Charlotte Mason, homeschooling

How to Homeschool: A Complete Guide

With the covid pandemic having no clear end in sight, parents are increasingly looking into the possibility of homeschooling this coming school year June 2020. But whereas previous homeschoolers had the luxury of time to research and prepare, many of the parents seriously considering homeschooling now may be pushed to do it without any prior preparation.

If you are in the camp of parents who feel like you have no choice but to homeschool this school year, here is a quick but detailed guide to help you get started.

Basic Facts About Homeschooling

First, let’s understand basic truths about homeschooling so you can breathe easier about what lies ahead of you.

  • Homeschooling is not bringing the school exactly as it is into your home.

You don’t have to feel pressured about spending 8 hours a day teaching your child. Because homeschooling involves a one-to-one (or, if you have more than one child, 2:1, 3:1, or 4:1) teacher: student ratio, the focused attention leads to learning that can happen much more quickly. (Besides, a lot of the 8 hours in school include peripherals like settling down for class, waiting for other classmates to finish their worksheets, etc etc.)

For many of us, our only experience with education is having a teacher stand in front of the classroom and lecture for the next thirty minutes. Or having the teacher demonstrate math problems in front and then asking students, one at a time, to practice on the board. So we imagine homeschooling to have us doing the same thing, acting as our child’s teacher—which is a daunting picture, isn’t it?

The good news is, homeschooling doesn’t HAVE to look like that. There are many more engaging ways for students to learn. In fact, for our family, we follow Charlotte Mason’s philosophy that encourages a lot of self-learning—which means that, when my older son reached the appropriate reading “strength,” he started reading his own books himself. Many homeschoolers I know also have children that become independent learners so much sooner than their traditionally-schooled counterparts.

Which leads us to our second point:

  • In homeschooling, you have the flexibility to choose what kind of “method” you want to use.

Homeschooling gives the parents the freedom (and the responsibility) of choosing what kind of “method” you want to use. Perhaps you didn’t even know there WAS a choice!

If you feel competent about teaching your student from a textbook and workbook, well and good. Other methods that are popular for homeschooling are: Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, unit studies, classical education, Montessori, unschooling, and eclectic (or a mix).

For our family, we opted for the Charlotte Mason method, which uses a lot of really engaging and excellently written stories that make the lessons come alive for us–and this is true not just for English lessons, but even for History and Science as well.

But the Charlotte Mason method is not limited to just books, either. For science, we do a lot of nature study and nature journaling, and we also get a rich exposure to the greatest works in art and music. So our weeks would include musing over a painting, or singing hymns and folk songs together, and creating things with our hands.

  • Because homeschooling means spending extended time with your kids, pay attention to heart connection, learning communication, and character building.

Homeschooling has the added reward–and challenge–of having our kids at home 24/7. (Which is already what’s happening now with quarantine anyway!) And, spending time with another weak and broken human being (like ourselves) with no time away is a possible recipe for blow-ups, misunderstandings, and tantrums (both for the kids and us parents, let’s admit that, shall we?).

Sometimes we may be pressured to just finish whatever academic work, but when we run into conflict, it’s actually the best time to build relationship. I admit, it’s super uncomfortable! When my sons and I get into a misunderstanding, I’m tempted to just sulk in my room (talk about immature!) and sweep it under the rug.

But, my husband and I have since agreed that we want to learn healthy communication as a family, so I have to suck it up and choose to communicate well. One example of what helps us is learning to say how something made us feel instead of pointing fingers.

All that to say, let’s see this as an awesome privilege to model character to our children, and use the time to train them up too in the values we want to see.

Things to do before you start homeschooling

1. Write down your goals for homeschooling.

While it’s tempting to choose what seems to be the easy route of just using DepEd textbooks and workbooks, I want to encourage you to take some time to think through your goals for your child’s education. Is your goal to get through a set of workbooks and get a good grade at the end of the year? That’s not a bad goal in itself. But could there be something bigger than that? What if your goal is for your child to learn to love learning? Or what if you want your child to love reading? These goals will help determine the answer to the next items in this list.

2. Decide on your homeschooling method.

As I mentioned above, you have the freedom of choosing the homeschooling method. The method is NOT the curriculum: the method is the overarching principles that will govern how you educate your child, while the curriculum is the set of lessons that you will be using to teach your child on a day-to-day basis.

Some of the more common methods are:

(Click the link if you want to learn more, I’m linking these to some of the best sites that describe these methods.)

  • Charlotte Mason: This uses a lot of excellent books, not only in literature but also for history and science. Plus, I love the gentle approach to learning that values the child’s individuality and does not put undue pressure either on the mom or the child.
    • During this quarantine period, we will have to make do with the books that are available, but the good news is that many of these great books are available online, so it’s very possible to use this method even with limited budget or resources, as long as you have access to the Internet that lets you download stuff. The paintings you use for picture study are also available online, and the music selections are all on YouTube, so it’s very doable.
  • Unit studies: Unit studies involves learning about a specific subject over a period of time. For example, a unit study on weather may go on for a few months, and every school subject will focus on that topic.
    • During this quarantine period, if you have the time and the heart for it, you can make your own unit studies, but the challenge will be finding the books to match your chosen subject. At other times, you might also buy a set, all already prepared for you, but during this covid crisis, shipping might be a problem.
  • Classical education: This uses methods used during the ancient times, which also uses a lot of classic literature.
    • Unfortunately, most of the curriculum that use this will also need to be shipped from the US.
  • Unschooling: Some families opt to “unschool,” or just learn whatever whenever the child wants.
    • This may work for families who are already familiar and comfortable with their convictions about homeschooling, but for newbies, this tends to feel a bit “scary,” as you won’t have any “real” output to show for your year’s “school.”
  • Eclectic: This simply means you mix and match.
    • I think this works best for families who have much time to research and choose which elements they want from which method. But for a family who has a ticking time as to when to start, this may not be a good fit.

As you can tell, I’m biased towards the Charlotte Mason philosophy, but that’s because we’ve used it since my oldest was 5 years old (he’s now 12) and we’re very happy not only with the way it’s played out, but also with the results.

3. Choose a homeschool curriculum.

Again, a curriculum is the set of lessons that you will be using to teach your child throughout the year. After you have decided on your method, you can then proceed to choosing a curriculum. For example, for the Charlotte Mason method, we have several curricula available, my two favorites being:

  • Simply Charlotte Mason – The curriculum comes at a fee, which you can buy as an e-book.
  • Ambleside Online – The curriculum is free, and most of the books are also available for free on Kindle or to read online. This is what we are currently using as a family, and also one of my favorites to recommend! 🙂 (If you read through my blog, you will find me referencing AO a lot!)
  • CharlotteMasonPhilippines.Com – This is a resource pool of lots of free materials to help you homeschool using the CM method in the Philippines. The website also offers full one-year guides, called Talino CM Curriculum, specifically for Filipino students! You may also sign up for a free e-book on this website called Handbook for First-Time CM Homeschoolers, or download one of the many free samples of the curriculum guides. 🙂

20190809_114050(One of our favorite nature study times!)

If you are thinking of “homeschooling” while your child is enrolled in his current school, (which may be converting to “online education” during the crisis), you also will not have to worry much about choosing a homeschool curriculum.

BUT, I would strongly recommend still thinking about your educational principles. At the end of the day, after all the worksheets are done, (or maybe even before they’re done?) won’t it be nice to be able to spend some time reading a story together, or baking cookies together, or watching some birds build their nest in our backyard? (These are things we love doing in our Charlotte Mason homeschool.)

3. Choose a homeschool provider.

In the Philippines, you will need a homeschool provider to give your child his report card at the end of the year. (If you don’t, you will be called an independent homeschooler, and your child will need to take a test with DepEd in order to qualify past the year you homeschooled.)

If you are still enrolled in your current school, you won’t have to worry about finding a homeschool provider.

If you will not be enrolling in a brick-and-mortar school, you will need a provider. You will be paying a tuition fee (which ranges between P18,000 to P40,000 per year per child), not including books and materials. Then, your cost for your books and materials will depend on the curriculum you choose.

Some of the more popular ones in the Philippines are:

  • Homeschool Global – This is one of the pioneers in homeschooling in the Philippines. They are based in Manila but with hubs in Cebu, Davao, and Bacolod. They offer book-based curricula you can choose from, as well as an online option. Edric Mendoza is a prominent face for HG, and a couple of my friends in Iloilo are enrolled with them. If I’m not mistaken, they do quarterly portfolio reviews.
  • Peniel Integrated Christian Academy of Rizal – We were enrolled with Peniel for 2 years for my younger son Sam, in his Kinder 2 and Grade 1 Year. They offer “open curriculum,” which means that you can choose your own and then adjust your exams accordingly. At the end of the year, you just need to submit a detailed portfolio of your work.
  • Kids World Integrated School – We enrolled with this provider based in Greenhills when JD was in Kinder 2 and Grade 1. After that, we went independent.
  • Living Learning Homeschool – This is owned by my good friend Gina Roldan, who coaches families in the Charlotte Mason method.
  • The Living Pupil Homeschool Solutions – This is my partner provider, which is based in Cebu and owned by my good friend Zen Jacalan. I partner with LPHS as the Family Facilitator for Iloilo, and I also coach families in using the Charlotte Mason Method. I personally recommend this especially if you’re based in Iloilo or nearby areas so we can meet—well, as soon as the quarantine is lifted, that is 🙂

4. Collect your materials.

After you choose your provider, you can start discussing the materials you need with your Family Facilitator. Then you can start buying, borrowing, or downloading. For the Charlotte Mason method, I normally recommend books, either based on Ambleside Online’s free curriculum or whatever we have available on hand.

I frequent Booksale and collect books that I know will be of good use in homeschooling, which I can then share or resell to others. Or, my good friend at Living Pages PH also has a good stash we can choose from.

5. Create a schedule.

Once you have your materials in place, you can then create your schedule, depending on your own time availability. I would normally recommend you to be realistic about your schedule, especially if you are working, whether out of home or in the home.

For example, a friend of mine who was working online decided to put extended time for homeschooling her son over Monday and Tuesday, and then left Wednesday and Thursday for her to focus on her job. That means that she assigned most of the things that her child can do independently on those days when she had more work to do.

6. Connect with other homeschoolers.

I can’t overemphasize this: you’re NOT alone! Many others are on the same boat as you! Be bold at approaching other people who are also homeschooling so we can offer each other support and encouragement 🙂

How to homeschool

I hope these tips can help you get started on your homeschool journey. If anything, feel free to reach out to me or start attending homeschool orientations (a lot of them are starting about now) so you get a feel for what it’s about. Let me leave you with my favorite quote from Pestalozzi, one of the legends of education:

“The mother is qualified and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; … and what is demanded of her is––a thinking love … God has given to the child all the faculties of our nature, but the grand point remains undecided––how shall this heart, this head, these hands be employed? to whose service shall they be dedicated? A question the answer to which involves a futurity of happiness or misery to a life so dear to thee. Maternal love is the first agent in education.”

~ Pestalozzi, quoted in Charlotte Mason Vol 1 page 2

We can do this, moms! 🙂


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