I’ve always wanted my family, especially our girls, to get involved in some outreach program or service.  I actually have been praying really hard for it.  Well, we haven’t really found a place to serve.  I’d like to think God is still preparing our hearts, spirits, and the people or community we would get involved in. Truly, the Lord has a way of answering our prayers and it usually comes as a surprise or in a manner not of our expectations.

This December, my dear friend and her two kids from Virginia, USA will be spending Christmas in Manila for the first time.  They’ve been coming over quite often to visit her aging aunt and my friend feels she needs to spend time with her aunt before she loses the opportunity.  Since it will be a first-time for her and her kids to experience Christmas here (Well, my friend’s last Christmas in the Philippines was when we were 2nd or 3rd year high school!), we decided to name this particular trip of theirs “Project Paskong Pinoy” .

As we did our usual emailing to each other, the topic on Christmas-giving came up.  Our youngest, Kayla, reminded me that she still has her savings (all coins!) and we haven’t done anything about it, and so I shared that to my friend.  At first, Kayla and I were thinking of buying grocery items to put in brown paper bags and distribute them to street people in Manila.  Mike and I used to do that with a group of friends just before Christmas when we were with Singles for Christ in Makati.  I realized that with her savings amounting to P1,060, we won’t really be able to buy that much to fill a hungry stomach and it won’t be able to feed as many mouths.  Then, ideas started to flow!!!

How about buying Jollibee chicken meals instead?  My friend liked the idea for her kids to experience Christmas differently from the way they have it over in the US. She then thought of us all doing this project by cooking rice and chicken nuggets at their place and packing them. She said that their place in Manila has a lot of squatters nearby and that all we need to do is have some control of the crowd who will be coming in to their house, which was going to be manageable since they have helpers and security guard. I also learned that my friend’s aunt used to do something like this before and it would make her happy to see kids in her house again.  What a perfect set-up!  So, after giving it some more thought, we finally decided that my family will buy some treats from the grocery while my friends’ kids will bring over their old toys to give away.  We would put them in brown paper bags and even design them.  My friend’s kids were really really excited that they made a prototype of the bag with the design that they will be making on each brown bag!  Our emails became more exciting that we also wanted a name for this.  First name I came up with was Operation Little Hands, Big Hearts.  How about Operation Puso’t Kamay (Make it Taglish since our kids are Filipinos and Americans)?  My friend’s daughter suggested that we change the name from Operation to Project since Operation sounded like a spy mission!  She has a point!  So, we continued to think.  Project Help Manila.  Project Christmas Miracle.  Project _________?   Final choice …  Project Hearts and Hands (to make Little Hands, Big Hearts shorter)! 

All our kids are really excited about this whole thing and we are all looking forward to doing it on the 26th of December! I can’t wait to post pictures of Project Hearts and Hands! 🙂

In the meantime, while waiting for Christmas Day and December 26, another opportunity to share came our way.  Unfortunately, it’s a tragic one.  The provinces of Dumaguete in the Visayas, Iligan, and Cagayon de Oro in northern Mindanao were terribly hit by typhoon “Sendong”.  Thousands were dead;  many are now homeless, orphans,  and still searching for their family members and relatives who  drowned while asleep during the night Sendong creeped in or who were washed away by the flood.  

The social networking sites, Facebook for instance, have been very active after the tragedy struck and it’s very heartwarming to see people use these sites to seek help, respond to the appeal, and post whatever service they can offer.  

Seeing how much food we have here in the house now that it’s Christmas time and friends have been giving all sorts of food as gifts and feeling how blessed we really are with not only the basics but even with luxuries, we made that little more sacrifice to give to the Sendong victims.  If only we could send the food gifts we’ve been receiving to Mindanao…but they’re perishables, which I felt would not be a very practical thing to do.  So, as a way to help, we gave a monetary donation to, at least, give the different volunteer groups a means to buy what they really really need at the moment for the victims.  

As I’ve said earlier, God works in His unexpected ways.  In our case, these two opportunities to share and give were His timely ways to help me teach the character traits I earlier on assigned for this quarter:  humility and compassion. Isn’t God’s timing perfect? Not that I wanted the calamity in northern Mindanao to happen (of course not!), but indeed, the Lord orchestrates everything and knows how to put the pieces of the big picture together.  He lets things happen to different people for different reasons.  

I pray for the victims of Sendong…that they may have the strength, comfort, the Pinoy spirit of resilence and strong faith in God to be able to overcome the pain and difficulties that they are faced with now.  I pray for us Filipinos who were fortunate enough and blessed to be not among the  typhoon victims.  May we take this opportunity to unite ourselves and to commit to be more responsible stewards of the environment and all the resources around us.  May we also be moved to combine all our efforts just like the “bayanihan” to be able to do something more effective and efficient in disaster management and in improving our country as one people.  

I also pray that these real-life experiences will enrich our girls and teach them to think less of themselves, be grateful, and help others in whatever way they can, not only during calamities but even during ordinary moments.  Everyday is an opportunity to do a random act of kindness and to pay it forward; an opportunity to live out our Christian faith by loving our neighbor.  ❤ 

 


 

Yesterday, for a few seconds, I was hit by the realization that my family and I really ARE HOMESCHOOLERS.  (See #5 for that wake-up moment. Like my instant reaction was I covered my ears out of disbelief that my girls were arguing and automatically giving scientific explanations on something one might consider so trivial.)

So, I decided to take that ordinary incident as a prompt to think of other proofs that we do breathe the homeschooling lifestyle 🙂  These come in no particular order.

1.  It’s normal to have our weekdays and weekends switched.  We sometimes have to study on weekends and do the fun stuff during weekdays (when everybody else is at work and in school)!

2.  We can have our own self-declared holidays.  Woohoo!

3.  Chores and life skills are a BIG thing for us.

4.  We think DIFFERENTLY. Now, that’s another BIG thing.

5.  The simple incident of our trash can inside the car, toppling over, after my husband, Mike, stepped on the brakes, instantly became a discussion between my girls, of what caused the trash can to fall.  “It’s caused by force!”  It’s caused by inertia!” (My eyes rolling here and hands cupped on my ears!)

6.  It’s quite normal for our girls to spot problems around them (traffic, pollution, ways things are done, etc.) and they then come up with their own invention ideas or proposals as solutions 🙂

7.  We take field trips SERIOUSLY and yet, know how to have fun during those trips.

8.  Character and Christian living/faith are MAJOR subjects.

9.  We love books!!!

10.  We would give up paper work for a hands-on experience, demo, or an interaction with a real person or an expert.

 


I am homeschooling a high schooler now, and I didn’t think we’d continue to do it.  So far, everything’s working out fine.  Soon, Kayla, our youngest, will also be in high school.  This is a helpful reminder that homeschooling in high school is possible and could even be a way better option during those critical years in our children’s lives.

Eight Common Myths About Homeschooling In High School



As a follow-up on my last post, here’s another material worth reading.  It’s a long one (I myself had just skimmed the article to get the gist.) but I’ve already seen a number of points to highlight and take note of!  This reminds me of great people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Robert Kiyosaki and many more who chose a different path in their education and made a difference in the world!

The Teenager’s Guide to Opting Out (Not Dropping Out) of Outdated and Traditional School

 


 

I’d like to share this link from a post in Facebook (credits to Joel Yuvienco). Now that we’ve taken the less road travelled of homeschooling, it just makes sense to me that the paths we take on this journey also veer away from what is traditional and society’s norm.  I do believe in out-of-the-box strategies and that there’s not just one, single way to teach and make our children learn.  That makes me a follower, a fan of 21st century education!  Boy, I still have a long way to go to be able to catch up and really live out this new paradigm!

Diplomas Don’t Prepare Students for the World. 
 ePortfolios Do!

 


It’s been more than a month since my last post!  Days are really getting busier as Christmas comes near.  Today is the feast of the Solemnity of Christ The King and next week will be Advent already.  It’s time once again to welcome our baby Jesus in our homes and more importantly, in our hearts.

This morning, our family celebrated mass for the second time at the chapel of Tuloy Sa Don Bosco Foundation in San Jose Village in Alabang.  Again, Fr. Rocky gave such an engaging homily on today’s Gospel taken from Matthew 25: 31-46.  It was another engaging one that we ended up quietly discussing it as a family during the mass and even while having lunch.  It’s the reading we are all familiar about.  When did we see Jesus hungry, thirsty, and without any clothes to wear?  From that verse, Fr. Rocky not only reminded us to love our neighbors in need, but gave two more lessons I have never learned from homilies given on these Bible verses:

1.  When we do not waste food on our plate and take care of our clothes, shoes and other things, we also end up sharing with our neighbors and loving them.  If we really think about it, when we are not wasteful with our resources and material possessions, we are giving others the chance to have their share as well.  We are not keeping to ourselves more than what we need. (Can you just imagine how our world would be if countries would also learn this simple lesson on a bigger scale?)

2.  In connection with the character trait we are learning this quarter, which is Humility (I just love it when I get validations on our lessons from real-world instances!), Fr. Rocky reminded us how Christ really is.  He is great.  He is loving.  He is SELFLESS.  Christ, our King, is selfless because He served others first and thought about Himself last.  He is our perfect model of a king who served, who loved, who sacrificed His whole being, who is HUMBLE.  

May this coming Christmas season remind us to think MORE about our neighbors everyday and not only what we want or would want to receive this Christmas.  I pray that we would not allow ourselves to get caught in the rush and commercialism of the season.  As always, I pray for a truly MEANINGFUL Christmas for everyone.


This morning was one of the few occasions I truly and sincerely enjoyed and appreciated the priest’s homily.  We four even found ourselves having quiet and brief discussions on what the priest had just said or occasionally looking at each other and nodding to show agreement with the priest.  Readings and the Gospel were about God’s invitation to His banquet, to His kingdom, but only few accepting His invitation; only few being chosen.  The priest (at St. Jerome-Alabang) clearly explained it further by concretely connecting it to how mass-goers nowadays have forgotten to put priority on the Holy Mass, have not observed the proper decorum especially in attire and behavior while the mass is going on.  I greatly appreciated the homily because what he preached was something I personally always tell or teach Arielle and Kayla.  

To give a summary, the priest pointed out the following:

1.  Give priority to the Holy Mass, especially Sunday Mass.  Be there early.  If you arrive late, it just shows that the Mass wasn’t your priority.  You were rushing for something else. If you failed to go to church, then you had other activities in your priority list.  

Mike always reminds us not to leave the church until the priest has exited from the altar as a sign of respect.  Another practice that he taught our girls is to bless the priest after the Mass, which I didn’t do in my childhood.

One thing we also take note of when we go out of town for a trip is include Sunday Mass in our itinerary.  Having fun and being on a vacation should not be an excuse for not fulfilling our Christian and Catholic obligation.  The Mass only takes one hour to one hour and 15 minutes at the most, once a week.  If we can devote the rest of our hours to our work, our chores, our social and civic activities, then why shouldn’t we be able to do the same for God?

2.  Come in proper attire.  Dress modestly and make sure that when you come to church, you are able to help others in their spiritual life and not be a distraction or the cause for them to sin.

I should remind or encourage our girls to dress better every time we go to Church.  They usually just go in jeans, shirt and FitFlops. On some occasions, when we’re in the mall and end up attending Mass there, they’re in shorts, which I think I should not permit from now on.  

3.  Participate in the celebration.  Do not engage in useless talk with your companions and keep your mobile phones off during the Mass.  

This is what I always teach Arielle and Kayla.  I always remind them to keep quiet and stop talking with each other for a while, and give their one hour to Jesus.  

A scene that never fails to bother me during Mass is kids running around, eating chips or drinking juice while the Mass is going on, and the parents seeming to be perfectly okay with their kids’ rowdy and distracting behavior.  I can honestly say that when my girls were toddlers or about 6 or 8 years old, and we brought them to Mass, they were taught to listen to the priest, behave, and even follow the gestures and say the responses I was teaching them as the Mass was going on.  Now that they’re older, they generally know what’s acceptable and what’s not at Church.

Let me also share some family practices we do:

1.  Mike, being the father and supposedly the priest of the family, leads us into prayer usually after Holy Communion.  In our seats, we huddle together as we listen to Mike leading the prayer and us, occasionally sharing other concerns or requests we would like to lift up to God.

2.  We also try to visit the Blessed Sacrament before or after the Sunday Mass to give ourselves personal quiet time with Jesus.  

3.  I also have given Arielle and Kayla a pouch each which contains a rosary, a rosary guide, a scapular, and a Padre Pio booklet with a medal.  Their pouches are always in their personal bag to serve as a reminder of God’s protection and constant watch over them and to encourage them to pray the rosary, especially when we visit the Blessed Sacrament.


With these, we do our best to accept God’s invitation to His banquet and try to become the chosen ones.  Sunday Mass and our faith are not just rituals.  It’s something that we try to consciously live out.  We may not be perfect but we do our best to give importance to our spiritual life and even make it a priority over what’s physical and material.

 


Steve Jobs just passed away.  This was the news that sadly greeted me today, Oct. 6, 2011, as I was reading my news feed on Facebook.  By now, people all over the world know about it and are most likely expressing their sorrow and sympathies privately or sharing them with friends and colleagues. 

I didn’t know if I was going to repost a picture or two of Steve Jobs or the Apple homepage, as I would normally do with news worth sharing.  


I decided to email the company instead to express my sympathies and share my personal thoughts about their great leader and visionary.  Here’s what I wrote:

 

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for revolutionizing learning, education, communication, and entertainment for our homeschooling family. You have greatly helped us make the world our classroom.  More possibilities, less boundaries. 

You have lived a life that is to be well-remembered by many. Rest in peace. 

 

GUEVARA family

Philippines

 
 

More than the products, Steve Jobs has been and will be a person of inspiration and model to our homeschooling family.  He is one creative genius, open to unthinkable possibilities, not afraid to take risks and dare try new things; not afraid to make mistakes and fall; rising up, doing and becoming better after each fall.  He clearly had a vision and had that vision embodied in the innovative products many of us enjoy and benefit from today.  He truly was one trailblazer.  That’s how I want my girls to remember Steve Jobs.  

 

 


We’re about halfway through our schoolyear and believe or not, I’m already in my “planning session” for next schoolyear.   Arielle and Kayla will be 13 and 11 years old, in 2nd year high school and 6th grade, respectively.  I’m thankful that the books Arielle had used in the previous years can be handed down to Kayla, which would mean savings, but I know also that, being aware of their different learning styles and my teaching style as well, there could be the possibility that I would have to change those hand-me-down books into new materials if I don’t see any interest and learning taking place. 

Though it feels like I’m one of the few homeschooling moms who already have a high schooler child, I would like to share, just the same, my criteria in choosing high school books for Arielle for next year, especially in Math, Science, and English.  These might also be of help to those who, just like me, often have a difficult time choosing “the right one” for your child, whether he or she is in high school or in grade school.

Aside from the cost, my girls’ learning styles, and the manner by which the lessons are presented, my criteria in choosing books have changed, as our girls also have changed and grown older (in the past 5 homeschooling years!).  

Books or materials must:

1.  teach Godly and Bible principles, or at least, not promote worldly values;

2.  be thorough and comprehensive enough to give them a complete, big picture;

3.  teach independence and encourage them to be self-learners;

 
4.  apply critical thinking (or Bloom’s Taxonomy) in the learning process

 

5.  as much as possible, veer them away from the traditional teaching-learning method and direct them to 21st century learning (see previous posts).