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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Racism: an Inevitable Conversation in any Mixed-Race Family

Racism is a difficult conversation, but one that I have discovered is inevitable in a mixed-race family living ANYWHERE.


My birth certificate has my race written down as BROWN. What race, seriously, would that be?




I don't know but I am darker than both my parents and my "brown" look caused me a few growing pains while growing up in Asia. My "white" grandmother once looked at me, smirked, and loudly agreed with my aunt that I was, "Qué fea!" (How ugly!) My "yellow" grandmother, on the other hand, never favored me because I didn't have the porcelain skin of a China Doll. My own mother noted I had the face and coloring of the native Filipinos in her old prints, a compliment coming from an art collector (I guess). Growing up in the Philippines and Hong Kong, the former with their colonial mentality and the latter with an abundance of "brown" domestic helpers, I guess I always felt a little insecure about my color and sometimes inferior to family and friends who were fairer. As I lived away from Asia though, my coloring really grew on me. I learned to love my skin and even prefer it now when it darkens in the summer.





I am now married to a "white" American and our son, although fairer than both of us, has Asian coloring. We live in Small Town, USA and most of our friends and people we interact with are White. Who says that children don't see colour? They are wrong. When he was two, my son asked me: "Am I White, Mama? Like Daddy? Why do I have to look like you, Mama?" His questions both shocked and hurt me a little but I understood where my son was coming from. He just wanted to fit in and, obviously, his Mama is not White.



I hope my son learns to disregard the color of other people's skin. I hope my son will be comfortable in his own skin sooner than I was. I hope he understands that what matters most is inside each and everyone of us. And at the end of each day, I look at my son with big black eyes just like mine and whisper: "You are beautiful just as you are."


Some links to share:
Mixed Nation - a Facebook page full of photos celebrating people of mixed races
Mixed Blood Exhibit - I'm proud to say that a cousin curated this show in China.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Top 10 Things to Do to Turn Your Child's Passion into Talent

People keep saying how talented my 7 year old son is. If they only knew how much that "talent" takes! I've heard the words "gifted" and "talented", and even "prodigy" too. These words genuinely embarrass me (especially the latter), and yet they make me proud at the same time because I know the amount of sweat and practice it takes for him to perform. I certainly don't think my son is a prodigy and I also don't think he is profoundly gifted or talented. Instead, my husband and I have helped him develop his passions into talents through lots and lots of work.

What are the 10 things you can do for your young child?

1.    Recognize your child's passion very early. What does your child love to do all the time? What does your child naturally do well?

      Our son used to wake me up with a drum roll on my head when he was a baby. Here he is drumming on his lunch box at 3 years old. This was natural for him to do and he did this ALL the time.



He also loved role playing and dress up since he started talking. Here are photos of him when he was 4 years old.

as the Mad Hatter
as Edward Scissorhands
Today, his passions are drumming and acting. Surprise, Surprise! 

2. Find ways to support your child's passion at home.

Provide tools and materials that make their passions more accessible.

for us, this meant instruments
Use play to instill more love for their passions. Here I am singing with my 6 year old as he plays the ukulele in a song that he wrote.


Study people in their fields of interest: watch videos and research notables.. My son loved his Notables projects, where he would dress up as his Notable and research all about them. Here are examples of his projects: Roy Rogers, Bruce Lee, Johnny Depp, and Dana Carvey.


3. Find ways to support your child's passions outside the home. 
Look for teachers, help your child access people in his/her fields of interest, go on field trips, look into joining organizations (theaters, museums, sports, academies, teams), attend summer camps, etc.
4. Realize that your child's passions may not be so convenient for you.



You'll have to sacrifice some ME time.
Bedtimes, nap times, errands, chores, work, and even holiday schedules may all change.

5. Keep your child healthy by protecting the quality of food, sleep, exercise, time outdoors and preserving your child's own down time.

preserve their time to just relax
This past week, my son had a few Drum and Science homeschool classes from 10-11am, Theater Summer Camp from 1:30-4:30pm and then rehearsals at night from 7:00-10:00pm for Peter Pan that opens in a week. It has been a very strenuous schedule. Hubby and I were both exhausted, but our son absolutely loved it.

"Mama. I can't wait for tonight's rehearsal!"

"Mama. I can't wait for tomorrow's class!"

He had the energy for it. 

6. Take time to advocate for your child so that the child remains challenged, engaged, and encouraged in his/her passion.

Change teachers if needed. When my son was 4, we changed from a "you-need-to-learn-how-to-count-notes" drum teacher to one who played "echo games" with him instead. Now that he is 7, we were able to put him in a Rock Band Class for 10 year olds and up.

Talk to teachers/coaches. This Summer, I asked my son's Drama teacher if he could participate in her Advanced Acting Camp for 10-16 year olds. I was a little worried when he came home with a script of Macbeth in his hands, but after camp was through, his teacher pulled me aside and said,  "Your son is only 7, but he was made for this class! He was fabulous!"

7. Stay informed of what your child is learning and doing in class/rehearsal/practice.

Is there homework? If not, what can your child do to prepare for next week's class?
Can your child review what he did in class? Is there anything to practice?

8. Instill in your child a good work ethic by helping him improve further at home. Ask: how can you get better? what else can we do to help you?

Take photos and/or videos of your child "doing" his/her work. Replay and discuss what he/she can do to make it better.

Write notes where appropriate, as reminders of what he needs to do.

My 7 year old's script with notes for Macbeth's Banquo.

My 7 year old's script with notes for Lady Macbeth's Doctor.
9. Celebrate your child's work - but be careful of too much praise.

Praise is difficult. There is and will always be room for improvement. What we prefer to do is praise his effort and praise how much he has grown in a period of time. That said, he does have a blog, YouTube and Facebook page where he can share his work with and get feedback from other people. He also gets a lot of feedback from his teachers. I have discovered that my job as his mother is to keep him grounded.

Here is my 7 year old at a University Drum Set Master Class:



10. Keep pushing boundaries and abilities.


The work never ends, because my son has a dream.

Let your child keep a goals journal to help them decide who they want to be and how they want to get there. My son writes about his short- and long-term goals in his journal. He also keeps a grateful journal, which provides a balance to his goals journal.

So, when people say my son is "talented", "gifted", or even "a prodigy", I want to tell them that I don't know if it is pure talent or just sheer sweat. What I do know is that we have supported my son's passions and helped him develop in those areas. I am also writing this post as I sit in the audience watching my son fly through the air as Michael Darling in his Peter Pan rehearsal. He has a big smile on his face. I know the sweat and practice are all worth it. He loves what he is doing.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What Worked for My Asynchronous First Grader: Project-Based Homeschooling

Type A as I am, I love my to-do lists and schedules. I initially thought Project-Based Homeschooling would drive me nuts. But, it didn't. I thought my creative son would just play all day. But, he didn't. In fact, what I thought would be the downfall of this homeschool method (my type A personality) actually benefitted my son because I made sure he had the tools and the time everyday to "DO" his projects, whatever they were.

PROJECT-BASED HOMESCHOOLING allowed my son to explore his passions this year. Child-led projects meant hours and hours of self-imposed focus and concentration. He learned to just "be", while I learned to trust his "work". Type A me also learned how EASY it is to count his different projects as "school".


ORIGAMI (Arts and Crafts)

Our son has a chest full of Origami Star Wars characters and vehicles.


Origami Star Wars
He also created other Origami characters too.
CARDBOARD CREATIONS  (Arts and Crafts)

Cardboarding is a lot of fun (especially a boy with box cutters)!


Cardboard Wall E
His Own Typewriter


DRUMS (Entrepreneurship/Music/Performing Arts)


Our son loves the drums. He practices everyday and dreams of being in a real band some day. He has a Goals Journal, wherein he writes his short- and long-term goals. He even decided to put some of his Drum Jams on YouTube and started his own Musician/Band Facebook Page and Twitter Account. There's no stopping The Independent Kid! And, yes, this is a big part of his "schooling"!





EXPLOSIVE EXPERIMENT (Science)

"Mama, how can you make homemade firecrackers?"

Someone told me I was crazy to allow my son to do this experiment, but I thought it was a GREAT question. My son enjoyed EVERY MINUTE of his research (he used the Chemistry Textbook from Real Science 4 Kids and YouTube). The experiment was a hit too! Take a look: 



FILM (Arts and Crafts/Computer Science/Film/Performing Arts/Technology)


We found a homeschool friend who also wanted to learn how to film. This Horror Comedy Short was created in a couple of months. We gave them a $10 budget and a 5 minute time frame. They created the story, planned it out with a storyboard, wrote the script, acted in it, and edited it.



 

Of course, they had to edit the bloopers too:






INDEPENDENT READING (Language Arts/Performing Arts)


Although we do literature units together, my son chooses and reads whatever he likes from Comic Books to Chapter Books too (within reason). I don't keep track of the Comic Books, but I do know he has read over 150 Chapter Books this past year. He also started creating Video Book Reviews under the name of Super Book Boy.

 

MICROSCOPE (Science)

He begged for a microscope and his love for it has not waned. He uses it weekly. His Science notebook has been filled with the names of the slides, drawings of the slides, and thoughts on what each slide looks like.




NOTABLES AT NOON (History)


My Independent Kid has done FIVE of these research and presentations in the past few years. It's a hit with the kids who join in the fun too. More information here: Notables at Noon.

This year, my son chose Roy Rogers and Dana Carvey.




THEATRE (Performing Arts)

This year, our son was the Pirate Ghost and Charlie in the Headless Horseman and Noah in Oliver. This Summer, he auditioned and got the part of Michael Darling in Peter Pan. He'll get to FLY on stage! Guess who's excited?

WRITING (Language Arts)

Finally, our son decided to start blogging. He also wrote three humorous workbooks.






Can you tell my son LOVES his projects?!?

How about Maths, Spelling, Grammar, Vocabulary and Copywork did you say? Don't worry, we have that covered. We love our (secular) Charlotte Mason homeschool style too! But it is because of Project-Based Homeschooling that my son's education isn't just about doing "school". Project-Based Homeschooling has made my first grader's lifework REAL.



What Worked for My Asynchronous First Grader: Secular Charlotte Mason

This year, the Charlotte Mason homeschool style allowed Type A me to keep my to-do lists and schedules. We love that Charlotte Mason emphasized good habits, living books, narration, short lessons, and time outdoors. This is what worked for us:

COPYWORK

Handwriting Without Tears helped my son learn the basics, but what did he really enjoy? Star Wars Copywork




FOREIGN LANGUAGE

My son's German notebook. He doesn't know how funny this is.
While we have a Mandarin class once a week, my son wanted to learn German too. He loves the Muzzy BBC Series, which we have used for Mandarin and Spanish as well. 


GRAMMAR and VOCABULARY


We LOVE Michael Clay Thompson's Grammar Island series. We already started the Grammar Town literature program!


HISTORY

My son's Native American belt.

Native American lessons while at play too.

We start each day with CNN Student News. It is a must every weekday morning at breakfast. We miss Carl Azuz over the Summer!

We also use Joy Hakim's History of Us, Horrible Histories, and Moving Beyond the Page units in conjunction with each other.


LITERATURE and WRITING


My son LOVES Moving Beyond the Page units. We choose to do the units out of order so that they are in conjunction with History lessons.


MATH

We still haven't found our favorites. So far, Singapore Maths has outlasted all the others we have tried!


NATURE

We make sure we go outside everyday.

We like to find things in Nature.

SCIENCE





My son absolutely loves The Burgess Animal Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess, as recommended by Ambleside. We will continue with the Ambleside Science recommendations and with Real Science 4 Kids

SPELLING

My little guy is a speller and loves the sequence of All About Spelling. We don't use the manipulatives, and it works for us. One lesson/week.

While Project Based Homeschooling enlivens my son's work, the Charlotte Mason style grounds him. A balance between the two styles works for both of us. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What Worked for My Asynchronous First Grader: Project-Based Homeschooling

Type A as I am, I love my to-do lists and schedules. I initially thought Project-Based Homeschooling would drive me nuts. But, it didn't. I thought my creative son would just play all day. But, he didn't. In fact, what I thought would be the downfall of this homeschool method (my type A personality) actually benefitted my son because I made sure he had the tools and the time everyday to "DO" his projects, whatever they were.

PROJECT-BASED HOMESCHOOLING allowed my son to explore his passions this year. Child-led projects meant hours and hours of self-imposed focus and concentration. He learned to just "be", while I learned to trust his "work". Type A me also learned how EASY it is to count his different projects as "school".


ORIGAMI (Arts and Crafts)

Our son has a chest full of Origami Star Wars characters and vehicles.


Origami Star Wars
He also created other Origami characters too.
CARDBOARD CREATIONS  (Arts and Crafts)

Cardboarding is a lot of fun (especially a boy with box cutters)!


Cardboard Wall E
His Own Typewriter

DRUMS (Entrepreneurship/Music/Performing Arts)

Our son loves the drums. He practices everyday and dreams of being in a real band some day. He has a Goals Journal, wherein he writes his short- and long-term goals. He even decided to put some of his Drum Jams on YouTube and started his own Musician/Band Facebook Page and Twitter Account. There's no stopping The Independent Kid! And, yes, this is a big part of his "schooling"!





EXPLOSIVE EXPERIMENT (Science)

"Mama, how can you make homemade firecrackers?"

Someone told me I was crazy to allow my son to do this experiment, but I thought it was a GREAT question. My son enjoyed EVERY MINUTE of his research (he used the Chemistry Textbook from Real Science 4 Kids and YouTube). The experiment was a hit too! Take a look: 



FILM (Arts and Crafts/Computer Science/Film/Performing Arts/Technology)

We found a homeschool friend who also wanted to learn how to film. This Horror Comedy Short was created in a couple of months. We gave them a $10 budget and a 5 minute time frame. They created the story, planned it out with a storyboard, wrote the script, acted in it, and edited it.


 

Of course, they had to edit the bloopers too:





INDEPENDENT READING (Language Arts/Performing Arts)

Although we do literature units together, my son chooses and reads whatever he likes from Comic Books to Chapter Books too (within reason). I don't keep track of the Comic Books, but I do know he has read over 150 Chapter Books this past year. He also started creating Video Book Reviews under the name of Super Book Boy.

 

MICROSCOPE (Science)

He begged for a microscope and his love for it has not waned. He uses it weekly. His Science notebook has been filled with the names of the slides, drawings of the slides, and thoughts on what each slide looks like.



NOTABLES AT NOON (History)

My Independent Kid has done FIVE of these research and presentations in the past few years. It's a hit with the kids who join in the fun too. More information here: Notables at Noon.

This year, my son chose Roy Rogers and Dana Carvey.




THEATRE (Performing Arts)

This year, our son was the Pirate Ghost and Charlie in the Headless Horseman and Noah in Oliver. This Summer, he auditioned and got the part of Michael Darling in Peter Pan. He'll get to FLY on stage! Guess who's excited?

WRITING (Language Arts)

Finally, our son decided to start blogging. He also wrote three humorous workbooks.






Can you tell my son LOVES his projects?!?

Homeschooling my son isn't just about doing "school" anymore. Project-Based Homeschooling has made my first grader's lifework REAL.