what our bahaySKUL day looks like

everyday is different. some days seem like the others. other days are filled with adventure.

We have been homeschooling for over 6 months now. The early months were a struggle, but now we are settling down into some kind of routine, building a familiar structure to our bahaySKUL day.

7:00 am We start our day by snuggling together in bed. Post-Christmas months are always cold, and nobody wants to be the first to get up.

8:00 am I start making breakfast. These days we eat bread with ham, egg or cheese, a handful of greens, such as lettuce or spinach or kale, and a glass of milk, choco or a tub of yogurt. We also used to eat rice in the morning but it just takes longer to prepare and more dishes to be washed. If all else fails (i.e. we wake up really late), we can always turn to a good ol’ bowl of cereals and milk.

9:00 am This is free time for the kids, except Fridays when Ari has P.E. class in the morning. Sometimes they watch cartoons on TV. Or pick up a book to read. Or draw comic strips. Ride the scooter around the house. Or practice their RC driving. Or play with toys. Or they do all of the above alternately while I get some serious work done for a couple hours or more. If I don’t have a pressing deadline for that day or if my to-do list is still pretty manageable, I load up a batch of laundry while I work. At this time, Turo is busy working at the farm. He heads home when it starts to get hot.

11:00 am It’s bath time for the kids. If lunch is on me, I start cooking. If lunch is on Turo, or if we’re just heating leftovers for lunch, I continue to work until it’s chowtime.

12:00 nn Major mealtimes are strictly enforced in our household. Lunchtime is lunchtime (except Sundays, which is a slow day, and the only schedule we try to keep is going to Church). Everybody eats. Then dresses up.

1:00 pm Uri goes to preschool. If Turo is free, he takes Ari with him, and do some errands (buy vegetables or a faucet replacement) on the way back to the house. I get to take my midday nap, which is completely necessary for my normal functioning the rest of the day.

2:00 pm Formal lessons with Ari. This could either be Math, Science or Language, or 2 subjects if time permits. We are using LifePacs as our curriculum, which is fairly intuitive that Ari can mostly answer on his own. We supplement by having discussions, copywork and oral reviews. Ari also takes short tests per subject at least once per week. After all planned tests, discussions and exercises are done, and if there is time left, Ari reads aloud 1 story from his “five-minute stories” book. When he is up to it, he also does a couple pages of handwriting practice.

3:45 pm We fetch Uri from school. We make it a point to get there right before Uri’s classes end so that Ari can play with the children from Uri’s school in the school playground before everyone else starts to head home.

4:15 pm Snack time. From Uri’s school, we usually head straight to a local canteen, coffee shop or eatery for some “heavy” snacks – rice meals, pasta, anything good as a dinner substitute. Turo and I are changing our eating patterns, eating heavy in the afternoon and having light vegetarian dishes at dinnertime. This is one of the ways we try to address his heartburn condition, and also for me to increase my iron intake (I’m anemic) from plant-based sources.

5:00 pm We troop back to the house and I get to work for a couple more hours before dinnertime. Some days the kids play outside with the neighbors. Other days, Turo and Ari go jogging, they’re training together so Ari could soon join a 5k run. Uri and I will often decide to stay put. But sometimes, like when I have a migraine attack or when I need to clear my mind to finish a writing task, Uri and I join them but we just do some brisk walking. On Fridays, Ari has taekwondo lessons, and we eat out for dinner.

7:00 pm Dinnertime. Very little dinner preparation is needed because we usually eat what was leftover from lunch. Turo and I just mix a bowl of salad greens or heat up a vegetable soup, and eat fruits in season or drink fruit juice.

8:00 pm Family TV time. This is our time to be together all 4 of us. Because most of the day it’s alternately me and the kids, or Turo and the kids, so we could both have time to do our own stuff. But evenings are when all of us snuggle together to watch basketball games or movies or game shows on TV. This is really a fun time and we make it a point that the kids also look forward to this time of the day of being together.

10:00 pm Before we call it a day, we read a chapter from a classic, right now we’re reading The Jungle Book, followed by a bible story from Uri’s Bible for Toddlers. After the stories, we battle for the pillows and for some solid space in our queen-sized bed, say our goodnites and we’re off to dreamland.

As I’ve said, we try to keep our days organized this way. But when something interesting comes up, we can easily drop our day’s to-do’s to do something exciting like, “Let’s have our car’s oil changed!” or “Let’s go to the farm and harvest some lettuce!” or “Let’s watch The Wizard of Oz the Musical!” As most homeschoolers would say, there is learning everywhere and we’re happy to drop our books for some real-life lessons.

a tinted flower

The outcome of Ari’s science experiment as he studied water and nutrient transport in plants.

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These past days Ari’s been begging for study time, experiment time, even tests (because he’s aced the last few ones). He’s built a good pace for reading and answering written exercises, and a far longer patience for the less exciting paper work. Best of all, he’s enjoying bahaySKUL time, and learning so much in the process.
Keep note, though, that bahaySKUL time is a mere couple of hours in a day. The rest is about free, creative and imaginative play, reading books, drawing and making up stories, running outdoors, and having long, funny conversations during meal times.

It so happened that our bahaySKUL is as close to our real, everyday life as it could get.

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homeschooling outside the home

it is an irony how much freeing, rather than confining, homeschooling can be

In my previous post I described how we’re trying to make some adjustments after four months of bahaySKUL with Ari. So far the changes we’ve made (and still experimenting) seem to be working and we’ve made a ton of progress over the past couple of weeks.

One of the major changes we did was to take our bahaySKUL outside of our home. And I mean outside literally. Every afternoon, we troop out, Ari with his “big boy bahaySKUL bag” containing his LifePACS modules, writing and coloring materials, math manipulatives, his calendar, a change of clothes, water bottle, and any other stuff needed for the day’s lessons.

Every morning I prepare his bag’s contents, marking the pages he needs to work on per subject per day. We cover up to 3 subjects every afternoon, 2 subjects when he needs to take a test so as to lessen the pressure.

This week, we have our bahaySKUL classes outside Uri’s school (Uri still attends regular preschool). We start class after we send Uri to his classroom, and end when we hear the kindergarteners sing their goodbyes.

We found a nice spot in the school’s waiting area, where there is a large table, and looks over to the playground, which is also a huge motivation for Ari to finish his work on time. Our afternoon class takes no more than 3 hours, breaks included, and ends with super fun playground time with Uri and his classmates.

Considering that Ari used to be a hyperactive toddler, building focus and concentration, and maintaining good behavior are important objectives in our bahaySKUL. And we found that it was easier to instill these in an environment that is more controlled, than when we just do it in the comforts of our own home. Of course our home will always serve as a learning environment for our children 24/7, just as we are their teachers 24/7.

But because we have fixed, structured goals for education, it is necessary to provide circumstances that resemble a type of structure and rigidity to our bahaySKUL learning process. And we find that we are able to accomplish this more effectively by finding an alternate learning environment outside the home.

It is realistic to assume that come rainy days, we would likely opt to stay indoors, and scrap this whole homeschooling outside the home idea. However, the lesson we learned here is about putting some real structure into our bahaySKUL – a kind of structure that our children would respect and follow, even happily oblige. Whether this structure will be in the form of going to a separate classroom or wearing a uniform, ringing a homeschool bell or posting a class schedule, will probably depend on the age of the child or what homeschooling phase we are in. We just need to keep in mind that enforcing this structure will be the backbone of our educational path, and it serves us, as parent-educators, just as it does our children.

the first four months of bahaySKUL

four months into homeschooling and we barely covered ¼ of the lessons for the first semester

We are officially homeschoolers since July. As much as I’d like to say we’re making tremendous progress homeschooling Ari, things aren’t really going as easy as I had hoped. We are way beyond schedule with the lessons and modules. At the rate we’re going, there is no way we could finish our bahaySKUL year in sync with the regular school year, which was our original goal.

There are many reasons why we are behind. I had been constantly travelling in the last couple of months and so Ari’s lessons in Language and Math are practically at a standstill. I’m still struggling with the use of the LifePACS modules. From time to time I find myself complaining with the way the modules are designed, and constantly looking out for other learning resources to use in place of the LifePACS modules.

It certainly is becoming frustrating because I feel that we are going on a pace that is probably not at par with other homeschoolers we have been acquainted with. Add to this a major concern that this is Ari’s education and future that we are talking about, and not just some project or assignment up for late submission. As a parent and first-time homeschooler, this situation is getting to be too overwhelming.

So we need to improve our pace, but we still don’t want to burden Ari with long bahaySKUL hours. We don’t see it necessary to have formal lessons for more than 2 hours at a time, considering that we actually have all day to reinforce learning in our day-to-day, ordinary life setting.

We used to do lessons only in the afternoon, covering 1 to 2 subjects per day. This was based on our original bahaySKUL schedule, which still included Ari attending classes at TLP in the mornings. But we had to scrap the TLP classes because we’re having a hard time coordinating with TLP on the activities that happen in regular school, and integrating this into our bahaySKUL activities. We feel that this is confusing Ari and complicating instruction that happens at home. Instead, we have Ari attend P.E. classes, which is basically playtime with kids his age, on Friday mornings, and taekwondo lessons on weekends. All the rest happens at home. Except for some occasional field trips, of course.

Starting this month, we’re changing things up a bit. First because we need to keep up. Second because we feel that both Ari and us are getting the hang of things and we may be able to take on more and longer bahaySKUL time in a day than when we started. We now have morning and afternoon classes that allows us to cover 2 to 4 subjects per day.

Aside from the changes in schedule, we’re also changing the format of how we teach things. My previous teaching method was LifePACS + learning games on the computer. I used to use computer games as a motivation, and as a way to check how much Ari has learned. This method worked for certain topics, like phonics concepts, but not with more complex lessons such as addition or subtraction. Also, searching for online games takes a lot of time, and bandwidth.

Turo and I did a little brainstorming on our experiences teaching Ari, and on the little guy’s learning process in general. And we both arrived at the conclusion that we need to break down lessons into common themes and topics (LifePACS don’t work that way so we need to really sit down and re-organize lessons as we deem necessary), reinforce learning (review) along the same themes and topics, and have a series of mini-tests before having Ari take an end-of-the-chapter or end-of-the-module test. Turo is experimenting with more types of written tests. I am focusing on oral testing methods.

So far, the changes we’ve made are working really well. Ari’s test scores have remarkably improved. And he constantly relates some of the concepts he’s learned to ordinary, everyday situations. We’re actually seeing real learning taking place. And to us, this is an assurance that maybe we’re doing some things right homeschooling our child.

Homeschooling is not a walk in the park. It’s hard work. And it requires some serious motivation. Be prepared to make a ton of mistakes. Just make sure to learn from them. We did. Sort of. So now we have little glimmers of success lighting our bahaySKUL path. Homeschooling can get really tough, we know, but we just always need to tell ourselves that we can totally do this, and I know we will.

the life we live daily: small and sustainable

the farm is our constant source of encouragement and inspiration. seeds sprouting, leaves turning green. life and nature are such marvels, things we’d never get tired of watching and anticipating.

AGFA POCKET CAMCORDEROur hydroponic farm is picking up on its pace. We see continuous increase in productivity since we resumed operations after the summer. We are very close to optimizing production capacity in our 100-square meter greenhouse. And when we do, which I know will happen very soon, we’ll be adding up the numbers (the right numbers this time) and we’ll be ready to replicate.

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Imagine, our successful, small-scale, sustainable farming model could be brought to any location and environmental condition, to bring farm-fresh, affordable, safe and natural produce to every ordinary household. That’s our big, big dream, and we are inching closer.

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As I keep saying over and over, “organic” and “sustainable” are not mere concepts. They are a way of life. Nothing that you can learn overnight. And the whole process is likely to be bittersweet. But such is the way that we choose to live ours. Pains, gains and all.

the life we live daily: entertainment for free

It’s a shame, really, when I said in my last entry that I was doing a series of posts in honor of my fourth anniversary of blogging. That was in July. And that was this blog’s anniversary month. And now, it’s what? Days before Oktoberfest!

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A lot of things happened in between. And I mean a L-O-T. Let’s start with, I turned thirty. Some of our very good friends migrated to Canada (sniff). I’ve been to India and was a vegetarian for a week. I got a raise. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever gotten a raise. And then I started working my ass off since then.

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But today, today is a special day. I’m celebrating turning thirty with my best friends in the world in a surprisingly nice hotel (I’m not that easy to impress) right smack in the middle of the city. Unfortunately, these good friends of mine were kind enough to sleep out on me, thank you very much. My children are angels watching endless cartoons (we don’t have cable). And Turo is away partying on boys’ night. For the first time in a very long time, I actually have time for myself to not be super busy and… blog! Well, who am I kidding, of course I’m writing a report after this, but right now I  still have some glorious minutes to spare.

For this post I want to share one of our family’s best kept secrets: going out and having fun without spending a centavo. If you think this is impossible in this day and age of consumerism, well I’ve got one word for you, EXPLORATION.

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We’ve lived in Los Banos for over two years now, and to be honest, there are still a million places here that we haven’t been to. Some of these places we know or heard of, but a lot of them are probably just around the corner we only need to go and find them.

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I guess the difference is about looking at life as an adventure. That there is something special waiting to be discovered at every turn. This is something my children taught me. That life is never just about goals, and reaching them. Not just about plans, and making sure things go the way you want them to.

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It’s about finding nice little surprises along the way, and actually stopping for a moment to enjoy them. Because at the end of the day, you will likely end up doing that thing that you need to do. Or reach that place you’ve dreamed of going to. Or get that role you’ve always wanted to sink your teeth into. Because you’re smart enough to think up goals that are actually doable and within your capacity.

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The question is, when you find something really interesting along the way that is not within your perfect little plan, can you afford to hang back for a moment and stare in awe like a little boy would?

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To some people, there is a huge opportunity cost to doing just that. But for us, breaking one’s journey is practically free. And, oftentimes, it’s even the most exciting!

the life we live daily – conscious consumption

Practicalities in everyday living need to be just that – practical.

Four years blogging and I cannot instinctively say that my life has changed drastically since. There had been changes — some major, some hardly noticeable. And this blog was a likely witness to most of them. So, in honor of this blog’s fourth anniversary, I start a series of posts that will hopefully serve as a snapshot of my life at the moment, which I know I would lovingly look back to in a year or more.

The first post in this series I call “the life we live daily” speaks of a topic close to my heart, environmental preservation, and the real and doable things that we do in order to make a positive difference to our well-loved earth.

I have written plenty in this blog about changing our purchasing and consumption habits so that we could reduce our negative environmental impact.

The food that we eat

The local food project

Lifestyle check: reduce, simplify and reduce

Ilog maria finds

Greener gift giving

Diaper duty 

This commitment to environmental preservation through conscious purchase and consumption, is not only a personal advocacy, but one that we try to do as a family. We realized that food expenses lead our consumption pyramid and by changing the way that we eat, we can make a significant difference in the way and in the amounts we consume.

Our food prioritization principles are simple.

  1. What we eat should be organic.
  2. If we can’t get organic, these should at least be locally sourced, and best if we personally know the farms or sources where these are derived. By locally sourced we mean coming from the same province or region we are in.
  3. We choose products that use less packaging, therefore less waste, and have gone through less processing.

Below I list down a number of basic food categories, our sources and the reasons why we choose to buy religiously from these sources. Please note, however, that some of these products may be significantly more expensive than conventional ones, while some are practically free (eg. plants we grow ourselves); but that we choose to purchase them for the overall environmental and health benefits we derive from them. Towards the end of the table I also include non-food products that we use regularly that we source in a similar way.

Products Source Reason for buying
Dairy (milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese) Philippine Carabao Center, UPLB only pasteurized products coming from grass-fed carabaos; non-homogenized, non-UHT, which means more nutritional content than dairy products in groceries
Eggs Micah’s Eggs

micahseggs.com

Pila, Laguna

we know the farm to be environmentally compliant and to maintain high standards of quality and freshness
Meat Herb Republic

http://www.herbrepublic.biz

Bay, Laguna

antibiotic and growth hormone-free pork and chicken
Deli (hotdogs, mortadella, bratwurst, etc.) Philippine Carabao Center, UPLB a selection of preservative-free sausages made from carabao meat
Rice (upland organic black rice) La Trinidad Organic Producers Association, Benguet we mix black rice with regular sinandomeng rice to supplement nutrient content
Culinary Herbs (basil, Italian oregano, mint) grown at home organically grown and propagated
Medicinal Herbs (lagundi, native oregano, calamansi, gynura) grown at home organically grown and propagated
Fruits farm-grown bananas

seasonal fruits from neighboring towns

Cooking oil Minola coconut oil

San Pablo, Laguna

 

coconut-based, which is abundant here, and locally sourced
Bath products (honey propolis shampoo & body wash) Ilog Maria Farms

http://www.ilogmaria.com

Silang, Cavite

organic and biodegradable soaps from propolis (a by-product of honey production). we found these products to be effective cleansing agents without stripping the skin or scalp of necessary oils or proteins. we also use calamansi slices as hair conditioner.
Laundry products Champion Natural

Perla white bar

we use a biodegradable detergent and a coconut-based laundry bar soap. we also use fermented rice washing to soak soiled clothes before washing with detergent.

distar: our reading program of choice

“Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” almost sounds like its coming from a home TV shopping commercial.

We’re not the type to catch up on trend purchases, nor are we the types to rely on “instant” and “pre-packaged” products. Whenever we can, we try to make things from scratch. And the same goes with how we educate our children.

We’re past that phase when we were willing to pay for anything and everything that we think would be beneficial for our children. Seriously, almost everything on the market nowadays is likely to be beneficial in one way or another. And we obviously can’t afford to buy everything. We’ve learned this the hard way, and now we are much more discerning about when we make our purchases.

So, moving back, a book titled “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” is not something that would easily attract our attention. In fact, if we see titles like this on a bookshelf, we’re most likely to head on to the next shelf. Again, not a fan of quick and easy, instant stuff.

I taught my children to read. And all the while I thought that after they learned phonetics and blending, they’re good to go. They’re reading books by themselves with minimal interruption on difficult words by me. They’re reading books, end to end, almost entirely by themselves. They should be good to go.

And then came Ari’s assessment with TLP, which was the cause of so much worrying for Turo and I. The assessment revealed that Ari still had gaps in terms of reading proficiency. And because I was the one who taught him how to read, this was not the easiest for me to accept. But of course, as adults, we couldn’t be throwing tantrums when somebody else point out our shortcomings. Especially if it involves our children’s education and future.

And so we obliged when TLP’s school director recommended that we used the Distar program to reinforce Ari’s reading skills. “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” is a book by Engelmann, Haddox and Bruner, adapted from the Distar Fast Cycle, under copyright from Science Research Associates, Inc. (SRA). I am a huge fan of the SRA program when I was in elementary, so at least there was some level of comfort for me in using this material for teaching my son.

Basically, the title of the book says it all. All it takes is a hundred easy lessons. The material is no-nonsense. Doesn’t take any taxing preparation. All you need is to get familiar with the Distar alphabet before starting with the first lesson so you can sound out the letters and words correctly, and avoid confusing your child. The lessons spiral and ensures that the child masters even the more difficult skills required for long vowels, silent letters, digraphs, etc. It also allows the child to master reading irregularly sounded words by integrating them in the word exercises early on. Writing exercises are also included, which is always a good thing.

About a quarter into the book, your child begins to read paragraphs which later turns into short stories, then longer stories, then two-part stories, with accompanying pictures and questions to support comprehension.

Even when Ari already knows how to read when we started with the program, we had been religious in covering all lessons from the start. We are now in Lesson # 89, and according to my schedule we are only 2 more days from completing all 100 lessons. Then by the end of this week Ari and I will head back to TLP for his reading skills assessment.

I’m now very excited for Ari to finish the program and find out that he would be able to do well in the assessment. Even more, I am thrilled because I know he is much more equipped to tackle any reading material by himself. Because he knows all phonics rules and he’ll be able to apply this knowledge to 3- or 5- or 7-lettered words, or even longer.

Before I always worry that my children might not like reading as much as I do, because I really want them to be voracious readers and learners. But every time they ask for story time, which is no less than once in a day, I couldn’t help but give myself an invisible tap on the back for a job well done.

p.s. We have recently started reading chapter books. Reading just gets better and more exciting for me and the kids.

how to plan for a well-planned school year

the planning nut is at it again

We had previously had qualms about finding an affiliate homeschool provider as we embark on our first year of bahaySKUL for Ari. We prayed hard on this one, as with every other major decision we make, and we feel that we have been led to decide on sticking with TLP. 

Our bahaySKUL trial last April, I would say, was quite successful. We did take a long break last month, but Ari and I are now back to reading practice until the end of June. We stopped math lessons for a while, as I know Ari’s got this one covered, and chose to concentrate instead on tougher reading lessons — digraphs, silent letters and all that jazz. 

By July, we should be following a stricter bahaySKUL schedule, since we no longer only have math and reading but four other subjects to cover. In addition, Ari needs to attend P.E., arts & crafts, computer and leadership classes in school. Turo and I have divvied up the teaching load: I get to teach reading and math, plus world history & geography; while he gets science, sibika at kultura, and filipino. We haven’t finalized our daily schedule just yet, but we’ll be limiting study time to 2 subjects per day, maximum of 1 hour each subject. Although I doubt if we could stick to a single topic for that long.

I am also planning on a cooking class, on free weekends only, and maybe have Ari master 1 recipe a month. I have also arranged for us to volunteer at the CDL children’s library, one day each week, which means free library use and plenty of book choices for the kids, and lessons away from home just to add variety to our study routine.

Sounds good so far? 

I am really itching to get down and put together a lesson plan, at least for the first month of bahaySKUL, just so I could ensure that all the materials (books, supplies, worksheets) that we need will be ready when we need them. The thing is, we still haven’t gotten hold of our curriculum and the set of modules that are supposed to go with it. This is really causing me a lot of undue stress lately. I am especially not comfortable with the idea that our child’s education rests upon our shoulders and that right now we are still totally clueless about how to do it, where to start.

This is precisely the reason why we decided to affiliate. So we could shrug off some the early pains of homeschooling because we have an established institution to guide us along. But that is not what’s happening. TLP’s way of administering things simply sucks. I come into their office with lots of questions (I’m clueless, remember) and leave with an even bigger question mark than when I had came in. Hopefully today, after the TLP Homeschool Orientation, I will have most of these questions answered. We are also very eager to meet other homeschooling families and to start to be part of an active homeschooling community here in Los Banos. 

Moving along, as we don’t have yet our curriculum, we will be using first grade LifePACS by the way, I decided to first list down the skills we want to build in Ari and how we plan to integrate teaching these skills alongside formal lessons.

First is better retention. We are inspired by the Charlotte Mason method of narration and we will be exploring on this further as we go along with homeschooling. For this purpose, we have assigned Fridays as ‘review day’ and we would be employing various forms of narration to further Ari’s mastery of concepts learned over the week. We envision our weekly review to come in 2 formats: first is a creative format, using lego blocks or clay dioramas, or writing/reciting a story; second is a paper-and-pencil test, because we feel we also need to train Ari to have good test-taking skills.

Second is life skills. We now ask Ari to set the table. Turo will teach him to plant from seed during their science and nature classes. I will teach him to cook. And maybe later when he’s taller he could also wash the dishes (and cookware).

Third is the love for reading. All this time I had been spending a lot of money on books. Uri loves books even if can’t read yet. Ari picks up a book occasionally, reads it end to end, and that’s it. He’s not the type to read a book over and over. So, thank God for ebooks. We are currently hooked on the Project X Series over at Oxford Owl. Ari loves them. He’s nearly finished all titles in the series, and I’m still on a hunt for the next series he’ll be hooked on. We make it a point to read together 1 ebook a day. When bahaySKUL days officially start, we will be keeping tab of all the titles we read, as well as the vocabulary words we encounter with each story. These would form part of Ari’s recitation grade to be submitted to TLP.

Fourth is handwriting. I’ve read a lot of studies linking handwriting and motor skills practice to better cognitive abilities. With this, copywork will be a major and recurring activity in our bahaySKUL for all subjects. I’m also looking to purchase the Draw-Write-Now series to make handwriting practice even more fun. The books contain step-by-step drawing instructions followed by short descriptions of the picture to copied on a separate worksheet. I am planning to learn some art skills myself with these books.

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I guess I can say that these could be our bahaySKUL goals for this school year. While we still don’t have specific activities planned for the coming school days, at least we’ve chosen some of our guideposts for teaching our kids, and learning alongside them. This is going to be another full year for us. But I am hopeful that if we take it a step at at time, we’ll find ourselves breezing through a year of bahaySKUL, no sweat!