a busy but always festive month, double celebrations each year!
if my planning serves me right, we will complete our first year of homeschooling this month!
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
by far the most unplanned trip we’ve ever taken..
Travel is a huge part of how we live. We live a lifestyle that is conducive to always being on the go. We homeschool our children (which means we do school, everywhere, all the time). I work from my Macbook (which is basically everywhere, including traffic jams). We hired a farm helper (so Turo can supervise farm operations even remotely). We are lucky because we can just go to any place when we want to, without asking permission from the school or office, without being accountable to anybody but ourselves. Lucky, yes. But also because we made a great deal of sacrifices before we can be at this point and state in our lives.
So, early in April, when the summer weather started getting extreme, I thought we should go on a mini-vacation. Okay so I always think of going on a vacation, like every month, but this time I wanted to go on a trip with some level of urgency. I’m 6 months pregnant and heading into my third trimester, and if I don’t take the kids on a trip now, I won’t be able to until after I give birth and the newborn is at least a year old! Continue reading hot air balloon fiesta
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. Continue reading what our bahaySKUL day looks like
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.
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.
- What we eat should be organic.
- 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.
- 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|
|we know the farm to be environmentally compliant and to maintain high standards of quality and freshness|
|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|
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
|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.|
home-hopping all summer long
Our family has not stayed home for over a month. We have spent the entire month of May at my in-laws, at my parents’ home, at my uncle’s resthouse in Aklan, and, the highlight of our trip, Boracay!
The first twelve days of May were what we considered a ‘mobile transition’. Turo and I had been traveling back and forth our house making sure everything was well and in order (and relieving our homesickness to some extent). All April, we had been getting ready to spend plenty days away from our Los Banos home come May. Our first stop was at the house of Turo’s parents in Cavite. Turo is just recovering from a near-heat stroke during this time and we needed him to always be rested and away from the sweltering summer heat. Despite doctor’s orders, he insisted on being productive and took on his first landscaping project in his parents’ backyard.
This project had both Turo and I, and the kids, all excited. We were together buying floor pavers, picking out tiles and choosing the right paint colour for the back patio. But the most exciting part of all was waiting for the plants to arrive and watching them bring new life to the otherwise abandoned section of the property.
A fern wall accentuated with lovely red bromeliads took centerstage at one end of the yard. The sides were planted with slender Thai bamboo against roughly finished white concrete and pebbles. The flooring on the other end was covered with locally made concrete paving blocks and the rest of the are was planted with frog grass.
By this time, we are still waiting for the grass to grow thick so the kids can run around the new lawn. By the time Turo, our project manager, declared the project complete, we packed up and moved on to our next destination — my parents’ house in Cainta.
Staying in Cainta did not take a lot of getting used to for the kids. We lived there when they were babies, before we moved to Los Banos a couple of years ago. This was their home too, as this was mine for most of my life.
Cainta was our take-off point for our much awaited trip to Aklan province. Aklan was my grandmother’s hometown and we were more than happy to accompany her back to her motherland, after how many decades. She was really excited. We can tell from the photographs we took of her, from the way she told stories of her life here in the 1940s, and how she managed not sleep during the two-hour land travel to her New Washington hometown.
The kids had some real provincial fun as well. They played with dogs who had houses up on stilts, walked on floating bamboo rafts and a hanging bridge. They even went fishing for the first time!
And then there was Boracay. It was our first trip to this famous white sand beach together as a family. We enjoyed ‘Bora’ despite the crowds and the noisy parties at night and overpriced accommodations. We came there for the legendary beach, and we swam our hearts out up to the minute that we were about to check out from our hotel room. We love swimming and we love the beach and Boracay proved to be another memorable beach experience for us.
I guess these were the highlights of our long, mobile summer. It was the first and longest time we spent away from home, and we enjoyed every minute of it. Sure, we missed our home but we always knew it would welcome us back at the end of summer. And it sure did.
Our mobile summer experiment was an astounding success. Now Turo and I are starting to plan for next year’s summer break, which we swear will take long, and will be packed with more exciting adventures.
School’s out, and the kids are wildly ecstatic. Surprisingly, the happiest of all now that vacation’s here… is ME
A few weeks back I was close to pulling my hair out making plans for the kids once their schooldays end. I was worried they’d get bored, and annoy me, and I’d end up not being able to concentrate on my work (I work at home again, thank God). And so I was scouting for swimming lessons, craft workshops, football classes and all sorts of things that would keep them busy, and buy me a couple hours of ‘serious work time’ each day.
But at the same time, I was also trying to create a more organized schedule for all of us at home. This summer is our homeschool trial period, and if we are ever going to be successful with our bahaySKUL experiment, the best time to start is right NOW.
So after some high-level budget calculations, we were down to the fact that we can’t afford to enroll the kids in some fancy one-hour-a-day-for-10-days-only summer activity. We are saving up for school registration fees so we’d be worry-free after school starts in June. We also need to put together our bahaySKUL, which means buying our own stash of school supplies and educational materials so we can provide the best possible homeschool environment for the boys, particularly Ari.
This also means that I’m stuck with the kids and they’re stuck with me, 24/7 for the rest of the summer. Don’t get me wrong. I love my children. But being around each other forever can get pretty crazy, especially in our small household. My personal space bubble cannot accommodate my children throughout the day. What am I to do then?
We devised an ingenious schedule that lets me be with my children, do household duties and get some (office) work done, without nobody getting to anybody’s nerves. I’ll let you in on some tips.
Share house duties. If I’ll be cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, and preparing morning and afternoon snacks for the monster-eaters in my household, that’s going to take up about 5 hours of my day, not yet including the time we would be sitting down on mealtimes. So Turo and I made a deal that we would be alternately cooking lunch and dinner. Breakfast is easy as we normally just have sandwiches or toast or cereals or leftover, so it’s a breeze to prepare. I need about 30 minutes to an hour to prepare lunch, which is also when I take a break from my desk while charging my computer and cellphone, supervise the kids as they take a bath, and watch ‘Minute to Win It’ on TV. Turo takes charge of dinner, which means I am chore-free all afternoon and can return to work. Turo also committed to spend an hour each day to do some fun stuff with the kids: play music, read comic books, practice basketball. Things a frail mother like me won’t be able to do with rowdy boys. But which gives me an hour to check and reply to emails.
Involve the kids. While main meals are off the list, snack time is another matter. I’m now trying to turn snacktime into a major activity at home. I let the children decide on what they want to eat, and let them prepare it with me. I use this opportunity to teach them about food and nutrition while practicing motor skills, like when beating eggs or spreading jam. We’re trying to incorporate more fruit into our diet now and snack time is a great venue to do so. Magic mango slices, banana sprinkles, pineapple and salt, are some of the fruity snacks we’ve had in the past days.
Give kids some time out. My boys are extremely active with extremely short attention spans. They’ve not yet reached the point when they would sit down and work on something for a long period of time. They always need to be on the move, otherwise they’d be on the floor wrestling, which aside from being rather dangerous as somebody might get hurt, annoys me so much because of all the noise and because of trying to keep them apart when they just wouldn’t. In order to prevent this from happening and keep me from losing my sanity, I included in our schedule tub time in the morning (where they can swim in the giant bucket outside and have some water fun) and outdoor play in the afternoon (they can go biking, kite flying or just run around in the park which is only a few blocks from where we live). Some outside time is a great way for them to release excess energy so they would be relatively more behaved once indoors. It is also during their outdoor playtime that I schedule Skype calls and serious writing stuff so there is zero distraction at home.
Get a TV sitter. I know this is not the greatest idea of all but television is still a part of our day-to-day life. In the mornings after breakfast until about 10am when the cartoons run out, my children are allowed to watch TV. I just make it a point that I know which programs they are watching. We don’t have cable so we don’t have endless cartoon channels. And we also don’t have a remote control so nobody goes channel surfing around here. But two hours of their TV time is equivalent to two hours of uninterrupted writing time for me. And that’s more than a bargain.
Give kids some time. After six years, I finally realized that the key to getting your children to follow you is when you first listen to them and follow what they have to say. Before I always used to say, “we’ll do that later after I finish my work”, but my children would just keep bugging me about whatever it is they want to do and I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my work and after an hour or so would still end up doing what it is they wanted to do with me, without having accomplished anything. This time, I ask them first what they want to do, whether to read a book or do some craft or cook pancakes, then I give them my full attention and we work on the activity together. And when we’re done, everybody’s happy, my children are suddenly angels, and I can start to do some serious work without them bugging me. The important realization here is, parents will still always end up doing whatever it is their kids ask of them, so why delay? If you give them your time and attention now, you’d be surprised that they’ll return the favor and give you your much-deserved peace and quiet.
Take a break, get some rest. My children are at that age when their bodies still don’t have enough energy for an entire day’s play, but they can’t be forced into an afternoon nap either. Still, I included a 1-hour rest time into our daily schedule. Nobody is forced to go to sleep, or forbidden to get up without having slept (I can remember the trauma of this when I was younger). But everybody is required to stop everything they’re doing, lie down and rest, everybody adults included. Rest time is prompted by the reading of a storybook after fun time with Turo. And the best part of this routine is that I get to have some rest too!
Post the actual schedule. Children are not idiots nor are they inconsiderate. They wouldn’t force things that are outside the rules, especially if you are consistent with the rules. We value consistency in our household. And it is a cornerstone in the way we discipline our children. After we finalized our daily schedule (the kids and I prepared it together), I printed it out and posted it on the side of the refrigerator where everybody can see it, and near the clock so they can check when it’s already time to do what. One reason is for the kids to see it and so they wouldn’t insist on doing activities that are not yet scheduled to be done. But the more important reason is to remind me to actually make time for the activities that I had committed to do with my children. If posting a schedule where everyone could see it is the way to hold me accountable for the things I had promised to do with my kids, then so be it.
Our summer schedule is not cast in stone. It is flexible in the same way that our life itself is flexible and adaptive. My children and I have thought of so many things we want to do together in the next 2 months. Now I wonder why I was even anxious of summer being here and of school days’ end. To be honest, this year is the best summer vacation I have ever had. And I’m not even on vacation!
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.
It took us half a day, from 5pm til midnight, to haul all our stuff to our new apartment, using one pick-up truck and our sedan. Not bad e?
We are officially 5 days into our new home. I am still quite disoriented not knowing where to find what. Worse, a lot of our stuff are still boxed up and have not found their home inside our new home.
We gave ourselves this week as “transition period” as Turo puts it. But I still have a long list of things that we need to buy, from chairs to wall tacks to plastic shoeboxes, and my moving in budget is thinning rapidly. Frames and storage racks are waiting to be hanged in their rightful place. The garden is a disaster. And our clothes remain outside closets. After five days, I can safely say that moving house is, in fact, the easy part. It is the “settling in” that actually requires a lot of work and creativity.
Our only consolation is that we have a much bigger space now and I am confident that I would be able to find the perfect little corner for just about everything. Speaking of corners, the kids have found their rightful space. While I miss our old screened porch from time to time, we now have a basement that doubles as yaya’s room and our bahaySKUL room (and my home office on downtimes). What’s great is that this room is separate from the kids’ play area, which is also where the TV is. And so far, having a “serious” room effectively screens out all distractions not related to either work or school. Sweet.
As with everything else, our home is a work in progress. But this is the kind of work that I would lovingly put together, no matter how long it may take.
the last time, it took me six months to finish packing. now I have three days total for packing, moving and settling down. oh what a busy start of the year!
We moved to Los Banos on June 2011. I can’t believe it’s almost been two years. We all love living here in LB and in our apartment–our first real home. But wonderful memories and all, we had to find a new place for 2 big reasons: first, because of the ventilation problem in our current apartment which is not at all helping with Uri’s allergy attacks; second, because we need a bigger, brighter space as we get ready to homeschool Ari starting April.
Late last year, we discussed with our landlady about our plans to move. We have a great relationship with our landlady, and we are a bit sad saying goodbye to them after they shared their beautiful home with us. Turo and I both have our sad moments thinking that we have to leave soon. We will miss our garden, our vegetable plot, our porch. Small as it is, we have grown attached to every nook and cranny of this apartment. Here was where our love affair with a provincial life all started. Here was where we spent learning the most during the toughest year of our family life.
But with all goodbyes come new beginnings. Today is Day 1 of the three-day move. We are moving to an apartment that is conveniently located inside the sprawling UPLB campus, and even closer to Mt. Makiling. It is much cooler in our new apartment, airier, and much more light is coming in. We have a small space out front where I plan to place an outdoor set where Turo and I can enjoy our morning coffee, or where I can work and write in the afternoons. We have a small backyard where we plan to put up an inflatable pool and get ready for the sizzling hot summer here in LB. When the summer’s over we’ll convert it to a vegetable patch.
Our new landlady is a rather successful woman who had been working from home most of her married life. She is fast becoming an inspiration to me. Seeing her makes me think that maybe I can do it (work from home while I raise my kids) too over the long haul.
As I’ve said, today is Day 1 of moving. We have already brought in some of our stuff earlier this morning, although we have not placed everything in it’s proper place because the painting inside the unit is not yet completely finished. Besides, I still have the rest of our stuff to pack. Packing is a very stressful activity, especially to me. I pack to unpack. I have a list of all storage areas in the new apartment and I sort and pack all things moving according to where they will be stored. It can be such a headache but that’s the way it has to be done.