other people, it is this -- you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes. In their situation. In their person. It is called empathy.

Peer influence. Now, when one one talks about socialization in the context of schooling, one also has to cover peer influence. So let's do that. (Finally.)

One of the selling points of homeschooling to Husband and me is that it gives us a good degree of control over the peer influence that our children receive. C-o-n-t-r-o-l? Yes, because our children are minors and we are responsible parents. Why do we worry about peer influence? Because it come from people, who like our children, are still in their formative years. They are in a self-centered and unstable phase in their lives. They need a definite road map and a reliable compass.

For example, when my children have questions about life, I want to be the first person that they will go to. It gives me the creeps to consider that they might learn these things - unsolicited - from a grossly misinformed yet over-confident youth. Guess who has to do the undoing.

Image courtesy of Vlado
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Of course, peer influence could also be positive. My high school barkada (group of friends, clique, maybe?) was a diligent lot. We took studying seriously, and we all did rather well academically. My college buddy was the serious type, but we spent many happy Thursday afternoons throwing all cares aside in the name of duckpin bowling. I've kept most of these friendships through the years, and I am both proud and thankful.

Will our children be deprived of similar friendships because they are homeschooled? No. No. No. One day, when they are ready and self-assured, they will go to college or find a job. Then out of prudence rather than luck or whim, they will find friends that they can further mature and trek life with. In the meantime, there are Tatay (Father), Nanay (Mother), siblings, cousins, grandparents, uncles, aunts, coaches, tutors, helpers, some of the neighbors' kids, and other kids that they can meet in homeschooling groups and sports and music classes. We make rather good company.  


A House Repair Worksheet

Image courtesy of vectorolie
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Home repairs are like toothaches: the sooner that you do something about them, the better. Leaking faucets waste water and cost money. Sometimes, they even make sounds that seem to penetrate your skull. A loose doorknob is a security risk. A busted light bulb left un-replaced can cause physical injuries especially in hallways and staircases. It goes on.

The irony is that taking care of home repairs is not a pleasant task, especially if you are not a handyman. Or the hubby is not a handyman. Or nobody in the house is a handyman. So sometimes, the repairs grow lives of their own and -- voila! -- accumulate.

It's not too late for order, though, and order always helps. May I dare share with you a house repair worksheet that I put together in the name of order. It is in tabular form. The rows refer to the rooms or areas of the house where repair is needed, and the columns refer to the type of repair needed, namely, masonry, carpentry, electrical, and plumbing.

If you prefer to do the repairs by room or area in the house, you work by rows. Working by room or area causes less fuss and distraction to the family members. If you can do all the repairs by yourself, you also do not have to be moving around from one location to another, and you can concentrate better.

If you prefer to do the repairs by the type of work required, you work by columns. This may be the preferred mode if you will be hiring handymen. For example, you can contract out cabinet repairs in the bedrooms and in the kitchen for a carpenter to do within a day or two. He would have to move from one location to another, but you know that you are hiring him for the shortest possible length of time.

I added a table for the contact info of your handymen:

You can download the Home Repair Worksheet here.

'Hope it can be of use to you! Here's to order and happiness in the home!


Dishin' It Out: a re-post

This post originally appeared in Jenny's blog, Suscipio, back in April 2013. (Jenny now blogs at The Littlest Way.) My current circumstances prompted me to revisit my thoughts when I wrote this post, and I share them now with you. 

A pious and wise person once advised praying with your list of intentions while doing the dishes. You either have your list in your head or taped on a surface near the sink, then you "work" through it while doing your chore. It's a strategy that gets the dishes done and the intentions prayed for at the same time.

I've always regarded that advice as one of the most useful gems I've ever come across as a mom. Who doesn't want a prayer corner all to herself and a non-negotiable prayer schedule? Sometimes, though, The practical aspects of living the faith do not converge in a frictionless manner, so Plans B are necessary. And they are not at all bad. It's the purity of intentions that counts.

"A married woman must, when called upon, 
quit her devotions to God at the altar
to find Him in her household affairs."

What if I don't do the dishes because I have a dishwasher (actually, I don't)? Well, there are alternative scenarios, like folding laundered items, reshelving books, or mopping the floor. For younger moms, there's comforting a colicky baby. Any chore that involves repetitive action and does not require too much "technical thinking" so that one can dual-task the chore with the intentions list should do. And hey, the intentions list can also be substituted by the gratitude list or the praise list. Remember ACTS (adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication)?

Everything that we do can actually be turned into prayer.

"Let us work. Let us work a lot and work well,
without forgetting that prayer is our best weapon.
That is why I will never tire of repeating
that we have to be contemplative souls
in the middle of the world,
who try to convert work into prayer."

And healthy and balanced doses of verbal prayer and "action prayer" are always good prescriptions, right?

How do you keep up with prayer when family and work demand your attention the minute you wake up (or even before you do)?


Dividing My Day

If I can have 48 hours in a day, I would welcome that. I'm quite happy with 24 though, never mind that at the end of those precious 24 hours, I still wonder where they went. Each time.

I guess this is why scheduling is an essential practical skill and following a schedule, an exercise in virtue. I will talk about virtue another day. Today, let me think aloud about how I plan my day, or more specifically, how I divide my day. I think of planning my day as dividing my day because as old wisdom goes, things are more manageable if they are divided to small chunks.

This is how a page of my daily planner looks like:

I use a generic planner because, well, it's cheap.

Anyway. Activity-wise, I divide each day into eight blocks:

1) Household. Yes, chores.
2) Homeschool. We are never on autopilot never mind that we have been doing this for years.
3) Family. On some days, this is as simple as making an appointment with the dentist. On some days, this can mean something more challenging like helping my son with his college applications.
4) Work + Social Media. It is odd that I lumped these together because while I work from home, I do not make a living from my social media activities (Sometimes I fancy I may.). I think I lumped them together because they both require computers. I haven't even blogged in a while :-(.
5) To Buy/Pay. We can't avoid this, can we.
6) To Call/Email. Can't avoid this either.
7) Norms.  I borrowed this term from the practice of norms of piety, which you can read about here. I have adopted some, and added some of my own like praying the Divine Office.
8) Well-Being. This is my personal health block, and if I'm lucky, my me-time block.

After filling in all eight blocks of my daily planner, all I really have is just a checklist. I still have to farm out my chores/tasks/activities across the waking hours of my day. In a friction-less world, that would be easy; but because of  unpredictable events, poor planning (it's a skill, remember), demanding children, or just plain laziness, planning by the hour is actually just setting up myself for boom!

Time-wise then, this is how I divide my day:

From my eight activity blocks, I choose which ones are to be done before lunch and which ones are to be done after lunch. The assumption, of course, is that I eat lunch around 12 noon. I have had reasonable success with this because the scheduling is less rigid while imposing a midday reckoning.

How do you divide your day?

P.S. Did you notice in the first photo that I put a heart around the number 7? That's for the Sacred Heart of Jesus because April 7 is a First Friday. As a child, I saw my mom doing this on her calendar, and I've done it myself since then.


April Mappings

In adoration
In a short while, it will be dark.

... and in full trust in his forgiveness, guidance, and providence, I join David -- he who sinned grievously, repented sincerely and completely, and from whose lineage the Savior was born, I revisit the most beautiful of psalms:

 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

~ Psalm 23
(RSV, Catholic Edition, Ignatius Press)

In contrition
The Communion rail at the Shrine of Our Lady Of Caysasay, 
in Taal town, Batangas province, the Philippines.

April is devoted to the Holy Spirit, who came to the Apostles on the first Pentecost. I examine myself on how I have been using the gifts of the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1831, "[The gifts of the Holy Spirit] are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.I will consider more deeply, fortitude (CCC 1808) because I need it, and temperance (CCC 1809) because well, I need it, too.

In thanksgiving
Holy Communion - the Quartermaster's Office in the Stern
by McBey, James [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I will focus on the gift of the Holy Eucharist, which Jesus instituted during the Last Supper and before His supreme sacrifice. There is real danger in attending Sunday Mass and receiving Holy Communion becoming a casual routine, when it should be a routine that we look forward to with fervor and devotion. This is really sad because in some places, the practice of religion is heavily restricted because of government, culture, or even geography. 

In supplication
By Harold Saldy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

I will remember the Holy Father's intention for April. He asks us to prayer for young people: "That young people may respond generously to their vocations and seriously consider offering themselves to God in the priesthood or consecrated life." You can find the Apostleship of Prayer reflection on that intention here

In solidarity with moms everywhere, I also remember our common intentions: the health and safety of our families, the moral formation of our children, and a future where they can live peacefully, responsibly exercise their freedoms, and instinctively care for the welfare of their neighbor.  

Around the house

The dry season is upon us. Definitely, unflinchingly, relentlessly. I have one eye in the direction of the beach and the other towards our roof, gutters, and rainwater spouts, all of which need should be queued for cleaning before handymen become scarce. The airconditioning units also need to be cleaned so they can function more efficiently. And the very few plants that we have -- all potted -- need to be watered more often. I see signs of undernutrition, tsk, tsk...

The handymen are not the only ones expected to do dry season tasks around here. Pillows and blankets will be washed and dried in the sun, travel bags will be dug out and aired out before we can even think of escaping to the beach, and goodness me, the hubby will have to make sure that the car is road-worthy. No wonder people opt for staycations!

Around the kitchen
Antique cookware at the Philippine Museum of Social History

'You know those ladies who can organize their houses in their sleep then wake up to blog about it? I am not one of them. I can only read their posts with green eyes, and sigh, sigh, sigh.

But yes, I am bravely imposing kitchen and pantry organization on myself this month. I am planning to break up the mammoth project into tasks, and then d-e-l-e-g-a-t-e. You see, I have four children and one husband, and it's payback time. I will never be a Julia Child, but if I have an organized kitchen -- maybe, just maybe -- I can feel like I am an accomplished cook (Julia was a chef), and start acting like one. 

Did I say that I am going to throw in establishing a meal planning system while I'm at it? Yikes!

Primary educator, always
All homeschooling moms will agree that this is a classic. Full info here

Somebody's going to be knee-deep into poetry this month whether she likes it or not. Yup. That's all I'm going to say. 

And nobody's going to say that she has to catch up with her Kumon worksheets because I have fallen for that before, so silly me if I fall for it again. Here comes tough mama.

Tackling the book hoard

I assigned myself the following Lenten reading:
~  The Defects of the Saints by Jesus Urteaga
~ Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: the Secret of Peace and Happiness by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure, S.J. and Saint Claude de la Colombiere, S.J.
~ Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (selected sections). You can also view the material here

Liturgical living and devotions
The Altar of Repose at the Manila Cathedral, 2014
By Judgefloro (Own work)
 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

We have not been doing very badly in the family Rosary and Stations of the Cross front. This week, I am planning to haul off everyone for our Lenten confession. Holy Week proper, I am looking forward not only to the usual services, but also to the Visita Iglesia (you can read about it here and here). Taking place after the Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper and the transfer of the Holy Eucharist to the Altar of Repose, the faithful visit the Altars of Repose of seven churches. People usually go in groups -- families, parish groups, classmates, friends. It is a good opportunity for unhurried reflection and prayer. Living in the urban tropics, we make sure that we pack water bottles and fans for everyone. Comfortable shoes definitely help even if you are taking the car.

This is it, I guess. Have a happy and productive April and a meaningful Holy Week. May our Blessed Mother intercede for us so that our efforts this month will bear fruit. God bless everyone!  


The Sweetest Thing

As couples our age are wont to do (I think), we got to talk about like, death, and eternity. 

Not surprisingly, my practical side emerged, and said, "I don't want you to die before me. I wouldn't know what to do."

Then he replied, "I try to live a righteous life here so if I have to go before you,  I can intercede for you and the kids in Heaven."

Isn't that the sweetest thing a man can say to his wife?


Consistency in 2017

Thank God for cycles and calendars and clean slates. Can you imagine what it would be like to open a brand new planner, sniff its pages, and glide your hand across the smooth pages, but feel weary and lethargic on the first day of the year? What a disconnect!

But because we have days, weeks, months, seasons, and years that roll along, one after the other, we can mark beginnings and endings, work and rest, resolutions and examinations. Not that the error and sins of the past should be forgotten; heavens, no! We are able to deal with those errings, though, because of the hope, second chances, and optimism afforded by each beginning.

Saint Joseph, you who consistently obeyed
what God asked you to do, pray for us.
The case at hand being the start of 2017. I have set up a total of four calendars in my work space and our bedroom alone (talk about overkill). While I have not written down my resolutions, I made a general promise to myself that I will just do things in a better way and be less, well, lazy. 

I should, of course, be more specific. Vague plans lead to zero results. So I take up the priest's advice during my Advent confession: pray everyday, prioritize your home duties, and reassess how you use the Internet (I hang my head in shame.). Nice resolutions on the surface, but without heroic amounts of good faith, fortitude, perseverance, and "related virtues" (my catch-all term), they can remain resolutions throughout the year. Who will I be fooling?

So I consider consistency. Conscious, deliberate, and regular practice of virtues until they become second nature. Until they surface amidst ebb and flow.

Practicing virtue on the first few days of the year is almost no virtue because everything is fresh and the adrenaline from the holidays has not leveled off. But when the glitters and baubles have been packed and the tedium creeps in so slowly that I don't even notice it until the hampers are overflowing and I am missing my work deadlines... there, right there, I can use some virtues. But they won't be around to get me through if I haven't been practicing them consistently in the first place. 

I suppose consistency is the force that will sustain good actions, the beating in the heart that will keep me humming along while traveling on good roads and bad roads. Must be a good thing to have then. 

Consistency, I guess I'll take you on this year.