Homeschooling Spells P.P.L.A.N.

When Peewee and I decided to teach Coby at home in 2008, we were not that aware of the responsibility we have put upon our shoulders. First of all, the decision was not made on impulse. I researched about it, attended orientations, talked to other homeschooling families and prayed to make the right decision and God was very clear.

As a newbie parent-teacher, it was both exciting and scary because I don’t know if what I was doing was right. Good thing our family had very a very supportive team from TMA to back us up. But ultimately, it was only Peewee and myself trying to figure out what we got ourselves into.

I don’t claim to have all the knowledge about homeschooling because up to now, I am still learning how to do it. I’m still finding better ways to teach our kids.  I only knew a handful of homeschooling families from church when we started so there were not too many people to ask around.

Nobody ever told me how much I needed to invest in providing quality education to our children. Not only did we invest  financially but emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually as well.  I may not harvest the fruit of our decision yet but I know we will very soon.

Again, I’m not an expert but what I want to share is what works for me.  These are the things I take to heart as I continue to fulfill the fun yet daunting task of home education. I’ve come up with the acronym P.P.L.A.N. to highlight what I learned from my journey. As we plan our daily tasks, our menu, our vacation, we also need to plan our homeschool.

The first P stands for Prayer. I believe the key is preparing my heart for the day. I don’t know what’s going to happen midmorning or after lunch, so I need to have my heart checked first by the Lord. Commit my day to Him first thing in the morning. I lift up my plans, my lessons, even my emotions to Him. I need to get strength from Him for the entire day. I need to do this with him. He has not called me to be a wife, a mom or a homeschooling mom for that matter just to leave me on my own. When he called me, he assured me that He will be with me always. I just need to remind myself that I am not alone in this path that I’m taking. My God is with me moment by moment. And even if it’s just mid morning and the day has already been stressful, I just excuse myself and take a breather. Utter a short prayer to God to help get through the day without releasing bitter words.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Jeremiah 1:9

Second P is Preparation. As a parent-teacher, we need to take our job seriously. I’m the scheduled-type of person so having no schedule or planning freaks me out and so does Coby. I have to prepare the lessons in advance so I know what to teach them for the week. I make sure we have Math and English everyday. Coby loves Science so we have it at least twice or thrice a week while twice a week for Social Studies and Filipino. The quizzes, exams, field trips and projects are also scheduled as we also follow the local school calendar.

But then there are other homeschooling families especially those from other countries who are more of the unschooling type, more laid back, more relaxed and that works for them.

But then I’m not that strict too. There are just days when I feel blah and forcing them to study will only create undue stress on all of us. So we don’t do anything formal. They are free to draw, paint, do imaginative play using blocks and Lego or just be a scientist and explore the outdoors. Most of the time the lessons they learn are not from the books.

L is Learning Style. I have to know how my child learns best so that I could provide the best learning environment for him/her. If the learning style is supported then the creative mind will work to their advantage. They will be able to express this in their projects because they are confident learners. Coby is about 60% auditory and 40% visual learner.. He enjoys listening to music, he hums while working, and still loves to sit and listen to bedtime stories. He understands what he is reading if he reads them aloud.  I encouraged him to do that because I realized that if I let him read a passage quietly he doesn’t get it the main idea. But when I asked him to read it aloud, he not only reads the text but hears it as well. This has helped him tremendously especially in Social Studies. I’m still figuring out how Jianne learns but I could sense she is visual and kinesthetic. She loves to move and dance a lot. She is showing signs of being interested in sports too. I have to look for activities that would support her inclination.

A is for Application. I believe lessons are just words until experienced or applied. It doesn’t matter if Coby memorized a poem or a historical figure. What matters to me is how he uses that poem speaks to him. How does he interpret the poem. What is the poem trying to tell him. If he finds the connection between him and the poem and he was able to translate it to me in an artwork, in writing or in a project then I think my I did my job. What is essential to me is that the kids not only know the facts and know them by heart but find a way that is relatable to them. They learn about God in Science. How God’s creation always points back to Him. God’s design for every living creature is specific and unique for that animal or insect or plant. He has artistically designed man and woman to be different but complementing each other. When they realize how everything in creation works, they are just in awe of how wonderful the Creator is. Learning this on their own and seeing God in every subject is a good foundation to teach them to love and honor God in their lives. Application encourages them to ask the why and how questions.

N is for Negativity. Negativity would come in many forms. First, it would come from people who would criticize me for choosing to homeschool our kids. They would doubt my capability to teach and the “negative” effect it will have on the kids socially, which is a misconception. There would always be people who would discourage me and tell me to work rather than spend my time with my children. I would always respond with “This is what the Lord has assigned me to do while the kids are this age. While my husband has been assigned by the Lord to provide for the family.” Sometimes, I get tired defending myself or my family but honestly, I have learned the art of pretending to listen and not to let those malicious comments bother me anymore.

Negativity would also come from me. Impatience and anger work well together to bring me to that point of exasperation and say things I regret saying. The Lord let me realize that this would stem from unrealistic expectations from a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old. I would always assume then that I am speaking to adults and so I expect too much from them. I have to remind myself that I am speaking to children who are just learning now. I don’t have to assume that they already memorized multiplication table in a week. I have to bring myself to their level, how they think, how they process things and not to take them to my level. That’s what I’m here for, to teach them and guide them, not to have a debate with them about the current political state of our country. 🙂

Ultimately, I am still their Mama. I am just trusting the Lord who called me for this purpose that He will also guide and protect Coby and Jianne from anything that is not pleasing to their eyes.

While I’m writing this, Jianne called my attention and said, “Mama, I’m going to send you something. Please read it.” Then I saw she slid a paper under the door. I picked it up and read it and this is what it says: (verbatim, no edit from Mama)

Dear Mama and Papa. I am happy God made you. Thank you for all the kindness you do to us. And Papa I think you’re going to be a great engineer because your great at fixing things. And Mama you should open your own restaurant because your awesome at cooking. So I think this is the best family I ever had and next time try to control your anger so I’m happy. And your a great parent that a kid could ever have. Love Jianne


I said Peewee and I are looking forward to reaping the harvest of our investment… I think I’m already enjoying the fruit.

How do you spell homeschooling spell in your family? I would love to hear your tips too.


Making Memories

I was blessed to have joined a homeschool support group in our church last Monday. That was the second time I’m sitting in the Monday group. The first time  I attended was two years ago and I was overwhelmed by the amount of preparation the moms do in the group. At first I thought the group is a venue where I can relax, kick off my shoes and just chat with the other moms. I realized these moms were dead serious in what they were doing. They taught the kids Geography, Art, Music, and PE. Kids also had a lot of work to do at home. That was too much for me, I thought. So I opted not to join the group at all.

My experience last Monday was different from the first one because there were no lessons or reports to be presented. It was their Moms’ Day. A day of respite for moms and day of playing, as usual, for the kids.  During Moms’ Day they don’t teach but have devotions, sharing, exercise and of course fellowship instead.

Cecile, the mom who led the devotion that morning took a passage from the book of John where Mary poured out a jar of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and used her hair to wipe off.

John 12:3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar[b] of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

Mary knew that what she did cost her a lot. In fact, she was ridiculed by Judas, saying the cost of the perfume could have fed the poor. But Jesus, who knew Mary’s intention, rebuked Judas and praised Mary for honoring Him that way.Mary was passionate about that seemingly simple act that she even used her own hair to wipe off the perfume. She probably have saved and prepared for the jar for a long time because she knew what was the purpose of the perfume and that to honor the Lord.

Cecile also  reminded us to look back at the reason for homeschooling the kids. Have I lost the passion to teach them? Do I still face each homeschooling day prepared? Or do my kids run around the house because they don’t know what to do and my chores are choking me. Have I forgotten my first priority? In this season of my family’s life, my priority and calling is to teach them. Have I allowed myself to be sucked in to the mundane things of life and neglect one of the most important things? That devotion gave me time to rethink, refocus, reboot.

The chores will always be there. The laundry will always get piled up. The dishes will always need washing. But time spent with the kids can never be neglected. They will only be little once and soon they will grow up, mature and leave our nest and be on their own. What kind of memories am I making with my children? Will they remember me as the mom who continued to encouraged them even if they feel they are losers? Or will they remember the mom who acts like a possessed woman ready to devour them? How about remembering me as the mom who was neck-deep in household chores that I neglected reading a book to them or even laughing with them?

Precious time is lost if we intentionally put other things before the needs of the children. We can never buy back time. The opportunity to love them, influence them and find magic moments is gone once we let time pass.

One of the fun things I remember about my own Mommy is that every night when my brother and I were still young, she would let us go up their bed. She would pretend that all of us were riding this huge ship but sharks were swimming around the vessel. So, we would curl up beside and pretend to be really frightened.

I am now enjoying the same “drama scene” with Coby and Jianne. I would tell them to stay in our bed and  tell them that sharks are around us so we should stay close and hug each other real tight so the shark won’t get us. Then I would say out loud, “Shark! Shark! Shark!” Not only is this so enjoyable for them but it’s also a way for me to remember some good days of childhood with my Mommy.



What’s your favorite childhood memory with your parents? How do you make memories with your own kids?


It’s More Fun with History and Social Studies

I am a History geek! I know there are some people who squirm at the thought of studying about “people of old” and the “crude way of doing things” but I don’t. Two notable persons of influence to me were my History teacher, Ms. Roxas in high school and my late grandfather, Jose Gementera Sr. I always looked forward to my Filipino History and Social Studies class back then because we had a brilliant teacher. She taught with much gusto and seem to know what she was talking about all the time 🙂

When my grandfather was still alive, he would tell tales of his childhood and life during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. He also became part of History in their school when he was the first student to ever receive a 100 percent grade on his report card. He dared his teacher to give him that  final grade if he aced his subject. He did! So his teacher gave him the grade he truly deserved. Unfortunately, he was not able to show me a copy of this childhood memento. But he added that if you go his school, a copy of his report card was on display.

My appreciation for History continued until I started homeschooling. In our earlier days of teaching Coby at home, we used the first volume of the Mystery of History. This book is so rich with stories and activities that he became engrossed in it. History was not a major subject in Grade one but this boy insisted that we take out our MOH and just read it. Jianne, who is in first grade is also enjoying the book as well.


We study History and Social Studies alternately each day. I figured the best way to teach these two subjects is to through story-telling. First and foremost, as a parent-teacher, I have the responsibility of studying the lessons beforehand. After going through the lesson myself, Coby sits down and listens to my “story”. I believe they don’t have to memorize specific dates or places already, since this has no value yet in their learning. They can do the serious side which is memorizing dates and names when they reach high school. The important thing for me is they learn about the ideology,  the primary people involved, the so-called hero or heroes in the story and the events that had a huge impact in our country’s history or in another part of the world.

After the session, I ask Coby’s opinion about the story he heard. I needed to know if he  got the concept and if he was really paying attention. Some of the questions I ask are somewhere in these lines…

What was your favorite part of the story and why?

If you were the hero or the character in the story, what would you do given the same situation?

What character trait or attitude does the hero in the story show you? How could develop the same attitude or character?

If you could change that part of history, what would you change and why?

Coby is very introspective and speaks his mind a lot. He gives out his opinions even when not needed 🙂 So, questions like these excite him and keeps him talking and talking. He is free  to give his opinions and expresses it passionately.  I could see from the tone of his voice and facial expressions that he feels for the people who suffered injustice or anger towards the villains of the past. At times, he gets very opinionated to the point of judging and blaming the leader for not doing his job right or the villain for being so cruel. I listen to him but then gently remind him that these people did what they thought was right during that time. We are not to judge their decisions but we are to learn from them so we will not repeat the same mistakes they did.

History and Science also go together as we find out how things got invented. People back then never had any gadgets on hand nor did they have electricity but they thrived and used whatever resources they have. Prehistoric people used stones for cutting and sticks for spears to hunt food.

The saying  “necessity is the mother of invention” is so true. This taught Coby that not all things can be bought at the store. You need to use your imagination, creativity and resourcefulness to make things. An old egg carton can be made into a head of an alligator puppet while an old mayonnaise jar can be transformed into a useful pen holder. These scientists and inventors always thought out of the box, which my husband and I are trying to inculcate in Coby’s mind and so far it’s been great.

Going on field trips is another tool to reinforce the lessons learned in both subjects. We are a museum-loving family. We have been to different historical museums in our country and are planning to go back again this school year. Museums allows the kids to see first hand what they only see in books.

We had a blast visiting the Bible Museum in Manila last year. We saw a visual representation of the scribes writing the  bible word for word back then. We also saw the first Bible in the Philippines which was in the Pangasinan dialect. We also got to dress up like the Bible characters and pose for photos after.

At the Bible Museum

At the Bible Museum

Apostle Paul writing his letters

Apostle Paul writing his letters

Peewee as Moses, Me as Queen Esther, Jianne as the Rebekah, and Coby as Joseph

Peewee as Moses, Me as Queen Esther, Jianne as the Rebekah, and Coby as Joseph

The Bible tells us  in Jeremiah 6:16

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

If we are having trouble making decisions, we can look at how the people in history, particularly significant characters of the bible lived their lives. How did they triumph over temptation. How did they overcome a huge wall, literally. How they found the source of living water. The Word of God is rich with examples of people who victoriously overcame obstacles because they trusted God and also people who were punished and swallowed by the earth because of their disobedience and unbelief.

History helps us look back at the mistakes of the past and move forward armed with wisdom from old and knowledge of the present.

What’s your favorite lesson in History? What impact did it have on the kids?

Homeschooling with the APO Hiking Society

In the Philippines, we celebrate Buwan ng Wika  (Month of Language) every August. During this month, students all over the country celebrate the beauty of our national language. We, as Filipinos, are also reminded to be proud to speak in our native tongue. Our language tells us who we are as a nation, as a country. Just like our flag which represents our country among the nations,  so does our language. We should be proud to use in our everyday conversations, in our writings and even in our songs.

Instead of calling off school today because of a typhoon, I decided to introduce Coby and Jianne to OPM, Original Pilipino Music or Original Pinoy Music. Filipino artists including songwriters, musicians, singers collaborated and created a new genre in music which we now call OPM. These songs were originally written by Filipinos and performed by Filipino singers and bands as well. As far as I can remember, artists like Mitch Valdez, Rico Puno, Celeste Legaspi, Basil Valdez, Ryan Cayabyab and the APO Hiking Society were the pioneers in promoting Original Pinoy Music.

My personal favorite among all the OPM artists are Buboy, Jim and Danny, the trio who make The APO Hiking Society. My parents had a stockpile of APO vinyl albums when I was growing up. I would hear them regularly  being played at home and through constant listening I became familiar with most of their songs. I even know what some of their album covers looked like 🙂

Unfortunately, the APO have retired from the music industry a few years ago but their music is still very alive in my heart. I wanted my kids to hear their kind of music too. I want to influence them In having an appreciation of Filipino sound and not just listen to Taylor Swift, One Direction, Bruno Mars and other international pop artists.

The APO music is mostly written in Filipino that’s why I love listening to them.  I picked two song “Pumapatak na naman ang Ulan” (since it’s raining) and “Lumang Tugtugin” for the kids to listen to and study. Good thing that the CD has a lyric sheet so we could all sing along and understand the message of the music. Reading the lyrics in Filipino was not much of a challenge but understanding the meaning of each word was. But in the end, we had fun interpreting the song.

first look at the APO

first look at the APO


singing with her stuffed toys

singing with her stuffed toys

We also listened to two other Filipino children’s song, Bahay Kubo and Magtanim ay Di Biro 🙂 The first song enumerates the different veggies found in a home. This time I told the kids to write down all the vegetables they hear being sang. I had to pause the CD every so often for them to catch the words. This was a good practice in Filipino language and handwriting especially for Jianne who is in first grade. After enumerating the veggies, I asked them what they eat. Jianne shouted “okra” her favorite but it was not included in the song 😦 I played the song three more times and they were singing along while reading their veggie list.

“Magtanim ay Di Biro” is famer’s song. It tells about how hard it is work in the field and describes how the body feels after a hard day’s work. After listening to the song, the kids and I talked about how important farmers are and the work that they do. They realized that if the farmer does not plant, we won’t have anything to eat. We won’t have rice, corn and other stuff. They did not only value the importance of hard work but they also had fun learning all of it in Filipino.

What a fun day that was! How about you, how do you encourage your kids to love their own language?

I’ll Tape it Back

Our first-grader, Jianne and I were talking about parts of the plant this morning. We went outside to get samples of leaves and flowers. I just picked a random leaf from the garden and took it inside.

We talked about the leaf acting like the chef of the plant as it is in charge for making the food. Like the chef, the leaf needs important ingredients in order to make a perfect meal. Jianne enumerated the ingredients needed by Chef Leaf which includes light from the sun, air, water and nutrients from the soil.

Time will come when the leaf can no longer make food. That is the reason why their colors change from green to golden yellow, orange or brown. These beautiful change of color is evident in autumn especially in countries like the United States. We see the beauty of this natural phenomena covering the ground almost entirely during this season.

Then, Jianne had her aha moment. “So, does it mean that the leaves are dead when they change color?” she asked. “Ah, yes?” was my unsure answer because I didn’t want to disappoint her. Kids don’t like to talk about death. Then, I sensed panic in her actions as she held the leaf in her hand. “Does it mean this leaf would die too?” she asked. “Yes, because it’s no longer connected to the stem, it won’t have any food,” was my reply.

She stood up and hurried outside. When I asked her where she was going, she said she has to do something very important. After a few minutes, she came back with a smile on her face and blurted out, “The leaf will not die, Mama. I put it back to the stem.” This puzzled me so I dared ask her, “What do you mean ‘put it back’?” Then she pulled my arm and led me to the garden and to the plant where we got the leaf.

She pointed to the reattached leaf and said, “It’s okay to put tape on it, right?” Jianne taped back the leaf to the stem.  Awww. I thought it was cute and I didn’t know how to answer her. The truth hurts and I have to be honest with her. “I’m sorry but I don’t think the leaf is going to survive,” I told her.

The smile on her face disappeared then she looked down. She kept quiet. She looked upset. I tried to console her by saying that more leaves will grow. But she wouldn’t listen to me. She said she was still angry.


There's the tape!

There’s the tape!


Aren’t we like my daughter sometimes? We try to fix things in our life by putting a tape around our problems or our circumstances. We use our own power, strength and intellect to make things work. We fail to acknowledge that that “tape” is not suffice. Eventually, through constant beating of the air, rain and other elements, that tape will eventually loose it’s stickiness and detach the leaf from the stem.  We need to remind ourselves that the “tapes” that we use in our lives will also fail us. Sometimes the temporary solution we create might even aggravate the problem or situation we are in.

I am reminded of this verse about the vine and it’s branches.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. John 15:4-6

Unless we connect ourselves to Christ, our so-called solutions would always fail us. Because these solutions are concocted by the finite minds of man. Why rely on human power when in supernatural power is available to us. Why rely on our limited thinking when there is a God whose wisdom is limitless.  In fact, he says in his word that whoever lacks wisdom, we should ask of him who would supply us with abundantly (James 1:5)

Tomorrow is another day and I know Jianne would be checking the leaf when she wakes up. I hope she would remember that since God made those leaves, He can always make new ones. And this time, we will not detach them from the stem 🙂

What are “tapes” we fix our problems with? When did we realize we need someone wiser to fix it for us? Let’s talk 🙂


Homemade and Selling

I don’t think there is no one in the world who doesn’t love food. In fact, food has been given so much attention with the advent of social media and phone apps. One can simply capture a photo of a delectable pasta, a sweet dessert or a refreshing drink and post it for the world to see. Now, your friends know what you had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I do share a few photos of food myself but I limit them to stuff I make from scratch or what my husband prepares.  And posting homemade stuff is good advertising don’t you think. I mean, who doesn’t need a LITTLE extra cash?

Last year, I started recreating the homemade spreads or dips I did two years before. I shared some samples to my friends and they enjoyed it. Not only that, I also received orders especially around the holidays. I started with a Roasted Bell Pepper Spread and Garlic Cheese Spread. I wanted to add one more flavor so I tried using a local food item in our country called “Tinapa” or Smoked Milkfish. The product testing done at home was good and the Tinapa Spread was born. I received more orders for this spread than the two but and it became the bestseller spread.


Christmas packaging for the three in one. I also have bigger sizes and in jars.

Christmas packaging for the three in one. I also have bigger sizes and in jars.

My family loves bread. When he was still single, my husband took a bread-making course and learned how to make simple breads at home. He is such a bread lover that he decided to make his own “Pandesal” a Spanish name for salt bread. Pandesal is a staple food item in the Filipino diet. We have it for breakfast or snack and it goes well with our favorite butter and sugar and hot coffee, yummy! Armed with his ingredients of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar and salt, he mixed, kneaded and baked his own bread. He asked the kids to join him and they enjoyed the whole process.

kneading the dough

kneading the dough

proofing time

proofing time

hot pandesal with roasted bell pepper spread yum!

hot pandesal with roasted bell pepper spread yum!

So what goes well with bread but with a good spread. Aside from the homemade spreads I make for the home and for friends, I thought of doing something else. How about making my own fruit jams? I was inspired when I saw a show on TV that featured a woman who makes jams at home. She sells them too for a profit and has been doing quite well.

Green mangoes are well-grown in our country and is available year round. So looking for green mangoes was not a problem at all. I took some green mangoes I bought from the market and created my own version of a green mango jam. The sourness of the green mango worked well with the sweetness of sugar. Of course, my kids loved it (love your own)!

I also shared some to my father who enjoys jams and preserves as well, and he gave me a positive feedback. He said I need to reduce some of the sugar but overall it’s good. He said to make him more and he will pay me, hooray!

oozing with mango syrup

oozing with mango syrup

one jar almost consumed by the bread monsters :-)

one jar almost consumed by the bread monsters 🙂

I’m still on the lookout of other local fruits to make as jams. Here is a list of fruits I could source locally: guava, melon, pineapple, santol (This fruit is grown in Southeast Asia. In French, it’s what they call faux mangoustainer and in English is known as Sandor or wild mangosteen. -source

Have you tried making your own jam or preserves? Let’s have a “jamming” session by sharing your experiences 🙂

Teaching Art at Home

I thought that teaching art is for the”artists” only. But this June as was searching for an art curriculum for the kids I chanced upon “Masterpiece Art Instruction: The Phonics of Drawing” at teachartathome . One can purchase the art instruction CD or the Ebook. I opted to purchase the Ebook since I needed to have a curriculum right away for our homeschool.

Karine Bauch designed the curriculum for individuals who want to learn how to draw, for homeschoolers and for in the entire family! Karine planned it in such away that it can be taught in a multi-level homeschooling family. The course is divided into three levels, Levels 1-3 depending on the age of the child. Jianne who is 6 years old is doing level 1 lessons while Coby is on Level 3.

Before jumping to the actual lesson, the kids will some drawing exercises which would prepare them for the actual lesson. They will be doing exactly the same lesson but on different levels of difficulty. What’s so amazing about it is that I learn how to draw with them. She encourages that the parent-teachers do the project themselves first so that the kids could follow and have an idea on how to do it.


exercises first before actual lesson

The Ebook has 30 lessons which can be spread out the entire year. The first few lessons starts with charcoal drawing which my kids really enjoy. It also includes handouts which could be printed for each child. The pictures are quite clear too. But because I don’t want to have printouts anymore, I just let the kids view it on my laptop.

Purchasing the Ebook answered my art curriculum for the entire year and for two kids at that! I am so happy with this curriculum. Just after their second lesson, Coby was so inspired that he was excited to look for models to draw! I am also inspired to learn with them too. Now, I am not scared to teach art to my kids anymore. I just need a great curriculum like Phonics of Drawing to help a mom like me.


Jianne doing her basic shapes


completed lesson 2 , bear still unfinished


remembering how to hold the pencil and move the arm when drawing


Coby completes lesson 2. Notice the bear’s bow tie is in plaid while Jianne’s bear has polka dots. That’s the difference in levels