Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Son's Favorite Teachers

I heard something I didn't expect to hear last Sunday afternoon while I was reading aloud a new book to my sons before their nap. This book was given to my eldest son as a gift by his godfather who's also one of my closest friends in college. When I came to a part wherein a question was posed, I asked that question to my eldest son.
His answer was, "You... and Daddy."
The question on the book was, "Who is your favorite teacher?"
It was our first time to read the book. So, I did not expect to encounter that question there. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear my eldest son's answer.  
Tears clouded my eyes right away. I could no longer continue reading the story. I could not stop myself from crying. I was too happy with what I accidentally found out.

I did not expect him to give that answer. Although our sons are homeschooled and I am their main teacher, my eldest son had other teachers in the past. Most of them were his occupational therapists whom he calls his teachers. He had four so far. Then, around a month ago, we got him a piano teacher. A week ago, we enrolled him and his younger brother in a theater class. Thus, he has one more teacher to add to his growing list of teachers. 

I was so touched to hear that among the teachers he was exposed to in the past, he considers me his favorite.

My son's favorite teacher is me!

Another reason why I cried when I heard his answer is because I felt God's hand at work in my son's heart and life. I admit that I've made a lot of mistakes in teaching my sons, my eldest son especially. He was my firstborn. And just like in many cases when you are doing something for the first time, I made countless mistakes. I learned through the years through trial and error. I was so thankful to God that in spite of my mistakes, my eldest son still considers me his favorite teacher. 

Moreover, I felt that it was an affirmation from God that my husband and I made the right decision to homeschool our kids. 
After thanking my son, kissing him, embracing him and telling him how happy I was to hear his answer, I asked my husband to take over in reading and finishing the story.

I was still crying while my husband was reading the rest of the story.
I was moved not only by my eldest son's answers but also by how the author described the characteristics of teachers who usually become their favorite.

Let me quote from the book:

"If you're like most children, your favorite teacher is someone who cared a lot about you. That teacher cares enough to give you extra help when you needed it. Maybe she noticed when you were sad and cared enough to ask you why. Or maybe he worked really hard and did a good job, all because he cared about you."

We were reading the book Children's Book of Saints by Amy Welborn. The Saint story we were reading that day was the story of Don Bosco.

I liked the way the life and ministry of Don Bosco was told in the book. It was not only our kids who learned that day. My husband and I learned as well.

It was my first time to learn that Saint John Bosco or Don Bosco was first called by God through a dream that he had when he was just 9 years old.

His dream made an impact on me because in his dream he saw kids running wildly and God told him that he will be the leader of those boys. This surprised him. He also felt afraid because he didn't know how to lead those boys.

What God said to him struck me as well.

"Not with blows will you help these boys, but with goodness and kindness." It was said iin the book that after this line was said in Don Bosco's dream, the boys in his dream became calm.

I could relate to Don Bosco somehow. My boys have the tendency to run wildly, too. They easily get excited and when they are excited they sometimes run around and shout or make a lot of noise. They are like supercharged atoms bouncing everywhere! These behavior drives me nuts and tries my patience A LOT each day.

So when I learned from the book that Don Bosco helped the boys to become well behaved through his love and his relationship with them, I felt that God was answering the questions in my heart through his story.

I pray that I would be more like him. I pray that I would patiently invest in my relationship with my kids and wait for them to be transformed by the love that I pour into their young lives. I pray that this story of Don Bosco's ministry would provide for me encouragement during difficult days -- when things do not go as I hope and expect them to be, when my faith is wavering and I want to see tangible results of my efforts right away.

Do you also have very active little boys like me? Do you know who your child's favorite teacher is? If you are homeschooling your child and he gives the same answer as my little boy did, would you also be moved to tears?

Feel free to share in the comments. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Day in the Life of My Gifted Homeschoolers is Like Fireworks Display

Surprises. Stories. Songs. Struggles. These are four words that usually characterize a day in the life of my gifted homeschoolers. But if I put them together (which is actually what really happens each day), I would choose to describe our typical day as a fireworks display because it's a combination of many explosive things that happen during the day. Sometimes, it's yellow. Other times, it's green or orange. Many times, it's pink or red because of the intensity of emotions displayed. The sound would usually range from loud to very loud! ;)

Let me first talk about Surprises and Songs.

My two older sons whom I homeschool are 6 and 3. They are very musical kids who burst into songs without warning. Because they are music smart, they do not run out of songs in "their playlist". They are either belting out a song that is their current favorite or they could be singing a new song they recently heard. That's one area where I usually get surprises from my boys. They surprise me with the new songs that they learned. They do not surprise me on purpose like they call my attention and ask me to listen to them sing a new song. I just get surprised during the day, at home or in church, when I hear them sing something new that I did not expect them to know.

Last year, my eldest son took a serious interest in learning how to play the piano. He started studying how to play the piano by simply watching the pianist in our church. Then, he progressed to playing the piano oido. Since that time when he decided that he will learn to play some songs in the piano, every day has been more exciting in our home. He would surprise us with new songs he has learned mostly on his own. In less than a year, he learned to play the songs typically sang during daily Masses and a lot of them he learned to play on his own. A few weeks ago, my younger son who is 3 years old, surprised all of us also when he started playing a song in the Mass as well. He also learned to play part of the introduction to one of the songs in the Mass. I love these pleasant surprises from my boys!

When my eldest son was younger, he would surprise me with the new words he would learn to say. This progressed to new words he learned to read. Eventually, this progressed to new things that he learns. Mentoring or teaching a gifted child is definitely an exciting adventure.

Now, let's move on to Stories and Struggles.

My little homeschoolers love stories. We tell stories to them a lot of times during the day. They also like telling stories. Our stories mostly come from the books that we read each day. A lot of them are a product of our imagination too. Even my children's food or plate have a story! Now, that makes it Story plus Struggle! It has been a struggle for us to make our eldest son eat fast enough so that he would finish his food in less than an hour. So far, we have been successful and most days, he finishes his meal in less than 30 minutes. In the not so distant past, finishing his meal in less than an hour would fall under Surprises. I have slowly learned how to play along with their meal time stories in such a way that I could make them eat faster. My strategies are not 100% effective though.

The other area where our Struggle comes is from the fact that my kids and I are all strong-willed. Yes, it's a trait that I struggle to deal with in my own kids and I sometimes (or should I say many times) forget that they inherited it from me. Because they are strong-willed, I need to be extra creative in getting their cooperation and in persuading them to do the activities I have chosen and prepared for our homeschool. These struggles happen usually all throughout the day and not just when we have structured homeschool activities. I think God is sharpening my negotiation and persuasion skills as I struggle countless times a day in dealing with my two boys. They surely make my days filled with adventure!  

Oh, I almost forgot that another area where I usually get surprised is when my two boys show their very sensitive and sweet sides. They would give me flowers or a note. They either give me a real flower or draw one for me just because. One time, my eldest son wrote me a note. It's not an easy task to homeschool these boys but I definitely get "rewarded" daily as well with beautiful surprises from them. 
This post is part of the GHF blog hop.
Read more stories here.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Celebrating a Mateo Moment

Our family was celebrating Mass at The Feast (the Light of Jesus community's weekly prayer meeting) a few Sundays ago. Our active 3-year-old was walking (sometimes running) and bouncing (a lot of times) along the aisles. Seated near us is another family with a little boy probably a little bit younger than my son. He was even wearing a polo shirt similar to one of my little boy's checkered polo shirts.

The little boy walked towards my son with a toy in hand. It was a Buzz Lightyear toy. The sweet little boy extended his hand while holding his toy as if telling my son that he can borrow it. My son however ignored him... He was so focused on praying and at that moment he was even kneeling down on the aisle with his hands folded in praying position. His gaze was fixed on the altar. It seemed like he did not notice the little boy who was standing beside him and was trying to be friends with him.

Wow! That was one precious moment for me! My sons are usually very active and mobile even during Masses. It's a challenge for me daily to keep them well-behaved (as in quiet and sitting down or doing what the church-goers are expected to do during the Mass) when we go to church daily to attend Mass. They like to look and move around. The sights, sounds and smells around them all trigger their curiosity. But that Sunday was different for my second son! At least for that moment! For quite some time, he was not distracted by the other things and people around him. He was simply focused on Jesus and on worshipping Him in a way that he knows how. I was so proud of him!
Mateo: the little boy that made me happy and proud that Sunday!
That moment was enough for me as a reward and consolation from God. I have been very intentional in parenting my kids and I do all the things that I do because I want them to grow up loving God and living their lives for Him. That moment gave me a glimpse to the kind of child that he is becoming. He is not always focused during Masses. That's true. But that moment gave me hope and encouragement that as he grows older, he will be. I just need to be consistent, more patient and encouraging so that he would continue in that path.
I'm glad that it has not been our practice to bring toys for our kids during Masses. We encourage them to imitate us and to look or pay attention to what is happening in the altar. We remind them repeatedly that we go to Mass to pray and to worship God. We did not come there to play with anything or anyone.

I thank God for giving me that moment... for allowing me to witness it. I will treasure that moment for many years. That sight of my little boy kneeling on the carpeted floor of PICC and not allowing himself to be distracted by a toy or a (potential) playmate is enough to enable me to keep on pushing forward in being a hands-on parent to my kids. My vision may not yet be completely fulfilled but I know in my heart that it is slowly happening. This knowledge is enough to make me persevere through the hard times.
Do you also have moments like this in your life as a parent? Feel free to share them with me in the comments.