Homeschool Portfolios : The Process and the Product

 

A  week or so ago, I had posted this photo on the Homeschoolers of the Philippines Facebook page.  Little did I know that it would end up as my being “MOST LIKED” post ever since setting this Homeschool FB Group early last year.

Thank you for the 202 likes on Homeschoolers of the Philippines FB page!
Thank you for the 202 likes on Homeschoolers of the Philippines FB page!

I had been summer cleaning lately, and decided to unearth these from storage boxes. I realized that this was like our HomesCools version of a “Trophy Cabinet”. I didn’t expect the overwhelming, positive feedback in seeing all this displayed in such a manner. But then again, like they say, “When the going gets tough, always look up. ” I love looking up at these and marveling at God’s faithfulness and the blessed opportunity to homeschool, and remembering the good and the bad days captured in every page of these binders. I also didn’t expect the flood of inquiries regarding ” portfolios and how to create them”. So I decided to just open the Trophy Cabinet of the Simpao HomesCool and share with you our portfolio experience through the years.

To date, we’ve done more that 50 quarterly porfolios for the four Simpao children. As mentioned, they’ve been recently displayed and arranged by child in one of our big shelves. I can’t wait to have unhurried time to look again at these, page by page.

From simple title pages to amazing works of Art
From simple title pages to amazing works of Art

 

Not all homeschoolers are required to present portfolios. However, I do see the immeasurable value of chronicling your journey in this manner. Some may opt for the traditional 2-3 ring binder, a clear file folder or a scrapbook. Others may do digital “electronic” or “e-porfolio.”

I was an independent homeschooler for around five years and so just kept our homeschool output in bins/ folders. I wasn’t keeping them for any requirement but I just knew it was worth keeping for a whole number of reasons.

As we opted to accredit with the Department of Education, I was faced with the humongous task of collating four years worth of “homeschooling” as requirement for validation tests (I don’t think this in required now) for my eldest who completed level 3 and 2nd son who competed level 1. Could you imagine my stress and horror at that time? As I was trying to beat the deadline, I kept asking myself, “Why or why, didn’t I ‘document’ our homeschooling work in an organized and timely manner?” During this time, we did everything the ‘hard’ way, or should I say that “hard copy” way? No digital reports yet. Projects, seatworks, tests, artworks, and printed photos were all in a giant 3 ring binder. Call it a CRASH course on making portofolios! And yes, I almost actually CRASHED due to fatigue, stress and exhaustion.

I truly praise God back then because He gave me a partner in crime. One who has doing a portfolio for six years (yes plus 2 years to my load!!!)worth of “homeschooling”,  my homeschooling BFF, Cielo Vilchez. That experience bonded us, I believe, for life!

Oh my, that experience brings so much laughter (and the never again tears) as we try to recall, those days of unearthing and filing work! And the most hilarious day was when we went to meet with the Dep-Ed officials with our trolleys of balikbayan boxes and suitcases of textbooks, workbooks, projects, folders and binders! Imagine having to ask two passionate, self-sacrifing mothers to defend that learning has indeed taken place as they’ve given up their lives to homeschool their children? It is surprising we didn’t bring our shotguns instead (Just kidding here)!

Part of the of my homeschool provider’s (The Master’s Academy) requirements is a regular portfolio review/assessment where the child will present what he has learned and applied the past quarter. As he/she presents, her projects are considered part of the “evidence” that indeed learning has transpired and the child was able to create some output as an application of his lessons per subject.

I have never attended any seminars in creating portfolios. I guess that CRASH course six years ago taught enough for me to survive and eventually enjoy quarterly portfolios for the years to come. Many more came as many more children came as well!

If we we’re not required to make a portfolio, would we still make one? We would probably still do but there would be no “external pressure or deadline” for which we are thankful to TMA for. We need that pressure, otherwise, just like any other scrapbook or family project, these  will just be shelved when Mommy teacher has more “free” time (which we never have!) to put them together. With a quarterly set up, it is actually the children who do the bulk of their portfolos. Teacher Mommy just guides them.

Let’s discuss the “basics” of porfolios in the form of questions.

What is a homeschooling portfolio?

It is a summary or collection of “learning” that has transpired in homeschooling as seen in: seat works, quizzes, tests, essays, and projects (where learned lessons are applied). The assumption here is that learning to some extent can be considered as “having transpired” as seen in these “evidences”. (So, it does not make sense for a parent to labor and lose sleep over “creating” his/ her student’s portfolio because it is not the parent’s work, effort or “learning” that is being assessed here, it is the child’s). Some regard portfolios as a way to record the student’s educational progress.

For those who need to present their portfolios, consultants who interview students don’t focus on “fact questions”, rather they give the students the opportunity to share what they have learned and to explain the ways in which they have applied these lessons in projects or even in real life. 

What do you need to create a portfolio (hard copy/electronic)?

  • 3 ring binder (have found this easiest to use for both young and older kids)
  • Subject dividers with labels – Let the kids label them!
  • 3 ring plastic jackets (bond size or A4)
  • 3 holed puncher
  • A cover page (could be done by the children) as title page
  • An easily accessible gadget to take photos during homeschool time
  • Homeschooling photos
  • A document/file that can showcase these photos (Pages, Powerpoint)
  • For those who have regular portfolio presentations: Laptop or flash drive and borrow your consultant’s laptop
  • Tests, worksheets,  essays, book reports, experiment reports, artwork, notebook or journal pages, tickets or programs to field trips, museums, plays and musicals etc.

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3 ring binders are the easiest to use as you can easily arrange and update as you go along.
3 ring binders are the easiest to use as you can easily arrange and update as you go along.

A subject may have 2-3 seat works, 2-3 tests/assessments and written work/project related to the lessons covered. Some projects can involve many subjects.

Here are some sample materials that you can you include,  Some may be added directly using a 3-holed puncher or you may opt to use plastic page protectors.

1. Tests/Quizzes/Seat works

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Some tests/ quizzes

2. Extraordinary Ways of Note-taking

Some interesting ways to take notes.
Some interesting ways to take notes.

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3. Travel Journals

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Traveling Paraphernalia

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4. Written Essays/ Poems/Stories

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Summary of Books Read

 

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Another way to summarize a book:)
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Poems of favorite things
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Creative Writing exercises

5. Charts/ Tables

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Chore Chart

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6. Special Projects

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"Jupiter News" - A newspaper project
“Jupiter News” – A newspaper project
Page 2 of the newspaper
Page 2 of the newspaper

7. Certificates/Awards

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How are portfolios divided?

A portfolio is divided into different subjects. It would be good to purchase or make “dividers “ using board paper or recycled paper products. Label these dividers. Most binders can hold 1-2 quarters.

Schedule wise, I prefer submitting and presenting on a quarterly (8-10 week) basis. I find that a quarter’s worth of lessons are just enough for the child to present in a smooth, relaxed and non-overwhelming manner.  There is just too much to present in 2 quarters, either the child is overwhelmed or there is not enough time to properly report about the lessons learned.

Portfolio reviews are good because it gives the child opportunity to speak, to summarize, to be confident in discussing and to sort of “tie up” the whole quarter together as he reports his past 8-10 week. Don’t they say that “learning” has indeed occurred when a student can “teach” back what he has learned?

Who does the portfolios?

The student.

Generally, younger children like preschool and levels 1, 2 will need some guidance and help in preparing their portfolios. Older children may also create e-portfolios alongside. Powerpoint/Pages can be used to document photos of experiments, lessons, field trips, travels and projects too complicated to bring to the review. This can be tied up with ART/ HELE in using a software to create presentations. Videos of PE, Music lessons, games or recitals can be inserted as well. The student may use his electronic portfolio as he presents his 3 ring binder portfolio.

Parents should refrain from “creating” their student’s portfolios. Smaller children may need help and we give it as we deem appropriate.

When do you do portfolios?

The key is to ready the binder/folder, dividers and plastic sheets so you can file as you go. Some however, may opt to put all output in like envelopes and just file all in one go. It really depends on what works for you. But for proper organization, portfolio material needs to be easily accessible and arranged in an orderly manner. There is nothing more frustrating that losing important material that documents the student’s progress!

I guess one  thing I  may have failed to do so was to to talk to children about portfolio making. Sorry!!! I think, they just learned the ropes as I guided them to build them through the years. Looking back, it would be good to explain your students a few “must knows” about portfolios 🙂

I really, really hope this helped.  Remember, when the going gets tough, always look UP!

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

 

 

Map-Making, Map-Making, Make Me a Map Part 2 : Let’s do it!

In part 1, I encouraged HomesCoolers to include Geography in daily HomesCooling lessons. In this post, I will share how to copy maps as they learn about their own country and the world.

Here are the maps which the kids have done:

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This was a three student project. It was borne out of our study of the Age of Exploration in World History.

 

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This was done when they boys were around 8 and 10 years old.

 

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This was an unplanned activity. As we tried to process the Mamasapano tragedy in Mindanao involving our Filipino countrymen, we found the need to review Geography again and understand the history of the Muslims in our country. This was done by Raya.

 

We stretched this activity by asking the children to feature one province they would like to visit and create a "brochure" for tourists:) Oh that was fun!  We want to go to Camiguin and Davao. Gino created the smaller map of the Mindanao region.
We stretched this activity by asking the children to feature one province they would like to visit and create a “brochure” for tourists:) Oh that was fun! We want to go to Camiguin and Davao. Gino created the smaller map of the Mindanao region.

 

Steps to copying, reducing or enlarging:

1. Use an old map or download and print the map you wish to copy/enlarge/reduce.

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Draw vertical and horizontal parallel lines (see how you can introduce Math concepts!). Create squares or rectangles ( more Math!).

 

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The task for this was to enlarge the Mindanao region. Draw lines to create one inch squares. Label the boxes -A1 meaning row A, column 1 to serve as a guide when you begin to draw your map. You can introduce or make use of multiplication in map enlargement.  The squares have to be enlarged twice or thrice ( depending on your desired size for your map). For this map, Gino  multiplied the sides of square by 2.

 

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The task was to “reduce” the Philippine map into a A3 paper. We opted to create rectangles using this old Philippine map. For reducing, you can make use of division.

 

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You can introduce the measurements in this activity and teach the children the proper use of rulers.

With boxes in your paper/ cartolina, it will be easier to copy the image as you copy in an orderly manner, using the boxes and their labels as guides.  The details of the forms of the islands, the presence of rivers, and other landforms can be copied as well.

All your students have to do is to also label the boxes in his paper (where he will draw the map from scratch) with the same labels on the map to be copied (A1, A2, A3, etc) .

Now you can start drawing!

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MapEnlargement27 With the box to box correspondence,, it will be easier to “map” out the map!

 

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Islands will be easier to draw in their proper locations.

 

Such projects cannot be accomplished in one sitting.  The world map was done by three students for around 2-3 weeks (as they worked on it around three times a week).  However, it is very good exercise to help children (and the teacher as well !)  familiarize (and not memorize) provinces and regions in our country and countries all over the world.  They can also map all the oceans and the continents easily.  Without knowing it, as they daily outline, color and add details, they are actually memorizing while having fun. You can continue to talk as they do these tasks, “Imagine what is it like to be a cartographer?”  or “Could you imagine how it was like when there were no maps?”  And try to listen to their answers!  We hope to make more maps, Luzon and Visayas are definitely in our bucket list.

Merry Map Making!

 

1 Chronicles 4:10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

Will you entrust your children to a teacher who says, Vigan is in “Longganisa”?

Oh yes, there are days when it seems like I left my teacher brain somewhere.  Answers to some questions seem to have been unearthed in a reflexive manner as shown in the title of this article. Yes, it’s true. It happened. I have 3 witnesses!

After telling a story set in Vigan (a city in Northern part of the country), one of my students asked, “Where is Vigan?” Without batting an eyelash and without shame, I blurted out “Longganisa”. Yes, I did. I wish you were right there in our HomesCool room to see their faces and listen to the burst of laughter.

Longganisa is a term used to describe a Filipino version for “flavored”  sausage.  And Vigan is known for these yummy sausages.  Vigan may be a type of longganisa but the answer should have been “Ilocos Sur”, a province in Northern Luzon.

Was is just a mix–up since the 2 words begin with the same syllable ? Was I hungry? Did I have Vigan longganiza for breakfast that morning? Was that the most associated word with Vigan at that very moment? I will never know.

HomesCooling will have days like this and you just have to laugh with it!

There was another time when my son simply asked, “Ma, what is “movie house” in Tagalog?”   and I answered with much confidence, “pi-ni-la-kang ta-bing”. It was a deep Filipino word, not usually used in everyday conversation.  In English, it’s like  I was just supposed to answer “cinema or theater” but then I said “silver screen”!!! My then 11-year old son had the strangest look. Wasn’t sure if he was more “freaked out” with my reply or if he was so scared of spelling it!

After trying to rush to complete requirements, my son, as he was answering a long test I prepared, asked , “Ma, were you asleep when you made this? “ Oh dear.

After many years, I have learned to be kinder to myself and allow these momentary short circuits to happen. And just smile and move on. I guess, having 4 multilevel kids with different textbooks and lessons can make ones’ brain konk out once in a while.

There are days when your students may feel “alone” because the teacher was just too busy to be consulted. Don’t fret. They can learn a thing or two from being in such a predicament.  We can’t be all that we want to be as a teacher and mother to our children.

I remember a seat work wherein instead of asking her teacher, my poor daughter wrote the words from a Beatles song, “Help I need somebody, Help not just anybody,”  complete with a drawing of a sad face on her Math worksheet.

Such occasional experiences may be funny but they may be windows of what’s really going on inside.  They may  mean that we are functioning on overdrive and need to rest or chill. There were times that I have had to disrupt a lesson that I was teaching due to fatigue and made this request, “ Kids, Mom is just too tired and needs to doze a bit.” (Of course, they happily accepted and knew then that 95% of the time, when I woke up, I would opt not to resume and call it a day.)

There was a tough season as a daughter to elderly parents a year or so ago. My dad was hospitalized for 5x in like 3 months. On one occasion, as we got home after Dad’s discharge, Mom had to be rushed to the ER!  Being the doctor of the family and  the  main “daughter” assigned to take care of basic needs of our elderly parents, that was really a very draining time.  I could not teach at home and would often leave assigned work  or just let kids watch educational videos.  One afternoon after being in the hospital all day after admitting Dad, I couldn’t find the strength to teach at all.  So I just asked my nine and eleven year old students, if they wanted to just pretend play and I was going to let them be surgeons for the day and teach them what it’s like to work in the hospital.   Below are photos of that super fun homeschooling time:

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I just had to teach something that I didn't nee any books or gadgets since I was just so tired.
I just had to teach something that I didn’t need any books or gadgets since I was just so tired.
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I taught the kids what happens inside the operating room. This was a case of a woman who needed to have surgery to remove a “mass” or “tumor” in her body . We even formed a lump from play dough to represent that removed part.

 

So do not worry. Do not beat yourself up on certain days when you can’t do what was originally planned.  Listen to your own body and  check your stress levels.  When you need to take it easy, simplify the lesson plans, and if you can, nap  to recharge.

Two of the four Simpao HomesCooled kids have moved on to regular schools and they are products of a decade of HomesCooling that had a lot of these kinds of days.  With 2 HomesCoolers left, there is less chaos in our HomesCooling schedule, lesson plans and HomesCooling rooms.  Hopefully there will be more order, less errors in “DIY tests”,  and correct answers from the teacher! But hey, the ones who have moved on have been awarded academic excellence awards together with character commendations recently so we must have done something right amidst those short circuits.  Praising God for how gracious He is indeed, working through our limitations and failures.

 

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything , with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

Genesis 2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

Credits to www.marketmanila.com/images for the longganisa image.

 

4 Washi Tape DIYs

WashiWashi03Okay, so I love washi tape, and I own tons of it. You can basically use it to decorate anything. Here are four simple ways how I use my washi tape! Try it!

1. Notebooks

I like to cover my notebooks with washi tape, its very easy and quick. You can easily decorate your notebooks with these designs!

This design is cute yet simple.
This design is cute yet simple.

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2. Borders and edges of furniture

Washi tape can bright up any piece of furniture in your room!

On my bed's side...
On my bed’s side..
On my desk shelf...
On my desk shelf…
On my drawers....
On my drawers….

3. Frames

You can use washi tape to act as a border of your frame!

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See the transformation!
Place it anywhere you like!
Place it anywhere you like!

 

4. Pencils

Use washi tape to make your pencils 100x cuter!

Just wrap the wash tape around your pencils!
Just wrap the wash tape around your pencils!

 

So that’s all for now! Hope you liked my ideas and use them! Bye, see you next time!

Proverbs 31:17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

Map-Making, Map-Making, Make Me a Map Part 1

As we started our HomesCool journey 13 years ago, I realized I had very limited knowledge in Geography.  It was never taken as a formal subject in elementary, high school or college. I remember only having a keen interest on it when we would travel.

I was then just as excited and interested as my preschool students to learn about Geography, stare at maps, spin the globe, and sing songs about continents and various regions. I guess, it was further fueled by  having three boys in our HomesCool. For some reason, boys, and I can say that for our three boys, gravitate more to maps and to Geography. If this difference in appreciation of Geography between genders interest you, kindly read further, “Why Do Boys Do Better Than Girls in the “Geo Bee”?”

After realizing how important it was to have a good grasp of geography for deeper appreciation of history, events, culture, etc, I really wondered why this was never seriously taught to me in grade school or even high school. I wondered why, instead of having to memorize all the provinces of the Philippines and their capitals, why didn’t we learn to be very familiar with our own geography? My husband, however,  has a better grasp of this subject despite the lack of formal lessons in formal schooling. This is because he just loved to look at maps and study them during his free time.

I hope to tackle this topic in 2 parts(haha, it may even stretch to 3!). I just can’t jump into sharing with you how we made maps because kids  have to see the value in Geography before they can “create or recreate” maps. They need to know the deeper reason of why they are studying this subject. For optimal learning, they need to have a bond with the map they are working on. That only happens when there is more to the map than just lines, grids and boundaries.  They should have stories, exciting stories. They should introduce people, their culture and way of life.

Oh, we’ve had so much fun tracking the journey of Bible greats like Moses and the Israelites,  explorers like Magellan and Christopher Columbus, missionaries such as Gladys Aylward, of vehicles like ship of Dr. Doolittle , or the hot air balloon in Around the World in 80 Days. We’ve tried to figure out where the Vikings and the first North American settlers passed! One exciting map was from the Metropolitan Museum of New York, which we used alongside a reader entitled,  “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”

Tied with their study on Social Studies, the Earth and its Grid, we had this simple activity from a Geography for kids activity book. It was to me the clearest way to shop how a map and the globe are one and the same, just different representations of the same thing.

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Make lines of the Earth’s grid (equator, latitude and longitude) on the outer cover of an orange using a good pentel pen. Using a knife or cutter, cut along the lines of longitude through and through. Cut through just enough to create a crevice on the equator.

 

So, how did we incorporate Geography and Map making into our HomesCool ?  Initially we focused on materials from Sonlight‘s  Geography’s Songs Kit and Apologia‘s Around the World in 180 Days.

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The Geography Songs kit tunes were catchy, and our kids loved them (though some information in our older version needed to be updated). Kids were truly able to memorize names of countries of the world arranged in regions.

Add to this, we purchased a good world map to display,  an atlas that they could hold and read like a book, and a globe to spin around! Through the years, and thankfully, these have gotten worn out and had to be replaced.  It there was a chance, we also got some puzzles of the Philippines and  the world.

As we incorporated Read-A-Louds (good  story or chapter books you read to the children) and their own Readers (assigned reading material for the student) and tackled World History twice a week, it became a habit to always imagine the setting of where the story is taking place. We eventually bring out the atlas, maps or globe (now you can do Google Earth/ Maps!) and check.  Some readers even provide their own, more specific (street) maps like this one from Oliver Twist.

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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Illustrated by Ian Andrew, published by DK

Map reading and making became a regular habit for us. I love these kinds of projects because they’re done in stages. This helps older children learn proper planning, patience and perseverance in completing a project. The joy in accomplishing such a project is also unmatched, as seen on the faces in the photo below.   I will just share some of the Simpao HomesCool maps through the years and, in a future post,  I will specifically take you through the steps on how to do them too 🙂  Hope this excites you to watch out for Part 2.

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Deuteronomy 10:11 “Go,” the LORD said to me, “and lead the people on their way, so that they may enter and possess the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” NIV

 

A Unit Study Inspired by “Roman Diary: The Journal of Iliona”

We love well written historical fiction.  Last quarter, Raya read,”Roman Diary: The Journal of Iliona, Young Slave of Mytilini, Captured and Sold as a Slave in Rome – AD 107” by Richard Platt. It was amazingly illustrated by David Parkins.

Iliona, the tween girl, was captured by pirates, orphaned, sold as a slave and separated from her brother.  Her day to day life and adventures are told in a fashion that takes back the reader 1900 years ago.

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To put things into perspective, we had to look at maps, research online and check our reference books.

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The Roman army was also full of Mathematical terms. Legion, centuries, cohorts all make up their army for defense.  Raya also learned the different percentages of the social classes of the people: slaves, freedmen, citizens and senators. So, I created some Math problems involving these.

Try to find parts of the story where you can introduce or extend Math lessons.
Try to find parts of the story where you can introduce or extend Math lessons.

 

To summarize how life was like for a slave girl, confined to her “master’s home”, Raya decided to create a “Roman Villa’.  As she worked on it using cardboard, cutter, brushes and acrylic paint, I continue talking about the Roman way of life (It was a lecture in disguise, actually.)

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She insisted on putting the tiles on piece at a time.
She insisted on putting the tiles one piece at a time.

 

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Oh no, the pool has a fish! Raya used her crafting skills to create this water-like finish:) 

 

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Top view

 

Raya loves to paint and create details,  I give her scrap material which she can use like this burlap packaging used for a gift we received.   She even put red beads inside one sack saying these were apples.  Most homes had their down domestic animals and vegetable garden.

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Front, Roman Villa

 

Back of villa with the domestic animals and vegetable garden
Back of villa with the domestic animals and vegetable garden

 

Without planning to be, this turned out to be a Unit Study.  Check this out why Unit Studies are good Benefits of Unit Studies from www.homeschool-your-boys.com!

I was so blessed with Raya’s determination and patience in putting this together. ( She loved making it so much that she ended up doing it during her free time.) Like mentioned in a previous article about Fun in HomesCooling,  a child learns more  when she is having fun. If she likes what she is doing, the more likely she will do an excellent job. This project was a testament to that!

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

How to Spot a HomesCooler !

HomesCoolers will definitely stand out  because we are alternative educators.  Despite being around our country for more than several decades,  HomesCooling is still a radical approach to educating children. After 15 years of HomesCooling,  let me share with you how to spot a HomesCooler and yes please appreciate them. They are treading through a very bold and daunting journey.

H – oarder!   Whether it be educational materials,  support groups,  activities for our students, teaching tips and advise from those who have gone ahead of us,  we love to Hoard! And sometimes, to a great fault. There is GIANT insecurity of not having what a traditional school can offer so we try to compensate, overcompensate. So you’ll always see us in bookstores (dropping by even if we don’t need anything), books fairs, “Book Sale” branches, searching online, etc. Of course, we  are limited by our financial budgets,  However, we sometimes try to rationalize purchasing “one more” thing by saying, we don’t a have huge tuition fee anyway. However the “Hoarder” in us will eventually calm down at some point.

O – verwhelmed.   This can happen several times a day which we can overcome as we go about our day.  However,  boulders of “Overwhelmed Feelings” can really railroad us for longer periods of time. Imagine taking care of all subjects while taking care of the home?  Imagine taking care ofALL subjects of MULTIPLE children and taking care of the home?  First time homeschoolers may be  more prone to this as they learn how to adjust and mix home life with education.  However, as time goes by and as more and more products of ones homesCooling surface, there is a switch from a negative kind of “Overwhelmed” to the positive kinds; “Overwhelmed with excitement, overwhelmed with joy, overwhelmed with ideas.” Beware she might just end up convincing you to HomesCool.

M– rs. Doubtfire.   This term came from a movie by Robin Williams.  Beginner HomesCoolers are also prone to a barrage of doubts.  “What am I doing?”, “”Can I really do this?”, “Will my children learn? ” , and “Am I destroying our children’s future” can actually set one into an avalanche of self-doubt. Doubts can either cripple us or make us humble and seek help. I have learned to commit our HomesCooling to the Lord and seek Him first.  I try to be quick to learn from others and to be willing to seek and avail of help.  Doubts can draw you to commit your family and your journey to God.

E -ager to Encourage.  I am a witness to this amazing transformation among HomesCoolers in this area.  A doubting teacher, through time and experience, begins to  willingly come alongside  and support others. HomesCoolers who meet other HomesCoolers is the one of the most wonderful fellowships ever as encouragement instantly overflows.

S -upport seeker. The Homeschoolers in the Philippines Facebook page, I set up a year ago, is the best proof of this. HomesCoolers are always in need of help in various forms. We are nearing the 9300 mark in membership!

C- haos Expert. This especially applies to those who have many students to teach. The more closely spaced the children are, the more chaos, and the more one becomes an expert to remain calm amidst so many things happening. I remember breastfeeding while teaching two preschooler and depending on my feet to reach stuff!  Calmness, one trait my close friends believe I possess, is borne out of years of homeschooling four children (and being the youngest of nine children, I guess).

O – bedient to the Calling.  HomesCooling is a calling. It all begins with that.  As new homesCoolers start their adventure, a lot of skepticism, criticism and opposition will come in many forms and various directions. However, if the calling is secure,  obedient HomesCoolers will definitely weather through, thrive, survive and flourish.

–  ccasionally Obsessed ( forgive us!).  Sometimes you may meet someone who is just  so into HomesCooling, and it just shows in every area of their lives. Well, HomesCooling is a lifestyle so that’s expected. So be gracious to those who can’t stop talking about it. Eventually, things will settle down at some point. Sometimes, it helps HomesCoolers to talk about it to destress.

L – lifelong Learner.  One of the best things about being a parent-teacher is “learning or relearning” alongside your children. I have become a passionate History (World and Philippine) reader, a multiple subject (including ART !) piano, baking, cooking, basic carpentry, Filipino games, volleyball teacher (and many other skills!) as a result of our HomeCooling. My love for reading has been re-ignited. I believe I have a become “better person” through the many lessons  I have had to learn and teach. HomesCoolers are definitely eager learners. It’s the only way we can infect our children with the passion to learn!

So there, HOMESCOOL tips on how to spot US.

 Deuteronomy 6:6-8  “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

Father’s Day Project

I wish a father could write this. Maybe one day I can invite my husband of 20 years and father for 16 years, Gilbert,  to write about how to make dads feel special on Father’s Day. Oh, we’ve all heard it again and again how men and women are wired differently, and so what may delight one, may not, the other.

But I guess we have shared “delights” and let me try to give you ideas :

  • Breakfast in bed is a good way to make a strong impact. This works for the usual, “earlier” riser wife. Make his favorite breakfast, set in a large tray or those “dine in bed” mini-table in a hotel room service fashion with some flowers. Involve the kids in preparation and bring it in with your kid/kids. If you need to wake up the kids, wake them for this! Daddies truly deserve the simple sacrifice!
  • Hand made cards with special messages. I’ve noticed that some teens, like my eldest, prefer digital cards or messages. He puts something together and say, “Check your email , Mom.” I guess what we can do is to give them reminders so they could prepare ahead. The younger ones still love to make cards and their personal messages are sweet.
  • If your husband likes massages, book his favorite therapist in advance. Add a foot spa or something!
  • As for store bought gifts. I have failed many times. After 20 years, I have yet to figure this out. But one thing I am learning is the process of getting to know each other is truly going to last a lifetime. If your husband is not one who will openly declare what he wants, one good tip, Gilbert has shared with me is to listen, and to listen well. Pay close attention and yes, ask relevant questions. Somewhere, somehow, you will be able to deduce a not necessarily expensive “tangible” item that will bring a smile from ear to ear. My advice, don’t give up. After 20 long years, I think I was able to give him my best tangible gift that he liked so much last April!

However, you can let your kids decide what to give Papa.  Don’t worry about whether he will like it        or not. It’s the child’s choice.  After all, it is not Happy Husband’s Day. Draw ideas from the kids and they can even use their own money/savings. It can even be a pooled gift from all the kids.

  • Let me share with you a  Father’s Day (or birthday ) project. We’ve done this twice. It can take a few days and so that’s why I am giving you lead time to do it.  We had a blast putting it together and it’s such a special time to look back at it from time to time.

One day,  I saw this children’s story book about fathers in the sale rack of a bookstore. It was beautifully written and illustrated. So warm and sweet. It focused on one very simple, common occurrence between fathers, and the children: being on Daddy’s shoulders.  The physical act was then carried on metaphorically through every page.

Up on Daddy's Shoulders by Matt Berry, illustrated by Lucy Corvino and Hans Wilhelm; Publisher: Scholastic Books
Up on Daddy’s Shoulders by Matt Berry, illustrated by Lucy Corvino and Hans Wilhelm; Publisher: Scholastic Books

 

Then a “light bulb moment” occurred, and there was no turning back. I thought to myself, what if I replace the faces of the photos in this book with the members of our family and have it colored Xeroxed and create a special, personalized book for Papa Gilbert. Oh I hope the author/illustrator won’t mind that I  used their material as a the backdrop of our gift.

Let me show you.

a.  Find that a good children’s story about Dads. Look for one that has good sized faces so it can be easily replaced. Sorry, I can’t teach you how to do this digitally but I am sure there is a way.  The book above was perfect but I am sure, there are other titles.

b.  Look at the orientation of the faces of the members of the family in this book  and try to look for hard copy photos (print if you need to) of each family member that can be pasted over the different faces of this book. Here are some examples of the pages of Gilbert’s book:

The challenge was who among the 4 gets to be on the page. Looking back, i should have placed a photo of all 4 kids with their Papa Gilbert.
The challenge was who among the 4 gets to be on the page. Looking back, I should have placed a photo of all 4 kids with their Papa Gilbert. But then I wanted a photo of a child on his shoulders for a full tie up with the title. Unfortunately though an Ironman Finisher, Gilbert can’t carry all four them on his shoulders!

 

Isn't this photo perfect for my basketball loving boys?
Isn’t this photo perfect for my basketball loving boys? See Marco with Bruno, the beagle.

 

Even Daddy Dony was an extra in this page. Isn't Raya so cool here?
Even Daddy Dony was an extra in this page. Isn’t Raya so cool here?

 

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You can embellishments ) in scrapbook lingo that means stickers, chipboard, dodles, etc) to perk the page up.
You can  add embellishments ( in scrapbook lingo that means stickers, chipboard, dodles, etc) to perk the page up. Do you like Gino’s hair?

 

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I super loved this page!

 

"Up on Daddy's shoulders, I can soar the hills and clouds."
“Up on Daddy’s shoulders, I can soar above the hills and the clouds.”

 

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Spot Mama Donna and Raya!

 

Mama Donna, Gino and his twin. wait!!!  We don't have twins. i think this was a favorite page!
Mama Donna, Gino and his twin, but wait!!! We don’t have twins. I think this was a favorite page!

 

So as you cut out faces and lay them out, add details. You can put some additional messages. Then  you can actually present this as the original copy and I am sure it would be truly special. However, since having 2 copies would be amazing. I decided to add a bit more effect and have the original pages color xeroxed in card stock paper.  I used card stock for longevity. Then we cut it to the desired size, and had it ring bound.  There are many ways other ways to bind the cards.

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Ok, you’ve got less than 4 weeks till Father’s Day 2015 here in the Philippines! Hope you find a special way to honor the fathers in your families.

Psalm 127:4-5 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Old Scrolls with a Secret Message: How HomesCool is that?

Oh my,  we  have  probably made so many  “old” scrolls and treasure maps as HomesCoolers! They’re just instant WINNERS for young children. Of course, you’ve got to create a setting to stir some excitement regarding the reasons behind such projects.  You can  easily find stories to set the stage for this or watch movies like maybe Indiana Jones ( the children friendly edition) or read material that include maps to treasure or scrolls with secret message. I particularly love stories from the Bible.

For our HomesCool, we had just finished a unit of how the Christian Bible was put together.  Of course, we had to discuss a lot of things first like how people began to write, or draw, what they used to create the figures or “letters”  and on what medium ( papyrus, clay, stone) to write on. For many years now, we’ve been using the Mystery of History for our World History and we are now in the 1600s!  (Imagine we began around 7000-10,000 BC??) and it chronicles the evolution of writing and many written works, one of which is the BIble.  For our 1500-1600s lessons, we learned of great men who fought to allow the “common man” to read and own a Bible: Martin Luther, John Wycliffe and William Tyndale.

Central material in our homeschooling. Using this for 10 years now and we are at Volume 3. snails pace but it works for us!
Central material in our homeschooling. Using this for 10 years now and we are at Volume 3. snails pace but it works for us!

 

To “vicariously” try to experience how it was to write messages prior to the the invention of mechanical movable  printing in the 1430s, I asked the children to make “hidden messages”.  Oh the passing of the Word of God during the 1500s  was exciting and dangerous.  It was possible that some had to write them and pass them around in secret. This made the kids excited and so working on this was really a breeze and fun!

But first, we had to create the “medium on which to write’! The Scroll!  So what makes a scroll look  real?  It has to be have the signs of “age” like discoloration, torn areas, and a rough, crumpled texture. So here is how to do it.

1) Choose a card stock paper or board paper in white/ beige range of colors. 12 x12 size or bigger is ideal since you may need to cut off the edges later for some dramatic effect.

2) Oh let the kids have fun : crumple and trample the paper. Pound it but don’t destroy it.

The crumpled, trampled sheets of 12x12 scrapbooking paper ( you can substitute with hard cartolina
The crumpled, trampled sheets of 12×12 scrapbooking paper ( you can substitute with hard carolina

 

3) Prepare some brown based hot tea. (Be careful with the kids around). I haven’t tried green tea on this so  I am not sure if this will create a similar effect. Let it cool.  Get an adequately sized tray or basin, where you can soak the crumpled paper for maybe 5 minutes.

Be careful with hot water when around children.
Be careful with hot water when around children.

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Don't oversoak since this may destroy your paper.
Don’t oversoak since this may destroy your paper.

 

4) Dry them under the sun. Make sure you put some paper weight on them on a windy day .

The wating begins. I love projects like this because it teaches patience!
The wating begins. I love projects like this because it teaches patience!
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Oh no, it rippled! But then we said, “But that makes it more real.” Could you imagine what the authentic scrolls had to weather through and how archaeologists have to be trained on carefully handling scrolls? Don’t you just love HomesCooling this way, when an “error” can be turned into a teaching opportunity?

Do they look authentic enough?

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And  for the exciting part! (  Looking back, we should have burned it first before the written message.)

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Safely, burn the edges with a tea light candle. Thinking again, I should have done this outdoors to be extremely safe.
Safely, burn the edges with a tea light candle. Thinking again, I should have done this outdoors to be extremely safe.

 

We got some “chalk” and started smudging to make it look more “dated” ! How fun is that!

We tied this activity with what we were studying in Christian Living/Bible subject, the  importance of God’s Word in a Christian’s life so the children memorized  the  Psalm 119:105  “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”   So  for a while, at that moment, I felt a deep, overwhelming gratitude ( and I am hoping my children felt that too) for the heroes who have gone before us to make sure that the Word is passed on.

So now we came to that point of what to write in our “old scroll”?

Will they draw symbols, will they put a treasure map?  As they were thinking, I tried to give them ideas ( hoping not to quash their ideas but trying to steer them to tie the whole UNIT of study together). I just said, “Imagine yourself as a child in your current age, a  thousand years ago . What message would you like to give to another child your age?  ”

That got them thinking.  Then I said, since it was a period of dangerous times, you need to send your message in a secret code! Then you hear the most coveted HomesCool response of “Ooooohhh, Ahhhh”!

So off they went on making symbols for each letter of the English alphabet. Oh my, I was floored seeing how detailed and patient they were in creating their “code”. While doing this, I tried to save them by suggesting, you can also draw like the Egyptians (thinking how tiring this must have been for my younger 9 year old) ! But they were having fun! Who gets tired anyway when you are having fun, right?

Raya tested it first. She is into calligraphy now but opted to use sign pens first., fearing that she may destroy the scroll with ink and a calligraphy nib.
Raya tested it first. She is into calligraphy now but opted to use sign pens first,  fearing that she may destroy the scroll with ink and a calligraphy nib.

 

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Raya added drama using her knitting needles!
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Gino fretted a bit because of the spaces and misalignment of his “sentence” .  So teacher Mama said. ” Back in those days, it’s possible they had different rules ( and mentioned how the other cultures like the Japanese read their text in a different direction) and what you may think isn’t right now, may be really ok back then.” I had to stop myself from going further….. “Beauty is in the eye of the……..” Sometimes I get carried away, you know?

 

Now, here is the secret code :

Raya's secret code and scroll
Raya’s secret code and scroll
Gino's  secret code and scroll
Gino’s secret code and scroll

Now,  can you decode their messages?  Let us know if you got it!  I have to really give it to Gino and Raya for their amazing determination and patience in completing this unforgettable scroll!  Clap, Clap, Clap! Take a bow, kids!

Psalm 119:105  Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

2 Timothy 3 :16 All Scripture is God breathed. It is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness.

For Mystery of History books, you may purchase them locally from Homeschooling Solutions, Inc. 

Extraordinary Book Reports: For the Win!

After more than a decade of homeschooling, one of most prized treasures we’ve found as a family is the wonderful world of literature, children’s literature in particular.  Oh my,  if only I can take a year long break and hide in an island, and devour all these amazing classics and new titles coming fresh from the publishing house!

Though I was a bookworm prior to homeschooling, I was a “textbookworm”.  I had no choice I guess. I was a nerd who eventually completed a medical degree. In the earlier years when our homes always had a designated library (Oh, God bless my Mom for sourcing those books, books and more books from garage sales), I gravitated to Science books.  It was there that my love for the Human Body/ Medicine was born.  In the early 80s,  I remember that 4-5 volume series where several pages were dedicated to an illness (definition, signs and symptoms, diagnosis and therapy).

A favorite set of books in elementary
A favorite set of books in elementary

I am so thankful that homeschooling opened the doors again for reading and this time, we are discovering so many well written and truly nurturing stories (both nonfiction and fiction) .   With 4 homeschooled children at one point, I was happily forced to read all their assigned or chosen “books” per quarter so I could properly help them understand and process the material.

Sad to say, I don’t have very fond memories of “book reports.” For one reason or another, back in high school, it really felt more like a required chore. I remember getting tips like buying the “abridged” versions of the assigned material just to “get it done and over with.” I do, however,  remember enjoying Little Prince, The Pearl and  The Catcher in the Rye but how I wish I read more during free time and summer!

But all is not lost!  Thank God for the wonders of our “brains”!  We can still catch up  whatever we may have failed to “enjoy” mentally earlier.  Maybe that’s why I may be “virtually living my reading childhood” with my homeschooled students and have found ways for them to truly devour and enjoy their books!

In my process of learning how to inspire reading, I’ve found a vast amount of resources and ideas! And I would like to share with you some of my children’s books reports (level 1-4)

 

This is Marco's Fact Book on planting rice, the main subject of this amazing book on hard work and perseverance; Li Lun by
This is Marco’s Fact Book on planting rice, the main subject of this amazing book on hard work, courage  and perseverance; Li Lun , Lad of Courage. For a rice dependent country like ours, I just knew we had to read this.

 

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At level 1, Raya created this “school house” type of book report from a box of Papa’s bike part! Her book was a Sonlight recommended title, The Year of Miss Agnes.

 

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You can add details like “Vocabulary, Lessons Learned, Characters and the like” around the project.

 

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You can definitely expand the lessons as the reading material unfolds. Here Raya learns about the story’s setting, Alaska and the way of life of people there. Inspired by parts of the story where they created clothing from animal skin/fur, I taught Raya to make a yarn “pompom” (the one she sees hanging in bonnets worn in winter cold weather).

 

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Raya turns the inside of the box into a classroom based on how it was described in the story. Maybe this is where Raya learned how to pay attention to details.

 

Another amazing Sonlight recommended chapter book, Grain of Rice.   We had a whole unit on rice (we just had to for obvious reasons) and eventually also cooked rice and ate it!
Another amazing Sonlight recommended chapter book, Grain of Rice. We had a whole unit on rice (we just had to for obvious reasons) and eventually also cooked rice and ate it!  You can expand the lessons as the story proceeds. For this one, we had a lot to deal with for Math: Measurement, Multiplication and even Compound Interest.

 

Mouse and Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. a character description by grade 1 Gino.
Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary. a character description by grade 1 Gino.

 

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For the book, Family Under the Bridge, Raya (at level 2) did a character study focusing on the changes in  the main character,  Armand Pouly.

 

Al Capone Shines My Shoes
Marco read  “Al Capone Does My Shirts ” and did a report by creating a “lap book” with the detailed map of Alcatraz Island and important facts. He eventually read book 2 and 3 during his free time.  Photo credited to  Starwoodquilter.blogspot.com. I will create a separate blog post on encouraging a reluctant reader.

 

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I encouraged this book because we had plans to visit Alcatraz after that quarter. Quite amazing experience to be able to tie everything with this visit. Would you believe Mama teacher only chanced upon the book while browsing in Fully Booked, read a few pages and thought it may interest Marco.

 

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Imagine having read an entire series based on this place and then actually being able visit it soon after? What a blessing indeed!

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Historical fiction books are cool because it allows the child to understand a whole lot about the past in a very interesting and exciting manner.

 

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Raya decided to recreate a Roman Villa set in the 200 A.D. While working on this, she had a chance to learn about the way of life of the Romans, particularly a slave girl named Iliona.

 

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For this book, The Wheel and the School, Raya created a wheel to illustrate the parts of the story and other fun facts.

 

You can also use Filipino Chapter books !
You can also use Filipino Chapter books !  You may check Adarna House  or author’s XiZug’s site for more titles.  Instead of having to make an essay, I asked Raya to orally discuss the story and why students should vote for Andro (in Tagalog). This also allows her to practice conversing and I can correct her pronunciation  and accentuation.

 

Or use Filipino/Social Studies material from Adarna House
Or use Filipino/Social Studies material from Adarna House

 

The category where this post belongs to is Books & Beyond because the experience becomes truly endless when you have read a  truly good book. Creative book reports help young children as they to learn from and live through  a well written story.  Let me leave with one of Raya’s Art work about reading. Happy book reporting!

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