Archives for January 2015

Fifty First Lessons

It sometimes feels like fifty first lessons when I am teaching my sprightly and sweet daughter, Tiana. At four years old, she struggles to remember concepts.

Part of it is probably her age and the other is I haven’t been as intentional about teaching her. I probably wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it if she was my first child, but since my three older boys all read early and got mathematics quickly, sometimes I get worried and frustrated about where Tiana is at academically.

After I teach her letter sounds and numbers, the next day, she will casually forget when I ask her, “What letter is this? What sound does it make? Or what number is this?” It reminds me of the movie, em>Fifty First Dates, where Drew Barymore plays a woman whose day resets every morning.

Tiana gives me a “Huh? Ummm,” and a blank stare. On the one hand, it’s awfully cute, the way she cocks one eyebrow up and makes a ridiculous frown with her bangs dangling over her face. She looks like the little kid in Despicable Me. The one who says, “It’s so fluffy!”

It almost seems like she is kidding around when she acts so clueless. But then I start to panic when it becomes obvious that she has totally forgotten something like what the numbers 1 to 10 are. As I vacillate between incredulous and forgiving, I think to myself, is she mentally challenged? Should I have her tested for a disability? Is she too young? Am I doing something wrong?

Deep in my heart I know she is a bright child. She has the gift of insight and sensitivity which is often times better than displays of academic ability. She is also a joyful child and very obedient.

However, when I am in the homeschooling zone, where I must put on my “parent-teacher” cap and cover pre-school concepts with her, I can be reactive. Since my boys were able to “get it” pretty quickly when they were her age then why can’t she? This isn’t complicated stuff. It’s basic. It’s simple.

Today I was tempted to compare her again when she couldn’t identify number 5. A few days ago she was confidentially doing so and then it was back to ground zero. I was about to give in to the annoyance that was building up inside of me, but God reminded me to apply what I tell other homeschooling moms.

I need to begin with the premise that she is capable. What I have to do is change my approach and methodology, even my goals. I may want her to be at a certain level in her academics at four years old but even if she isn’t, that’s alright. With repetition, consistency, intentionality, and creativity, (and prayer!) Tiana will most certainly learn. She learns everyday, even if she may forget her letters and numbers. But she definitely needs my guidance and my hopefulness. I need to encourage her and be positive.

So today, I adjusted my lesson plan and focused on the number 5. Just number 5. She has no problem counting, and she understands 1 is to 1 correspondence. But sometimes she guesses when she looks at the numbers, especially with numbers 5 to 9.

First, I made a list of 5’s on our white board easel. And then I had her write number 5 many times, as many times as she could. I repeatedly asked her, “What number are you writing now?

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“Number 5!” She would say with enthusiasm. Because she was writing with a white board marker, she didn’t mind at all. It didn’t feel like work.

After she wrote each column, I would play a “bring me” game with her. She had to bring me objects like 5 spoons, 5 stuffed toys, 5 pillows, 5 rocks, 5 shirts, 5 shoes, 5 books, etc.

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“This is game, right mom?”

“Yes, it is!” And she would go all around the house looking for the items. While Tiana was busy hunting for the objects, I attended to my sons. The game worked in my favor, too.

Every now and then I would call out to her, “What number is that?” “How many ________ do you have to bring me?” How old will you be this year?”

“(Number) 5!”

By the time Tiana finished her “game” she had unknowingly written one hundred number 5’s! Afterwards I gave her a blank sheet of paper and she victoriously wrote down the number 5 without looking at the white board. I tested her again in the afternoon and she still remembered.

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We shall see what happens tomorrow morning! Her brain may reset again but that’s okay. We will get through these fifty first lessons somehow, one day at a time, and by God’s grace!

You Don’t Have to Know Everything…

Being able to educate our own children in a day and age when resources abound is an advantage we must absolutely take advantage of!

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My personal conviction is that these are the best years in history to homeschool children. During the years when my mom was teaching us, she would go to the bookstore and pick out a stack of books (very often without teacher’s guides) and use those to educate us. Well, those days are long gone! Praise God! And hey, my siblings and I turned out okay without all the resources that children today have access to. What more today!

Today, it’s not so much about what you know but if you know where to go to equip yourself and get the help you need. The key is resourcefulness. If you can’t teach a topic or a subject well (or FEEL like you can’t), you can do one or more of the following:

1. Get a tutor for specific subjects that are difficult to teach (if you can afford it).

2. Supplement your instruction with online resources and educational apps. 

Take for instance a site like Khan Academy. When my kids don’t understand a math problem or I’m going crazy trying to explain a concept, I ask them to visit Khan Academy. The great thing about this site is how easily and clearly skills are explained and broken down for kids. Elijah has educated himself using Khan Academy. It counts more for him because he needs higher level math instruction. The math aspect of Khan Academy provides lessons and exercises (and rewards) for the most basic arithmetic all the way up to Calculus.

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What a relief it was when I stumbled across this site three years ago! And it’s free!

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If you have a learner who is struggling with math or you are a homeschool mom who doesn’t feel very confident teaching it, then use this site! An added plus is Khan Academy also has topics like science, computer programming, arts and humanities…However, Elijah primarily uses it for math and computer programming. We prefer a creation-based approach to science.

3. Join a coop and team teach with other moms who are experts or passionate about certain subject areas. I love our coop! The kids enjoy classes like music theory, arts and crafts, science, bible & character, speech, Filipino, local civics, literature studies, and physical fitness.  Soon, we will be adding a cooking class! It’s getting to be super big so I can’t keep inviting people to it. But the idea of it is easily replicable. Find out who is homeschooling in your area. You can send out a random Facebook post if you have no idea where to start. I asked the ladies in my bible study group if they would like to do group homeschooling. That’s how we started.

 

The first thing you have to do is have a general assembly. Pick a day in the week to gather together.  During the first meeting discuss…

– Purpose and goals (ex. group learning experiences, specialization classes)

– Venue. It can be at a home or at a church. We rent our church’s facilities because we can’t fit in a house without tearing it apart.

– Set a date, time, and frequency of meetings

– Kids’ groupings (example: 0 to 3, 4 to 6, 7 to 10, 11 to 13 etc.)

– Activities/subjects to cover for each quarter

– Assign moms who can teach or assist (rotation can be on a quarterly basis so no one gets “abused.”)

– Set blocks of time, like 30 to 45 minute slots for each lesson.

– Agree on costs involved

– Start a Facebook, Viber, or WhatsApp group to stay connected.

– Set up coop rules so everyone is aligned on expectations. These are the rules we initially started off with but we’ve relaxed and become less legalistic! Okay, I HAVE BECOME LESS LEGALISTIC because I wrote these rules!

GROUP HOMESCHOOLING RULES: (Not all of these are applicable anymore because we moved our meetings to a different venue but you can still get some helpful ideas from this list.)

  • Please inform your children that they are attending this activity to learn cooperatively. If they can’t sit through the sessions and they are interruptive, please take them aside and talk to them. Please don’t assume that whoever is teaching is going to be able to manage all the children. So, please make sure your kids know that attentiveness is required. Let’s create a culture of good listeners!
  • If your children make a mess, please encourage them to clean up before leaving. This is part of our character training for the kids. They need to clean up and pack away properly after themselves.
  • No jumping on furniture or eating in the 2nd floor rooms, living room, and family room. This is for pest control purposes and we have couches that I would prefer don’t get stains on them. I know you mommies will understand. 
  • Group Class will be held in the family room (for Bible and character). Classes for the older kids will be held in the kitchen. Classes for the younger kids will be held in the dining room. Babies can play in the playroom. Art will be done on the patio or lanai, not inside (unless it is raining). In case the kids work with messy materials, there’s nothing to “destroy” out there.
  • No babies hanging around during the older kids and younger kids’ sessions. They will be a distraction.
  • Please bring a dish to share for lunch.
  • Please bring your own art supplies/kits/paper/notebooks.
  • To make this sustainable, everyone who joins must be willing to teach or assist at some point. That’s a requirement for joining the group.
  • If you plan an activity as a “teacher,” please inform moms ahead of time about supplies and materials.

4. Enroll your child in a class at a center or club.  Check out centers like Learning Library, Coach E Basketball School, Abacus Math (SIP Academy), Mathemagis, Bert Lozada Swimschool, Futbol Funatics, Team Socceroo, Club Gymnastica, Perkins Twins Tennis AcademyKidzArt, Global Art,  etc. Smart Parenting has an exhaustive list of summer classes from 2014 with helpful links to centers and clubs that may offer classes all year. It’s worth checking out their article: A Guide to Summer Classes And Activities 2014.

5. Ask a school if your child can pay to attend some of the classes. Elijah did this with The Abba’s Orchard when he was in Kindergarten. He attended two days of Montessori classes for a semester. I’m not sure if they are still offering this but The Abba’s Orchard is a great option.

6. Link up with an support group, like Homeschoolers in the Philippines. Donna Pangilinan-Simpao, a mother of four, is the moderator. Her two older sons are in Brent and Beacon school for High School (after successfully homeschooling them). Her younger two are in Grade 5 and Grade 3 and still homeschooled. Donna is actually a doctor! But she decided to focus on homeschooling her children. She has over years and years and years of glorious homeschooling experience. She is one of those homeschooling moms that has always made everything look so easy…very organized and intentional. More importantly, she is a godly wife and mother, and she would tell you she does it all by God’s grace. That’s why I admire her.

The group has 2,300 members and counting. It is one of the best support groups I’ve seen in the Philippines. With a conglomeration of homeschoolers from different backgrounds, who use various approaches, you will find help for every topic that’s homeschool-related. To join, Donna suggests that you…Type the name Homeschoolers of the Philippines on the Facebook search box, and request to be added. It’s as easy as that!

7. Ask friends or relatives who own businesses or who are professionals to let your child apprentice with them. Okay, so they have to be a VERY GOOD friend or loving relative to invest time with your child. But it’s worth looking into. Homeschoolers develop an idea of who they want to be pretty early on. They don’t have to wait until college to learn their craft if you can connect them to someone who can teach them now.

8.  Take a trip to a museum, gallery, site or city to make the learning hands-on. When we were in San Francisco, we took the kids to the Exploratorium with their cousins. They were like ballistic missiles, darting in every direction in this sensorial arts, humanities, and science wonderland.

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9. Attend seminars and/or classes to educate yourself. For example, TMA Homeschool recently tied-up with International School of Theology so it can offer a Master’s Degree in Education option to parents of enrolled students. Pretty cool, eh?! The concept is earn a degree while homeschooling.

10. Pray! Pray! Pray! “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) This verse always encourages me. When I lack creativity or need to improve as a parent-teacher, God gives me ideas.

No one who homeschools is an expert at every subject and topic they need to teach. So be encouraged. You don’t have to know everything because it’s so much more about resourcefulness these days. If there is a will, there is a way. Find a way!

A History To Pass On

Over lunch I shared with the kids how blessed I was that a reader of my blog was introduced to Jesus Christ through my site. I went on to explain that I began Teachwithjoy for the purpose of connecting people to Christ and nothing delights me more than to hear about instances when this happens. So often it astonishes me that God allows me to reach people I would never be able to sit down with and have a conversation with. When I started to tear for joy the kids had mixed reactions. They weren’t sure what was going on.

Tiana was troubled. “Why are you crying?” Her big eyes fixated on my tear-filled ones.

Titus asked with a mouthful of food, “Why are you sad?” He didn’t get the concept of “tears of joy.”

Elijah continued working on a testimony he was writing but he was listening. We jokingly call him the “all” hearing one because he can tune in to any conversation within a range of five meters. And then there was Edan, who started to exhibit tears himself.

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He empathized with the joy I felt, the joy of making Jesus Christ known to others. And he covered his face in embarrassment as his siblings looked, overwhelming him with their inquiries.

I approached him and quietly asked why he was crying. He revealed that it makes him happy when people hear about Jesus. Being the more quiet child of my five, it’s instances like these that I treasure, when I get a glimpse into his person.

I hugged him. Edan’s heart beats for evangelism. He is often the first to ask, “Do you think that person knows Jesus?” And he will suggest that we share the gospel if it seems like they don’t. Some months ago, he inquired if President Aquino believed in Jesus. When Edric asked him why this mattered to him, his response was, “If the President knows Jesus then he can tell everyone about Jesus!” (If only it was as simple as that!)

Sometimes I assume that our kids know that Edric and I love the Lord, that we desire to serve him. But we need to keep declaring the works of God to our children, to highlight his goodness in our midst, and to share the struggles and joys of living for Him. When we do so, it enables them to connect life and faith. Faith becomes tangible and personal.

The Bible actually encourages us to do this. We must give the next generation a history of faith to pass on…the mighty works of God in days of old, but also in the present. He is not a distant God of the ancients, he is intimately involved in the now. What better way for our children to encounter this truth than to hear the stories we tell — stories that will teach them to recognize his handprint in the unfolding of their own?

We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. (‭Psalms‬ ‭78‬:‭4‬ NASB)

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Fun Filipino Books For Young Children

My kids are loving these books by Ana de Borja Araneta and Krie Reyes Lopez, which were published by Anvil Publishing:

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Say, “Thank You, Hon.”

I woke up to a husband who called me to his bedside just to tell me, “I appreciate you, hon. All you do as a wife and mother. If I don’t tell you enough I want you to know that I am so blessed by you.”

Wow! What an unexpected surprise! It certainly set the tone for the rest of my Sunday.

Edric knows that I am a words kind of gal. Encouragement makes me feel loved. Really loved.

The great thing about positive words is it’s the EASIEST way to communicate to your spouse that they are important to you, that they are special and appreciated. You don’t have to exert physical effort to say I love you or I appreciate you. You don’t have to spend money to speak life-giving statements.

You do, however, have to notice and pay attention. My mom used to say, “have a detective’s eye for praise-worthy character in your children.” This is applicable in marriage, too.

Edric told me he noticed that I woke up to attend to Catalina last night, that I inconvenienced myself to get out of bed when I heard her coughing. Nobody has to call out this sort of sacrifice. I don’t wake myself up to check on Catalina and feed her in the hopes that someone in my family will give me a pat on the back for effort. Like all other moms, that’s what we do. But when Edric or the kids interrupt my autopilot mom-mode to say thank you, it feels pretty incredible! Duty turns into inspiration!

Even husbands can benefit from our words of praise. When we were in the U.S. for a month Edric helped me with chores and the kids. It was a matter of survival! We couldn’t leave poop in a diaper! We couldn’t ignore big bags of trash inside the house!

Up until that point, I had never seen my husband hold a broom and dustpan so many times in his life, get out of bed to help me catch Catalina’s vomit, marshall the kids to do their responsibilities, vacuum the car, haul trash, fix the bed, carry Catalina…I could go on.

IMG_1607.JPGHis domesticity and fathering were impressive! And so I told him so many times. When I would commend his kitchen skills like sweeping the floor, he would beam, hold up the broom like a weapon of war and shout out triumphantly, “This is my floor!”

Do we notice the wise choices, the acts of service, or the sacrifices our spouses make or do we treat these as a given? No applause needed because they are supposed to be doing these things? When was the last time we said, Thank you, hon?

So many of us fail to say thank you and I appreciate you enough. If you are living with an approbation-starved spouse, revive them today with your appreciation. Make them eager and excited to fulfill their role as husband/father or wife/mother. And, hey, if you are feeling extra gracious, do something sweet and give them
a “trophy.”

Edric and the kids got me these magnetic mini-Oscars for my birthday two weeks ago. Pretty cute, huh? These are the best thank you awards I have ever received!

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Love and Joy

I need someone like Edric in my life, someone who is spontaneous, quirky, silly, and totally corny. Contrary to what my name implies, I can be serious too often. Edric doesn’t let me be that way. He is a great counterbalance to my tendency towards melancholy and introspection.

He plays tricks on me, like hiding behind doors to scare me, even though he knows I hate this. One time he surprised me in the shower and I screamed and cried. When he realized my tears were real, he totally apologized and hasn’t done the shower surprise since. But he certainly loves to get a reaction out of me.

Sometimes he will call and pretend to be another person. Or he will come up to me when I am shopping and act like a stranger who is hitting on me. He is also a big tease and will playfully prey on my insecurities. And he will flirt with me in public which often makes me awkward, and then say, “What?! We are married! We have five kids!”

I have never really given it much thought but, boy, would it be boring if he was a serious, uptight and always proper Edric more often than his emotionally-liberated self. Don’t get me wrong. He is well-mannered and knows how to be a gentleman. However I am glad he knows how to be a fun husband and a fun dad, too. Let me rephrase that. HE IS a fun husband and a fun dad.

At the dinner table, he acts out a character called “Mini-rat” which is a horror version of Mickey Mouse when the kids don’t eat their food right away. He will crawl under the table and “attack” them. The kids will squeal and shout in delight as he does this dialogue with an imaginary cast of characters. Mini-rat is the star of the show. The kids really get a kick out of it.

I have often watched Edric laughing during these ridiculous moments and wondered why I am not that way. I tend to be the observer on the sidelines, the one to tell the story afterwards. My problem is I can be too detached and not invested enough to join in the craziness. Edric teaches me to be otherwise.

God knows how to put two people together. When I was younger I thought I would fall in love with the quiet, brooding type — the talented artist or the fascinating intellectual, someone who hopefully looked like a Marlboro Man, gruff and scruffy and very manly (sans the smoking, of course!) I was never the kind of girl who liked the poster boy jocks or the men with perfect faces. Typical was not attractive to me.

When I met Edric, he happened to be the right combination of everything I was looking for and wasn’t looking for. I am not just referring to the physical. Yes, I thought he was very good-looking. But I was drawn to him in an unexpected sort of way — to his unpretentiousness and charm, to his protective and gentlemanly nature, to the ease at which we were able to communicate, to the many similar values and spiritual perspectives we shared, to his bent towards heroism, to his natural leadership and passion for a cause. But it wasn’t really until marriage that I discovered how fun a person he was. It was a delightful bonus.

Marriage should be fun. Imagine being with someone for decades and decades and taking everything so seriously? That’s probably what would have happened if I married someone I picked! Thankfully, God chose Edric for me. He tailor-fit him to my personality, to my strengths and weaknesses.

Being married to Edric has taught me another way to live — to relax and enjoy a bit of healthy silliness. I laugh more now. I crack dumb jokes. I know how to play a prank or two. I even like corny. (I am still working on the spontaneous part.) But one thing is for sure…I am a better version of JOY because God gave Edric to me.

To the laughs we share through richer or poorer, for better or worse…

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Cozy Cabin Honesty

It’s a miracle when twenty-three people can live in a cabin together for four days and not go crazy. Soon after Christmas day, my parents along with four of us siblings and our families traveled to Tahoe Donner.

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We rented a beautiful, huge cabin that had five large rooms to house all of our families. It came with a Jacuzzi, too!

The weather was perfect – super cold so the kids could experience a “real” winter, and it snowed the day before we left.

I went sledding for the first time and threw a couple of snowballs. I didn’t realize how much a snowball could hurt! One of my nephews got a bloody lip (not by my doing!)

The highlight for me was sitting around the dinner table with my siblings and parents, and our spouses as we shared about our marriages. My parents try to do this with us periodically in Manila but we are all pretty busy so it’s not a consistent activity. This vacation we were stuck in the house together so the opportunity presented itself when the kitchen was cleaned up and the kids were busy entertaining one another.

Each one of us gave insight into our relationships. I shared that Edric and I don’t have any major issues except that I react to his impatience and irritation when these traits are manifest. It’s not often that he will get upset but I noticed that he was edgier during this trip. This was the first time he had to do chores and help me take care of all of our kids. I know he learned a lot about sacrifice and service. He would say this vacation made him a better man and I wholeheartedly agree. However, there were a few incidences when he lost his cool.

Thankfully, we resolved whatever issues we had between us, and we were able to come before my parents and siblings to openheartedly hear their perspectives on our marital issues. As the more intense person between us, Edric is more prone to irritation when he has to deal with inefficiencies and inconveniences. But my mistake is challenging his responses and correcting him when he is upset which snowballs the situation into an unnecessary argument or unhealthy discussion.

For example, Edric was stern with Elijah for playing with his baby cousin, Joshua, near the garage door. When Edric walked through the door, he accidentally knocked Joshua on the head and blamed Elijah for sitting in the way. This time I pounced back by throwing the Tupperware I was putting away into the cupboard. Edric noticed this and challenge me by asking, “What?!” To which I replied while stooped behind the kitchen island and away from Elijah’s vista, “Don’t talk to him (Elijah) like that.” He mistakenly heard, “Don’t talk to me.” So he countered, “No, you don’t talk to me,” which doubly irked me. However, I stopped inciting Edric because neither of us was in the right frame of mind to resolve our altercation at that moment.

That evening Edric and I had a date night with my sister, Candy, and her husband, Jeff. They were holding hands while strolling through the streets of Old Sacramento, unaware that Edric and I had a tiff with one another earlier that day. Edric and I were walking about two feet apart behind Jeff and Candy. I leaned over to Edric and asked, “Do you have something to say to me?” insinuating that I had received no apology for his earlier behavior. He replied, “Nope. Do you have something to say to me?”

Seriously?! I thought. He was the prime instigator of our conflict earlier! I kept silent wishing he would put his arm around me and apologize because we were walking in 7 degree Celsius weather that night. Plus, I wanted to maximize this date night since we hired babysitters who weren’t cheap!

Still, Edric didn’t budge, so I proudly held my own position, shivering inside. After a few minutes, he wandered off to buy a mistletoe from a street vendor who was raising money to help his sister travel to Washington D.C. (Edric is drawn to random attractions that other people don’t always notice.) I don’t know if Edric was planning to hold that mistletoe over my head in the hopes for a kiss but that was the last thing I wanted to do.

In the meantime, Jeff, Candy, and I were seated in the restaurant talking about our marriages. I volunteered to confess that Edric and I were kind of fighting. (Usually I won’t do this until I work it out with Edric first.) Candy’s advice was exactly what I didn’t want to hear but needed to. She suggested I apologize to Edric for reacting to his outburst. Even if he was not right for getting unnecessarily upset, she told me to humble myself because that’s what God would want me to do.

When Edric came into the restaurant (without the mistletoe because he didn’t have small change to buy it with), I immediately volunteered, “I’m sorry, hon, for earlier. Please forgive me.” He wasn’t expecting to have been the topic of conversation and looked perturbed. “So what were you guys talking about?” He asked with suspicion.

That dinner turned out to be an interesting one for all of us as Edric and I addressed the day’s dramatics right there and then, with Jeff and Candy looking on. And all was well again as we apologized to one another. For the rest of our evening, we dialogued about how our marriages were doing and I appreciated the time to be able to be honest with one another.

When we were in Tahoe we did the same thing with my other siblings and their spouses. Each one gave their own spiritual insights and solutions, which was great because Edric and I don’t get to sit down with counselors or mentors that often. Our ministry targets young families and couples so we need to grow in our own marriage, and that means receiving feedback and guidance from those who know us best.

Edric was advised that he needs to think through the pattern of behavior that leads to unwanted outbursts. I was advised that I ought to stay quiet instead of reacting to his negativity. Although I already knew this, it was a good reminder to apply being gentle and quiet when I am tempted to fight back. During moments when I’m not the first to commit the “crime” I can be like the whiplash that adds trauma to injury. The reality is, spirit-filled silence has always worked better but sometimes I intentionally forget this when I’m dealing with my own version of anger.

After Edric and I shared, each family member did the same – identifying areas of improvement in their own persons and marriages, and what aspects they appreciated about one another. It was a blessed discussion that left us all a little wiser and closer to our spouses and one another as a family.

It’s not always easy to bear our weaknesses with others or to listen attentively to the suggestions that are offered to help us better our relationships. But no marriage is an island. Sometimes we may feel like we don’t have problems or it is nobody’s business to know what our marital issues are, but every marriage can improve to become sweeter, more loving, and more Christ-like.

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I’m blessed to have family members (on my side and Edric’s side) who are committed to strengthening our marriage in Christ. We all share the same mind when it comes to biblical principles and their applications in husband and wife relationships. But the secret is each one of us has a relationship with Jesus Christ first. Therefore we can commune about our marriages openly, and digest each other’s advice without becoming embittered. I’m not saying it’s easy to do this but the context is, Hey, it’s okay to have these struggles in your marriage. All of us do. What counts is that we all want to please God in our relationships. We share the desire to change and improve because we love God, our spouses, and one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as also you are doing.”

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Bike, Scooter, Rollerblades

During our vacation Titus learned to bike, use the scooter, and rollerblade. “Hey, mom! Look at me!” He would say as he whirred past on a bike, or scooter and eventually, rollerblades.

A few years ago, he tried all three but his body wasn’t ready. Plus, he needed someone to keep him steady. This time he took off very naturally.

He usually surprises me with his capacity to learn skills and pick up concepts without much instruction from Edric or me. A lot of it has to do with his willingness to try and experiment. Fear is not his first impulse. To attempt is, and persistence one of his shining characteristics. Eventually, he receives the reward of his laboriousness and relishes in the sweet victory of effort.

I have always been fascinated by Titus. Although my heart is inclined to all five of my children in the same way and I have no favorites, each of their peculiarities intrigues me in a different way. Titus’ penchant for exploration and discovery is more pronounced than his siblings’. He is rarely restrained by the kind of self-consciousness that often keeps people like myself from enjoying a moment without suffering the burden of a thousand thoughts.

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His approach is “see then figure out by doing.” I have asked him many times, “how did you learn to do that?” in reference to a new ability or conquest he has acquired or undertaken and he will nonchalantly reply, “I just saw it and then I did it, or I just thought about it and then I did it.”

This type of response often elicits laughter from me as he responds to the world around him with a delectable spontaneity that I sometimes wish belonged to me. He has little regard for the risks involved which means that he also learns through bruises and falls. On the other spectrum is someone like myself, who quietly calculates the effort, plausibility, appropriateness, and consequences of committing to any sort of task or adventure.

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When we were living in a cabin in Tahoe for a few days, Titus was intrigued by the light switches. He could not resist pressing each one to see which lights they corresponded to. We were in the middle of dinner on one occasion, when he turned the lights on and off. For a second, 24 people sat in darkness as he got his fidget-fix. All was well as he ably switched them back on when family members exclaimed in unison, “Who is doing that? Stop it!” They were gentle enough, especially when they realized it was none other than our curious Titus pouncing upon a cause-and-effect opportunity.

Thankfully, he is learning to control his inclinations towards taking things apart or touching things he isn’t supposed to. It took several years of repetitive intervention on my part and Edric’s to encourage him to filter through his choices. As any parent ought to know, parenting requires adjusting to each child’s uniqueness with grace and patience. Only God can supply the grace to successfully teach and train our children the way he wants us to.

In our family, we share the same goal for each of our kids, but we have to customize the instruction and discipline aspects. No two children get the same plan, and all five require careful observation and study.

This extended vacation provided many opportunities to get to know our children better. Edric, in particular, probably benefitted the most from 24/7 contact. It was a rare 30+ days of investment in time with our children. Even though he was intentional about discipling them before, I am pretty sure he can profile them more accurately now.

It’s been a joy to be more informed about how Titus thinks and responds to situations, and to celebrate his successes. He teaches me to “chill” as a mom, to relax and avoid the type of over-concern that infects my children with fear and self-doubt. Yes, he may fall and injure himself as he boldly attempts to balance, climb, catapult, cross over, lean, crawl, bounce, jump, etc, but that’s the way a Titus-person learns best. For as along as he isn’t injuring others or taking fatal risks, I am now able to sit back and applaud his courage, curiosity, and relentlessness for what they are — unique gifts from the Lord that can be channeled positively for His greater purposes.

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The Motivated Learner

Edan might have fractured his wrist yesterday. I am taking him to the doctor just to make sure. He was jumping off our backyard swing when he slipped and landed on his right arm. Since he usually doesn’t express much of what is going on inside, Edric and I became concerned when he was bawling everytime his arm was jostled.

Interestingly, Edan’s entire countenance magically improved and his whining desisted when the mailman delivered his package from Pitcher Plant Farm last night. I announced, “Your plants arrived!” He perked up and smiled. I presented his eight carnivorous plants to him on the kitchen island and his eyes lit up.

They didn’t look like much but Elijah and Edan mouthed out their scientific names (in Latin, of course), going back and forth with one another about each one’s peculiarities and what they had to do to revive them. When I pulled them out of the package, they all resembled wilted leaves to me but the boys knew what to do.

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Prior to our trip to the U.S., Edan asked if he could get carnivorous plants as his Christmas present. We had been covering Botany and he zoned in on the Venus fly traps, Pitcher Plants, Bladderworts, and Sundews as his favorites. On his own initiative, he did further research about where to get these plants and discovered that there was a German horticulturist based in Bukidnon who specialized in carnivorous plants. (Pitcher Plant Farm is located in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon Province about 90 minutes south of Cagayan de Oro on Mindanao island. It is owned by Volker Heinrich.)

Edric ordered the plants online and Volker Heinrich was pretty specific about how to care for the plants. Thank goodness too because I thought the purchase was a disaster when I opened up the plastic to survey what looked like dying plants and dirt. But Edan couldn’t have been happier. His excitement eclipsed his pain. After all, he had been anticipating the arrival of these insect-digesting wonders for weeks. This was one of the reasons why he was eager to get back home from our vacation in the U.S.

I attribute his interest towards Botany to home schooling. He gets to pursue topics that he is drawn to. The same goes for my other kids. I cover the essentials during instruction time but they have the liberty to dig deeper if they want to. Edric and I provide them with the tools and materials to further their discoveries. These days Edan is not only fascinated by plants, he likes anything related to science. (Before he hurt his harm, he and his brothers made slime. I saw the gooey outcome of their experimentation when they proudly showed off their creations — glow in the dark slime, metallic slime and color-changing slime! One for each of my boys.)

Children will learn with gusto when the environment encourages autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This is something I picked up about motivation from a TED Talk given by author, Daniel Pink, who wrote the bestseller, Drive, some years ago.
He said that the dangling-of-a-carrot-on-a-stick form of motivation can only go so far because the driver is external. The best form of motivation ought to be intrinsic. Don’t just pay employees higher to manage their outcomes. Instead, organizations ought to cultivate an environment that encourages autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Most jobs today rely on “heuristic work” rather than “algorithmic work.” Algorithmic work is predictable problem solving, where a line can be drawn to a singular answer. This sort of thing can be outsourced and automated. Heuristic work requires experimentation with possibilities to come up with new solutions. It needs creativity.

I would like to believe that this verily applies to education as well. At the collegiate end of our children’s learning journey, we don’t want them to be rote thinkers. We want them to take the initiative to apply their skills and knowledge (autonomy and mastery) to better the world they live in, a goal that is beyond themselves (purpose). For our family, this means making a difference for Jesus Christ.

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose begin at home. I need to trust my children’s natural desire to learn. Even though I set parameters as their instructor, I don’t restrict them to paper and pen tasks or textbooks. As I mentioned earlier, if a topic we studied piques their curiosity like carnivorous plants, I give them free time during the day to research and read about it.

As for mastery, when a task or skill is important, I require hard work and discipline from my kids. But I also slow down if necessary so they can proceed to the next task or skill only when they are equipped and ready. This is more applicable to subjects like math, reading, spelling, writing, and comprehension.

Unpreparedness only fosters discouragement and insecurity. But a child who isn’t overloaded with information by an instructor or hurried along for the sake of keeping up with the lesson plan, will develop the confidence level to take on more challenging work as he or she masters bite sized portions of learning. Challenges ought to be discernibly matched to ability so a child can progress to more difficult ones knowing that his best effort will produce favorable results.

Finally, there is purpose. My oldest son, Elijah, used to dislike math with a passion. He doesn’t even remember this anymore. But he would resist my attempts at teaching him when he was four or five years old. Until I explained how meaningful math is to our very existence and how practical its applications are in everyday life, he considered it a chore. I had to let him see math’s significance first and then his attitude changed. Today math is one of his favorite subjects.

As my children grow up, Edric and I emphasize that their education is part of God’s plan for them, to accomplish his will and to influence this world for Jesus Christ. So they need to do their best and be excellent, not to become smart or to do well on tests (that’s a small part of the bigger picture), but to prepare themselves for the greater work they will one day do for the Lord. It’s a purpose that is higher than themselves or even our family.

None of my kids are perfect students in the sense that they ALWAYS have a good attitude when they are homeschooling. But I am happy to say that they are motivated learners because homeschooling provides them with an environment where autonomy, mastery and purpose can flourish. Why else would an 8 year old want to learn the latin names of all the carnivorous plants and grow them on his own?! It may not be the most important things to memorize or do but he’s certainly learning how to learn about difficult content and that’s a valuable skill for success. Plus he is having a lot of fun, even with his sprained arm. It is a sprain after all and not a fracture according to our doctor. Whew!

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Four Weeks As a REAL Housewife

I get it now. Being a home maker is backbreaking work. I mean, a homemaker in North America. By the end of the day, my idea of a reward is a hot shower or sitting on a couch to watch some mindless movie to fall asleep to. There’s hardly anything left in me to give to Edric or my kids because I am tired.

It hasn’t been stressful cleaning, cooking, and doing the laundry. But it has been physically exhausting. I suppose this is why I have taken long pauses from writing as of late. Plus it isn’t very inspiring to talk about house chores. Who wants to know about how I sort dark and light clothing? It’s somewhere in between maddening and necessary. Everyday I look at the pile of laundry that the kids throw into the hamper and I am like, “You’ve got to be kidding! Do we go through that many clothes?!” Well, we do. We are 7 x 2 outfits a day. So when the kids don’t leave the house, I let them wear their pajamas morning to night. And if they don’t get sweaty, they can postpone their shower to the next day (and wear the same pjs!)

Then, there’s the kitchen. It’s a full-time preoccupation cooking and cleaning the kitchen. Now I understand why cereal is so popular. Heck, why not eat it three times a day! The kids went through an uncountable number of cereal boxes this vacation. I am ashamed to admit they survived on Lucky Charms and Cheerios.

In a few days I will have my unrealistic life back — the one that comes with household help. I finally understand why it is a luxury to be able to pay people to wash the dishes, clean the house, do the laundry, cook the meals, etc. America, for all its conveniences and efficiencies, is wonderful and I am glad to be part American.

However, I still prefer living in the Philippines. The kids do, too. They are looking forward to seeing their Siamese cats, toys, own beds, and getting back into the rhythm of our lives in Manila.

Manila doesn’t have the cleanest air or streets. It can get miserably hot. Life is crazy busy for us with homeschooling, business and ministry. But that’s where we are serving God and investing in the lives of others.

I will miss the cold weather, the traffic-less freeways, the quieter life where the extent of your social obligations are four or five good friends, the groceries (oh, the groceries with thirty options for butter!), the steak (I love a good steak), and the nobody-knows-you kind of anonymity that an introvert like myself can really get used to.

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But anywhere is home where I am with Edric and the kids. This past month has felt like we have been “at home.” However, I am so thankful to the Lord that at present, our mailing address is in Manila, Philippines. I am looking forward to a decent night’s sleep and breakfast that includes rice and comes with a clean up crew!

Some of the things I learned as a happily desperate housewife on vacation this past month:

1. Buy lots of cereal, milk, eggs, fruit, and cheese, and make these accessible throughout the day.

2. Invest in a ton of wet wipes and bring them everywhere!

3. Breastfeed your infant. It’s the simplest, easiest way to make sure she gets the nourishment she needs. Catalina cut back on the solids because she prefers the soupy, home cooked meals our yayas make for her. Thankfully she breastfed a lot so she was fine during this vacation.

4. Use one bag that can double as a diaper bag and purse. Forget about looking stylish. It’s the practicality you are after.

5. Let the older kids bathe, dress, feed, and clean up after themselves.

6. Have an IPad available to entertain a carseat-restrained infant. I gave in and let Catalina be distracted by hours of YouVersion’s Bible App (for kids) so she wouldn’t cry like a screaming banshee.

7. Give the kids vitamins and extra vitamin C everyday.

8. Take your vitamins and overdose on vitamin C everyday.

9. Encourage the older kids to babysit the younger ones.

10. Dress up and look nice even if you feel tired and want to wear pajamas all day. Only your children are allowed to do that!

11. Teach your 16 month old survival skills like feeding herself or going up and down the stairs so she has the freedom to go around the house without you worrying about her constantly. (Catalina learned to scoot down the carpeted stairs backwards very effectively.)

12. Enjoy the moment even if you are sick and tired of the mess, the amount of effort it takes to mind the whereabouts of five children, or preoccupied by thoughts about what you have to do next.

13. Appreciate the effort your husband makes to sweep the floor, clean out the car, and organize the children so you don’t feel irritated when he says he can’t hold the baby for longer than ten minutes.

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14. Train your 16 month old to obey. Catalina was hitting her younger cousin several times a day, every day, and throwing tantrums when she didn’t get her way. We finally started disciplining her by spanking her for disobedience and defiance. Praise God she improved significantly and made the connection — hitting is a no-no, and throwing herself on the floor while rolling around wailing is a no-no, too. Here she is hugging the cousin she used to bully…

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15. Saturate your mind with thoughts about God. I downloaded a lot of uplifting music on my Spotify account so I could meditate on the Lord, especially during long drives.

16. Find ways to recharge — nap times while you breastfeed, hot showers, short shopping trips, a fun movie, a chocolate chip cookie (or two or three. You will burn it off with keeping house and breastfeeding.)…Yes, I still managed to sneak in some me-time during this chore-ridden vacation.

17. Serve others with a joyful attitude without grumbling or thinking “you-owe-me.” Several times I was tempted to be irritated at every single person in my family for all the chores I had to do while they got to play or enjoy themselves. But God reminded me to work for Him.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

The kitchen crew…

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