(Photo from colorful.bigbangfish.com)

(Photo from colorful.bigbangfish.com)

 

They say that Christmas is the time when everybody goes back home to their families.  Well, I had the chance to feel this heart-tugging moment with our two teenage girls a couple of weeks ago, way before the month of December had set in.  I didn’t have to wait for Christmas.

Arielle went to a dinner party with some old friends and I was expecting her to be home past midnight.  She doesn’t go to parties often and I thought that this would make up for all the parties she missed as a homeschooler.  I was having a bad, bloated tummy that evening, was tossing and turning in my bed when I finally decided to get up and find something to eat to hopefully make me feel better.  That was around midnight.  To my surprise, I saw Kayla AND Arielle, both lying down on the sofas and awake.  Kayla was apparently waiting for her Ate to come home so she could open the gate and door for her.  Arielle greeted me and asked if I was surprised to see her home early.  I actually was. So I asked her how the party went as I was preparing myself a bowl of cereals with milk.  Then, both my girls joined me at the dining table and Arielle started talking.  I was waiting for a non-stop storytelling session…with all the animation…and excitement.  But to my surprise, it was the total opposite!  She shared with me how disappointed she was.  She was disappointed seeing how her old friends were not able to carry a “smart” conversation.  How “shallow” they were in their ways and thinking.  How they preoccupied themselves with selfies!  She honestly felt that they just didn’t connect anymore and that she felt she had matured and grown up faster than most, if not all, of them.  What I didn’t expect to hear from her was this:  “Ma, see???  Eating cereals with you now is so much better than the party!!!”   AWWWW…my HEART!!!!!

That moment with Arielle and Kayla at the dining table.  Past midnight.  In my jammies.  In Arielle’s party clothes.  In Kayla’s casual, don’t-care clothes.  With a bowl of Koko Crunch and milk.  The three of us gathered around the dinner table.  THANK YOU, DEAR GOD, FOR THIS MOMENT!!!

Here’s more.  The next day, when we went to church to hear mass, in our family huddle-time prayer, Arielle made sure she spoke up with a prayer to the Lord, thanking Him for FAMILY.  That she has her FAMILY to always run to…where she can be herself…and a FAMILY to always have and keep.

As I write this, my HEART is FULL.  FULL of LOVE.  FULL of WARMTH.  FULL OF GRATITUDE. THANK YOU, LORD, for my FAMILY and for this WONDERFUL AFFIRMATION that we are doing the right thing for and with our children all for your greater glory!

May God bless your families and homes for your children to always come back to…not only during Christmas season but everyday of the year and everyday of their lives, no matter what they go through and how old they become.


 

The recent visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines has affirmed our decision and chosen lifestyle to homeschool our girls.  What a grace to hear and be touched by the words of our Holy Father!  He gave a number of homilies and memorable quotes during his 5-day visit here, but what I’ll remember most and keep in my heart are these:

  1. “It is important to dream in the family.  All mothers and fathers dream of their sons and daughters in the womb for 9 months.  They dream of how they will be.  It isn’t possible to have a family without such dreams.”
  2. “We too need to protect, guide, and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage.”
  3. “Protect your families!  See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments.  Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them!”
  4. “When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world.”

 

Just this week, we started to look deeper into Arielle’s college options and realistically identified which schools would help her pursue her dream to be an animator.  I’ve sent a request for assistance from our homeschool provider, given the fact that she will be taking a gap year this 2015 after she graduates in April and will concentrate on preparing herself for college in 2016.  This headstart of preparations is actually giving me anxiety attacks and making me nervous! For instance, one requirement for international school application given to me by our academic consultant is to list down all the books Arielle used in high school with their ISBNs, in order for WCFS (Walkersville Christian Family Schools) to prepare and process the document we would need for international application.  I panicked upon receiving the email last Thursday and immediately went through our library of books and listed them all down!  In a matter of hours, I had completed most of the books Arielle used from 1st year to present, but my state of panic would not go away until I’ve gone home to Batangas where the rest of the books were.  Now that I’m here in Batangas, I’m just glad and thankful that I’ve kept 99% of the books and materials of Arielle with the intention of passing them to Kayla, more than anything.

This DREAM of Arielle to become an animator, a Disney animator, has been a childhood dream.  Mike, Kayla and I are together with Arielle in praying for this dream to come true!  As a family, like what Pope Francis said, we have always been together in dreaming!

Amidst the fear and stress, a Bible verse timely spoke to me this week, which left me humbled and speechless.  It was only two days after that I was able to write down my reflection on it.  So, I’d like to share with you an honest-to-goodness prayer of a homeschool mom.

JEREMIAH 17:7 (NLT) – BUT BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO TRUST IN THE LORD AND HAVE MADE THE LORD THEIR HOPE AND CONFIDENCE.

Lord, the reality that Arielle will be graduating from high school AND homeschooling soon is beginning to scare me!  Choosing colleges, preparing for entrance exams and applications, and praying that we are doing the RIGHT thing every step of the way and not missing any detail, info, and deadline are stressing me out!  I honestly feel that this is MY measure of success or failure as a homeschool mom.  I need You now more than ever!  You were with us from the beginning.  I TRUST, HOPE, and am CONFIDENT that You will see us through.  AMEN.

 

Can I ask you to pray for and with us, please?  Your prayers would mean so, so much!  Thank you!

 


 

I last shared with you a MAJOR DECISION we made and the FIRST STEP we will take to prepare Arielle, our eldest, for college.  That is, taking a gap year.  Next question to ask:  What to do during the gap year.

Let me tell you again that lately,  I’ve been feeling scared about this whole college thing.  I told you admitted that in my last post.  When I think about college preparation and Arielle graduating from high school this coming March/April 2015, it makes me feel like I’m a bad and somewhat careless or negligent mom because I feel that I haven’t been doing my part to actually start doing what’s needed to prepare her for college.  I’m still very much in our homeschooling routine of finishing quarter after quarter and presenting portfolios.  Arielle, too, has asked us many times “What am I going to do during my gap year?”, and I couldn’t give her a clear answer.  Every time she’d ask the question, I feel stumped.

Because of that, I’ve instinctively thrown the question to God every time, hoping I’d get an answer from Him right away.  But He didn’t.  So I just went on with our life and homeschooled day after day. Until recently, I’ve started feeling anxious about it again and so I prayed to God as honest and as straightforward as I could be.  I told Him, “God, please show me how to prepare for Arielle’s college.  Show us what to do and how to do it.  It’s beginning to scare me.”  As always, God’s timing is perfect.  He knows when to catch me when I’m panicking or in distress.  Unexpectedly, I got my speedy answer from God last week which gave me quite a big relief and made me very happy and thankful!

Since I was already beginning to THINK about the work involved in college preparation AND WORRY is starting to creep in, I reminded Arielle to keep on checking at the websites of the schools she’s interested in, locally and abroad, so we would be updated especially on the college applications.  She really wants to take up Animation and so she searched (again; she’s really been reading about the animation industry) for the top animation schools and saw an article where the school, SCAD, Savannah College of Art and Design, was included in the Top 10 list. It was ranked Top 3.  When she mentioned SCAD to me, I instantly wondered if it was the same school in Hongkong mentioned to me last October by her Ninang (godmother) who lives there.  I checked my phone for our past chat and it IS the school that she had told me about before but I didn’t really pay much attention to it since our chat ended abruptly.  After that recall, it felt like a light bulb lit up because that only means that we have another option and the good news is…it’s located in Asia! That alone would dispel my motherly fear of having our daughter separated and so many miles away from us, if Arielle does end up studying abroad for college. That really lifted my spirits! It would just be a short plane ride away from Manila as compared to USC (University of Southern California) and CalArts (California Institute of the Arts), schools known for Animation, which are both in the U.S.A. and which Arielle is hoping to go to.

Before I give you the impression that the cost involved in sending our daughters to college is NOT AT ALL an issue to us, for us to be even THINKING of applying in international schools,  I will tell you that this is another BIG LEAP OF FAITH we are going to take, another BIG CONCERN which we are SURRENDERING to God (who happens to be BIGGER than our problems, right?).  The feeling that comes with it is much like how it was when we were trying to decide whether to homeschool or not. It is a HUMBLING act of SURRENDER.  Every time Mike and I discuss this, especially with friends,  I find myself mum about it because just thinking about the finances involved is TOO OVERWHELMING for me.  But seeing how driven Mike is on helping Arielle pursue her love for art and passion for Animation (which is best taken up abroad) and how he’s really doing his best to provide for us, his family, and for the future needs of our daughters, most especially on education, I get encouraged and at least, feel positive that we, AT LEAST, give it a shot.

I digressed a bit.  Back to what to do during our gap year.  So, last week, after dinner, Arielle showed her Papa the website of SCAD and they both spent time together reading about the school and its application requirements.  And what do you know?  After they’ve finished reading as much info as they could and me hearing bits and pieces of their conversation from where I was seated, I suddenly found myself giving Arielle a rundown of the things she needed to do to prepare for her college application, locally and abroad.  #1, #2, #3….  We both now know what to do during her gap year.  I felt God had spoken to me from nowhere!  If before, I could only see my feet below as I take one step at a time in my journey, I now could see that the path ahead of me is starting to clear up!  God, you are AMAZING!

Though this list or action plan may not strictly pass or qualify as the acceptable or normal activities done during a gap year (like the way it’s being practiced in the U.S. or Europe),  for me, the break Arielle will have before she finally enters college will give her the time to do what’s necessary such as:

  1. Organize her artworks (traditionally and digitally made) and build her portfolio
  2. Backup her portfolio files (and have a backup of her backup!)
  3. Possibly, continue her apprenticeship and look for other mentors
  4. Take courses to learn more about art, illustration, and other skills that would help her in her application
  5. Review for SAT
  6. Possibly, do another take of college entrance exam review for local colleges or just a refresher course
  7. Accept and do real jobs or services for others
  8. Learn more life skills such as cooking, laundry, banking transactions, budgeting, commuting, traveling, time and work management

 

And God’s amazingness doesn’t end there!  The morning after the A-ha moment from God, when I woke up and checked my phone, my good friend in Virginia, USA, shared with me that the redesigned or new SAT will be administered in May 2016.  Don’t you think that my friend’s update particularly on SAT was all in God’s perfect timing to answer my prayers?  Plus, after checking out the travel fair of Philippine Airlines last Sunday, we were able to get a good discount for a trip to Hongkong in March 2015 to check out SCAD’s campus!  Our good homeschooling family friend based in Hongkong is all ready to bring us around when I updated her of our booking and final travel dates while we were making plans at the travel fair.  Just like that, doors were opened and plans were made.  Things are now beginning to be less vague which are allowing us to plan, organize, and put everything in order.  (We thought that we would also be able to book for a trip to California to check out the animation schools there but the time we should travel were off and we took it as a sign from God telling us not to push through with it.  But oh my!  The ticket prices were really discounted!).

With this, I am beginning to feel I am ready to face what’s next to come.  I feel calmer now that God has answered me IN DETAIL how to prepare for college and what should keep us busy during Arielle’s gap year. I know that I would have more questions to ask and more concerns to lift up to God as we go along, but God knows everything!  I truly believe that the future of our daughters are in His hands.  Just as God has been faithful to us ever since we decide to homeschool, I believe that He will not leave us alone and will continue to take care of our daughters and provide for us.

Homeschooling, from the beginning, has been all about FAITH and SURRENDER.  It continues to be so.