Getting ready for the school year(s)…

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I am like many homeschoolers. I don’t really believe in grades– grades as in “rating” a child as an A or B student, or as students who Passed or Failed. And grades as in 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, so on and so forth. I will not talk about this here in detail (in another post, maybe). Just mentioning it here in passing because we are now getting ready for a new school year! In our family, we start and end our school year anytime we want and it could go from one year to¬†several more, depending on the progress and pace of our student or depending on what’s happening in our life as a family. After all, homeschooling, in essence, is a way of life. Though as much as we would like to be full-fledged unschoolers, we choose not to. There are definitely elements of worldschooling and unschooling in our homeschooling style but we still opted to enroll in a homeschool provider so that Q has school records.

We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else. – John Holt

Anyway, so, after 2 years of doing “1st grade”, we have now decided to enroll in “2nd grade”.¬†(Note:¬†We “follow” these grade levels because the homeschool provider applies the traditional school “grade leveling” [which I think is for purposes of organization and order]. As to the course plans they provide, we get the “grade level” we enrolled in but we are not required to follow them. These course plans are just guides. As to what to teach our children [what to include and exclude] and when to teach them, is up to us parents. And it is the parents who give the “grades”* not the provider.

(*I submit these grades as part of the “security” of having a transcript. I don’t even show these “grades” to my child. I “grade” him based on the actual work he has accomplished using the curriculum not on what he has actually learned during a given time or what his abilities are because really, I don’t think these letter grades are accurate measurements. I mean, how does one fairly measure aptitude?).

Anyway, one of the exciting parts in preparing for the “academic” aspect of homeschooling are the new books!!! Ours have arrived, finally!

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I did not purchase all the books specified in the curriculum. I just chose the ones for subject areas that I feel need some reinforcement and/or areas that we need more materials on. All the books are great! I wish I have the time to talk about each one (we haven’t started on reading them all) but I must say the Macmillan Dictionary and the Catholic Children’s Bible are very impressive. We also got Hamlet from the Shakespeare¬†Can Be Fun series by Lois Burdett and we can’t wait to get hold of the other titles in the series. I’m so thankful for awesome homeschooling parents who recommended these great books.

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books we already have

We still have books from previous school years that we still want to use. I intend to still use First Language Lessons for the Well-trained Mind by Jessie Wise as a guide for language arts this year. We are mostly literature-based, so I just consult the textbook for the “technical” stuff while we continue to use children’s literature as a foundation in our homeschool. I don’t do a lot of grammar exercises. We just read, read and read children’s books and inject some grammar rules along the way.¬†Writing with Ease¬†by Susan Wise Bauer covers four levels, so we will still be using this book for a while. We just recently utilized these two methods that are taught in this book: copywork and narration.

For Science, we still want to finish covering Harcourt Science 1 (before we start on 2) and use it as a reference¬†book when reading science-themed children’s books. As for the Catholic National Reader Book One, we still have a few more pages to finish and its old-fashioned English is just so beautiful, it would be a shame not to be able to finish reading it.

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Greek Myths is an ongoing thing since “1st Grade”.

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This year will not just be exciting but also very special. Together with other homeschooling kids, Q will be receiving his First Communion this coming December. So we are eagerly preparing for it and Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism and First Communion Catechism are helping us do this. We will also put together a sacramental preparation portfolio (courtesy of a generous veteran homeschooling mom) to make Q’s anticipation of this¬†event even more joyful.

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I am not proud to admit that learning Filipino is our (my family) biggest hurdle. Speaking conversational Tagalog is one thing (it’s already hard as it is) but learning grammar rules, reading stories and instructions (and understanding them) in formal written Tagalog is another. For many of us regionals and non-Tagalog speakers, this is quite a burden. Thankfully, there is the option of learning in the vernacular (or the Mother Tongue as they call it in regular schools) which I think works better for us (my family). But I am also a proud Filipino. I also recognize that learning Filipino/Tagalog is a way of preserving the Filipino identity. So, even though it will be bloody, I will face (gulp) this challenge head on for this school year.¬†ūüėú

Our Gypsy Life Resumes (Part 2)

What kept us busy in the big city:

  • Lego Robotics

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  • Rakugo Japanese Sit-down Comedy

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  • Terracotta Clay Workshop with Mr. Radel Paredes

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Q, who loves to create with modelling clay and is rarely without a clay in his hand, became so frustrated with the tough-to-handle terracotta clay. According to his fellow homeschooler (I was elsewhere when this happened), he created a dinosaur but was not very happy with it. He got upset and rolled it back into a ball. He ended up making a less complicated¬†creation: a goblin’s head ūüėÄ

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This has been thoroughly air-dried but has not been placed in a fire pit yet as it should be

  • Our homeschool support group’s second¬†Vision-Mission-Goals Setting session

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  • Q and Dad with other homeschoolers¬†attended a classical piano concert

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  • 1st National Homeschool Day¬†

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Too bad DaddyO had to work and miss this. 

  • excursion, play dates,¬†among others…

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  • Moms’ Day Off

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coffee (or anything equally nice) + good conversation = happy moms

  • Fun with cousins

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cousin love!

  • “The Two Boys Club”
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Daddy O and Q’s regular dips at the pool (We also hit the gym. Me, a total of 3 times, hahaha)

Whew. All these hustle¬†and bustle in a little over a month, in between errands, homeschool work, housekeeping and laundry! ūüėÄ

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Thank God for automated laundromats!

Then it was time to pack up and leave…again.

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Four to five hours away awaited our new “home”. When we arrived, I was so tired I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for days but rest was not mine to have just yet. ¬†I had a new house to scour and make into a home.¬†I had boxes to unpack. I was back in an all too familiar rhythm once again. The staying and going. The leaving and settling– this is our dance. This is our life. ¬†And it’ll be like this for a while.

Our Gypsy Life Resumes (Part 1)

After a little over two months of being back home, we were packing our bags again and preparing for another chapter of our “life-on-the-move”.

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DaddyO’s Papa and Q’s grandpa, who likes to send us off on many of our trips, dropped us off once again at the port

In February,¬†Daddy-O¬†accepted a consultancy job in another NGO. His work will involve some traveling between 2-3 cities.¬†It also requires him to be regularly on site in one of these 3 cities, Bogo City, hence, our need to take up residence here for the next 5 months. But before we moved here, we spent a month in the big city for Q’s Lego robotics class (Introduction to Robotics and Programming) at Compass Education.

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Q so focused on his task. He enjoyed every session he had at Compass. This is an area he is passionate about and he is really thriving here!

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We were so blessed to find a place to rent in the big city for the duration of Q’s robotics class. We were able to rent a fully furnished place at a very friendly price. “Very friendly” is actually an understatement. ¬†The place was way more than we asked and prayed for! And worth a lot more than we paid rent for! That is why we are very grateful to the owner (Daddy O’s cousin) for his generosity and the full trust he gave us. ¬†It was not just a decent place but very upscale for our standards. ūüėÄ Although not our dream living space as we are more the bucolic kind of people and we¬†don’t really have a natural affinity for anything posh haha but a month in a comfortable, convenient and safe place like that, hey, we can’t complain! I mean, the swimming pool, gym, kid’s play area and 24-hour security were not too shabby at all. ūüėČ Not to mention the view we enjoy nightly from our glass panel bedroom window (high up on the 17th floor): the beautiful city lights.

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My phone camera did not give justice to the view but I must say, it was a wonderful bedtime treat.

We also felt so blessed and relieved that we didn’t have to buy furnishings again or haul our own stuff (in storage in the island until our Bogo move) to the big city. ¬†The place was also nicely situated in the heart of the city and everything was accessible to us.

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We are not the condo-living kind of people but I think that if one must choose to live in the middle of a big bustling city, this is one of the best options.

Since we were in the big city for a month, we had quite a full calendar apart from Q’s Lego classes. We took this opportunity to meet up with our wonderful fellow homeschoolers as many times as possible and join as many activities as possible ūüėÄ I will write about the month-long fun we had in the big city in the second part of this post. ūüėČ

Between Adventures: Home, Christmas and Alexander

Leaving the island was not emotional for me. It was a blur, to say the least… at least at the time I was in the middle of it all –the sorting and packing. I was edgy and under pressure. The emotions and nostalgia came later when I would see photos of our island life that had just come to an end. A laid-back life that we dearly miss. But during the days leading up to our move, everything was a bit overwhelming– the packing and sorting, preparing for our Christmas activities with our homeschool support group in the big city (plus our own family’s Christmas preparations) not to mention the stress I felt for yet another boat trip¬†back home, anticipating crowded terminals with passengers going home for the holidays.

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At the port. Our boat bound for home was delayed for 9 hours!

But all ended well. I lost my voice once, I got sick again (happens to me almost every time we move) but I survived! Yey!

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Our homeschooling community Christmas activities

But of course, little did I know that more was in store for me…

For a little over 2 months, we were between adventures. Before our new life in the new place (not very far from the island) commenced, we were back home for a while,  spending Christmas and enjoying the company of relatives and old friends.

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And of course, in between all the Christmas gatherings and other activities, I had to deal (again) with the spring cleaning and upkeep of our real/actual house, our nearly-neglected-always-locked-up-because-we-are-not-around house. It was a couple of days of¬†junk and dust and lots of antihistamines for me. In the midst of all of these, I managed to travel back and forth (with the boys) between my home city and Daddy O’s and squeezed¬†in a quick trip to the big city (an overnight boat away) to attend a meeting with fellow homeschooling parents. Then, our¬†not-so-little boy Q got sick again, three separate times in the 2 months we were home. All the traveling and¬†frenzy took its¬†toll on the poor thing. Three blood tests, an ear and a viral infection later, he was back to his rambunctious self. ūüėÄ Thank you, Lord. Still fresh from the tiring¬†island life finale, I was experiencing once more a slow stress¬†build-up.

As if all this excitement was not enough, Daddy O and I did something that made¬†our Q a very happy boy but brought mayhem to my mommy life: we got a puppy. A decision that, we later admitted to each other, was not well thought out. ūüėÄ Our excitement (and the puppy’s uber cuteness) muddled our judgment. I’m not playing the blame game here but let me just say¬†that Daddy O greeted¬†me with a grin on his face when I had just come in from a really early morning flight from the big city and an hour and a half¬†bus ride (which did not help in giving me a clear mind for the decision-making that was about to happen). I had barely put down my bags when he excitedly showed me a photo of a dog and told me like a wide-eyed little kid, “Let’s check this puppy out!!!”. We were going to give it to Q as his late Christmas present. Daddy O’s¬†excitement was so contagious! I instantly got giddy with excitement myself. So I skipped breakfast and we sneaked out and went to see the puppy. After a fuzzy deliberation, we paid for it, put it in a shoe box and went home and surprised the little boy. Oh, Q¬†was immediately smitten! And without a moment’s hesitation, he lovingly christened him Alexander. (Up to this day, even if the puppy continues to be demanding and a lot of trouble for me since I’m¬†not really a dog person, we cannot¬†just give up on taking care of him and decide to find him a new owner. It’ll definitely break Q’s heart. We have to commit.). We now had a puppy but, uh-oh, we didn’t have basic puppy supplies¬†and a place for the puppy to sleep in! So unprepared we were! So, in the days that followed, we were running around like mad going to the vet, buying dog food, a dog crate, dog shampoo, and all that jazz. It turned out to be fun, I have to admit but boy, was it exhausting… and expensive! As we were beginning to realize how demanding having a puppy was and how much it was costing us, Daddy O and I¬†started kicking ourselves and shaking our heads while repeatedly saying, “We did not think this through”. ¬†But for some reason we always¬†ended up smiling. Hahaha.

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Who can resist that face? ‚̧

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Transporting the newly groomed little mutt from Daddy O’s city to Mommy’s city in a private car which cost more because public bus transport¬†wouldn’t allow dogs to be with the passengers. Animals are placed together with cargo in the underbelly of the bus!

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Q still getting used to the puppy. He still gets tense and uneasy handling him but he loves the pup to bits.

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The master of the house.

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Q learns to feed Alexander.

I had a love-hate relationship with the puppy mainly because I did most of the work in taking care of him and oh, good heavens! the toilet training, THE TOILET TRAINING! I just about lost it the first week the puppy was inside the house. I think the trouble that this new family member gave me was the cherry on top of this homecoming!

And here’s the craziest thing- we are a gypsy family.¬†How we will be moving around with a dog in tow remains to be seen. We really did not think this through. Hahaha. But all shall be well!

(As of this writing, Alexander is temporarily in the care of my brother back home. It has been almost 2 months. Daddy O has gone home once to check on him and made sure he got his scheduled shots at the vet. We intend to go back and get him once we have settled in our new place).

reading aloud long books (and a quick amateur “review”)

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We finally finished reading Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. I started loud-reading it to Q late in August and it was on and off after that. Sometimes it got overtaken by other shorter books (and other things to do) and sometimes forgotten completely and then got picked up again. We finally finished it a few days ago. I’ll try to write something brief here about what I think of the book. I am unsure where to begin though because it is a strange (but in so many ways, also wonderfully strange) book and some parts are a little disturbing. Not surprising given the author’s own eccentricity. Overall, I still enjoyed the book. One particular favorite of mine is the part about the twins, John and Barbara (who had the unique ability to talk to animals and to Mary Poppins and completely understood what grown-ups around them were saying but when they turned one year, they lost this ability and babbled like normal babies). The book was still a delight to read despite the peculiar things in it that bothered me a little. Here they are:

  • That Mary Poppins is always cross. Throughout the book, I don’t quite recall Mary Poppins exhibiting warmth and affection towards the children or anybody I think except for Bert the Match-Man but the adventures that she brings the children to definitely earn her cool nanny points. Towards the end of the book when the direction of the wind changed, signalling Mary Poppins’ departure from the Banks household, she gave Michael the magical compass they used in one of their adventures. This gesture- gift-giving- was, to the children, out of her character which led Michael to worry, saying, “Oh, oh, there must be something wrong! What is going to happen? She has never given me anything before.” Jane assured Michael that perhaps Mary Poppins was just being nice but she was as disturbed as Michael- “She knew very well that Mary Poppins never wasted time in being nice.”
  • The part about Mrs. Corry. She is sarcastic and demeaning towards her daughters, Annie and Fannie, who were obviously terrified of her.
  • That part when the children were led to the zoo at night and there was a reversal of roles: all caged animals were out and about and all the people (including Admiral Boom) were put in cages. Apparently this happens when Mary Poppins’ birthday falls on a full moon and all the zoo animals celebrate with her. The Hamadryad (king cobra) whom Mary Poppins called the “Lord of the Jungle” and who was “worshipped” in a sort of cult-like manner by other snakes and animals in the zoo and by Mary Poppins herself, was creepy. And when it gave Mary Poppins its shed skin as a birthday gift, I did not know what to make of it. Although I found humor in it when he suggested to Mary Poppins that the skin “may serve for a belt or a pair of shoes, even a hat-band”. While the Hamadryad and his followers were chanting something to the children, the other animals sang and danced and formed a ring and circled around Mary Poppins who was “rocking lightly from side to side” with the snake skin in her hands. Strange.

These parts bothered me because I was a little concerned as to how our 7 year old might receive them. The book is magical and unique. I give it that. I just feel that when read to a child, it should be coupled with parents’ explanations to guide the child and help him put things in perspective. Some websites recommend the book for ages 8+, some for ages 10-12. ¬†I did not check this beforehand but of course I already had a feeling that some parts may be confusing to a 7 year old. I skipped a few parts that I felt Q would be too young to understand. Why did we read this to begin with? Because of the movie version, of course. Haha.

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Another chapter book we finished this week is the first book in the Magic Tree House series: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne. Q and I took turns in reading it aloud and we finished it in one sitting. We loved it! It’s exciting, humorous, fast-paced and informative. It was an easy read. We couldn’t wait to read the second book of the series: The Knight at Dawn. Too bad we left our copy back home. Now we’re itching to know what Annie and Jack’s next adventure would be!