Starting your preschool homeschool

As a newbie homeschooler, I love asking tips and advice from moms who have been in this journey for quite some time. I haven’t been able to attend any seminar or workshop that’s related to homeschooling until last January when our Facebook group, Homeschoolers in the Philippines, held a south meet-up and last March when The Learning Basket held a workshop for preschool homeschoolers! I was so glad to attend both events! Usually, when there are homeschool events or seminars, I’m not able to go because either it’s too far or I’m sick or my toddler’s sick. I even skipped the Hippomum’s Mothering or Smothering parenting seminar, which was hosted by my dear friend Diane. It has been pretty challenging for me to get into these workshops for some reason.

Photo credit: The Learning Basket

Photo credit: The Learning Basket

I had been planning to attend The Learning Basket’s workshop “Starting your Preschool Homeschool” for the longest time but the location was always somewhere in the north. I live in the south so just the travel time of going back and forth is twice as much as the actual workshop. When they announced that they will hold one here in BF Menlo Clubhouse, I almost screamed in delight! :) I wasn’t able to register online because guess what? I was sick again up until the day before the event. I messaged Mariel Uyquiengco to ask if they were accepting walk-in registrants and I was so grateful she said yes! She was also the host of the workshop and founder of The Learning Basket where you can learn a lot about homeschooling, shop for great books, and discover ways to reinforce that you are your child’s first and best teacher. :)

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I want to attend talks like these for three reasons: information, validation, and correction. I want to learn something new from parents who’ve been there, done that. I also want to feel validated if I am on the right track. And lastly, I want to correct the way I approach homeschooling if there are more effective ways of doing so. :) My husband actually asked me if I really wanted to go because for him he thinks I’m doing well in homeschooling Timmy. He’s so encouraging, no? :) However, I told him that I really need to learn more about this journey. And being the supportive partner that he is, he readily agreed and joined me, too! :)

Here are some of the things I’ve learned from the “Starting your Preschool Homeschool” workshop:

1. Play is a child’s work. :)

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Mariel explored this idea in detail about how important it is for children to play and learn through play. Timmy has his “free play” time for stuff he wants to do. It’s unstructured. He shoots some hoops, plays with his trucks and cars, and scatters everything he can find in his toy boxes. His one-hour daily gadget use is also part of his free play. When we homeschool, every time I present him an activity I make sure that I’m overly excited about the counting game or craft activity I’m about to give him, making it appear like it’s still play time. I provide him with an audience of animals, dinosaurs, and trains to watch him finish our homeschool activity. :) Sometimes I ask myself if I’m letting my son play too much at home because our homeschool time is only for 20-30 minutes at a time and spaced throughout the day. Meanwhile, other kids are in daycare and regular schools. Being reminded that PLAY is what children are meant to be doing removed that recurring guilty feeling that I had. :) I also realized that those few minutes of learning we have are quality moments when Timmy is very much engaged. We don’t need to study 1.5 to 2 hours straight with distractions in between. We can learn through play for a few minutes and maximize that time. :)

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2. Preschool homeschool is not school. It’s about preserving my son’s childhood.

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Kids grow up very fast and I’m experiencing some serious separation anxiety right now. It seems like yesterday when Timmy was exploring his wobbly first steps and now I can’t seem to run after him! Spending each day with him is an opportunity to preserve and prolong his childhood. He just turned four last December and I really want to preserve and document every moment I have with him. I post his #timmyisms on Facebook so that I can go back and read his funny quips. I take lots of pictures, blog about his adventures—all because this season is too fleeting. It’s very encouraging to hear that it’s okay to not rush your child to grow up and mature because they’ll get there anyway. Let them be a toddler or a preschooler when they’re at that stage.

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Timmy loves being swaddled just for fun. Haha! :)

3. Learn at home NATURALLYrelaxed, unhurried (my favorite word lately), playful, and fun!

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This is the advantage of homeschooling that I truly love. Timmy and I can read as many books as we want because we’re not pressed for time (unless it’s time for me to cook…haha!). He can work on his homeschool activities wearing his pajamas. He can do stuff anywhereliving room, dining room, and yes even the bedroom! The floor is his oyster. Haha! It’s a good reminder for me to keep his learning environment relaxed because this will encourage him to cooperate and participate even if we’re tackling something easy or difficult. :) I recently had Timmy take an online reading test from Sonlight and the San Diego Reading Assessment. At age four, his reading level is somewhere between Grades 3 and 4 or ages 8 and 9! We know that it’s only by God’s grace that Timmy is able to do it. :) At the same time, it was an affirmation that our decision to homeschool him was worth it because we’re able to leverage his strengths and interests to allow him to learn in a relaxing and fun environment. :)

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4. Life is the curriculum.

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A lot of the things that your child can learn are part of your daily activities. Timmy has been helping me wash the dishes and boy is he having a blast! Haha! It takes a while and a lot of wasted water, not to mention the wet floor but seeing his eagerness to help and learn how he can wash better next time has been very encouraging. :) Cleaning up after playing is one of the ways to teach discipline and organization to your child. Timmy shoots his toys in his toy box or cleans up really fast when we ask him to be like the Flash. :) I realized that there are still many things I could teach Timmy every day not only at home but also when we go out. We should really keep in mind that teachable moments are everywhere, we just need to open our eyes and be intentional. :)

Ahoy mateys! It's pirate mommy and pirate Timmy! :)

Ahoy mateys! It’s pirate mommy and pirate Timmy! :)

5. Make memories!

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Indoor camping with Daddy! :)

Go places. Play pretend. Run around the house. Indoor camping and swimming. Makeshift slides and tents. Read together (at least 20 minutes a day—but my recommendation is, the longer the better!). :)  Rough games! Wrestling! Sing and dance like crazy! These may just be small things but when accumulated will create a childhood full of wonderful memories for you and your child. :) Making memories is all about the intangibles. It’s that ear-piecing shriek, snorting chuckle, and soundless laughter that make the biggest impact in your child’s life. I know this when I hear Timmy say either “more” or “again, again.” :)

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Mariel also shared lots of activities on how to homeschool your preschooler. It has become my checklist and go-to guide for things we’ve done and the things we have yet to do. The Learning Basket conducts this workshop all year round so you can simply find a schedule that works best for you! :) Thank you for bringing this event to the south! :) Continue inspiring parents to be their child’s first and best teacher! :)

Y is for Yarn

I never thought that my dream of becoming a preschool teacher will actually come true when I started homeschooling Timmy. :) I have come to admire parent teachers and preschool teachers all the more because of the hard work and dedication they put into their kids/students. Mind you, it’s not easy to keep a toddler preoccupied! Letter of the Week is just one of the things we do at home. We have lots of free play and reading time, too. :)

For me it’s very important that Timmy enjoys what he’s doing especially when I’m trying to teach him something. So far FUN has been pretty much the key to his LEARNING and COOPERATION. Timmy gets really excited when we have a new letter to explore. While he was looking forward to our “Y” week, I was dreading it. Haha! Homeschooling truly humbles me and makes me dependent on the ultimate Teacher of all. And during those times when I felt that I couldn’t find anything Y-related for Timmy to do, God has led me to different sources and gave me some cool ideas to work around with. :)

Reading

We really didn’t have any books with “Y” titles on them so I settled with books that emphasized the word you, your, and you’re. It was an opportunity for Timmy to learn the differences between those three words, too! But we have huge story cards which I bought from the Homeschoolers in the Philippines South Hangout event. I actually got an entire set of phonics-based stories covering the entire alphabet! Special thanks to Teacher Felichi for this awesome material! We enjoyed reading the story of Yalta the Yak who got a yarn, yearbook, and yoyo for his birthday! :)

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Bible Character/Values

This one was pretty challenging. My husband suggested the phrase “young man” and I realized how apt it would be for Timmy to learn about this verse on keeping his way pure. He’s now on his way to becoming a young man so this verse really came at the most opportune time. :)

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Arts and Crafts

I asked Timmy to fill in the big Y and small Y (in the word yoyo) with yellow foam. We also explored using yarn in our crafts. I drew a tree and a house and asked him to fill it with color using yarn. I realized that it was hard to glue the yarn! My poor boy got frustrated but good thing he didn’t give up and still finished his craft. So for our next activity I placed double-sided tape on the word YES and asked him to fill it up with yarn, too. This time it was more enjoyable for him. Talk about hit-or-miss moments! :)

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We had so much fun doing another yarn art this time using paint. I saw this activity on Pinterest. Anyway, I taped yarns on an open box and asked Timmy to change the color of the yarns by painting on them. For example, he made the red yarn yellow. It was a good practice for fine motor skills because painting on yarn was challenging. I was pleasantly surprised that he was so focused and determined to repaint the yarns! After which, we placed a bond paper on top of it, pressed it, turned the paper in another direction, and pressed it again. The result looked amazing!!! :) So proud of you, Timmy for making this! :)

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We had our usual writing practice, which was always fun for Timmy. :) He also practices in magnetic boards and white boards. I encourage him to doodle and we also bring papers and colored pens when we go out as part of his boredom buster bag. :)

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For math, we had some basic addition practice with a twist. We used yarn again! Haha! We were able to maximize the use of that material and we still have a lot left! :) Timmy counted the yarns, placed the correct number, added them, placed the right number of yarns at the end (I helped him tape it), and he placed the corresponding number. :)

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I created some Filipino cards for him but I couldn’t find it. Anyway, we’ve been more intentional in speaking to him in our native tongue and so far he’s been improving a lot in terms of speaking and understanding Filipino. :) Sometimes he even surprises me with his statements like, “Mommy, malamig itong tubig.” meaning “Mom, the water is cold.” :) One time he said, “Mommy, baligtad!” meaning “Mommy, it’s upside down!” :)

My dreaded week turned out to be one of the best ones we had so far. :) Sometimes you just have to explore and try different activities even using the same material because you’ll never know which one will be a hit to your kids!

For my next blog I’ll share with you the activities we did for letters J and O. :) Till then! :)

That fine line between opportunities and distractions

Being a work-from-home wife and mom is probably the best thing that has ever happened to my career and health condition. Stress is one of the main triggers of a Lupus flare (i.e. relapse) so I really needed to eliminate that from my life as much as possible. With tons of writing opportunities online, it’s very tempting to accept job offers because after all I’m just at home. But with my condition and a toddler always demanding my attention, I can’t simply take on any additional writing job. Still, I didn’t listen to that tug in my conscience to step back when an opportunity came my way.

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Months ago, my husband’s client asked us if we still have niche topics we want to write about because he wanted to put up another website. I mentioned three and he said he had been planning to put up a site in one of the genres I mentioned. So I helped him come up with a name for his site along with all the copies he needed. I really enjoyed writing about it but I didn’t realize that the scheduling of these posts can be quite overwhelming. Not only that, he asked me to run Facebook ads on the blogs I write to get more traffic to the site. I didn’t realize that it could be so time consuming, too.

Prior to this job opportunity, I was really content and happy with my job. I get some writing gigs from time to time but for the most part I only fulfill what my company requires of me. I’ve got my schedule all figured out every day. I was having a blast learning with my son and homeschooling him. My cooking skills had been improving because of constant practice and my husband had been giving me compliment after compliment. But when this job opportunity came, I didn’t anticipate how much time it would eat up from my responsibilities as a wife and mom.

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Soon I found myself sacrificing my homeschool time. What used to be our letter of the week had become our letter for two weeks. I mean there’s nothing wrong with that if you did a lot of things with one letter. What happened to me was it got extended because I wasn’t intentional on what we were supposed to do that day. I gave Timmy some time filler activities for those days when I didn’t prepare anything for him.

The new writing job may have brought in more income to our household but it also made me lazy and it slowly took away my growing love for cooking. Why cook when you have the money for food delivery? In our village, there’s a place that delivers really good home-cooked viands so we would opt for that. Although my writing jobs were never compromised, my time with my husband and son was. I had no problem with my deliverables but I was struggling with the service I was delivering to my two boys.

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Irony of all ironies, I even prayed for this job. I was pretty optimistic that I could juggle my responsibilities. The fact that I used the word juggle was a tell-tale sign that it wouldn’t turn out well over time. You can only juggle for a short period of time; soon enough one of those things would fall and break. Around the last week of February, I was really considering giving up that website. But I felt guilty because my client already made a substantial investment on this venture. He really likes creating new blog sites with niche topics.

My husband was trying his best to help me in the “growing pains” stage of the project. He was doing this longer that I was. I was barely a month into this new writing stint when I felt like giving up. I just didn’t know how and when. I didn’t even know what to pray for. I liked what I was doing but I didn’t like what it was costing me. During my prayer time I just allowed God to look into my heart because that’s where all my intentions, plans, confusions, and needs are. I didn’t know what to ask for so I was just asking Him to look and deal with my issues internally. When I took on this job I didn’t grab it with a tight fist. I remember telling God that this new opportunity was His and it’s His for the taking.

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After a month and a half, my client stopped the project. I have never been so happy losing a job! I knew it was God who pulled the plug. The peace was so overwhelming, I cried. I even sent a cheery “thank you” email to my client. That day, I apologized to my husband and son for not being there for them. When my toddler saw me crying, he didn’t know what to do so he just said, “Dad, can you pray for mom?” And so he did. :) My husband told me that I wasn’t neglecting them. He even commended me for having the ability to even homeschool Timmy despite the work that I was doing. He said that “we even watch TVseries together” so I never really deprived him of time (doing series marathon is our one of our favorite “we” times).

I guess it wasn’t really that obvious but it was the little things that I mentioned earlier which could dangerously morph into big things that could endanger the peace and harmony in our home. And then I remember the story of Nehemiah when he was building the wall. He faced many oppositions and distractions. He said in Nehemiah 6:3, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” In the NIV, it used the words “I am doing a great project.” My great work and project right now is (and will always be) my family and I cannot allow anything to distract me from that.

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I have a real copywriting job with an amazing company and I didn’t really need that other job. It was a WANT not a need. As a writer, sometimes I just want to write about the topics I like so maybe that’s why I was all too eager and excited to take that on. The line between an opportunity and a distraction is a very fine one that only a discerning eye can see. I wasn’t too discerning the first time it was presented to me. But I praise and thank God because He opened my eyes and grabbed my attention before things went out of control.

Today, I remain content and joyful with my family life—homeschooling with more vigor and creativity; spending quality time with my husband; cooking with gusto; and managing our home with love. I’m still gratefully working from home. I got my routine and schedule back. I managed to catch up on my reading. Life is simple again. God rescued me early and I couldn’t be more thankful. He even made me realize that if I feel the need to write about something I want, there’s always my blog to go to. :) Each one of us is doing a great work and we just can’t go down and stop. We need to press on until our job is done whatever that may be. For me, it’s being a wife and mom.

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This experience has really taught me the value of setting my priorities. I have three main relationships that I need to nurture—my relationship with God, my husband, and my son. The rest are secondary. If anything will compromise those three relationships then it’s not an opportunity, it’s a distraction. It could bring in more financial gain or even world acclaim but if I don’t earn the approval of the people that matter most to me then it has no value. I truly praise and thank God for that 42 days of juggling. I’ve learned that balancing acts can only last for a short time. It’s good for a season. We’re not made to walk on tight ropes. It is the intentional management of time and priorities that will last for a long time. God wants us to experience a full life and not a fast, always-on-the-run, catching-up, all-too-busy one. And a full life is achieved through incremental investments of time on relationships that mean most to us. :) It’s not about carpe diem, dive-head-on all the time. It’s about seizing the right moments and making those moments count. :)

What is the great work you’re doing right now? Is there a distraction that’s disguised as an opportunity that is preventing you from continuing or finishing your great work? Feel free to share your thoughts! :)

H is for Horse

My goal over the next few days is to catch up with my blogging. :) Timmy and I have already finished letters H, Y, J, and S. I’m very excited to share with you what we’ve done so far and the FUN we had while learning different concepts through our letter of the week. :) Let’s begin!

Reading

I picked books with prominent H words for our weekly reading staple. I don’t limit Timmy to my recommended H books for the week. I only use it to reinforce the letter. :) My little reader wants different books every day but he also has his favorites that we go back to repeatedly. There was a season that he was obsessed with Horton books! His interest dwindled but was resurrected when they were featured during our H week. :) “The Big Honey Hunt” is one of Timmy’s all-time faves. We also love “Bible stories that end with a HUG” because it ends the lesson with something like “Give the one who likes to share a great big hug!” :)

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Our Bible character for the week was Hannah and we learned the value of waiting on the Lord. I also let him watch a video from Gracelink on the story of Hannah. Gracelink videos is one of my recent discoveries and what’s great about it is that it has a memory verse and a one-liner lesson that goes along with it. It tells a Bible story through storybook-like cartoons which worked well for Timmy because he wasn’t distracted with too much effects and it got him to really pay attention to what the story was all about. He really liked the video and watched it repeatedly throughout the week! :)

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English/Language/P.E.

Sometimes I just stare at the stuff we have at home and think of something we can do about it. That week I saw this carton and a used happy birthday gift wrapper. I also saw that we have lots of chopsticks! God once again sent some creative ideas my way for an activity that would harness his gross and fine motor skills, alphabet familiarity, and imaginative play! I wrapped the box, gave him a pair of chopsticks and asked Timmy to hit and punch holes on all the letter H’s he can find. Boy, was it fun and noisy! Haha! He then asked for more chopsticks and turned it into birthday candles! We sang the “Happy Birthday” song repeatedly, too. :) Later on, he used the chopsticks to form the letter H over and over again. :)

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Arts and crafts

For arts and crafts we made a horse and a house. :) We used construction papers, glue, and googly eyes for the horse. We used both big and small H for these activities. Timmy also wrote lots of letter H on the house he made. :)

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We also did some handprint art! At first, Timmy was feeling so icky about having to put so much paint on his hands. This little guy uses finger paint, watercolor, and poster paints all the time so it was really a surprise that he wasn’t into it. But when I started to put some on my hands and showed him how cool and fun it was to stamp” your hand on paper, his face lit up! Before I knew it, we were lathering his palms with orange paint and he was happily stamping his hand! :) Sometimes you just need to show that you’re having fun, too, to engage your kids in the activity. :)

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I used the missing letter technique again to get him excited to complete the words and write H. :) It’s so amazing to see how his hand writing improves over time. I couldn’t help but imagine what it was like for me when I was starting to write at his age. :) I also asked him to “draw” not write H in different colors! The idea of drawing gets Timmy pumped up more than writing. Since two of his favorite things to do are reading and doodling, our writing activities are done under the guise of these two. I mentioned it before that he wanted to read the words so bad that he gets into writing mode quickly when it comes to guessing the mystery words. :) Using colored pens to “draw” letters got him hooked, too! :) Yay! These are simple but fun activities that can help reluctant writers, especially boys. :)

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We did a counting exercise using heart stickers. :) Timmy likes sticker activities and I love it, too, because it enhances his fine motor skills as tries to take out those teeny tiny stickers. :) So I decided to integrate that to our math exercise!

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Filipino

I just made a simple word list of Filipino words that begin with H along with its English translation. I then folded it when it was time for Timmy to identify the English/Filipino counterparts of these words. In one of the pictures below you will see him mixing his toy animals because I said, “Haluin mo yung mga hayop sa lalagyan.” or “Mix the animals in the container.” We also used these “featured” Filipino words often during the week. :)

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There you have it! Our HAPPY “H” Week. :) The following week we did Y and I really thought we couldn’t do much about it but surprisingly we had some pretty cool activities and had a blast with it! Stay tuned for our Y week! :)

The Unhurried Life

This incident happened two months ago but up to now I am still being reminded of the lessons I’ve learned from this experience. It took a while before I got my bearings back after the holiday season. When January hit, I was still out of sorts, mixing up schedules, and forgetting things more often than usual. The Homeschoolers of the Philippines Facebook Group had organized a south meet-up around the third week of January and I volunteered to help.

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Since we started talking about it around December I have somewhat earmarked the date as an event that was still weeks away. That was ingrained in me until probably a week before the get-together. So you could imagine my surprise that on the day itself I got a Facebook message saying, “See you later!” It was from the organizer and my mentor (I’m now even more ashamed to write this!), Donna.

I called my husband, who was out for an errand that time, about the get-together. And being the understanding and loving hubby that he was (and still is), he just said okay but next time I needed to put it in our calendar so that I won’t forget. It was 11:00 am already and I needed to be there by 12:30 to help set up the playroom. So off I went preparing our lunch and the stuff we needed to bring. Of course I had to rush Timmy, too.

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I told him to clean up his toys in a stern voice repeatedly and this stressed him out. Timmy usually doesn’t have a problem cleaning up. In fact, he’s more cooperative when we do it as a game. But that day, I was not in the mood nor did I have the time to play a game. I just wanted him to clean up so we can have a quick lunch and go. I got frustrated to see how slow he moved. Parents know this that toddlers are quick to play but slow to clean up and I’m usually fine with that but not that day.

In short, he had difficulty obeying me because I wasn’t gentle in asking and I was putting pressure on him due to my own forgetfulness and messy schedule. I obviously didn’t see that because I was so focused on getting him to obey. That clean up moment became a crying session, to which he ended up saying sorry. We dropped him off to my in-law’s house before Omar brought me to the homeschool get-together.

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Lo and behold, the topic was WORDWISE—how to acknowledge, empower, and affirm your child. I was drowning with guilt that I really felt the urge to just leave and say sorry to my poor son. I’m sure Timmy had already forgotten it the moment we were done with our I’m-sorry-I-forgive-you cleaning up episode. I left that homeschool event encouraged, humbled, and blessed. My former Sunday School teacher Felichi Pangilinan-Buizon was the speaker and it was great catching up with her! But the highlight of that day was learning how I could edify Timmy with my words.

When we picked him up, I sat him on my lap and told him that I’m sorry for stressing him out with the cleaning up. I asked for his forgiveness and he said yes he forgives me. We said I love you to each other and in my mind I made a promise to God that with His help I will try my best to use my words to uplift my husband and my son as much as I can. Asking for forgiveness from my 4-year-old toddler may not mean much to him but it means a lot to God and to me.

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I needed to be humbled. I needed to learn that I shouldn’t stress out my family because of my poor planning and organizing. Most of all, I needed God’s help in every area of my life. I admit that my time with the Lord has been lacking quality before this screwed up schedule incidents began to happen. My quiet time had either been hurried or bland. All because I looked at it as something that I needed to tick off my check list for the day.

God used this incident to remind me that I need to come before him every single day before I start doing anything. He has been patient and gracious to remind me to take my time when I read His Word, listen, and pray; to refuse being hurried when it comes to my quiet time; to appreciate being still before Him; and most of all to let Him take precedence over everything. It’s weird because I remember telling my husband just late last year that I like “unhurried” meals. In fact, at one point he jokingly called me “my unhurried wife.” The very thing I desire is what God actually wants for me—an unhurried life.

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This incident has taught me and reminded me repeatedly not to let the activities of life take away the beauty of life. I actually had the choice not to let Timmy clean up and just do it when we got back. We could’ve enjoyed our lunch together and not had that drama moment. But no, teaching him to clean up became more important than choosing to be a nurturing mom in a stressful situation. In the process, I had to swallow my pride, own up to my mistakes, and ask for my toddler’s forgiveness. To which I got a gracious, forgiving response, a hug and a kiss, and a clean slate yet again. Plus one more shot to get motherhood right the next time around.

God’s love for us is pretty much like a mother-and-child relationship, too. It thrives on nurturing and unhurried moments with Him. Sure there are lots of teachable moments but we respond better to those times when we have spent lots of quality time with Him and invested time knowing Him. My son responds better when my approach to him is how he knows me. He knows me better than being that frustrated mom who forced him to finish cleaning up quickly that time. Thus, he responded in a way that is not like him, too. In the same way, I respond better to God’s correction and when I know Him more. And I can only know Him more when I spend quality time with Him regularly.

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I am blessed to be able to stay at home (and work) with the two most important men in my life—Omar and Timmy. And I don’t take this for granted. I am privileged to love and serve them and vice versa. But there will be times when schedules will be screwed up (and yes, it happened again just last week!). And there will be times that I will fail again and stress them out. But I also know that God’s mercies are new every morning. He can make things right and new again. I just need to come to Him, humble myself before Him, listen to Him, learn from Him, and follow Him moment by moment. By His grace and mercy alone, I know I can live an unhurried life. :) You know what? Just blogging about this and making time for this is a glimpse of what an unhurried life can give you—a chance to look back and reflect; a chance to get things right the second time around; and more importantly, a chance to experience a full life the way God has always planned for us. :)

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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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