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!!!


It’s almost June and as I’ve written in my last blog, we will soon start another homeschooling schoolyear.  This is going to be our 5th!  It makes me wonder (and at the same time, quite anxious) if we’ll be able to make things better or will the way we do things at home remain the same.  And believe me, each year is always (well, almost always) like the first time, having mixed feelings of excitement, nervousness, and lack of confidence.  Well, that’s how I feel. 

To slowly ease our way through our first days of school this year, Mike and I already started to talk with our girls to give them some sort of “orientation” before we officially start again our homeschooling, just to remind everyone of the house rules and daily routine.  To me, following the house rules and remembering routines can make a big difference on how our day will turn out and what mood everybody will have.  

I’m also reminded that homeschooling is two-way.  I teach our girls. They teach me as well.  Humbling, isn’t it? (How many times have I failed to realize this!) As a parent-teacher, there are a lot of things to learn AND unlearn!  And our kids can be a deep well of ideas, information, questions, ways and thinking we, adults, have never thought of.    

So as I was thinking about the onset of another homeschooling lifestyle and journey, I only have these two questions for myself:

Why did we choose and decide to homeschool?

What is it really that we want our girls to learn and be?

(Take note … BE.  And not just know)

It’s always good to trace back the steps that led us to the decision to homeschool and see if we are still on track or off the course.  What’s comforting is with the mistakes and shortcomings I’ve committed along the way, God has always been faithful.  He provides me the answers to my many doubts and questions.  He also has been giving me support and encouraging words from unexpected persons and sources.   And…what’s touching and heart-tugging is I see and feel my family s-l-o-w-l-y growing stronger in relationship with one another no matter how different our personalities and interests are, no matter how imperfect a mom and parent-teacher I am, and no matter what storms we go through.  My family stays together and we’re sticking it out! 🙂  Where one goes, everybody goes.

 


A friend of mine, who’ll be coming over this April, asked me to look for an English children’s book for her daughter on the legend of Chocolate Hills, as a preview of our trip to Bohol. Sadly, I couldn’t find any and even this book which had a compilation of different Philippine legends didn’t have any story on this famous place in the Visayas.  So I asked Arielle and Kayla if they could research on the legend, make their own books, and give them as gifts to my friend’s daughter. 

Arielle used a tablet and Photoshop to make her version, printed it out, and fastened the pages together.

 

 

Kayla did a cut-and-paste method, and drew some parts of the story.

With these, I hope we, Filipinos and foreigners, adults and kids alike, would appreciate more the beauty of the place and the ‘magical’ story behind it.


Let me call it “unschooling” because there were no books on the table, no academic rules to follow to foster these learning moments:

Just this week, Kayla amazed us with her creative idea!  She taped her cellphone on top of her remote controlled car and put it on video mode.  So, while the car makes it way around the house, the video is running and records the car’s movements, its bumps, stops and turns.  It’s just like those cameras on a biker’s helmet.  It was fun watching the video and see how it scared our dogs, Teri and Hershey, like crazy! 

Now, she’s waiting for her pretzel dough to rise.  She was inspired by another culinary show on tv last night and was itching to bake pretzels! So, she did it this morning.  We were supposed to do Art this morning but she just couldn’t wait.  (When she wants to do something, she really has to do it and will do it.  It can be both a positive and negative trait that I’m still trying to accept and understand.)  On her own (again), she brought out all the ingredients and started to follow a recipe on Youtube.  I had to remind her though of some kitchen basics, like preparation of ingredients, mise en place (a French term which means arranging all the ingredients necessary for a dish before you start cooking to make the cooking process more efficient and to avoid mistakes), cleaning up as you go, and taught her how to divide a recipe into two with fractions (I knew there had to be some Math to teach in there!).  Plus, reading recipes (This is where English comes in) practices her to follow directions, which I think is an important and a basic skill to learn.  This is one of her weak areas and culinary may be able to help her be more attentive to instructions and details. 

Our verdict: Kayla’s pretzels were edible 🙂 and tasted good!  (I’m not being biased here).  She chose to do cinnamon sugar coating.  She still has to practice though how to twist the dough into those pretzel shapes instead of looking more of like mini croissants 🙂  We have to go to Auntie Anne’s one time and watch how they do it.  But overall, I see Kayla really driven now when it comes to cooking and baking.

 

 

 

Kayla’s pretzel! This is PERFECT!

 

 


Kayla wants to be a chef!  The kitchen seems to be her turf.  Her interest in culinary is becoming stronger and stronger that I find her researching for recipes on the internet, reading them, printing them out, filing them in a clear book I gave her, experimenting in the kitchen, preparing dishes and plating them!  She loves the tv show “Junior Master Chef” every  Sunday, and most of her writing exercises is about cooking, baking or her dream of becoming a chef.

For lunch today, she did strawberries on toothpicks with chocolate sauce, on her own.

 

Afterwards, we both worked together in doing a 6-inch Oreo cheesecake.  She did the measuring and mixing of ingredients while I did the springform pan preparation, placed it inside the oven and waited until it was done.  (She still has to overcome her fear of placing pans inside a gas-fired oven.)

 

Ate Arielle wanted to try putting the whipped cream on top.

 

My turn!

 

Our Oreo cheesecake!

For quite some time, we didn’t know exactly what Kayla likes to do or pursue. What we know is that she’s a kinesthetic learner. So seeing now that she really likes to cook and bake, it’s a wonderful feeling (and a relief!) to clearly identify her interests and what makes her tick.  It definitely is an A-ha moment!   I also noticed that when I do give Kayla a chance to work with her hands and do anything related to cooking or baking, she’s more wired to do her other academic subjects, making it easier for me to teach and for her to learn.  That could only mean happy and smooth-sailing homeschooling days 🙂


We didn’t feel like homeschooling today.  I felt we three girls needed a break from our daily routine and so we took a day off from our books and worksheets (except Arielle wanted to do a worksheet in Science).  We spent the day cooking and baking!  Kayla has been very interested in culinary lately perhaps because of the Culinary class in their Hybrid Homeschool Program and the new tv show Junior Master Chef. In fact, she now dreams to become a chef someday!

So what did Arielle, Kayla, and I cook and bake?  For lunch, we cooked beef salpicao and Kayla wanted to learn how to make mashed potatoes.  With instructions orally given to her by her Papa during breakfast, she was able to do the mashed potatoes on her own.  The beef we bought yesterday from the grocery didn’t turn out very tender but our helper said she can pressure cook it so we can still have it for dinner. Something quite didn’t turn out right with the Devil’s Food Cake but it can still be eaten and the decorating that I did with it was  appreciated!

 

Kayla’s been wanting to make meringue and it was a success even if I couldn’t set the temperature of our oven to what was on the recipe.  The green beans with beef we had for dinner was flavorful too.

 
 

Even if we did not stick our noses to our books or laptops, today was rich in hands-on learning! What SKILLS exactly did the girls learn today?

1. How to pick out the ingredients we would need in the grocery (Kayla and I went on a quick trip to the grocery yesterday)

2.  To put away grocery items upon arriving home

3. To pay attention to another person when he is speaking  or giving instructions

4.  Knife skills:  slicing meat, vegetables, mincing garlic

5.  What ‘boil’ means

6. How to properly measure the ingredients using measuring spoons and cups (for dry ingredients and for liquid ingredients)

7.  How to use the calculator to convert fraction to a decimal and to multiply with fractions (I had to tell Arielle to find out what 3/4 of 225 grams is.  That was for the butter 🙂 )

8.  To use and read the numbers on a weighing scale

9.  To read food labels

10.  To carefully read recipes and follow procedures

11. How to use other kitchen utensils such as a potato masher, peeler, angled spatulas, rubber spatulas, piping bags and cake decorating tips

12.  To familiarize oneself with and operate kitchen appliances such as a Kitchenaide mixer and induction stove

13.  How to crack eggs, and separate the whites from the yolks

14.  New baking terms such as “soft ball stage” and “hard ball stage”

15.  The difference between “soft peaks” and “stiff peaks”

16.  To wait for the precise time to add the next ingredient or do the next procedure or when it’s time to turn off a running kitchen appliance

17.  To take turns and cooperate with others to be able to finish a task

18.  To appreciate one’s efforts and give praise to another for a “Good job!”

19.  To share what we cooked and baked to our helpers

20.  To clean up and share in the house chores

21. To simply try and learn how to make things better next time!

 

So when we do have those days when I don’t feel like teaching and the girls also don’t feel like studying, simple daily activities in the house come in as the “substitute teacher” and usually turn out more fun, more memorable, more engaging and more personal to Arielle and Kayla.


 

As we’ve homeschooled Arielle and Kayla these past 4 years, I’ve learned these and continue to remind myself that:

Less is more.

< = >

It’s better to study in chunks rather than in big gulps.  
It’s better to immerse in a topic rather than 
try to study all the chapters in the book 
from cover to cover. 
(I don’t think we’re even required to finish the entire book in all subjects every schoolyear!
Do schools actually do that?) 
Slow is fast. 

 

The more you take time to teach a child how a thing works or about a topic in such a way that he/she would be able 
to grasp the idea and see the big picture of it, 
the faster it will find its way to his/her memory bank.

 

Playing or having fun is learning.

 

When you enjoy the learning process, you want to do it again.  
When you want to do it again, there’s repetition.  
When there’s repetition, you remember.

 

Doing is learning. 

I haven’t come across a hard and fast rule by educators or 
by geniuses that said “Memorizing is the way to learn.”
 
That’s why we have apprenticeship, mentorship, 
on-the-job training!
Learning is emotional, not just cerebral.

 

The more personal the learning process is to a child, 
the more he/she experiences it and relates to it, 
the more he/she remembers.
Everything just makes sense!

 

 


 

 

Homeschooling gave Arielle a chance to make her dream come true. After watching Peter Pan at CCP last 2007, she told herself, “I can see myself on stage doing the main character.”  And true enough, she played Jack in her first summer workshop with Rep, Jack and the Beanstalk.  

In 2008, she auditioned for the role of Grace Smythe in A Christmas Carol and got the role.  It was her first professional play!  It was THE REAL THING…working with professionals and it was an experience that taught her a lot about time management, responsibilities, diligence, patience, humility, self-control, forgiveness, gratitude, and a lot more!

 

 



Let me begin with this blog: Why we decided to homeschool.

Aside from dissatisfaction from the quality and standard we were getting from the traditional school where our two girls were enrolled in back then, Mike and I wanted our children not to be good in simply memorizing facts from their books, in taking tests and in just getting high scores or honors. We wanted them to love to learn and to know how to learn.

The reasons behind making the shift were, to me and Mike, simple (but radical, to the rest of the world):
(1) To have the love for learning

(2) To intentionally direct their paths towards their interests and to where they would be able to discover more their gifts and their passion
(3) To hopefully and ultimately, develop those gifts to the fullest

(4) With God’s grace, to support them in their dreams
(5) To mold them with godly and acceptable character traits

Don’t you think they make a lot of sense?  But it took a lot of prayers, reading of books, research on the internet, family meetings, weighing of options, before finally making the decision.

Now on our 4th year, I can’t say it was and is easy.  Every year, As often as we can, we make changes and improve the way we do things.  That’s probably one of the reasons why we’re still at it.  With homeschooling, we can propose and make changes anytime we feel the need for it. We don’t have to wait for the school’s adviser or principal to give their feedback or approval.  When we need to improve the way our child learns, we pray and do something about it right away.

Yes, we argue and we fight. We laugh and we cry. We talk and learn to listen. It is from these roller coaster rides that we’ve all become real people and learners.  We learn a lot about character and being a family.

So what did homeschooling do to us?   Homeschooling brought our   4-pack family TOGETHER, where one goes, usually everybody goes. It taught us a new lifestyle where we all learn from real life scenarios and from real people.   It made the world our classroom.