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.
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.


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!


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.

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.

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.

MapMaking15 MapMaking36 MapMaking35 Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 12.32.37 PM



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.


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


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.)


RomanVilla06 RomanVilla07

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


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


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.

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?




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?


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.”



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.


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.


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!
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?



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


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.


Raya added drama using her knitting needles!
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.




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.


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


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).


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.


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.


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.


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

BookReports07 BookReports05


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.




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.



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!


Pretty Things in Raya’s Room

Mama Donna here. I asked Raya’s permission to enter her “room” .  Most often, as I drop by her room, I catch her creating something,  or I just see the finished product on display, or I find her “inspiring” her heart and mind with books, magazines or DIY/craft websites.

Created and hung 5 or so years ago.  It represents God's angel guarding her room.
Created and hung 5 or so years ago. It represents God’s angel guarding her room.


Are you ready to see pretty things?
Are you ready to see pretty things? (Raya was only five y.o)


Raya's Bulletin Board beside her door using cork board and chalkboard paint
Raya’s Bulletin Board beside her door using cork board and chalkboard paint


She did say that her room can get messy.  I say it’s a pretty kind of messy that feels like a breath of fresh air.   So let me show you several products of her room, the factory of pretty things.

Let me start with what she does  with canvas boards (available in any bookstore):

All girls love Instax!
All girls love Instax! Acrylic on canvas


Little girl peaking from a hot air ballon ( Gino at two y.o. called this Hot Bear Alloon!)
Little girl peaking from a hot air ballon ( Gino at two y.o. called this Hot Bear Alloon!), Acrylic


Inspired by a painting technique in one HomesCool Art lesson, Raya worked right away !
Inspired by a painting technique in one HomesCool Art lesson, Raya worked right away ! Acrylic


Raya read the book, "Shiloh" for her HomesCool Reading/Language Arts. It was a story of a boy and a beagle. We then had some lessons on how to draw a beagle and then she did this on her own.
Raya read the book, “Shiloh” for her HomesCool Reading/Language Arts. It was a story of a boy and a beagle. We then had some lessons on how to draw a beagle and then she did this on her own. Acrylic


This is no longer in her room. It was sold for a little boy's room in an art exhibit by L'arc En Ciel.
This is no longer in her room. It was sold for a little boy’s room in an art exhibit by L’arc En Ciel. Acrylic


This is the newest addition to her wall.
This is the newest addition to her wall. Paper cut outs pasted on canvas.

The one above came from a  room decor tutorial video from youtube.

A rose for Lola Emma's 80th is now in Lola's room
A rose for Lola Emma’s 80th is now in Lola’s room.


Mini Canvas with easel and paint pot
Can you spot the cap of a glue stick? Mini Canvas with easel and paint pot


Her doll's easel
Her doll’s easel


Spash lots of craft paint and add wooden letters
Splash lots of craft paint and add wooden letters.

Then there is also lot of sewing going on here:

Doll clothes (except the pants)


Pillow cases


Instax Case
The prettiest Instax case!


DIY stuff toys
DIY stuff toys


UP, UP, UP and AWAY! When Gino was two y.o., he called this Hot Bear Alloon!


Jumpers of a favorite friend
Jumper of a favorite friend


A DIY Rabbit names Puddles
A DIY Rabbit named Puddles


An apron for Tita Chel for Christmas
An apron for Tita Chel for Christmas


A gift for Papa
A gift for  Papa


More doll clothes, doll stuff
More doll clothes, doll stuff


And here are some of her sketches:



Sometimes she just wants to make something out of everyday stuff:



Doll accessories from small boxes, old DVD case, and lots of cardboard



Raya loves watermelons as decors. Inspired from a craft website, using rocks and acrylic paint
Raya loves watermelons as decors. Inspired from a craft website, using rocks and acrylic paint


As I look around Raya’ room, I see God’s blessing on her hands and her character. My prayer is that she will remain faithful  to Him and productive for His glory!

Proverbs 31:  13, 17-19 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.She sees that her trading is profitable,and her lamp does not go out at night.In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.


Be a Blessing!

Last year,  I was invited to speak in a homeschooling conference on the topic of “Conquering Homeschool Fatigue.”  As I was about to wrap up my preparation, God was quick to remind me of something very valuable .  I was reminded of this verse in Proverbs  11:15 , ” He who refreshes others will themselves be refreshed.”

It may seem quite ironic but truly the Word is true in this promise. Homeschooling will be tiring and draining if the direction is always inward. If all you’re in for is how to raise wonderful, smart and happy children, it is going to get tiring at some point.

As Christ’s followers, we desire to be part of the circle blessing not merely as recipients but also as givers. So we find opportunities in our homeschooling to bless others.  As early as toddlers and preschoolers, we can teach  the virtues of humility, compassion and  generosity. We can encourage ways  on how they can bring comfort and joy to others no matter how young our students are.

And as they say, “Charity begins at home.”  We then seek to extend the blessing to the one nearest: a sibling, a parent, a grandparent, a neighbor, a person in the hospital, a helper?  Who do you think needs encouragement ? Who do you think can you bless?

Blessings come in various forms such a commitment to pray  for a sick friend,  writing a get well soon card for someone in the hospital,   visiting a grandparent, or even just giving some cookies to a new neighbor.

We can incorporate this in our daily/weekly schedules. If you pray together as you begin homeschooling, then  have a short time discussing those who may need your prayers as a family. Write it down, if you have a  homeschooling prayer list.  Is anyone’s birthday coming up? Pray for that person.

As part of Language/ Creative Writing, you may challenge your students to write to their grandparents or some cousin who lives abroad.  For a coming birthday of someone you’d like to bless,  allot some time for Art to create cards.

In summary, here are some simple and doable examples :

1.  Card making  –  Make it your ART activity for the day  to make their own cards .

Card Making – One of our favorite Art activities


Tita Chel so happy with Marco's DIY birthday card.
Tita Chel so happy with Marco’s DIY birthday card.


Card with buttons and cloth
Card with buttons and cloth


"Thank you, Raya!"
“Thank you, Raya!”


For Lola LIssa and Lola Emma


“Turn Art to bless a HEART.”




Jesus is Born by Gino
Jesus is Born by Gino.


2. Making Gifts

If you have budding artists, you can encourage DIY gifts for Grandparents, Dads, or other loved ones. Raya loves to sew and paint:)  So for many years now, she has been giving hand made stuff and it has been really wonderful seeing the smiles as they unwrap their gifts. Gilbert and I have been recipients as well of this, from aprons to cross-stitched frames, to flower arrangements:)



My homeschooled niece Kaila has an amazing gift of paper folding (origami). She created a frame for Lola Emma using this amazing talent!


Raya’s secret Christmas gift to her parents.


3. Flower Arrangement –  Just google youtube videos on flower arranging for whatever flower you would like to do.

My parents are both in their 80s.  It has been  a difficult time health wise  and we have found ourselves in and out of the hospital for the past 2 or so years. Dad doesn’t engage much and prefers to sleep and lie down most of the time.  This is heartbreaking for Mom, his wife of 59 years!  So we all try to do our part to “cushion” the blow and yes, homeschooling is a great avenue to include your children in this endeavor.  For all their 59 years, we have witnessed, rain or shine, in good times and bad times, a bouquet of flowers from Dad  for Mom’s birthday, their wedding anniversary and Valentines. 🙂  For their 58th Wedding Anniversary and Valentine’s Day ( 7 weeks apart),  our homesCool decided to help Dad continue on with this lifetime promise — and included flower arranging in our Art/HELE activity. Oh it was pure joy. We sourced the flowers from Dangwa/ Alabang Market to save on cost.  Imagine for Mom’s 80th birthday, the entire clan attempted to give her 1000 roses  (some where in other forms like origami, paintings, printed on a dress or bag.)

Even the boys helped cut flowers and arrange in vases


Raya learned how to make a bouquet for Lola Emma and Lolo Dony’s 58th Wedding Anniversary.


“We have to help Lolo fulfill his promise to Lola!”


4. Going the extra mile for others

For her 80th birthday, Language Arts session was turned into Poetry Making for Lola Emma. They read the poem during her birthdday celebration.


Take a break from HomesCool and visit an elderly relative.  Here, I think, we also interviewed Owa about the Japanese War and how her family was spared from the rough times up north in Ilocos. We miss Owa, a constant source of stories who passed away last year.

The only Great Grandmother, Owa, my children had a chance to know and bond with. Miss you, Owa.
The only Great Grandmother, Owa, my children had a chance to know and bond with. Miss you, Owa.


5. Responding to people in need –

There will always be people in need around us.  And we can always find ways to help.    The Bible in Ephesians 2;10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  During the typhoon  Ondoy in 2009 when many areas in NCR and Central Luzon were flooded, we could not homeschool in a business-as-usual fashion.  We knew of  many evacuation centers near our home with Filipinos who will surely be blessed with warm, home cooked meals.  

What started as a one family and one kitchen effort became a community movement as more homes sent food and volunteers for repacking of warm meals wrapped in banana leaves.


The kids took their spots in the assembly line of making “binalot” with adobo and boiled egg with rice. On other days, it was lumpiang shanghai.




We just thought that maybe after days of probably “instant noodles”, we could “refresh” others with this warm, home cooked meal wrapped in banana leaves.


Kids packed, counted and labelled.


The "Binalot Movement" was so contagious, cousins and neighbors quickly came to help feed hundreds in evacuation centers.
The “Binalot Movement” was so contagious, cousins and neighbors quickly came to help feed hundreds in evacuation centers.


Typhoons will continue to come  so we try to do our part whenever we can .

Relief Goods
Relief Goods



Rallied kids and other children to make cards for the children of Ormoc for Christmas after Yolanda struck in 2013.


Inspirational books for the children of Ormoc. Kids helped wrap as well


God wants His children to love, bless and encourage one another. HomesCooling can provide many ways to teach this very fundamental foundational truth in life . So as  you teach, there are days when there will be a tug in your heart to do something for someone or for a family. Include your children in the process as you respond to this tug in your heart.   A time will come, you will be surprised when God will move your children’s hearts to bless someone.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Luke 6: 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.