Confessions of a Laid-Back Homeschooler

I’m a very laid-back homeschooler. I’m not even sure if that’s a good thing or not. Haha! But so far it’s been working really well for me and Timmy. 🙂 It may look like that I have it together with all my posts about letter of the week (LOTW) activities but the truth is, most of them just happened on the fly! I just love documenting everything and putting them on collage because I plan to put them in a scrapbook. 🙂 But it’s NO WAY an indication that we had a well-planned week. Seriously! And let me tell you a little secret, those activities only take a few minutes (15-30 minutes tops)! 🙂

Sometimes I just stare at our pantry cabinet looking for something we can do a few minutes before Timmy wakes up. I know I’m cutting it close but some of my best ideas have come during buzzer beaters! 🙂 I always have my colored pens and colored papers within reach for quick activities. I do a quick Google and Pinterest search. I plan in my head what we’ll do for the day and leave room for something random.

My organized hubby :)

My organized hubby 🙂

The thing is I’m not much of a planner, really. And I’m also forgetful. That’s a pretty bad combination right there. Haha! That’s why I’m so grateful to be married to a man who likes to put everything in order. Omar keeps me organized. 🙂 There were days when I forgot to calendar our activities and it has caused us a lot of stress (e.g. surprise commitments, unplanned meet-ups, etc.). Sorry, hon! Thankfully, he’s very forgiving, too. 🙂

So how does a laid back, disorganized, forgetful mom homeschool?

I seek daily wisdom from the Best Teacher. Spending some time alone with God helps me relax and focus on what I need to do for the day. Apart from Him, I can’t do anything. Praying and reading His Word helps me start my day right. 🙂 It’s my time to declutter my thoughts. Recognizing my daily need for His guidance and wisdom has helped me a lot regardless of how my day goes. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that a lot of my homeschool eureka moments have come during this time. 🙂

My little teacher. :)

My little learner. 🙂

I take my teaching cues from my son. When Timmy shows interest on something—a book or topic—I latch on it quickly and take advantage of it. Is there a language or math principle we can learn from it? I also test his capabilities every now and then. When he showed interest in counting beyond tens I casually asked him to go on counting up to hundreds last year (he was 3). He enthusiastically worked on it! When we bought a book about skip counting he got so into it that now we’re skip counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s. Even and odd numbers are his new favorites. 🙂 I go full blast when I see that he’s ready but I also retract quickly when he shows signs of difficulty and resistance.

This is especially true with writing. He’s not a big tracing fan so I kept all his tracing worksheets and focused on how he wants to write—which is by copying my strokes. 🙂 I let him watch me write all the time. Those who have seen Timmy write were surprised at how legible, fast, and smooth he does it. I guess it comes from the fact that he watches an adult do it and when I do it I make it look easy, right? I also let him write in a fun way by using Q tips, colored pens, finger paints so that he will look forward to doing it over and over again!

Practicing letter D. :)

Practicing letter D. 🙂

Writing with Q tips! :)

Writing with Q tips! 🙂

Now I understand from a child’s standpoint how much of a chore tracing can be because you’re left to do it on your own following boring dotted lines. Whereas when you write using engaging materials, see an adult “demo” it, and do it together often, your child will see how easy it is! Well, at least for my son. There are kids who thrive in tracing and if that’s your child just go with it! 🙂

That’s exactly what I love about homeschooling. You’re not tied to a curriculum that forces your child to learn all subjects at once. You can focus on his strengths and interests then change your approach in areas where your child is struggling. You’re not limited to using one medium. You become more in tune with your child’s learning style and adapt to it accordingly. 🙂

I follow a flexible schedule and flexible curriculum. I have an outline of some sort which serves as my guide for our routine during the day. We start our homeschooling around 9:00-9:30am (yup, we don’t struggle with waking up early). We finish at around 11:00am. It’s not all sit-down learning. Reading time (our favorite) is part of it, playing and lots of tickles in between (another favorite), arts and crafts (especially painting), and writing activities.

In the afternoon, after his nap time we read again and we either do art or another homeschool activity after. Nothing is broken down into minutes like 10:00-10:30 is this subject, etc. Timmy knows his schedule (i.e. the outline of his day) and the predictability helps him cooperate and adjust. 🙂 But no, he’s not confined to a rigid minute-to-minute period.

Timmy's schedule board. :)

Timmy’s schedule board. 🙂

We do the LOTW activities for structure purposes. But I’m very flexible with it. There are days when the bulk of our activity happens in one day. Then the next two days we won’t do any LOTW stuff. We would do other learning through play activities instead. We would go back to it over the weekend or something. We’re also doing Before Five in a Row (BFIAR) on the side. Again, for structure purposes just so I have a guide. 🙂

Here’s the thing, preschool homeschool should really be unstructured. The attention span of 3 to 4-year-olds is way too short for sit-down learning. Aside from our flexible schedule and curriculum, I also consult different reliable sites for developmental milestones and signs of delay and use it as guide for age-appropriate activities.

Sure my son knows a lot for his age and I could have well enrolled him in a homeschool provider for Kindergarten or even Grade 1. But he’s only 4 and won’t turn 5 till December. He will be 5 1/2 years old when he gets into Kinder next school year and we’re totally fine about it. Besides, he’s still within the age-5 bracket. 🙂 By that time, he will be more cooperative and attentive.

635727663375033139 (2) The choice between enrolling him at 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 was crucial for me and my husband. Childhood is too fleeting to be hurried. Knowledge is one thing, maturity is another. We went for the latter because based on how we know our child we assessed that he will be more ready by then not based on head knowledge but based on everything else. Less frustrations for me, too! 🙂

I make up for what we missed. I confess that we have gone through an entire week without any homeschool activity. There were days when our letter of the week became letter of the day, meaning we only had the chance to tackle the letter in one day. So what did I do? I made up for it the following week. It’s not like he stopped learning for one week. We still did the basics—play (yup, it’s a requirement), read, sing, and write/draw. We just didn’t covered a lot for a certain letter. 🙂 Sometimes those breaks help, too. It gives Timmy more options to learn other things before he goes back to his routine.

Being a laid-back homeschooler doesn’t mean being irresponsible. It just means that you’re not too uptight with teaching your child like clockwork. It means that you allow for breathing room and reasonable breaks to change things up to encourage creativity and self-discovery in your child. 🙂

Planting carrot seeds. :) There are carrot sprouts now! :)

Planting carrot seeds. 🙂 There are carrot sprouts now! 🙂

The fun part right now is that my son doesn’t have any concept of “catching up on lessons” yet so he doesn’t feel any pressure. He just knows that we’re always learning something new. 🙂 But in my head, “This was supposed to be for last week, sweetheart.” Haha!

I know that as Timmy grows up and his lessons become more complicated I will need to step up my game, prepare my lessons way ahead of time, and be more organized. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun anymore. It could be that we will find new ways to be engaged in our subjects and find dynamic tools and resources to make learning consistently enjoyable for both of us! 🙂

Will I outgrow being a laid-back homeschooler? Probably not. That’s who I am and so far it matches the spontaneity and flexibility that homeschooling provides for us. 🙂 Imagine you can discuss history for an entire week and put math on hold because your child is so engrossed with your Vikings lesson! There are so many things you can do without being confined to a rigid schedule! Being laid back not only means being relaxed but also being willing to embrace unique, non-traditional learning opportunities along the way. 🙂

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We’re a homeschooling family! 🙂

What matters to us is that our son learns in a way that is most beneficial for him. There will be days when worksheets will take a back seat when we see the need to deal with character issues first. There will be weeks when we’ll struggle with certain concepts. But when your child knows that he can count on his mommy-teacher and daddy-teacher to find ways to help him through a steep learning curve, he’ll be more motivated to learn. 🙂

So yes, I’m a laid-back homeschooler teaching my son under the constant guidance of my Heavenly Father and the full support of my husband. Although it’s far from ideal, it’s what works for us. After all, when you think of home shouldn’t it be welcoming and relaxing? I believe the same rules apply for homeschooling as well. 🙂

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Best Books for Babies

Hey, guys! I’m at The Learning Basket today with an article about Best Books for Babies! 🙂 Hope you can check it out! You know very well that I’m a reading advocate and in this blog I shared the kinds of books that your little ones can enjoy. Start the reading habit early! Read to them 20 minutes a day (can be spread out; I recommend reading longer!) and introduce your babes to the wonderful world of books. 🙂 I started reading to Timmy on his first month and now he’s a voracious toddler reader. 🙂 We allowed him to do anything with his books so he grew up not being intimidated by it. Here are some snapshots of my little guy reading and exploring his books. 🙂

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How Homeschooling Helped My Shy Son Socialize

Parents with shy kids know how frustrating it can be when you’re child refuses to participate in group activities. No amount of encouragement and assurances can make them do it. They would hide behind your back and on a bad day they would even cry when pushed too much.

As early as a few months old, Timmy already showed that he was an introvert. He didn’t want to be carried by other people except family members. Between 1 to 2 years old, it would take him 2 to 4 hours to warm up to guests. By the time he’s ready to play with them, the party’s over or they’re about to leave. I couldn’t help but think that he was just waiting for them to go away and he couldn’t contain his excitement that’s why he played with them for a few minutes to make their visit worthwhile. Haha!

My son is shy and he got this from his dad. 🙂 Most of our friends don’t know that my husband Omar is an introvert. Maybe because he’s a teacher and he really speaks eloquently in front of a crowd. But if he had it his way, he would rather stay at home.

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On the other hand, Timmy’s momma has no idea what it means to be shy. I’ve always been a people person so I had to adjust to my son’s personality. Unlike his dad, who has learned the ropes of socialization already, Timmy is just beginning and it’s not easy especially for someone who’s still exploring and discovering things for himself.

For most people I’ve already perfected the “bad parent” equation:

Only child + shy personality = homeschool

It may look that way on the surface but as I see my son progress in his socialization skills God affirmed that our decision to homeschool him was the right one. God removed my fears by showing me first-hand the improvements in the way Timmy interacts with different people as he grows older. 🙂

Confidence begins at home

A child seeks approval from his parents. We are the big people they look up to, run to, and extend their arms to. Our nod is the incentive they want most. Whenever Timmy says or does something really funny and we laugh at it, he keeps doing it again and again. He gains satisfaction that what he does solicits a positive response from us. Every time he receives compliments from us, he beams with pride. 🙂

He loves showing his artwork, writings, block buildings—anything he creates because he wants to hear what we have to say. Are we going to approve? Criticize? When he gets an enthusiastic cheer from me, whether it’s a homeschooling exercise or the basketball shots he makes, he’s encouraged to do more. 🙂

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When he talks, I look him straight in the eye and listen intently. If he can’t find the words to say, I would encourage him to go on. I would fill in the words sometimes but mostly I would let him figure out a way to express himself and help him process it better after he’s able to finish his sentence. Timmy knows that mommy and daddy are ready to listen so he can take his time when telling his story. 🙂

At the heart of socialization is confidence. It takes confidence to talk to someone, express one’s thoughts freely, and interact with other people. We first noticed Timmy initiating conversations with old people. He loves grandmas and grandpas in the malls or restaurants. Maybe because he talks to adults most of the time. He’s more comfortable talking to strangers than having people we know talk to him. In short, he prefers initiating. 🙂

Even in his homeschool coop, I noticed that he has significantly changed in the way he interacts with his friends. Warm up became shorter and shorter as he got to know them longer. He enjoys playing with them even if most of the bigger kids like to carry him. Haha! They look at Timmy as the baby in the group. Whenever we get home from our coop, he would say that he misses his friends. 🙂

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Timmy is not rejected or put down at home. It’s the safest and most secure environment for him emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and socially. This gave him the confidence to socialize with other people. He is encouraged to speak his mind. I ask him questions and allow him to interrupt our storytelling if he has ideas or some random thoughts. When he makes mistakes in our homeschool exercises, I would tell him that it’s okay and ask him if he wants to do it again, to which he will agree. 🙂

Sometimes he intentionally commits mistakes because he likes my “oh no” face. Haha! So I have to tell him that we can fool around later but he needs to focus on his activity first. I would challenge him to show his toy animals or something else that he can finish it. Haha! He would cooperate not out of fear but out of obedience, respect, and I guess fun. 🙂

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My shy boy’s shining moments

Once we were eating at this restaurant that had a play area. Timmy always looks forward to going there. It was a weekend I think and there were a lot of kids. He approached everyone and said, “Hey, guys!” I was like, “Did he just say that?” Haha! He then started talking to the boys there. He has the habit of telling other kids the object he’s holding like, “This is a dragon. This is a porcupine. This is a killer whale.” It didn’t bother him that some ignored him. I mean that’s rejection right there. He just kept talking until someone responded!

I think he’s a teacher in the making. 🙂 He likes to share his books to other kids and sharing something informative. At first, he would put the book on the floor near the kid because he’s shy. Now, he would give the book directly and tell the title like, “This is Barry the Fish with Fingers.” Most of the time, kids are not interested in the books he offers. And it breaks my heart! Not because he looks rejected but because a lot of kids don’t like books anymore. 😦 But when Timmy shows toys, he gets their attention.

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One time we were at a bookstore and Timmy approached this little girl sitting on the floor. He offered his book again. She didn’t look interested so he got another one and showed it to her. I think the girl was only two years old. He read the title and some of the words inside. The little girl just stayed there but looked at other books. Timmy didn’t leave! He stayed there and kept trying to engage the girl in a conversation. Haha! 🙂

He actually does this every time we’re in a bookstore. He would approach kids, give them books, and talk to their parents! Sometimes he would sit beside the parent reading to the kid, listen, and answer the mom’s questions. Seeing these moments affirmed our decision to homeschool Timmy. 🙂 We took our time developing his confidence at home, observing what kinds of environments overwhelm him, managing his emotions, and helping him adapt.

It’s a process

As Timmy gets older, I’m also learning how to deal with his shyness better. Omar has also been very helpful giving me an inside look in the world of an introvert. 🙂 This socialization progress didn’t happen overnight. Being with him all the time allowed me to see what situations are threatening to him and allowed me to help him cope under those circumstances. Let me share with you some of them:

Situation 1:

Timmy doesn’t like it when he’s asked to perform on the spot. Sometimes he just runs away, although he does this playfully. I told him that instead of running or hiding to just tell me or the person asking him, “I’m shy” or “I feel conscious.” I told him that they will understand. He doesn’t like it when people are staring at him. This has helped him especially when friends or relatives ask him perform his antics. Given enough time, Timmy shows off his dance moves and shooting prowess but not instantly. 🙂

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Situation 2:

Timmy doesn’t like being surprised. The anticipation scares him. I have a friend who has a big personality and she tends to get really loud and shout whenever she sees Timmy. He gets shocked every time he sees her. As a result, he doesn’t like being with her. He has this impression “na gugulatin sya” (that he will be surprised) when she’s around. He would play with her eventually but it would take a long time. We slept at her house for two nights and he only felt comfortable on the day we were about to leave. I told my friend not to surprise Timmy and when she took my advice, the next time they saw each other they became instant best friends! Homeschooling allows me to not only help my son but also other people around him by orienting them on how to deal with shy kids like him. 🙂

Situation 3:

Timmy doesn’t like loud birthday parties (e.g. Jollibee or McDonald’s parties). The noise is just too much for him. One time I told him that we’ll be there to just watch them. No one will force him to join the games. He took comfort in the fact that we’re just there to observe. Being an introvert, new environments can be overwhelming to him. So we would stay at the back and I would let him go and roam around when he’s ready. He would leave my side eventually and interact with other kids but at his own pace. 🙂

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I’ve learned NOT TO FORCE my son because socialization doesn’t really work that way. There’s a way to approach people and interact with them without feeling awkward or coming on too strong. Some kids are just not built for the stage. My son is one of them. And it’s definitely okay. 🙂 God beautifully and wonderfully created him that way. Maybe he’ll be the director or scriptwriter but not the actor. Other children are born to perform. I was the type who could sing and dance whenever my preschool teacher would ask me to. Meanwhile, my husband wailed his way through preschool not wanting my mother-in-law to leave.

We didn’t want to subject Timmy to that. Now, our shy boy is getting more and more independent and confident. He skipped all the stress of being thrown immediately to a new environment and being left there to survive alone. I’m sure some kids will thrive there but not my son. I would rather build his confidence at home and let him go at his own pace rather than rush him to “socialization maturity” and be traumatized in the process. He’ll get there anyway and we see it right now in the way he interacts with other people regardless of their age. 🙂

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Yes, he may be an only child and a shy one at that. But he is our child and we know him more than anyone. Homeschooling didn’t shelter him from the world. It prepared him in a way that best fits his spiritual, emotional, mental, and social progress. He’s still an introvert but he’s learning socialization in a way that’s easier and more enjoyable for him. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂 He even has random spurts of performing on the spot when asked to! He’s still finding his way with people and we’ll happily take our time. 🙂

Socialization was the homeschooling giant I secretly feared but I held on to God’s promise in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” And that meant that He will also take care of his people skills. All He asks of me is not to fear nor be discouraged. He’ll give my son the ability to slay that giant. 🙂 God has already gone before me in this homeschooling journey. He is with me, covering all the bases. I just need to stay close to Him every step of the way so that I don’t lose sight of what truly matters—building my son’s character and creating a loving, God-fearing, and accepting home where he can thrive inside and out. 🙂

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P.S. My husband cried while reading this blog because I was able to articulate what a shy child needs. Those were the very things he needed, too. He added that he was grateful that we’re able to do it right with Timmy this time. 🙂

Why Being Advanced Doesn’t Really Matter

One of the first things I discovered being a mom is that I live in a culture where being advanced is applauded. When Timmy was a little over a year old, a local TV show featured a 2-year-old genius who can write and read like a 5-year-old. My mom even called me to watch and said Timmy could also be like that. While it sure was a compliment from a grandma who sees the potential of her first apo (grandchild), it really got me nervous.

InstagramCapture_0025089a-06fa-4f0c-8ac1-29cec0c942cbClearly, that kid was the exception and featuring him was a great idea. But then it also added unnecessary pressure to all the parents watching the show at that time. I remember feeling so competitive back then but when I looked at my baby who was exploring, walking tiptoed, touching everything out of curiosity I asked myself, “Do you really need to do all that at 2 years old?” So I decided not to let that show affect me but I still couldn’t shake the pressure that came along with it.

As parents we all want our children to succeed and do well in life. But as I navigate this parenting journey, I realized that success is relative and it’s up to us to define what that is to our kids. I’m proud of my son and all the things he accomplishes—big or small. But I also realized that he can’t possibly do well in everything.

Advanced but not quite

Timmy may be way too advanced in reading but he still doesn’t color within the lines and he still finds it difficult to use scissors. Whatever big words he knows today will also be read by other kids of his age when they all grow up. We all follow the same curriculum guide from the Department of Education (DepEd) anyway and they will all learn the same thing down the line.

InstagramCapture_8c77beba-6775-4bba-bc56-0d32fbd17cf7He may write fast and I mean quickly scribble the letters/words that come to his mind but he doesn’t draw the usual stick people, cars, or houses that most boys do. He’s unconventional in so many ways like going for bond paper over ruled paper, colored pens over pencils, paints over crayons—and God has been using all these things to remove the conventional student mold in my head, to get my cue from my child’s interests more than what traditional schools dictate.

InstagramCapture_0a5db76c-3001-4bbe-bda2-6fe890dc785dTimmy loves numbers and reads them by the thousands and enjoys skip counting of even and odd numbers. He’s so fascinated with numbers that he even memorizes car plates! Haha! But he’s a careless counter. He loses track of what he counts because he gets too excited. He tends to skip pointing on objects or points twice at the same thing. So we’re still working on his slow counting. 🙂 Slow, slow, slow like a sloth as Eric Carle would put it. 🙂

I need God’s grace to remind me continuously that I’m dealing with my child more than he is my student. And I guess this is something that every homeschooling mom struggles with, balancing our parent-teacher side. Every day I am learning to use his preferences as my teaching springboard to communicate with him more effectively. 🙂

WP_20150325_10_11_19_ProAlso, I have to keep reminding myself that he’s only four and to stick to what he needs to know at this age. I think it’s something that all newbie parents should keep into perspective—to never rush their kids, to enjoy every age and every stage. Because they really do grow up really fast. But that doesn’t mean I will limit him. I also have to be sensitive and follow where he wants to progress faster and at the same time rein him in if we’re going too fast so that he won’t get confused. 🙂

What really matters

I’m not an expert in parenting. I’ve been at it for only four years. And every time Timmy gets a year older, it’s a whole new ball game for me. Like when he turned four, I was so excited to know and discover with him what it’s like to be at that age again! 🙂 All this time God has been repeatedly teaching me to be gentle and patient with my child; to listen to his thoughts and stories; to ride on his interests and leverage it for learning; to spend quality time with him; and above all, to draw Timmy closer to Him.

20150516_161135I didn’t become a parent to raise a genius. There’s much more to parenting than teaching academic lessons. The values and life skills our children need to learn outweigh the need to master the 3 R’s (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic). They will learn those things eventually because they have to. But character building is a different story. We need to be more intentional on this one because they NEED this more than academics when they face the world on their own.

No one would care how smart your child is if he’s such a pain to work with. No one would bother to listen to him if he’s full of himself. He may be smart and talented in many ways but if all he wants is to get his way then no one would follow him. Companies now even value EQ more than IQ because anything can be learned these days. The way you deal with people and your overall work ethics are given more weight than head knowledge.

20130312_211104A teachable student can only come from a teachable heart. If my son doesn’t learn about obedience and respect first then he won’t listen to me. There are values that he needs to develop before he could even comprehend fractions or geography. He needs to learn patience, perseverance, hard work, honesty, humility, and more to help him not just with his academics but with real life challenges as well. Life skills are learned more easily when they have the foundational values first.

Like for example, cleaning up his toys took repetitive obedience before Timmy got used to it. You earn cooperation by doing things together like washing the dishes. It sure takes time and a lot of wasted water and dishwashing soap but seeing my son beam with pride makes it all worth it. Last night as he went down his chair (because he can’t reach the sink yet) he said, “Thank you for helping me wash the dishes!” It was as if he owned the chore and I was just there to help him! 🙂

Those little things help in easy transition to learning like, “Let’s read together! It’s writing time! Let’s count together!” Because you get to him to cooperate and participate on non-academic things, getting him on board during study time becomes much easier. 🙂 There’s so much more that our kids need to learn. Even us adults learn something new every day. So why stress out on getting everything right the first time or being ahead of everybody else?

20150517_094834At the end of the day, it’s never really about whose kid is advanced where. It isn’t about how many degrees my son will finish or how many awards he will get. I would rather measure his success by how many lives he will touch by his kindness and how many will follow his lead because of his integrity. It isn’t about finishing first all the time but about finishing well in life. 🙂

I remember my dad would always say about drivers overtaking, “Okay lang yan, sabay sabay din tayo sa dulo ng stoplight. (That’s okay, we’ll all meet at the stoplight anyway.)” Same goes with being advanced. Our kids will all get there. They will all become adults and converse like adults. But the question is, will they become responsible adults? Will they be part of a God-fearing generation who will walk with integrity? Will they be compassionate and kind?

20150516_161822While it may be great to have an “advanced child” let’s not forget to advance them on the things that matter. Let’s give them a head start on values and character building because those are the foundational life skills they need that will help them thrive in the real world. 🙂 I’m still learning and growing in these areas up to now, which is why I recognize that my son still has a long way to go. And that’s the beauty of parenting right there, you grow and learn together—and it never stops. 🙂

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! 🙂

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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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