homeschooling

[Homeschool Review Crew Review] If You Were Me and Lived In… Carole P. Roman Review

The If You Were Me and Lived in… series is a collection of books by Carole P. Roman that introduces the different cultures from around the world to its readers. She is an established author who has written an large collection of books. It is aimed for the younger set, from 4-9, but it is definitely not limited to that age group.

To say that these books piqued my interest is a bit of an understatement. I may or may not have whooped out loud when I received them in the mail. I will neither confirm or deny. But suffice to say that I have a very keen interest in these books.

I am the worst traveler in the world. I am severely scared of plane rides and I have vowed to never step onto a ship. When I’m in a different country, I stay close to the hotel and basically rely on my companions to do the adventuring and just kind of tag along. I’m terrible. But, I am determined not to pass my travel anxiety to my kids. This is why geography plays a big role in our daily lessons.

On South Korea

The first book we read was If You Were Me and Lived In… South Korea. H was particularly interested in this one, because she feels a strong connection to South Korea because of the food. She loves Korean food. While kids generally drag their parents to McDonald’s or some other fast food joint, H will do cartwheels just to eat at her favorite Korean restaurant.

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H zeroed in on the details given by the book about family life in South Korea. She was amused that their word for mom (omma) and dad (appa), which are very similar to the more familiar mama and papa. It kicked off a great conversation on how people can have a lot of things in common, even if they are different from each other.

To reinforce what we read in the book, we tried to play ddakji, which is a traditional Korean game using folded pieces of paper. It is similar to the game pogs, although H enjoyed the paper folding experience more than the actual game.

On India

The second book we read was If You Were Me and Lived In… India. When I had the chance to choose which books to review from the collection, I picked India because I thought it would be a fun lesson to conduct. India has such colorful traditions and is so steeped in history that it would be hard to distill everything to make it palatable for a five-year old and a three-year old.

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I was ready to talk about the Taj Mahal and Holi and was very excited to show the kids pictures I pulled from the internet (“Gooble”, as H says.) The book talked about cricket, the sport, and how popular it is in India. When the kids heard the word “cricket”, they immediately associated it with the insect. We ended up using the book as a takeoff point to talk about the animals in India. I’m always so amused at how lessons can take such unexpected turns.

On China

If You Were Me and Lived In… China rounded out lessons with these books. Coincidentally, I was just cleaning out some drawers and found some mementos from earlier travels. I found a few coins and some refrigerator magnets that made for great visual aids when we read the book.

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The book on China was unique because it featured an actual picture of the Great Wall of China in addition to the usual illustrations. The kids were very curious about the wall so we spent some time learning more about it together.

I went to China when I was younger and even got to see one of the terracotta soldiers the book talked about. I told them it was a lot bigger than I expected. The kids were more invested in my story than they usually were. I suppose it’s because they had just read about it in a book, so it made it more magical.

On the Series

The books follow a general formula. It first introduces the physical aspect of the country, showing the shape of the country and its position on the earth. It shows a glimpse of everyday life, like the common names of people and what they eat. The books also mention famous landmarks, like the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.

I like that the books include proper pronunciations of the words written in the local language of the country being discussed. It’s such a small detail, but I thought it was very respectful of the culture and also very considerate for the one reading.

It was also nice that the book discussed these countries in the modern setting, since most books I’ve encountered usually dwell too long on the history of the country. While the past is interesting, it’s also important for books to make the point that these countries have developed and modernized as well.

These books are a great addition to any library and I would definitely be looking into getting some more. They are quick reads but packed with sharp details that make each country come alive for kids.

Find Carole P. Roman on social media:

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parenting · travels

Grass Hunting: Part 3

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City dwellers like me have to go through great lengths to experience the outside. We’ve been grass hunting because I want my kids to grow up with actual playtime rather than the playtime you get from a screen.

My husband, Lawrence, had a work trip to Clark this week and the whole family joined him. Clark is in Pampanga, about two hours away from Manila. It used to be a US Air Force base but is now redeveloped to be a hub for business and leisure.

We stayed at Quest Hotel, which is nothing spectacular. It’s an old hotel that is showing its age despite being well-maintained, but they make up for it by providing really good service.

But where the hotel truly shines for me is that right behind it is the most massive field I have ever seen in my life. It’s called the Parade Grounds and it is used for sporting events. It has a few soccer nets and a rubberized jogging path traces the circumference of the field. We saw a few bazaar booths in the distance, but we didn’t really visit them.

The kids had a grand time running aimlessly and chasing the birds. It came to a point where R got too tired to run back to us. He stopped and cried, “it’s too hard!” I had to go to him and pick him up. His back was sweaty and his skin warm from the sun. He turns to me red-faced and says, “thanks, mama.”

I didn’t think my heart could contain the Parade Grounds, the sun, the sky, and the whole of the outside universe at that time.

 

personal

To My Son, I Already Hate Your First Girlfriend

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I love you so much, Rafiki. Happy birthday.

parenting

Navigating the Rapids of Parenting Review (Parenting Made Practical Review)

When I heard that there was a chance to review something called the Navigating the Rapids of Parenting, I jumped at the chance. First, because is there another metaphor that perfectly captures raising tiny humans? It does feel like being swept away by water sometimes. Also, did I mention that I have a huge fear of boats, boat-ish and boat-like vessels? For some people, parenting is instinctive. For me, it often feels like I’m flailing around in the void. I’m happy to receive any help I can get.

Parenting Made Practical goal is to raise “obedient, respectful, and responsible” children.

The video is by Parenting Made Practical and led by parent-educators Joey and Carla Link. Their expertise stems from 30 years of experience. It examines the different stages of parenting, from babyhood all the way up to the college years.

The video is chock full of information about the phases kids and their parents go through. It is similar to other parenting videos or books in that it goes into detail about the whys and whens of typical behaviors at each stage. What stood out for me the most though is that the video makes the point that some behavior issues take years to work through.

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H is turning six next month. Already, we can feel like she’s saying goodbye to her baby-ness.

In the first part of the video, the focus on young children and the expectations of their behaviors. In our case, we have a very clear picture of  how we want H to behave. Of course there are little details, like asking to be excused before standing up from meal or learning how to share her toys without grumbling. But, our goal for her at this stage in life is distilled into one rule: do unto others what you want them to unto you.

The video goes on to talk about how important it is to have independent thinkers, which I wholeheartedly agree with. I’ll be a parent forever, but my child is only a child for a short time. The things I teach my children should allow them to think for themselves. Hopefully, the way we raise them now will lead them to making the right choices in the future.

Parenting videos are tricky, since what counts as gold for one can be eyeroll-inducing for another. There are just so many schools of thought when it comes to parenting that it’s hard to wade through the information. But this particular video has such sincere, practical advice it’s hard to disagree with. Please note though that the video does make use of passages from the Bible when making certain points.

The video itself is well-made. You can tell that this was not a haphazard production. The sound quality is good and the visuals are not distracting. The pace is just right, so that you don’t get lost in unnecessary examples of ramblings. You get what you came for when you watch this video.

All in all, Navigating the Rapids of Parenting is a good purchase for those who are looking for guidance (or even reassurance) when it comes to parenting their kids. It’s a good purchase for families with younger kids since it gives you the advantage of knowing things before it actually happens. For those with older kids, the company also has other products like Dating, Courting, & Choosing a Mate… What Works?

To learn more about the products and Parenting Made Practical, you can connect with them through their social media accounts:

 

 

Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}

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personal

Mom’s Tired

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We all know the joke: moms will only get to rest when their kids are off to college. Cue the laugh track. Years and years ago, before I had kids, or married, or even engaged. I met someone who told me that parenting is a 24/7 job, with no holidays, and no sick days. I kind of rolled my eyes at it, because that’s impossible right? Surely, that was an exaggeration. Annnnnnd…. cue the laugh track again.

My first hint that it was true was when I was cutting the baby’s fingernails at 3am because that was the only time she wouldn’t squirm. It was confirmed countless times since then — when I was at a meeting, sneakily texting asking if the kids have eaten. Also, when I stayed up all night, researching schools and making the budget and scheduling their extracurricular classes. Even when somebody else takes care of them, it’s impossible to turn off being a mom.

These past couple of weeks have been overwhelming. I’ve done nothing extraordinary. I certainly don’t need to do anything that others don’t do, but why do I feel so tired?

Moms of the internet, do you have any tips for me?

 

homeschooling

Homeschool Review: The Art of Cursive

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This is my usual handwriting. I am a huge fan of cursive.

I went to school at a Catholic school that required us to learn a particular kind of penmanship. It’s so distinct that alumna of the school can spot each other just from our handwriting alone. Cursive was so important in my education — the teachers would not check your papers if you didn’t use the required handwriting — that I am floored to learn that some schools don’t even bother teaching penmanship anymore.

Fortunately, this kind of snub is not absolute. I was recently given the chance to view the CursiveLogic Online Seminar on how to teach cursive. My kids are lucky, because my idea of penmanship class is to have nuns hovering over me, barking out, “pointier, pointier!”

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The CursiveLogic Online Seminar is a 48-minute long video that teaches practical techniques on how to teach cursive to children,

This video by CursiveLogic is presented by Linda Shrewbury and goes through practical methods on how to teach penmanship to students. The video is a complement to the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack, which contains a 112-page workbook divided into 10 lessons. The company also offers the Art of Cursive, a book for older students who want to learn, or improve, their cursive handwriting.

 

The method makes use of a multi-sensory approach to teaching writing.

After watching the video, a big takeaway for me is that certain letters have similar ways of being written out. Using the CursiveLogic method, the letters are grouped by shape and connected by letter strings.

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The orange color is not a random. Color is used to help students remember the lesson.

For example, the letters A, C, and D have similar oval shapes. Teaching these letters as a group makes it easier for the child to grasp. It’s simple and logical and a complete eye-opening experience for me.

My kids are very young so we’re at the early stages of writing. H is working on improving accuracy and neatness while R is working on his grip. When teaching them, I’ve always introduced the letters sequentially following the alphabet. Now, I realize that there’s really no need to do it that way. It makes more sense to introduce by similar shape, even when working on print letters. Thanks to this video, I’ve restructured our lessons to make use of these logical groupings. Also, “over, back-trace” has become a staple chant around the house.

Another benefit to using this grouping system is that the kids are able to practice the same movement even when working on different letters. For instance, when they write “C”, they are following the same shape as “A”. They are using the same strokes and patterns. It works to reinforce knowledge. When they get better at writing one letter, they get better at both!

Another technique used by CursiveLogic is the use of multi-sensory tools like color, verbal, and movement to emphasize the lessons. For example, the video uses “over, back-trace” as a chant to help kids remember what to do. This is particularly helpful for younger children, who might find the repetitiveness of handwriting practice a chore.

I mainly use the Montessori method when teaching the kids. Interestingly, cursive letters are introduced first in Montessori. The reasoning behind this is that kids tend to scribble first. It’s more natural for them to use connected letters that use the spacing needed in print letters.

Using the techniques taught by CursiveLogic reinforces this idea that learning how to write should cater to how the mind processes things naturally. In many ways, CursiveLogic lives out the expectations set up by its name. It truly is logical. This smart, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that approach makes teaching penmanship much, much easier.

You can connect with CursiveLogic’s Facebook page here. In addition, if you are interested in trying out this method, CursiveLogic is offering a 20% discount on the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack this month. It features access to the webinar and one workbook. Please use the code CREW2018 upon checkout.

 

 

 

parenting

Grass Hunting (Part 2)

As I mentioned earlier, grass is something that we actively search for. We tried the park at the Ayala Triangle, which is great. But, it is impossible to get to on weekdays because of the traffic.

We tried the PhilSports Arena (formerly Ultra) to see if the kids will like it. I thought that they could run around the track. I didn’t expect that there was a large expanse of grass right in the middle.

It was clean — no trash, cigarette butts, or pet poop, and it was pretty big. Definitely enough space to run around. I don’t think you can whip out a blanket and have a picnic, but it’s perfect for little kids with lots of energy.

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There are sand pits that are used for the long jumps. I did track and field when I was high school so I taught the kids a few tricks.

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There are lanes designated for casual runners so the athletes aren’t disturbed. Parking is a bit difficult because there aren’t a lot of spaces available.

But, those are small inconveniences to bear. In exchange, you get to see professional athletes train. There’s something about seeing all those jerseys emblazoned with the word “Philippines” that makes you want to run harder. The kids were in awe watching them train. Feeling inspired, H copied them too. Look at his form!

Philsports Arena is located at Capt. Henry P. Javier, Pasig, Metro Manila. The track is open to the public for a small fee. Php35 pesos for adults, while kids get in for free.

homeschooling

UltraKey Bytes of Learning Review

Since I am a writer, I am pretty fast at typing. But, I confess, I actually don’t type properly. My fingers are all over the place. When there was a chance to review UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning, I was pretty pleased. Not for myself — I’m a dinosaur and set in my ways. I wanted H to be exposed to using the keyboard properly.

A few caveats before anything: first, H is only five. We used this program with the idea of exposure rather than mastery. Second, H is only five. We are still learning how to spell so typing is a definite challenge for her. Third, she’s only five.

On UltraKey Bytes of Learning

UltraKey Online Family Edition
Want to learn how to type better? Look no further than this product!

The program is a comprehensive lesson on using the keyboard properly. It covers the basics such as posture and finger positions to mastery exercises. There are 12 lessons in the program and primarily uses video to teach. The recommended starting age is eight, although it can be used by younger children, as in our case.

Bytes of Learning lets you set up an account with several users, making it available for different family members. Each user can customize the settings, such as being able to use the backspace function or how to move from one lesson to another.

 

On Our Positive Impressions

One of the best things that I liked about Bytes of Learning is that it is self-paced. This makes it more flexible, allowing my daughter to use it even though she’s about three years off the recommended age. That was really impressive to me — what I thought would be a disadvantage for her turned out to be a non-issue.

H was able to enjoy the program, even though she was not the intended audience. She was able to sit through and learn from the videos. The most specific example is the one of the first ones, which is the video on posture. H diligently followed, because the instructions were clear and concise. The graphics complemented the audio and that allowed her to see what she should do.

Another thing that I liked from Bytes of Learning is that the challenges has a logical progression. You first had to learn individual letters and then words, and then sentences. H was able to use the proper keystrokes for the letters and some words. Sentences were, not surprisingly too advanced for her. But gosh, I was so proud to see her even try.

There was another benefit to using Bytes of Learning that I didn’t anticipate. A lot of the activities or games had H copying words she saw on the screen. Since she was sounding it out as she was copying, H’s spelling and reading skills were practiced as well.

On The Graphics

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The interface is easy to use because of the clear icons. 

The graphics has a throwback feel to it. The colors shun the minimalist, subdued shades favored by recent trends. The smiling computer character also reminds me so much of Clippy, the helpful paper clip from the early version of Microsoft Word. By nature, I resist change to I was very much charmed by it.

But, aesthetics are only secondary to how effective the interface is. When it comes to that, I’m going to again emphasize that my daughter is — pop quiz! how old? — and she was able to navigate the program easily. The icons are front and center and easily identifiable. So easy that even a — one more time for the people in the back — five year old can handle it.

We did experience a few issues the first time we tried the product. The audio kept on repeating itself in some sections. We had to reload the page each time that happened to continue using the program. However, that only happened on one day so it could either have been problems with our internet (We’re from the Philippines. Ranked as having one of the slowest internet in Asia. Yay, us.) or a temporary glitch. It was a one-day thing so it’s hardly worth mentioning.

I would say that Bytes of Learning is a welcome addition to a family’s must-try educational sites. Even kids younger than the recommended age can benefit from it. Knowing how to use the keyboard properly is considered a basic skill, since almost everything is done using computers. Bytes of Learning is a straightforward, no-fuss way to develop or improve this skill.

Bytes of Learning on Social Media

Find their Facebook page here.

2 Click Here to Read More Reviews 2016_zpsmmmkbumm

 

homeschooling · parenting

Interactive Fun at PlayLab Cebu

Our family spent about two years living in Cebu because of my husband’s work. Although it’s been about four years since we moved back to Luzon, Cebu will always be close to our hearts.

We jump at the chance to visit whenever we can. Even H, who was barely three when we left, gets giddy with excitement. Cebu is still home to her.

Fortunately, we were able to make the trip recently. We stayed at Summit Hotel, a relatively new location for this established hotel chain. The hotel itself wasn’t anything special and it featured a disturbing trend — doorless bathrooms! Why? Although the shower and toilet stalls had cubicle doors, I would still rather have a real one than I can close behind me.

But, whatever weird taste the room design left in my mouth was negated by the fact that Summit was right beside PlayLab,  Touted as the first digital playground in the Philippines, it features 14 exhibits where children can use technology in interactive and creative ways.

The first thing you see when you enter is this giant screen with lights. The lights react to your movements. This must have entertained the kids for a whole hour.

In this activity, you transform into different animals. I think the animals are based off the animals in the Chinese calendar. H was obviously ticked at the thought of being an ox.

R is trying to target the trash with a ball. The trash is supposed to explode in a cloud of bubbles, but he wasn’t strong enough to throw it with enough force. He tried to remedy that to no avail. His frustration was palpable.

A lot of the exhibits had the same concept. Design something and then watch it on a screen. Here, we designed butterflies. They also had one where you can build tangram rockets and launch it into space. In another exhibit, you can scan pictures of animals you color and they run around a forest.

The was R scrambles to try to catch up with his sister cracks me up.

The kids obviously had a grand time. They liked it so much that we returned the following day. Although since that was a Saturday the place was packed. We didn’t get to enjoy the exhibits as much. Friendly advice: if you’re going to go, better go on a weekday when the crowds are more manageable.

PlayLab Cebu is open daily from 10am to 9pm at The Greens, Level 1, Robinsons Galleria Cebu. Entrance fees are P200 per person for two hours during weekdays and P250 per person for two hours on weekends.

 

 

parenting

Grass Hunting (Part 1)

One of the first things people learn about the Philippines is that we are an agricultural country. As a student, I remember memorizing the main crop products of each region. Bicol grew abaca and Bacolod was known for sugar cane. When in doubt, you can always say copra since those are grown everywhere. In short, land is our lifeline. Filipinos should love earth and soil and plants.

But, the cities are starved when it comes to green, living spaces. We live in a condo and we are about five minutes away from a mall in every direction. When it comes to parks though? Good luck with that.

Lately, I’ve been on a mission to find places for them to experience nature. I’ve set the bar pretty low. I’m not looking for wildlife parks or forests. I just want a place where they can run without mom yelling at them to slow down lest they hit their heads in the concrete.

Our first stop was the park at The Ayala Triangle in Makati. It’s close enough to our place, especially on a Sunday when traffic is more forgiving. Parking is easy, because there’s paid parking right beside it. Entrance is technically free, but there are so many food options it’s almost impossible to walk away without buying anything.

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The grounds are well-maintained. But, pets are allowed in the area so you have to be mindful not to step on dog/cat poop.

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Lots of space for running and dancing. Security was also pretty tight. There were several guards stationed at the park and they were quite vigilant.

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Large trees mean that there are lots of interesting things to fixate on like sticks.

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I love seeing them come alive when they have space to run. Seeing them curious and carefree makes me want to pick up a sign and lead a rally, “Less malls, more parks!”