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OUT OF THE BOX | Homeschooling in the 1980s when it was looked upon with scorn and skepticism




Last of five parts
DIPOLOG CITY (MindaNewsl) — Nowadays, I sit back gratified, contentedly thanking the Lord as I sip my turmeric tea relishing the soulful strains of “Bayan Ko” from my youngest son Misha’s violin. Well, his violin is made in China but to his mother, he makes it sound like it were made in heaven. This homeschooled probinsiyano had won the grand prize of the National Music Competition for Young Artists in violin in 2016.

Our neighbors would either be cursed or blessed depending on how they take our evening concerts as my eldest son and only daughter frolic away on two pianos with a Gershwin Rhapsody, a Rachmaninoff and a Tchaikovsky Concerto or a Paganini Caprice, joined in by our youngest on the violin and at times Papa’s saxophone and guitar.

The graduates of our homespun Tanduay bottle xylophone have come a long way from Chopsticks to Bach; from the open-air gigs harmonizing with warbling robins and sparrows to the cavernous halls of the cultural centers of Cebu, Manila, and abroad, this time, not with Mayas and crickets but an orchestra to accompany them. From Pepe and Pilar, they can now readily spend their extra money on a Dostoevsky, a set of Prousts, or a Pamuk.

Missing our jungle-book days, my eldest son leaves for work in the morning as a manager of a reputable hotel and comes home late in the evening, not climbing coconut trees but long flights of stairs in the hotel, his cooking skills tested when a chef in one hotel outlet absents himself unannounced. Unlike his early childhood when quiet tears would fall when I forbade him to read any book till house chores were done, he now reads all he could. He is fully resigned not to own any elephant, anteater or sea otter but an adorable toy poodle, Bibi, whom I suspect enjoys digesting the books oozing from my son’s bookshelves.

My daughter and my right hand teach piano and violin in our home studio. Her evocative writing takes us vicariously on her meanderings now extending beyond oceans and continents. Drawn to the Japanese Suzuki method of nurturing music with love, she became the first and only certified Suzuki International piano teacher in Mindanao,(update: there is one in Davao now) and has a long waitlist of aspiring students. Her musical compositions are not confined to the two octaves of our homemade xylophone but soars higher than the 88 keys of our piano. Fulfilling her childhood wish to be left alone in the kitchen, she concocts savoury meals and brews excellent espresso not to be easily forgotten.

My youngest son, Misha, has brought us to foreign lands with his violin. God has favored us with this gift and the delight he gets in making music and honing it through countless hours of practice. Being the family jester, he charms us with his own sense of humour as he mimics sounds and characters, doing tricks so suavely by the sleight of his hand. He continues to surprise us with his cooking and mystifies us with his extraordinarily-done sketches. We didn’t know we lacked him until he came 15 years later.

The erstwhile scoffers who thought my children did not know English, are now leisurely reading my daughter’s column at the editorial page of the Mindanao Observer.

The tittle-tattling housewives who hounded us before have long been quiet. The skeptical but sympathetic people are now enrolling their children and grandchildren in our studio where we hope to impart not only lessons on art and music but a zest for life and knowledge.

Art and music, life and wisdom

From homeschooling three children, our home is now a hub for dozens of fragile minds whose souls need to be nourished not just with art and music but with things pertaining to life and wisdom. As John Steinbeck says, “Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”

God has heard the silent weeping and weary sighs of a mother reproached for giving what she thought was best for her children. The sacrifices and the things we had to relinquish as pioneering homeschooling parents are now recompensed.

We have shortcomings, weaknesses and inadequacies that could only be filled in by love and forgiveness. But let not these be the reasons to not exhaust all the resources and capabilities within reach. Let it not stop you from giving all you can. This is the earthly investment I chose to pour my energies on… the treasure field and legacy I pass on to my children.

Out of the box, we were unchained from a curriculum insensitive of the psychological and spiritual well-being of our children. The quality family time that busy parents and rich business people dream about is not a myth in our home.

Out here, the children know that the things visible are ephemeral and could easily be washed away by all sorts of surging tides in a twinkling of an eye. Here, we fashion worthwhile values that our children may never lose their souls. In this our school, which is also our home, the quest for knowledge and wisdom is like a heartbeat that stops only when it dies.

[Marietta Dalman-Romano of Dipolog City, a homeschooling mom and piano teacher, finished AB Journalism at the University of the Philippines in Diliman]

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