Photo Source: http://plushblush.updateordie.com/2013/01/11/oscar-2013-les-miserables/anne-hathaway-in-les-miserables-1920×1080/

 

We are a theatre-goer kind of family.  Theatre, as in, movies, the cinemas.  And theatre, as in, performing arts, plays, musicals! (I think this is pretty obvious by now.)  It is one way we take a break from the books, recharge from our usual routine and yet still end up talking about the film or play like an academic subject…but only in a more engaging manner. You can say that the theatre is one of the many classrooms we have in our homeschool 🙂

Last January 18, we went to watch the much-awaited movie Les Miserables, starring Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, and Russsell Crowe as Inspector Javert.  

Photo Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1707386/

 

I made sure that it was written down in my planner and it was going to be ticked off in my to-do list at the end of the day.  No way are we going to miss this film!  So there I was, lined up at the ticket counter, by 11:00 in the morning. I chose the 4 pm screening and I wasn’t surprised to see that most of the center seats were already taken. We had time to eat lunch and wait leisurely until it was time to enter Cinema 1.

 

East meets West. Thai for lunch and Les Mis movie after!

 

I’m not going to do a review or critique of the movie.  Overall, we LOVED it even with its imperfections (Arielle and I did not really like Russell Crowe’s singing) and scenes that really needed our parental guidance. None of us dozed off given that it was 2 hours and 45 minutes long.  Plus wouldn’t sniffs and wet tissues be enough proof of how engrossed we were from beginning to end? 

Whenever we watch a movie or a stage play or musical, we always talk about it afterwards. Over a snack or dinner.  In the car.  Till we get home. Until the next day or an occasion related to it comes up. It’s like a protocol for us.  We all engage in a lively exchange of views and opinions.  Questions often lined up for discussion are: 

1.  Did you like it?

2.  What’s your favorite part?

3.  What is/are the lesson(s) in the movie?

4.  What would you do if…?

5.  If you were (a character in the movie), what would you do?

6.  Was it a good movie? Why?

7.  What didn’t you like about the movie?

8.  How did the movie affect you?

9.  Is it realistic?  Do you think it could happen in real life?

10.  What’s your best song/dialogue/scene?

 

For Les Mis, Mike threw the first question after we left the cinema, which I think is really the best take-away to ponder:  What is the lesson in the movie?  I didn’t attempt to take over because I wanted to see where exactly he was leading us with his question. Arielle immediately answered, “Accepting Jesus Christ can change your life.” (That made me so thankful that all my efforts in teaching the Christian Living subject and the Catholic faith were not put to waste!)

Then, Mike followed it up and ahhhhh! He was taking it from the character of Jean Valjean. 

Lesson:  Do not judge people.  People can change.

That kept me quiet and it was indeed a very good lesson to remember from the movie. Perhaps something we could do to make this world of ours a much better place to live in?  Where chances are given to others who have wronged and we see the innate good in them instead of the bad?

It’s been four days since we saw the film and Les Mis is still on my mind.  What else does it impart?  Sacrifice. Love. Different kinds of love. 

  • Love of a mother for her child (Fantine to Cosette);
  • Love of a young lady rebel for a man (Eponine to Marius);
  • Love of a young revolutionary for a young, beautiful lady (Marius to Cosette);
  • Love of one for money (the Thenadiers);
  • Love of men for their country (Marius and the rebels to France);
  • Love of a father for her adopted daughter (Valjean to Cosette)

 

For a more in-depth review of this film, you may read more

As for me and my family, it was one magnificent film. I’m sure if we had watched the musical, it would be a totally incomparable experience we’d be raving about all the more! 
 
Would you believe, I couldn’t recall and wasn’t too sure if I did have the privilege of watching the musical in New York  back in the early 90’s with our very own Lea Salonga as Eponine?  I was still too young then and oblivious to really appreciate the production. When I told Arielle about it and the souvenirs I may still have of it, her reaction was “You watched Les Mis in New York?!!!”  She wanted to make a dash for the bodega (storage room) and look for the souvenirs herself! 
 

Souvenir Brochure and Playbill of Les Mis
staged at Imperial Theatre, New York

 

Souvenir Brochure, Playbill, and my old copy of the book

 

My book with pages turned yellow, pulled out from our bodega

 
Apparently, Arielle had already drawn this with her tablet and Photoshop before we watched the movie and blogged about it. She’s been working really hard to learn as much as she can (on her own!) and improve her skills in art.  I’m waiting for her to do the cover of the song “On My Own” she said she plans on doing (will share that as soon as it’s done).  Hmmm…on her own…On My Own.  
 

My book with pages turned yellow, pulled out from our bodega

 
As expected, she’s been listening to the movie soundtrack with Kayla, and BOTH of them have been singing the songs at the top of their lungs.  I can tell that Arielle’s dreaming of performing again on stage (She wants to play Eponine or Gavroche)!
 
The theatre. When we feel like changing “classrooms”.  When we look forward to and need a bit of inspiration.  When we go beyond the large screen (or stage) and popcorn and talk about art, technology, music, character traits, our dreams, history, childhood, the past and the future, life lessons, etc, etc!  Yes, this is how it’s like for us when we say “Let’s go watch a movie!”

Any movie/show/stage performance you watched with your kids lately? How do you end your movie or theatre dates with them?
 

 


I’ve always been the type who prefer simplicity over extravagance or boldness.  I don’t really like big parties and loud music (except when it’s my high school batch’s homecoming).  I prefer cafes over bars.  Cozy restos over gourmet and fancy ones.  Generic and yet personal over chic brands.

It’s November already and Christmas is just around the corner.  50 days to be exact!  Usually, by this time, I already have more or less some ideas on how to go about our Holiday season … different from last year’s.  What dishes to prepare for Noche Buena.  What kinds of gifts to buy for the persons in our Christmas list and where to, more or less, get them.  Where to have get-togethers with our different groups of friends.  What homemade Christmas tree decors to do this time (Oh! This has been quite a tradition in the past years!)  I don’t know, but I’m feeling a bit “more laid back” this year.  The Holidays has always been such a hectic season and I’m being reminded (again) that I shouldn’t make ourselves go with the mad rush and fall prey to commercialism that Christmas never fails to bring.  The reminder becomes stronger and stronger every year.  Is it because I’m getting older (a bit of denial here)?  Or is it because our girls are in their pre-teen and teen stage that they are no longer the toy stores’ main target market for the biggest toy sale season of the year?

It’s just making me think. HARDER. How should we celebrate Christmas this 2012?  It is quite a challenge now to think of more meaningful, concrete ways, most especially when everyone in the whole world seems to be synchronized and going through the same retail rush year after year. 

The mindmap, posted on the wall in front of me, which I did at the start of 2012, gave me the answer.  Simple yet Significant.  That was the theme/central image for my 2012 Goals mindmap and that’s how we’re going to do it this Christmas 2012!  Now, I’m inspired.  Here are six Simple yet Significant ways that I have in mind to celebrate our Christmas this year:

1.  No more Christmas tree.  We’ll just have The Nativity/Belen and focus more on it.  After all, Christmas is all about the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not about how many gifts we have under the tree or how many and what kind we’d be receiving.

2. More quality time to spend with family members and friends. Reunions and get-togethers need not be something obligatory.  Time to really engage in conversations and listen to what another person is saying, young or old.  Listen…Connect…Engage.

3.  Prepare/Eat more healthful dishes.  More greens, less of the sweets and bad calories.  And be thankful that we have something on the table! With all the get-togethers, we actually may be having more than what our digestive system can take 🙂

4.  Gifts need not be expensive.  The more personal it is, the better.  And we don’t have to force our budget to buying gifts we cannot afford for the people in our Christmas list.  Buy local, too!

5.  Schedule a Skype/Face Time/Magic Jack session with loved ones in another country or location.  (I’m sure Arielle and Kayla’s Lolo and Lola, Titos, Titas, Ninongs, Ninangs, and cousins in the U.S. would be excited to talk with and see them on the computer screen.)

6.  Include in our list, presents for our house helpers, drivers, laundry woman, and others.  It may even be good to allot a bigger budget for them for their year-round services.  Make it the other way around?  More budget for them than our family members, friends, colleagues who can well afford and are already blessed.  (Hmmm…this is something to discuss with my husband and girls.)


How about you?  Have you already thought of how you’ll be celebrating Christmas this year?  

 



From:  Simple Homeschool

Subject:  An open letter to my non-homeschooling friends

The subject title of this particular email in my inbox immediately caught my eye.  I opened it, read it, and am sharing it!  I loved the way it was simply, honestly, and beautifully written.  Perhaps it’s because I can so relate!  I’m sure some or most of you will, too! 🙂

An Open Letter to my Non-Homeschooling Friends

* From simplehomeschool.net



For the record, we are currently finishing our 4th and last quarter of ourschoolyear.  Our HOMESCHOOLing schoolyear (a deep breath here).  Yes, it’s “we”, “our” and not “our daughters” quarter and “their” schoolyear.

As I sit in front of the computer and stare at my screen, I ask myself “What really did we gain from this out-of-the-norm option we had taken five years ago?” (Now, for a sip of coffee … Did I hear somebody say “out-of-this-world” or was that “out-of-your-mind”?)  It definitely has not been smooth sailing all the way but despite the many bumps, potholes, pit stops, and roller coaster rides in this journey (journey: my personal metaphor of how homeschooling has been to us), I must humbly say that the cruisin’, smooth landings or touchdowns every end of a schoolyear accomplished is a constant and faithful reminder of God that He is in control of everything, even if there were a lot of moments when it felt turbulent and out of control.

Just like when travelling to a place, especially for the first time, we have “pasalubongs” or souvenirs from our homeschooling journey which have accumulated these years  and which I personally find most memorable and worth keeping.  I have a few which are my favorites:

1.  Learning takes place anytime, anywhere, everytime, everywhere.  It is not anymore limited within the four walls of the classroom, to what the teacher always says, when the bell rings, or when it’s time to take the quarterly exams.  Homeschooling has tore down those classroom walls and truly has made the world our classroom.  We learn hands-on, real-time, and sometimes, in the most unexpected and unconventional places, with ordinary, extraordinary but real people and scenarios.

2.  When we started to homeschool, our family became a four-pack family where one goes, everybody goes.  Well, this is true until today. We became closer and the bonding, stronger than if our girls were in school during the big chunk of the day.  We fight, we cry (oh yes, we do!) but with God’s grace, we manage (and still try) to reconcile our differences and always, always, try to do better and be part of the team, the family.  The best part of it is when we reach a point of disagreement, misunderstanding or even a momentary rift, we always end up drawn towards each other. We find ourselves still sticking by each other and being a family.

3.  We have ample time in my and my husband’s hands to teach our girls to be persons of character, Godly character.  At first, I thought Character would be the eeeeeasiest subject to teach but I was proven wrong.  It was and turns out to be a big challenge to me, seeing the pressure around us and our girls, as real and happening.

From the family conversations that we always have, Mike and I have seen the fruits of our parenting and homeschooling.  Recently, our girls themselves expressed their sad sentiment AND shock on father absenteeism and cussing as being the norm among their friends who are not homeschooled.  I was quite surprised when our girls openly and casually mentioned these sensitive and serious topics with us.  At the same time, it made me realize that it is very good and indeed a blessing that the our girls trust us, their parents, and come to us first, to talk about something that could be bothering them.

Character-building has become one of the responsibilities and priorities where Mike and I have become intentional in our parenting, intentional in our homeschooling.  We cannot compromise the character formation of our children.   We are NOT PERFECT PARENTS and I am definitely a work-in-progress!  We are NO SAINTS but we take the responsibility and will not pass it on to anybody else.  We ourselves are being transformed into the kind of persons and adults that God wants us to be.

4.  Lastly, I have seen lately how our girls seem to have developed a good sense of self-awareness.

They know who they are and what they are capable of doing.

Compared to other girls and boys about their age, our girls seem to clearly know what they want, what their strengths are, what they are good at, what they’re not so good at. (Well, as their parent, I am aware that they can confidently state their passions, dreams, and goals and not just be able to give a general or vague answer to the question “What do you want to do or become?”). They know their gifts, skills, and interests to pursue.  With this sort of empowerment that they feel at this young age of theirs (13 and 10 years old), I can see that it is something that helps them keep their focus, identify options that they have, choose from the options available to them, set their targets, and work their way to achieve them. I know that they can still change their minds and they still have a long way to go but this kind of processing that takes place within them is an important and essential life skill that I myself didn’t learn or have when I was in school at their age, or not until I was an adult!

I still have those moments when I simply cannot believe how long we’ve been doing this.  Yes, it’s been five years!  Five years of being out-of-our-minds?  Hahaha!  More of, five years of out-of-the-box and out-of-the-ordinary experience!

My blog title for this piece should not have been “Five Years of Homeschooling … So What?”  It should have been “Five Years of Homeschooling … Now What?” because we will continue to do it for another year next year.  We will again do our best to make learning a more fun journey together as a family, correct our mistakes from the past, and make homeschooling, our lifestyle.

Just like when we first took the leap of faith, I will ask the Lord to faithfully guide us and strengthen me, most especially, when fear, frustration, lack of confidence, stress, and even physical exhaustion start to take over.  This January, the start of 2012, I was already starting to question God (I mean, really question) what His plans really are for us, particularly on our homeschooling and with the kids growing older. He answered me with this verse:

Philippians 1:6 – being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.

When things seem hazy and gray, I go back to this for reassurance and encouragement to do what I have to do.

As a final note, to homeschool and take the full responsibility to teach and educate our children is unpopular to many, and even unacceptable and not do-able, but as for our family, our journey took a different turn.  To quote Robert Frost,


A few weeks ago, my family and I had the chance to go on a short vacation in Singapore.

Singapore is south of the Philippines, nearer to the equator, which makes its climate warmer than ours.

Flight from Manila took 3 hours and it was all our first time in this so-called “Little Red Dot”, also referred to as the “Lion City”.  It was a brief 5-day stay but each day had a full itinerary and at least one must-go-to destination.

Here’s how we planned out and maximized our stay in the city:

Day 1:  Day of Arrival;  We settled in at our hostel and went to Marina Bay Sands Theatre to watch the broadway hit musical “Wicked”.  This day was dedicated to Arielle, who loves theatre…watching musicals and being in it!

  

The show was awesome! After the show, on our way back to our hostel, we were able to see for ourselves for the first time, what a hawker center is.

A hawker center is basically a group of food stalls.

Day 2:  It’s Kayla’s day, being an animal-lover that she is. We spent the whole day walking at Singapore Zoo and the night, at the Night Safari!  It’s a good thing that we had opted to ride a tram in the Night Safari.  We were sooo tired from all the walking that we did at the zoo!

Singapore Zoo occupies a big land area and animals are healthy, well-fed and well-taken care of.

 

White Tiger

The Lion King!

 

An orangutan easily husking a coconut with her bare hands

 

Feeding an elephant

 

Feeding a giraffe

 

This is our female elephant, Gambe. She’s about 25 years old, born in the wild in Malaysia.

Day 3:  By this day, we had already learned how to commute in Singapore, and so, we hopped from one place to another, taking the MRT and buses around the city.  We went to the Science Center, walked next door to Snow City, moved to Albert “hawker” center, and checked out the Bugis market area which is similar to our Divisoria.  The famous Merlion tourist photo op landmark couldn’t be missed, too, where we also had the chance to watch and enjoy the Lights and Water show across the Marina Bay Sands in the evening. To even add to this day’s already full schedule, for dinner, we went out of our way to try the famous Singapore Chili Crab at a restaurant called “No Signboard”.

Commuting in Singapore was easy and safe.

 

Inside the Science Center

 

At Science Center

 

Tea Tarek, Kopi Teh, Milo Dinosaur, Horlicks Ice at Albert Center

 

Fish Lor Mee, much like our “lomi”

Singapore white pepper chili crab at No Signboard

 

At the Merlion Park

Lights and Water show

Day 4:  We enjoyed the rides and sensory-overload experience at Universal Studios.  It was still a fun thing to do with the kids even if we had already gone to the one in Los Angeles.  Again, it was like forgetting the real world for a while and stepping into a magical place full of thrill and excitement!  Theme parks is a great venue to bond with your kids, see and enjoy things as they would.

Kayla and Mike up there!

Day 5:  Our last day in the city was a Sunday.  We made it a point not to forget our Catholic obligation to hear mass.  Even if we were all already totally exhausted by this day, with our legs, feet, and backs aching, we managed to get up and attend the 9:00 am mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart.  With still a couple of hours in our hands before our flight back to Manila, we went to leisurely see the famous Orchard Road, and eat lunch at another hawker center in Newton.

What we did as first-time visitors in Singapore may sound quite ordinary and very common, but there’s always something new to learn in every new travel destination, be it local or overseas.  From the packing to airport-to-airplane procedures and manners, it was a whole learning experience from beginning to end, especially for our girls.  That is why, as a family, we try, whenever possible, to plan our vacations to places where we get a chance to experience something NEW and DIFFERENT each time.

So much is to be remembered from this trip!  It had made such an impact to our girls that Arielle now dreams of studying college there to pursue a course in Digital Arts or Animation.  She liked the city so much she thinks she can study there and be independent.  Kayla saw how clean the city was, the cars and buses well-maintained, and  that smoke-belching was totally non-existent. She now wonders if the “discipline” can be implemented in the Philippines.  After tasting, too, the Hainanese Chicken Rice and the Kaya toast, she was able to give her taste buds a different gustatory experience :).  The soft-boiled eggs Mike and I usually have for breakfast at Toast Box with our kaya toast and kopi made her think how the eggs come out soft and almost-looking fresh but without that eggy after-taste.  She still holds on to her dream of becoming a chef in the future!

Travel is really one of the best teachers one could have.  It’s a whole new experience and definitely hands-on!  The culture.  The cuisine.  The lifestyle.  The language.  Listening to how the locals talk. The government system and policies. Talking to people.  Seeing them on the road.  Watching how they prepare the food and eat them.  Taking the different modes of transportation available.  The list could go on…

What’s wonderful about traveling as a family is we always find ourselves engaged in lively discussions, comparing notes about what we see around us, how different or similar they are to what we do, and with how it is back in our home country.  It is a very good venue to do some critical and creative thinking 🙂

We all enjoyed our Singapore trip and hope to go back.  There is still so much to discover and explore, and I would say, so much to learn from the Singaporeans.

 


 

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


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).


Last July 7, we watched Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai.   Cirque du Soleil (meaning, circus of the sun) has been travelling around the world and for a few weeks this June and July, it brings to Manila, Varekai, its 14th show, which means wherever in Romany language.

 

The show was superbly awesome!  I think my heart skipped a beat a number of times as I watched the performers do breathtaking stunts with grace and perfect timing!  One has to see for himself a show of Cirque to understand what I’m trying to say. (Taking photos and videos during the show is prohibited.)

When the show finally ended, we all walked out of the tent with awe and amazement.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m THANKFUL that God was able to provide us the means to let our kids watch a performance.  

What did we learn from the circus?  Well, Cirque du Soleil taught me these P’s:

1.  Practice! Practice! Practice!
2.  Possible!!!
3.  Persistence!
4.  Perseverance!
5.  Precision!
6.  Perfection!

 

Cirque du Soleil showed that all these are possible.  As a final note and perhaps, the most important and worth remembering is I also learned how to appreciate the beautiful bodies that God has given us, with all its bones and muscles!  The show was a reminder that we should take care of our bodies and if we do just that, we are capable of doing, creating, and sharing something new and wonderful, beyond our imagination!!!