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! 🙂

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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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