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.

Time to Play 

Nothing trumps nature as the best setting for free play, also known as unstructured play. Several years back my kids went to Disney Land and Universal Studios in California but their favorite vacation memories revolved around visits to the park and Lake Tahoe, where they enjoyed hours of romping around the snow. 

Recently, we traveled to Dubai, and as much as they enjoyed all the amusement parks and touristy locations, the desert proved to be top on their list of places we visited. What did they do in the desert? They scaled the dunes and rolled down them! 

In the Philippines, their destination of choice is the beach. But of course! We have the best beaches in the world! 

For my kids, there is never enough time spent on the sand and swimming in the sea. 


Over the weekend, we went to Acea in Subic Bay. It’s a newly opened resort and still working through its birthing pains in the area of customer service. Yet, the place is beautiful, the ala carte meals delicious, and the staff are helpful and friendly. Besides the swimming amenities, there’s a gym and an indoor play place for the kids. Kids will not be bored. 


Furthermore, one of the owners is from the same church we go to so yes, I am biased. We like this place a lot! 


The kids hit the water as soon as we arrived and they were happy as can be, building their sand structures, throwing sand bombs at one another, and paddling in the sea. Acea also had a large pool and outdoor kiddie splash area which my youngest, Catalina, kept returning to. 

Had it not been for the severity of the sun at certain hours and the need to eat meals, I would have let the kids stay out all day. Even Eljah, as a fourteen year old, relapsed into early childhood with a shovel in hand, digging into the sand. The boys pounded one another and their friends with sand balls. There was no point to the game except to revel in the satisfaction of hitting their targets. A few adults chided them when their bombs accidentally hit innocent bystanders and swimmers. Yet, all in all, it was good and clean childhood fun. No adults dictated their activities or rules of play, but watchful moms kept a lookout for everyone’s safety. (And some of us played ourselves…beach volleyball versus men and well, we won! He he…When Edric joined our team.) 





Why is free play so beneficial to kids? 

First, it contributes to their healthy social development. They have to cooperate with one another, practice communication skills, deal fairly, and manage their emotions when they win, lose, or encounter difficult personalities. 

They also implore creative problem solving. How do you create a sand castle that will withstand the rising tide (if that is even possible)? How deep a hole do you need to dig to create a protective moat around your castle? What makes a sand bomb effective? Kids think through questions like these as they play.  So their brains, along with their bodies, must commit to resolving the challenges they face. 

Kids discover their unique bents and talents when they play, too. I know Titus is a tinkerer because he gravitates towards activities that involve building, dismantling, and figuring out how things work. As for Edan, he is a natural-born leader. When he plays, he gives other kids roles and responsibilities, and he comes up with rules and mechanics to create order. He likes being in charge. Tiana enjoys cleaning up. She feels a deep sense of gratitude when mess is managed. Elijah is a problem-solver. When a challenge presents itself during play, he thinks of mathematical or scientific solutions. Catalina can be very helpful when she is assigned a task by her siblings that makes her feel included in their play.  

I believe play makes kids smarter, too, and it allows children to discover who they are and whom God made them to be. Play gives children the opportunity to apply what they learn. It’s experience-based learning which is far more effective than filling in worksheets and answering test questions. Furthermore, when kids realize their limitations and capacities through play, they grow to understand themselves better. What are they good at? What can they improve on? 

The act of playing, which usually means they are having loads of fun, motivates them to see how far they can go in order to accomplish their goals. Whether it’s exerting themselves physically or mentally, kids are inclined to persevere because play is delightful. Titus figured out how to bike without training wheels, snowboard, roller blade, and use the scooter in a span of two weeks when we were in the U.S. for Christmas. He fell down and injured himself but he got right back up to pursue his goal, learning how to balance.

It is during play that children form cherished memories of their childhood as well. Whenever I reminisce about my younger years, it is the hours of play that I remember best. I developed a deep attachment to my home and my family because of our play times together. 

How sad to hear of children who have nothing left of the weekday to enjoy playing because of the time spent going to and from school, in school, and attending afte-school tutoring sessions. That’s not the kind of childhood our children ought to have. And it’s no wonder why they can’t wait for summer! 

I am not saying that kids shouldn’t work hard to get a good education. Yet, I wonder if we have tilted the balance too far in the direction of classroom-based academic rigor, where learning goals and parameters are dictated upon kids rather than allowing children to be in environments where they learn through play. Personally, I feel that there is something disturbingly unnatural about a childhood without the joys of unstructured play. 

What do you think? 

I Threw a Pencil, Ripped a Page, and Slammed the Door

So today I actually lost it, like really lost it as I was teaching math to my daughter, Tiana. She couldn’t grasp regrouping for addition, and even with the use of manipulatives and lots of reviewing to help her get it, our lesson turned into a massive fail because of my outburst. 

First, I threw a pencil at the window. Every one of my kids saw this. That was after lesson # 1 with Tiana. I apologized and replaced the pencil, mumbling some excuse to justify my annoyance.
We even prayed together and asked for the Lord to fill all of us. I confessed my anger to my kids aloud and asked for their forgiveness. 

Truthfully, I wasn’t really sorry. I probably should have abandoned the work Tiana had to do for about an hour to get a grip of my emotions. But I persisted, demanding that she finish the two pages of math work assigned for the day. Therefore the worst was yet to come.

By the time we got to the practice bit of the lesson, Tiana blanked out and forgot what to do… AGAIN. By this time, she most likely sensed my irritation growing by the way I sighed loudly and convoluted my face, like I was incredulous that something so simple could be so difficult for her. So when the mounting pressure of anger reached its climax, I pressed hard with her pencil and circled one of the numbers I wanted her to pay attention to…like twenty times! Then I stood up, absolutely peeved, grabbed her book in my hands and ripped the page we were supposed to work on next, yelled out in exasperation, and stormed out of the homeschool room. When I got to my bedroom I intentionally, as well as forcefully, slammed my bedroom door to emphasize how mad I was.

Throwing myself onto my bed, I cried out, “I can’t do this, Lord! I have had it! I give up! I can’t homeschool her! I don’t know what to do!”

After some minutes of my face plastered against my pillow, sobbing over my failure, and my body lying prostrate on the bed, reality jolted me out of my delirium. I knew that I had to get back to the kids. Hello! I was their teacher! I couldn’t leave them in our “classroom” and abandon my responsibilities. More importantly, they needed to hear an apology from me. Another one. A real one. I behaved like an emotionally immature adult and without a doubt, deeply wounded them. This moment needed repairing.

So I collected myself, and walked back to the homeschool room. Tiana was curled up beside Catalina, who broke the silence. “Mommy, will you forgive Tiana?” 

Forgive Tiana?! She had it all mixed up.

“Catalina, mommy was the wrong one. Will you forgive me?” 

I had to ask for forgiveness from all of them, especially when Tiana tearfully explained, “Mom, I-I-I felt bad because you were frustrated and ran to your room. I cried.”

Pulling her to myself, unable to give any sort of defense for my actions, I hugged and kissed her tightly. 

“I was so wrong, Tiana. Will you please forgive me. I am so sorry. I was a bad example.” 

Tiana nodded kindly and managed to smile. I didn’t deserve that smile. It was generous, forgiving, trusting. I know she meant it. 
We resumed with extra math practice, but I was guilt-ridden. The rest of the morning, I didn’t want to homeschool.

At some point, the kids, bless their hearts, sought to assist me. They took over the base ten rods and blocks and proceeded to explain the concept of adding to Tiana, encouraging her and patiently going over each problem she had to solve. 

I grabbed my phone to call Edric. He listened as I quietly begged, “Please come home early today. I need you. I lost it.” 

He knew what I meant and chuckled. This wasn’t the first time. I have marched into his study room in the past ranting in exasperation about how hard it is to teach math to Tiana. 

“Okay,” He replied reassuringly, promising to head home as soon as he could. 

I felt him smiling at the other end of the phone. He didn’t mean to belittle my emotions. But in the midst of a major decision he needed to make about the business today, my issue probably seemed almost cute to him. 

Yet it wasn’t. There wasn’t anything cute about my outburst.

Truthfully, I hated myself this morning. I hated homeschooling. I hated Tiana’s math book and the inconvenience of having to teach something over and over again in futility.  I felt like I was a total failure as a mom and wondered if homeschooling is worth it. 

Why do I have to agonize over teaching when I can send my kids to school and let their education be an institution’s problem…not mine?

In fact, moments after I spoke to Edric on the phone, I messaged him, proposing that I should send Tiana to school so that I can avoid getting angry because I don’t want to hurt her emotionally. I have never suggested this about any of my kids. Sure, I have felt irritated at each one of my children for various reasons, but I have never felt such an intense frustration to the point that I want to throw objects, bang my head against the wall, jump up and down, break a pencil, tear a book in half, or scream at the top of my lungs just to let all the internal pressure out! It’s like those moments in the movies when a character is seated across another person, staring at them expressionlessly, seemingly calm on the outside, but then you get to peer inside the character’s mind and see them role-playing all kinds of violent scenes! 

The Bible says, “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

My anger didn’t inspire Tiana to try harder. It just made her feel insecure and incapable. Letting out all that pent up anger didn’t make me feel the relief I wanted to feel, either. And now the kids have a bad memory about mommy that they may well remember into their adulthood. 

In fact, Edan remarked, “Now, you have two things you’ve done in anger that we will remember.” (He was referring to one other incident some years ago when I threw a box of math manipulatives onto the floor, which terrified all of them.)

Edan also admitted as the hour was approaching noon, “Mom, when you are not happy, none of us feel happy.” 

Titus said, “Mom, I prayed for you, and I cried a little when you got mad.” 

Elijah added, “I was actually scared. And I was sad, and I knew you had a problem.”

When I got the chance to speak with Edric over dinner, he listened very understandingly to my narrative, but his take on the matter was this, “This is God’s way of humbling you. This is an opportunity to be dependent on Him.”

He’s right. Home schooling is hard work. It is miserably difficult sometimes, and mostly because parenting and homeschooling are interconnected and you have to be intentional about the former to be good at the latter. Home schooling magnifies your flaws and makes you realize how much you need the Lord, that you can never do it well for each child, through every season and for all the years that you do it apart from Him. The best homeschooling days are the ones when I remember this. The worst ones, like today, are the ones when I try to force my kids to learn and push them for the wrong reasons, mostly selfish ones.  

However, I will end by talking about how beautiful God’s grace is. Tiana returned to her cheerful self the rest of the day, almost like she forgot what happened. I’m sure she didn’t, she hasn’t, but I praise God for the opportunity to repair my mistake later on in the day. This is one of the reasons why home schooling has made such a positive difference in our family – the kids and I have so much time together, to build and rebuild our relationship. I had the rest of the day to hug, kiss, and affirm Tiana. By the evening, we prayed together and she fell asleep peacefully, knowing she was loved and treasured by me.

As for my four other kids (especially my two older ones), they were strangely comforted by my display of weakness. After I asked for forgiveness, one of them confessed, “You know, mom, I also feel mad at times and I can relate with how you felt.”

In other words, we get it, mom, none of us are perfect, we struggle with the same things.

Edric also came to my rescue (and Tiana’s), offering to help teach Tiana addition and subtraction. He knows how to add the element of fun in his instruction and not take the obstacles too seriously. Yeah!

I have to believe that God can still use a bad incident like this and use it for good in our homeschool journey. I’m ashamed about what happened, but I thought to share it as a reminder to myself that home schooling on my own power isn’t enough. On a practical level, I also need to walk away, maybe get a glass of water, say a quick prayer, breathe in deeply, or hum a happy tune when I feel the frustration rising in me so I don’t get to the point where I lose it on my kids. 

Is it just me? Can you all relate somehow? 
 

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

Homeschool Global is in Cebu!

Homeschool Global (formerly TMA Homeschool) has a hub in Cebu, thanks to homeschooling parents, Jojo and Niña Tiongco. Burdened to provide homeschool services to fellow Cebuanos and those in the Visayas region, they decided to create a space where families can gather, attend seminars and trainings, access books and materials, and have portfolio reviews for homeschooling students. They teamed up with early childhood education consultant and baker extraordinaire, Mae Villarin, as well as Mayor Gungun Gica, his wife, Shai, and Steve and Marge Si. Together, they are committed to supporting homeschoolers and creating a community for them.

My honey, Edric.

With Margie Si


Steve and Marge Si 

Jojo Tiongco

Mae Villarin 


Mayor Gungun Gica


I was amazed at how large the place was, and how homey it felt. There’s a cafe with Mae’s delicious desserts. Kids can hang out in the library area, and play with other homeschoolers.


This hub also carries educational and art materials for parents to purchase.

Parents may utilize the kitchen and reception area for their kids’ reviews, enrichment classes, and cooperative meetings. 


If you are in Cebu and considering homeschooling or you are homeschooling, you may want to visit this hub to connect with other families and receive support services to help you homeschool better!  

For more information on homeschooling in the Visayas see Cebu Daily News

Creative Play Unboxed

I always enjoy new finds that can enhance my kids’ homeschooling experience. Last week, I met Stefanie Lim at a speaking engagement I was at, and she handed me a box called Oli Boxship as a gift for my kids. Stefanie’s the co-founder of Oli’s Boxship, which is a box of craft surprises delivered to your door, for kids ages 4 to 9. 

The idea behind Oli’s Boxship is igniting creative play and educating children about science, language, math, and social studies at the same time. 


The box we received covers the five senses. It came with all the materials we needed and a story book, too!


Everything in the box is neatly packaged by activity. There is also a booklet of instructions to guide kids.



My kids haven’t done the projects yet but they are excited to! So I am planning to use the box as a reward at the end of our homeschooling week.

I also checked out Oli Boxship’s subscription options and I have attached them below: 


For more information, you may also contact:

Math and Mommy Meltdowns

I can’t remember a time when I’ve cried in front of my children because I was so frustrated with homeschooling. But I suppose there is a first time for everything.

Two weekends ago, I attended the Philippine Homeschool Conference. The Monday after, I was full of hopeful expectation. After listening to inspiring talks and workshop speakers, I eagerly began the week thinking that all would go well. Furthermore, our family housed one of the speakers – a pastor who told endless stories about parenting and homeschooling his 10 kids. (Yes, 10.) His wonderful recollections about their farm life and the Christ-centered culture of their family fueled me with aspirations about the kind of homeschooling experience Edric and I ought to have with our kids.

However, on Monday my kids woke up de-motivated, disinterested, and difficult to teach. The older boys whined about the amount of work they had to get done. Tiana struggled with comprehension issues as we did her Singapore math.

I know the bonds thing can be difficult to understand in Singapore Math (like when you separate 10s from 1s when you are subtracting), but I thought for sure Tiana would have at least remembered what “ + “ and “ – “ mean. We had been doing addition and subtraction for a while so it surprised me when I asked her simple questions like, “So what’s 7 – 2?” and she answered with uncertainty, guessing her way to the right solution.

This went on for a few more math problems. And she kept confusing addition and subtraction and couldn’t add past 10. Then she forgot what the = sign stood for, too. My thought bubble was, You’re kidding me. This isn’t happening! Arghhh!!!

My other kids heard the stress in my voice as I interrogated Tiana several times. “Why can’t you get it? You know this already. This is not complicated.”

I wanted to scream but of course I couldn’t do that. During the conference I gave a seminar along side my mom about laying the right foundation for homeschooling and I encouraged parents not to yell at their kids…primarily because it renders us ineffective at teaching them to love God due to hypocrisy. So the frustration emerged via my tears. Burying my face in my arms and laying my head on the table, I busted out crying.

The room turned quiet. Seeing me cry while teaching was peculiar for my kids to witness. There was a moment when no one knew how to respond. Everyone paused what they were doing until I lifted my head, tears running down my cheeks and declared, “I’m a horrible teacher! I don’t know what to do! I can’t teach well. Tiana just can’t get it and I don’t understand why…” Part of me mouthed this out just to get my children’s sympathy and attention. This isn’t a tactic I recommend to homeschooling parents because it can be manipulative.

Poor Tiana looked on, no doubt embarrassed that I singled her out like this in front of her siblings, and shocked that her math book brought me to tears. My boys felt anxious and attempted to comfort me.

Elijah patted my back with one arm, and stretched out the other arm like a shield to ward off Catalina who was fast approaching me. “No, don’t disturb, mommy, Catalina.” He motioned to give me space.

Edan whispered, “I’ll help teach her, mom,” and he began to fold white paper to make flashcards for her. (What a sweetie!)

How could I react this way to such tender-hearted children? I love my kids. I love them even if they don’t “perform” academically. But I certainly didn’t make Tiana feel that way. And I’m sure the boys were burdened with guilt for complaining about their homeschool work that morning.

It didn’t make sense to continue math lessons with Tiana, especially on the topic of addition and subtraction using bonds, so I asked her to take a break. (Later on, I had to talk with her and apologized for hurting her feelings.) We all dismissed for lunch not too long after and I had time to process what triggered my meltdown.  

Maybe you can relate…

1. My expectations were high having come from the Philippine Homeschool Conference over the weekend. I wanted my kids to behave like perfect students – good attitudes, energized, and eager to listen to me and to learn. When they fell short of this expectation, I felt resentful.

2. I was relying on myself. I didn’t pause to pray or seek help from the Lord when the frustration built up. Had I translated circumstances from a spiritual perspective, I would have concluded that this was an opportunity to beseech the Lord and humble myself.

3. Tiana was being pressured to do math work that she wasn’t ready for. Even if it was required of her level, she simply hadn’t had enough concrete reinforcement for learning addition and subtraction, and she hadn’t had enough practice. Instead of insisting that she remember and “get it,” I should have said, “It’s okay, let’s do some reviewing first and then we will return to this lesson.”

Well, the next day, that’s exactly what I did. I set Tiana’s required math book aside. Eventually I intended to come back to it, but we needed to take a few steps back to give her more time to get comfortable with counting (backwards and forwards), and easy addition and subtraction.

Amazingly, she breezed through the work I gave her to do without needing much supervision from me. After a few days of remedial lessons she no longer confused her addition and subtraction symbols and she very ably solved her math problems.

Ironically, I advise parents to do the same thing when I give seminars on homeschooling. Don’t ignore the gaps in your child’s learning. Mind these gaps and backtrack if necessary. However, I wasn’t willing to take this advice myself! I wanted Tiana to be like her brothers, who easily understood arithmetic at her age. But God designed her differently. It’s me who has to adjust and accommodate her uniqueness, and to appreciate the pace at which she is learning concepts and skills.

Although we normally perceive U-turns and backtracking as inconvenient interruptions on the way to our academic goals, sometimes our kids need to go backwards in order to move forward. When our kids feel lost and insecure about tackling a lesson because they don’t have foundational skills or a solid grasp of the content to go further, then it’s our job to equip them by patiently addressing their gaps so they can progress towards where they ought to be. It’s a deterrent to their progress to force them to learn what they are not prepared to. And it drives us nuts to do so anyway!

To deal with the issue of my other kids who were complaining that Monday, I finally printed out their revised weekly schedules so they know exactly what to expect each day of the week. I’ve thought through the mix of activities and lessons they have to cover as well, so there is a good mix of rigor and fun.

How about me? What can I improve on as a homeschooling mom? I can think of 10 things! But I will focus on the one issue that is related to my Monday experience. I shouldn’t get my sense of identity or self-worth from homeschooling. Even though I’m so invested as a mom, putting in the time and making sacrifices to teach my kids, I shouldn’t let the outcome of each homeschooling day dictate my joy and peace. There will be good days and bad days. Therefore, joy and peace ought to flow from my relationship with God, resulting in my ability to channel these to my children so I can bless them and minister to them. Then I can teach them the way I ought to even when the circumstances aren’t favorable.

More importantly, my job is not to churn out trophy kids as a tribute to myself. My job is to teach them what it means to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to model this everyday. It is to train them and prepare their hearts and minds to serve God and His purposes.


In light of these aims, what is one Monday when my daughter can’t understand her Singapore Math or my kids groan over their books? Rather than shedding dramatic tears to express my frustration because my children aren’t doing what I want them to, these instances provide me with an opportunity to ask God to show up and take over. If I let Him take over me and take over my kids then He accomplishes His agenda for that day, and it becomes a good day!

Over the past week and a half, I haven’t seen exceptional homeschool days. It’s still hard work to homeschool five kids. But God has saved me from math meltdown situations because I’ve changed my perspective. There may be homeschooling obstacles too big for me, but certainly not for Him! Let’s rest in that thought, moms!

When Older Boys Are Uninspired to Study 

Friday morning started out like pulling teeth from my two older sons. Elijah and Edan grumbled, complained, and resisted being told what to do for their homeschooling work today. I have encountered moments like this before and it’s never easy to think through how I should respond. Part of me wanted to lay down the hammer and bully them into obeying. The other part knew there were better ways to inspire the right behavior in them. 

I invited them into their bedroom for a conference. “You (Elijah) and you (Edan), in the bedroom now.” 

They didn’t resist and followed me into their room where I motioned for them to sit across from me on one end of Titus’ bed. I took the other end. 

“What’s the problem, boys?” I asked this in the most gentle way I could.

One replied, “My work is too hard.” 

“Is that the real problem? What’s the REAL problem?” 

“We have a bad attitude?”

“Nope. That’s a problem but that’s not the REAL problem.” 

I paused, hoping they would apply some critical thinking and accurately assess themselves. Their mopey faces told me they weren’t going to get to that point. So, I volunteered the answer. 

“The real problem is what’s going on in your hearts. I don’t want to force you to do your work. Your motivation should be to please God.”

By then Edan was tearing, half-concealing his face behind a pillow. Elijah struggled to keep himself together.

I didn’t want to lecture too much, but I had to add, “The second thing is, you need to develop the discipline of hard work. Pushing yourself to accomplish a task is good for your character. Don’t expect your responsibilities to always be easy. Someday when you are older, you can’t run away from hard work, you can’t just give up on tasks. So you need to train yourself now.”

The boys were stewing in their emotions. They didn’t like that statement. I let them be and encouraged them to take some time to pray. “Come back to the study room when you are ready, with the right heart and attitude, and with a smile. Until then, just stay here and talk to the Lord. It’s okay to take your time.” 

I hugged them and returned to the rest of my kids. 

Although I refrain from shouting at my kids when they are difficult to teach, I do feel like crying and locking myself in my room to have a pity party at times. It hurts and saddens me when they are disrespectful or demotivated. 

However, homeschooling can’t be about me, even though I would like to voice that out and say, “Look, it’s not easy for me to homeschool five of you. I get tired and upset, and there are days when I don’t feel like it, so get over your attitudes and do what I ask you to!” 

Although it’s tempting to yell that out, I absolutely can’t. I mean, I can, but it won’t address the real heart issues in my kids. Slouchy postures, groans, huffing and puffing, complaining, and smart-alecky responses from them incite my irritation but I have to quell this in favor of a spirit-filled reaction. Thankfully, my kids don’t act out their negativity often, but there are days when I have to force the anger down so I can effectively disciple my kids.

One of the biggest factors influencing my desire to control the anger is this: I don’t want to model hypocrisy to my kids. I don’t want to tell my kids to love God and obey God, and then yell at them in frustration because they aren’t homeschooling in the manner I expect them to. Hypocrisy snuffs out faith in children. 

I wish I could claim to have a spotless record with my kids…that they have never seen me lose my temper. However, I can’t truthfully say that. 

There are days when I get annoyed at Tiana for forgetting what I have taught her, when I lecture Titus for failing to stay focused, when I let out an exasperated sigh because Catalina is disturbing the quiet, or when I threaten my older boys with confiscated gadgets to manipulate them into compliance. I praise God these unkind reactions aren’t the norm, and that’s because of Christ and not me. But my kids have witnessed enough evidence to conclude that their mom has her character flaws! 

Howeber, I praise God that He calms me down with the reminder that I am called to be an example to my kids. He also brings to my attention passages like, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs‬ ‭15:1‬) 

More importantly, the WHY of my homeschooling supersedes the day to day upsets of unmet academic goals and unfulfilled expectations. If I succeed at educating my kids in the head but fail to instruct their hearts then I fail them as a homeschool mom. My greater purpose for homeschooling my kids is to teach them to love God and to glorify Him which is why stressful encounters with my kids can’t bring out the monster in me!

So my encouragement to all homeschooling moms out there is to welcome the interruptions that require us to address the heart issues in our kids. Although our instinct may be to resent them, these are opportunities that God brings our way to accomplish the greater work we have as mothers. By God’s grace, the boys came back to diligently finish their work with good attitudes after they prayed and sorted through their emotions. So the academics did get done in the end but not at the expense of my relationship with my kids or their relationship with the Lord. 

“When it comes to my children, my ultimate goal for them is heaven, not Harvard. If they go to the latter on their way to heaven, that’s great. But if I reverse that equation, I’ve failed them.” ~Barbara Frank

First Grade Curriculum

Tiana started First Grade this September and I have customized her curriculum based on what she is inclined to and how she learns. She is still an emerging reader and she also needs grounding in her math skills. Plus, she has a short attention span when I read aloud to her. But she does great with workbooks, writing work and drawing. And she enjoys art a lot. 

If your child is similar, maybe this list will give you ideas for your first-grader: 

Bible Theology: 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. 


Bible Reading: Tiana can do this independently or read aloud to me. (6x a week)

Math: Primary Mathematics by Rex Publishing available through Learning Plus. Cover 3 to 4 pages a day and supplement with Time4Learning.com (3 -to 4x a week.)

Science: (2x a week) Go through Discovering God’s World Science by Abeka Publishing and do Interactive Science Notebook



Tuesday night devotions: God’s Names by Sally Michael (Edric will read to all the kids on and discuss.) 

Language Arts (4x a week): 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. 


Filipino (2x a week): Rosetta Stone program for all my kids. This is pricey but it can be used  for my five kids. 


Social Studies (2x a week): Listen to Audio CD Mystery of History Volume 2 with Titus. 


Art: Art Projects by Abeka Book Publishing and my own curriculum. 


Music: Piano lessons with Learning Plus

PE: Ballet with Learning Plus

Tiana takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to finish her homeschooling work. She is usually done by lunch. In the afternoon she has lots of play time and she practices her piano.