Monday, April 12, 2010

The Birth of Teacher Mama

A lot of people used to ask us where our now 3 and a half year old son, Tim, goes to school. I remember he was still just 2 years old when friends and acquaintances, upon observing him or hearing him speak, would inquire "Saan siya nagaaral? Ilan taon na ba siya? 4?" (Where does he go to school? How old is he? 4?)

To which hubby and I would reply, "Hindi pa siya nagiskul. 2 years old pa lang siya eh." ("He doesn't go to school yet. He's only 2 years old.")

People would be surprised and say how they thought that Tim was already in school, because he could speak English fluently (for a 2 year old) and was usually the precocious, well-behaved kid at social gatherings. (Well, nowadays, he's not THAT behaved anymore. Oh Terrible Threes?!! When shalt this period end? Hahaha)

Little did we realize that we were already homepreschooling Tim, long before we even knew that there is such a term as homepreschooling (Thanks to Susan Lemons, who helped me learn about the term and so much more when she commented on my blog).

Last year, when Tim was about 2 and a half, hubby and I started talking about whether to enroll him in a playgroup or preschool of sorts, to expose him to a "formal" learning setting and improve his socialization skills, in preparation for actual school. Many of the kids of our fellow Filipinos here in Dili who were Tim's age were already attending playgroup at Dili International School or elsewhere, and at times I personally felt that Tim was "left behind" in terms of schooling.

That all changed when last year, we tried to get Tim to sit in one of the nursery classes at the Dili Education and Development Center, a newly established Filipino International School, right in our very own compound (just a stone's throw away from our house/office). I had previously inquired about enrolling Tim since he seemed to start showing interest in going to school and learning, and the director had given me permission to let him sit in for a week before making a final decision. At that time Tim was still below the minimum age requirement (3 years old) for their nursery class. Below is a brief narrative of how that sit-in class went. (Mama and little sister Rysse, at that time about 2 months old, sat in as well.)

Teacher B. greets the whole class and invites everyone to stand up and sing along with her before the lesson proper. Tim, a bit shy, observes from the side of the classroom.

Teacher B. invites him to move nearer to the front of the classroom and stand beside her. Tim stands but does not seem interested in singing along while Teacher B. starts to sing "I'm A Little Teapot." (Neither do most of the other kids, who are busy either playing their own little games or doing their own thing - SO CUTE!)

To my surprise (and I guess Teacher B. and the other bantays (caregivers) there were surprised too) in the middle of Teacher B.'s singing, Tim raises his hand and says "My turn!" And proceeds to sing "Old McDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O.."

Laughingly I tell him "Tim, please wait your turn. It's Teacher B's turn now."

Tim stops singing and Teacher B. proceeds until she's finished with the Teapot song. She then turns to Tim and says, "Ok Tim, it's your turn now."

I am so proud and whisper a prayer of thanksgiving when Tim starts singing "Old McDonald." After a few lines, he says to Teacher B. "Ok, it's your turn now."

"Thank you, Tim." And she starts to sing "Sit Down, Sit Down.. You're rocking the boat.."

Tim interrupts, "No, no, no. You sing Old McDonald."

At this, I crack up. And then tell Tim, "Let Teacher B. sing what she wants to sing."

Tim does so. And then the "real" lesson starts. It is about the different people in the family and the roles they play.

While Teacher B. asks the children questions, and tries to coax answers out of them, I observe Tim. He doesn't seem to be listening and is busy lining up his crayons on the table (something he just LOVES to do, he's been doing this ever since toddlerhood!). He tries to answer every now and then but seems to be having difficulty.

I tell him I have to go and nurse Baby Rysse and that I'll come back for him in a little while. He lets me go, probably secure in the knowledge that the house is just nearby.

I go home and nurse Rysse and put her to sleep. It takes me about 10-15 minutes. I am about to go back to the school when I see Tim walking to the house with one of the nannies from the school.

"I'm finished with school po Mama," he says. And proceeds inside and starts playing with his toy trains.

After that day, I tried again several times to get Tim to sit in and stay inside the nursery classroom. Then I would try going home to see if he could stay on his own. But every time he would go home before the time he was supposed to.

Until it came to the point where I just stopped trying. This is about the same time when Tim, upon being asked where he goes to school, would usually gesture around him (at home) and say "This is our school, this is my school po." (Usually, he'd do this in our room, which has this hanging book"pouch" on the wall, courtesy of Lola Alice).

After which, the next question would be: "Then who's your teacher?"

"You, Mama." Then he would continue, "Come on, Teacher Mama. Let's learn."

At the beginning I would respond by asking him "Don't you want to go to school in front? With Teacher B. and all your new friends..?" (Then I'd enumerate their names one by one.)

To which he'd usually reply, "No po. THIS is our school. Here, our home."

After about 2 weeks of this, I came to realize a few things.

1. Tim wasn't actually "not ready" to learn or go to school, but in fact was already learning so much at home from us and the other members of our mission team. (As lay missionaries for our Catholic community, we are so blessed to have been able to be mostly work at home parents, since our mission office is also the mission house/residence).

2. Just because he was not enrolled in a "formal" school, it didn't mean that he was "lagging behind" his peers who were enrolled in playgroup or nursery. When it comes to the preschool years, there should be no pressure on both parents AND children about learning. Instead, kids should be encouraged to have fun, be exposed to reading books a lot (and read aloud to a lot), explore their motor skills and imagination, and most of all, BE ASSURED THAT THEY ARE LOVED AND SPECIAL. They each have their unique gifts, talents, and capabilities. After all, there are different kinds of intelligences and therefore different learning styles.

Therefore, just because Tim didn't seem to catch on to learning at the DEDC (though I must say, their teaching methods are quite okay, compared to a lot of other schools here in Timor Leste.), I didn't and still don't have any reason to worry. Learning can take place anytime, anywhere. As long as we are open and creative and spontaneous, we can make anytime "learning time."

3. Homeschooling, or to be more specific, homepreschooling, need not be so formal after all. However, it does need a lot of patience, planning, perseverance and FAITH. :) Some things that I am still working on.

Up to the time of this writing, Tim still says that our home is his school, and that I am his "Teacher Mama." He's also added "Teacher Papa" and "Teacher Kaka" to his list of teachers. So far, he's able to do the following (I've only listed the top 15 things that I can recall right now):

1. Identify the numbers 1 to 20. He can also count aloud 1 to 20.

2. Identify all the letters of the alphabet, capital and lower case. He also knows some of the beginning letter sounds (like B as in ball, F for fish, etc)

3. Identify all the primary and secondary colors, plus black, white, grey. He can also say if a color is "light" or "dark." He learned this from "My Big Bear Book".

4. Say what the opposite of some basic concepts/words are. He learned this through a simple game we play, and by playing with "opposite puzzles" - more on this in another post. :) So he knows words like: hot/cold, young/old, tall/short, thin/fat, etc, and what they mean.

5. Complete puzzles of 10 pieces with minimum (if any at all) supervision :)

6. Sing lots and lots of songs (a wide selection of nursery rhymes and children's songs, kids' Bible songs and our community's worship songs *in English and Tetun, and a few secular pop songs [NOT taught by me *sighs*] Not to mention some songs he recently learned by watching TV at his grandparents' house during our vacation in the Philippines, including our Presidential candidates' jingles! I think my Kuya Tim is a gifted auditory learner, he can remember lines of a song that he's heard only once or twice!) He can also make up his own lyrics and sing them with a tune that he's already familiar with!!! (Future singer/songwriter in the making??!!!)

7. Pretend to "read" and can remember the storyline of each of his 30 or so books (!!!) PRAISE GOD for generous family and friends and secondhand books!

8. Pack away his things when prompted (though sometimes has to be "pushed") to do so :)

9. Help out with some chores like fold his blanket, sweep the floor, put away the dishes, wash the dishes (though he ends up playing with the water lots of times!), mop the floor. He is often pleased to help out when asked to do so.

10. Follow simple directions - helps Mama "deliver" documents to Papa when needed (Papa's office is located near the living room, while Mama works in the bedroom), etc etc.

11. Tell the difference between living and non living things

12. Understand the concept of "metamorphosis" i.e. tadpole-frog, caterpillar-butterfly

13. Share and take turns (and often reminds other kids to do the same) - though this is still a skill he needs to work on :)

14. Help take care of his baby sister (watches her for Mama when asked to do so, plays with her, gives Mama her diaper and other things when asked, etc)

15. PRAY. :) On his own and with the family. He can say the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Angel of God prayer already. :) (Though some parts may be unintelligible to people unfamiliar with his speaking manner :)

(Right now, I'm still wracking my brain for other "skills" Tim's acquired, teehee. More on this later. However, I am thankful to God and proud to say that Tim is capable of the Three S's: Self-Care, Sitting Still, and Sharing. These were wonderfully described in a good article I believe every parent of any preschooler should read - click here to read it :) I continue to thank GOD for all that Tim is able to do, and we as parents shouldn't be pressured nor pressure our kids at this age to know lots of things. A gentle reminder below:

"You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again. ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762"

Let your kids be kids. :) Fill up their days with praytime and playtime, laughter and learning! Click here for suggested activities for 3 year olds :) The homepage also has activities for babies and toddlers up to 2 years :)

Anyway, the point of this long-winded (and THANK YOU for reading up to this part!) post is:

Any parent can teach their kids. You DON'T need an Education degree. All you need is COMMITMENT, TIME and LOVE. Everything else will follow. This does not strictly apply to stay at home or work at home parents. Even if you're working fulltime outside the home, YOU CAN DO IT. :)

Watch out for my next post so you can get a few tips on how YOU can actually be TEACHER MAMA (or PAPA ;)) to your kid.

Here's to parents everywhere, the original homepreschoolers! :)

No comments:

Teachermama Tina writes about

" Jesus Tree 3rd Philippine Homeschool Conference 4th Philippine Homeschool Conference About Teacher Mama Achievements Advantages of Homeschooling Advent Advent Activities Advent Crafts Advent Traditions Advocacies Affirmation All Hallow's Eve All Saints' Day Angels announcements Archangels Arma Dei Articles Arts and Crafts Assumption of Mary Babies Baby Einstein Baby signs Back to School Beginning Homeschool Bible Memory Verse Blessed John Paul II Blessed Mother Teresa Feast Day Blessings Blog Giveaways blog updates Bo Sanchez Books Breastfeeding and Homeschooling Catechism for Kids Catholic Catholic Activities and Crafts Catholic Books Catholic Cartoons Catholic Comics Catholic Education Catholic Feast Days Catholic Filipino Academy Catholic Filipino Homeschooling Catholic Heritage Curricula Catholic Homeschooling Catholic Icing Catholic Lesson Plans for Preschool and Kindergarten Catholic Parenting Catholic Unschooling Catholic Vacation Bible School Celebrations Character Development Child Discipline Christian Cartoons Christian Parenting Christmas Christmas Crafts Christmas greetings Classical Homeschooling College at Home Common Childhood Diseases Confessions Conversion of St. Paul Crafts Creative Activities for Homeschoolers Creativity Daily Schedules Day of the Unborn Child Department of Tourism Different Schooling Styles Discernment Discipline Divine Mercy Drawing E-books Earning Extra Income Easter Easter Activities Easter Treasure Hunt Eclectic homeschooling Education Education for Parents Educational Toys Educational Websites Encouragement for Homeschoolers Encouraging Writing Epiphany Epiphany House Blessing Equipping Catholic Families Events Exaltation of the Holy Cross Expo Mom Family Family Activities Family Bonding Family Traditions Fathers and Homeschooling Feast Days Field Trips Filipino Holidays Filipino Homeschool Filipino Homeschoolers Finances for Homeschoolers First Day of Homeschooling 2012 First Friday meet-ups Five In A Row Forever For Always No Matter What Free Bible Stories Free Children's Online Bibles Free E-books Free Online Books Free Online Comics Free Resources Free Workshops Freebies Frugal Homeschool Ideas funny videos Giveaways God God's Call to Homeschool God's Provision God's Provisions Godly attitudes Grade Levels Gratefulness Guardian Angels Halloween HAPI Heaven Help for Homeschoolers Holidays Holy Days Holy Heroes Holy Week Activities Holy Week Tips and Reflections Homeschool Association of the Philippine Islands Homeschool Benefits homeschool bloggers Homeschool Burnout Homeschool Conference Homeschool Curriculum Homeschool Dads Homeschool Domination Homeschool Events Homeschool Goals Homeschool Help Homeschool High School Homeschool Moms Homeschool of Asia and Pacific Homeschool or Not Homeschool Planning Homeschool Preschool Homeschool Providers in the Philippines Homeschool Resources Homeschool Routine Homeschool Schedules Homeschool Statistics Homeschool Style Homeschool Support Homeschool Tips Homeschool Updates Homeschool Vision Homeschoolers Association of the Philippine Islands Homeschooling Homeschooling and the Working Mom Homeschooling in the Philippines Homeschooling Infographic Homeschooling is a Call Homeschooling Solutions Homeschooling Styles homeschooling videos How to start homeschooling How to teach kids about Holy Week and Easter How to teach reading I Recommend Ignatian Imagination Importance of Play Independence Day Ideas Infographic Inspiration for Homeschoolers Is Homeschooling For Your Child January Feast Days Jesus Christ July to Aug 2012 activities June 12 June 2012 activities K-12 Curriculum Kids Kids and the Bible Kids Books Kindergarten Lessons Kingdom-seekers Academy Kolbe Kolbe Academy Language Learning Styles Learning through Play LEGO Pilipinas at SM MOA Lent Lenten "decor Lenten Activities Lenten Countdown Lenten Crafts Lessons Learned Life Lessons Life Skills Literacy Losing your patience Love and Relationships Love for Learning Making Up Stories Mama Mary Mama Mary's Birthday March 25 Marian Feast Days Marriage Benefits Mater Amabilis May Ideas Michaelmas Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Mommy Mundo Mommy Talks Mompreneurs Monster Mama Month in Review Mother Goose Mother's Day Motherhood My Masterpiece Movement Nagging Nanay Notebook Nanny National Holidays Nativity of Mary Natural Family Planning New Year's Resolutions Nursery Rhymes October Feast Days Online Resources Organization Orientation Our Catholic Faith Our curriculum for SY 2012-2013 Our Homeschool Our Lady of Sorrows Our Lady of the Rosary Outreach Activities Palm Sunday Parenthood Parenting Parenting Bliss Parenting for Eternity Patriotic Filipino Books Phonics Programs Planner Play Pilipinas Play to Learn Pope JP II Prayer Prayer for Protection Prayer for the Unborn Praying about homeschooling Preborn Jesus Preparing for Christmas Preschool Preschool Lessons Preschool Science Preschoolers and Reading Printables Pro-Family Pro-God Pro-Life Pro-Life Activities for Homeschoolers Pro-Life Crafts Pro-Life Philippines Pro-Poor Progressive Schools Read aloud Reading Reading Program Reasons for Homeschooling Reflections Religion Resources Resources. DIY Review Reviews ROCKERs Rosary Routines Rysse Sacraments Saint Cartoons San Lorenzo Ruiz Saul to Paul Schedule Scripture Memory Verse September Feast Days Service Activities Sibling Relationships Sideline Jobs Sign Language Simple Homeschool Simply Living for Him Single Parenthood Smart Parenting Social Interaction Socialization and Homeschooling St. Cecilia St. Faustina St. Francis of Assisi St. Gabriel St. Lorenzo Ruiz St. Michael the Archangel St. Padre Pio St. Paul St. Raphael St. Teresa of Avila St. Therese of Lisieux Stepping Out of the Grade Level Box Successful Homeschooling Super Saturdays Support for Homeschoolers Susan Lemons Teacher Mama's Mama Teaching Infants Teaching Kids To Be Grateful Teaching Nannies Teaching Toddlers Teaching Toddlers about God The Annunciation to Mary The Learning Basket The Mommy Journey The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Therese Thinking Out of the Book Timothy Toddler Signs Toddlers and Jesus Truly Rich Mom Truth TV-free Activities Unschooling Value of Children Videos about Saints What Kids Say Why Homeschool? Why WE Homeschool Wordless Wednesday Work with the Poor Workshops for Homeschoolers World Breastfeeding Week Writing Yaya