Category Archives: Filipino Parenting

Developing Good Readers

“Ahiya, let’s play Jack en Poy to see who will read the book first!”

We were on our way to the local library to get the next installment to the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Both kids read the first three books (City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass) and now, they wanted to borrow the remaining three (City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, City of Heavenly Fire).

My 8-year old is already planning on how to solve the problem of who will get first dibs in the event that there is only one copy available. They agreed that the hand game is the best way to settle the problem.

The library had two copies of Book#5, but only one of Book #4, and no Book#6. They checked out the three books, and just for good measure, included a couple of graphic novels and a book that was in the library’s suggested readings. It was a long weekend afterall.

By the time we got home, Jack en Poy was shelved and a coin toss was now the preferred method to settle their book dilemma. Jack en Poy is fun and entertaining, but there is a lot at stake and I wouldn’t hear the end of it if one suspected the other of peeking and changing the hand gesture at the last moment. So, I fully supported the switch.

I was commissioned to toss the quarter, catch it, and then flip it on my hand. Heads would mean my 10-year old son reads it first.

Unfortunately for my daughter, she lost the coin toss. But fortunately for her, she didn’t have to wait very long. Her ahiya reads fast and was able to give her the book by lunchtime. By dinnertime, they were in their rooms with their own copy of the next book.

These strategies worked for me in encouraging my children to read:

  1. Set a time during the day when everyone just readsIMG_3472
  2. Visit the library to borrow and read booksIMG_4818
  3. Use books as prizesIMG_4687
  4. Make books accessible even in the car (in this case, a restaurant)IMG_4817
  5. Have audiobooks for books that might be too difficult to readIMG_3242
  6. Include reading in your bedtime ritualIMG_4825

Opportunity Cost

Opportunity Cost is one of the first economic principles that I learned in the university. As a freshman majoring in Business Economics, I felt smart understanding The Law of Diminishing Returns, Opportunity Cost, and ceteris paribus all within the first week of school. Interestingly, these are the only concepts I remember from my college degree after choosing to pursue preschool teaching as a profession.

In the university I learned that opportunity cost is not always a numeric value. It is the value of the foregone activity that is lost because you chose to do something else instead:  the opportunity cost of an action is the highest valued alternative to that action.

For me, the opportunity cost of exercising 1,000 calories away working out in the gym is watching TV in my jammies. On some days, lounging around the house has a higher value than going to the gym, and on those days, I stay home! The goal is to obviously engage in the activity that you value the most, and they can differ from day to day.

Summer just started and as a teacher, I am off from work. I can choose to work for extra pay if I wanted to. But should I?

The question I ask then is: What is the opportunity cost of teaching in the summer for extra pay?

The highest valued alternative to my working is engaging in fun projects (without interruption) with my children —going to the library, baking and cooking, gardening, walking to the park with friends, visiting museums, hiking, etc.

IMG_4563At the local library

IMG_4389At a nearby art museum

IMG_4403Sand dunes by the beach

IMG_4608Getting ideas from Ikea

IMG_3620Uninterrupted outdoor play

 

I would not earn extra money but by the end of the summer, I would have spent quality time with my growing kids. I could even take on some DIY projects that I otherwise would not have time for during the school year. After a quick consideration, it was a no-brainer.

For this summer, I simply value spending time with my children more. The opportunity of spending time with my children is priceless. Of course, I would have to cut back on spending and other unnecessary expenses, but I think in the end, it would be all worth it!

School Uniform

Unbelievable but true.  School starts soon.

A week ago, I went to Dennis to restock on school uniforms for my two very fast growing children.  I got to the store and had sticker shock!

$50 for one shift uniform?

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$30 for one pair of narrow wale corduroy plain pants?

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Unfortunately, we don’t have Divisoria or Kamuning where I can purchase tela (fabric).  Who am I kidding? Even if I found the exact material from Joanne’s Fabric, I won’t for the life of me, be able to sew a dress!

Where is a mananahi (seamstress) when you need one?!

My mom had a resident mananahi that came to our house in Manila in the summer.  She would stay with us for a week and sew piles of fabrics.  Aside from our school uniforms, my mom would have dresses, skirts, pajamas, curtains, bed sheets, pillowcases, comforters, and tablecloths made to her own specs.

Not once did I have to buy  ready-to-wear uniforms when I was in school.

Because sewing my children’s uniform is definitely out of the question, I know I would have to be smart and creative if I want to save money.

I checked my daughter’s first grade shift dress, and saw that there was a good 3 inches that I could take from the hem.    Now hemming, I know how to do.

So with a trusty steam iron, I was able to remove the mark from the old fold, and with a needle and blue thread, I was able to make the short uniform long!

IMG_1897The fold after I took the hem

IMG_1898With a steam iron, the fold is gone.

My son’s corduroy pants would undergo the same transformation.

So for this year, I only had to buy new PE shirts and fleece jackets.  If only I knew how to silkscreen and embroider the school’s logo, I would have saved myself another $150.

Ballet for Fun

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At 5 years old, my mom enrolled me in my first after-school class.

One day a week after school, I would change into my pink tights and black leotards on a bench by my school’s auditorium and eagerly wait for my ballet classes to begin.

This was long before iPods and compact sound system, so Ms. Nañas, my teacher, would haul her turntable, crates of vinyl records, and heavy speakers down the corridor and up the stage for her weekly classes.  I remember how she would mentally rehearse the routine at the corner of the stage and then gently put the needle on the record once she’s ready.

I pursued ballet on and off for 7 years. I got my pointe shoes at 9 when my calves and feet were strong enough to support my body when I stand on my toes.  I always felt proud and rewarded when asked during warm up exercises to stand at the end of the barre, because that meant that I was good enough to lead the barre exercises.

imagesI remember sewing the ribbons of my first ever pointes!

Today, I brought my daughter to her first ever ballet class.  I watched her from the big windows and hoped that she too, would enjoy the experience of performing in front of an audience.

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This is the first class that she requested to attend.  Truthfully, she could pursue this for as long as her schedule allows and for as long as she wants.

I was on and off with my ballet program because I spent my summer with my extended relatives, and my schedule was unpredictable.  But my mom would enroll me again after the summer break because she knew I enjoyed dancing ballet.

Like my mom, I would encourage and support my daughter’s interests.

And if my daughter decides at some point that this is no longer what she wants, I will make sure that she is leaving it for all the right reasons.

IMG_7523At 3, in a preschool dance class

A Good Preschool

So what makes a good preschool program?

1.   A school with teachers that treat each student with respect, and understands and appreciates the uniqueness of each child.

IMG_0359Keeping a watchful eye while a child builds with blocks

IMG_3337Allowing the child to experiment

2.  A school whose biggest asset are the teachers because they teach with intention and purpose.  

IMG_0292Sorting Shoes according to shoe closures:  laces, velcro, zipper, elastic

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Without teacher direction, a simple flower arrangement left on the counter inspired this clay creation

3.  A school with a principal/director who knows how to manage resources–teachers, materials, facilities, and parents.  The principal has the responsibility to hire and retain teachers.

This is the very basic; the core of a good school.

Once you have a list of schools that have all these qualities, then you can look at the program.

Where do you think your child will learn more and thrive?

In a child-centered program– Play-based, Project-Based, Bank Street, Reggio Emelia?

IMG_3232Diorama of a child’s bedroom

Or a teacher-directed program?  –think elementary school program but for little children, individual desks in rows, scheduled classes in reading, writing, math

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Does your child learn best by sitting on a chair reading quietly (Look for a more structured class that offers more teacher direction),

Or does he need to be move around and be active every few minutes? (Explore schools that allow children to move freely around the classroom)

Then, take into consideration your own goals.

Do you want your child to learn another language? (You need a language immersion program)

After careful research, you should be able to find a good school with little to no compromise needed.

My advice as a parent of young children myself: provide an environment that teaches life skills.

Preschool is the perfect opportunity for children to learn how to share, negotiate, explore, question, and experiment. I discovered that the older children get, the less tolerant they are of their peers who do not know how to be a team player.

Travel to Europe

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In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, suggests that for a partner to be a true partner, he must be treated as equal and capable.

imagesFor some wives, accepting that their husbands are capable of doing things around the house is difficult.  It is just not possible to delegate traditional responsibilities.

Some mothers can’t hand over parenting responsibilities because their way is the only way!  Everything is else is just sloppy.

It comes as no surprise then that children (and husbands) become highly dependent on the mom, and expect to be waited on hand and foot.

On the other hand, there are mothers who are eager to share the domestic responsibilities, but it is their partners who refuse to take them on.  Husbands are stuck in the gender-biased role of women being solely responsible in running the household.

Fortunately, my friends and I believe that our partners are equal and capable.  And our husbands, to their credit, have shown that they are more than capable!

A month ago, my friends and I met up in Europe.   We took a week off from work, left the kids with our husbands, flew to Amsterdam with a side trip to Antwerp.

IMG_0994Rijksmuseum, Museumplein, Amsterdam.

We were celebrating our friend’s wedding and we wanted to do it in a special way.  Since we no longer live in the same city, spending a week with each other is as special as it gets.

IMG_0963From Sydney, Lyon, Los Angeles.

_DSC1445With the bride at the Conservatorium, Amsterdam. Photo by CF.

The trip lived up to my expectations—good food, exceptional accommodations, excellent museums, but most of all, remarkable company.

IMG_0896Nuance. Duffel, Antwerp.

IMG_0832Envy. Amsterdam.

Image 1Josephine’s.  Antwerp.

Decades ago in the college cafeteria, we talked about philosophy classes, boys, and school orgs over Mongolian BBQ. Now in bars, we shared stories about our children, gossiped about ex-boyfriends, and discussed food and travel, all while drinking cocktails (or mocktails depending on who you ask).

IMG_0991Sir Albert Hotel, Amsterdam.

This reunion has been a long time coming for us that aside from soaking in the beauty of the place and admiring pieces of art, we chitchatted about everything—kamote, what meat to use in kare-kare, impromptu date in Baguio, first date in Union Square, fashion, packing, paddle brush, and the list goes on.

IMG_0817Self Portrait. Van Gough Museum, Amsterdam.

IMG_0966Veal Tartar with Poached Egg.  Conservatorium, Museumplein, Amsterdam.

IMG_0821Banana Hearts.  Flower Shop,  Amsterdam.

But this lovely reunion would not have been possible if my husband, actually, all our husbands, had not agreed to take on our household responsibilities.

For that, we will always be grateful!

Taking a week off meant that my husband had to make breakfast, drive the kids to school, and make dinner.  All these while doing his regular parenting responsibilities of preparing the kids’ lunches, picking them up from school, helping them with homework.  All tacked on to his regular work.

To all my Fuimos a Amsterdam friends, hooray for sharing domestic responsibilities and supportive husbands!  Next up, a two-week European vacation with the family!

Image 2The Philippine flag. Antwerp. Photo by ILDM

Homeworks and Tests

My first grade daughter casually told me over dinner that her unit test in Math is tomorrow.  She said that she was ready for it.

I asked her what she thought was challenging. She casually said —subtraction and telling time by quarter hour.  Since I check my daughter’s homework everyday, I know exactly what in subtraction trips her —it isn’t the process of taking away, but solving for the value of x (e.g. X-5 =2). In telling time, she reads 8:45 as 9:45 because the hour hand is closer to the next hour.

So after dinner, I made sample problems.  We sat together; she solved the problems. We were done in 15 minutes.

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I couldn’t help but think about how different the test culture is in her school compared to other schools.  Friends from the Philippines would tell me that when their children have exams, it is as if the parents are taking the exams as well.  The parents do not make plans other than spending countless hours preparing for the exam.

My daughter’s unit test is not even announced to parents, my guess is because the teachers do not want parents to drill their children.

At such a young age, tests are given to check the child’s mastery of the subject matter, and in effect, the teacher’s competency to teach. Cramming and drilling at this age to get a perfect score is just not going to work.

Can you imagine spending the whole day in school and coming home and doing more schoolwork?  What about the downtime?

IMG_0471A quick and simple project made after school

As a lower grade teacher myself, I tell the parents to alert me the moment that they find themselves spending a considerable amount of time teaching their children concepts that I should have taught in class. Because if they do, then it means that I was not effective and therefore, I need to re-teach the subject matter.

Homework that takes 2-3 hours to finish for an elementary school child means a) the child is highly distracted when doing the work and therefore, needs to learn to focus; or b) the child is not understanding the homework, and so the teacher needs to re-teach; or c) the teacher is trying to finish the curriculum and is leaving it up to the parents to complete it for them.

In my opinion, it is the primary responsibility of the teachers to impart the academic concept/skill to the children.  Sure, the parents can reinforce it, but the teaching falls squarely on the teachers’ shoulders.   It is after all, our job!

Audiobooks

When I taught first grade ten years ago, I had a Listening Center in my classroom.  I had a tape deck, 6 earphones, and multiple sets of first grade books in one cozy corner.

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I knew that a struggling reader would benefit from listening to an audio book.  As the story is read aloud, a struggling reader would be able to concentrate on making the story come to life without being bogged down with decoding words.

In a way, an audio book levels the field for all readers because struggling and advanced readers alike can listen together–something that would be impossible to do if an unskilled reader were left to read a challenging book on his own.

My children have listened to numerous audio books—Harry Potter, Percy Jackson series, Magic Tree House, The Inheritance Cycle, the list goes on.  Our very first audiobook was played in the car on our way to Disneyland.

randomhouseaudiobrisingr500The story in our CD deck

Although my children have always been confident readers, I found that listening to audiobooks made them even better readers, not to mention story writers.

My six-year old uses phrases like subtle whisper, frantically searching, and slow pace in her writing. These words I know she picked up from reading because we don’t use these words in our everyday conversation.

Not only does the audiobook help struggling readers, but also widens vocabulary.  My daughter listens and engages her older brother in discussions of books that she may not necessarily read on her own.   She now appreciates books that more savvy readers read.

I was worried that when they discovered audiobooks that they will stop reading on their own.  On the contrary, they developed an even more insatiable appetite to read independently.  Sometimes, they even choose to read books that they have already listened to because they like it so much.

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The best benefit of an audiobook for me is listening with my children.  Since we listen to the story in the car, we have mini book club discussions on our way to school.

I can even use the characters in the stories to stress a point when I am in my mommy-teacher moment like, “Remember, Galbatorix who made bad choices?  Tell me again the consequences of his actions?”

In a nutshell, listening to audio books can:

  1. help improve vocabulary
  2. allow a child to read beyond their reading level
  3. help their creativity in writing
  4. improve the ability to read aloud with expression

Reading for Kids

I am now writing in the library while my kids, 8 and 6,  are going crazy over the books that they can borrow.

They love books and take very good care of them, but their appetite to read is insatiable that if I were to buy every book that they fancied, we would quickly run out of space.

Instead we go to a public library to stock up on books.  I direct them to the children’s area, and recently, to the graphic novels section for their book selection;  I do not discourage them from reading books that are thick or have no pictures.

They choose books they can read by themselves, books that they want to be read aloud to them, and even books that are way too easy for them.

IMG_3452.JPGAt 18 months

It amazes me that they honestly derive pleasure from reading books because I was never that kind of a reader.  When I was in school, most of the books I read were assigned readings.

My children love reading books now because I made a conscious effort to promote reading.  My husband and I were determined to cultivate their love for reading.

Here are the reading strategies that worked for my family, I hope you will find them helpful:

1.  Start reading early and read often.  Yes, even if it is the same book over and over again (and, even if you think the child is not understanding the story).

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2.  Spend time in libraries. Borrow books that you think would interest them.  Do not veto a book just because you think it is too thick or too hard to understand.  Look for books with topics that appeal to them.

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3.  Give books as prizes.  It shows how much you, the parent, value reading.

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4.  Model reading.  A grown up has to model reading (in our case, my husband did).

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5.  Limit screen time.  Regulate watching TV and playing with video games.  And always have an abundant supply of books—chapter books, fiction, non-fiction, picture books, mystery, science, comics, etc.

6.  Listen to audio books.

Meal Plans

Báon is a Tagalog word that means food, or items packed, specifically for a trip.

Ang báon ko ay tinapay. (I brought bread.)  Nag-báon ako ng maraming libro.  (I packed a lot of books.)

It can also mean monetary allowance for a trip.

Magkano ang báon mo?  (How much money did you bring?)

Báon is also the word used to refer to food packed for school.

Anong gusto mong báon bukas?   (What snack/lunch do you want to bring to school tomorrow?

I pack my children’s snacks and lunches for school.  With the invention of Thermos and ice packs, there is really no reason for me to spend extra on hot lunches or salads at school.

Palagi silang may báon. (They always bring packed food.)

IMG_0127    IMG_0027Adobo wings

Occasionally, I would pre-order lunch for them in school, especially on sushi days.  But regularly, nag ba-báon sila (they bring packed food).

My children know what to expect for their báon.  I post the menu of the week on my refrigerator door for easy reference.

It is not always easy for me to follow through with my weekly menus, but when I do, I feel I am organized and in control.  I have less food waste, I have more time to do other things, and I don’t overspend on food.

Planning our weekly menu is a family activity.  My son would go through the recipe books I have, and then he would choose several dishes.  Usually, I would be able to cook his choices.

IMG_0016Bacon quiche from a recipe book

I would then buy all the ingredients and cook a week’s worth of food for báon and dinner. I would store them in leak-proof tempered glass containers so they can easily go in the microwave or oven.

My daughter would then decide on which days the food would be served. She would help write the menu.

IMG_0113Menu for this week

Something could definitely be said when all you have to do is take a couple of containers from the fridge and dinner is served.  You have more time to spend with the children.

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