At five years old, our son came up to me one day and said, “Mama, I love the taste of knowledge!” I knew from then on that our learning adventure would be an exciting one.

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Our special blend of learning

How does one customize a learning path that is considerate of the distinct personality, abilities, asynchrony, overexcitabilities and multi-potentialities that exist in each child?

What do you do when no single method, program or curriculum fit your child, your family values and your overall vision of what you consider “quality education?”

You make your own special and eclectic educational brew, of course. You blend the best of what many worlds can offer. In our home-based hybrid learning approach, we took the basic definition of “Blended Learning” as a combination of in-class and online learning which creates flexible learning spaces at home, in-class, in the community, and online.

By personalizing our son’s education, we were able to truly guide him in his ongoing quest for self-discovery and self-mastery. At 14, we would like to believe that everyday, because of the time, opportunities and space we have provided him, he wakes up excited to learn, build, create, design and explore interests and possibilities.

How did we find our “sweet” spot, a healthy and positive balance?

Engaging the mind, heart, body and spirit

We first tried private school in Kinder and Grade 1 in the Philippines, where we were living for a couple of years. He did well academically but we wanted to do more to enrich his education. When we decided to embark on an alternative educational path, we first bought a boxed curriculum (Calvert) and looked for a teacher who used it as basis to tackle core subjects. We supplemented it with integrated, creative, play-focused, experiential and project-based enrichment classes which I organized and hosted and other people taught or facilitated. In short, it would be a whole child development approach which would engage not only the mind but also the heart, body and spirit.

Providing flexible learning spaces

The following year, we decided to do a grade skip and essentially just used Calvert and the (Philippine) Department of Education Basic Education Requirements as reference to customize his learning. I founded the Center for Blended Learning in 2010 because I wanted to create an ideal environment and provide flexible learning spaces for him and kids like him. The learners who we called “blendies” attended two days of in-center academic classes and one day of enrichment studies (i.e. Art, Music, Entrepreneurship, Meet An Everyday Hero and You Can Be Anything Series, Naturekeepers, Tinkering, Robotics and so on.) The rest of the weekdays, we spent on opportunity and educational trips, self-directed studies and projects from home, online classes as well as community and service learning activities. As part of our transition back to California from the Philippines, we decided to also enroll in Connections Academy (an online public charter/school) for Middle School on top of what we did through CBL. My husband was responsible for most core subjects while I helped with Language Arts and focused on life skills training, mentorship opportunities and service learning.

Homeschool independently

For High School, this time in the United States, we initially tried Charter School for 9th Grade and then decided to file a Private School Affidavit (PSA) so we could homeschool independently the next year. Our school year covered core subjects at home, Computer Aided Design (AutoCad and Solidworks) at the local college, involvement in BlockWorks, a Minecraft Creative Design team as well as deep dive learning into robotics through Code Orange, a community-based FIRST Robotics Competition team.

We are now embarking on yet another adventure as our son takes on the community college route. Ideally, it will lead into a possible transfer as a Junior in a local UC or another Southern California University. He took and passed the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) as we wanted to get access to college level classes, STEM-oriented classes and have higher priority for registration at the local college. His academic load will be in addition to Minecraft and Robotics projects as well as other self-directed and passion-based pursuits.

Throughout all this ever changing journey, we have witnessed his passion evolving from Transformers, Lego building to Minecraft designing, 3D Digital Arts and now on to Computer Aided Design (CAD). The path ahead seems to lead him towards Mechanical Engineering studies specifically in Robotics.

Navigate the learning journey by pursuing a wide range of opportunities

How did we follow our child’s interests and used that as a way to navigate our learning journey through the years? Here are examples of the variety of activities, programs, classes and learning opportunities we have pursued.

  1. Put equal emphasis on exposure and development of 21st century literacies (Critical thinking, Communication, Creativity and Collaboration) and real life skills.

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(At a Hackathon held at a local business co-op space.)

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(Attending a TEDx Conference)

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(Machine training for his Robotics team.)

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(Junior Achievement (JA) Company Class where the participants had an opportunity to organize and operate their own business.)

  1. Integrate play and art.

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(Taken one summer day, during a Trampoline break after class at Kids Ahoy!)

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(Artwork for one of his classical drawing class.)

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(One of the many awe-inspiring moments at the Denver Museum, Co.)

  1. Raise and guide him to become a global child, one who embraces his mixed heritage and roots, but who also has global skills, mindsets and aspirations.

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(Cheering for Team Philippines’s football team, Azkals)

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(All aboard the Battleship Iowa with Greater Los Angeles MENSA.)

  1. Organize meetups and facilitate mentorship opportunities.

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(One of the many meetups organized through Junior Apprentice Circle. This was during a monthly Socratic Seminar (Book Club) facilitated by another homeschooling mom held at a local park.)

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(This was an 8-session Youth Leadership Program led and mentored by Toastmaster Mentor Kevin Bostic.)

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(Philosophers’ Circle with Dr. Marshal Burns)

  1. Provide opportunities for him to do community service work on a regular basis through our own initiative (R.O.C.K. Philippines : Reach Our Community Kids)

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(Wrote a banner story which was published in Manila Bulletin. Headlined, “Care Revolution,” it was an initiative by the Center for Blended Learning “blendies” and community to benefit kid victims of Typhoon Haiyan.)

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(“Blendies” taking part in the turnover of donated educational toys and manipulatives for a Toy Library in an underserved community in Manila, Philippines)

  1. Allow a lot of time for self-directed, passion-based learning.

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(With Code Orange after winning the First Robotics Competition 2015 Tesla Sub-Division during World Championships held in St. Louis, Mo.)

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(Hard at work during one of his Minecraft team’s participation in an Industrial-themed build contest hosted by Planet Minecraft.)

  1. Provide gadgets and tools to supplement learning.

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  1. Travel and go on fun and educational trips.

(In the magical Siamese kingdom and ancient city of Ayutthaya, Thailand.)

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(Enjoying Nature’s best at one of most beautiful islands in the world, Boracay, Philippines)

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(Touring the New 7 Wonders of Nature, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan, Philippines)

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(Soaking in the beauty of Bryce Canyon, USA)

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(Exhilarating ride at Ocean Park, Hongkong)

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(At one of the tournaments with best friend during RoboCup 2010, Singapore)

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(Art Institute of Chicago, April 2015)

  1. We utilized online resources to supplement learning.

  2. Put up a center and create a kid-focused community for him to grow, learn and thrive in.

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(With some of his Kids Ahoy friends.)

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(Kids helping kids. This was at a Little Rescue Play Therapy event to help kid victims traumatized by Typhoon Ondoy flooding in Paco, Manila, PH)

It is hard to put a label or exact definition to our approach. It is a challenge to explain how we do it in a few words because it organically evolves as we speak.

Truly, homeschooling is a way of life and, as such, learning does not simply happen ‘at home’. We have always sought to collaborate with others because we have observed that our son also loves learning with and from other people. I knew early on that it was my responsibility to ensure that our son’s love for knowledge was protected and nurtured. Learning had to be fun, stimulating and meaningful.

Our eclectic approach works for us because of who we are and who we aspire to be. This goes without saying that not all homeschoolers are the same. No one approach is necessarily better than the other. Each is just different because each child, family and ideals are unique.

[Previous article written about CBL.]


10750096_10205225794113095_4378063870779877870_oJoanne Tupas-Parsons is the Founder of Kids Ahoy, a proactive community of parents, educators and kids and an after-school enrichment center which evolved into a Center for Blended Learning, an alternative education provider which were based in the Philippines. (Both are no longer active since she moved back to California in 2012 to follow her 14-yr old son’s lead as he continues on his hybrid schooling through High School and now Junior College.) She also founded a meetup group called Junior Apprentice Circle based in Southern California for teens and tweens. She is a Children’s Rights, Proactive Parenting, GiftED and TalentED, Play, Creativity, BlendED & Alternative Learning Programs Advocate. Her goal is to raise a global child, one rooted in and appreciative of his mixed heritage and with global skills, mindset and aspirations! Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.