The Motivated Learner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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.

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.



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.

20140419-163727.jpg(photo from

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



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.


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!


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.)


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.


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!


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


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.


Green Farming

We took a day trip to a farm for our homeschooling today. The kids learned about “green farming” from an agriculturalist who explained how to plant seedlings, do hydrophonics, vermiculture and the like.

It was fascinating for the kids and for me! I learned alot about organic ways to plant and farm. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Vermiculture is a way of composting using earthworms to speed up the process.

Lord willing, when we move to a house, we can have a little garden — Edric’s fantasy. For the time being, this knowledge went to the kids’ science files. What better way to learn about innovative farming methods than to experience it for yourself? The kids (well, the boys) liked the worms part the best. Of course they did. Yehey for learning experiences that are not confined to four walls of a classroom!







Anatomically Correct

When parents ask how we teach our children about sex, I say, “We tell it like it is.” We don’t use codes or substitute words for anatomical parts. And we cover their questions as they come. As they ask, we answer.

The other day, one of our sons said, “Girls pee out of their butts, right?” Well, Edric couldn’t let him live with that delusion, so he explained, anatomically speaking, where the locations of parts were. There was no malice in the discussion. It became a science lesson.

Most of the time, it is our upbringing and exposure to sex outside of the context of God’s design that makes us squeamish about discussing sex-related topics with our children. I’m not saying that we need to pull out charts and diagrams and sit our pre-school aged children down to explain EVERYTHING. But when their questions do come, we are a better source for information than peers, movies, the Internet, etc. Please, not movies or the internet! As for peers, they don’t always have a biblical perspective on sex either.  So, we are it. This is it is part of our role to explain sex to our children in a way that makes them appreciate God’s design for it.

Some children seem to be more curious than others. I have seen the difference in our kids. One may snicker when they see a billboard of a woman who is not so modestly dressed. Edsa, unfortunately, has these from time to time. And another, may think nothing of it. But since we have three boys, I know that they all will, at one point or another, become interested in girls’ bodies.

We need to be attentive and available when we see signs of this. One of our sons was careening his neck when I was driving along the highway, and I asked him, “What are you looking at?” It was such an obvious attempt to look at something, I was interested to know what had caught his attention. He gave me an embarrassed and awkward smile, but after some prodding, he revealed to me that he saw a billboard that had the word “sexy” on it. There was a woman posing in a “come hither” manner and even though she was clothed (thank God), it was the word “sexy” that bothered him. We talked a little bit more about it and his fascination was addressed appropriately.

A couple months ago, another one of our sons told me that he was feeing guilty for imagining girls without their clothes on. Whoa! I was caught off-guard. But I stopped myself from panicking. I explained to him that our mind is very often the battleground, so when he has thoughts like that, he needs to replace it with “whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute.” As Philippians 4:8 tells us, “if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

We had this conversation while walking together, hand-in-hand, mother and son. These tender moments, when my kids reveal what is in their heart, are very often had during one-on-one time.  I didn’t want my son’s guilt to blossom into a fixation so I focused on the principle of filling your mind with God’s word to protect yourself from temptation.

I have said this often, but it is so important that Edric and I remain vigilant about what our children watch and what they are exposed to. We don’t want to awaken desires prematurely. We tell our sons that it is normal to find girls pretty but they must safeguard their innocence and save their purity for the ones they will marry.

Grateful as I am for our homeschooling lifestyle because it allows us to filter through the positive and negative influences that our children are exposed to, I know that prayer is the real key. We need the Lord to protect our kids. We can’t monitor them 24/7. At the end of the day, they must internalize what it means to stay pure and experience the blessings of committing to obey God in this area. We can’t do that for them.

Two great books for young children that teach purity are: The Squire and the Scroll for boys (this was recommended by a friend. Elijah really enjoyed reading this.) For girls, a great book is The Princess and the Kiss.

The Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop

The Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop

The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop

The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop

Science Should Not Be A Book

Elijah got this wonderful science kit from Tito Jojo, Edric’s uncle. It is exactly what he wanted because he is into the mechanics of design. He likes gears and designing things that power themselves. A few days ago he built solar powered machines. Edan got into it, too. I have said this before but I will say it again…I am so thankful for the flexibility that homeschooling gives the kids to experiment, design, build. We have a science curriculum that we are following, but like other subjects that we cover, learning does not have to be confined to what’s going on in the books. If my kids have a strong interest that is healthy, Edric and I find ways to encourage and fuel it.



Edan’s Curriculum

Edan’s 1st Grade books and materials…













I have not included all the storybooks we read but here is a photo of the kids’ bookshelf:)


Edan is also interested in geography…


Green Electricity

On somedays, I let the kids spend most of their time doing a project. Yesterday’s project was green electricity. Honeschooling allows the kids to explore their interests and develop skills that go beyond workbooks and textbooks.

I try to avoid hovering around them when they do projects like this.

Elijah read all the instructions and figured it out for himself and Edan was his efficient assistant. I also asked Elijah to research on energy. Titus was the “test-driver.”







Mind Boggling Mind Museum

We had a wonderful afternoon at the Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City. It was well worth the 450/child and 600/adult fees that we had to pay. There are some areas that are still under development but I am sure that by the end of the month, everything should be up and ready. For homeschoolers, I suggest you visit before school gets out and do a morning field trip to avoid the hoards that will surely come when summer hits. Mind Museum is designed to be interactive so if you have kinesthetic learners (like my Titus), they will thoroughly enjoy this place. Of course it will definitely appeal to the scientifically inclined as well.

Mind Museum does not support the creationist view of the world so if that is what you believe, as our family does, you may need to explain some areas to your children like the idea that cosmic collision birthed the earth. Otherwise, I imagine that our children will want to have a return visit in the very near future. It really is a lot to take in. We spent two and a half hours inside the museum and I still can’t remember half of what I saw!















































You may contact us through our contact details given below.

The Mind Museum
2/F Bonifacio Technology Center
31st Street Corner 2nd Avenue
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

Tel. 909-MIND (6463)

Answers for Children

Answers in Genesis has a new Kids Answers website. It is a “fun, safe, Creator-honoring place to find educational entertainment for your children.”

Through this site, children will understand how science supports the case for a Divine Creator. It shows kid-friendly movies, features a new animal every week, and has coloring sheets and activity pages. Parents can use this site as a supplement to their science curriculum. This is a free resource. I really like the materials and books of Answers in Genesis so I was happy to know that they created a website for kids.

Personally, I believe that science is one very effective way to strengthen the faith of my children. When my two older boys and I go over their science materials (which are all creation-based) they begin to have an understanding of how awesome and powerful God is.

Last  year, I found this resource from Answers in Genesis: Answers Book for Kids — Volumes 1 to 4. I decided to buy the whole set when I was visiting my sister in the US.  The books are small enough to fit in a medium-sized purse. When were at the hospital the other day, I brought two of the books and they kept my sons busy reading.

What I like about these books is that they give children (ages 5 to 11) a foundation in basic theology.  They provide a defense for the Bible and its truth, but in a kid-friendly manner. The answers are written out from the perspectives of children and the answers are clear and concise. I’ve included an explanation of what’s inside each volume (taken from Answers in Genesis’ website.)

Volume 1: 22 Questions on Creation and the Fall

The story of Creation and the Garden of Eden are familiar ones. But they also present a wonderful opportunity to share important biblical truths with eagerly questioning minds through answers that even the youngest believer can understand. In this volume, children will get answers to questions like “How did God create everything from nothing?” and “The serpent talked to Eve, so why can’t snakes talk today?” 48 pages. Find out more.

Volume 2: 22 Questions from Kids on Dinosaurs and the Flood of Noah

Dinosaurs are fascinating creatures that kids simply adore, and even the youngest believer can recite the biblical account of Noah and his Ark. Now discover how to answer some of kids’ most interesting questions about dinosaurs and Noah’s Ark like “Where did all the water go after the Flood?” and “How did Noah keep the animals on the Ark from eating each other and his family?” 48 pages. Find out more.

Volume 3: 22 Questions on God and the Bible

Even adults struggle to understand our Creator—the infinite Being who seeks a personal relationship with each of us. Now kids can begin to understand both God’s Holy Word and the importance of Him in their lives—what He expects from them, why it is vital to follow His plan for their lives, and the love He has for them.  This book will give you the opportunity to leave a legacy to the children in your life. A legacy of trust in God and His Word. 48 pages. Find out more.

Volume 4: 22 Questions on Sin, Salvation, and the Christian Life

Since Adam and Eve chose to disobey in the Garden of Eden, questions about sin, salvation, and the Christian life have often puzzled us. This book gives answers intended to form a strong and lasting faith foundation in the next generation. More importantly, it will set the example of seeking answers—even for the toughest questions—in God’s Word, our final authority. 48 pages.

Hopefully, in a few months, TMA Homeschool will make these books available in Manila!


Easy Science Activities

One of my sons is not so fond of listening to me read about science topics. He easily gets bored when he has to sit through another one of my reading sessions. So I had to modify my approach with him for teaching science — more hands-on activities, less textbook. So far he has enjoyed the different topics we are covering.

Unlike his older brother who didn’t mind going in depth with Apologia’s science curriculum (We have covered astronomy, biology, botany and now, we are doing zoology), this son of mine needs to experience science.

Static Electricity – We rubbed a purple balloon on my hair and did two experiments. My kids saw how bits of paper jumped up to the balloon and how water bends toward the balloon when there is static electricity on it.




Density – Pour sprite into a glass bowl and put some raisins in the bowl. The raisins will “dance” as the bubbles from the carbonized drink attach to the raisins. They will go up and down. When they go up and the bubbles pop, they sink back down.

Mass – Make a homemade scale using rubber bands, a ruler, tape, something to rest the ruler on, and two containers (must be the same kind) for either side. Compare weights of objects and see how heavier objects stretch the rubber bands longer.


Chemical Change – Put two table spoons of baking soda in a bowl and slowly pour vinegar on it. A chemical reaction will take place causing the baking soda to fizz like a gas and ooze. The boys loved this one.



Planet Earth by Game

The boys enjoyed this Planet Earth game. I had forgotten that we had this game until I saw the box on one of our shelves. We didn’t know 60% of the answers to the questions, but we learned from our mistakes. Games like this can really make a subject like geography or science come alive for the kids. And we didn’t even feel the time go by!







Rice Mill Field Trip

During our recent trip to Isabela, the kids got to visit the biggest rice mill in the Philippines. It was very educational and alot of fun for the kids and for Edric and I!