We first interviewed Maurelle de los Santos last year for our Mother's Day feature. This year, we talked to her again about motherhood and what homeschooling three children is like.
I still remember the surprise I first felt when I learned that Maurelle homeschools her three young children. I interviewed this artist for last year’s Mothers Day feature, and my first thought was — “how is it possible to not send your kids to school?”
More doubts then crept in. Is homeschooling sufficient for her children’s growth? Is Maurelle formally trained as a teacher? Maurelle is also an established calligrapher, so how in the world can she handle the education of three young kids at home and run a self-employed business full time?
These questions were answered when I was invited to sit in one of Maurelle’s home classes for last year’s feature. The brief glimpse I caught unmasked some disheveled fun, but learning was always prevalent throughout.
With most schools still shut down or operating on a part-time basis due to the current pandemic, we decided a more in-depth sharing of Maurelle’s story may provide insight on how quality learning can be facilitated at home.
You homeschooled your children way before the pandemic happened. How did you get into this idea?
“When I was still in school," Maurelle replied, "I wondered what it would be like if I have more time learning the subjects or topics that I’m really interested in, especially Arts! Back then, I thought there was only one path in education, and that is through traditional schools. In 2010, I met a Catholic preacher, and he shared that he was homeschooling his kids. I was mind blown that you can let your kids follow their interests and passion at a young age, let them learn at their own pace, and make the world his/ her classroom. I was sold with the idea even though I’m not married nor have kids during that time.”
“When it’s finally time for my firstborn to enter Kindergarten,” Maurelle continued, “it was already an easy decision to continue our toddler Montessori training to homeschooling. Homeschooling is not for everyone, but in our family, we believe this is the best option for us right now.”
Why did you think it was the best option?
“There are so many reasons why I decided to homeschool! First, I want to thoroughly guide my kids in their formative years. It is also an essential stage for our family to grow together and teach them the values and faith we believe in. They get to spend more time their parents and siblings, and I’m hoping this will create a solid bond as a family.”
“Secondly, My kids can pursue an interest they really like. We can have nature themed topics for a month, ocean themes the next or even a week of just arts! We can travel anytime, not worrying about grades but still learning anywhere we will go. The kids have more time to play , this is what they really need at this stage.”
“A big bonus is — no formal homework schedule! This leaves more room for creativity and imagination.”
Maurelle wears our Intuit Embroidered Tee in natural cotton. Take a look at the new Vestige x Maurelle Tee, with custom lettering by Maurelle!
Without prior experience in teaching, what helped give you the confidence to take on your children’s education yourself?
Maurelle answered, “I have an innate love for learning and teaching. What gave me confidence were the people I became acquainted with while researching about homeschooling. They were ordinary people just like me — no Phd or masters in education. Also, the support of my husband and my whole family played a significant role as well.”
“To be honest, I am still learning as a teacher and a parent. We take what works for us and change what doesn’t. Kids have different ways of learning so I adapt and make sure that the learning is not forceful.”
“For instance, I knew that math was my weakest subject," Maurelle chuckled, "That made me nervous initially. Yet, I learned that I can figure out the answers together with my children. They know that I am a teacher who doesn’t hold 100% of the answers, and that helps them gain independent thinking as well.”
What about teaching your children the basics of discipline? Can this still be achieved without the formal structure of a classroom?
“I think discipline is a huge challenge for both traditional schooling and home schooling!” Maurelle laughed. “We still have tests at home, and when they reach grade 5 or 6, they will be encouraged to study on their own. I will do this by teaching them how to set goals and how to achieve them.”
“I am not a ‘sit down and listen to me’ sort of figure. Before the convenience of Google existed, I learned new things by reading books and researching on my own. With my children, I see myself as much of a facilitator as a teacher. I provide them with materials for the subjects they are curious about.”
“And it’s hard to discipline all children the same way, as each kid has his or her own needs. What I can do for them is give individual attention to their problem areas.”
And I do wonder — what about the social aspect of learning? Do you think your children have enough chances to interact with groups outside of the family?
“That’s the number one question most people ask! My children are comfortable with social interactions. The three of them play amongst themselves daily, and I try to organize play dates with other families as much as possible. When we visit playgrounds on our weekday field trips, they do initiate interaction with other kids as well. What I find interesting with my three children is that they are also comfortable with people who are not their age. I think this is because they are not just used to being around a single age group.”
Did your homeschooling life prove to be different when the pandemic hit?
“Absolutely different,” Maurelle replied without hesitation, “and this is actually not our normal. Some people think we are just home all day when you homeschool, but our average days consists of playgrounds, attending creative classes, nature walks, library visits or even just a stroll in our neighbourhood.”
“This is why I prefer the term ‘life-schooling’. Homeschooling gets a bad reputation because people thinks kids are just ‘home’ all day long!”
(I chuckled a bit.) Do you have any tips for moms who have no choice but to ‘life school’ at this time?“Gosh! I am still learning since I am only teaching small children. Here are my two cents:
- Plan lessons and activities ahead of time, especially when you have multiple kids.
- Be flexible as this is a continuous learning process — not only for the kids, but also for you as their teacher.
- Be patient because kids are natural learners and are always curious. Just be there when they need you to guide them.
- Plug yourself with a community of other homeschooling mamas to share experiences.
However, be careful, mindful and filter what you learn from these groups," Maurelle warned.
Finally, do you find balancing between your own business and teaching your children difficult?
“Yes, you bet it’s hard! Aside from teaching the kids, I am also an entrepreneur, wife, cook, baker, cleaner, and so much more. My husband works, and most days my kids (ages 6, 5 and 2) are left with me. There are days where I can’t get anything done in my business because I’m so busy with the kids. There are instances where we missed a lesson because I have a deadline to finish, and there are also some almost perfect days because we were able to do everything as planned.”
“Sometimes, I think I am crazy because I chose this path. Yet, I knew in my heart this is the best for us. I don’t rule out traditional schooling entirely either, and allow my children to choose as well.”
Education never stops entirely, even when we reach adulthood.
Thinking back to how I reacted when Maurelle first told me about home schooling, I noticed it is hard not to form biased judgements towards ideas that are completely foreign. However, rather than denouncing this part of human nature, perhaps the best way to dispel prejudice is to first learn about the other party by asking questions. By educating ourselves, we gain to enrich not only our own worldview, but also a better understanding of each other.
Maurelle concluded, “All in all, I am thankful for the capacity to learn about the personality of my kids. I accept and love them for who they are. It’s funny how we are all living in the same roof, but these 3 kids of mine have totally different traits! But whatever personality they have, if they can translate it to being a kind and compassionate human being, I have nothing more to ask for!”