Our Homeschool Provider: Peniel Integrated Christian Academy of Rizal

Posted on - in Education

I realized that I’ve been mentioning about our homeschool journey in bits and pieces. I posted once about having a homeschool dry run before. But then I never really told the story of how we came about our present homeschool provider, Peniel Integrated Christian Academy of Rizal (PICAR) and why we chose them.

So let’s backtrack a bit to April 2020.

My daughters’ school announced the suspension of classes and even the 4th quarter exams because of the quarantine brought about by the pandemic. Understandable. We waited for the school’s statement regarding the next school year, whether they will be doing fully online or blended learning — back then, DepEd was giving options, whether there will be face-to-face classes or not yet. During this time, hubby and I learned that the school will be implementing online classes. For the next school year, they won’t be having a tuition hike. BUT they were not going to reduce it as well.

Hubby and I experienced having our salary deducted by about 20% since the start of the quarantine. Which meant that sending the kids to the same school would be a tad difficult in the financial sense, considering we’d be shelling out around Php40,000 for each kid. Plus, that time, we didn’t have a stable internet connection. We were using a prepaid Wi-Fi modem provided by hubby’s company. As we were both working from home then, hubby and I knew that the kids will surely have connectivity issues.

Suffice to say that we were in a quandary.

During those days, my sister who’s in Singapore asked us how we were doing and how would we go about the kids’ schooling. Then she mentioned that some of her friends here in the Philippines were considering a gap year for their kids. While it seemed like a good idea, I didn’t think it was ideal. Eldest won’t like the fact that she’d be “left behind” if her classmates push through with enrolling. As we were chatting, my sister brought up homeschooling.

It wasn’t an entirely new concept to me. I learned about it while researching on learning methods that would fit my kids. But I didn’t give it much thought before because 1) I had a full-time job and 2) I was brought up studying in a traditional school from kinder to high school.

But, well, unique times call for unique measures. “Why not look into it,” my sister told me.

And so I did. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one searching about homeschooling. A former colleague of mine suddenly chatted me and sent me a link to Peniel Integrated Christian Academy of Rizal, along with an FAQ and application form.

Peniel Integrated Christian Academy of Rizal (PICAR)

At the onset, what attracted me to Peniel was that 1) it was located in Cainta, which was quite near our place, 2) it already had a homeschool option even before the pandemic, and 3) their rates were quite affordable. Complete with books, the amount to pay per child was around Php25,000. Plus they offer sibling discount at a very considerable price. It was already a huge difference from the kids’ former school.

Yes, Peniel was quite transparent with their rates. I showed this information to hubby and he was all “go check it out.”

So I researched more about the school.

Peniel Integrated Christian Academy of Rizal was established in 1996 as a regular Christian school that serviced kids from Kinder to High School. In 2008, they created their Home Education Program — which has an open curriculum — for those who are not able to attend regular school. And they also have an Open High School Program. They are recognized by DepEd, too.

This looks good, I said to myself. And yeah, eventually to my sister. I consult her for anything education-related. Or anything for that matter. Anyway…

So my sister and I browsed through Peniel’s website and learned that their school head, Ms. Au Villegas, is a graduate of UST BS Accounting.

Ayan, ayan, pwede yan. Thomasian e,” my sister said.

She, my brother, my husband, and I are all graduates of UST (Psychology, Music, Fine Arts-Advertising, and Communication Arts, respectively). So upon learning that Ms. Au was Thomasian-bred, my sister gave her seal of approval. LOL. But yeah, seriously, that was a deciding factor for her. Hehe!

We considered other homeschool providers: one that was Catholic, one that was relatively cheaper, and one that was also in Pasig. But I was drawn to Peniel, to be honest. Probably because of the UST roots (haha!) and because another former colleague vouched for it, having enrolled her son there months back.

So we went through the whole admission process: payment, diagnostic exam, and interview. I got to talk to Ms. Au during the interview — I found her really nice (and I think she appreciated that I did my homework about homeschooling). She talked to Eldest as well (no diagnostics for Kinder students yet) but it was more like a casual interview like what my daughter wanted to be when she grows up, etc.

Afterwards, we were enrolled.

We’ve been with Peniel for around three months (we’re almost finished with the first quarter of homeschooling) and so far, I’m okay with my experience with them. For one, Ms. Au and the staff are pretty approachable and they make a point to respond to queries and emails as soon as they can. They really try their best even with the surge of enrollees for homeschooling this year. Also, I appreciate how the school worked on ways to make homeschooling a bit easier for first-timers. Students have their own online portals (used mostly by the parent-teacher or guardian-teacher) where one can find Powerpoint presentations, PDFs, and the online report card to use for lessons. Even if they offer an open curriculum, they still provided a syllabus and sample schedule to follow. And they would be the one designing the quarterly exams. The school made it somehow fool-proof, I should say, that I as a parent-teacher would just have to formulate the quizzes and performance tasks for assessment, and provide a portfolio at the end of the school year.

I like that Peniel’s portal was really made for first-time homeschoolers like us who would be clueless as to how to start or who might get lost along the way.

Of course, rates are pretty much a factor in deciding to choose them as our homeschool provider. And, of course, that they’re DepEd accredited.

My sister also took note that since Peniel has a regular class, she opines that shifting back to traditional (if ever we choose to and if that’s possible in the near future) would not be such a hassle. I think that’s a good thing, too.

I think I just have concerns on having activities outside the home, at least a chance to meet their “classmates” during activities. The pandemic really makes it hard for everyone to meet up or go someplace. If everything’s okay, we’d surely want to do more outdoor-based activities and meet the other kids.

But again, unique times call for unique measures. So yeah, stay at home for now.

Our decision to homeschool, however, isn’t without hitches. Of course my parents had concerns, especially that this concept is pretty much alien to them. Plus I think they have apprehensions of me being the kids’ parent-teacher, knowing that I’m balancing my day job (WFH setup) and teaching the kids.

I’ve actually been asked: “May natututunan ba mga bata?” Yeah. I guess it’s also because that we’re adopting a super-flexible schedule (since sometimes I’d have Zoom meetings) and kid-led learning. Like if Bunso wants more of numbers and shapes than Filipino, we’d learn Math first. Then when she’s in the mood, we shift to the Filipino subject.

I think, though, that homeschooling is advantageous for my kids, too. Not only because they’re at home safe, but also because we can allow for a learning schedule that’s comfortable for them and allows them to master topics. While I’m still unsure if this is the path that we’ll tread up until they graduate from high school, my sister advises me to take it easy and get a feel of things first. If it works out, then maybe we will continue with homeschooling.

With Peniel? Most likely, yes. But I’ll weigh in again when the school year is over. But one thing’s for sure: enrolling the kids at Peniel’s home study program this year seems to be one of the wisest decisions we’ve made.

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