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Why Progressive: History, Mission and Vision of Brainworks

“If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.” This Chinese proverb inspired our family to put up our own school because we wanted to take a different direction in the way that we “do” schooling – at least for our own children. When we started discussing the possibility of pulling out our preschool daughter from the big school where she was studying in 1999, we were sure of one thing – that we wanted something different.

Our daughter was four and a half years old and it was her first year in a big school. Within the first month, we already saw signs that the system was not answering her needs. The teachers had informed us that she had “cut class” a few times to get a chance to read books or to play computer games in their library. Otherwise, she would be sleeping through class. She had also been transferred to a different seat several times because she incited others to talk. The adviser also told us that my daughter did not like writing. When I asked what they were required to write, the adviser replied that the children had to copy the consonant-vowel-consonant words from the board like CAT, HEN, TIP, POT AND RUG. How could I argue with that? It was true that my daughter hated THAT kind of writing. How could my daughter have the patience to copy words such as those when she was already stringing together letters to come up with her own short fairy tales at home (wans apan a taym....)? Our own daughter reported that the teacher had gotten mad a few times because she had asked too many questions during storytelling. In spite of these reports, we let our daughter finish the school year there while we drew up plans for our ideal school. Isn’t it ironic that my daughter who was described by her teacher as a child who didn’t like writing finished a degree in English, major in creative writing from UP? She was given the Best Thesis Award for her original work in fiction.

More than 17 years ago, as parents, we were certainly not looking for a perfect system. We just wanted a system that would be able to address individual needs of children – all of whom are so different from one another. We wanted each child to love learning and the teacher to see the individuality of each learner in the classroom. Perhaps, we thought, we could make the environment feel almost like home since our own daughter had learned so many things at home spontaneously. We wanted her to learn things that were relevant for her in the present yet important for the future too. We wanted her to be able to accept that people are different in talents and interests, abilities and disabilities, AND to understand that it is possible to be happy and successful in each of our chosen endeavors. We believed that she could learn these not only from adults but also, and more importantly, by being with other children of different ages, such as her brother who is 3 years younger than she is.

We considered the option of home-schooling our children but we were also concerned about official credits from the Department of Education. Today, there are established schools in the Philippines that offer home-schooling solutions to parents. However, in the late 90’s, my husband and I were not aware of any home-schooling support group in Davao. Perhaps, I can consider that as a blessing. Because when we decided to put up our own small school and go for MULTI-AGE, PROGRESSIVE education, we were able to help other parents who wanted something different for their children but were not ready to join the homeschooling movement.

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