Tag Archives: ari

photo-finishing first grade

if my planning serves me right, we will complete our first year of homeschooling this month!

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We are so nearly there. Our first bahaySKUL year completed in 12 crazy months. We are actually quite behind, because the regular school year starts next week, and Ari should be prepping for second grade at this time, but we are still finishing up with the fourth grading period of his first grade. But still. We’re really just counting the days. Doing the final lessons. Taking the last batch of tests. Putting together our first-ever bahaySKUL portfolio. So yeah, we have tons of photos to sort and print and organise, test papers to file, art projects to frame, grades to compute. And this is probably going to take us a couple of weeks more. But seriously, another couple of weeks is zilch compared to the last eleven months of this roller-coaster ride that we call bahaySKUL. Continue reading photo-finishing first grade

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building confidence through sports

“I don’t want to do sports, just practice.”

Ari used to say this often some 6 months ago, when we were scouting for a sports training activity that would serve as his P.E. class in bahaySKUL. By “doing sports” he meant competing and losing eventually, and this has become a deep fear that he has struggled with for a time.

While children are natural daredevils, they are also inherently scared of the unknown. Ari is one scaredy cat when it comes to trying new things. And it took a lot of convincing before we could bring him to a taekwondo trial class at a local gym. When he finally agreed to try taekwondo, it wasn’t a “love at first try” kind of experience. But it was enough to prove to him that sports isn’t something to be afraid of.

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Ari with his Taekwondo coaches

Continue reading building confidence through sports

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. Continue reading homeschooling outside the home

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. Continue reading the first four months of bahaySKUL

a test of conviction

For a time I thought I had overcome my personal issues against testing. Am I wrong. Here we go again..

Yesterday, we (all four of us) trooped to The Learning Place school to give Ari our moral support as he took a Learning Skills Assessment test, which is a requirement to attend the school. We had been earlier advised that the test will take an hour and a half covering 3 subject areas: Reading, Math and Language Arts. The truth is, Ari had never taken a written test as comprehensive as this one. We were concerned about his overall preparedness for taking such kind of a test, and so we spent nearly a month and a half trying to get him ready to take on such an overwhelming task.

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Ari is a very active young boy and has a difficult time sitting through long activities—movies, paperwork, hearing mass, you name it. But he can be a quick learner if given the right kind of guidance and instruction. We know he has the ability to focus on things that he is interested in. For instance, he can spend a long time building, unbuilding and rebuilding LEGO figures, following instructions all by himself. And over the past year, he has greatly improved his focus and attention span, and perseverance to complete tasks, including paperwork.

In mock tests that we try to do at home, Ari can sit through several worksheets for a duration of 30 minutes, at most. We also ask him to read aloud one story book each day, which he does with much fervour. We do not push him to complete more than he feels he could finish, and we are more than happy with the 30-minute chunks of him focusing on a particular activity several times in a day. To tell you the truth, a lot of things can be learned in just 30 minutes.

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All the while, we had been guided by the scope and sequence of LifePACS curriculum (the curriculum TLP uses), which we used to check Ari’s mastery of Kindergarten concepts. I also reviewed his worksheets from the previous school year to validate this. When we felt that he had mastered most of the concepts in the LifePACS scope and sequence, we gave him a one week break from all the mock test-taking at home, psyched him for the impending assessment, and walked together to TLP on the scheduled testing date.

Before the test, I told Ari he can ask the teacher questions if he does not understand something, and request for a break if he needs to. An hour and a half into the exam, I was getting nervous. Ari was still in the testing room and I was starting to think he was having a tough time with the questions. I was less concerned about him getting the answers right. My biggest anxiety was that he might end up feeling bad about the test, his performance, and end up traumatized about the school and taking tests in general.

After two hours, Ari came out of the testing room asking for a break. He ate an apple and drank some juice, and then said he was ready to finish the test. I was relieved to see Ari being very cool about the test. He said he’d done math and that it was easy. I was so proud of his very positive attitude toward the test. He finished 30 minutes later.

There was supposed to be a parent interview after the test where the school director will discuss the result of the assessment. This didn’t happen yet because the director was out for some reason and we will be scheduled sometime later (which totally pisses me off considering that we had scheduled weeks ahead). Although the teacher who administered the test did show me Ari’s test paper and pointed out that Ari had a lot of “learning gaps” as he failed to answer some of the test questions.

I will not go into detail about the test questions, but our general observation was that it was too advanced for Ari’s level. Way too advanced. Both Turo and I felt strongly that the test could not provide an accurate assessment of what a child already knows. And it was not presented in a manner that was friendly to a six-year old child. We were not surprised that Ari was too overwhelmed to answer most of the questions. After seeing the kind of assessment tool TLP uses to gauge its students, Turo and I are suddenly apprehensive of participating in their homeschool program. We suddenly felt that the school’s educational philosophies may not run parallel with the kind of learning goals we have for our children.

As of today, we are waiting for the schedule of the interview where we get to hear what the school has to say about their assessment of Ari. In my mind, I am anticipating that it will be about Ari’s learning gaps and areas that he will need to improve on. Something that we somehow disagree with because our family goes by the principle of focusing on strengths, not weaknesses. Our personal biases aside, I am still praying for an open mind and heart that will allow me to listen to and understand what they will tell us. A part of me is hoping that maybe TLP would still be a good institution to partner with for our homeschooling journey. It is by far the most practical option available to us. But we now have our reservations and if we feel that we would not get the kind of support that we need from this homeschool provider, then we would need to reconsider our other alternatives.

As it turns out, finding a homeschool provider is never easy.

 

the beauty of affiliation

homeschooling is a daunting task by itself. it wouldn’t hurt to have some extra hands to help out.

For the longest time, I’ve been stressing out on whether we will go the independent track (that is develop our own curriculum and go by our own standards on what the student needs to learn and whether he has learned them already) or affiliate with an institution (follow their curriculum and subscribe by their methods for learning assessment).

I’ve always been inclined towards the first option because I have qualms about the way testing and assessment is done in some schools. For me, personally, I don’t buy the idea that real learning can be measured through a paper and pencil examination. The only downside to independent homeschooling is that we have no legal institution to provide us with school credentials for Ari. The only way to get the necessary credentials is to let Ari take the Philippine Validation Test (PVT) given by DepEd once a year. But then again, that means we’ll have to go back to my issues about written examinations, blah, blah, blah.

On a separate note, I also feel that if we go with option 2, we will be limited by the curriculum being used by the homeschool provider. I have read in countless blogs by homeschooling families that the best way to go in choosing a homeschool curriculum is to not stick with a single, integrated curriculum. Taking this advice, I did my homework and chose a specific curriculum for each subject–language arts, spelling, math and religion. Then for other subjects like Filipino and social studies, we can stick with locally published textbooks. Science and art will be covered by Turo when he takes Ari to the farm for their “nature and farm classes.”

If Turo and I were the superparents of the century, it would have been an easy choice–go independent and teach our children anything and everything they want to learn without having to subscribe to standards set by traditional educational institutions. However, despite the kind of learning goals we have for our children, the society and its standards might one day tell them otherwise. We don’t want our children to suffer the consequences later on just because we are too stubborn to accept the kind of educational system that exists at present.

It’s a tough call, but what we’ve decided on is some sort of a compromise that would allow us to: 1) be 100% hands on in our children’s learning and development process, and at the same time, 2) expose our children to the traditional educational system. We have chosen The Learning Place (TLP) Distance Education Homeschool Support Program mainly because it is part of the community we belong to here in Los Banos.

TLP is using the LifePACS curriculum by AlphaOmega Publications for its homeschool program. While I still subscribe to using a combination of curriculum choices for different subjects that is suited to a child’s particular learning style, we realized that we can still use the LifePACS curriculum and just supplement it with other materials if we feel that there is a need. There goes problem number one.

Aside from the curriculum materials, they will be the one to administer quarterly evaluation tests where Ari’s school ratings for academic subjects will come from. For this part, while I am totally against grading based on a written examination, I have decided that this is a part of life that my children will just have to deal with. Because we are homeschooling, we would still know whether they have mastered the skills they need to master, and we can judge this mastery by our own standards, and we don’t need examination results to confirm this. Then there will be nothing wrong with letting our children take the school’s periodical exams because they HAVE to. Because in real life there are some things that you just “have to do.” And we realized that is one important thing we should also teach our children.

For non-academic instruction, Ari will be allowed to attend regular classes in subjects like PE, arts and crafts, leadership and computer. These classes will be his window for socialization with other children his age, and his time out and away from our bahaySKUL. Ari is super excited for the computer classes. But Turo and I are also considering to let Ari be involved in sports training with a qualified instructor. We are firm believers that the discipline and perseverance a child can learn from being involved in sports is something that he will carry throughout his lifetime.

The TLP staff also informed me that their homeschooling families have formed an active group, with regular meet-ups, even organising field trips for homeschoolers. We are more enticed by the fact that there is an active homeschooling community right here where we live and we will be more than eager to join and support their activities in the future. We also look forward to learning from the experiences of these homeschooling families. We are encouraged by the fact that they have continued on with the homeschooling lifestyle and this, more than anything, will keep egging us on in this direction.

Finally deciding on a homeschool provider is another important step in our homeschooling journey. We are grateful that we are being led to the right direction and decisions as far as our bahaySKUL aspirations are concerned.

goals for learning

Is it just me or is choosing a school for your child really that traumatic?

Earlier this year, Turo and I felt like we’ve been through hell and back in choosing a school for Ari for Kindergarten. We were blessed to find the perfect school for Ari at least for this schoolyear and we are confident that with the help of the school, Ari is well on the right track towards learning and total development.

This morning we met with Ari’s school director and teacher. As always, it has been an enlightening conversation with Professor Garcia. We not only learned of Ari’s progress since the start of the school year up to the end of the first semester, but our belief that learning occurs differently from child to child was further reinforced. Continue reading goals for learning

understanding readiness

We take pains in raising bright, active and happy kids. I could not say we have been entirely successful but we are trying our damn best.

Ari spent the past school year in the Child Development Laboratory of the UPLB College of Human Ecology. It is called a laboratory because it is a training vehicle for UP professors and students and it is a venue for formulating new strategies for early childhood development. The laboratory adopts a very eclectic approach to learning, with emphasis on developing a child’s multiple intelligences, including behavior and home-school integration.

At the laboratory we have witnessed how Ari became more independent and how he interacted with other children. Here he developed greater self-discipline, self-motivation and self-expression. We have been more than pleased with Ari’s performance in his first year of “little school.” But that was before we began scouting for a new school for him for the preparatory level. In the course of taking school assessments and evaluation prior to acceptance to big school, we realized that more traditional schools demanded a lot more academically than what our son was currently capable of. And we do not blame his former school because we were perfectly satisfied with the kind of well-rounded preparation he received there.

In the last few months, we were practically scrambling to prepare Ari for entering a traditional school. We have math, reading and writing lessons everyday. We do science experiments at home. Ari was learning at lightning pace and I am confident that he can perform well academically alongside other children his age in a more structured learning environment. But somehow, I felt that he still wasn’t completely ready for an academically challenging and competitive environment, considering how young he his, and the kind of interests and intelligences he possesses.

This is where the concept of “readiness” comes into play. A child, or any individual for that matter, has the capacity to learn any amount of knowledge if he has the proper motivation and if he knows how to process information into a form that would be useful to him. There is a reason why the preparatory level is called such because the objective is to “prepare” children for more structured learning, and not expect them to know what graders should already know.

Readiness for learning. Readiness for absorbing information and processing them into useful concepts. Readiness for integrating what one already knows to what one is starting to learn to result in even greater learning. Readiness is not simply knowing how to write, but knowing how to create each stroke and knowing what each stroke is for. Readiness is not simply knowing how to read, but knowing how each letter is part of a syllable, that is part of a word, that is part of a sentence, that is all part of the language that we use to communicate and comprehend. Readiness is not simply knowing how to count, or how to add one number to the other, but knowing that each digit is part of a greater whole, be it thousands or millions or billions. Readiness is not simply knowing, but realizing that one has the capacity to learn anything and everything, no matter how difficult it can become in the future.

This is what we want to develop in our children, before we let them out into the harsh, competitive world outside. We need them to be confident that they will be able to take on anything however tough or insurmountable circumstances may be. In addition to preparing them for learning, we also want to strengthen their values–their understanding of what is right and what is not right. So that when they go out and interact with all sorts of people who may have been raised with a different set of values, they will be firm in what they believe to be true and appropriate.

Finally, after months of searching for a big school for Ari, we found a school whose philosophies are in tune with our objectives for our children. He will be spending preparatory level at GF Tots and Kids Care Center, which espouses a teaching and caring strategy “without pressure” but commits to preparing children for more structured learning. The Center is a few minutes walk from where we live and Turo and I were both surprised and grateful that the kind of institution we have long been searching for was just right under our noses. A casual conversation with the Center’s very passionate Director gave us enough inspiration and assurance that we were on the right track in raising our children.

Searching for Ari’s school was a highly emotional roller-coaster ride. At this point, I do not even want to imagine what it would be like to choose a college or university for my children to attend. I could not be more relieved to know that our preschool search is finally over and that we could shift our focus on making our home environment complement the kind of instruction that is being provided in school. If there is anything I have gained from this experience, it is the strong realization that we, as parents, have an even greater role to play in reinforcing our children’s learning experiences and guiding them in putting their new knowledge to good use, especially now that they are spending time in a growing number of institutions and social circles.

the toddler and the machine

Day in, day out, Ari pesters me with requests to play computer games. And while I remain impressed at how easily he has learned to navigate the computer, I get increasingly worried at how addicting the computer can be to my 4-year old.

Computers have become such a necessity nowadays even I find it hard to get by without accessing the internet at least once in a day. Working as an independent consultant, my netbook is practically my office–data storage, processing and presentation all happen here. I normally work from home and it should not come as a surprise that my kids are as interested in tinkering with the computer as they often see me do.

The computer is a fantastic learning tool. My kids plays number and alphabet games, puzzle and matching games using the computer. Imagine the cost of having to buy a new puzzle each week as Ari gets tired of the puzzles he’s already mastered putting together, or a new set of flash cards every so often because Uri’s already memorized all the pictures on them.

Continue reading the toddler and the machine