Novels for Voracious Young Readers

These are the top picks of my son, Elijah, who enjoys fantasy and mystery novels that echo Biblical themes or that are morally “safe.” Most of these books are actually for adults. He’s read these over the last year and a half besides classics. My younger boys are also starting to read some of the fantasy books as well. 

I am sharing these titles because I feel there is a shortage of good, spiritually-enriching books for young people. A lot of what’s popular today revolves around witchcraft and sorcery, as well as vampires, or they prematurely awaken romance in the hearts of children. (Most of these books were purchased through Christianbook.com or Amazon.) 

Here are Elijah’s personal reviews of the books…
Elijah:

Randy Alcorn writes about multi-dimensional plots with well-rounded characters. His vocabulary and imagery are vivid. These books can be read alone but when read together as a whole, the script is richer. Each of the books centers around a different character in the author’s city who investigates a murder. In each case the protagonist is on a faith journey to understand truth in his own life. Alcorn shows what the murdered person’s experience is like in either heaven or hell, compelling readers to choose to know God and follow Him.


Lee Strobel’s murder-mystery has several plot threads and interesting dialogue in this book. It was a captivating read and I blazed through the pages quickly because I was so riveted! 


Author Jerry Jenkin’s takes the reader through two plots. The first is the journey of a theologian who is a professor traveling to Rome to help protect secret manuscripts written by the Apostle Paul. As the story unfolds, there is a parallel to the plot of Paul’s life in prison before his execution, where he writes the manuscripts. Jenkins is more about dialogue rather than description in his stories. 


These are fantasy books where Chuck Black creates an allegorical world that is set in medieval times that captures the lives of Bible characters through knights and kings. These books read like The Chronicles of Narnia. It was fun to interpret the Biblical counterparts that the characters were portraying. 


I am about to read these next books by Chuck Black…


Shadow of the Mountain by Cliff Graham is an imagining of Caleb’s story, who supposedly did not begin as an Israelite but then chooses to follow God. It depicts his life as a warrior in Egypt. It’s purely fictional and isn’t based on actual Biblical text about Caleb. Although very entertaining, it has violent parts.


This is a fantasy re-write of Pilgrim’s Progress designed for younger readers to understand. It’s filled with suspense and there are some scary parts but I liked it’s very happy ending.


Land of Stories is a series that isn’t written by a Christian, but for the most part the values are okay. Occasionally, the characters do make statements that I am not comfortable with such as OMG. This series depicts well-known fairy tale characters in a new way by adding new plot layers and dimensions to their personalities. It describes a pair of twins’ adventures in their world. The language it is written in is easy to read as well as humorous. There is wizardry in it so read with caution. 


These books are very interesting to read but some secrets are kept hidden throughout the three books. Only at the end of the third book does the protagonist realize the truth, but at that point very little has been revealed to the reader about the secrets which can feel frustrating. However, there is redemption which makes the books worth reading. 

 

Motivating Kids to Learn

To keep my kids motivated and excited about learning, I sometimes add little changes and incentives to our daily routine. Today, I let my younger kids study outside while the older boys were in charge of lowering and raising their books through a pulley system. Elijah and Edan used a rope and basket, and Titus, Tiana, and Catalina had to ring a bell when they needed new books delivered, or finished work raised back up. 



I sat outdoors with the younger kids who enjoyed being with the bunnies and sitting on a mat on the grass. It felt like an adventure. Plus, it was my secret way of getting them some healthy sunlight, too. 

Titus, who is kinesthetic, really liked the set up today. He accomplished his work faster than usual. (Since he tends to get distracted, I also use a timer for him. He sets it and tries his best to beat the timer.) 

I once heard a homeschool veteran and speaker say that motivation is what keeps a child learning. On the one hand, I want my kids to demonstrate the capacity to sit for extended periods of time in order to accomplish their tasks. Yet, I also believe in making adjustments when necessary to keep kids interested in learning. 

When learning is a joy, my kids are engaged and willing to put in the time to finish a task. I have observed that my kids’ desire to learn is fanned by five things. 

The first is purpose. My kids, more notably the older ones, know that learning is part of God’s plan for their lives. A foundation of skills, knowledge, and experiences is being built to equip and prepare them for God’s kingdom-building work. 

When we go off course in our homeschooling and head in the direction of high stress, I know we are losing sight of the purpose and focusing too much on performance. So I have to take my kids aside and have meaningful conversations with them that revolve around the why of our homeschooling. 

The second thing the motivates my kids is the freedom to explore their interests. Whether their interest be in the form of a topic, activity, or object (and provided these interests aren’t detrimental to their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual health), I give them freedom to pursue these. 

For example, Elijah likes building apps and coding which requires him to be good at math and logic. So he pushes himself to learn math concepts that are beyond ninth grade requirements. I don’t force him to study trigonometry, for instance, but he tells me he has to learn a bit of trignometry to do coding. So that’s what he is doing. 

Titus still likes to play. So being outdoors for him and using that pulley system felt like playing to him. He told me several times how much fun homeschooling was today. 

The third aspect of motivation is experiencing success. It’s discouraging for my kids to deal with repeated failure or the inability to understand a concept. So my job is to address learning gaps, slow down, or repeat lessons until they are ready to tackle more challenging levels and work. Sometimes I have to change the material I am using or make it more developmentally appropriate. 

Tiana can’t always write down sentences as a seven year old, primarily because she’s not yet spelling well. So there are occasions when I ask her to tell me what her sentence is and I write it down for her. Or, I write down sentences for her to copy. At times, I also assist her as she tries to think of the words and letters. Titus used to be the same way, but as he became a better reader, he became a better speller. 

My role is to help my kids learn, not to make them feel like they can’t learn. Sometimes this means many baby steps to get them to a point of confidence and independence. Thankfully, Elijah, Edan, and Titus are, more often than not, able to study without me hovering over them too much. Tiana and Catalina will get to that point eventually as their capacity to read improves. In the meantime, experiencing mini victories as we plod along together encourages both of them to keep going. 

The fourth thing what motivates my kids is our learning environment. The relational climate between us can positively or negatively affect their desire to learn. When I am irritable and impatient, they are scared to make mistakes or to disappoint me. This is unhealthy because learning becomes about pleasing me and avoiding conflict. Worst of all, my bad example can be perceived as hypocrisy, nullifying my attempts to teach them about the Lord and what it means to have a relationship with Him. Therefore, I must always be careful about my tone and my interactions with them. Am I exuding the joy of the Lord? Am I enjoying my time with them? Am I affirming them even as I help them identity their mistakes and correct them? Am I allowing them to express their frustrations and processing these with them from a spiritual perspective? 

Lastly, kids must internalize that obedience brings blessings. When my kids don’t feel like exerting effort to learn something I ask them to, especially the older ones, they remember the importance of obedience. It may not seem like fun to obey when it’s inconvenient for them, yet the choice to do so translates to a change in their attitudes. 

It’s like my dad used to say, “Motion before emotion.” Make the choice to do the right thing and the emotions will follow. Very often, their resistance is replaced with a smile and softeness of heart, and they apologize for their bad attitude (if this is present). The blessing is that God supplies the motivation and rewards their efforts. 

When these five elements of motivation are present — a clear, God-centered purpose, interest-led experiences and pursuits, success, a positive environment, and obedience, homeschooling is a delight for my kids and me. Remove any one of these factors and the motivation suffers. 

When the purpose isn’t God-centered there is pressure to perform. When interests aren’t acknowledged or accomodated then kids tend to get bored. When success isn’t there, children feel like lessons are unreasonably hard or they feel insecure about their abilities. When a parent gets angry easily and the learning environment is tense, kids are controlled by fear. When children haven’t internalized obedience, they may comply on the outside but develop resentment on the inside.  

The good news is that God gives us the ability and the wisdom to provide these five motivating elements. So let’s tap into His daily grace and ask Him for help! 

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”‭‭ Matthew‬ ‭7:7‬ 

Philippine Homeschool Conference 2017

This post should have come earlier but it’s not too late yet! The Philippine Homeschool Conference is happening this Saturday at Treston College in Bonifacio Global City. Registration online is closed but there’s a walk-in fee of 1,000 pesos/person. 

Whether you are interested in learning about home schooling, already homeschooling, an educator, researcher, or an intentional parent, you will appreciate the line up of keynote speakers, breakout speakers, kids’ activities, as well as exhibitors that will be this event. 

I have taken this information from Educating for Life‘s website, the organizers of this event for your reference. 

The keynote speakers…

SEN. FRANCIS PANGILINAN


From his time as a student activist to being a senator of the Republic of the Philippines and an eventual cabinet member in the Aquino administration, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has had no qualms about being independent-minded, proving time and again that progressive ideas and principles have a place in Philippine politics.

His career in public service began over 20 years ago, when the young Kiko began his fight against human rights violations, corruption, and other social ills as Chairman of the UP Diliman Student Council. Eventually becoming a human rights lawyer, he later on became the youngest-ever Councilor of the 4th district of Quezon City and, in 1998, graduated with a Master of Public Administration as an Edward S. Mason Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University.

Aside from being a champion of the plight of the farmers in the country, Kiko is a staunch supporter of homeschooling and is the author behind the Senate Resolution declaring March 3 as National Homeschool Day in the Philippines.

 

EFREN PEÑAFLORIDA JR.


The middle child of a tricycle driver and a housewife, Efren Geronimo Peñaflorida Jr. completed his elementary and high school education through the hold of scholarships and financial assistance, and received several class awards and honors. In 2000, he graduated from San Sebastian College–Recoletos de Cavite with a degree in computer technology, receiving highest honors. He pursued a second course at Cavite State University Cavite City campus, graduating cum laude in 2006 with a degree in Secondary Education.

At 16 years old, Peñaflorida, joined by other classmates, formed “Dynamic Teen Company”. They eventually pioneered the idea of the “pushcart classroom”, wherein pushcarts were stocked with school materials such as books, pens, tables, and chairs, and then used on Saturdays to recreate school settings in unconventional locations such as the cemetery or trash dump.

In March 2009, Peñaflorida was featured as a CNN Hero as part of the news network’s program to honor individuals who make extraordinary contributions to help others. On November 22, 2009, he was named CNN Hero of the Year for 2009.

MARISSA LEINART


After suffering 3 miscarriages while being a morning news anchor in the a morning show, Marissa Leinart decided to stay home with her two children and candidly admits she often dreamt of the big, yellow school bus visiting her front door. Ironically, God had other plans. Like Abraham’s wife Sarah, Marissa laughed and thought she was hearing voices when God called her to what would absolutely, positively, surely NOT have been an option… homeschool. Now, Marissa says it’s her greatest lifetime achievement and beyond the 2 Emmys she won as a TV broadcaster.

Marissa’s recent role has been more of an encourager to her children, Will and Linzey, both of home are reaping the benefits of being homeschooled by their parents.

Marissa wants to share with parents how she used non-traditional homeschool education methods, including online learning, blended learning, enrichment programs, homeschooling, and early college to educate her two children successfully.

Marissa has been a workshop speaker at several Great Homeschool Conventions in the U.S. on “How To Homeschool for Free!” She was also the audiobook narrator for award winning Apologia Curriculum. You may have heard her narrating these books: Chemistry, Marine Biology I, Marine Biology II, Who Is God, Who Is My Neighbor and Who Am I.

Marissa started www.TheHomeschoolRevolution.com to connect, serve and lead homeschool families in the U.S. and the Philippines to a stress free and debt free journey to homeschool success.

For more information on speakers: Breakout Session Speakers

Philippine Homeschool Conference 2017 Program

9:00-9:30 National anthem, Welcome remarks, Introduction of speaker

9:30-10:15 Keynote 1 

10:15-10:20 Intermission 

10:20-11:05 Keynote 2 

11:05-11:20 Intermission 

11:20-12:05 Keynote 3 

12:05-12:10 Wrap up morning session 

12:10-2:10pm Lunch, Expo

2:10-2:15pm Intermission

2:15-2:45pm Plenary: Guest Speaker 

2:45-3:00pm Mobilize for breakout sessions 

3:00-4:00pm Workshops 

We Want to Homeschool! Now What? 

The Juggling Act: Home Management for Teacher Moms 

What I Learned From My Rookie Homeschool Year 

Raising Financial Literate Kids

Narration 101 

No Fear! Homeschooling Through High School 

The Treston Way: Excellent and Ethical Education in a Caring Community 

4:00-4:10 Mobilize for Breakout 2 

4:10-5:10 Workshops 

Homeschool for Free 

The Working Homeschool Mom Multi-purpose Hall

7 Tips for Teaching Multiple Age Students Without Losing Your Mind 

Technology in Your Homeschool 

Carving Out Me-Time for Busy Homeschooling 

That Thing Called ‘Gap Year’

The Treston Way: Excellent and Ethical Education in a Caring Community

5:10-5:30 Mobilize for closing remarks 

5:30-5:40 Intermission

5:40-6:00pm HAPI News, Raffle, Closing remarks, Multi-purpose hall
Kids’ Activities

There will be various activities for children of all ages should you want to bring your children along. These activities will all take place in the classrooms in the second floor of Treston International College. Please make sure, however, that they are with a trusted adult at all times. HAPI and Educating for Life will not be liable for any untoward incident that may happen to your child during the event.

ACTIVITIES AND SCHEDULE

PARKOUR by NINJA ACADEMY (Hourly classes from 9am to 5pm)

ART CLASSES by KIDZART (9am-5pm)

SANDBOX PLAY PROGRAM by THE LEARNING LODGE (9am-5pm)

AVIATION ELEMENTARY FOR TEENS by THE LEARNING LODGE (9am-5pm)

FREE COLORING by FABER CASTELL (9am-5pm)

PLAY AREA by TOPMnl (9am-5pm)

FENCING DEMO by EZKRIMA

ACTIVITIES by CRAFTED CRAFTS (9am-10am, 11am-12pm, 2pm-3pm, 4pm-5pm)

Create a Critter with Jean Castillo of Jinstitches – Have fun with yarns and turn them into critters you can love.
Jewellery-making with Genaline Gaspar of Craft Works – Learn the basics of making earrings and bracelets, with short lecture on how to choose the right materials and tools for your projects.

Crochet Along with The Happy WAHM of Crafted Crafts – Learn crochet basics, and complete a simple project you can wear. Handouts will be provided.

LIMITED SLOTS AVAILABLE.

FEES – There will be a flat fee of P500 per child to allow access to all the activities in the Activity Area, not including Crafted Craft activities.

Crafted Craft fee is as follows:

Choice of 1 – P300 per child

Choice of 2 – P500 per child

Guardian fee for the Activity Area is P50.

Sponsors and exhibitors

 

When a Child is Gifted

After watching the movie, Gifted, I had a crisis of doubt over homeschooling my oldest son, Elijah. When he was six years old, he was diagnosed as a gifted child. At the time I didn’t give it much thought. Edric and I believed that it wasn’t necessary to overemphasize this aspect of his person. After all, our greater priority was to instill godly character in him. The academic ability presented itself as a nice bonus but not as the focal point of our home education for him.

However, fast-forward to some weeks ago when Elijah broke down. He expressed worry over having accomplished “nothing” with his life, accompanied with the fear that he was not good at anything. Plus, he thought his opportunities would be over by the age of eighteen. (He tends to be hyperbolic in his assessments of himself.)

I listened to my fourteen year old son wondering why in the world such a bright young man could suffer these thoughts. Really?! Not good at anything? I mean, that makes me seem like I have a cockroach’s brain compared to him! (Now you know where he gets his exaggeration tendencies from…)

Here’s the truth. Elijah is able to program ridiculously well for a fourteen year old, having taught himself at least five coding languages. God has also given him an amazing ability to remember science facts and encyclopedia-like information. We call him our resident Google. He can read a four hundred page book in one sitting if no one interrupted him. At age eight, he started public speaking. At age nine, he attended a three hour seminar about stocks investing and started his own portfolio. He has finished the Bible six times since the age of seven. When he turned thirteen, he survived Mt. Apo. 

To me all of these sounded like he had done quite a bit for his age. However, I didn’t want to be insensitive or dismissive about his sentiments, so I probed further and tried my best to empathize. 

Where was he coming from? Why was he feeling these emotions?

One possible reason was that he had just lost a tennis match with his dad, where he played in a manner that he described as “pitiful.” Being similarly competitive in nature to his father, he didn’t take to the defeat too well.

Secondly, he compared himself to Edric and me He stated, “Mom, I don’t think I will be able to do what you and dad do. You guys have done so much with your life.”

At this point, I had to interject, “Hon, you don’t have to do the same things that mom and dad have done. God has a specific plan for YOUR life. You don’t need to compare.”

That past week, our homeschooling schedule had also been erratic because of other commitments Edric and I, as well as our kids needed to attend to. As a result, Elijah felt unproductive in terms of his responsibilities for the week.

As he verbally listed the reasons why he was stressed, accompanied by tears he tried to hold back, I thought, Are these his hormones kicking in to high gear because he is going through puberty?!

When Edric entered the restaurant where Elijah and I had this conversation, I signaled him with my eyes to let him know that something serious and important needed his participation. So Edric added his perspective to encourage Elijah. But his approach was to come up with practical plans. 

Elijah has since changed his opinion about himself and his future. Whew. Maybe he just needed listening to. He’s back to his positive self. When I asked him what altered his perceptions of himself, he replied, “When you told me that I have to focus on obeying God and following His will for my life, then I will accomplish what He wants me to.”


Because of his “break down” I continued to give his education considerable thought in the past weeks. Then, half-way through watching the movie, Gifted last Monday, I felt troubled. The uncle who had taken it upon himself to raise his extraordinarily intelligent niece, wondered if he was doing her a disservice by not putting her in a school for the gifted. Since his genius sister (the mother of his niece) took her life due to the pressure the mother burdened her with to solve a millennial problem in mathematics, he didn’t want to see his niece end up the same way. Instead, he believed his niece needed a more balanced life, one where she could enjoy playing, the outdoors, having friends her age, and going to a school that was for “normal” kids. 

As he wrestled with doubt, I sat in the theater seat wondering similar things. Should Elijah still be homeschooled? Does he need to be enrolled in a school where he can benchmark himself against others? Should he got to a science high school? Does he need to apply his skills in other ways that are beyond my capacity to provide as his teacher? How can he better maximize his talents and abilities? Are Edric and I doing him a disservice somehow because he is gifted? 

One of the things that resonated with me was how the uncle emphasized the importance of character in his niece. He didn’t think that focusing on how much of a prodigy she was would do her emotional and mental good in the long run. 

This is the same conviction Edric and I have about our kids. We talked about these things after the movie. 

I believe each one of them are gifted and extraordinary. Elijah just happens to display this in the area of academics. Yet what is more valuable to us is their character. Furthermore, unlike the uncle in the movie who philosophized the existence of God and therefore lacked spiritual emphasis in his parenting, we believe this ought to be paramount to our children’s upbringing. Whatever exceptionality our children may have, should God will this, they are His children first. Their identity and their purpose must be anchored on this truth. 

Therefore the goal of Elijah’s education has to be loftier – he was gifted for the glory of God, not for his glory, and not for our glory. We want him to grow up loving God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. (The same goes for all our other kids.) 

Keeping these goals in mind affords us with a filter for the plans we make for him. The framework we will continue to focus on is largely based upon Luke 2:52, which says that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with man.

I started to worry about Elijah and his future after his break down and the movie because I temporarily lost sight of the why of our home schooling. Thankfully, Edric comforted me. He’ has often quoted one of the founders of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), Mike Smith, who wisely said, “We don’t homeschool for Harvard. We homeschool for heaven.” 

But hey, a lot of homeschoolers do get into Harvard. Not that this is our plan for Elijah. Our plan is to follow God’s leading for him. 

So far this is what we’ve come up with for his ninth grade…

1. WISDOM – Elijah will intern with a company so he can use his coding and programming skills to complete projects that are meaningful and beneficial to others. He is starting on Monday and will be tasked to help develop and improve the systems of two organizations. A few weeks back he admitted to me that he liked the idea of hacking into systems (uh-oh), so I had to remind him that he must be wise about the applications of his ability. (Wisdom is making choices that honor God. Intelligence without wisdom can be destructive.)


2. STATURE – Elijah will zone in on two sports – swimming and tennis. Instead of experimenting with different options, these are the two that suit his physical build and interest. He will continue to pursue his violin studies as well.


3. FAVOR WITH GOD – Elijah needs to have a vision for his life. He doesn’t have to compare himself to anyone. If he follows and obeys God’s plan for him, he will become whom God wants him to be. 

4. FAVOR WITH MAN – Edric signed Elijah up for the High Unite Summer Camp called Revolution, It Starts with You. It’s a high school retreat organized by homeschoolers from Home school Global for their fellow homeschoolers. This will be a good opportunity for him to reach out to others and possibly form a small group that he can mentor.


There’s a scene in the movie of Gifted where the uncle reflects as he takes his seven year old niece in his arms, “If you are turning out to be a happy, smart, and kind person then I must be doing something right.”

This part made me tear because it also dawned upon me that if Elijah is turning out to be a young man who is joyful, wise, kind, and who loves God then homeschooling must be working. And this is to the Lord’s credit because he supplies the daily grace. 

In fact, should any of our children turn out well all glory ought to go to the Lord. In the meantime Edric and I will train, disciple, steward, encourage, guide, and love our children. Home schooling is not a perfect science to raising kids. Yet it allows us to pursue the parenting goals that are most meaningful to us.

Homeschool Materials for 2016 to 2017

I should have posted this last year but in case anyone is interested, these are the materials I have been using for my kids this 2016-2017 school year. 

Our starting month was September so we are finishing off the third quarter at present. 

CATALINA – PRESCHOOL (1 to 1.5 hours/day)

Catalina’s daily schedule includes listening to music, learning phonics sounds and pre-math skills, being read to by me or her siblings, and lots of play time! Her schedule is very laid back  and informal. 

Here are some of the resources I use for her…

Bible and character:


Phonics: (We sing the Sing, Spell, Read, and Write songs together)


Math and Logic:


Music. She listens to nursery rhymes almost daily. This particular collection is one of her favorites:


I have a lot of Wee Sing CDs: 

We have a bunch of instruments for her to play around with and dance with as she listens to music:


Other helpful materials (books to read aloud and flash cards):



Art. Catalina is currently enrolled in an art class but she also does a lot of cutting, painting, drawing, and scribbling at home. At present, she contributes to 75% of the mess every day. 

PE. Catalina is taking up ballet, tennis, and swimming. 

TIANA – GRADE 1 (2 to 3 hours/day)

Bible. The Ology by Marty Machowski (3x a week. Read aloud to Tiana and let her write a sentence or two in her Bible notebook to summarize what she learned) This is an easy and laid back way for me to introduce Bible concepts to her. It takes me about 15 minutes to read through each section or chapter (asking questions along the way to check if Tiana is listening), and then I ask her to write in her notebook and draw a picture to remember the topic and come up with her own application. 


She also has a Study Bible that we read through together. 


Math. Primary Mathematics by Rex Publishing available through Learning Plus. We cover three to four pages three to four times a week.

Science. (2x a week) I read Discovering God’s World Science by Abeka Publishing to Tiana and she also works on the pages of her Interactive Science Notebook


Language Arts (3 to 4x a week). I use a mix of Learning Language Arts Through Literature (the Blue Book), Sing, Spell, Read and Write (SSRW), and First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. Tiana also keeps a notebook to write her lessons in. 


Social Studies (2x a week): Listen to Audio CD Mystery of History Volume 1 and use Take It To Your Seat Geography Centers for Grades 1 and 2.

Art: Art Projects by Abeka Book Publishing and my own curriculum. She’s also taking art lessons. 


Music. Tiana is currently taking piano lessons.

PE. Tiana is doing ballet, swimming and tennis. 

TITUS, EDAN, AND ELIJAH – GRADE 3, 5, and 8 (4 to 5 hours/day)

For Bible and Character I continue to use the What We Believe Series by Apologia. This is my fourth year to invest in this series and it has personally impacted me as a parent and follower of Christ. 

My kids tease me because I often cry when I read the books in this series aloud. The foundational truths in this material are not just for my kids but for me, too. They anchor us as a family as we learn about what it means to have a Biblical worldview. 

The series contains the following (each book is equivalent to a year’s worth of Bible and character):

Who is God and Can I Really Know Him? 

Who am I and What Am I Doing Here? 

Who Is My Neighbor and Why Does He Need Me? 

What On Earth Can I Do? 

How do we cover each book? Traffic gives us plenty of time to do this. We have discussions about the content and then the kids fill in their corresponding notebooking journal. Only Titus uses the junior one since he is not yet ready to write long answers to comprehension questions. It takes about a month to go through each chapter (there are a total of eight per book), but it’s also possible to finish a chapter in half the time. I let the boys fill in their journals together so they can bounce ideas off one another and have their own conversations about what they learned. Plus, they enjoy competing to see who gets done first. 

I allot two to three days in the week to read through the material with the kids. This includes time to write in their journals. Of course this coursework is on top of their daily Bible reading. For our older sons, we encourage them to read through the Bible chronologically. 



Language Arts.
 Each of my boys is using a different material for this subject. 

I tested out Abeka on Titus. He needs more structure and drills so this one is working for him. My other boys probably won’t like it, but Titus is benefitting from the predictability and repetition. 

It’s a complete curriculum for language arts. I got the whole package for Grade 3. It’s pricey but I can reuse the readers.

Titus works on the writing and grammar daily. We skip some of the penmanship pages since I don’t think that we need to overemphasize handwriting. However it is beneficial for the research component. Titus has to answer questions that require him to refer to the back of the book which includes an encyclopedia-like pages. As for the spelling, Titus practices this once or twice a week. Thankfully, he doesn’t have too much trouble remembering spelling words for as long as he gets to review them ahead of time. However, his vocabulary needs improving since he isn’t as well-read as his older brothers. 

Therefore, I appreciate the leveled readers that come with Abeka Language Arts. They are challenging enough for him to read, as well as hold his interest. Furthermore, the readers focus on good values and character. At present, he is enjoying Pilgrim’s Progress and Swiss Family Robinson. 

As for the Read and Think Skill Sheets, these are timed comprehension tests that I administer once a week. 

Writing and Grammar:


Spelling and Poetry:


Leveled Readers:


Reading Comprehension:


Penmanship:



Edan is using Total Language Plus. It uses a literature-based approach to teaching grammar, writing, spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.


I also got IEW’s Student Writing Intensive Course for Elijah and Edan. Elijah uses Level C and Edan just started with Level A. They alternate this writing curriculum with their other language arts materials during the week besides their daily requirement of independent reading time.


Elijah has Bob Jones’ Excursions in Literature book for reading. It’s got great stories in it! Furthermore, the questions highlight critical thinking skills. Once to twice a week with this book is ample time to complete it during the year, but each sit down will require about forty-five minutes to an hour. 


I experimented with IEW’s Fix It! Grammar curriculum for Elijah this year. It’s tough! My mistake was failing to use this from the beginning so jumping into it was challenging. However, it is a very good grammar program. Instead of teaching grammar rules, it requires students to edit wrong texts and re-write them. 


Math. I stuck to the locally published Rex Singapore Math material for Edan and Titus, which I have used with my kids over the years. The only problem is that it can sometimes have errors in it. My kids tend to spot these inconsistencies as they go about their math work, but I like how the Primary Mathematics presents the concepts and gives ample exercises for practice and assessment. Each book comes with a teacher’s guide as well. 

New Syllabus Primary Mathematics Grade 3:

New Syllabus Primary Mathematics Grade 5:


Elijah uses Khan Academy. He is going through the eighth grade level as well as Algebra

Science. I am still a fan of Apologia Science books because they are creation-based. In the past I got the corresponding notebooks for Titus and Edan but my boys prefer doing the Knowledge Box Central Lapbooks

Like their Bible and character material, I read this one aloud to Edan and Titus in the car as well, and they do the lapbooking together. We spend two days a week covering science. 

Every year, I also purchase Nature’s Worshop Plus Lab Kits for my kids. These lab-kits-in-a-box make it so much easier for me because I don’t have to look for all the supplies for each experiment in the Eploring Creation Series. 

Knowledge Box Central Lapbook:



Nature’s Workshop Plus Lab Kit:

Elijah is doing Exploring Creation with Biology for his science. He also fills in the notebooking journal. I am so glad there is an option to buy tests and answer keys! 

Nature’s Workshop Plus Slide Kit for Biology:

Extra reading for Elijah from New Leaf Publishing – The World of Biology, and The Genesis of Germs:



History/Geography
. This is my fifth year using Mystery of History by Linda Hobar. I have tried Story of the World by Bauer and History Revealed by Warring. Both of these are very well-written history programs. However, Story of the World does not have a Christ-centric focus whereas Mystery of History does. As for Warring’s books, I prefer her History Audio CDs. She is a wonderful story-teller! 

Mystery of History Volume 2 Audio CDs (For Titus):


Mystery of History Volume 4 (For Edan and Elijah):

Art. The boys are taking art classes. 

Music. Elijah and Titus have violin classes and Edan is doing piano. 

PE. They do swimming and tennis, and play basketball at home. When I can get them to, they also go running with me. 

For Filipino and local social studies, they use Rosetta Stone for Filipino and I got them a bunch of books to read on Philippine History, Geography and Government. 



I also supplement math, English and social studies with time4learning.com for Tiana, Titus, and Edan.


Here are their daily schedules:



Whew. That’s a lot of info. If you have questions or clarifications, please feel free to message me. Let me end by saying that home education is an investment of time and resources. It’s can be the costliest education in the world because it requires total commitment and sacrifice but the results are worth it! 

First Homeschool Conference in Dubai

If you have friends and family who are interested in home education, please invite them to this first-ever homeschool conference in Dubai! This is one of the reasons why Edric and I are presently in Dubai with our kids. For more information please visit: http://homeschooling.ae/



Technology and Hands-on Learning

Last year I was introduced to a company called Smart Toys, a distributor of learning materials that combine technology and hands-on learning. One of their products is called Marbotic — learning materials that were created by “tech-lovers and education experts to blend traditional wooden toys and touchscreen technology.”

Smart Numbers teach kids to count using ten beautiful wooden numbers and three educational apps inspired by the Montessori method. Smart Letters combine three apps and twenty six wooden letters to help kids learn reading and writing.

Catalina tested the Smart Letters out and she thoroughly enjoyed taking each letter and placing it on the screen to hear it’s name, sound and discover what words begin with the letter.

Marbotic is unique because it engages children with tactile experiences as they learn, but it also harnesses the advantages of technology. Although it’s a little pricey, it’s one of those educational toys/materials that you can use with succeeding children. The wooden letters and numbers are well-made, sturdy, and don’t require batteries.


Children as young as one year old can handle these with supervision and by three they can learn independently.

I also asked my kids and their cousins to sample Smart Toys‘ 3D coloring books which come in four different titles–Dino, Ocean, Safari, Bird. After kids color the pictures, they can pair them with a free app that makes their art come to life.

Other notable educational products by Smart Toys are Augmented Reality (AR) Books. These AR books come to life when you scan them with your smartphone or tablet. There are seven titles — Dino, Ocean, Safari, Farm Animals, Bug, Herptile, and Birds. 

Kids can read about creatures come to life on a page! It’s augmented reality for educational purposes. 
As a homeschool mom, I am thrilled that there are so many materials out there that I can use to teach my kids. My mom taught my siblings and I using textbooks with newsprint pages. We survived and did fine because that’s all we really had to choose from. Today, however, homeschool parents have a plethora of options for every bent and interest of their children. This is the best time in the world to be a homeschooler! 

For more information on Smart Toys please contact 0917-8877959 or follow @smartoysph on Instagram. 

 

What Will it be Like to Live on Mars? 

On November 13, National Geographic Channel’s thought-provoking six-part series MARS premiered. MARS tells the story of mankind’s thrilling quest to colonize the Red Planet. 

This global television event redefines on-air storytelling by combining film-quality scripted drama and visual effects with a powerful documentary interviewing some of the best and brightest minds in modern science and innovation, including Elon Musk. (When I browsed through the website www.mars.natgeotv.com/hk I was like, wait, is this happening already?! Are we really creating a colony on Mars?!)


(Photo of Elon Musk. Source: Business Insider)

FOX Networks Group Asia’s SVP – Marketing & Communications for Asia Pacific and Middle East, Lucien Harrington says: ‘Living on Mars is an occurrence many think we won’t see in our lifetime, but the reality is actually very different. The show highlights the acceleration in thinking and technology on one side, and the need for a planet move in the future due to environment factors on earth, on the other. The experience that has been created brings certain elements of Mars to life, to educate particularly children, about what changes they will need to make and skills they will need to have. After all, they’ll likely be living there.’


FOX Networks Group’s National Geographic Channel encouraged me to ask my two older kids about what they thought it would be like for a colony to be realized on Mars. Since our kids enjoy Nat Geo’s channel often, we welcomed the opportunity as a privilege! Plus, it was a great way for them to think through their past Astronomy lessons.

Here’s what they said…

A Future Colony on Mars by Elijah and Edan 


I also asked them what past/present mistakes humans should avoid and their simple replies were…

1. Don’t use gas as a fuel source. Focus on hydrogen since its abundant and clean.

2. Don’t be selfish and use Mars for personal gain or glory.

3. Be conscious of proper waste disposal. 

4. Maximize resources like iron without abusing the planet. 

Here’s my personal opinion about colonizing Mars:

If we aren’t content with the earth that God gave us, we aren’t going to be content with the wonders of living on another planet either. And if we can’t take proper care of earth and rehabilitate it so that it is able to sustain life at optimum levels then we should be wise about the occupation of another planet. More space, more resources, and greater discoveries will not fix the main issues that face mankind. We are prone to selfishness and sinfulness, so we will take that with us to Mars, too. So as we celebrate the very real possibility that Mars can house a human colony, and applaud the science and technological advancements that have brought us to this point, let’s do our part. The scientists are making great sacrifices to create options for mankind, and we can dream with them and support their efforts by being responsible about the earth God gave us to live in. This will afford them the liberty and flexibility to explore space frontiers without being weighed down by the pressure of having to find solutions to humanity’s survival. 

For more about the show including the experts, actors and storylines, visit: www.mars.natgeotv.com/hk

The science and realism behind the series is fascinating! 

And if you’re up for learning more about your Red Planet readiness with your kids, visit www.makemarshome.com

When Teaching Math Makes Me Crazy

Arrrrrrggggghhhh. Teaching math to my five year old daughter makes me go crazy sometimes!

Why is it so hard for her to get math?! Is it me? Is it her? It’s flabbergasting!!!

After successfully teaching three boys basic math, I feel like she should be able to get it just as easily. But this hasn’t been the case. It’s been a challenging year trying to help her learn fundamental math skills.

This level of math is so elementary it frightens me to think of what it’s going to be like when we tackle more difficult skills. A few days ago, I called in reinforcements that came in the form of my husband, Edric. He very patiently asked her to bring her dolls into his study room so he could experientially demonstrate subtraction.

As I vented to him in private, he calmly reminded me, “This is exactly what you talk about in your seminars. Every child is different. Don’t compare. You are going to have to adjust your teaching style just like you tell parents to.”

He’s absolutely right. My problem is I want to be able to explain things to her a few times and expect that it converges sensibly in her brain. But it doesn’t. I know she doesn’t have a learning disability…although I have wondered if she does.

In fact, I looked up dyscalculia — a brain-based condition that makes it difficult to understand number sense and math concepts. It’s like missing the logic behind math. Yet Tiana doesn’t quite fit the definition of this disability.

At the end of the day, it’s me who has to change and improve my methods (and expectations). Children can’t be taught using a cookie-cutter approach.

The reality is, as Edric emphasized, each child is unique and different. Tiana needs more attention when it comes to math. I can’t breeze through material with her. Deep down, I know this. But two things poison my teaching:

1. Worrying that she will get left behind people her age.

2. Feeling too lazy to modify my teaching and present material creatively.

Why does #1 concern me? Because I am proud! I want my children to excel and be ahead of their peers. Yes, homeschool moms struggle with this, too!

But #2 is an issue because I am busy. When I get busy and when I feel harried, I don’t enjoy the process of learning and discovery. This is something I preach and believe in — make learning a lifestyle. However, when I am pressed by deadlines or when I have something else that is urgent, I rush through lessons with my kids.

After stepping back and evaluating why I was stressed and annoyed, I came to the conclusion that Tiana has no problems learning. Sure, she may take longer to “GET” certain concepts. But she can do it if I am committed to being the kind of teacher who truly enables her.

In a recent seminar I attended, I learned that the goal of teaching is life change. The goal of instruction is application. Until a person applies what you taught him or her, your job isn’t done as a teacher.

As a homeschool mom, this translates to this: Until my kids reach the point where they can confidently apply what they have learned, then I must remain committed to helping them do so. I cannot give up, quit, turn-over the responsibility, or resign to the frustration. If they don’t learn well it’s not my children’s fault. It’s mine — my perspective is wrong, my approach is not appropriate or effective, or I am focusing on my limitations and my child’s shortcomings.

So what am I going to do about it? Throw a book out a window, lose my temper, say mean things in my irritation, or crawl under a rock and say, forget it! (Those are some of things I feel like doing!)

I can’t do any of the above. That’s a defeatist mindset — the kind that is unproductive, unhealthy and damaging to my kids and me. So I praise God for Edric’s levelheadedness at the moment when I was about to lose it mentally and emotionally. He reminded me that I am responsible.

For Tiana, I can…

1. Use more hands-on experiences (i.e. games, manipulatives)

2. Connect math to life. Show how math can be applied to everyday situations (I.e. Baking, shopping)

3. Make math fun by being more creative in the way I present concepts and test for learning

4. Research on techniques to equip myself better

5. Be encouraging, positive, and patient

6. Pray!

For all my homeschooling friends out there and non-homeschooling friends, if you are a parent like me let’s say this together: WE ARE RESPONSIBLE.

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It’s no accident that God gave us the child or children we have with their strengths and weaknesses. That was His plan and design to teach us what it means to love and forgive unconditionally, to depend on Him, and to become more like Him in character.

Homeschooling is actually life-schooling for me! Everyday I need to work on my parenting skills and grow the fruit of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. (Galatians 2:22-23) I don’t think that non-homeschooling parents are exempted from this either.

Lastly, our relationship with our children is far more important than their academic perfection. At the end of everyday do our children know that we love them no matter what? Do they go to bed affirmed by this truth?

I will leave you with the lyrics of Sara Groves from her song, You Cannot Lose My Love. It’s about God’s love towards us but I want to be the kind of parent who sings the same message to my kids:

“You Cannot Lose My Love”

You will lose your baby teeth.
At times, you’ll lose your faith in me.
You will lose a lot of things,
But you cannot lose my love.

You may lose your appetite,
Your guiding sense of wrong and right.
You may lose your will to fight,
But you cannot lose my love.

You will lose your confidence.
In times of trial, your common sense.
You may lose your innocence,
But you cannot lose my love.

Many things can be misplaced;
Your very memories be erased.
No matter what the time or space,
You cannot lose my love.
You cannot lose,
You cannot lose,
You cannot lose my love.

Listen to Sara Groves’ song here

 

Global Home Education Conference

Edric and I will soon be in South America to attend the Global Home Education Conference (GHEC). Although I’m not thrilled about leaving our little ones behind, I also need to extract myself from my daily routine as a homeschooling mom, from my myopic perspective, and look at home education from a global perspective.

Edric is actually part of the GHEC board, a team of movers in home education around the world, who have been planning this event for the last 18 months.

What is the GHEC? 

GHEC 2016 is a leadership conference for policy makers, researchers, movement leaders, and parents interested in home education…The GHEC 2016 is a three-day event that brings together those with an interest in freedom of education and home education in particular to provide a stimulating environment to gather the best cross-section of research and to cultivate a commitment to parent-directed education. Home education highlights the most crucial factors in the freedom of education discussion. Who is responsible for education? What role do parents play in the education of their children? To what extent is the state responsible for education of children? Source: About GHEC

The last time I attended the GHEC in Berlin I learned so much from the speakers and connected with people from all around the world. It was inspiring, encouraging, and life-changing. One of the talks that I liked the most was given by child development psychologist, Dr. Gordon Neufeld. He gave the audience this thought-provoking question, “When did your child first fall in love with you?”

His point was: we can’t influence children if we don’t have their hearts. Furthermore, children don’t mature in a healthy way when they aren’t secure in their relationship with their parents. Read more about this in my article: Why Home Education Works

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This year I am looking forward to picking up more insights from veteran homeschoolers, policy makers, and influencers who are making an impact on education around the globe.

Somehow, I also became part of the workshop speaker’s pool to talk about the support systems that we need to make available to homeschooling families. It’s a super small role and I’m slightly terrified about it because it’s outside of my comfort zone to speak with amazing moms or people who have a lot more experience than I do. But Edric and I are here to serve. (He will be a speaker, too.)

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Please pray for me, that I will be a blessing and encourage the attendees with some practical wisdom (Edric, too). Furthermore, please pray that both of us bring glory to God. (Of course, please pray that we don’t get bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus!)

Why is the GHEC important to Edric and me? I will quote GHEC’s goal here:

The ability to choose home education is a right. It’s a right well-documented in international law. It’s our right as parents to direct the education of our children. And it’s the right of children to receive an individualized education experience that best suits their needs and goals.

This concept cuts across cultures, methods, and beliefs. It exists regardless of motivation or methodology in home education. This conference is a gathering for those who have an interest in engaging the important questions surrounding home education.

We are blessed to be able to home educate our children in the Philippines because the government is supportive of it. But we must seek to defend the rights of all families who want to choose home education for their own families and cannot because the laws of the land deprive them of this right. Furthermore, what affects one part of the world will eventually impact all of us. So this is for our children’s future, too.

If you want to attend the conference but can’t fly to Brazil to be there physically, you can catch the live stream.

I’ll try my best to post my learnings, too!

 

The Benefits of Group Learning

I think it’s possible to have the best of both worlds when you homeschool — customized and individualized instruction, as well as the advantages of group learning. For the former, there’s home. But for the latter, there’s our weekly coop.The easiest way to do this is to initiate activities that require children to gather together in groups to solve problems or work towards a goal. 

Our weekly coop is a mix of amazing moms who are talented, dedicated and generous with their time. Moms take turns teaching for a quarter then switch it up again. Personally, I feel that our older children probably get the most out of these weekly meetings because they are challenged and pushed in a positive way. 

When an oldest child is homeschooled, he is naturally top dog — the one whom siblings look up to and follow. Well, in a group setting with kids who are different ages, skilled in various ways, and opinionated, it’s good for their character development to learn to work together for common goals. Plus there’s the aspect of healthy competition.

At present, our older kids are taking up entrepreneurship, taught by Amanda Ross, and Make Your Own Country, facilitated by Andi Miller. The kids are especially enjoying the social studies one because it involves collaborating to create things like the name of a country, language, geography, history, commerce, etc. 

Interestingly, all of the alpha kids, the ones who like to take charge and give their opinions, were lumped together. And the other group was a mix of “calmer” students who were doers and knew how to organize themselves. The second group got more done and was many steps ahead of group 1. 

However, both sets of kids are benefitting from this activity. The aggressive and domineering ones are learning to put their ideas together and listen to one another to move towards a goal. And the more silent ones are learning to express themselves and give their inputs. Both must organize themselves and work as a team without parents hovering over them. 

   
 While it’s possible to homeschool without attending coops or playgroups, I do see the pros of allowing kids to connect with other children who will stretch their capacities, sharpen their minds, test their personalities, and not always agree with them. Character gets put to the test and friendships are forged as children get to bond with one another through by sharing challenges.

   
 Furthermore, everyone has the opportunity to shine and contribute without being under the shadow of their older siblings, which I have found to be true for my second son, Edan. 

    
 Edan was in group 2 and he stepped up to organize everyone. I don’t think this would have happened if he was in the same group as Elijah. And I am sure he is loving the fact that his team is, at present, “beating” his older brother’s. As for me, I am totally amused and thankful that our kids have other children to homeschool with and I have parents to share the journey with. 

If you aren’t in a coop yet, consider forming one with a few friends and then let it grow from there. Ours started out with a handful of moms who would meet in a park while our kids ran around to play, and now we have grown to a sizable number with sections for age groups and organized classes. We adjusted as our kids’ needs changed, and we continue to think through what we can offer them to maximize their time together. If you want to read more about how to set up a coop, check out my post: You Don’t Have To Know Everything. I included a section that details how to start one. 


Philippine Homeschool Conference 2015: Ready For the World!

Every homeschooling parent needs to recharge and revisit the commitment they have made to educate their children at home. Because we are in the trenches of teaching our children it’s difficult to see the bigger picture. Where are we headed? What is the goal? How do we navigate through the daily challenges without getting lost or discouraged?

Sometimes the best way to regroup is to take a pause from the homeschool teaching in order to be taught for a change! We need spiritual, emotional and intellectual feeding ourselves. The great teacher Howard Hendricks said, “The philosophy that you as a teacher should embrace is that you are a learner. Would you rather have your students drink from an overflowing living stream or a stagnant pool? What have you learned lately?” (Seven Laws of the Teacher)

As homeschooling parents, we need encouragement and fresh ideas, to correct our approaches and perspectives, or revisit the fundamentals that have gotten buried under our doings. Maybe we need to stop doing or start doing something. And of course, we always need more materials, books, resources, and curriculum. But, most of all, we need spiritual reviving from the Lord, and connectedness to other homeschoolers. In short, what we need is a homeschool conference that puts all these elements together for us!

This October 17, Homeschool Association of the Philippine IslandsManila Workshops and The Learning Basket bring you the largest homeschooling conference this year – “The Philippine Homeschool Conference 2015: Ready for the World!”

As a precursor to the “Global Home Education Conference” (GHEC) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in March 2016, two well-respected homeschool advocates and speakers from the United States will be gracing the event as keynote speakers: Michael Donnelly, Director for Global Outreach of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Secretary of GHEC 2016, and Rachael Carman, mother of seven and best-selling author and publisher of popular homeschool curriculum Apologia. Rachael’s husband, Davis, the President of Apologia, will be speaking as well.

Other speakers include Edric Mendoza (Homeschool advocate and host of ANC’s On the Money) who is my wonderful, and motivational speaker and wealth coach, Chinkee Tan.

Homeschoolers and those exploring this educational option will be inspired, informed and empowered in this biggest homeschooling event. Definitely bigger than the past years’ homeschool conferences, “Ready for the World!” will be held at THREE venues at SM Aura Premiere. Keynote talks will be held at the Samsung Hall, while smaller workshops and the much awaited homeschool expo will be at the SMX Convention Center.

An All Access Pass (pass to go in and out of all three venues, including the exposition venue) is at Php 1000 per person for the early bird rate. Aside from the inspiring talks, there will be a huge expo of the various learning providers, educational tools, toys, books, etc. that will help homeschooling parents and aspiring homeschooling parents in their daily lives. This expo will be open to the public for a minimal amount of Php 100 per head, but this fee is already included in the All Access Pass.

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Homeschool Association of the Philippine Islands (HAPI), a non-stock, non-profit advocacy of Filipino homeschoolers, together with Manila Workshops, a company dedicated to continuing education for professional and personal goals, and The Learning Basket, an advocacy that inspires parents to be their children’s first and best teacher, offers an event jam-packed with information and inspiration about homeschooling that will help parents get their kids ready for the world.

To register, please visit: Manila Workshops

For inquiries, please contact: manilaworkshops@gmail.com

Visit http://facebook.com/manilaworkshops or Instagram @manilaworkshops for updates and info.