O is for Ocean

The great thing about homeschool is that it’s not schedule-bound. We dictate our own vacations or school breaks. We can even study on a holiday if we want, too. My little boy has no concepts of holidays yet so he still relies on me if we’ll do certain activities for the day even if it’s Christmas Eve (but of course we didn’t do that). Before the actual Christmas week, Timmy and I were still doing our letter of the week and it was one of the best weeks we had. :) It also diverted my attention and lessened my stress from the holiday rush. So I was really thankful that we did it.

We were still in the process of spelling his name (TIMOTHY). Our goal was for him to be able to write his name after roughly six weeks. We were not in a hurry to write the entire alphabet. Quality is better than quantity. Plus, I want Timmy to ENJOY writing, which can be a challenge especially for boys. We had “O” as our letter of the week and boy was it fun! :) Here are some of the activities we did.

Reading

We read books that have “O” words in it. Timmy loves Mo Willems and Dr. Seuss and to have books from his favorite authors be in our reading pile for the week made the little boy very happy. We try to read our “featured books” as much as we can within the week. But there are times when I just go with what he wants. What’s important is we’re reading. :)

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Bible Character/Values

Instead of having a Bible character, we learned a particular value—something he’s very familiar with—OBEY. :) Timmy has heard us say obey many times. He sure gets the concept and he follows but there are days when he just won’t do it. Our verse for the week was Colossians 3:20 and it was a good reminder to him that obedience pleases the Lord. Up to now, we still tell him, “O is for?” To which he will answer, “Obey.” He will then do what we ask. Of course, it’s not 100% compliance all the time. But reminding him of the importance of obeying his parents and that it makes God happy when he does, gives him extra motivation. :)

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Arts and Crafts

We made Owl and Octopus crafts. I drew an owl and cut Oval foam shapes that he could use to decorate the owl. For the octopus, I drew the head and cut tentacles from a printed folder and asked Timmy to put the tentacles. He also doodles/designs his artwork after. We’re still working on the cutting-on-his-own part but I know we’ll get here. :) It makes me happy whenever he feels proud to share his artwork to his daddy. He lights up whenever he gets affirmation that he did a great job. It also motivates him to do more! :) Moments like these remind me how important it is to encourage our children. They need it, want it, and crave for it.

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We also did a humongous “O” art using tissue roll and washable poster paint. We keep all our tissue rolls at home because there are a lot of creative things we can do with it. :) I covered our center table with Manila paper, placed poster paints on paper plates, and put one tissue roll on each plate. I then asked Timmy to create an “O” art work by using different colors. He really had a blast doing it! It also kept him busy for a pretty long time! :)

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English (and Reading again)

I made a poem for Timmy and asked him to color all the letter O’s that he saw. I asked him to read it out loud, too. I started writing instructions for Timmy to prepare him for his official homeschooling year by June 2016. I would ask him to read it and let him do the work on his own to check if he understood the instructions. Reading is one thing, comprehension is another. By God’s grace Timmy’s growing in his comprehension level. It also saves me from explaining too much because he understands instructions already. :)

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Math

Using his wooden numbers we practiced arranging it in Order. Timmy also did the reverse order! This little guy loves numbers and we did this activity repeatedly. :) We also had our usual less or more game. This time I used his Ocean animals. I would group the animals into two and he would place the less or more cards on the correct group. This is our modified counting exercise. :) Since the wooden numbers and animals were out already, I extended our math time by placing certain numbers on the table and asked him to place the corresponding number of animals under it.

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Writing

I never realized that “O” can be hard to write. At first, Timmy couldn’t stop going round and round. His letter “O” would end up being a spiral. Haha! I showed him that he should stop after one turn or after the first point meets the last one. He didn’t seem to get it. I was so tempted to force him to do it and learn it that week but God told me to just let it slide. Instead, I encouraged Timmy and acknowledged his effort to make spiral O’s. :) And then I told him with a smile, “I know it’s hard to stop (I meant going round and round). So let’s just do this again when you’re ready, okay?” He said, “Okay!” A week or two later, he was able to control his own hand and he was able to make letter “O” by simply practicing on his own! Praise God! God has been teaching me a lot about this stepping back thing and so far it has spared us both from getting stressed over lessons that shouldn’t even be stressful in the first place. :)

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A week or so later, the spiral “O” finally became a properly written “O.” :)

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Science

This one was fun. I taught Timmy about Oil and water not mixing together because they’re two different properties. We made an Ocean in a bottle by putting water, oil, and blue food coloring. When you shake the bottle you will see bubble formations that resemble the ocean. When the Oil and water are separating, you have another image of what it’s like under the sea! I wanted to put some of his toy fish inside but I used a small bottle plus I didn’t want to waste too much cooking oil. Haha! Good thing he loved the handy bottle because it’s small enough to carry around and shake anytime he wants. :) He would even tell me repeatedly, “Mommy! The oil and water separated again!” :)

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We’re already done with “H” and will blog about it soon. I’m still catching up on my blogging backlog. It took a while for me to settle down and get back to our routine after the holiday and post-holiday get-togethers. See you next week! :)

Two Stories, One Ending

Last week, my husband and I had our annual the-year-in-review tradition. We used to do it on New Year’s Eve or early morning of January 1. This year, we spent a quiet afternoon at a restaurant recounting God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives. It was also the time when we set goals for ourselves and our family.

This is one of my favorite bonding moments with Omar. I love hearing how his year went even if we’re together every single day. :) It amazes me how God works in us differently and how when we put our year-in-retrospect story together we see the big picture. So for my first blog for the year, I’d like to retell two different stories from two different people but with one predictable ending. :)

2014_12_23_19_13_37Omar’s Story

I actually came more prepared this year with our throwback tradition. I had an outline on my phone so that we don’t lose track of the things we need to talk about. :) When I asked him the highlights of his year he gave two things—his career and his hobbies. I really enjoyed listening to him about how these two areas made the most impact on his year.

First up, my husband landed on a job that involves writing about superheroes. That kind of career is a match made in comic book heaven. I mean he gets paid for writing about the stuff he loves! He not only loves superheroes but his knowledge about comic books is a product of decades of reading and collecting. Comic books were the only gifts he wanted as a child. Sometimes when he tells me all these back stories about the Flash or Captain America, I find myself really impressed at how he remembers all these events. He even stopped reading and collecting twice! The first sabbatical was for 2 years while the other one was for 11 years but it still looks like he never left the comic book scene! He’s very patient with my questions after we watch superhero movies or TV series. During those times, I silently thank God for letting me marry a comic book connoisseur. :)

The way this job came was heaven-sent. Prior to that, Omar was writing devotionals for a Bible app. We thought that this will go on forever but a day prior to his first year with his employer he was told that the devos he wrote would simply be recycled for next year. In short, they just needed a year’s worth of inspirational writing. This is one of the risks of being full-time, home-based writers. There will be days when the projects will eventually end.

I was never really anxious that he lost that job. When I told him that I supported him on going freelance, I meant it—risks and all. Even full-time employees get laid off so this was no different. I’ve always believed that God will open doors for my husband because He designed him to provide for our family. Plus, time and time again Omar assures me that I need not worry about finances because that’s his job. And I took my husband’s word seriously. I also know that he wouldn’t settle for something that only pays the bills. He’s a strengths-based kind of guy and believes in doing only the things he’s good at. That mindset actually paid off. :)

InstagramCapture_4a8d3257-fae6-4f9a-b676-011d98273224Unlike other husbands who can take on any jobs, Omar has decided early on that he’ll do what he does best. He’s a great teacher and his students can attest to that. But after 11 years of teaching art and values (part-time and full-time) God has led him to a different direction. He has a book in the works but I guess for him to really finish it, he needed to brush up on his writing skills thus the complete shift to a writing career. He still teaches art to homeschooled kids but not in a classroom setting anymore.

He’s a very niche writer and would only take on projects that interest him. Unlike me, I can write anything from digital marketing to the mysteries of Stonehenge. His decision to stick to his specializations has landed him the most suitable projects for his skills. And this by far is the best. He saw this job opening for a comic book writer and contacted the employer even though he was looking for someone from North America. Omar had to prove his knowledge about comic books and immediately got the job the same day! Praise God! Basically he writes comic book news and blogs, maintains his employer’s website, and manages his Facebook page. When he lost the app job, his comic book employer gave him a substantial increase that more than compensated for what he lost. God’s timing is truly amazing! :)

This writing job also revived his love for comics and controlled collecting. ;) He also got involved with a comic book group that allowed him to get in touch with like-minded individuals. During our date I told him that I’m so happy he found that group because it’s great to see him hangout with people who shares his passions and interests. Sometimes their insights helped him with his job, too! I even told him that I’m thrilled that he gained new friends last year. :) I also told him how proud I am that he was firm in his resolve to do what he does best and not settle for anything less. God graciously honored his decision. :)

My Story

The highlights of my year also involved two things—moving out and homeschooling. :) For more than a year, we’ve been staying with my in-laws. The decision to move in with them came about the change in my career back in 2013 when we agreed not to accept the change in terms and offer in my consultancy job. It basically shook our finances so we had to give up our apartment.

I’ve been very blessed to have the kindest and most accommodating in-laws. We never had any conflicts unlike other horror stories I’ve heard from other people. My mother-in-law taught me how to make adobo and fried chicken the way Omar likes it. He eats my own recipe but sometimes he requests for his mom’s recipe so I took time to watch his mom and learn from the queen of the kitchen. :) I also learned other cooking and organizing tips from her.

We initially thought we can move out by the end of 2013 when my in-laws came back from Canada. Then we told ourselves that we wouldn’t stay there for a year. I mean they were not asking us to leave. It’s just that we don’t want to overstay and change the dynamics of their household for so long. Having a toddler around also changes everything. However, God had other plans. Seeing that we hadn’t saved enough to move out from my in-laws’ place, I completely surrendered by desire to have our own place. I told God that I will gladly wait until I’ve learned the lessons He wanted me to learn during our stay there (even if takes years!).

WP_20141231_14_33_42_Pro (2)Not long after, God’s provisions came and over the next six months we were able to save for our new apartment and furniture. We sold everything when we moved to his parents’ house because first, we needed the money and second, their place is fully furnished. God also blessed us with a great apartment that’s close to a mall! :) And I mean walking distance kind of close. :) Having our own place again opened my eyes to the privilege of managing your own home. God made me realize that fixing our home, cooking for my boys, scheduling how our day goes, and doing the simplest chores are the very things that give me joy. :) Sure life was easier when other people do things for you. But life is more fulfilling when you do things for other people. I now understand why my mom did what she did. Why all her life she devoted it to taking care of us. Being a homemaker is a job that gets daily rewards. Aside from the unlimited hugs and kisses, the growth you see in your child’s life and the success you propel in your husband’s career—all done in the background—are the intangible trophies you carry in your heart.  :) God gave a whole new meaning to my full-time jobs as wife and mom when we had our own place again.

And then there’s homeschooling.  :) I’ve been homeschooling Timmy since he was born because teaching really starts at home. Last year, though, I’ve been more intentional in researching what I could teach to him like working up his fine motor skills, letting him do more art activities, progressive reading, and more. Most 3-year-olds go to nursery, Timmy basically “learned through play” at home. We also got involved with a homeschool group which met every Tuesday. It’s really a class for music, arts, and P.E. and we joined just for socialization purposes. In the end, I got more than what I signed up for.  :) Timmy gained new friends, I had new mommy friends who have been generous in sharing their knowledge and experience, and we got lots of homeschooling support. We even had an amazing Christmas party at an orphanage!

InstagramCapture_cca84d36-32f0-46a2-95ab-81beee9fcb71There were moments when I was second guessing myself about homeschooling knowing that I have a naturally shy boy. But seeing his development now, I realized that building his confidence at home helped him adjust more easily outside instead of thrusting him into a foreign environment like in a school setting where other kids expect you to behave like everybody else. I’ve read this before that homeschooling allows your child to feel secure and confident with the love and attention you give, allowing him to thrive in any environment. The child knows that he is loved and accepted at home and so validity from peers becomes secondary. Their values are not easily swayed because they are firmly built at home. Now, his warm up time is relatively shorter from hours to minutes and he can play and interact with other people already. We also tell him ahead of time the new friends he will meet and that we’ll be there, too, to help him adapt quickly. :)

Homeschooling has allowed me to know my child more. It’s not a given that as a mom you know everything about your child. I’ve learned the best way I can get him to obey easily and the most effective way for him to enjoy learning—all tailored to his personality and interests. I am humbled every day whenever I teach Timmy. My character is being molded, too, especially when I have to deal with his stubborn and lazy moments. Or when I needed to deal with his distractions and shift in interest. There are days when I had everything planned and then he wanted to do something else. I’ve learned to become flexible and maximize that moment of eagerness to teach as much as I can about his current interest. Homeschooling added a new dimension to my homemaker life, making it more fun and exciting every day! :)

As expected

Our year ended with handprints of God’s grace all over it.  :) Our family life and home-based careers are testaments to God’s goodness and faithfulness. We couldn’t be more grateful for what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives. We’re excited for 2015 because we know that whatever blessing or trials we’ll encounter, His grace is more than sufficient to carry us through. I’m sure we’ll have new lessons to learn and new adventures to experience. The unpredictability of it all excites me! With that, we say goodbye to 2014 and say hello to 2015.  :) Happy New Year, everyone!

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A Day at an Orphanage

Our homeschool group Team L4 decided to have our Christmas party at an orphanage so we can teach our kids the value of sharing to less fortunate children. Working with a group of moms who not only love their kids but also God has been a great privilege for me. I was blessed to see how each one contributed their ideas, time, effort, and skills. We met and brainstormed after each homeschool M.A.P.E. class and updated each other via our Facebook group and email. Everyone was committed to the task assigned to them. Even our kids were fully engaged, too! :) We decided to have a puppet show depicting the Christmas story and have our kids perform a couple of songs for the orphans.

St. Rita Orphanage

St. Rita Orphanage

We chose St. Rita Orphanage in Sucat. They house kids ages 0-2. However, with the adoption process taking so long the kids grow old up to 5 or even 6 years old. I was able to talk to one of the caretakers and she said that each child should first be officially declared as “abandoned” before they become eligible for adoption. It broke my heart to hear that every child in that orphanage is labeled as abandoned. :( No kid deserves to be abandoned much more be officially labeled as one. But then again it had to be done. She said that the DSWD needs to touch base with radio and TV stations if there are people who will claim the child. They have to give it some time if in case the parents or relatives of the child want to take back the child. If no one claims him or her, the child will have an official document that he or she is abandoned and available for adoption. The DSWD will then look for interested parents and screen them accordingly.

Our kids playing while we set up the place :)

Our kids playing while we set up the place :)

Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)

Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)

Parents and organizers :)

Parents and organizers :)

We all saw God’s faithfulness from our preparations to the people and companies who gave donations (special thanks to Del Monte, Unilever, and Unilab). Our kids even practiced and memorized the John 3:16 song and Joy to the World. :) I’m not sure if we can post photos of the kids but to protect their identity I’ve decided not to post them. When the kids came down, one girl ran up to me and gave me a big hug! She has the sweetest smile and brightest countenance. :) She even helped one of the moms identify the names of the other kids when she was preparing the name tags for them. I hosted the party and I asked my husband to start the program with a prayer. We then played some games to break the ice. :)

Doing my hosting duties :)

Doing my hosting duties :)

The host and official photographer :)

Behind me is our official photographer (one of the devoted dads who helped out) :)

My husband leading us in prayer :)

My husband leading us in prayer :)

Games! :)

Games! :)

For the puppet show, one of the moms graciously volunteered to write the script. :) We had it narrated in Filipino so that the kids will understand it easily. Our children were also working behind the scenes holding the pictures while the story was being told. :)

The kids and moms in action :)

The kids and moms in action :)

Our little boy is the official caretaker of the puppets Danny and Debbie :)

Our little boy is the official caretaker of the puppets Danny and Debbie :)

Narrating the Christmas story with Debbie's voice :)

Narrating the Christmas story with Debbie’s voice :)

Meet Danny and Debbie!

Meet Danny and Debbie!

Danny narrating the story :)

Danny narrating the story :)

After the puppet show, our kids performed their song number and we sang with them, too! :)

Joyfully singing for the orphans :)

Joyfully singing for the orphans :)

Singing for Jesus! :)

Singing for Jesus! :)

And then of course, it’s eating time! :) Some of the kids from the orphanage needed to be spoon fed because they’re still too small to eat on their own. The youngest was 1 1/2 years old while the oldest was around 4.

Time to eat! :)

Time to eat! :)

Hooray for supportive husbands! :)

Hooray for supportive husbands! :)

The boys having fun :)

The boys going all goofy and having fun! :)

The children of St. Rita had to go back to their rooms by 5:00 pm. They are pretty rigid with their schedule, which is good because kids that young need routines. We weren’t able to formally say goodbye to them, though, because they were rushing to get ready for another Christmas party. We turned over the gifts and donations to them and cleaned up our mess before leaving. :) One of the dads closed us in prayer. His prayer was very moving and emotional as we prayed for these kids to have parents who will truly love them and care for them.

Lifelong Learners Who Love the Lord (Team L4 kids!) :)

Lifelong Learners Who Love the Lord (Team L4 kids!) :)

The families of Team L4! :)

The families of Team L4! :)

Personally, it was a great and humbling experience. It was a privilege to serve these kids who have never experienced how it is to be held and nurtured by their own mothers and fathers. I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to discover that your parents abandoned you. Every child in that orphanage will have a different journey. Some will have an easy time adjusting to their new families while others will take a while to fit in. Some may even try to learn who their real parents are just to come full circle and tie that loose end in their identity. Seeing these children opened my eyes to the reality that the best thing a child could ever have is a parent’s intangible love. The kids in the orphanage receive gifts and donations regularly but that’s not what they yearn for the most. When that little girl hugged me, I was reminded that what kids need are affection and nurturing. My son will outgrow his toys, clothes, and other material things but the things that he won’t forget are the times we played together, spent quality time with each other, and all those moments when he felt loved, cared for, and appreciated.

One more for good measure! :) And this time with the official photographer in the mix! :)

One more for good measure! :) And this time with the official photographer in the mix! :)

It’s my prayer that more than anything they will each discover about the love of our Heavenly Father. God’s love extends to everyone and reaches out to every individual. In Psalm 68:5, God is known as “Father to the fatherless.” It also says in Psalm 146: 9 that He “sustains the fatherless.” In Psalm 10:14 God is called the “helper of the fatherless.” He even commands us in James 1:27 to “look after orphans and widows in their distress” and in Exodus 22:22 God says “do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.” Our visit to the orphanage may just be for a few hours but it was an experience that we will all remember for the rest of our lives. I admit that orphans are not part of my usual prayer list but seeing them stirred something in me and prompted me to pray for them regularly. As we celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, I hope that we all take time to pray for orphans (and widows, too) that they may experience the love of Christ not only this holiday season but all throughout their lives. Their journey ahead will not be easy but with God’s love sustaining them through, they can overcome life’s hurdles. :)

Before I end this blog, I just want to send a special shoutout to Team L4 families (husbands, wives, and kids)! Thank you for your love and commitment to our homeschool group! :)

Have a blessed Christmas and wonderful New Year, everyone!!! :)

Named for a Purpose

As I was reading the Christmas story this morning, something about what God said to Joseph struck me. In his dream, an angel told him, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21).

joseph in a dreamImagine what it would be like if your child’s name will reveal the kind of future he will have. It will probably take a toll on the child and the parents because they will be pressured to live up to that name. As a mom, if my son will be named for a specific purpose I want it to be something grand with a huge impact on the future, philanthropic even. I want his purpose to be clear so I can help him achieve that.

Joseph must’ve felt honored and confused at that time. Honored because he will be the foster father of God’s Son. Confused because he didn’t know what “save his people from their sins” entailed. Save meant Jesus will do something noble and great but sins meant trouble. It meant dealing with people whose main preoccupation is doing all things wrong. As a parent, it must’ve been difficult to reconcile those words and make sense out of it.

nativity sceneI wonder how Joseph and Mary went about raising Jesus knowing what His purpose was early on. Were they surprised that Jesus loved to hang out with corrupt tax collectors, healed the servant of a violent centurion, and spent time with people no one really wanted to be identified with? Did they worry and plead with God that Jesus doesn’t get killed because of the miracles He did and the things He taught?

Modern-day parents like me would probably have anxiety attacks everyday if I knew that my son’s future will be closely connected with thieves and criminals. It doesn’t only take courage to let go of one’s child. It takes something greater, something only God can give. It takes love. Love that I could never understand from a parent’s point of view. Love that prioritizes other people more than your own. Love that chose me over His blameless Son.

jesus_friend_of_sinnersJesus knew what He came here for. From the time He was born in that manger to the moment He started ministering to other people, He already knew the end. It took more than courage to face that suffering and agony. It took selfless love for sinners to make a sinless Savior give His life to save us. And that’s the very thing we celebrate every Christmas, year after year.

It’s a celebration of gratitude for the One who was named for a purpose and we were part of that. We were the “people” referred to in that phrase and it was our “sins” that He needed to “save” us from. When Jesus walked on earth He had Your name and mine in mind. It was personal. It’s like Jesus was saying, “I’m here because of You, ______ (put your name there). I’ll give my life so you will be reconciled to the Father and won’t be separated from Him. After my death and resurrection, nothing will separate us anymore. Your sins will be forgiven and paid for.”

electrifying-jesus-crucifixion-pamela-johnsonJesus was God’s gift to mankind. He’s the giver and the gift. The magi may have brought Him the finest gold, frankincense, and myrrh but He already gave Himself to us from the time He was born. This is the reason why Christmas is all about giving. We were given so much when Jesus came here to save us. We were given a Savior. We were given a second chance. We were given exclusive access to the Father through His Son. We were given forgiveness and grace. And most of all, we were given eternal life.

As we celebrate Christmas, may we all take time to just thank our Savior for loving us with a kind of encompassing, inexplicable love that none of us deserve. I know my sins and I most certainly know that I don’t deserve Jesus’ love and sacrifice. But He did it anyway. And I am floored with the grace and forgiveness He extends to each one of us.

JesusHe was named Jesus BECAUSE He will save His people from their sins. Jesus was named for a purpose. He lived doing everything aligned with that purpose. He suffered, died, and rose again because that was what He came here for. And at its very core is His people—we are the WHY behind that WHAT.

Today, we remember that we have been given the greatest gift God could give us—His Son, Jesus Christ. You may have heard it time and again that He is the reason for the season because that’s the truth. Without Him, there will be no reason to celebrate. There will be no concept of gift giving. We wouldn’t know what it means to give to those who can’t give back and to receive something we don’t deserve.

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Thank You, Jesus. Thank You that You lived out Your purpose for us from the time You were born. I am forever grateful to be redeemed and saved by You. Thank You for giving us the reason to celebrate Christmas. I’m not really sure about the date You were born but nonetheless, I want to greet You HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I’m pretty sure that if there’s one place where people really know how to party, it’s in Heaven. :) I know You can have a cosmic celebration anytime You want but I just want You to know my life is Yours and that’s the only thing I can give as a form of gratitude for the salvation and eternal life You’ve given me. Merry CHRISTmas! I love You! :)

M is for Marshmallow

Two weeks ago we had M as our letter of the week. :) I was supposed to blog about this last week but I was so caught up preparing for my little boy’s birthday! :) Now we’re back to our normal weekly schedule and I’m back to blogging. Yay! We missed an entire week without any letter because we had to attend a family wedding, which coincided with Timmy’s birthday, and prepare for our son’s big day (post-birthday celebration). This is when I appreciate homeschooling the most because we can truly enjoy our get-togethers without worrying about school work the next day. We even had a week of no formal school activity simply because we wanted our son to enjoy his birthday! It’s such a blessing to have the freedom and flexibility that homeschool provides. :)

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Bible Character

We learned about Moses and how God used him to deliver his people. :) We also watched a video about Moses. Timmy memorized his verse for the week, too. :)

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Books and Reading

We read books with words that start with M. :) He really loves “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?” because of the many sounds you can make and “Mole in the Hole” because of its pictures-over-text format. Like instead of seeing the word frog, there’s a picture of a frog instead. :)

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Writing

M is a pretty challenging letter to write. There are basically four strokes you need to make. Two straight vertical lines and two slanted lines. I first gave Timmy a sticker activity to give him visuals of M then asked him to connect the M stickers.

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I also gave him some M words and let him practice writing M in the beginning of the word. He really likes doing this “missing letter” activity because he wants to read the words after. :)

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We also designed a big M using marshmallows. :) Timmy couldn’t resist eating them while doing the activity! Hahaha! Too cute! :) At least he finished designing the M; it took a while, though. :D

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Math

Since we’re already at it, I used the marshmallows to have some basic counting and addition exercises. :) I asked him to add the marshmallows by transferring them to one container then counting it. :)

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Science

We created the basic phases of the moon (i.e. full moon, half moon, and crescent moon). I didn’t go into the waning crescent and the other complex phases. Since these three are the ones he often sees at night that’s what we explored first. :) When he’s old enough to understand, I’ll use the Oreo method. :)

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Art

We made a mouse artwork from a big M outline using construction paper and some leather swatches that I use for scrapbooking. :)

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We also made some MARBLE ART! I’m actually more excited about this one! We used daddy’s shaving cream, poster paint and a white cardboard. Since Christmas is almost near, I decided to put the marble paint on a star. Simply mix the shaving cream and poster color then put the paper on top for 10-15 minutes. Once it’s dry, remove the shaving cream and you’ll see the marble effect absorbed by the paper! :) We’ll most likely do this again! :)

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Filipino

We learned some opposite words in Filipino that start with M and basically used them in our conversations at home. :) I made an attractive visual to encourage him to read and practice the words repeatedly. :)

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M IS FOR MILESTONE! :)

Timmy wrote his name for the first time! He’s been practicing TIM ever since we started our letter of the week. :) It’s far from perfect but it’s the product of his hard work. :) I’m so proud of you, sweetheart! He’s already good at writing Tim but Timmy needs more practice and Timothy Josef is an entirely new level. :) We’ll get there for sure. In the meantime, I want him to enjoy writing his name, doodling, and drawing. :)  As his teacher, I try to keep in mind that learning should be enjoyable and not stressful. I can see in his body language if he’s just forced to do things. It reflects in his output and he’s not happy with it, too. This helps me in pacing our activities and the things he needs to learn daily and repeatedly. :)

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We’re doing O this week and I’m so glad that we have a normal week before the Christmas and New Year festivities kick in. :) Till next week, mommies! :)

An Open Letter to My Favorite Four-Year-Old

Dear Timmy,

When you wake up today, you’ll be officially four years old. :) Over the next few days, we’ll be practicing your new answer to the perennial how-old-are-you question. I can already picture you goofing around, laughing, and saying different numbers because you’re playful like that. :) Just this week you jokingly said you’re turning five when we keep telling you you’re turning four! Haha!

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Oh, Timmy, your journey to being four has been such a wild ride. :) How about we talk about some of your milestones? Did you know that as soon as you hit three years old you started reading? Yes, you did, sweetheart! You mastered your phonics at two then by January of 2014 we’re officially reading together! :) It was one of the most exciting moments of my parenting life—watching you read and progress from one-syllable to two-syllable words and so on. I can only attribute that milestone to God’s grace. :) You may not yet fully understand what God’s grace is and I’m sure you’ll encounter that phrase A LOT in my letters; but I want to explain it to you, nonetheless.

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God’s grace is something you don’t deserve but He gives it to you anyway. It’s receiving more than what you ask for. So when I say that your reading accomplishment is because of God’s grace, it means that as a parent I only asked for a child who will one day learn how to read and love books (pretty much like your folks) but God gave me MORE. He built in you the natural inclination and interest in letters and words. As a result, He made it easy for you to read. I only fueled that interest by giving you the materials and resources to further increase your love for reading. Your dad and I couldn’t be happier that we have an early reader in the family! :) As of this writing, I think you can read roughly 70% of this letter but understand 30% of it. So yeah, we still need to work on the comprehension. :)

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You know what? Right now, you’re COMPETING with me during story time. Uh huh. You’re hogging mommy’s spotlight and I love it. :) Usually, I would say “It’s story time! Everybody get ready to listen to mommy!” Before, you would cuddle close along with your stuffed toys. Now, you would say, “Timmy will read!” then get the book from me and say, “Everybody listen to Timmy!” Haha! I mean you go on reading five to six books at a time. I sometimes feel bad stopping you but if I don’t you’ll end up sleeping late or missing your nap. Anyway, I always promise that we’ll read more when you wake up and that’s exactly what we do as soon as you’re up. Your favorite authors so far are Mo Willems, Dr. Seuss, and Sandra Boynton. :) You’re also obsessed with your Chicka, Chicka, Boom Boom books!

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This year, we moved from the playroom to actual Sunday School. :) You were so thrilled to get your first star stamp! After a couple of weeks of staying with you, I left you with your classmates when you said you’d be okay. Ten minutes later, I was called back because they said you were crying and looking for me. It’s okay, sweetheart. I’m sure you tried your best and meant what you said that you’d be fine but I guess you got overwhelmed. :) By the way, we’re back to attending Sunday School together. :)

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It was also your first time to join the annual Vacation Bible School held by our church. :) I think you’re one of the youngest kids in the toddler class. I accompanied you the entire week and we had a blast! Sure there were times when you were scared but that’s fine. I know you’re shy and over the years I’ve learned how to manage that shyness. :) I get tips from your dad because he would share to me the things that terrified him when he was a child in terms of socialization. I’ve learned to give you enough time to warm up, to never leave your side until you’re ready to play on your own, and to give you the space you need when you’ve already gotten your groove. :)

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You got three awards during the culmination day! You bagged Best in Memory Verse, Best in Crafts, and Highest VBS points in Nursery! Yay! :) During that week, I noticed how quick you are in memorizing things. I mean I already know that you have a pretty good memory but the speed and retention was something I witnessed in full action during VBS and throughout the entire year (more on that later)! God knew I needed someone who will remind things to me and complement by forgetfulness. :) You did some awesome crafts and learned lots of good stuff about God and the Bible! You also had a terrible fall on the last day of the VBS. It was more traumatic for me than it was for you. :( I had sleepless nights after, blaming myself because you fell under my watch. I’ll take this time to say sorry for not being fast enough to grab you when you took a step back. :( I’m so grateful that God protected you from further harm. I’m glad that it’s over and you’re all well. :)

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I mentioned something about memory earlier. Well, this year you memorized our National Anthem, Bahay Kubo, Leron Leron Sinta, and other Filipino songs (aside from the English nursery rhymes)! A few weeks ago, your dad taught you Buchikik and you loved it! Haha! I also tried giving you long memory verses and you remembered them easily. :) We breezed through months of the year and days of the week both in English and Filipino. I don’t know if God wants you to be a lawyer someday but whatever the reason is for having that very sharp memory, I pray that you’ll use it to honor and glorify God. :)

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We also joined a group of homeschoolers for their music, arts, and P.E. classes! Our group is now known as Team L4 (Lifelong Learners Who Love the Lord). We’re composed of 9 families with roughly 10 kids in attendance. :) You’re the youngest in the group and one of the three kids who are not yet enrolled in any homeschool provider. We meet every Tuesday and the moms take turns in teaching. I usually teach art and you’re very active when I’m the one teaching (i.e. you go in front, read my powerpoint/visuals, etc). Haha! When it’s not me, you’re back to being quiet. Perhaps it’s the level of familiarity you have with me that makes you come out of your shell. :) Oh, by the way, I use the hashtag #tuesdayswithtimmy for all the homeschool activities you did with Team L4. :) You know, I’m not even sure if you’ll be still using hashtags by the time you read this. Technology is moving so fast that sometimes keeping up is such a chore. :) Anyway, if you want to look back at those photos just search for that hashtag. ;)

PhotoGrid_1411260796856 PhotoGrid_1403656755509 For the most part of the year, we stayed with your Lolo Hector and Lola Tess. :) You truly filled their house with laughter. Same goes with Wowo Dante and Wowa Tina whenever you visited them. :) Last October, we moved to a new apartment and you’ve been calling our place “our new home” for almost 3 months now. :) Haha! We’re not yet done fixing your homeschool room but I promise we’ll get it ready soon. In the meantime, you’re using almost every part of our house to play and learn—and that’s TOTALLY FINE. :) That’s one of the best things about homeschooling! You literally learn everywhere. May it be the dining area or bedroom, grocery or parking lot, parties or outdoor activities—learning never stops for you. :)

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We had some discipline issues along the way and there were times when we had to be more quick and determined to discipline you. It was so hard and painful for me to watch you cry but when we see you change, become more obedient and respectful, and get rid of certain bad behaviors—we know that it’s worth it. For the record, you can go for months without spanking. However, certain misbehaviors come back and we need to address it right away. Now, you’re in the stage when you clearly remember which actions are good and bad. You consciously avoid them now and we’re so proud of you, Timmy. :) God also disciplines mommy and daddy when we don’t follow Him and it’s pretty embarrassing to think we’re adults already. But we need those moments, too, to keep us in the right direction. :)

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I couldn’t be any prouder of the toddler you’ve become. :) You’re my little helper at home, doing chores those little hands can do like cleaning up one batch of toys before using a new batch and throwing things in the trash can. :) You don’t throw tantrums in the mall or point to stuff and demand that we take them home. You’re content playing with them then leaving them. :) There was just one time when you really loved this wooden numbers toy that you didn’t want to change your diaper (with poop!) because you really couldn’t leave it. Up to now, your favorite items are letters and numbers. It was the first and only time that we saw you get so fixated with an item. That’s one out of the hundreds of times we’re at the mall that’s why I distinctly remembered it. :) You kept saying, “We need to pay for it.” Haha! We ended up getting the numbers set for you and when you got it you kept asking that we go home right away because you know that we only open newly-bought toys at home. :)

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We did a lot of fine motor skill activities to get you ready for writing. :) I’m learning a lot from mommy bloggers and getting ideas from them! You’re not really the writing kind of guy, you’re more of the painting type. You love designing and doodling. :) You don’t like pencils but you love colored pens and paint. Some kids write at the age of 3, especially girls. One thing I’ve learned is that kids learn at different paces. I know you’ll write when you’re ready. Guess what? Last week, just before your birthday, you wrote your name for the first time! YAY! :) You’re not the tracing type, you’re the show-me-i-will-copy type. You would watch me write and imitate my strokes. :) I’m sure you’ll get there, Timmy. We’ll not rush into it because I wouldn’t want you to associate writing with getting frustrated. :)

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We’ve also been doing the letter of the week activities and it’s been so much fun! We kicked it off with an alphabet week and then spelled your name each week (T-I-M). Just like that, a month went by. Four weeks of learning through play! We’ll be doing O this week. :) I’m not even sure how I’ll do that because I’ll be preparing for your post-birthday celebration! By the way, you spent your 4th birthday (December 7) at Ninang Cathy and Tito Jonathan’s wedding! :) So yeah, this will be a busy week and I’m not yet sure how I’ll go about your O activities. Maybe we can incorporate that in your birthday preps. :)

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You’re such a funny kid, Timmy. :) You have a knack for changing up lyrics and rebuking your dad innocently by saying “wrong way, wrong way again.” Haha! You negotiate so well and your “how about” statements are usually the very things we want you to do but you want to do it at the wrong time. For example, “How about we read the Bible?” when it’s time for bed and we’re already done reading it earlier. Truth is, you don’t want to sleep. “How about I use my Bible App for Kids?” You say that statement to get some extra gadget time when you’ve already consumed your 1 hour for the day. Oh, the excuses you make, Timmy!

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Happy birthday, my little trooper! I call you that because there are days when you are in perpetual motion. You run around, jump on the bed, play basketball—any and every possible way you can expend your energy. :) I love it! I guess that’s what little boys are made of. :) I pray that you’ll continue to know God and love Him more. May you enjoy every stage of being a child because it only comes once in your life and for a very short period of time, too. You’ll spend more time being an adult and I don’t mean to burst your bubble. Haha! Thank you so much being who you are. :) You truly inspire us to be better parents.

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It’s amazing what a year makes! I read my previous letter to you and saw how far you’ve come! I mean we’re having real conversations now, Timmy! :) Full sentences about what happened about your day, stories you invent off the bat, jokes you crack intentionally and unintentionally, clear distinctions of the things you like or don’t like, actually reading books on your own and not memorizing what you hear from me—everything is at a whole new level now. It’s like seeing a growth spurt in your development! :)

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I won’t ask you to slow down this year, Timmy. I’ll ask you to embrace growing up because I enjoy growing up with you. :) I’m sure you’ll show a different level of cuteness and you’ll amaze us with more milestones. :) Remember that I’ll always be the voice to your dinosaurs, robots, animal friends, and every character in your book. :) I’m also the voice that prays for you all the days of your life. :) WE LOVE YOU, sweetheart! Have a blast being four!!! :)

Love,

Mommy

I is for Island

Now I understand why moms do the letter of the week activity for their toddlers. It not only teaches their kids multiple concepts but it also gives direction to moms like me on what we should do for the day! :) We’re now at letter I, the second letter of Timmy’s name. I was actually a bit nervous when I was preparing for his lessons because I know that I is a pretty challenging letter. There are a few I words that toddlers could actually understand. I really praise and thank God because He has been giving on-the-spot ideas to make our letter I activities fun and exciting! Here’s how our week went:

Bible Character

Our Bible character is IMMANUEL and our memory verse is Isaiah 7:17 (starts with I, too!) So basically we read the Christmas story through out the week and watched some videos about Jesus and Christmas! :) I’m sticking with my pyramid-style visuals because Timmy really digs it! He still uses his Timothy makeshift pyramid verse. :)

Reading

I got some books that begin with I but the blockbuster in the pile is “Should I Share My Ice Cream?” by Mo Willems! That book is heaven sent! My good friend Diane of The Hippomum (you should check out her blog!) sent a birthday box full of surprises for Timmy last month. She had no clue that Timmy LOVES ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE BOOKS. We read that book almost every day. He makes sure that “Should I Share My Ice Cream?” is included in our reading pile. :) This week, I also encouraged him to read other I books like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and he enjoyed it, too!

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Math

This one is fun! We counted ice cubes! Timmy used tongs to pick up the ice. So aside from his counting practice, he also had fine motor exercise! :) I also drew pictures that start with I and gave Timmy “less” and “more” stickers. All he needed to do was count the objects and place the correct sticker. :) He was careful not to mess up because that meant he needed to remove the sticker and ruin the paper. Haha! Thankfully, he got everything correct! :)

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Writing

I gave him some writing sheets to practice writing I step by step. He didn’t get it at first. I then saw that he liked to write without following a pattern. He wanted to discover it on his own. So I gave him words that start with I and left the first letter blank. I then saw how quickly he was able to write I because he needed to complete the word and read it! Seeing that he was on a roll, I took the opportunity to give him more words including his name! I suddenly discovered a way to teach him to write his name. It’s like doing fill in the blanks but this time he needed to fill it with letters. :) Perfect!

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Art

Of course we had to make ICE CREAM! :) I cut some foam as ice cream scoops and asked Timmy to create his own ice cream. :) He also designed his sweet creation after. Timmy’s always beaming with pride when he’s showing his artwork to his dad. I think he was extra proud of this one because he really exerted a lot of effort doing his ice cream. :)

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Science

We learned about INSECTS! I found an insect poster at National Book Store (P8.75 only!). I cut it and placed each one on cardboard to make insect cards. :) I explained to Timmy what insects eat, why we need to be careful with certain insects, and more. We also read about insects in his book about bugs. :) We played a guessing game later on when he became familiar with the insects’ names. We also played a multiple choice type of game. I showed him two insects and asked him, “Which one is the mosquito?” then he picked the card and gave it to me. :) Later on, I saw him playing with the cards and making them fall like rain. He liked that it was light and the fan was blowing it everywhere. Haha! That was literally a learning-through-play moment. :)

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English, Crafts, and Science combined (Haha!)

I thought it would be pretty cool to create an ISLAND for Timmy! So I got the case of our digital blood pressure apparatus, wrapped it in brown paper, placed it on top of blue paper to make an island. I then cut foam trees so that Timmy can design his island. I also surprised Timmy by creating a book for him! It has words that start with I to help familiarize him with more I words. :) Aside from that, I also wanted to teach Timmy about IGUANA. So I decided to draw one and put some quick facts on the side. I gave it to him as a “pet” and he loved it! He started talking and reading to the iguana drawing the moment he got it. Haha! Although we were done with science the previous day, we still had the iguana lesson before we did the island crafts and story. :) The great thing about toddlers is that they still have no idea that they’re going through certain subjects. So even if it appeared from my perspective that we weren’t organized that day, what’s important was he had fun learning different concepts from different subjects without him knowing it! :)

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Filipino

To make learning Filipino fun for him I made small placards using popsicle sticks and colored papers. One side contains the English word and the other has the Filipino translation. We also spoke in Filipino and used the words in a sentence to help him practice our native tongue. :) My husband and I are making sure that we speak to him in Filipino more especially now that he’s able to understand and grasp the meaning of words faster. :) Upon learning that “ito” means “this” he said, “Ito si Mishka.” Mishka is the name of his dog stuffed toy. :)

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Timmy also had his pop culture fix with daddy by watching some IRON MAN videos and learning about the cool suits of the billionaire superhero. :) I wasn’t able to take any photos because I was too sleepy when they were having their Iron Man stories. :)

Next week we’re doing M! Let’s see if Timmy gets to write his short nickname (TIM) after next week. :) Hope these activities give you some ideas to keep your toddler busy and learning. Ciao! :)