Aha moment !!!

Few days after turning 4 years old, my youngest daughter had an Aha moment.  She picked up a Bob book for beginning readers and started reading.  At first she was sounding out letters then blending them.  I was really surprised because I, (nor her teacher) have not started teaching blending yet.  The last time I checked her work, she was just doing beginning and ending sounds, so I was really not expecting it.  Out of curiosity, I picked up another book, this time with short and long e sounds and asked her to read.  And she did!  She is reading!  I  swooped her up in my arms, whirled her around and around and together, we did the happy dance as her laughter filled the air.  She knew that was a special moment and I can tell by the look on her face that she is very proud of herself.

This morning, holding her favorite book, she said, “Mom, Ethan (her brother) doesn’t need to read me a book anymore because I can do it myself.”  So happy for her 🙂

Grade 1 acceleration

Yesterday was the Summer Exploration culminating activity for the children.  It was a 5 week session where they learn Filipino, Math and Reading.  I thought that was a very enriching activity they did this summer.  Everyday, they come home so excited about what they learned in school 🙂

Ethan’s  Filipino has also progressed rapidly than I anticipated.  Everyday, he has to read a story in Filipino.  At first, he started with a short paragraph then it gets longer and more complicated.  Even I, the Filipino Mom, was surprised to see how difficult some Filipino words can be.  But with my help, he persevered and now he is able to read and understand age-appropriate Filipino stories. So yesterday, I had a chance to talk to the School Directress to find out Ethan’s assessment result.  She said that he is more than ready  —  meaning he will skip a grade this school year (preparatory)  and at 5 years old will start grade 1. We both feel that this is the right educational plan for him, we just need to spend more time in Filipino subject this year. E was proud of himself but at the same time, he feels sad that he’s going to leave behind some of his close friends.  I reassured him that he will meet new friends in his class and it will be okay.  Besides, its a small school so he can still see some of his former classmates.

Kaya on the other hand started reading 3 letter words.  Her writing has improved a lot this summer and she loves to copy words from her favorite stories into her little notebook, an activity that her brother is doing. She is now counting and writing numbers.  Both kids are now speaking comfortably in Filipino and switching between 2 languages gets easier everyday.  My hope is that Mandarin will also be a part of that equation one day.

Being here in the Philippines also brought cultural awareness to the children.  Young as they are now, yet they are aware of the social ills like poverty and homelessness around them.  They know that some children live on the streets and don’t have the same opportunities in life. That’s why they have to be thankful and work hard in school, to do their best in everything they do, to inspire people and to share their blessings. Every time we pass by the overpass going to SM Bacoor, they always ask money or food to give to the street children. In the next few weeks we will get involve with Pen and Paper, a foundation that helps poor children in marginalized areas in the Philippines by distributing pen and paper for this school year.  “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the and the blind can see” ~Mark Twain.

Summer Exploration

Just when I was up to my wit’s end due to a very hot summer here and the kids being home most of the day (which drive everyone crazy), a relief came — Summer school program!  Starting last Monday, kids were enrolled in their school for a 2 hour readiness program for math, reading and Filipino.  They were so excited to be back in school after 3 weeks of vacation and see their favorite teachers and friends.  Of course, parents (and yayas) are also ecstatic to have a break from these charming little devils 🙂

With the overhaul of Philippine education system and implementation of K-12 program starting this school year (2012-2013), I can’t help but starting to worry with regards to Ethan’s appropriate grade level.  Back in the states (California), he should be starting first grade this school year; however, here in the Philippines he has to complete a preparatory level (or K2 in some schools) because of the age cut off.  He has to turn 6 by June this year to qualify for grade 1, even if he has already completed Kindergarten and is currently doing grade 1 work in Math and reading.  So I wrote an email to the school Directress to address the issue and hopefully find a solution.  I was happy to receive a positive response from her about acceleration to grade 1 if he completes a first grade readiness summer package and pass the test to be given at the end of the summer. 

Three days into the program, we were so elated that kids love to go to school and are excited to do homework … yes, homework!  My 3 year old won’t sleep at night without completing her assigned reading.  Mike can’t believe that 4 months ago she doesn’t even know how to write her name and refused to be taught.  Now she is writing not just the alphabet but also identifying beginning sounds, medial sounds, counting and writing up to 20 in Math.  In her Geography class last quarter, she told me about the Leaning tower of Pisa which is found  in Italy and that Tasmanian Devils live in Tasmania, an island state of Australia. Huh?

E on the other hand came home yesterday proudly showing off his work.  “Mom, we learned about noun today and the articles “a” and “an”. We also did oral reading in the class and I read about Mr. Mole, the robot.”  Today, when he came home from school he showed me his Filipino textbook and asked me if  I can help him do his homework.  I excitedly opened to the assigned page and asked him to read in Filipino.  He did it! I am amazed how his reading improve in 3 months and athough he still needs help with difficult/longer words, he is able to read the paragraph and undertand enough to complete his homework.  Nowadays, he is comfortable speaking Filipino, and  surprisingly sounds like a native — the same observation shared by mommies of his playgroup yesterday. I really think that his exposure to different languages early on help him achieve that near-native accent. I can’t wait for his progress in Filipino at the end of the school year 🙂  That will be monumental … and will be worth the trip to this country.  In the meantime, we have to endure the heat, the traffic, the pollution, etc. All this is an integral part of their language and cultural immersion experience 🙂

Moving up exercise

Kiddos are excited about their moving up exercise! They’ve been practicing for a week and so happy that Daddy is here to witness the event. Ethan just finished kinder 1 and will be moving up to prep (kinder 2) and Kaya, from nursery to Kinder 1.  This kind of ceremony is a big deal in the Philippines — this one lasted for 6 hours 🙂 It seems that the school gives out medals for all subjects.  One kid we saw with 7 medals on her neck.  Unbelievable!

Since they have attended school only for the last quarter, they were not able to get a medal, but nonetheless happy for the experience.  We were pleasantly surprised that they got bar pins — Ethan for “most perseverant” and Aya for “most obedient”.  To see them proudly wearing their graduation togas is priceless!