It’s 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and seven-year-old Alyanna Sy has just had a field trip to Antipolo.
When we were kids, the field trip was the most highly anticipated activity of the school year. It didn’t matter where we were going. What was important was that we could chat and eat all the chips and sodas we wanted during the journey.
But for Alyanna, a grade two student, her field trip was just one of the numerous trips that her class’ academic curriculum includes. And, unlike most pupils, she truly cares about the destinations because, more often than not, the field trips are supplements to the lessons she’s deeply interested in.
Conversely, she may find herself on field trips whose main purpose is to spark more interest in subjects she may previously have been lukewarm to.
For instance, the field trip to Antipolo visited a pottery center where Alyanna, with other children in her homeschool co-op, had the opportunity to learn a new art form and create her own jar. For Alyanna, art classes go beyond art history and theories. In fact, the range of all her class subjects go far and wide—thanks to the specialized student-teacher ratio of 1:1 in the homeschooling world of Thammie Sy, Alyanna’s mother.
As a parent/teacher, Thammie not only teaches the lessons and expounds in the best way her child can learn; her method also allows the child to discover and pursue special interests.
“I always knew I wanted to homeschool my children,” Thammie says. “I couldn’t imagine sending them to a school where they would have to share one teacher with dozens of other students. I went to a conventional school and thrived in that setup, but I don’t want my kids to go through it. The stress wasn’t worth it. I want them to learn not simply for the sake of grades. I want to break the concept of education being equal to grades.”
Instead, Thammie would rather focus on building a child’s character.
With her husband, pastor Dennis Sy of the Christian community church Victory Greenhills, Thammie works on character development by bringing her three children to evening family counseling sessions and Bible study.
There is so much that Thammie and Dennis feel their kids can learn from these sessions: compassion, values and faith, among others. The couple believes they would have a hard time teaching these character-building traits if the children were enrolled in a conventional school.
But, like any mother, she doubted herself at first and wondered if she would be doing the right thing for her Alyanna.
After praying for guidance, she decided to give conventional schooling a chance in order to make a more objective decision. Thammie enrolled Alyanna in a preschool owned by a good friend; Alyanna did very well, despite being the youngest in her class.
However, Thammie was not entirely happy with some aspects of the conventional-school system. “I know my daughter. She would always be tired coming from school. It was harder to discipline and reason with her. It was more difficult to deal with her issues because every day we would have to ‘warm up.’ We ended up with no more time to bond.”
So, the following year, Thammie decided to homeschool Alyanna. There have been no regrets—only pride in the daily little triumphs in expected and unexpected challenges.
One challenge I’ve always wondered about is how to balance the roles of mother and teacher. My own daughter goes to conventional school and, like many parents, I try to tutor her at home in order to sharpen the skills she is learning; but I’ve been discovering that teaching is far from easy, especially if the student happens to be your own child.
Thammie acknowledges that this is, indeed, a common dilemma for many homeschooling families. But in their case, she says, “I always try to remind myself that I am first a mother before a homeschool teacher. I go back to my goals, which is to parent my children and build their character. I actually ask my children to keep me accountable on how I am as a mom. If I forget this, they have permission to remind me.”
She adds that she also relies on the support of her husband. “He balances me. Whenever I feel like I didn’t accomplish anything, he reminds me that time spent with children is always fruitful. It’s really all in the mind-set and, sometimes, when we allow ourselves to get pressured, we unconsciously transfer this pressure to the child.”
I realized that, just as children have a lot to learn, parents also have a lot to “unlearn.”
Three years after
It’s been three years since Thammie made the crucial decision to be her daughter’s primary educator. Since then, she has also begun homeschooling her second daughter, 5-year-old Mikaela, who’s now at preparatory level. In between teaching her two daughters, Thammie also had her third child, Isaiah, now 10 months old.
Looking back on the last three years, she reflects on everything she has gone through and tells me, “How I wish I was homeschooled! Kids today are so blessed because they have the option of homeschooling where they can enjoy [being educated] without having to rush.”
It is this absolute belief in the joy of homeschooling that has inspired Thammie to share her experiences with others through her blog, www.thammiesy.com. Online, she writes about the positive experiences as well as the challenges she faces.
It was just a matter of time before she and fellow homeschool advocates Mariel Uyquiengco and Sanne Unson of www.thelearningbasket.com found each other on the Web.
After their initial meeting, Mariel and Sanne knew they had found a kindred spirit and invited Thammie to speak at one of their events on preschool homeschool. They found her so funny and engaging that they wanted to work with her.
An opportunity soon presented itself when Mariel and Sanne, together with Manila Workshops (www.manilaworkshops.com), thought of mounting “You Can Homeschool! Be Inspired, Be Informed, Be Empowered”—a homeschooling summit to be held Nov. 16.
“There is much interest in homeschool but too many preconceived notions. Parents let their fears get ahead of them and that is why we want to encourage people and let them realize that they can do it, and that we are all here to support them,” says Mariel.
The summit will feature Thammie with two highly experienced homeschool advocates, Frannie Daez and ANC’s “On The Money” host Edric Mendoza.
Aside from speaking about their personal experiences, Edric and his wife, Joy Tan-Chi Mendoza—who homeschool four of their five children—will be on hand to answer questions parents may have on the role and status of homeschooling in the Philippine educational system.
There will also be breakout sessions in which other homeschool moms will facilitate smaller groups to encourage more personal interaction and learning among the participants.
“You Can Homeschool!” will be held at One Events and Café, One Corporate Center, Julia Vargas corner Meralco Avenue, Pasig, on Nov. 16, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Lunch and snacks will be provided.