Thursday, August 21, 2014

Homeschool Recap: June to August 2014

August is almost over. Time flies so fast indeed especially when we are very busy. But I'm happy because my family and I had been busy with the right things -- things that are important to us.
I praise and thank the Lord for the grace to still homeschool my two kids even though I'm currently pregnant and I took on a project (making my breastfeeding book into an eBook and releasing on Amazon) in the past month.
I'm writing this post to somehow document what our family did during the first quarter or in the last two months. We had a slow and relaxed first month. (You can read about it here.) I'm very blessed though that my eldest learns fast most of the time and he has been generally cooperative.
Let me start my recap of what we did by enumerating the things/activities we had most days or almost everyday. I say almost because there are days when I'm busy with my project and I just let the kids play.
Yanthy seriously reading The Life of Fred.
1. Reading - We read everyday -- books, magazines, anything that the kids find interesting. I do my best to read to my kids everyday even when I'm busy. My goal is to read at least books to them daily. The boys read on their own also, particularly my eldest. Actually, he's quite unstoppable when it comes to reading. He's such a bookworm. I sometimes need to tell him to stop and rest so he could nap or go to sleep already at night. One of his favorite reads in the past quarter is his children's dictionary. (You may read my review of our awesome children's dictionary here.) My youngest loves books also. He can already read a few sight words. When my husband and I are not available to read to him, he asks his older brother to read to him. This is one of the blessings of having more than one child. The older ones eventually take care of the younger ones. Sometimes, he 'reads' on his own. He pretends that he is reading by retelling the story or he recites the story verbatim from memory. He has memorized some of the books we read frequently. We make our books accessible to the kids so they can pick up a book anytime they want. We also do a lot of activities based on the books that we read. Most of our kids' art and craft activities are inspired by the books in our library. Some of their games are also inspired by these books. Reading has a lot of benefits. You might find this article that I wrote in the past interesting: The 6 Stages of Reading Development and Why You Should Read to Your Baby. I taught my eldest phonics using the Phonics-in-Reading Series. You may read my review of these books here.

My son's notes on the Mass songs
he studied.
2. Music - My kids are very musical. They are either singing or  making music or dancing to the tunes that they play or are listening to. My eldest son is very much into playing the piano these days. When he was younger, he was very interested in playing the guitar. He learned a few chords but when he started playing the piano, he really got motivated and flourished. He can now play several pieces. He practices at home using our keyboard and he practices also in the church after we hear weekday Mass. He has made it his goal to master all the songs usually played/sang in the Mass so that he can serve in the Mass eventually. He practices on his own everyday. He already knows how to play Alleluia, Holy and Amen. He close to memorizing Glory to God and Song to San Lorenzo Ruiz. My younger son likes to tinker with the piano also. Well, most younger kids like to imitate their older brothers. He also likes to sing. He has learned some of the songs in the Mass also. One of my joys daily is hearing my kids sing songs in Mass with so much gusto. I'm sure that God is smiling down at them as well every time they sing their heart out to worship. When the kids are not tinkering with any musical instrument, they play some tunes on the stereo and sing along. My youngest usually listens to nursery rhymes. When his older brother is already awake, we change the music to worship or praise songs. They like pretending that they are performing in a worship concert. If your kids are musical like mine, you might find this article helpful: 5 Games for Musically-Inclined Children.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 in a box!
Inspired by The Cat in the Hat.
3. Pretend play and free play - My kids spend most of their time  doing these every single day. I let their imagination run wild the whole day. They like imitating the usual activities that we are engaged in like going to the grocery, cooking, travelling or having a business. They also sometimes invent their own games. Some days, they play with the other boys in our neighborhood who are almost the same age as they are in our garage or in the basketball court in our subdivision. Most days, they are each others' playmate. They play tag, basketball, hopscotch or throw and catch. Indoors, they like playing with building blocks, wooden blocks, puzzles, foam letters, paper planes or boats with matching maps, they build forts or houses or they play hide and seek. You can read my previous articles about the lessons kids learn from pretend play below:
7 Lessons Kids Can Learn from Playing Store
7 Benefits Kids Can Get from Playing Doctor
Lessons Kids Can Gain from a Farm-Themed Birthday Party
4. Doodling, drawing, writing - The kids like to draw or doodle. I just make sure that we always have plenty of scratch papers and that they know where to get their pencils or crayons. As I've mentioned earlier, younger kids like to imitate their older siblings so when my younger son sees his older brother writing or drawing, he does the same. I ask my eldest son to practice writing his name, the day and date almost everyday. I also asked him to write three words that start with the same letter of the alphabet each handwriting practice day. I'm happy to share that today marks our completion of this exercise. We already finished all the letters of the alphabet. Aside from our regular practice exercise, my eldest son gets to practice his handwriting every time his Dad teaches him a new song to play in the piano. He writes the chords of the new song he's learning in his small notebook. Then, he uses his notes when he practices on his own daily. he and his younger brother also had a chance to practice their handwriting and drawing skills when we made birthday cards/notes in the past months. Sometimes, my eldest would copy some of the title of his books on his notebook or anything that catches his attention. On a few occasions, he would write notes to his younger brother in his notebook or on a piece of paper when the younger boy would not listen or obey. He also likes making signages , receipts or play for their pretend store. There was a time when he wrote his own 'book' (he likes to pretend that he's also an author just like me).

Yanthy wrote a letter for my mom on her birthday.

The boys made a birthday card for the pianist in our church, Tito Ed.
He is also my eldest son's inspiration and piano teacher.
5. Daily prayer and Mass - We do our best to participate in the weekday Mass aside from going to church on Sundays. I usually bring both boys with me. I'm also happy that my husband gets to hear Mass with us often since we moved to our new home, which is a bit closer to his office. It's quite challenging to make the boys sit still or to be behaved for the duration for the Mass. But I believe that bringing them to Mass as often as possible would teach and train them on the proper behavior. I want to give them as much practice as possible. I want to instill in them a love and hunger for the Holy Eucharist. I'm glad that so far, they are exhibiting these traits even at a very young age. They usually say before bed that among their high points for the day is participating in the Mass. It also helps that we have made some friends in our parish and we got to know some of the servants in the church. These new friends encourage the boys to sing and participate although sometimes they can be noisy. Well, kids are kids. My boys are only 2 and 5. I can't expect them to sit still, not move a finger or make a noise for an entire hour. I'm happy that at least they are participating by singing and responding during the Mass. Even my 2 year old knows most of the responses and anticipates singing some parts of the Mass. They have also developed the habit of praying at different times of the day. I was very happy one time when our 2-year-old tried to pray the rosary with us while we were in our vehicle travelling. I also love that when they get hurt, are wounded or not feeling well due to an illness, they turn to God and prayer right away. One of our main reasons and goals in homeschooling our children is to introduce our Catholic faith to them and to teach them to make their relationship with God their foundation in life. I'm very happy to see this happen now.
6. Chores - My kids' daily chore is to make sure that they pack away their things to their respective areas after using them. These include their books, toys and clothes. I train them to always put things back where they got them and to clean up after their mess. Of course, the kids need to be reminded of this rule daily. Sometimes, they do this right away. Other times, it takes them a while before they obey even with verbal cues or reminders. I do not require them to sort the clean laundry and put them back into their closets but whenever they see that our maid is doing this, they help out even without prodding. We are blessed because these boys like to help out most of the time. They also like helping out in putting our groceries into their respective cabinets or putting the fresh produce in the refrigerator.

7. Storytelling - My husband and I tell a lot of stories to our kids. We tell them fictitious stories as well as stories from the Bible and from our past experiences. We usually do this before they go to sleep in the afternoon or at night. The boys love this time! Then, they also take turns telling their own stories or retelling ours. It helps build and develop imagination, focus, vocabulary, confidence, comprehension and communication skills.
These are the things that we regularly do or do almost everyday.
For our structured homeschool activities, we used Fun Thinkers, a few activity books and recently The Life of Fred.
There were weeks when we did not use these materials daily. There were also days when my eldest wanted to use these materials until we finished a certain level. My boys liked using Fun Thinkers. Even my 2-year-old enjoys using it. (You may read my review of this product here.)

A sample page from Critical Thinking Level 1 of Fun Thinkers.
This was answered by Mateo.
I started using Math, English and Critical Thinking Level 1 with my toddler. We're taking it slow.

Moreover, I developed a Transportation-themed Alphabet Curriculum for my 2-year-old. You may download a copy of this for free if you have a child who likes cars, trucks and trains too like my sons. Just head to my blog's sidebar and sign up. We started using it last week. It's my way of gently integrating the concept of alphabets in my toddler's play activities. I also let him watch for a few minutes the educational videos I used in teaching his older brother the alphabets, phonics, counting, and colors.
As for my eldest son, we finished English Levels 2 and 3 in the past two months. Actually, it took us days only to finish each level. My eldest is quite fast in this topic. We took up Level 2 in July and Level 3 this August.

Addition and subtraction lessons using building blocks.

Lesson on sets using wooden blocks.
We finished Math Levels 1 and 2 also in the past two months. He's not as fast in Math as he is in English. I supplemented our Fun Thinkers books with manipulatives (toys and things he can use for addition and subtraction).

Addition lessons using coins.
We recently bought The Life of Fred book Apples. It's the first in the series of The Life of Fred Math books. My eldest son liked it right away. He read it from cover to cover on the day it was delivered to our house. We have only used it for one day so far. But we have covered and answered the questions in the first 6 chapters already. I predict that we'd be able to finish it at the latest before Christmas. At the earliest, my son might choose to finish it next week! 
For our Science lessons, my kids use their natural curiosity and observe their surroundings and the things that usually happen in their environment. They are naturally inquisitive. I sometimes run out of answers to their questions. In the past quarter, most of their questions and lessons were about the weather, plants, insects and the planets in the solar system. When we studied the planets, the kids also drew and painted circles to symbolize the 9 planets. They also learned a song to help them memorize them.

My eldest also answered a number of mazes in the past quarter. He enjoys answering them so my husband and I looked for mazes whose themes match his usual interests.
My eldest also became interested in maps recently when my husband bought him a map of the Philippines and a map of Asia. because of this current interest, we will buy him a globe soon.
We only spend an hour at the most in my eldest son's structured homeschool activities. That happens when my eldest is on a roll and has gained momentum in answering either Fun Thinkers, a reading and comprehension book or The Life of Fred. Our activities last around 20-30 minutes each then we take a break. We either eat or my son plays on his own or with his younger sibling.

As for my toddler, his lessons last between 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Most of these are play-based.

Our structured activities usually happen in the morning before lunch and after lunch before nap. My younger son goes to nap earlier than my eldest. That gives me and my eldest more quiet time for our homeschool activities.

My husband teaches our kids in the evening or at night and during weekends.

The kids exercise (PE) through walking, jogging and running during weekends and on holidays at the park.

But I believe that we homeschool all day and everyday through our conversations and our regular activities at home.

Our activities last long like an hour or more if we do art and craft activities.

You may read about our homeschool activities in the past quarter in the following previous posts:

Math Lessons Today Using Fun Thinkers and Building Blocks
Our Homeschool Lessons Today
A Fruitful and Fun Day in our Homeschool
Spelling on a Rainy Day

It has been surprisingly a productive quarter for our homeschool family! Thank God for His abundant grace and inspiration!

How was your first quarter in your homeschool? Feel free to share about it in the comments.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Breastfeeding Awareness Month Plus Blog Giveaways Courtesy of Mama Chows

The month of August has been designated as National Breastfeeding Awareness Month in the Philippines in order to protect, promote and support breastfeeding as the normal, natural and preferred method of feeding infants and young children. According to the bill introduced by Senator Pia Cayetano, it has been reported that 16,000 babies die every year because of the harmful effects of bottle-feeding/formula-feeding.
Moreover, breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival during their early months than children who were not breastfed. This was based on the 2008 report by Lancet, a renowned medical journal.

Let me share a few more things about breastfeeding.
1. Did you know that children who were breastfed have a 20% lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and one year than children who weren't breastfeed? This was based on a study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the US.
2. Did you know that breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers? And that studies have shown that the longer mothers breastfeed, the greater is their immunity to these two kinds of cancers?
3. Did you also know that breastfeeding helps a family save at least P4,000 each month (could vary depending on the kind of milk formula bought per household to feed their child)?
These are just a few of the benefits of breastfeeding to the child, mother and the entire family. You may read and learn more about breastfeeding and its benefits when you buy a copy of BREASTFEEDING: A Journey Worth Taking. You may purchase a copy here and here.  

One of my reasons for writing this book is to help educate more women, especially Filipinas, on the benefits of breastfeeding. I want to inspire more moms to breastfeed their babies and to equip them as they take on this challenging but rewarding task.
The paperback edition of this book was first published last year in October while the Kindle/eBook edition was published in July of this year. With the launch of the eBook edition, it is my hope that I would be able to help more moms in their breastfeeding journey through this book.
And since it's National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we are celebrating it with a blog giveaway. We were blessed to have Mama Chows as our major sponsor for this blog giveaway. We are giving away five (5) gift certificates for a one (1) week supply each of oatmeal cookies from Mama Chows to five (5) lucky winners. It's so easy to join! Those who have read the book BREASTFEEDING: A Journey Worth Taking simply need to tell us by leaving a comment on this blog post how the book helped them in their breastfeeding journey or how the book enabled them to win over their breastfeeding challenges. We will pick five (5) winners through Rafflecopter at the end of this week. Also, we will be giving one gift pack each, consisting of 1 box of malunggay capsules and 1 box malunggay tea, from Moringana to the first three (3) moms who will join our blog giveaway by leaving a comment on this post.
Do you already have a copy of this bestselling book? Are you done reading it? Join our blog giveaway and tell us how this book helped you?
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How God Prepared Me to be a Homeschool Mom

Do you believe that everything happens for a purpose? That there's a reason why God allows us to go through certain experiences? I do.
I believe that God has an amazing plan for our lives and that He guides our every step. I believe that He doesn't waste our experiences -- be they good or bad, happy or sad. Everything that happens to us contributes to the kind of person that God wants us to become. It's up to us to make the most of these experiences so that all these can bring us closer to our destiny.
In line with these beliefs, I'd like to share with you how I think God prepared me to be a homeschool mom to my kids.
Let me share a bit about our family for the benefit of those who came to this blog for the first time. I work from home to manage a consulting and publishing business while I homeschool my two boys, ages 5 and 2. I'm also currently pregnant with our third baby. My husband works outside the home but he helps me homeschool the boys whenever he is home.
I consider homeschooling as one of the biggest blessings we have received in our family life. Recently, I realized that it's no accident that my husband and I are now homeschooling our kids. I realized that God prepared me for this role of becoming a homeschool mom.
Why do I say so?
First, God led me to make a career shift early in my career. I graduated with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration and I was blessed to land a job right after graduation that allowed me to practice what I studied in college. I was doing well and was being promoted from one position to the next. But something inside me was moving me to look for something more. This led me to discover that helping people grow to reach their full potential and watching them improve their performance gave me much fulfillment. This insight came while I was a Certified Training Manager in the restaurant where I was working at that time. I was still part of the restaurant's operations but training the team members, supervisors and managers was also part of my main responsibility. Eventually, I decided that I want to concentrate on training and to turn my back on restaurant operations. I resigned from my job in the restaurant industry because there was no vacancy in the company's Training Department then.
Second, God led me to work in a training firm where I learned a lot of skills related to training. The company had just closed a deal with a big client when I joined them. We needed to create a number of training programs for this client. Aside from conducting regular trainings for the company, I also learned to design training manuals and materials in this new job. It was in this job that I learned many basic skills like using Power Point for presentations, to write training manuals for the programs we've created and to make participant handouts. After this company, I moved to another company where I spent a lot of time going around Luzon to conduct trainings regularly.
My biggest break in training and human resources happened when God led me to work in a multinational company first as a Training Officer and then eventually as Training Manager. I spent around six years working in this company learning and developing my skills in training, organization development and human resources. It was in this company that I designed countless individual training plans for its employees. I have also created a number of training programs for this company which were used in the Philippines and abroad. I also learned to use and create structured learning exercises (SLEs) for my trainees or audience to make our trainings and workshops engaging, interesting and more effective.

Looking back, I realized that these jobs helped prepare me in what I'm currently doing now as homeschool mom to my kids, especially to my eldest son. My husband and I have not bought a curriculum ever since we started homeschooling them. I was the one designing their programs and curriculums. Our children benefit much from my experience because they get curriculums customized to their needs and interests, something similar to the individual training and development plans that I design for our employees in the past as I prepare them for advancement to different positions in the company where I used to work. I also use SLEs to vary my teaching methods and to address my kids' unique learning styles.
Aside from the fact that the schools that provide individualized curriculums to their students are very few (I discovered this as I tried to search for this kind of schools for our eldest son), our family was able to save on education costs because of this. The tuition fee per school year in progressive schools ranges from at least P50,000 to over a hundred thousand pesos. Yet, these schools do not offer individualized curriculums for their students. I discovered a school a couple of months ago that provides individualized curriculum design for their students who exhibit giftedness and advancement in certain areas but this school's location is very far from our home. So, my husband and I decided to continue homeschooling our eldest son together with his younger brother.

Me and my two boys. Coming soon is another baby boy!
I have grown to appreciate my previous work experiences because of my role now as a homeschool mom to two potentially-gifted kids. Their special needs make me even more grateful to God that He has led me to this path. Homeschooling is still not a walk in the park given my background and experiences. But these skills I have developed through the years make my job a bit easier and more manageable. Because of these skills also, I have grown to trust God more in the face of uncertainties. We still have a long way to go in our homeschool journey. My eldest is still in elementary (Grades 1, 2 and 3 because of his asynchronous development) while my second child is still in pre-school. This knowledge though that God has prepared me for this role gives me confidence and hope that whatever future challenges I would face, God is guiding and equipping me every step of the way. 

Last but not least, I thank God that because of the skills I have developed and honed through the years, I can now afford to be a consultant for Management, Training and HR solutions. This enables me to work from home most of the time so I can homeschool my kids. And even when I need to conduct workshops or trainings outside the home, God blesses me most of the time with clients and projects that allow me to bring my family with me to these events.  

Do you also feel that God prepared you for your role as a homeschool mom? Feel free to share your story by leaving a comment. I'd love to connect with other homeschool moms, especially those that homeschool kids with special needs.