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November 3, 2008

Philippines Homeschool Update—November 2008

In September of 2008, 10 homeschool leaders from around the world attended HSLDA’s annual National Homeschool Leadership Conference. The following is an update from Edric Mendoza, homeschooling father in the Philippines and head of The Master’s Academy Homeschool, an accredited school that helps families to legally educate their own children. The article introduces Edric, describes his ministry to homeschoolers, and summarizes the current homeschooling climate in the Philippines.

Meet the Mendoza Family

Edric Mendoza’s journey to becoming a homeschool father was orchestrated by the Lord. Growing up, he was part of the traditional school system from pre-school to college. Edric’s wife, Joy, was a product of homeschooling. She and her four siblings were home educated in the 1980s when it was largely unheard of in the Philippines. Joy’s mom, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed American from Florida married a Chinese businessman and preacher whose home was in the Philippines. Through a variety of circumstances, God made it clear that He wanted them to homeschool their five children.

As Edric spent time with Joy’s family, he noticed how different they were from most families he knew—they all looked out for each other, were very well-rounded (active in music, sports, academics, and current events), and highly confident, even in front of adults. This was the first time Edric had encountered a homeschooling family, and though he was unfamiliar with the educational method, he became convinced that there was an important connection between it and what he saw in his wife and her family.

When Edric and Joy’s first son was born (they now have three boys), they both had a desire to homeschool him. Although they wanted their son to excel academically, Edric and Joy’s primary goal was to practice their biblical conviction that they are responsible to train their children in the ways of the Lord, to impart godly character, and to ensure that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

As they homeschooled, Edric and his wife watched their sons’ hearts become tender and open to their parents’ instruction and discipline and to God’s Word, and they saw a love for learning and a sense of wonder that made the academics easy to impart. This solidified the family’s convictions and, as Edric would discover, prepared him for a much bigger challenge.

Preparation for Changing Direction

In addition to homeschooling her sons, Joy was also involved in the homeschooling organization that her parents had started in the Philippines, called The Master’s Academy (TMA) Homeschool. Begun as a pilot program of the Department of Education in 1999, The Master’s Academy Homeschool provided parents with the opportunity to homeschool their children under an accredited program. The accreditation enabled parents to transfer their children into any school in the country. As one of the program’s consultants, Joy would often share with Edric what was happening—the highlights and lowlights, the challenges and the opportunities—but the possibility of his direct involvement did not occur to him until early 2007. It was then that God began to give Edric a vision for homeschooling in the Philippines. Although he was successfully pursuing a career in the corporate world of marketing, specifically brand management, God was cultivating Edric’s desire to do something of eternal significance.

Reaching out to National Homeschoolers

One of the Mendozas’ first joint efforts to reach out was hosting the Philippines’ first homeschooling conference (in October 2007) with the crucial help of Barbara West, veteran homeschool leader from South Dakota who was stationed there with her Air Force husband Bruce. They expected 150 people and five exhibitors to attend, but were blown away by the response—over 500 attendees and 25 exhibitors! The response came despite the lack of aggressive advertising and time to prepare (less than two months). Edric knew that God was telling him something—Filipinos were interested in homeschooling.

At this point, Edric took time out to pray, fast, and seek counsel. It seemed clear that he should move forward in leading the homeschooling movement, but it was difficult to walk away from a comfortable corporate job to run TMA Homeschool full time. As Edric and Joy prayed, God reminded them of Revelation 3:7–8:

“…these are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

Edric and his wife prayed that God would open the doors and pave the way for them, and God confirmed many times over that He wanted Edric and Joy to spearhead homeschooling in the Philippines.

Though TMA Homeschool has served over 800 families in 11 different countries since it opened nine years ago, it had begun a progressive decline and was losing about 30 students each year for the last three years. The program clearly needed to be revamped and marketed to stimulate growth. This is the challenge Edric has taken.

Cultural and Legal Climate

Homeschooling in the Philippines appears to be at a turning point. The public school system is not only wracked with practical problems—a ratio of 50 students to 1 teacher (at best), substandard curriculums, and a decline in the quality of teachers—but there is also a growing population of young people who are being lost in the noise of a media and technological age that seeks to erase God. There is also a breakdown in the family, with many fathers taking a passive parenting role rather than fulfilling their responsibility of the spiritual leadership. Furthermore, research shows that despite an economic crunch, there is aggressive spending on education. In the words of a parent, “I will save up money for education, as my child may be the hope to alleviate us from poverty.”

The good news is that first, Filipinos are still very open to biblical truth and generally have a religious outlook, and second, they are becoming more and more open to the option of homeschooling, especially when it is discussed in light of character development. Even the government is becoming more and more open to homeschooling. TMA regularly receives calls from parents who have been referred to them by the Department of Education.

The Department of Education has allowed homeschool departments to operate only under accredited traditional/formal schools; thus, more homeschooling organizations are being opened. Eight years ago, TMA was the only accredited Christian homeschool organization in the country, with approximately 100 families. Today there are at least five major accredited organizations and various other support organizations representing approximately 2,500 families.

The Future of Homeschooling in the Philippines

Unlike America, which is now seeing its third generation of homeschoolers, the Philippines is just barely starting its second. It is an exciting time. The next big challenge is to band together all accredited homeschooling programs, support groups, and families under the cover of one organization that will share the mission of equipping and training parents to pursue God- and character-centered homeschooling, with the goal of increasing homeschool awareness nationwide, and more importantly, raising up a godly generation of leaders that will make a difference in this world for Jesus Christ.

Just recently, TMA met with the leaders of various organizations to draft a shared mission and vision, garner statistics, and develop policies that to present to the Department of Education.

They ask for your prayers—for God to pave their way and grant them favor in this endeavor. They also ask for protection and for God to soften the hearts of the government officials who have decision-making power. As they move forward, they continue to go back to God’s promise, that if He has opened a door, none can shut it. And as long as that door stays open, they are going to follow His lead.

 Other Resources

Learn more about the Master's Academy Homeschool >>

You can provide financial support to the homeschooling movement in countries like the Philippines by donating to the Home School Foundation’s International Homeschooling Fund.