Thursday, September 21, 2017

Florante at Laura

I wanted to read  Florante at Laura with my 2 older children, so years ago,  I bought a book similar to the one I used when I was in school but we didn't get to do it. I recall looking at the book and asking myself, why? What was I thinking? I enjoyed Ang Ibong Adarna in high school, but at best, I was indifferent to Florante at Laura. I didn't hate it when I was in school but I also don't recall anything about it other than it started with a guy tied to a tree and my struggle not to fall asleep in class and to act like I was writing notes when I was actually doodling whatever on the sides of the book. The book I bought is still here in the house, untouched. So when I learned that the Learning Basket is selling a coloured book with English translations I felt that I should give it a try and we like it! We like it a lot!!! Thank you, The Learning Basket. 

The book starts with the translator's notes, followed by about 3 pages with a title Kay Celia (For Celia) which made the 3 of us wonder who is Celia? So we dropped by Wikipedia, here.
I think this version of Florante at Laura with English translation is superb and I am happy we have it for the following reasons:

1. Reading it gave my 3rd daughter a chance to read in Filipno and for me to correct her mispronounced words. I am so amazed that:

A. I could hardly translate the material and there are stanzas when I do understand majority of the words but don't know what the stanza meant! How did I do this in high school and pass? I don't seem to recall anything.
B. That my daughter can read through an entire page which is about 6 stanzas of about 4 lines per stanza and not understand anything! But she carries on knowing that it won't be in vain, thanks to the translation which I read with feelings.

2. We have to look up Roman and Greek mythology as the author Francisco Balagtas  mentioned:  Marte (Mars), Parcas (Parcae), Apolo (Apollo),  Aurora etc. I love it when reading materials crossover. We reflected that he must have read about them and probably memorised them for he was comfortable and confident enough to put such names into his work. As my son puts it, "People in the before times in the country" must know a lot more about Roman/ Greek mythology than people now or did Balagtas just assumed that his readers will know and appreciate it or will research about it.  Remember google was not around then.

 3. We laughed so much about the lions in the forest part. Take note National Geographic, Discovery Channel and David Attenborough were not available to Balagtas. Was there even a zoo in The Philippines then?

4. We have talked about how seemingly over the top Florante's reaction is to loosing Laura. Floranate has got to be the most over acting sawi sa pag-ibig character we have ever encountered. At first, I get it, he is ever so desperately sad and unfortunate, but by the time the Persian warrior showed up it has become hilarious! Ma-telenovela na pala tayo even during the Spanish Era or maybe we are ma-telenovela because of the Spanish Era. I can't wait to go back to reading the book! As of this afternoon we are in stanza 185 of 399.

5. I believe I have added to my children's (ages 13 and 9) memory bank. In years to come, I know I will remember this time and smile. I imagine seeing the book somewhere in the house and if I were in a movie Abba's song "Slipping Through My Fingers" will play in the background. (Here, if you want to listen to a Deutsch version. Here, Abba's version and here, Mama Mia version).

I ought to thank the translator, Randy M. Bustamante from the bottom of my heart, if not for your work I never would have appreciated the work of Balagtas and I wouldn't be having this time, this Florante at Laura moment with my children: reading, reflecting and laughing and feeling a bit mean that we are laughing at Florante at the moment, thank you so much.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I am happy with Independent Homeschooling

Because of my last post, I received a follow up question that goes: 

Hi, Alex Hao! I listened to your talk at the last HAPI homeschool conference and was much inspired by your courage in going the indie route. Still teetering on the brink of taking the plunge ourselves and so I wondered if you could write a similar blog post on the benefits of independent homeschooling. And if you could do it over again, would you? What would you do differently, if any? Thanks for the inspiration!

Turns out writing about the advantages of independent homeschooling is much harder than I thought for the simple reason that this is our way of life. When I think of advantages its like saying on top of things or on top of what is normal or compared to another norm or situation independent homeschooling is better for the following reasons. I don't see how I can fairly compare our way of doing things to how others do it and call it an advantage. But I am happy that our decision to independently home school our children translated to: 

1. I get to spend a lot of time with my children. My husband and I get to share ourselves with our children doing activities that matter to each of us, if not to all of us. We have unhurried mornings. My husband comes home for lunch everyday and we are able to take advantage of that too. We get to talk about all sorts of things and answer questions that begin with "During your time..." - a general reference to when mom and dad was younger.

2. It is so satisfying to watch my children choose what they want to learn and it makes things easy for me to impart what I think needs to be imparted since we can pick up and let go our own topics. 

My 3rd daughter remembers countries and historical events because she likes reading about real life princesses. Such information might be useless but I am not here to judge on such matters as I have other more important and sometimes pressing issues to consider and address. The fact that she can relate it to historical events and use it to prove a point is in some days brilliant and funny. And who knows where she will be in the future it might come handy for her. It was also her decision to take care of the chickens given to my husband and she is following through that decision. Its not a subject or a project, its the way things are for her because she wanted to save those chickens. So after breakfast and on most afternoons before going to swimming in the afternoon she attends to them.

3. Academic work is an accepted necessity and not a matter of levelling up. There are basic stuff like spelling and math, but how fast they go is not an issue. How far they want to take it is up to them and of course the resources around them. I go back to #2. Its easier to teach a bit of spelling or geography when the topic is already interesting. Its easier for me not to explode like a roaring volcano when they don't get the topic at hand. I can't imagine not freaking out or having panic moments if we had a deadline.

When the children were young family activities are the highlight and become the main activity rather than academic work. This means that when somebody has a birthday academics are set aside to brainstorm and make birthday cards and/or posters or buy a gift etc. As they got older this died off slowly and I started hearing my older kids  prioritize finishing a book or math work or practicing the violin over making a birthday card with their younger siblings. Which brings me to #4.  

4. I am happy there was a time when family and family happenings took precedence over everything else. Now this is a memory no longer our reality. Our family is changing and we can never go back to how it was. We can only remember it now. 

5. I am happy that things/ trends etc gets filtered. Though I did not realize how important this would be as this was not the goal when we made the decision to home school. 


Books: When my eldest was a teenager (oh gosh!! I can't believe i just typed that! She turned 20 last week) I banned popular teenage books and called them a waste of brain space. Teen magazines are not welcome in our house too. What with all the must have lists that one would be better off with out at an age when they don't have income or allowance. I threw them out whenever someone gave one to my kids.

Here is another example:
Last year, while lining up in the grocery,  a boy of about  6 years old was begging his mother to buy him a trendy snack. My son looked concern as the scene was beginning to escalate, meaning the little boy's voice was getting louder than the bleep sounds of the code bar machine and grocery music. The mother held her ground despite the loud begging from her son. When they left a Lola behind me said, "And bait ng anak mo. Buti sya hindi nagpapabili." I smiled but what I wanted to say is, "Hindi po nya kasi alam ano yan." Heck! I would be out of my mind and inviting trouble to introduce trendy snacks to my kids. Though I was not able to explain this to the Lola in the grocery, I don't think I have a particularly well behaved child. I just have less challenges because we have less exposure to what is hot for the season.

I am happy when I get compliments about my children's good behaviour. But I think it boils down to the time I spend hanging out with them and the fact that things/ trends filtered out for them. My children know what's going to tick and please me and vice versa. I have come to accept that expecting my children (less than 12 years old)  to gamely check out shops or line up for whatever when they are hungry is stretching things far enough for them. So I don't do that. Teenagers though have a different stretch.

6. I still celebrate what I believe to be savings I am making though I don't have a mathematical way of putting this. I am happy when we buy/ choose materials together, but I feel like a winner now that my younger children are reusing materials that my older kids used a few years ago! 
I would home school my children independently again because the days are long but the years go by in a blink. I like where we are now and how my children are. I like that independent homeschooling allowed us the space and time to just be by ourselves as we were. The choice to take the children out of school  was a practical one rather than a sentimental or ideological one for our family. My children are OSY (out of school youth). They are not palaboy, but they are not in school. I embrace this fact as a choice we, their parents made for them.  Yes they are being educated at home but the education they are getting is not necessarily better than what schools are giving or what an umbrella school may provide and I don't see how it is less. To get back to mainstream school there's PEPT and ALS. And my eldest chose the ALS route while my second chose the PEPT route. Each have their own reasons. And both test have pros and cons.

 If I could change anything in our journey, I would change our house. I want a color coded organized space. I should have had a bigger kitchen with aircon, space for pets: dog, cat, chicken, rabbit, and fish and I would not keep moving the piano because as my second daughter said: its not furniture, its a musical instrument that has to be tuned. And I think tuning the piano costs a lot since I can not tell anyway if the piano is untuned, but my kids can. Or better yet, I really ought to have changed my attitude about our house not being perfect. 

I have written about our choice to home school back in 2013 as guest of the Learning Basket's Heart of Homeschooling Series and you can read about it here. I don't want to convince others to go independent on account of what seems to be the advantage of doing so. My take is, go independent for the realistic, practical and hopeful whys that you have in your head and your heart.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What are the Disadvantages of Independent Homeschooling

This is not to discourage my reader from going independent and our family don't represent all independent homeschoolers in our city more so the country. I have been asked this question 3 times already this year and saw it this morning in Homeschoolers of The Philippines Facebook group. Here is what I know:
  1. If I need proof of academic learning in the form of a numerical or alphabetical grade then I don't have any. 
  2. If I need to declare a grade level, it can be confusing. We don't  have grade levels. Example, my 3rd daughter turned 13 in the first quarter of the year. She is doing grade 7 math, occasionally reads science books, is currently learning about Napoleon Bonaparte, is listening to me read The Count of Monte Cristo, crochets in the afternoons, is having a very hard time with her grade 4 Filipino workbook, takes care of 2 hens and a rooster and swims everyday, what grade level is she?
  3. We often fore go student discounts in establishments/activities that offer discounts because we don't have a school ID.
  4. When our eldest child said she wanted to go to university, we had to navigate through the requirements. Not a bad thing but very challenging for those who, like me, don't live in Metro Manila because provincial DepEd offices from what I have experienced 4 years ago are not used to handling uncommon cases. And now for my second child there's the whole senior high school thing. 
  5. I noticed with my children that when they are interested in an activity/ topic / academic subject they are super into it and spend a lot of time on it. They become pretty good at it but they remain poor in academic subjects that they are not interested in. And I think this is also because:
    • there are no good materials available or 
    • we could not find a good teacher/ tutor, or 
    • there are no clubs/ tutor service/ activity related to the subject as is the case with Filipino which I cannot teach because I am neither good at it nor am I interested in it. 
  6. There are educational activities or pursuits that we put resources on: time, money, etc that friends, family and our own upbringing consider folly and this is the pitfall of almost all mothers I know, guilt. And guilt can bite! Throw in self doubt and blame and there's the perfect recipe to freeze. 
  7. It did not save us money in the long run. My husband and I have not been in the habit of paying school fees that when our eldest entered college, the tuition fee was a regal shocker and it gobbled up what little we were able to set aside from not paying school fees in one go! Yes, we were able to save a bit in the beginning and we also did not spend money we did not have on school fees but there are lesson fees and field trips and the list can go sky high.
Freedom is not all rosy and independence can sometimes mean feeling all alone even when surrounded by all that is familiar. Thanks to the Facebook groups I am in where like minded people culminate.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

To Senior High school or not to Senior High school Part 3

What am I looking for in a Senior High School (SHS)?

With a bit of consideration on where we are and the landscape in which we are in now, this would be my dream SHS. Libre naman mangarap at pwede namang mangarap, so here it goes. If I were to send my second daughter to SHS I want the following:

1. A SHS with a 2 year program that my daughter wants with an outline of how they will be filling up their time including extra curricular or complementary courses. This will either be in Davao City or in a boarding school with in the country that fits our budget.
2. A SHS who have graduates who are leaders in their field and are eager to help out in the programs of the SHS where they came from. Since my daughter is only the second batch of SHS I obviously can’t find a school under the Department of Education that would have a grade 11 and 12 alumni or a track record that can say ___% of our graduates are still working in the track they chose.
3. International exchange activities. At least one foreign travel related to their track or extra curricular activities with in the two years of SHS.
4. Foreign Language Course. Since SHS is suppose to make Philippine education at par with the rest of the world then this should be available. My 2nd daughter took up German Classes here in Davao and took the A level test at the Goethe Institute last year. I do want her to pick up on this within the year.
5. A flexible PE Program that considers people with special needs like scoliosis. She has to keep going to therapy at least 2x a week.
6. I want her to be with people approximately her age whom she can laugh with and collaborate with, aka friends.

My daughters will be coming home for this week and we shall sit down and decide on this matter. I am still searching and my husband and I are talking about this a lot. Of my 6 desires for SHS, #1 and #6 weigh in the most and we can’t fore go of #5 for the sake of having the required papers to be able to go to university...

Friday, April 7, 2017

To Senior High school or not to Senior High school Part 2

If I am enrolling my daughter to SHS this this means we have about 10 weeks to go! Having just typed that I feel a quiver of panic! And having acknowledged my panic I am a bit calm now. Lets carry on…

When I was looking for a preschool for my eldest child I had a school visit and a teacher’s appointment way ahead of where I am now!!! How has it come to this? Here I am with a teenager who knows what she wants with an additional 2 years of high school where the government requires she choose a track. Knowing that I have the final say in this I have narrowed things down to two questions for me:

1. What is my heart telling me?
2. What do I want from a SHS?

Lets Start with the first question: What is in my heart telling me?

I love my daughter and I respect where she is now and I look forward to the possibilities that might come her way. On my death bed I hope with all my heart that she is well with her siblings and I can hold her hand and say I am happy I am your mother. Okay so I am crying now, I better go back to the topic at hand which is what to do for senior high school.

If she is going to do SHS I believe it is best if she stays with us or she stays in a boarding school. Why? Because right now she is living on her own and taking care of things like her grocery, meal choices and preparation, transportation etc. I would like these things to be out of the way if she were to do SHS which in my understanding will be a 7:30 am to 4pm kind of schedule plus the possibility of over time.

What about a foriegn home school provider? I have checked out this option too and this deserves a post of its own. First thing’s first, we have to make up our minds if she is going to SHS or if she will carry on the way way we are - independent homeschoolers aka OSY (Out of School Youth).

So, what exactly is she doing now?
 She is living her life like you and me. If I have to make a report card about how she is filling up her time it would look like this:

I.  Academics
Math (Geometry)
Literature/ History (her choice of reading materials)

II.  Extra Curricular Activities
P.E - Physical Therapy for her scoliosis at The Peak
Music: Violin Lessons in UP Extension Program
Orchestra - UP Diliman
Music Theory - UP Extension Program
Art - Painting
Watching shows with her older sister (theater, orcherstra, opera etc) that we don't have here in Davao

III.  And a bunch of life skills that living on your own compels you to acquire.

I am not sure where to put the PEPT (you can read more here). Should it be in Academics or Extra Curricular, same goes for Music Theory? Argh!! Where I put PEPT or Music Theory is so irrelevant! I obviously have a bigger fish to fry and I have to figure out where to prepare it and how and where to serve it.

My next post will be my #2 question: What do I want from a SHS?

Monday, April 3, 2017

What to do for Senior High School?

This post is not going to be about me lamenting why and how come the Department of Education implemented Senior High School (SHS) the way it's being done now.

As a suggestion SHS sounds cool and something that I would like and go for. Why?
1. Because I see value in that additional 2 years. A bit more space to grow and mature.
2. Because I appreciate that it allows young people to declare that they want to pursue something specific. The fact is, we can’t do it all, so why drain time and energy away from what matters. It's but right that we go for what we are interested in, what we believe in, what we think makes the world a better place and put energy into it.

On my eldest daughter’s last year of homeschooling when friends ask if she is in college already I would happily answer that K12 was in effect in our homeschooling. I felt then, like we were slowly crossing a threshold. This time however with the implementation of K12, I feel that we are standing on a precipice.

My second daughter should be grade 11 this coming June or August (some schools start in June, others in August). She wants to pursue classical music for higher education. The way I understand it, when you say music as a subject, it branches out and have smaller branches too. Like science would have Biology that would have its sub-branches too. So in her case she has fallen in love with a sub-branch already and would like to learn more and hopefully grow a leaf in that side of the music tree.

So here I am researching and making some calls to schools that offer grade 11 and 12. So far I have inquired in 1 traditional school, a Waldorf school and have looked into 2 US homeschool providers.

After reading here and there I am now asking myself, what is my heart telling me and what am I looking for in a SHS? I stiffen at the rumour that you can’t be an independent homeschooler for SHS. I could not find a specific law that says this but if the university requires a SHS diploma from all its applicants then without one my child won’t be eligible to apply to a University here in the country.

We have been talking about this a lot. Three nights ago she said that we were simply going around in circles. And that’s true. For now, I think its good because going around in circles will force us to stop at one point and take a stand until the room stops spinning and we can take a sure step forward.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Field Trip to The Bone Museum

We went to D'Bone Museum last Monday and it was worth it! I am so happy I insisted on going as my 3rd daughter did not like the idea of visiting a place where there are bones which means dead animals and her utmost concern was the possibility of sea creatures. But I said it was the perfect way to wrap up our science lesson about the skeletal system. Our discussion on the matter lasted longer than the museum tour.
Here's Ms Reluctant and Nervous and Mr Eager Beaver!

In the first floor of the museum, there is a small gift shop where you pay for your entrance fee: P80.00 for adults and P70.00 for children comes with a tour guide. There is a work area that my son liked.
I wonder if they will have like a summer class for bone something for kids.

The third floor was a stressful place for Ms Reluctant and Nervous as she has an issue with sea creatures.
 But by the end of the tour she was released and being all reflective.
With our tour guide
We went back to the second floor and my daughter remembered the afternoon she went horse back riding with her sisters and the little brother in the Davao Horse Club, here.
Horse skeleton from the Davao Horse Club
I am so happy we have this museum in Davao! We shall visit this place again when we ever get to study/ talk about vertebrates or mammals. At the moment we are learning about the circulatory system. I suggested that we should get a blood test but both my kids said no!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Skeletal System

I can't believe my 3rd daughter does not want to go to the museum. She just wants a quiz and another quiz and said that we should proceed to the circulatory system. But I can not do that!!! We have a museum here in Davao! We have to support the museum is now part of my reasons to go.

She is worried it might be gross to go to the bone museum after I showed he a photo of the ore fish, here and the video here. The ore fish sightings and video has nothing to do with the skeletal system of the human body but the sea creatures are vertebrates like us and all this happen to be all over the news lately. Anyway, I insist that we go to the Bone Museum this afternoon to wrap up our skeletal system topic and I am super excited to go!
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