Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Challenges of Homeschooling In Our Homeland, the Philippines

It has been a week since we arrived in the Philippines. I haven't been able to blog much (or go online much for that matter) as we've been staying at my in-laws' place since we've arrived and have only been using Smart Bro prepaid for our internet connection. It is kind of slow (ironically, our broadband connection in Dili was much better!) and so I found it kind of a hassle to blog. Also, I don't know why but it seems that when we're at my in-laws' place, I tend to crash earlier (usually when we put the kids to sleep) and sleep on until morning. (Usually when I fall asleep earlier in the evening, I wake up in the wee small hours of the morning, and then do some work or blog or FB). Perhaps it's the adjustment to life in Manila. Ironically here we do a lot of commuting (we had not just one but TWO mission vehicles in Timor!) and maybe that's why I am more tired at the end of the day. Especially since we bring the two kiddies along with us most everywhere we go. Well, I hope my body adjusts soon.

Speaking of adjusting, sleep routines and commuting and lack of internet time aren't the only things our family and I have been adapting to. I have been very vocal about our desire to homeschool our children, particularly Tim, our eldest who is turning 4 in October. this is partly why this blog was born actually. However, after only one week in the Philippines, this desire, no, CONVICTION, has already met with a lot of questions and semi-negative comments from people (who probably mean well but may not be totally informed about what homeschooling entails and results in). These include members of our own families and community and friends who of course are mostly concerned with the children's socialization / forming friendships with other kids. Personally, I don't blame these people for being concerned, but do feel a bit put off when they insist that regular schooling is THE only way to go. I for one firmly believe that each family and each child is unique, and homeschooling may be the call for some families (like ours) and regular schooling for others.

One of the things that homeschooling detractors don't realize is that homeschooled kids have so many options and opportunites for socialization. Even here in the Philippines! One of the homeschooling mom's blogs I've read actually describe her kid's "after-school" activities with Kids Ahoy, which is something that hubby and I plan to explore with Tim, if God-willing, we can afford it! The good thing is, Tim is eligible for CFA's homeschooling program only when he turns 4 and a half, which leaves us about 10 months to prepare financially, emotionally, logistically, and of course, spiritually for homeschooling.

Since we are at present fulltime lay missionaries (or in our community's terms, fulltime pastoral workers or FTPWs) dependent on monthly missionary allowances (or salaries in other words), we are currently exploring alternative means of earning extra income to meet the needs of our growing family. Needless to say we believe that God will provide, and this He does every day without fail! Indeed we are truly rich and blessed! I know that God will also provide for Tim's and Rysse's education, in His own time and way. Blessed be His name!

I also know that there will be more challenges, questions, detractors, negative comments ahead of us as we continue to explore, discern, re-discern and decide on how far we will go on this homeschooling journey. But I am not discouraged. I WILL NOT BE. Because I know that God is with us. And I also know that negative comments, questions, doubts and challenges to homeschooling usually come about due to a lack of deeper knowledge, understanding and acceptance of homeschooling. And so today I say, bring it on! Whatever happens, God will lead us and empower us, in ALL aspects of our lives! Yehey! May God be praised!

Monday, June 14, 2010

One Proud TeacherMama!

We are now in Singapore (SG) staying with "family", i.e. friends who are part of our Catholic community. It's our first day here and we are really grateful for all God is blessing us with. One of which was this: our preschooler Tim actually let us go to a dinner meeting earlier today without him! IN FACT, he is the one who INSISTED that we leave him behind, with his "Kuya" (Big Brother in Tagalog) Elai, the teenage son of our host family. WE WERE TRULY SHOCKED!

They were swimming at the time we left them. I had all sorts of fears, doubts and worries about leaving Tim behind. But I need not have done so. Kuya Elai did an excellent job, even without adult supervision! (His parents, Dick and Elaine, deserve a BIG CONGRATULATIONS too on a job well done in raising a responsible, good-mannered, caring, God-fearing young man!) It was a BIG event for hubby and I, as all this time, we've been so used to Tim insisting that he go everywhere we went, even for prayer meetings and mission trips to far-flung places. He just let us go without any tears or tantrums. In fact, he didn't even want to come near me when I called him out of the pool to give him my reminders about behaving well and listening to his Kuya Elai. Aaaawww... my little boy is growing up SO FAST! Huhuhuhu. Needless to say, I AM ONE PROUD TEACHERMAMA! Though I fall short of being a good mom countless times, God always finds a way to assure hubby and I that as long as we do our best, He will do the rest! :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lessons From Our Timorese Family

Earlier (or should I say yesterday) our community had a despedida (farewell) party in honor of our missionary family. It was supposed to be a surprise but we already knew about it since hubby was the one who suggested it to our co-missionary, Karen, in the first place. Of course, we didn't let on that we knew so as not to spoil it for the others, who came prepared with food galore and well-wishes and farewell gifts.

Needless to say, it was an afternoon that left me with swollen eyes and an overflowing heart. I couldn't help but let the tears flow when our brothers and sisters started saying their messages, especially our young mission volunteers and fulltime workers. They are the FUTURE of the community here, and in effect contribute to the future of the Church as well.

It was especially tear-jerking because most of the farewell messages were meant not just for hubby and I, but especially for our two children, who were both born here on mission in Timor Leste. Our community members here call them "their children," "their younger brother and sister" and yesterday's despedida was a testimony to God's amazing love, that unites us all as one family, no matter what race, color, language or nationality. What a beautiful lesson for us all.
 We were also dressed up in traditional Timorese "tais", beautifully hand-woven with love by our lovely CFC women from Ermera. Even the kids had their own "tais".
I was crying so much when they started putting on the "tais." And also when they were giving their gifts for the kids. Our Timorese brethren here are much less fortunate than our own families back home, yet I could see the richness of their hearts as they bestowed their gifts and well-wishes upon our family. It taught me to be ever more grateful for what God has blessed us with, and firmed up my resolve to teach our kids to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord in the service of others.

Another lesson learned (or rather re-learned) is that being in community, one has the blessing of a positive, faith-filled support environment. And not just for yourself, but for your kids as well! What greater way for your child to develop his socialization skills than exposing him to community activities. Hubby and I were amazed just now because Tim was happily playing with his Timorese friends, despite him speaking only English and them speaking Tetun. Indeed, the language of play and laughter knows no boundaries!

But probably the most important lesson learned here was this: One should never limit the ways and means that our great God has to show us and affirm us that He alone has the BEST plans for us, He alone knows what we need and desire, and above all things, HE ALONE IS ENOUGH! Maromak deit to'o ona mai ami! God is enough for us! Obrigadu barak ba ami nia familia tomak iha Timor Leste! Thank you so much to our family in Timor Leste! We love you and will miss you dearly!

Here are more pics from our despedida. :) After all the well-wishes and giving of gifts, we were asked to give our own messages, and then were prayed over by the entire community. A cake-cutting and wine-pouring ceremony preceded the fellowship, the food was brought ala "potluck" by CFC from the different parishes. We were so blessed to have Fr. Alan and Fr. Ferdie, two very Charismatic and supportive priests with us all throughout the day (they had been there since the morning for the Vocations Forum and Closing Mass of the Singles for Christ conference).
Ba ami nia maun-alin doben sira iha Timor Leste - Ami nia mensajem ba ita boot sira husi Saun Paulo nia surat ba Sarani sira iha Efeso 5:29-30:  
29Ema ida la hirus nia isin lolon, maibe nia fo han no tau matan ba nia nudar Kristu tau matan ba Kreda. 30Ita hotu Kristu nia isin lolon nia liman ain. 31 
 No moos: 
 19Koalia ba malu ho liafuan salmu nian, ho knananuk no dadolin santu nian, hodi hananu knananuk no salmu ba Na’i, hodi hahi Nia iha imi nia laran. 20Iha Na’i Jesus Kristu nia naran, fo agradese ba Aman Maromak tamba buat hotu. 21Haraik an ba malu ba tamba imi hamtauk Kristu. (Efeso 5: 19-21)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I Think About Susan Lemons' 4 R's of Homepreschooling

The term homepreschooling is not mine to claim. I first heard about it when Susan Lemons commented on my Wordpress blog. I was astounded that a complete stranger actually took the time to comment on one of my posts, and after I had read Susan's blog, I was actually honored that she did. Her blogsite has given me lots of information and encouragement towards making the decision to homeschool preschool.

In this post, I want to comment on the 4 R's of Homepreschooling as described by Susan. These are described in details in the links below (so I will not describe them anymore but provide a brief summary about them):

Susan encourages parents to help their children "grow strong, loving relationships—first with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and next within our families." I totally agree with this!

In our Catholic community, we encourage families to be rooted in Christ. I firmly believe in the concept that every home should be a domestic Church, and so we parents have a very important role to play. Especially the fathers, they become the "pastors" of the family. The mothers become the "light of the home" (among many other things!) I have my imperfections, believe me, TOO MANY for me to share here for now (count impatience, impulsiveness among them!), but I can say that I do my best to be the "light" in our home. It is a daily, sometimes seemingly losing, struggle, but with God and Mama Mary at my side, I know that I am doing the best that I can.

Susan recommends that every preschooler should have a regular daily routine to follow. She says: "A regular routine gives preschoolers security, and keeps them on an even keel emotionally." Being the mother of two young children, our preschooler Kuya (Tagalog for Big Brother) Tim and turning-one-year-old-next-month Rysse, I can testify to the fact that ESTABLISHING A ROUTINE is one of the keys to happier, healthier, and yes, even HOLIER, children. :) Of course, there are days when the routine isn't followed, and that is perfectly okay. (Though I do confess that I obsess about this sometimes! OC OC OC!) But overall, we are able to stick to a fairly routine daily life. (Though I don't know if this will still apply after next week, when we finally leave Timor Leste for a new mission in our beloved Philippines!)

Quoting from Susan's quote:
“When we instruct children in academic subject, or in swimming, or gymnastics, or ballet, at too early an age, we miseducate them; we put them at risk for short term stress and long term personality damage for no useful purpose. There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.”
-David Elkind, Mis education: Preschoolers at Risk
This is a great reminder to all parents everywhere, especially those with young children. Let us let our kids BE kids. Because before we know it, they will already be off to high school, hanging out with friends, preparing for college, looking for a job, getting married, having children of their own... LIFE IS SHORT. So let us enjoy it with our kids and let's let our kids enjoy themselves as well! They'll figure out this learning thing on their own and sometimes even shock us with how quickly they pick things up!

(Check out my photos here to see how Kuya Tim shocked the life out of me when he started writing his name, after I had asked one of his playmates to write her name. I knew she could because she'd been attending preschool/playgroup. Tim said "I can do that too!" Then I said, "No you can't. Mama hasn't taught you how yet." BUT then lo and behold, he starts writing the letter T all by himself! My mouth dropped open in disbelief and amazement! Thank You GOD!)

Reading Aloud
Here is what Susan Lemons has to say about this:

"One of the most important things you can do to help your preschooler learn is reading aloud to him.  When you read aloud to your child, you are teaching language, vocabulary, speech, pre-reading skills, pre-writing skills, and more.  Reading aloud also builds your child’s attention span, and of course, teaches him about the world." (More on Reading Aloud here.)

I myself grew up in a home where reading was encouraged. And I am deeply grateful to my parents for that. Although we were not read aloud to that much, the love of reading books, comics, magazines was instilled in us at a young age. Even before I read Susan's post about Reading Aloud, hubby and I had already been in the habit of reading aloud to the kids. It's always a fun, relaxing time for us all. Even 11-month old Rysse has her favorite books, one of which is "Baby's Peek-a-boo Book" from Sassy. She breaks out in smiles even before we turn the first page to read it.

Based on Susan's 4 R's, I'd say that overall, we're doing pretty okay with homepreschooling. Although it's been a long time since Tim has actually wanted to have some formal "learning" time, hubby and I can be assured that he (and Rysse too!) is learning through our everyday encounters (waking up time, prayertime, mealtimes, storytime, playtime, DVD time, helping with some of the chores time, etc etc). 

Indeed it is a HUGE blessing to be a missionary family because our mission office is also our mission house. So we can have more time for the kids than most parents do. However, we will be leaving Timor Leste for home soon, and it will be a whole different situation. We will have to commute to and from the mission office in Manila. We will have less time for the kids. More traffic to deal with. Etc etc. I only pray that our desire to homepreschool the kids will become a reality somehow despite the new challenges. After all, with God all things are possible right?!

In the meantime, hubby and I will make the most of our remaining days on mission to spend time with the kids, our co-missionaries and our community members, whom we have come to call "family away from family." It will be a challenge to take the next step God is calling us to, but with faith in His plans for us and our family (claiming Jeremiah 1: 29-31 here!) we know His love will see us through! :)
With our CFC Timor Leste Missionary Family :)
We will miss you Timor Leste! Ami sei hanoin loos imi!

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