Sunday, November 23, 2014

Homeschooling and Finding a Community for Support

November is a terribly busy month for me. We celebrated my second son's birthday this month and I'm almost ready to pop (39 weeks and counting)! I've been trying to finish as many pending tasks and projects both in our homeschool and at home. But November is also a special month because of these two communities/groups that I am a part of. I'm writing this post to express my gratitude to God for leading me to these communities/groups and for the wonderful people I have 'met' in these groups.

The first homeschool support group I became a part of was ROCKERS. I learned about this group through Teacher Mama Tina. ROCKERS stand for Roman Catholics Keeping Education Real. It's composed of Catholic parents who are currently homeschooling their kids, who previously homeschooled their kids or are still discerning about homeschooling. We recently had our All Saints' Day gathering/party and I am very thankful to God for the blessing that this community is to me and my family.

Our little saints during the ROCKERS All Saints' Day Party.

The second homeschool support group that I'm a part of is the Gifted HomeschoolersForum (GHF). GHF is composed of families/parents who are raising and homeschooling gifted kids, twice exceptional kids and/or are gifted themselves. GHF is celebrating its 10th year anniversary of being of service to families of gifted children worldwide this year. 

Click here to read the blog posts of the other bloggers in this group. 

Both are online communities or groups but I find these groups very helpful. 

What I love about the members of these two communities/groups are their PASSION and DEDICATION.

I am inspired and encouraged by the stories that my fellow parents from ROCKERS share on how they live out their Catholic faith through their homeschool journey with their kids. I am very grateful to God for leading me to this community of believers who choose to make the teaching of their Catholic faith an essential part of their children's education. Like most of them, I believe that our faith should be the bedrock or foundation of my kids' education for the love and fear of the Lord is the source of all wisdom. I want my children to learn even at an early age to always turn to God first and to the Catholic Church for guidance in their decision-making. This is one of my main reasons for homeschooling my kids because I have learned through the years that there are times in our lives when we make decisions that are not considered rational or wise by worldly standards. There are many decisions that we make based on faith and if we are to live radical lives for God, a lot of times, God would give us opportunities to walk by faith and not by sight. That's what I love about being a Catholic homeschooler and being part of ROCKERS. The passion and dedication of the parents in this group to raise little saints for God and to pass on their Catholic faith to their children is contagious. The fire of their devotion to pass on this legacy of faith to their children inspires me and affirms me that I'm on the right path. 



I am also inspired and encouraged by the stories that my fellow parents from GHF share or blog about. I learn a lot from them about giftedness and how to accept, embrace and advocate for the special needs of gifted children. I love the courage that many of these parents show by their words and by the way they choose to live their lives. I once heard someone say that only a pilot would really know/understand what it means to be up in the air. I think this metaphor applies to families with at least one gifted kid in it. Only parents who are caring, raising, homeschooling gifted kids would really understand the unique and special needs, challenges and joys of other parents who have gifted children. I remember when my eldest son was still a little over two years old... it must be my mother's instinct or intuition that moved me to search for answers and expert advice when I started to notice that my son is not typical. It must have been this same intuition that made me consider the possibility that my child is developing way too fast for his biological age. Thank God that I had the courage to act on that intuition! The developmental pediatrician's assessment affirmed my hunch that my child is in the gifted spectrum. When I somehow panicked because my two year old was already learning and mastering preschool and kinder materials, some parents told me to take it easy and slowly. Believe me, that's what I wanted to do! But, what does a parent do when it is the child pushing you to move at a faster pace? That's why I'm grateful my husband and I discovered homeschooling! We can provide our eldest son with materials and lessons that he is ready for and eager to devour at his own pace. We need not limit him based on his biological age. I'm glad I found other parents who understood my concerns and my quest for seeking answers on how to feed my eldest son's curiosity and intensity. I'm delighted to discover that I am not alone in my concerns for my gifted child. That I'm not alone in my challenges of understanding giftedness and how as a family we can make this work.

Choosing to homeschool your children makes you part of the minority. Homeschooling a gifted child makes you part of an even smaller group of people! Thus, I consider it a big blessing to have found these communities and to be getting support from the people who make up this group. 


Are you homeschooling your child, too? Have you found the community or group that supports your decision and lifestyle? I hope so. If not, I invite to join any of these communities/groups that I am a part of. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mommy TG's Maid Manual: Maid Orientation Materials (Download it for FREE!)

I'm now 39 weeks pregnant and I can feel the heaviness already. I'm so thankful that finally, I was able to finish one of the projects in my to-do list before I give birth -- our very own maid manual!

I first started putting house rules and guidelines for our maids in writing years ago when we had our first baby. It was quite a challenge to find reliable maids/helpers. Maids come and go... very quickly. Some stay only for a few days, weeks or months. We only had a few maids who stayed for around a year. Thus, the need to come up with an orientation checklist for maids arose since I orient newly-hired maids quite often. Having a ready checklist of things to discuss whenever there is a new hire lessened my stress and helped me save time and energy. This could have been influenced by my work background as a human resource professional. ;)

Anyway, so I put together a list of things to discuss to our newly-hired maids. This included house rules, basic duties and guidelines on how to clean rooms in the house, how to wash the eating utensils properly and their daily/weekly schedule. My orientation materials for our maids have evolved over the years as we experienced more maid horror stories and as more kids were added to our family.

Since I'm giving birth to our third child soon, I thought that it would make our lives easier by updating our maid manual/orientation checklist. I want to empower my husband and our maids through this updated manual. I believe that making this manual available to them would help our maids work more independently and help my husband supervise them while I'm on maternity leave. Finishing this project also gives me a sense of peace and fulfillment knowing that these materials would somehow help keep our household in order. I want to have more time taking care of our newborn baby and I don't want to be stressed or bogged down by tasks that I can delegate to my husband or maids through this manual. 

I have included in this manual our employment policies for maids, house rules, dishwashing procedures, cleaning procedures for the different rooms in the house, what to prepare when going out with kids/baby and sample daily/weekly schedule for maids. This maid manual is a perfect complement to my 4-week cycle menu. (You may also download it for FREE if you want. Click here to sign up for it.)

This maid manual/orientation materials had been a big help to me over the years. I'm sharing it here with my blog readers so I can help busy moms like me better manage their households.

I know that as a family gets bigger, the need to be more organized becomes more crucial in successfully managing our almost endless tasks, especially for busy mompreneurs and homeschooling moms like me. And with the addition of a new baby soon, I will be busy with breastfeeding duties as well.

I hope that this manual would bless you and your family as you use it. Feel free to use it as is or to modify it to suit your unique needs/family situation.


Download Mommy TG's Maid Manual for FREE! 



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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mateo's Construction-Themed Birthday Party

I'm still high from the success of Mateo's construction-themed birthday party last weekend! I continue to savor the experience by looking at the photos.

All my hard work paid off after hearing my son say that he enjoyed his birthday party and that it was his high point that day. I was also happy to witness him enjoy interacting with his guests and playmates.

I wanted so much to make his third birthday extra special and memorable because he will be a big brother soon. I'm now on my 38th week of pregnancy and I could give birth anytime. We scheduled his party during the weekend and a few days earlier than his actual birthday so that his playmates who go to school can attend and so that our close relatives and friends could also join us in the celebration.


Thank God for the internet and the abundance of ideas that inspired me in planning and preparing for this construction-themed birthday party! My husband and I didn't want to spend too much since I would be giving birth soon. But I also want to make my son's birthday celebration a very nice one even with a limited budget; thus, I chose the DIY route for most of the birthday decor.

Why construction-themed?

First, let me share why I chose this theme for my son's third birthday. I chose this theme mainly because Mateo likes construction trucks, particularly bull dozers, backhoes and cement mixers. It could be because he saw these trucks (bulldozer and backhoe) when we moved to our new residence last year. There was still a lot of construction going on in our subdivision when we moved in and these trucks were going around our subdivision often in the past year. His interest prompted me to buy him books about construction trucks and to point out to him other construction equipment. We would also count cement mixers whenever we see them on the road while travelling. 

Invitation

I made our own invitations. I drew inspiration from the many invitations I saw in the internet. I picked up the ideas that I liked and put them together. I used Power Point to do this invitation. Then, I sent the invitations through Facebook or email. I also sent text messages.

I typed our address on the Job Site column and
my mobile number in the Report To column.


I printed hard copies and placed them in envelopes for our neighbors and guests from the parish.

Decors, Games and Activities
 

Mateo sits by the construction area before his
construction crew (also the demolition crew) arrived.
Both of my sons enjoy playing pretend with their construction toys. They would spend hours imagining and building whatever they want to be part of their construction site or play area. Thus, I knew right away that one of the activities that I would include during my younger son's birthday celebration is letting the children play with construction toys. I planned to set up a construction area/site for them. Since my boys love playing with these toys, they have accumulated quite a number of toys that can be used for this purpose. I simply gathered their toys and added additional props and signs to imitate the safety signs in construction areas.

I bought a few additional toys for their pretend play like hard hats and belts that builders or workers use to carry their tools.
 
The birthday boy in the middle with his construction crew!
I printed this out to remind the boys who can already read
and their nannies/parents while they are at play.

The construction site was such a hit to the kids! The kids spent hours playing pretend during the party. There were even a few who almost didn't want to go home! The kids played there as soon as they finished eating.



I prepared a cartolina where our little guests can stamp their handprints and write their names as soon as they arrive in our party zone.




They are given IDs after this so they can enter the construction site. ;)


 
I printed construction-themed coloring pages to keep the kids busy while waiting for the games to start and after eating. I got these free printable from this website.


I printed a maze sheet that kids can answer. I got this from my son's construction activity book. And I brought out these books for the kids to read. 


 
I only planned three games for the party. These were: construction tools relay game, pin the nail to the hammer and trip around the construction site.

Here are the mechanics for the games:

Construction tools relay:
 
1. There should be two teams composed of 2-3 players. The members should line up and take turns doing the tasks.
2. Their task is to first wear the hard hat, then wear the belt with tools around their waist, unscrew the washer from the screw, put the screw and washer back to the aluminum foil, go around the chair, take off the hard hat and belt, put these back in the other chair, go back to their teammate and tap their teammate to do the same series of tasks.
3. The first team to complete the relay wins the game.




Pin the nail to the hammer:
 
1. I printed a hammer clipart and glued it on a colored paper.
2. I also printed nails and cut them out.
3. We blindfolded the kids and gave each one of them a nail that they can stick to the hammer photo.
4. The kid who is able to stick the nail closest to the hammer wins the game.



Trip around the construction site:
 
1. I printed out photos of construction trucks and nails.
2. A photo is taped on the backrest of each chair that will be used for the game.
3. We taped photos of nails on two chairs so that every time the music stops, two kids will be out of the game.
4. There will be the same number of chairs as the kids participating in the game.
5. Music like the birthday song would be played for this game.
5. Kids will dance around the chairs while the music is playing and will stop to sit on chairs when the music stops.
6. The kids who happen to sit on chairs with photos of nails will be out of the game.
7. Two chairs with photos of construction trucks will be removed for the succeeding rounds.
8. When only 3 players are left, there should be two chairs with nail photos and one chair with a construction truck photo. 
9. The kid who ends up sitting on the chair with a photo of the construction truck is the winner.

One of the table centerpieces that I made.
The nail print out for the trip[ around the construction site is in one of the chairs.
We were not able to play this game anymore because we started late. The kids came in later than expected. By the time we were done with the first two games, the kids (and adults) were already hungry. We proceeded with the singing of the birthday song, blowing of candle on the cake and the prayer before meals.


The signs at our gate.


The sign under our Christmas tree.

The sign at the bottom of our stairs to discourage our little guests 
from going up the second floor.


I was able to get permission from the site engineer to make the bulldozer pass by our house on the afternoon of the party. Unfortunately, the bulldozer had a flat tire. Mateo was not able to ride it to go around our subdivision that day. Hopefully, it would be fixed in time for his actual birthday.


Party zone set up at our garage. Kids coloring construction-themed coloring pages
while waiting for their playmates.
                 
I ordered yellow balloons and rented tables and chairs from a party supplier in our village, the same supplier I got from last year's parties. We had a hard time searching for plain black balloons. Thank God that we found some a week before Mateo's party. We just gave them to our balloon supplier days before the party so they can inflate them for us.

Party Food and Drinks

I didn't want to stress myself too much so I relied on my past experience and food suppliers. I did not cook anymore. We simply ordered food to be delivered for the party. The only food we prepared were the fried chicken and egg sandwiches for the kids (cooked by our helper) and the rice. I asked my brother to cook beef caldereta just like last year.

We bought fruit juices for the kids and ice tea sachets, which I asked my helpers to prepare the night before the party. Then, we put them in the refrigerator overnight.


We ordered spaghetti, pancit and pork barbecue from Amber and roasted chicken from Chooks-to-go. 


For dessert, we bought cassava cake, popcorn, M & M chocolates and ice cream in cups. We also made peanut banana wrapped in whole wheat tortilla.



I ordered cake and cupcakes from the same supplier where I ordered our cakes and cupcakes in our past birthday celebrations. I just made and printed my own cupcake toppers similar to the table centerpieces that I made.





I made the food and drink labels and the happy birthday banner to match the construction theme. 



I was lucky to find paper plates and cups that matched our party theme. I also bought black plastic spoons and forks to match them.

 
Loot Bags
 
For the loot bag contents, I relied on my time-tested treats for kids just like in the previous parties I organized. I simply added a yellow face towel for our little construction crew and gold chocolate coins as part of their payment for helping Mateo complete his construction work.


 
I just used brown bags and decorated it with labels and used yellow and black yarn to tie it. Mateo gave these away to his construction crew before they went home.




Outfits

I was lucky enough to find a shirt from Mothercare that had a backhoe printed in front of it. It was perfect for Mateo's party theme. He wore blue denim and grey shoes to match his shirt. My husband, eldest son and I also dressed up as close to the party theme as possible. It was a good thing that I got a hard hat as souvenir in one of the conferences that I attended last year. I wore that while facilitating the games.


 
It was a simple and intimate birthday celebration but it was an event that we all enjoyed! I enjoyed planning and preparing for it and I enjoyed looking at the result of all my hard work.

This was one of the reasons why I postponed finishing and launching my latest book ideas and my online training program. I believe that my work goals can wait. But making memories with those precious to me cannot.

Hope this post would inspire you in case you are also preparing for a construction-themed birthday party for your little boy.