Teaching Kids How To Be Whomever They Want To Be Through Homeschooling
By Alwee Villarosa
“Homeschooling? Isn’t that for a special child?” There are a lot more versions of the same incredulous reaction when you say the word “homeschool” to parents. Most of them are afraid that their child will be anti-social or may have a limited learning experience. But apparently, that’s not a case.
Meet Kayo and Nica Cosio. They have 3 daughters whom that they have been homeschooling. Their eldest, Summer is 6 and she loves documentaries. Emma is 4 and she is very physically capable. She even taught herself how to ice skate in just one session. The youngest one is 2 year old Jo – a goofy storyteller.
As parents, Kayo and Nica both had mixed educations. They finished high school and where homeschooled, thereafter. Kayo who is now a Marketing Strategist, Art Producer and an owner of a co-working space and Nica, a Graphic Artist and crafter, believe that homeschooling worked for them and gave them freedom to pursue the careers they have today. “It’s not the case for everyone, but it was empowering for us and so that’s something we’ve always wanted to give to our own kids.” says Kayo.
Some parents who choose to homeschool their kids prefer to do “unschooling” which basically consists of letting the child learn from the “school of life.” Unschoolers usually let their kids learn whatever is most interesting for them. For example, if your child loves arts, you teach them their academic subjects like English, Math and Science based on that particular topic. You can read books about arts, watch documentaries about artists, do Math problems involving arts as subject.
“We both really want the kids to feel like it’s safe to be whoever they want to be. [Whatever they choose.] Whether it’s music, arts, sales, or whatever.” Kayo explains. Initially, he didn’t want the girls to play Barbie. He had read a thing about how most female CEOs played with Lego instead, so he bought them that. “But what if they want to be in fashion? What if they have a curiosity with which color best served through that toy? Or what if they don’t want to be CEO? That has to be fine with me, as long as there’s dignity in their lives.” He adds.
We asked Kayo and Nica about their homeschooling family lifestyle and here’s what they had to share –
Most kids are always excited about their ‘first day of school’; do your kids ask you about whether or not they will be attending school? How do they regard school?
I’m guessing that most kids excited about their first day of school get that from their parents. They’re told that that’s what’s coming up in life, and the parents psyche them up for it.
So what we do is to get them excited about things that are “normal” in our way of life: gallery openings, art projects, and studio days. Studio days are where they spend time in our own studio, Kendo Creative in Cubao Expo or visit other creative professionals in our community. Through these trips they interact with adults in their work environments: directors, painters, etc. In just the last few weeks, they’ve visited craft soap makers and leather workshops.
They don’t really need an outlook on school. They just need an outlook on learning. For them all structured learning is “school.”
Do you think schools limit a child’s opportunity to learn new things and discover their passion? Does it set clear mental boundaries? Does it diminish a child’s curiosity?
No, I don’t think that at all. I very much enjoyed my time in International Schools. I learned a lot there too. So if at some point it makes sense to send the girls to a more conventional schooling system, we will. But just like any other parents, we want to give the kids the best we can. After examining our options right now, we’ve decided to take this particular path.
Do the kids feel any different when interacting with other kids their age?
They do get along with kids their age in our neighborhood. Just like any other kids, they have friends they hang out with and also have to deal with bullies. They do get along with adults particularly well, too. They spend at least one day a week at our studio/store. The eldest, Summer has deskwork (like math) that she does there, but really these days are to expose them to the business. Summer is learning about how coffee is made at our espresso bar. But while they’re there, they also get the chance to interact with the other artists and friends that we encounter there on a daily basis. They consider those people their friends, just as much as the kids their age are. Last Valentines’ Day, the Artist Space, hiddenspace.co had an art exhibit that featured about 30 different artists from around Metro Manila. The exhibit included art from Summer, Emma, and Jo. For the kids, it was just a “fun thing they did with their friends.” As a community, I think that they are treated with the same dignity and respect as adults. They are equals. They just have less experience and maturity.
Have you ruled out things from the family that other kids would usually have at this day and age?
The kids don’t have their own personal gadgets. There’s nothing wrong with those things, it’s just not our style. It’s important that they understand how technology works though, so they have a balanced exposure to electronics. They know how to take pictures, browse albums, or find a show on our home media server.
One of the things I try to maintain is that TV time needs to be at the same time every day – a maximum of three shows, starting at 4PM. They have a schedule with a drawing of the clock next to a drawing of the computer, one of the ways that they learn to read the time. Then, we try to have them watch the same program daily, whether it’s Blue’s Clues or a documentary about superfoods. It’s a trick I learned in Malcom Gladwell’s outliers. The retention of the kids is stronger when they feel like they know the answer. By the end of the week, they usually do. Summer loves to tell me all about superfoods. Sometimes, I don’t even know what they are! In addition to this, they also have Movie Night on Fridays where they get to watch stuff like “Moana.”
How would you compare yourself to the typical family? Are your family values any different?
All of us are trying to figure out who we are and who we want to be, even adults. So what we do now is we intentionally try to pay attention to what interests them, which I think is at the core of homeschooling and unschooling successfully. And I say that because we’ve been involved in homeschooling in one way or another for over two decades – long enough to see how it can fail miserably. Don’t compare your kids to ones in other families, but just focus on what’s right for your kid. One child at a time. Identify what works for your child and spend time encouraging that personally.
For our girls right now, that’s art. Probably because art is such a recurring theme in our lives. But that can always change and you have to be willing to pay attention to the child and move with it. It’s so important to always feel like you have access to the thing you’re passionate about.
Has unschooling brought any struggles along the journey?
It’s always a challenge. Sometimes – many times – we do feel anxious. We feel the need to make sure they progress, and there are times that we question our own ability to impart knowledge to them. But aren’t those good anxieties? Maybe parents should always feel that way? Perhaps those feelings push us to try harder and to be more available to our kids. And it never ends. I’m already thinking 8 years down the line, where I’ll be relearning trigonometry so that I can teach it properly to Summer.
As a “victim” of the school system, I’ve noticed that higher learning and study has only been met with the end game of pursuing a job on the terms of financial and material success. Self-actualization seemed to be out of the equation. What is the goal that you and your family seek to achieve when moving into the next chapter of life?
Self-actualization and financial success aren’t mutually exclusive. Don’t focus on one over the other, rather see how they can work hand-in-hand. The goal at first is that they simply continue to be good people with a passion for discovery and never ending learning. If they have that, they’ll know how to become who they want to be. It’s not that complicated.
Would you suggest unschooling to other parents?
Of course! We believe in the movement, and that’s why we’re doing it for ourselves. But if you are going to homeschool or unschool, be ready for a couple of things. First, you have to be committed to it. That means being 100% hands on and not getting a tutor until you absolutely can’t handle it. But that 100% commitment isn’t to a system or concept, it’s to your child’s education, wherever or however that is achieved. If it’s not working for them or you, get help or try something else that does work. Again, every kid is different because every person is different.
If more people were unschooled, how do you think the younger generations would be?
Surprisingly similar to previous generations! Haha! Seriously, I think people forget that we invented the MBA in the 1900s. Frankly, I’d like to see a generation of renaissance men. Boys and girls who study Latin “just because,” or study math just to grasp its beauty. Even take up shoe crafting simply for its own sake, and not to build a career around it. I think it would make for a happier, more fulfilled society.
Know more about their family adventure here: http://carlosandveronica.net/
Savage PR savant. Social Media guy. Bangkok advocate. Hoarder of 3AM songs that are too cool for anyone. Strongest proponent of the #WastedYouth campaign on Instagram. AlweeVillarosa could be your typical, garden variety switched-on millennial Internaut, except that he’s infinitely more. He is also a cunning marketing strategist, a burgeoning writer, and an account manager and leader with an unshakeable sense of integrity and work ethic that belies his young age. See more of his POV at his IG: @alweevillarosa
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