Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Science Adventure: Giving My Son The Lead In Learning

I am super excited to share what we did at home for our Science subject. Just a bit of background: my husband and I are homeschooling our son. We started when he was in pre-school, stopped temporarily when he was in kindergarten, and then resumed again for Prep and now, Grade One. So far, I am loving the results: a curious boy who loves to move (gymnastics, fencing), solves problems (math) and plays music (violin) and prays with me every night (well, almost every night).

I just recently read a reassuring free ebook from (or Jamie C. Martin. Just visit her site and you'll see a link to her free ebook) which includes an entry on the bare minimum for homeschooling: some math and a whole lot of reading. And not only that, she made me see that having my kids take the lead in terms of the curriculum is a great thing. We don't have to stick to a fixed schedule for him to learn...and love learning. The latter part is really important to me.

So, that made me relax. :-)

Amusement Park Physics

We are working on a long-term project right now for Science. He's building an amusement park on Minecraft (Pocket Edition) and he promises me that he'll make a map of it. He already has the tickets ready. I'm really excited to see his park. Anyway, just sharing the site that we used to research amusement parks and the simple physics behind the rides: It's absolutely awesome and it has some interactive pages where the learner gets to design his or her own roller coaster. This came about after a trip to Enchanted Kingdom.

Do-It-Yourself Labs

In the meantime, we were playing with a new free app that we downloaded called Piig Labs (we use AppsGoneFree to find out what apps are free every day). The volcano project was presented using a virtual environment. Badger was really excited to do it in real life. I was really happy to see him excited!

So, we did a bit of research. I didn't know that it was really easy to research! We did it before when we made a whirlpool from scratch (just two bottles and some electric tape). He loved repeating the experiment to get the same results.

So, here's the link where we got the volcano experiment: It's really easy to follow. Plus, the basics are: a plastic bottle, some newspapers (ideally, you should use clay or dough), baking soda, dishwashing liquid, and vinegar. That's it!

We had so much fun! Badger wanted to do it again. The enthusiasm that I see in his face when he learns about something that he is curious about is really fantastic.

I look forward to more adventures. And this time, I want him to continuously take the lead.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Son Sings "Let It Go"

Elsa belting it out
Yes, my son sings "Let It Go" from the movie Frozen at the top of his voice. He's had a moment where he sings, "A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I'm the queen...heehee...king." He's tried the "boy version" but most of the time he lapses into the queen part and "be the good girl you always have to be." And you know what? It doesn't bother me at all. I just let him be.

There was a time that well-meaning friends would comment about him playing with his sister's Barbie dolls. "Hinuhubaran naman niya at hindi binibihisan?" (He takes off their clothes and he doesn't put them on, right?). Hmmmm. So, a male's role is to undress a female? Pretty narrow, right? But I let him be. He likes role playing too and turning everything into a gun or weapons or stuff that blasts into the air. I am assured that he's very male because of this tendency. The thing is, it bothers me because I don't like the idea of war and violence. But I let him be. He doesn't really know yet the concept of war and the pain of war and violence. To him it's a game. It's an adventure. It has nothing to do yet about death and pain. But there will be a time when we will talk about it. I still have to think through this whole gender thing. I'd rather he sing "Let It Go" than pretend that everything is a gun. But I let him be.

Just last year there was a whole to-do in the news about "discouraging early tendencies of homesexuality" in a parenting article. The thing is...with all that I've learned so far about homesexuality (you're born with's not a choice you make) and my own good friends who are homosexual...I don't have a problem with it at all. I don't care. I love my son. Just the way he is. And I love learning more and more about him and his complex mind. There's more to him than his sexual orientation. He is a wonderful human being.

So, after a bout of singing, I did an interview.

Me: Why do you like "Let It Go?"
B: I like shouting the song.
Me: What do you mean by "shouting the song?"
B: I'm happy when I sing it.
Me: Oh. How do you think Elsa feels when she's singing it?
B: She's happy because she's free. She can make her own castle. She can even make her own bodyguard!
Me: Is that how you feel when you sing the song?
B: Yes! That's how I feel.
Me: Why does it have to be loud?
B: Because that's how it is.
Me: What do you mean by that?
B: Because it makes me feel that I'm singing to God.
Me: So, singing to God has to be loud?
B: Sometimes I sing it medium. And the rest, I sing it loud, with a strong heart.

I really do learn a lot from my son. And I love this particular Disney movie. There's a whole other article that talks about the merits of this animated film, especially for daughters. But you know what? It was great for my son. It has bent the gender stereotype. For my son, Elsa is a hero...regardless of whether she's a girl or a boy. She's free. And that's something that he sees is worth being. Free and happy. Having a strong heart is not a gender territory. It's for everyone. That's just amazing! We're not even talking about true love yet...true love being defined as a selfless act for another.

He loves the song so much that he wants to learn the song on violin (violin lessons was one of the things he asked for...totally not forced on him). I'm glad we homeschool him. Imagine how other boys would treat him in an all-boy's school if he suddenly belted out "Let It Go?" Maybe he wouldn't even dream of singing it aloud. I love my son's heart and how he sees the world. I wish I could be more like him. :-)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tundra Swans and Initiative: Character Lesson With Badger

by Justine C. Tajonera

Badger and our family project: tundra swans V formation
Today, I'm so grateful that we got some "Character First" booklets that were sold by TMA (The Master's Academy) because it makes teaching character so much easier.

Badger loves projects more than writing or reading exercises, though he does the latter. He loves working with his hands and he loves working with me and V. The character we studied today was Initiative. In this series of booklets, each character is associated with an animal. The animal that represents initiative is the tundra swan. Check out the link to learn more about it. Initiative is characterized by the following (not in any particular order):

  • Do what is right without being told
  • Contribute to the team (team could also mean family)
  • Be part of the solution and not the problem
  • Look for ways to help
  • Don't put off for tomorrow what can be done today
Tundra swans fly in a "V" formation to reduce the drag (love how this term referes to aerodynamics, one of Badger's favorite topics!) for the whole flock of birds, helping them fly faster. Also, when the lead bird gets tired, another bird takes its place, naturally! You gotta love the initiative of these birds. 

Badger loved cutting the paper and the slots on the board. I took care of the birds and V took care of putting the formation in place. 

While we had some difficulties, especially with writing down the five keys of initiative (the bulleted list above), Badger loved the hands-on process of getting to know how tundra swans showed initiative. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Prepositions With Piggy For Our Preschooler

by Justine C. Tajonera

If her Yaya were to judge, she'd say I was playing favorites by always talking about Badger. So, this time, I'll talk about Clea. We're not formally homeschooling her yet because both Vier and I believe that preschool is all about play. We're not at all worried because at two years and six months she's already speaking in sentences. When Badger was her age, he was just babbling without making any sense. We enrolled him in occupational therapy and later on speech therapy but apparently, we didn't have to worry because he was just a late bloomer (and now we can't stop him for talking and talking and talking...). Clea talked early and I love that she shows great interest in books. 

Prepositions With Piggy

Now, given all of that, it's still fun to make up some games for Clea because she's so cooperative. So, we had a fun session that revolved around prepositions. We have these little monoblock chairs and they sparked an idea for me. I put the blue one on a low table and I grabbed one of her favorite stuffed toys, a little pink pig. "Clea, can you do something for me?" She nods excitedly. "Can you put piggy under the chair?" She excitedly gets piggy and puts her under the chair. We do this for "on top" and "beside." She got a little confused with "beside" but she quickly picked it up. "On the right side" and "on the left side" also needed some repetition. But all in all, a lot of high fives were going around. 

Counting Candies

At the end of our prepositions with piggy, we had a round of counting candy. I put a small dish on the table and we did a modified counting Jelly Belly beans but this time we used Gingerbon candies. I asked her to put one, two, three, four or five candies in the dish and found out that Clea can understand the concept of up to two but needs prompting for three, four and five. It's either one, two, or all for her. Very interesting. Not rushing her but it's good to know where she's at. The best part? A candy treat after breakfast. She could actually take the spiciness! 

Having fun and discovering something new is not as easy as it looks. However, it's the most natural way for kids to actually learn. So, I'm glad to get some playtime with Clea and I'm so blessed to have such a sweet daughter. But don't let the sweetness fool you. Between Badger and Clea, it's Clea who's the bossy one. Haha! She loves giving orders to other people, even to an imaginary audience. It's also been fun discovering Clea and all her interests (ranging from fashionista issues--she does multiple outfit changes in a day--and keeping the Yakult away from her (she's addicted) and Hello Kitty (her current favorite character)...and cleaning up after her pencil masterpieces directly drawn on the floor. I'm looking forward to more adventures with her. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Creatively Centering A Homeschool Lesson Around Badger's Interest in Dreadnoughts

by Justine C. Tajonera

This morning started with a mini-fight. I wanted Badger to continue progress on his Filipino workbook (Ang Diyos at Ako) but he just refused to do it. This is a familiar scene. I say something, he wants something else. I cite "obedience" and he breaks down and cries. At this point, I think I'm a failure as a teacher and I think about the coming start of the school year with dread.

But all was not lost. After taking a deep (deep, deep, deep) breath, I ask him, "Okay, so what do you want to do?" Still sniffling, he says, "I want to draw a battleship." Here we go again. I know he loves battleships. It's just that...I was running out of ways to incorporate battleships into our lessons. But that's not Badger's's actually mine as his parent and teacher.

Planning Around a Dreadnought

So, I wrapped my head around what we wanted to tackle for the day: tiyak na pangngalan or proper nouns. Since we were going to deal with battleships this morning...I would need to switch to English grammar and tackle proper nouns, instead. "What kind of battleship do you want to draw today? A regular battleship or a dreadnought?" He chose dreadnought. So I did some quick research.

Apparently, dreadnoughts were the dominant type of battleship during the early twentieth century and they figured in World War 1.  They had two distinct features: "big gun" armament or an unprecedented use of heavy-calibre guns and steam turbine propulsion. The first Dreadnought (or HMS Dreadnought of the Royal Navy of Great Britain) in 1906 could be referred to as a proper noun but soon after, the term dreadnought could be used as a common noun because it was used in reference to a type of battleship with the same features, thereafter.

I had fun explaining the parts of the ship to Badger and Badger, in turn, had fun drawing the dreadnought and naming the dominant parts that made this kind of ship a dreadnought. There's also a mistake in the drawing. Instead of a steam engine... we should have called it a steam turbine. Oh well. We can still make another drawing later on. After explaining to him that dreadnought is a common noun and that he had to name the ship with a proper noun...he very patriotically drew a Philippine flag on top of the dreadnought and promptly named it HSS Tajonera. HMS actually stands for His/Her Majesty's Ship while USS stands for United States Ship. Technically, we should have called it BRP (Barka ng Republika ng Pilipinas...ex. BRP Gregorio del Pilar) but ended up with His Supremo's Ship instead (HSS). Hilarious. I have to tell him about the naming conventions of ships later today. I also don't know why he chose the number 91. I'll have to ask him about it.

A Little Bit of Everything

Instead of a frustrating lesson that could have ended in total chaos and tears...we ended up with a fun exploration of dreadnoughts, a little bit of history, a little bit of science, a little bit of nouns and a little bit of drawing (I used what I learned from my Design lessons in the course I'm taking from the University of Pennsylvania via and had Badger do the sketch outline in pencil, then finish it off with a marker...he naturally centered the drawing, something that's also taught in my Design course. Plus points, Badger!).

One of the reasons why I love homeschooling is the lessons I learn as a teacher, a mom and a human being. Instead of pushing my way and bulldozing my son into the lesson I want him to learn...I learn to be creative and spark curiosity in a subject that interests him without necessarily throwing out my goals for the day. So, hooray for dreadnoughts and design and propulsion and proper nouns! They all come together when it concerns a little boy named Badger. At the end of the lesson, he gave me a bonus demonstration of "drag" (in the aerodynamic sense) by dropping a ball of paper and a sheet of paper. "Which one will fall first, Mama?" he asks. "The ball!" I say...and then we talk briefly about the concept of drag before I go off to work. Amazing!

An Update

We just watched Star Trek: Into Darkness and there is a dreadnought ship there called the USS Vengeance. Details here. I can't wait to discuss it with Badger!


Monday, May 06, 2013

Bringing Up Our Little Gymnast

by Justine C. Tajonera

Badger with his bronze medal and trophy during the International School Manila Friendship Meet last March 24, 2013.

Apart from homeschooling Badger, we've enrolled him in gymnastics class. We feel that it's a sport that will develop him in all aspects as well as foster self-discipline. Lately, I've been seeing some articles online that made me think twice about Badger's participation in gymnastics. One article talks about stunted growth for developing children. Another article talks about this sport having one of the highest injury rates. It's enough to make a parent worry.

However, last Saturday, I attended a parent orientation from our gymnastics class provider, Club Gymnastica, and I was relieved to see a flyer they gave out that talked about the 10 rules of parenting a gymnast. This is not in the exact wording and order but this is how I remembered it:
  1. It should be fun. When gymnastics ceases to be fun for your child, let him stop. 
  2. Let your child have his own goals for gymnastics. These are not your goals and your ambitions. Let your child find out for himself what he wants out of it. 
  3. Don't coach your child. That's what his coach is there for. Let his coach take care of the coaching. Your job is to love and support your child. 
  4. During competitions...your job is to cheer him on. Only have positive things to say. 
  5. Don't undermine the judges during competitions. Let them do their jobs. Don't criticize them in front of your child. 
  6. Don't expect your child to be an Olympian. Even Olympians say that the best things they got out of the sport were the intangibles like discipline, teamwork, building their self-esteem...not the medals. 
  7. Acknowledge your child's fears. Don't pretend that there's nothing to be nervous about. Reassure him. 
  8. Just be supportive. Whether your child wins or loses, just be there for him. 
  9. Have other goals apart from winning. Winning isn't everything. As they's the journey, not the destination that builds character. 
  10. Don't jump from club to club. It's disruptive for your child. Try out one or two and stick with just one. 
  11. ~
Here's a link to the ten commandments for parents of gymnasts online. 

I think injury and stunted growth are all effects of overdoing gymnastics training. These are addressed by rule number 1: it should be fun. V and I always ask Badger if he is still having fun. We wouldn't think twice about pulling him out of the class if he didn't want to go anymore. But the thing is...he loves it. He loves cartwheeling and doing back tacks and back hand springs. He loves being able to do new things with his body. He also likes being with the other boys who are in the gymnastics class. They're his good friends. 

Gymnastics can be character-building if the rules above are followed. Overdoing the training can be avoided by not pushing a child beyond his limits. With Badger, I'm not worried. I think it's just a matter of constantly checking in on how he feels about his sport and supporting him with his goals. Yes, he does have goals! Doing better than his last performance is definitely part of it. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Catching My Kids Reading

It's International Book Week! It's so timely because just recently, I caught my son, Badger, reading my book, Beauty and The Beast. It's no accident. I introduced the book to him. What's so special about it is it was my book from childhood.

You'll still see my childishly written name on the fly leaf!

I read it to him the other night and we pointed out words that were unfamiliar to him like: harbour (explained that it's where ships dock just like what Pearl Harbor was to the battle ships in the movie, Battle Ship), exhausted, beast ("Moomoo?" he asked and I said yes, in a way, but more like an animal, like a tiger or a lion) and many more. It was even more fun because he pointed out that there were badgers in one of the illustrated pages. We laughed over that. I noticed that he has such a compassionate heart because he immediately knew that the beast was crying in the picture. "Why is he crying, Mama?" I notice that Badger loves to comfort people when they are in pain.

I thought that he wouldn't be interested in the book after I read it to him. It just happened to be there at the time and he would go back to his Dr. Seuss books. But no. This morning I saw him look for it and sit down on the floor with it. It was a warm and memorable moment for me. Yes, it was no accident because I introduced the book to him. But it was just really special for me because he looked for it on his own.

There's just really something heartwarming about knowing that the book that I read as a kid is still appreciated by my own son. That he sees the same magic that I saw while flipping through those beautifully illustrated pages.

Reading is something that I want my kids to catch from me. Here's to more of those wonderful, magical moments!