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Juan V. Sarmiento Jr.
MANILA, Philippines?I am a 48-year-old mother of four?three girls and a boy aged 12 to 19. Our family used to own a livestock farm and a trucking company that went bankrupt almost simultaneously when the two older girls were still graders in a Montessori school.
As a consequence, the children had to stop school. And my delinquency in payments caused the forfeiture of all eight of their education plans!
But as the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, you must learn to make lemonade.
With diligence and creativity, I home-schooled my children for several years. (I refused to enroll them in a public school because I believed that it would only confuse them given the standards to which they were used to in their former school.)
The decision proved to be a gift for our financially challenged family.
The children quickly adapted to the new learning environment. In their young minds, they understood what we were going through.
But apart from their private school education, the children?s beloved yayas (nannies) and the rest of the household staff also had to go because we could not afford to keep them anymore.
From a staff of four to zero was a harsh transition, but we pulled it off.
The decision meant not only precious savings of thousands of pesos a month but also family bonding like never before. Each member helped in the household chores and, in the process, learned the virtues of tenacity, hard work and diligence.
Best option possible
Home schooling provided us the best option possible?at the very least, in terms of savings.
Consider these: A regular private school?s average tuition is P50,000 per student per year. Add to that P20,000 for transportation, P30,000 for allowances, P10,000 for uniforms and textbooks, P10,000 for extracurricular activities, projects, etc., and you have a whopping P120,000 per student!
With home school, you do not have to reckon with tuition, transportation expenses, allowances, baon, or uniforms. You spend only for projects, experiments and a bit of recreation.
Our curriculum consisted of English, Filipino, math and science. Other subjects like history, literature, music, and arts and crafts instinctively followed.
The daily schedule was free-flowing, flexible, and never demanding. The kids were allowed to learn what they wanted for the day.
We bought books whenever our funds allowed. The kids read anything and everything?from ?Tutubi Patrol,? the Adarna collection and Nancy Drew to books on politics, the world?s religions, and the neosciences.
We regularly visited museums, parks and the zoo for recreation and more learning?to have a ?real? feel of the world out there.
Nothing was sacrificed. For sports, they went to the village clubhouse to swim and play basketball and badminton. Cooking and playing flute and guitar became hobbies.
Watching television was also part of study. National Geographic, the Discovery and Disney channels, Animal Planet, Art Attack, Lifestyle Network, even CNN and some local educational programs, proved quite helpful.
Many times, the children performed science experiments on what they had just watched.
The Department of Education?s yearly acceleration examinations ?the Philippine Educational Placement Test (PepTest) and the Alternative Learning System/Accreditation and Equivalency Examinations (ALS/A&E)?are a great help for the home schoolers.
These examinations are designed to measure the competencies of those who have not completed formal elementary or secondary education.
Passers are given certificates or diplomas bearing the DepEd seal and the signature of the education secretary, making them eligible or qualified to enroll in the level that they have passed.
Indeed, home schooling has taught my family the importance of discipline, persistence and commitment.
It has obviously worked because the two older girls are now happily savoring college life at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, while working part-time as model/host and online English tutor, respectively. And the younger ones, who are into the arts and sports, are awaiting the results of the examinations they recently hurdled.
On the household front, big savings can result from sacrifice and creativity.
For example, cooking in bulk saves a lot of time and use of LPG.
Dishes like adobo and menudo as well as pasta sauces may be cooked in bulk. Divide into small, per-meal portions, put in individual containers, freeze, and heat when needed. Frozen food can last for months.
Buying fruits in season is not only cheaper; you also get them fresh at all times.
For special occasions like birthdays or Christmas, the kids rarely buy gifts. They themselves make the gifts, such as cloth place mats beautifully designed and cross-stitched with the recipient?s name.
Youngest daughter Iza, who is very good in drawing and painting, does caricature sketches of the recipient which never fail to elicit laughter from everyone.
Another daughter, Toni, writes beautiful poems on pretty silk paper especially dedicated to the recipient.
It is gifts like these that are more meaningful and that last a lifetime.
Hits and misses
There were hits and misses?the times when the children passed, and when they didn?t. If they didn?t, the hurt was overwhelming, but it never lingered.
Courage and faith empowered them. Pain was their greatest teacher.
My husband and I rolled with the punches. I sold insurance part-time and later ventured into freelance writing; he went into real estate.
In very challenging times, we got creative and set our priorities. Most of all, we kept the faith!
(The author, a resident of Tandang Sora, Quezon City, is a part-time telenovela transcriber and movie voice talent. She may be reached at email@example.com.)