Parenting and home schooling

Coming into terms with our Divergent Learner

We let our 18 year old off the hook recently. I sat him down after weeks of unpleasant run-ins and he cautiously expressed his desire to withdraw from his homeschool provider so he can do the things he really wants to do and be “more productive.”

Even with our unschooling setup, we have registered our kids with a US-based homeschool provider so they can have proper school documentations. Yes, our kids have more freedom to choose what to learn and how to learn them, but with a homeschool provider, we still have to conform to a certain structure and standards.

For example, they can study anything about Science — it can be Biology, Anatomy, Physics, Environmental or General Science, or even Astronomy. They have the pick of the litter — and they can take them interchangeably and study them in any way they want. They can watch videos, choose the books, take trips, interview professionals, ask to be mentored by an expert, work as an assistant — to get educated.

But since our provider answers to the US educational system, international students, even those who are registered under the Life Choice pathway , must still adhere to a required number of credits, totaling to 24 to 26 credits, to be graduated from high school.

(The Life Choice Pathway is for students who are considering an alternative path after high school. These are students who may be considering joining the work force straightaway after High School or are considering a career outside traditional university programs.)

Shaken, but not shocked

It’s not like his request came as a surprise. Pablo has always been an obedient child who would do what we ask him to, to the best of his ability. But making him conform to academic structures has been a challenge for us through the years.

Don’t get me wrong, Pablo is not academically challenged. In fact, today, he just tutored his two brothers in two different Math levels. And I have no doubts about his ability to answer English-based worksheets, although he, himself, admits that he cannot remember dates and names in History as easily as his brothers; he hates having to write, and like his dad, he tends to overthink before giving a speech or answering interview questions, but he has been able to plod through his lessons just fine all these years.

However, despite learning milestones, he still feels he failed to be productive. There are things he wants to pour his time and energy into and he feels bogged down by the amount of time he has to spend learning things that he feels has little significance to what he wants to pursue in life.

Listen first, respond later

I did not respond well at first when I observed him slacking on his academic work lately, but I stopped myself mid-yelling and called him to the room to hear him out. He explained to me that wants to focus on his dancing and his animation, and prefers to study what he needs to study as he goes along. A learning model he cannot implement with a provider.

We’ve always been vocal about our views on college and how it’s not really for everyone, but I have to admit that because we live in the Philippines where a diploma is given a lot of weight, even over skill sometimes, I felt a tinge of fear. We’re talking about my son and his future — of course, I am afraid!

For instance, I saw a job opening ad posted by a publication recently. It was for a marketing role and the requirements for the applicants include samples of published works and a curriculum vitae that boasts of more than 5 years of success in the same role in other companies. We’re talking real work experience here AND an already proven track record, and yet, at the end of the list was the applicant’s diploma – proof that the applicant has gone through and completed four years of college!

It made no sense to me, to be honest. But it is what it is.

After much thought and talk, Jay and I agreed that if Pablo has to do this, we must let him do this now.  If this is how he’ll learn to be independent and learn about responsibility and decision-making, then we should let him, after all, he’s 18. He needs to grow up.

He can always change his mind and go to college in the future. Now is the right time to make mistakes, while he’s still young and he has the luxury of time and youth. We have explained to our son the possible consequences of his decision.  How it may delay his plans even more or even cause him to lose opportunities in the future. He nodded, accepting the risks.

I guess, one of the things that helps me understand my son is that I was once in his shoes. I actually dropped out of college at one point and worked at a fast food chain where I had my first lessons in traditional marketing and public relations. After two years, I decided to go back to college to earn my bachelor’s degree in Communication while I auditioned for shows. I continued to perform for many years after my graduation.

I’ve moonlighted as a writer and my portfolio helped me find work when I decided to transition to a more consistent lifestyle to take care of my children. On a side note, none of my clients have asked me for my diploma, but they’re mostly foreign clients or clients on a per project basis. Shifting to online work has opened my mind to many other possibilities, so perhaps, there is something to Pablo’s chosen pathway, who knows? The web has been changing the game for years, perhaps we are just clouded by our traditional norms that’s why we are not seeing as clearly what he is seeing.

Potentially forward

It’s been a month since we’ve informed his provider that he’s taking a leave from “school.” Pablo had run his plans by us and we have agreed to support him.

Currently, he is working on the illustrations for his brother’s 40-chapter book. Judah has completed writing his first book this year and Pablo has agreed to illustrate for him.

He is also spending a lot of time working out — stretching and strength training– and practicing dance at home, even on days when they do not have ballet training.

He’s also working on his animation and has even been lending his dad a hand in some of his projects – both personal and for work. Jay said that Pablo’s rigging skills is that of a professional and says that he can now do things that his dad cannot.

Earlier today, I heard his brother, Lukas, prodding him, “you can do that, too, Pablo!” Referring to a musician’s post on Instagram that showcased her music composition that sounded like a movie soundtrack while on a plane, to which Pablo replied that he has thought about it, too. He had worked on original music some time back, but they’ve been archived indefinitely. He must have been discussing plans of reviving this interest with Lukas.

He still joins us in our book reading sessions because he says that he loves the discussions, and of course, there are planned trips to the museums, galleries, and out-of-town locations as a family.

What I’m trying to say is that Pablo has gone full out on the things he said he wanted to do and I’m glad that he’s not taking the “freedom” we’ve given him for granted.

Once, he embraced me and thanked me for understanding where he was coming from and said sorry for the trouble he may be causing us. It makes me sad to think that he must have felt gagged all these years. I get it.

I only asked Pablo to commit to two things: 1. That he reads his Bible everyday and seek the LORD on his plans and directions for him. And 2. That he earns his high school certificate and take his SAT soon. All we really want at the moment is to keep the options open for him and his future.

It’s for the “just in case.”

I am aware that letting him do this may raise a lot of eyebrows from more traditional families, but believe me, that is the least of our worries.

Judah, who has overheard our heated discussions over and over until we finally listened, asked me if I trust Pablo. It took me a minute to answer because I had to sort how I really felt about all this.

And I answered, “yes. But I trust God more.”

“Let all that you do be done in love,” 1 Corinthians 16:14.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand,” Proverbs 19:21.

*What is a Divergent Learner?

A divergent learner is an individual who thinks and learns in unique and unconventional ways compared to traditional or mainstream methods. They tend to be creative, innovative, and open-minded, often seeing multiple possibilities in a situation and thinking outside the box.

Divergent learners may struggle with conventional teaching methods that prioritize rote memorization and structured learning. Instead, they often thrive in environments that allow for exploration, creativity, and self-directed learning. They can come up with different ideas, solutions, or perspectives that may not be considered by more conventional learners.

In essence, a divergent learner approaches learning and problem-solving from a non-linear and creative standpoint, valuing imagination, exploration, and originality. (Google)


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