He Pulled Off A Mannequin Hand Again

Titus’ mechanical ability is escalating in power, kind of like Elsa’s freezing ability grew stronger in the movie, Frozen. Almost everyday he will dismantle something. Today it was the hand of a mannequin at a souvenir shop in Puerto Princesa. He looked up at Edric from under a table holding half the arm of a mannequin.

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When he does things like this and I ask him why, his usual response is, “I want to see how it works,” or “I want to see what is inside.”

As a mom I don’t want to punish his desire to learn or quell his curiosity. So my challenge is to keep him productively busy. Here are some ideas that have worked:

Sand. (Explore Sandbox sent me a kit with sand in it. It’s a very soft sand that doesn’t get stuck under my children’s nails.) Titus has asked to play with this almost daily since he got it.

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Clay or play dough. I prefer play dough because it feels nicer and smells better, but whenever the kids leave it out it hardens. Plus it’s more expensive. Clay, on the other hand, is so reasonable and it will stay mailable for a long while even if it is uncovered.

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Mining Kits or Digging for Treasure Kits (available at Toy Kingdom or Toys R Us)

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Paper folding. Elijah, my eldest, was the first to get into origami. But his brothers are interested in it too. They learn from Elijah and invent their own folds as well. One of their favorite things to fold is paper airplanes. Titus can spend a long time making planes and throwing them off the balcony.

A bicycle. Edric needs to replace Titus’ old one which we sold at a recent garage sale. When we move to our new house he will get one. In the meantime, he has been pretty content peddling around on his cousins’ bike.

A pet. When my mom had a kitten, Titus would play with it as often as he could. As a child, I had all kinds of pets, too. Most of the day I was outdoors with my monkey and dogs. I learned how to be a responsible pet owner. When Titus is a little older he will be ready to have a pet, too.

Scratch art. I used to order these from the US. But they have something similar that is available at National Bookstore. Kids take a scratch pen and use the friction to reveal colors under the black paper.

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Art supplies like paint, glue, scissors, hole punchers, staplers, tape. Titus spends hours drawing and making works of art. I often have to replace the art supplies in our home but I don’t mind. If my kids are inspired to create it’s worth it! I am so glad Art Attack sells products at National Bookstore, too!

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Cooking and baking. My kids enjoy cooking and baking. They had a couple of sessions at the Cookery Place in Fort which they thoroughly enjoyed. But when they are interested, I let them cook and bake with me. Titus especially likes making sugar cookies because he can cut out the dough and decorate with icing.

Old boxes, sticks, rocks, coins, marbles, plastic cups, leaves, toilet paper tubes, paper, string, and even dirt! When a child’s time is not cannibalized by gadgets, computers and television, they can make anything into a toy or source of entertainment. The other day, Titus brought me a plastic cup with flowers, rocks and leaves in it. It was a beautiful arrangement that he put together himself. My kids enjoy hanging out at our construction site playing in the dirt. (But I am one of those moms who is okay with dirt.)

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Making tents or forts. On certain days the kids take blankets, sheets and pillows and make tents or forts in their room. Even if it makes a big mess, I am all for it. I used to do this when I was a kid.

Dress up. Girls aren’t the only ones who like dressing up and role playing. My boys like it too. They have a container with wigs, clothes, swords, and other items they can use for costumes. They have put on “plays” and performances for us several times.

Swimming. I don’t know any kid who doesn’t like to swim. Over the past two months we have been to several beaches and visited a number of pools. They can spend all day swimming if we let them.

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Playgrounds and open space. Kids, especially boys, need to expend their energy. When we aren’t traveling, we encourage our children to walk to the park and exercise almost daily. It helps that their cousins are nearby so they usually go together. By the time they come home they are ready to eat, too!

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Science experiments. I let Titus participate in our human anatomy experiments even if this isn’t a required subject for him.

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Exploring with a flashlight. I got the kids color coded flashlights for their Christmas stockings. We don’t always take walks at night, but when we do, they can bring their flashlights with them and look for night creatures.

“Mix-mix.” Sometimes, I hand Titus and Tiana a simple mixing bowl with a variety of items on hand, like a cup of flour, water, sugar, soy sauce, etc. I let them mix everything together, using measuring spoons and cups, and a wooden spoon as their mixer and they have a blast.

Sports. Currently, Titus is enrolled in a Muai Thai class with his older brothers. It was Edric’s idea to get the boys into a martial arts class so they can protect one another and their sisters. I especially agree with the latter.

Learn a musical instrument. Following in the footsteps of Elijah and Edan, Titus is learning violin. We have violins for every age so we just pass them down as our kids grow to save money. He used to tinker with their violins but now he can have one of his own and put it to good use.

Young children, especially the wiggly ones like Titus benefit from activities that encourage productive play and hands-on learning. Otherwise, they get their hands into everything, even things you would rather they avoid! So they need opportunities to learn, build, create, explore, and invent in order to channel their energy and intelligence in positive ways. As a general rule, with Titus, what works is providing an environment that allows freedom within boundaries.

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Real Socialization

Do homeschooled children know how to relate to other children? A lot of parents ask this when they are considering homeschooling.

From an outsider’s perspective, I get it. Homeschoolers seem weird. They are at home while most children sit in populated (and sometimes overpopulated) classrooms at school. To a certain extent, homeschoolers appear to be cut-off from daily contact with their peer-aged counterparts.

But over the years of homeschooling I have learned a couple of things about children and socialization, particularly homeschooled children and how they relate to others, that will dispel the notion that they are socially-starved.

Recently, I was having a conversation with my eldest son, Elijah, who shared that people who talk to him about homeschooling almost always ask if he has any friends.

Out of curiosity I asked, “What do you say?”

“I tell them I have SO many friends! I have playgroup and coop friends, friends in my music and pe classes, and bible study friends.”

Whew.

Most homeschoolers have a network of relationships like Elijah described. They may not have typical same age, uniform social class groupings that would be more common for school-based kids. Instead, they often have friends of varied ages and backgrounds who give them a richer context for social development.

In our playgroup, for instance, my kids interact with girls and boys ages 0 to 15 years old. We represent different ethnicities and we bring our kids together on a weekly basis. Our kids look forward to this time of socialization. And of course, as moms, we look forward to the fellowship. We are like a community of families with distinct heritages, experiences, values, and expertise. So our kids learn to adjust and get along with all kinds of people and accommodate what is not familiar, too.

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I am not one of those homeschoolers who isolates her children from other kids. (Some families can be extreme, but most aren’t.) However, I am particular about whom they spend a lot of time with. Unlike a school, where parents can’t pick their children’s friends, homeschool parents can.

Some may argue that this isn’t representative of reality. Shouldn’t children learn to deal with the daily stress of bullies, peer pressure, and survival-of-the-fittest sort of scenarios?

Oh come on! Is there any parent who really believes this is going to do their child any good? Haven’t we instead seen good kids physically and emotionally wounded by the bad ones, and the bad ones spawn evil clones of themselves?

So no, I don’t think it is beneficial to subject my kids to that sort of daily social stress. Instead, I believe in teaching my children to respond appropriately and positively to people who are unkind and ill-mannered. Whether they are in school or not, my kids encounter bullies or socially disruptive sort of children. Edric and I explain to them that these kids probably don’t know Jesus and we ask our kids to model kindness and goodness to them. Since they aren’t perpetually subject to negative social experiences, they aren’t likely to adapt other children’s bad behavior or be harmed by them. But these instances give Edric and I enough of a chance to help our kids process what the proper, Christ-centered response ought to be.

I have to admit that it’s not easy to tell our kids not to fight back and take an eye for an eye. When Elijah was pushed by another child in Sunday School, I wanted to push that child over myself! Elijah was only one at the time and so was the girl that pushed him. As a first time mom many years ago I didn’t know that one year olds could be so cruel. Now that I have five kids, I know that folly is most definitely bound up in the heart of a child just as Proverbs says. My own kids pick on each other!

I also remember an instance when Edan was punched and chased by a kid in Active Fun. Edric happened to be there and he was so upset about it, he told the yaya of the boy to watch him closely. The kid still harassed Edan. By this time Edan was wailing and Edric told him to hit the kid back if necessary. (Not his proudest moment.) Edan didn’t want to but at a few moments later he jabbed the kid in the stomach in self-defense.

Edric also called out to Elijah, Titus and our nephews to protect one another and “put the kid in his place” if he went after any of them. This kid was like a wild animal. It turned out that he had special needs and Edric felt so guilty afterwards. He had a conference with our boys and nephews to address what happened and go over what should be done if they come across true bullies in the future.

But the point is, homeschool kids don’t have to be in school to experience the “real world.” In our family alone, our children are exposed to the realities of man’s fallen nature. They see our imperfections as parents. We all see one another’s imperfections and we must all practice forgiveness, long suffering and unconditional love — character traits that are indispensable to relating well with others.

My kids know that the world we live in isn’t rose-colored. But as early as now, we can teach our children to choose the right kinds of friends — friends who will cause them to love God more, who will encourage them to make wise choices that lead to blessing. If they experience what it is like to have meaningful relationships like these now, they will have a benchmark for what to look for in others when they are older. Of course the added benefit is we get to pass on to them how to develop godly convictions so they can influence others positively, too.

Relationships are important. God intended us to be in community — the family providing the first stable and secure relationship that our children need to experience. Afterwards, children can relate in healthy ways with others, and they ought to be given opportunities to do so. Children get to live out character traits in the context of interacting with others. My kids have to share when they play with their friends. They have to take turns and sacrifice their preferences. These are valuable lessons.

My son Edan doesn’t like mess and gets stressed whenever his friends come over and don’t clean up afterwards. Our family value is to leave a home arranged and not tornadoed by our five children. So when others don’t do the same, he feels upset. But I have talked with him about this. He is learning to be flexible and enjoy his friends without creating so many rules for how they will play with his toys or what rooms they can enter to play in.

Do kids need a lot of friends? Well, if you ask me I would say just give them more siblings. But that is me! My children are blessed to have one another.

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When they aren’t together, they miss each other. On Tuesdays, Tiana is home without her brothers because they have their music, art and pe classes. She is 3 years old so a nap in the middle of the morning is strange. But, she is such a social child. When her brothers, aka playmates, are not around, she tells me, “I am sleepy.” And she will curl up on a bed and fall asleep!

There are homeschooled kids who can get lonely like Tiana does. To address this, parents can provide venues for their children to hang out with other kids. But trust me, kids don’t need 100 friends and they don’t need to be with them constantly.

I was just listening to a talk by Gerry Argosino, managing director of TMA Homeschool, who presented a very interesting topic on the commonalities between child geniuses. It was observed that these children didn’t frequently socialize with their peers so they tended to be more creative. Being alone pushed them to invent, play, design, and entertain themselves using their imaginations. While children benefit from friendships, they don’t need a classroom full of friends and they don’t need to be around them all the time.

Furthermore, even though children aren’t in daily contact with other kids doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to be friendly or acquire social skills. My kids go with Edric and I everywhere, as often as possible. This allows them to meet all kinds of people. It also means they get to practice manners and develop an appreciation for other cultures and traditions. We are right there with them so it’s hands on learning.

If we notice that they don’t acknowledge a person who asks them a question, we say things like, “Please look at them in the eyes and answer them. They are asking you a question.” If they act shy and self-conscious we show them how to be friendly. We don’t let them get away with ignoring people.

When Tiana was smaller she wouldn’t respond to people who tried to get her attention. So I would take her hand and say, “This is how you say hi,” and then I would wave it in the air. I didn’t say, “Oh she is shy.” In fact, when people would say that she was, I would respond, “No, she is not,” and make sure that Tiana would reciprocate a greeting in whatever way possible. Shyness, my mom used to say, is rooted in pride. It’s thinking of yourself. Well, at one point, Tiana started waving at everyone, even strangers! Sometimes she still gets self-conscious, but we are working on this.

Having five kids and dealing with their different personalities has taught Edric and I that it is our responsibility, as parents, to teach our children how to behave in social situations and how to treat others. Politeness and deference aren’t traits they will pick up automatically. They have to see these things modeled and demonstrated. They have to be guided and mentored.

For example, saying thank you when a sales clerk helps them find something…apologizing when they accidentally bump someone while walking…modulating the loudness of their voices…giving up their seat for an elderly woman…not running around like monkeys when they are in a mall (this is a hard one)…asking for permission before going into a room when they are house guests… including a kid who looks out of place…looking at a person in the eye when they are sharing a conversation with them, etc. Our children aren’t likely to learn these behaviors when they are with their friends. They may pick up some things here and there, but learning about social graces requires intentionality from parents.

A few weekends ago, while swimming in the pool there was a boy who didn’t have any friends. Our kids were busy entertaining each other. Edric and I saw the boy swimming all alone so we asked our sons to invite him to play. The boys gladly did so.

Edan swam up to him and asked what his name was. At first the boy seemed guarded but he warmed up as Edan engaged him in conversation, asking how old he was and what kinds of games he liked to play. Edan also called Elijah over and introduced Tiana and Titus to the boy. They had another homeschool friend, Santiago, who was friendly to the boy in the pool, too.

After a while, Edan was like, “do you want to play sharks and limmos?” (He meant minnows.) The boy said he didn’t know how to play it. But Edan assured him that he would teach him the rules.

The kids included the boy in our family game of sharks and minnows. Edric and I were the minnows and all the kids were the sharks.

I watched them interact with this boy but I was most blessed when Edan came up to me afterwards and asked, “Does he know Jesus?”

It wasn’t even something that had crossed my mind, but Edan was concerned. It’s one thing to be well socialized, to be able to get along with people. But it’s another thing to care about the spiritual condition of a person — to be purposeful about being friendly and kind to others so we can tell them how much God loves them…that he wants to have a personal relationship with them.

We need to impart to our children a higher reason for being well-mannered, kind, and considerate of others. For our family, the desire to reflect Jesus Christ and glorify him pushes us to look beyond what is comfortable or default-mode in us. We want to be a light and testimony that attracts other to Christ. Cultivating a good relationship with others ought to have as it’s intention the desire to connect them to the most powerful, amazing and loving person of all so they can enter into a life-changing relationship with Him! That’s what real socialization should be about!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NLT)

Praise God, They Don’t Drool Forever


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Titus used to drool everywhere. He would drool on toys, on furniture, on people, on himself…In fact, he had to wear a bib until he was about four years old! The saliva would just dribble down his chin. Good thing he was a cutiepie because his cuteness offset the drooling.

For a while I wondered if it was something neurological, so I did some research about it. There were some studies that indicated a connection to neurological disorders.  I was also a little concerned because his speech ability developed later than his siblings. He had a hard time articulating his thoughts in a coherent way. His memory was not too good either and he had difficulty holding a writing instrument.

So here was a drooling, not-too-communicative, writing and memory challenged child who was highly curious and got his hands into everything. I could have been worried and stressed but I decided to relax. I knew that these things didn’t have to define his future or his success. God had a plan for him. (He has a plan for him.)

If he had gone to a preschool he might have been labeled all kinds of things but at home, he was free to develop according to God’s time table for him.  I was able to enjoy him without feeling pressured by standards and measures. My role (and Edric’s) was to provide him with an environment and climate that encouraged his growth and was accommodating of his uniqueness.

For his drooling, I would tell him, “This is how you swallow your saliva.” And I would literally show him how to sip it in and swallow. But I did it like a game, something fun, making the sipping sound exaggerated. I taught him how to keep his jaw closed so his mouth wasn’t gaping open.

No one was allowed to make fun of him or make him feel uncomfortable and self conscious about his drooling. The kids were instructed to be understanding and I wasn’t negative about his problem. I would just remind him to close his mouth and swallow his saliva everytime I noticed that his jaw was hanging open.

Well I am happy to say that when he turned four he didn’t need a bib anymore. I know most babies outgrow bibs by two but I was thrilled when he learned to control his drool and keep his mouth closed!

As for his memory, Edric got him to memorize bible verses along side his brothers. At first it seemed impossible for him to commit verses to memory. But Edric would work with him using actions and eventually Titus was the one telling his older siblings what words came next.

When I had to teach him sight words and he couldn’t get them, I made up songs for him and it worked! Since he was inclined to music, this aided his retention.

With expressing his ideas, I tried to be extra patient when I would ask him questions. This gave him time to think through his answers. He wasn’t rushed or made to feel like his silence was unacceptable. He was allowed to process his thoughts.

Eventually he learned how to use the right words and phrases to say what was on his mind. His vocabulary expanded and he became very vocal and opinionated. Of course, he is still growing in his ability to articulate himself.

When I remember Titus as an adorable drooling baby and observe him today, I am just amazed at how much he has grown and developed. By God’s grace, he is a happy, obedient, independent, easy going, kind, intelligent, and confident 5 year old.

We still have a long way to go with training and discipling him to become the man that God wants him to be. In the meantime, I live with the continual hope that Titus’s future (like all my other kids’ futures) is full of God-given possibilities. I focus on the positive, not the negative.

When my brother was a child, he used to stutter. It didn’t manifest itself in his speech but it was apparent when he would read aloud. As a result, he was very self-conscious about reading in public. In fact, he would have a hard time reading in front of our family. When he was asked to read bible verses, he would struggle through them. However, no one made a big deal out of his problem. We didn’t even think of it as a problem. Amazingly, he preaches and teaches the Bible today. He is a great Bible teacher. Through God’s help, he was able to overcome his difficulty. 

My mom used to say, “Don’t see people for who they are now but who they can become in Christ.”

Through Christ, our children can do all things if he wills it. By his grace, they can overcome their present limitations, character weaknesses, childish thinking and behavior. So we need to connect our kids to Christ, and fix our faith on Christ who is in them. And with hopeful expectation, our part is to train them, to speak to them with life-giving words, to love them towards Christ, to disciple them in the area of character, and to use strategies that encourage their growth. If we do this then we can entrust their strides, successes, and accomplishments to the Lord. God knows exactly who our children need to become in order to accomplish his purposes.

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Group Homeschooling

What a beautifully chaotic morning I had homeschooling 7 children and breastfeeding two babies. My sister-in-law, Jenny, is sick so I invited two of her four kids to come over to homeschool with us. (One of my nephews had a fever.) And my sister, Carolyn, left her three-week old daughter behind because she had to attend to an event in Taytay. I asked her if Natasha would last the two hours that she was gone. She assured me that she would…and, worse case, if she didn’t, I was to feed her.

Ack. I love my sister. But, I’ve never fed another person’s baby. It was a first for me when Natasha started acting up and her yaya handed her to me because I was the only option. Thankfully, she was easy to feed. It felt bizarre and familiar at the same time.

I group-homeschooled until about 12:30 and the kids did just fine. We started off with a morning devotion followed by an art project. I taught the kids how to create textured paint cards using a toothbrush, cotton buds, blocks, straws, a comb, etc. And then we let the cards dry and I cut them up into various sized rectangles. Afterwards, I let the kids make personalized works of art. They had to use the texture cards to form the first letters of their name. With the left-over pieces we made a collage.

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In between waiting for the cards to dry the kids did their writing, reading, mathematics, and grammar work. I didn’t get to do much with Tiana so she just colored. I also had to breastfeed two babies at different occasions. And while I was away, some mayhem ensued but I was always able to return just in time to get things orderly again. And, I had a reporter – Edan.

At one point, I heard really loud singing and Edan came to the door and said something like, “I think you need to come back.” There was a tone of urgency in his voice. So I did and got them back to their seats to continue working.

Elijah and Edan are pretty independent learners so I assigned them their work and they got right to it. As for my niece, nephew, and Titus, I had to be in close proximity to them. I hovered around them to assist them when I was needed. But they all did great. They wanted to “surprise me” with their progress.

I’ve used this tactic with my kids to get them to focus. I will say, “Okay, I won’t look, and then surprise me when you are done!” It becomes a challenge and a game. They are motivated to accomplish their material. The kids were also excited to finish early so they could play with one another afterwards. This is one of the advantages of homeschooling with other children.

What are some tricks to homeschooling many kids and not going crazy? These are the tips that worked for me today…

  1. Prepare materials in advance. Once the kids are all present, they need to have something productive to do. If you aren’t ready with your supplies, books, and activities, you end up wasting a lot of time and the kids get restless.
  2. Lay down the ground rules, one of which is, “If we are going to homeschool together, then I want you to focus on your work.” Another one is cleaning up after they make a mess.
  3. Put tabs on the pages that you want the kids to get done if they are working in books. They will know their goals without having to ask.
  4. Pray aloud before you start.
  5. Use an authoritative tone that tells the kids you mean business but speak kindly to them. Be in control but don’t be too controlling.
  6. See yourself as a facilitator and not as a teacher standing in front with a blackboard. I move about the room checking on everyone while they are seated around a large table. When they need me I respond. If I see a child struggling, I attend to them. But as much as possible, I let them do their work on their own.
  7. Allow the kids to see one another’s progress. It encourages them to keep up and it fosters healthy competition, for as long as there is no comparing going on. I don’t say things like, “Look at what so-and-so did, you should do your work like that, too.” Instead, I say, “Look at what so-and-so did!” Then, I address the person and say, “Great job! I’m so proud of you!” I also find something to affirm about everyone.
  8. Give feedback as often as possible. If you notice that a child isn’t quite getting it, spend some time beside them to show them how to do their work correctly. But don’t cripple them by making them dependent on you. Show them and then let them figure it out. If they still don’t get it, review again, and then give them space to do it on their own. When they are successful, commend their effort. (If they still don’t understand, especially in an area like math, they may have a learning gap so back track a little so they can master previous content.) Tell them, “I’m going to help you to learn,” so they know you are committed to their success. Don’t say things like, “I already taught you this. Why can’t you get it?!”
  9. When it’s reading practice time, invite the other children to listen to the person reading. I did this with my niece and I said, “Let’s take turns reading. You read one word and I will read the next one.” And then I put Tiana on my lap to listen to her cousin. We did this back and forth reading for about three pages and then my niece confidently read the rest of the book aloud by herself.
  10. Be enthusiastic about learning together. It keeps everyone positive. Make comments like, “This is so fun!” “I’m glad we can do this together.”
  11. Give breaks (especially to the ones who like to move). I sent two of the boys to the kitchen and asked them to come back with sliced apples to share. They distributed these to everyone and then returned to their seats.
  12. Use rewards like stickers, smiley faces on their completed work. I pulled out a bunch of stickers and the kids were like, “I want one!” So I said, “Whoever finishes first, gets to choose first.”
  13. Seat children in the right areas. Generally, I use a big table where everyone can sit. But, Elijah needed his own space so he could concentrate. He was at another side of the room. Titus and my nephew were looking forward to sitting together so I put them side-by-side. When my nephew struggled through a page of his phonics work, Titus looked over and was eager to help. Tiana sat beside my niece (whom she looks up to). For as long as my niece was seated, Tiana didn’t move either. She sat still coloring for a long time.
  14. Give older kids responsibilities. Edan finished his work earlier so he made “prizes” for everyone at a separate table. He handed these out to the kids and created awards for best art, best work, etc.
  15. Do group activities that require cooperation and collaboration. Art is always a great way to do this because it cuts across ages.
  16. Rely on God’s grace to enjoy and get through a day like this. I always believe that God supplies for the occasion. He sustained me this morning and kept the kids teachable and focused.

After lunch, you can bet I was pretty exhausted so I locked my door to hang out with Catalina and take a nap!

Here is my take on group homeschooling…It works well with children who have been trained by their parents to obey and respond to authority. Praise God my brother and my sister-in-law have done a great job training their kids. I would also say that up to 8 young children is “doable” but more than 8 may require the help of another parent.

 

 

 

 

City Kids on Strawberry Fields


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Our kids are city-bred. Unfortunately this means that they aren’t used to getting muddy and dirty. But on my birthday we brought them to Trinidad Valley (just 20 minutes from Baguio City) to go strawberry picking.

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For just P300 pesos per kilo harvested, the kids could go out into the fields and pick strawberries. They were given boots and baskets. The boots were a great help, especially when they had to walk in the muddied pathways between rows of strawberries. Initially, they were squeamish and complaining about the dirt.  However, once they started finding strawberries and sticking them into their baskets, they kept going and going!

Strawberry-picking became an educational experience for our kids. We all saw the different ways strawberries were used, too – wine, taho, pastillas, jam, etc. I thought it was hilarious when the taho vendor was like, “M’am, take a photo for Instagram!”

The kids had so much fun being little farmers, we actually had to stop them at one point from over-picking. Of course, they were ravenously hungry by the end, too, which was great. There was no need to remind them to “eat their food” when we were back in Baguio City. It was gobble, gobble, gobble.

 

Teaching Children to Make Wise Choices

My kids like to use the IPads and computers for games. For about 4 months they were banned from gadgets so we could finish our homeschooling year. But after I gave birth, online educational programs and apps were a big help to keep the kids productive while I was busy with Catalina.

We stuck to certain parameters.

1. Is the game or app educational?
2. Will it help to develop an important skill?
3. Will it allow you to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men? (Luke 2:52)
4. Playing games have time limits attached to their use.

Our kids know my apple ID and password. But they don’t abuse it. They will always ask for permission before getting an app, even if it is free. And they know what their boundaries are in terms of criteria.

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About two years ago, my second son, Edan, got hooked on Plants vs Zombies. He was obsessed with it. It was the first time I became concerned about letting the kids use the iPad for fun. I felt like we had opened a Pandora’s box as a family and let in the game monster. Edan of all my other children seemed to have a greater tendency towards addiction. He was more vulnerable.

In fact he admitted to me recently that the danger of computer games for him is he thinks about them even when he isn’t playing.

Every child is different and as parents we need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Elijah, for example, can self regulate and say, “Okay, I don’t want to play with gadgets for a week because I don’t want to get addicted.” And he can busy himself with reading and other interests.

However, Edan is different. He has a harder time controlling his desire for gaming. So we need to help him and avoid putting him in predicaments where he can “feed” that side of him.

A few days ago he came up to me asking if he could install a certain app. It was a game. It wasn’t educational. I struggled as a mom. Edan is a good son. By God’s grace, he is obedient, too. When he asked me, I could see the DESIRE in his eyes. He wanted the game and his happiness seemed to hinge on my response.

So I gave him the opportunity to present why he liked the game, to hear him out. And then I asked him very gently and thoughtfully, “Is this game educational?”

He answered, “No.”

“Is it a business game? Will it teach you business principles?”

“No.” His shoulders hunched over and he seemed disheartened.

“Will it help you to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man? (Luke 2:52)

He shook his head and started to tear.

“Do you think you should get it then?”

When I asked this, he started to cry out loud. He already knew the answer.

Oh my heart broke as a mom. I hugged him. I knew it was important to him and he wanted the game very badly. He had taken a step of faith when he asked me. And a part of me was tempted to give in and then to remove the app later
on if it really was destructive.

But I had to be consistent. I had to consider his greater good and not just his present happiness. So I said something like this…”Edan, mommy wants you to enjoy playing games. I like you to have fun. But you need to find a game that will help you to develop a skill. It can’t be for entertainment purposes only. So why don’t you find something that is educational and present it to me as an option?”

Well, he was able to find an incredible app called Paper 53. It’s a great app for artists. Edan understands balance and symmetry without having learned these concepts so I know that he can hone his artistic abilities. When he showed me the app, I heartily agreed to get it for him because it would be a profitable use of his time.

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I wanted to share this because we need to teach our older children to make wise choices, to weigh the pros and cons of a decision. When they are younger, we can pull off the “obey because I said so.” But this has to change as they grow up. We don’t want them to obey on the outside but harbor resentment and rebellion on the inside. So it helps to get them to think through their decision making process, especially when it comes to dealing with the desires of the heart.

My parents used the same approach with me when I was interested in dating someone who would have been a poor choice. They took me out to dinner and asked me the right questions. Over the course of the conversation, just like Edan, I cried, but I knew what I had to do. I was able to arrive at a discerning conclusion and I did not entertain the guys attempts to pursue a relationship with me. I was 15.

We don’t want to raise children who have an underdeveloped capacity for sound judgement. So it helps to start off with clear principles that we want to live by as a family. And then we need to teach these to our children, reinforcing these principles by our own adherence to them and our consistency in upholding them in the home. When they are in predicaments that can lead to a violation of a principle, the asking-questions-part comes in. Let them consider whether their choices or actions favor those principles or go against them so they take ownership of their decisions. It also helps when we communicate trust in their capacity to make wise choices that please God because he is present in their lives.

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out. (Proverbs 20:5 NASB)

PARAPHRASED FOR PARENTING: “The intentions in the heart of a child are like deep waters but a parent of understanding draws them out.”

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Christmas Trees and Homeschooling

We took a break from our usual 9 am to 12 pm homeschooling in our study room to visit my pregnant sister, Carolyn. She wanted help decorating her newly bought Christmas tree. So the kids and I came over to her place and got to work.

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When you think of learning as a way of life, any activity can be an opportunity to understand something new, develop a skill, explore, discover, invent, or create.

I had the kids string the ornaments and tie knots to secure the string which was a practice in fine motor skills for the little ones.

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The kids worked together which encouraged collaboration. Some would string and others would tie the knots. They had to conceptualize a process to get their task done.

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They had to use an artistic eye to determine which ornaments should go where to achieve balance and symmetry.

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To incorporate math, I asked the boys to figure out how to divide the ribbon into equal parts so I could make bows. I asked Tiana to count the ornaments.

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Completing the decor was an exercise in perseverance because I didn’t let them take a break until we finished the tree.

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The longer I homeschool, the more I realize that books aren’t the only way learn. But, as parents we can be too set in the idea that learning must happen in a classroom, with a certain set of parameters that we miss out on opportunities that surround our children every day. We need to remember and trust that children are learning all the time. With a measure of intentionality, every experience children have can incorporate content and subject matter that would be boring for them to read in a book. And when knowledge is purposefully applied it becomes meaningful. It is also more fun!

Online Book Rental Club

Homeschoolers do some pretty amazing things. I just came across three this past week who introduced me to their site,BookRobin.com.
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Ryan, Christian and Ian are three brothers who decided to share their vast collection of books by making them available for borrowing, like you would from a library. But their idea makes it convenient to borrow books because all the titles can be viewed on-line. The process is so brilliantly simple and convenient for members…

STEP 1: Subscribe. Choose a plan starting at 799/month
STEP 2: Add books to your rental queue
STEP 3: 2GO will deliver your books for free
STEP 4: Decide when you are ready to return your borrowed books. No late fees.
STEP 5: 2G0 will pick your borrowed books for free and deliver your new set of books.

It is the first and only online book rental club in the Philippines created by 12 year old Ryan, the eldest of the three brothers. Launched October 2013, BookRobin.com is the kind of library that works for homeschoolers. It can be accessed from the comfort of your home and everything comes to you. That’s my kind of library!

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Drawing the Outdoors

We went to the park to have a picnic and draw nature. I love homeschooling!

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The Danger of Self-Centered Homeschooling

My imperfections as a homeschool mother have been magnified as of late…especially my impatience. It is a real struggle every time the kids don’t cooperate the way I hope they will. And this has been my very problem. I want my kids to cater to my needs right now. I need them to be easy to teach because I don’t have an easy baby to take care of. So I hold them to a set of expectations and I feel frustrated when these expectations are not met.

Today I put this pressure on my little three year old, Tiana. She blanked out half-way through our lesson like she didn’t know anything and I was so irritated. I tossed her work on the bed. She cried, I cried. I felt like a monster-mom. I WAS a monster-mom!

Tiana inched away from me, took hold of her stuffed tiger, walked over to the other side of the room, and climbed up on to the bed. She curled up in a fetal position facing the window. This was the first time she ever saw me lose my temper. She withdrew from me, emotional pained by my outburst.

God, I need your help. This is not the kind of mom I want to become. I feel like such a failure.

I have always told moms to make learning enjoyable. Sigh. I even give seminars about this! However, I did the very opposite. Tiana was not motivated by a love to learn this morning. She was afraid of disappointing me. I saw it in her eyes. She would point to the answers (the ones she was guessing) without confidence. And she would gaze up at me to see if she had my approbation. When I seemed stern, she would look down at the work in front of her, uncertain of how to proceed.

When I realized how I had hurt her, I said, “Tiana, please come to mommy.” (I was kind of immobile because Catalina was nursing.) Tiana walked over with her big brown eyes still watery and red with tears. I pulled her close and embraced her. “Will you forgive me? I was wrong. I am so sorry. Mommy will help you to learn.”

She looked up at me and started to sob again. But she said, “I forgive you, mommy” and she reached out to touch my hand. I held her for a while and kissed her head. How could I have hurt someone I love so much?

A few minutes later, I told her we would try math again. Our take two was much better. There was joy and laughter in it. I decided to appreciate her small victories and I made the effort to be positive and encouraging.

This was a lesson on parenting for me. I can’t ever think that homeschooling is about me. It’s not about my agenda — my own goals. I have been entrusted with the fragile and vulnerable hearts of my kids. And I am accountable for that trust. It is about stewardship.

My main responsibility is to disciple them — to teach them to love God and obey him, and to help them develop their gifts and abilities for his purposes and glory.

If I get angry because my kids don’t know their academics as well as I want them to, then I am violating the trust of stewardship. If I wound them emotionally because they fall short of my expectations, then I cannot disciple them effectively. I become a self-centered teacher. And self-centered teaching does not amount to the greater good of my kids.

Lord help me to be a Christ-centered teacher and not a self-centered one. I need to improve in the area of patience and I cannot have victory if I am always thinking of what is most convenient for me or what I would like to accomplish. Direct my teaching so that I accomplish what you want me to in the lives of my children.

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Teaching Truth Through Music

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My children go through stages when they are scared of the dark or don’t want to be alone. For a time Tiana didn’t have this fear but she started to be afraid of being alone early this year. Even though I would explain to her that Jesus is with her, it wasn’t until she memorized a song during Daily Vacation Bible School (DVBS) that she internalized this.

About three months ago, my kids attended DVBS with the theme “Studio Go,” which centered on the passage in Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

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One of the songs the kids learned went something like this, “Wherever I go, God is with me, wherever I am, he is there…” It was a catchy tune and Tiana would sing it to herself frequently while walking around the house. Studio Go! Music CD

When we were talking about being afraid some days ago, she told me, “God is with me.” She also remarked to Edric, “God is with me wherever I go.” One time I also caught her sitting on the bed saying to herself, “I’m not scared because Jesus is with me.” And on another occasion, she stopped Edric on his way out the door and told him, “Are you going to be by yourself, Daddy?” Don’t be scared, God is with you.”

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It was so precious to hear my three year old say these things. And it reaffirmed the power of music to commit truth and principles to memory.

Of course, there is an upside and a downside to this.

Whatever our children listen to can have a positive or negative affect on them. As a family, we prefer to play uplifting and God-centered music in our home and car. Our househelp isn’t permitted to blast secular music while cleaning. So our kids have little exposure to pop music. They cannot be absolutely sheltered from it, especially at parties, in the mall, at a store, or other people’s homes.

One morning as we heard Katy Perry’s “Firework” song, Tiana said, “Oh, it’s my favorite song!” and started singing along. How this happened is a mystery. I just laughed as she sang it. Edric and and I aren’t legalists, especially with elements that are beyond our control. And we aren’t paranoid about pop music, but we also know that it can pass along the wrong kinds of values to our kids. It’s like subtle programming.

So in our home, we prefer to be careful about media influences and filter them for our children. We like them to listen to music that will turn their hearts towards righteousness, holiness, and a greater love for the Lord.

Music can be a wonderful tool for teaching. It can convey or reinforce biblical truth in the lives of our kids much more effectively than merely memorizing scripture. Here are some great resources that I’ve used with my kids to build up spiritual truth in them which you might want to look into for your own home:

Music Machine (Complete 3 CD Set)

Bible Songs

The Singing Bible

Kids Sing Bible Promises

Memory Bible – A to Z Vol 1

Memory Bible – A to Z Vol 2

Answers for Pre-schoolers Sing Along CD

My Travel Time Bible

Hide ‘em in Your Heart

 

 

 

Kindermusik Certificates Promo

I am giving away 20 Kindermusik Classes (2 sessions worth per certificate) to the first 20 respondents to this post. Send in a comment about your favorite bonding activity with your child and I will email you back and let you know where you can claim certificate! Get it, get it!:)

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My daughter, Tiana, took these classes and loved them.

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