Jan 31, 2012

Homeschooling and the Working Mom

Supergirl was single and had no kids
(Photo by Sam Howzit)
In the past three posts, we talked about when it would be good for parents to consider homeschooling for their children: bullying, ADHD, and other reasons, such as giftedness, mental retardation, distance from school, religious conviction, and financial flexibility.

I also promised I would talk about homeschooling and the working mom, that is, moms who work outside the home.

Let me get direct to the point: it is very difficult for a working mom to work outside the home and homeschool at the same time.

Even stay-at-home moms and work-at-home moms have their bad days with homeschooling. But a working mom who homeschools will really be stretching herself to the limit.

How about staying at home?

If you know in your heart that it is in your child's best interest to be homeschooled, because he is being bullied in school or for other reasons, then ask yourself this next question: is it really necessary for you to be working outside the home?

Take a calculator, sit down, and look at how much you could save from staying at home, not commuting to work, not paying for childcare, not paying tuition, not eating out every day, not drinking designer coffee.

Speaking of designer coffee, brainstorm, too, on what luxuries you are paying for that you could do without.

It might turn out you can afford to live on one income after all! In addition, you will be teaching your child valuable lessons in frugality and finding joy in non-material things.

Here's another option: you may be able to do your work at home. This article would be too long if we listed here the ways to find work you can do at home, but this blog has talked about that several times in past articles. Now, suffice it to say that many mothers have done it, and you can too.

Nonetheless, there are situations when you really have to keep working outside the home. What then?

Maximize your resources

There are two things that can help you homeschool your child even when you are not at home: the Internet and a tutor.

Admittedly, this goes against the traditional way of homeschooling, where the parents teach the child personally.

On the other hand, it still fulfills a good number of homeschooling's obejective:
  • It protects your child from bullies.
  • It protects your child from negative social influence.
  • It gives your child one-on-one attention.
  • It gives your child time to independently and thoroughly pursue his or her own interests.
The Internet is full of resources that can help your child learn almost painlessly at home. I have listed some of them in a previous post, Educational and Child-Safe Computer Sites

Time4Learning.com, in particular, gives your child U.S. state-approved curriculum up to Grade 8. Now that the Philippines is moving to a K-12 educational system, Time4Learning's curriculum becomes compatible with our own.

For Filipino and Araling Panlipunan, you can get your child textbooks from local bookstores, and let your child read through those and answer the exercises.

When you get home at night, and also on weekends, you can go over the child's lessons together to see what  needs to be reviewed or supplemented.

A tutor can also help you ensure that your child is studying and learning at home as he should.

Of course, none of these come cheaply. Nonetheless, I would venture to say that it is still cheaper to do it this way than to enroll your child in some of the best private schools in the Philippines.

You may ask, can I do it without help from the Internet or a tutor?

I would not advise it. You would be burning your candle at both ends. Don't try to be a superwoman. Remember that Supergirl (Superman's cousin) was single and had no children.

By the way, here's one last advice: get yourself a support group. We have one on Facebook and another on Yahoo Groups. If you're interested in joining these groups, let me know and I will invite you to them (the FB group is by invitation only).

Jan 30, 2012

Is Homeschooling for Your Child, Part III: Other Reasons

(Graphics by nornir)
So far we've talked about (1) bullying and (2) ADHD. For me, those are major reasons to homeschool your child. Here are other reasons:

3. Other exceptionalities. If your child has been diagnosed with retardation or giftedness, your child might benefit more from personalized instruction (in the case of the former) or independent learning (in the case of the latter).

Keep in mind that a child with retardation's greatest needs are to learn basic life skills (e.g., cleaning oneself, fixing up one's own room and surroundings, crossing the street safely, washing the dishes, following instructions) and a vocational skill that will let the child earn her own money when she grows up (e.g., handicraft, maybe clerical work, depending on the degree of retardation), and basic literacy, depending on the degree of retardation (e.g., reading, writing, counting, color and shape identification).

A gifted child, on the other hand, can learn well enough by herself. All she needs is the right environment -- the necessary materials, the necessary time, the necessary freedom. Instead of putting her in school where she will need to wait for the rest of the class catch up to what she already knows, why not let her study at home and use the time (and money) you save to enroll her in ballet class or gymnastics or astronomy or whatever she's interested in?

4. Transport issues. Either school is too far from your home or your child is too sick to travel the distance.

Some kids have to travel an hour to reach school, and I'm not talking about kids in far-flung barrios with no roads and no cars. When I was in high school, I rode a school bus that had to make 30 stops from the time I got in to the time we got to my school. That's an hour and a half, one way.

Or maybe your child is ill and too weak to travel to school. That does not mean you have to stop her education and let her run after lost time when she recovers. Let her have her schooling at home instead.

5. Religious conviction. This is not so much an issue in the Philippines, where religion has not been outlawed in the classroom. Still, some parents would like a little more religion in their child's education, or maybe a little less, or maybe a different sort of religion.

In our family, this is one of the primary reasons why we homeschool. I wanted my children to learn more about religion than I felt was being taught in our regular schools.

The best part is, as I am teaching our children about our faith, I am learning too -- I am learning things about my faith that they did not teach me in school.

6. Financial flexibility. The big difference between homeschool and conventional schools is that in conventional schools, costs are dictated. The school decides not just how much to charge for tuition but also how much you need to spend on field trips, graduations, etc.

In a homeschool setup, you can spend as little or as much as you like, and you decide when to spend. If you have a lot of money, you can choose the most expensive curriculums available -- some are even more expensive than what you pay for tuition in conventional schools. You can go to Bohol and Beijing for your field trip, so that your child can see the Chocolate Hills and the Great Wall of China personally. You can enroll your child in Ballet Manila for PE class. You can buy her a microscope and telescope for science.

Or you can use a free curriculum downloaded online, take the ALS exam for validation (very cheap, almost free), go to PAGASA Planetarium for your field trip (P25), and let your child improvise materials for art and science to strengthen her imagination and creativity.

No one will make you pay P800 to go to Enchanted Kingdom and SM Mall of Asia for your field trip. You don't need to pay P200 for a hard-bound diploma holder for your preschooler if you don't want one.

Okay, lecture over. Any questions? Please feel free to ask in the comments box below. I always reply within 12 hours.

Jan 27, 2012

Is Homeschooling for Your Child, Part II: ADHD

(Photo by jimpetr)
Yesterday, we talked about reason 1: bullying. If your child is being bullied in school, it is a good idea to look at homeschooling -- before it's too late.

Reason 2: ADHD. If your child has been labeled with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, his teacher is basically saying that your child cannot sit still long enough in the classroom to learn and to let others learn.

Without getting into an argument about the validity of such diagnoses or whether such a disorder really exists in the first place, allow me to propose that if your child is unable to sit still in school, then for his own good, he should not be there.

(And I say this with my Special Education degree from the state university to back my words.)

Let's digress a little and talk about eating styles for a second. Some people, like my friend Sampy, like to eat their food in a specific order: they finish up their cheeseburger, then they eat up their fries, then they dig into their sundae, then they wash it all down with a glass of Coke.

If Sampy learned like that too, she would fit very well in school.

But some people don't eat like that. I take a bite of my cheeseburger, then follow it with a few sticks of fries, then I take another bite from my cheeseburger, followed by more fries or maybe a spoonful of sundae. Now and then, I would have a sip of Coke.

Fortunately, I don't learn like that, which is probably why I did okay in elementary school (where there were no bullies to distract me).

But some children do learn like that -- they like their lessons in random bits and pieces.

If your child is one of these children and you forced him to finish 45 minutes of science before touching grammar or math, he would be heartily sick of science at the end of five minutes, in the same way that he would be sick of cheeseburger after ten consecutive bites uninterrupted by the taste of fries!

If you were homeschooling your child and you knew that he learned like this, you could set in front of him all the material he needs to finish for the day and let him go at it in his own sporadic fashion. All you have to do is sit beside him to answer questions and make sure he's studying instead of having his third snack that afternoon. (Yes, even in homeschool, kids like to play truant.)

Will your kid learn this way? I can assure you, he will learn more in this manner than he will learn in school -- and he will enjoy it more too.

Jan 26, 2012

Is Homeschooling for Your Child, Part I: Bullying

(Photo by Marzie)
First off, let me begin by saying this: Not every family, and not every child, is a good candidate for homeschooling.

You should not homeschool if
  1. you spouse vehemently opposes it, or
  2. your child vehemently opposes it, or
  3. you just felt pressured to do it because you've been told "it's what good mothers do."
Well let me tell you now: I had a good mother, and she did not homeschool us.

On the other hand, homeschooling was not a very realistic option during her time. She probably didn't even know the option existed.

But now, lots of us know this option exists. And yes, there are times when it is wise to take this option.

So when should your family consider homeschooling your child?

Reason 1: Your child is being bullied in school.

Bullying is something that no child should ever have to live through. It's inhuman. If your child was bullied by her playmates in daycare, you would probably switch to a different daycare. If your child was bullied in painting/soccer/dance class, you would probably let her stop attending the class or find a different class for her to attend.

But when our children are bullied in school, we let them stay in that school with pacifying words such as "Don't pay them any attention."

Parents, you have to understand: it's impossible not to pay attention to a bully. Even if they don't attack you directly, they will attack you emotionally. 

The physiology of a child allows her to heal from physical attacks relatively quickly, but the psychology of a child will suffer from the effects of an emotional attack for a long, long time.

I should know; I was bullied in school. By the grace of God, I survived it. But I still believe I will go to heaven when I die because I had already been to hell when I was in school.

Do not make the mistake of ignoring this, parents. Children who have heard "Don't let them get to you" from their parents often enough will eventually learn to just keep quiet about the bullying they receive. Then their parents think everything is now all right.

The next thing you know, the child tries to kill herself. Sometimes, tragically, the child succeeds.

One thing I've often been told before is, "These experiences will help your child grow into a better person. It will teach her to handle difficult people."

My answer is this: Maltreatment does not turn us to better people. Situational adversities, such as poverty or failure or physical handicaps, provide occasions for us to become stronger when we overcome them. But the cruelty of another human being does not turn us to better people.

If we sincerely believed that human cruelty is, in the long run, good for our children, then why are we so quick to cry "Foul" when a teacher spanks our child, even if we know in our hearts that the teacher had the best of intentions?

If my child needs to learn to handle difficult people, he does not need an encounter with a bully for that. He has his parents to practice on.

Again, parents, if your child is being bullied in school, please strongly consider letting her get her education at home.

Why not? Inventors Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, US President Abraham Lincoln, finance wizard Andrew Carnegie, the Jonas Brothers, and my favorite author, Louisa May Alcott, were all homeschooled, and they all turned out okay. (For a more complete listing of famous people who were homeschooled, click here.)

In the next parts of this series, I will give other situations where homeschooling may be a good option for your family, and how you can homeschool your child if you are a working mother.

Jan 21, 2012

Vicky's Coming!

This working mom is taking a few weeks break around September. Her name is going to be Maria Victoria -- "the victory of Mary."

God is good!

Jan 20, 2012

Paypal and the RCBC Mercury Drug MyWallet Card

(Photo by Toban Black)
Once again, I've received a message from somebody asking for advice on what to do because her Paypal withdrawal to her RCBC Mercury Drug MyWallet card is taking forever to appear in her bank account.

So I'm posting this article to tell you all right now: stop trying to use the RCBC Mercury Drug MyWallet card for your Paypal transactions! It has a bad track record as far as I could see from comments I've received so far on my old article, Withdrawing from Paypal to Metrobank, BDO, and RCBC.

It's true that some people have reported successful transactions for the abovementioned card. But there are also others writing with panic in their "voices":
HI.. ask ko lang nag withdraw ako sa RCBC Mercury Drug MyWallet Card nung Oct, 22 pero hanggang ngayon d pa cia dumadating. ano kaya ang problema bakit ang tagal yata ng delay.. hangang ilang araw ba ang maximum transaction period sa ganito.. slamat..
This comment was sent on October 31, nine days since the reported transaction. Paypal transactions normally take a maximum of five days from the moment you withdraw your money from the Paypal portal to the time your money appears in your bank account.

Or, to be more specific, when you withdraw your money, the transaction appears as "Pending" for about 1 to 2 banking days (holidays and weekends not included). Then it appears as "Completed," meaning that Paypal has completed the paperwork or whatever it does in its back office.

Two to four days after it shows as "Completed," it should appear in your bank account.

In my experience, if I withdraw from Paypal on Monday, the money appears in my bank account on Thursday morning.

Here's another comment:
5 days na eh hindi pa rin dumadating ang CASH from my PAYPAL to my MY WALLET VISA CARD.'.'.' Gaano katagal poh ba ang mga transaction na ganito?
And the most recent one, which came today and prompted me to write this article:
hello po, pwedi nyo po ba ako matulungan. I have a mercury drug my wallet visa card and I successfully linked it to paypal. Nag withdraw po ako nang pera from my paypal balance to my card the problem is hindi pa rin dumadating yung pera ko hanggang ngayon..malapit na mag one month from my withdrawal. .nag withdraw ako last dec. 28, 2011. Completed na yung status. I've been emailing RCBC customer service at sabi nila di pa raw sila nakakatanggap any funds from paypal. Ano po ba dapat ko gawin? baka mawala yung pera ko 
My advice to this last commenter was that she should request a formal statement or document from Paypal, so that she can show it to her bank, to prove that the money has been received by the bank.

She should also get a formal statement from the bank stating that they received no such amount from Paypal.

If she's lucky, her money will be returned to her Paypal account, minus P250 charge for the failed transaction.

That was my advice to her -- but to the rest of you, my advice is this:

Avoid getting into such problematic situations in the first place by simply getting a Unionbank EON card if you can't get a credit card to verify your Paypal account.

Unionbank has a formal arrangement with Paypal; their EON card is the only card I know that makes no deductions whatsoever on the amount you transfer from Paypal. The EON card has zero maintaining balance, though you do have to pay P350 per year to keep using the card.

I have been using my EON card for my Paypal transactions without any problems whatsoever for the last year.

Now, when you apply for your EON card, you may have to wait for two weeks before you get it (never mind that the teller said it would be ready in one week; chances are, you'll have to wait two weeks or more nonetheless -- but it's better to wait for a card for three weeks than to wait for money you transferred from Paypal to MyWallet for a month or more, right?)

Of course, I have my own complaints with the Unionbank EON card: if you try to use it for paying online purchases, it sometimes fails, even when it is sufficiently funded. It has failed me when I tried to use it to buy tickets online from Cebu Pacific. It failed me, too, when I tried to use it to pay for a home study course in California.

But as far as Paypal is concerned, if you don't have a credit card and a regular bank account, the Unionbank EON card is definitely your very best option.

More about the EON card here: How to Use Your UnionBank EON Account

DISCLOSURE: The Nanay Notebook has absolutely no affiliation with Unionbank. Know more about this blog's policy on sponsors and affiliates in our disclosure statement.

Jan 19, 2012

Business License Renewal: Municipal Permit Requirements and Fees

If you're renewing your municipal permit, here are what you need to bring -- at least, as far as my experience is concerned:

  1. New barangay clearance. You get this from the barangay hall before you go to the municipal hall. You need to bring your old barangay clearance from the previous year, and exactly the same amount of money you paid last year (in our municipality, it was a total of Php450), plus maybe a hundred pesos or two, just to be on the safe side. That's all.
  2. Cedula (community tax certificate). In our town, you have to get your previous year's gross income computed first before you can get your cedula. For this, I had to bring a statement of gross sales from my accountant.
  3. Statement of gross sales. I only found out I needed this when I got to the municipal hall. I normally call government offices before I go, to avoid surprise requirements such as these, but the two phone numbers I used to call them last year are no longer functioning this year.

    To get my statement, I called my accountant, who prepared my statement of gross sales and e-mailed it within 10 minutes.
  4. Previous mayor's permit. Oh, there's something I discovered upon studying my previous mayor's permit. I was, at that time, registering a new business, not an old one. They asked me how much it cost me to put up this writing and editing business. I truthfully answered, "Nothing, because the computer and Internet I use, I have had for more than a year already."

    Still they insisted that I put in an amount. I realized just yesterday that the amount you declare as your start-up cost defines how much they charge you for getting your new business registered.

    So if you really needed only P100 pesos to start your home business, don't let them convince you into putting P1,000.
  5. Sanitary permit. In our municipality, you only get this after you've paid all your registration fees. Cost is P150. You may still have to have a health examination, which could cost you up to P1,000.
  6. Fire safety certificate. You can get your fire safety inspection scheduled after your fees have been computed, as the fire department bases their fees on how much the municipal hall is charging you. In our town, it's 10% of what the municipal hall is charging, plus P100.
  7. SSS, PAGIBIG, and PhilHealth clearances. This is only applicable if you have five or more employees in your company.
  8. Annual building inspection certificate (for apartments only).
For the barangay clearance, you'll probably be charged the same as what you were charged last year.

For the municipal clearance, it depends on what your industry is and how much you earned. For my industry classification, it was 2% of my gross income. I don't know what the percentages are for other industries.

For the cedula, expect to pay P100 for every P100,000 reported in your statement of gross sales.

Jan 18, 2012

Stepping Out of Homosexuality: A Repost

DISCLOSURE: The Nanay Notebook has no prejudices against the homosexual populace. This article is reposted in the thought that it might help somebody who is looking for the information it contains.

John Zulueta is the director of Bagong Pag-asa, a support group for men and women who want to step out of homosexuality.

He is himself an ex-gay so he knows the difficult transition that they have to undergo.

Allow me to quote lengthily from his article published in the group’s newsletter.

“We often ask God to change us. But when change seems remote, we either grumble or build a case against Him, particularly when we experience the same temptations again and again.

"I remember Jesus asking the invalid at the pool in Bethesda: 'Do you want to get well?' Seemingly, Christ asked a silly question since the man has been there for 38 years hoping that one day he’ll get the chance to get into the pool first when it gets stirred for healing. Why then would Christ ask such a question?

"Could it be that the man has been used to lying down on the pool side, living the life of a crippled man? Could Christ be asking: 'Are you ready for a changed life? If I heal you, your life will never be the same again. You will have to move away from the pool side where you have comfortably lived the past 38 years of your life.'"

John writes:

“What is involved in being healed/changed? It means life will not be the same. You can’t be doing the things you used to do. You can’t be going where you used to go. You need to live life differently.

"Are you changing patterns and habits – sleeping, fun and recreation habits, texting habits like texting ‘sweet nothings’ which can actually be seductive scheming in disguise? Are you willing to change your choice of clothes, fashion style, relational patterns and whatever you have been comfortable with yet you know is identified with the homosexual lifestyle?

"Are you willing to embrace your cross? Embracing something requires you to bring it close to your body. Imagine carrying a load of books with outstretched arms. How would that feel compared to carrying the same load by embracing it?

"When we embrace our burdens, they become lighter and more bearable than when we try to do away with them. Identify your cross and embrace it. Could it be loneliness? Sexual torment? Neediness? Do not deny your cross. To follow Christ is to suffer and be like Him. Only when we die to ourselves will we experience resurrection – a new life.

"Lastly, a changed life involves giving. Healing and change usually happen in the context of community. God changes us not just for ourselves but to impact our community, our society, our nation and the world. The sooner you give of yourself in order to change your community, the easier it will be for you to maintain that change.

"Remember, you do not manufacture time. You spend it. You do not create a blessing, you receive it. You were not endowed with talents so you will be above the rest; they are meant to serve others. One’s healing should reflect the character of Christ, the Healer, to the world at large."

The members of Bagong Pag-asa, a non-Catholic Christian Charitable Foundation, and Courage, a Catholic support group for ex-gays, can be contacted through Pro-life office at 733-7027, 0919-2338873 or www.prolife.org.ph. They are available to give talks, seminars, and counseling.

CREDITS: This article was written by Sr. Mary Pilar Versoza, RGS, and published in CBCPforLife.com. I have edited it for conciseness and brevity. To see the original, please click on the given link.

Jan 17, 2012

Teaching Obedience

Oh, here's a topic close to most parents' hearts: how to foster obedience in our children.

It's not that we're power-tripping control freaks. We focus so much on obedience because we know -- sometimes from painful personal experience -- that when children disobey their parents, the natural repercussions can be more painful and more long lasting than any spanking any parent can give.

Children who do not obey their parents could end up
  • dropping out of school,
  • getting addicted to drugs,
  • scalded in the kitchen,
  • electrocuted from the electric socket,
  • pregnant out of wedlock,
  • sunburned,
  • etc.
So when my friend Abby Sasscer shared on our group's Facebook page these things she learned on how to teach children to obey, I thought the rest of you would like to hear it too!

Here's Abby's list:
  1. Don't shout. No matter what happens, keep a calm tone. You can't expect a child to control his or her impulses if you, the adult, can't show that you know how to control yours. Also, when you shout, it shows that you have lost control. Children will obey better if they can see that you are in full control. Don't lose your credibility by shouting.
  2. Don't nag. Ask questions instead. In fact, don't tell your kids what to do at all. They know what needs to be done. So ask them, and let it come from them. If their toys are all over the floor, ask them, "What do we need to do with our toys?" They know. Let them tell you. Then wait for them to do it. Never do for your children what they can very well do for themselves.
  3. Give choices. Giving children choices makes them feel that they are being respected, as they should be. But maintain control of the situation by limiting the choices. Don't ask, "What do you want for dinner?" or you might get answers such as "popcorn" or "chocolate cake." Instead, ask, "Do you want chicken or fish for dinner?"
  4. Say yes whenever you can. Sometimes, we say "no" when we really mean "not yet." If what your child is asking for is allowable with conditions, say yes, but give the condition. For instance, if your child asks to play outside at 2 p.m., you can say, "Yes, as soon as it's 4."

    "Mommy, can we eat popcorn?" "Yes, after dinner."

    Of course, if your child says, "Mommy, can I eat popcorn before dinner?" then you can say no. It's for times like these that we save our noes for.
  5. Give them a chance to correct the behavior. Inevitably, at one time or the other, your child will mess up. Even the best kids sometimes slip and spill juice or turn in sloppy worksheets or tell a fib.

    When that happens, don't punish. Give them a chance to mop up the juice (if your child has enough hand control to color pictures, he or she has enough hand control to mop up a spill), redo the worksheet, or tell the truth. If there is undesirable behavior, don't get mad or emotional or give a consequence right away.
  6. Save the shouting for emergencies. Like "Fire" -- or "Fore!" But if you just want to give a command to your child, it's better to signal them to come close then whisper the command. Their curiosity at what you're going to say will ensure their undivided attention.
  7. Focus on what is right. When you want a child to stop writing on the table, you can say, "Here's some paper. Let's write here." 
Make no mistake: our children are not little angels. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15)." But even the most foolish child relishes approval, and if obedience is the price of that approval, they will learn to obey -- as long as they are taught correctly.

Thank you so much for these tips, Mama Abby!

Jan 13, 2012

Rule for Kiddie Plates: Put Six Colors

There's this interesting research that just came out from the journal Acta Paediatrica that says kids are more attracted to their food if

  1. their plates contain seven different food items, 
  2. features six different colors, and 
  3. the food is arranged in the shape of a familiar object, such as a flower or an animal, or maybe letters or numbers.

On the other hand, adults prefer just three items and three colors on their plates.

I guess this is why animal crackers and shaped chicken nuggets are such a hit with kids.

Now I'm trying to see if this study can help me feed my picky eater more things, such as, well, bananas. (How could anybody not like bananas, right? I mean, veggie haters, I totally understand -- but banana haters??? But I am still unsuccessful in convincing my daughter it is totally unthinkable for anybody to not like bananas.)

My biggest problem right now, though, is where to get seven food items and six colors to put on their plates. Six colors! That's practically every color in the rainbow, minus one!

Hmm ... maybe fried rice. That's white rice, orange carrots, green peas, yellow scrambled eggs ... red bell pepper? I'm still short one color and two food items ...

Maybe I could poke jellybeans into the banana, in a spiral shape. That should give me at least six colors -- but that's just two food items.

Really, the brilliance of these scientists never ceases to astound me. Imagine, they were able to come up with  multiple plates of seven food items and six colors for their experiments!

In my case, it seems to me that the most attractive plate for my daughter needs just one color, yellow -- yellow French fries, that is.

Can you come up with seven food items and six colors that you could fit into your kid's plate? Do tell us how!

Jan 12, 2012

REVIEW: Time4Learning.com

As mentioned in my previous article Educational and Child-Safe Computer Sites, we've signed up at Time4Learning.com, hoping it could help us in our homeschooling.

Time4Learning is a paid site, $20 per month, or approximately Php900. We signed up because during the demo lesson, Josh enjoyed himself so much, he practically begged me to sign up so that he could keep taking more lessons. On my part, I gave in because I liked the idea of a computer giving lessons for me.

It's now been three days since we signed up.

Well designed

One thing I have to commend Time4Learning.com for is that the modules are really very well designed. Josh learned all about contractions, compound words, food chains, water cycles, adding three numbers, and a good number of other things, with very little mental anguish on his part and practically no effort on mine.

The lesson plans take a bit getting used to, but once you become familiar with how it works, it's quite easy to use. If you're following a set curriculum from a different curriculum provider, like we are, you can browse through the lesson plans to find the particular lesson required by your curriculum for the day, note the chapter and subchapter, and click the links to them quite easily.

One feature that I think would have been helpful for users in this situation is a search box, but I couldn't find one anywhere in the site, not even in the forums and in the site map.

If you are homeschooling independently, you could simply set your child free to roam through the subjects, with just the instruction that he needs to complete a certain number of activities per day. Modules that are completed are marked "Complete," so it's easy for you to check what modules your kid has already done and which are still pending.

There is also a reporting feature that lets you view what lessons and activities your child has done throughout the day, and what his or her scores in the exercises and quizzes were.

A record is kept by the system on your child's hours and dates of attendance, as well as activities and scores, so if you're independently homeschooling and need to keep a portfolio, this site would be well worth your money.

All or nothing

But after our two days of use, we cancelled our account with Time4Learning.com. Fortunately, the site has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so if you cancel your account within 14 days of activation, you get a 100% refund on your payment.

Last night, I received the email saying my refund has been processed and should appear in my account in five days max. I received the refund confirmation less than 24 hours after I cancelled my account.

Why did we cancel?

As I said, the site is great. It's fully featured, well designed.

It was too much of a good thing for me. It made the temptation to relegate all teaching to the computer. I missed teaching my boy -- but at $20 (or nearly Php1,000) per month, I felt obliged to maximize the benefit.

Do you see what my quandary was?

Then, too, there was for me the issue of paying for things we don't really need. Josh loves science so much, he would have learned the lessons from his own voracious reading, even without Time4Learning.com. The record-keeping feature was not of much use to me either because our family does not need a portfolio to get our kids' education validated. We are already enrolled with Kolbe Academy in Napa, CA, so that takes care of validation.

I couldn't shake the thought at the back of my mind that if I only got what I really needed from the site -- that is, the language and math lessons, without record keeping -- I may have needed to pay maybe just $10 per month.

But Time4Learning.com has no such options. It's all or nothing with them.


So would I recommend Time4Learning.com? Yes.

  • If you are a working mom with little time to teach your kids personally and want his or her computer time to be productive, or
  • If you're homeschooling independently and want an easy record-keeping system to prove that your child has, indeed, been spending a specific number of hours and days in school and that he or she is learning something during those times, or
  • If you feel that $20 per month is a small price to pay for the kind of academic mastery that Time4Learning.com will surely help your child to attain,
...if even just one of the abovementioned conditions apply to you, then I think you will be completely satisfied with Time4Learning.com. 

But if you're just looking for exercises to supplement the instruction you already personally give to your child, I would say you could check out the other sites I mentioned in Educational and Child-Safe Computer Sites, which also provide excellent (though not as well organized and not always as didactic) materials for free.

Incidentally, should this review encourage you to sign up for Time4Learning, would you please tell them that you were referred by Lucy Abigail "Abby" Sasscer, the person who had referred me? This would earn for one of her kids a free month of membership. Thank you so much!

DISCLOSURE: This review is not paid for in cash or in kind by any individual or organization, and certainly not by Time4Learning.com. However, if you have an account with them, reviews such as this will merit a $25 honorarium. In the interest of transparency, Time4Learning will require that you post a disclosure statement that you received such sum from the company.

Questions about Time4Learning.com that this post did not answer? Please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Jan 11, 2012

The Commercialization of Childhood

I've just seen this disturbing video on YouTube, and I think all parents should see it. How aggressively is media targeting our children? And what messages, exactly, are they deliberately sending our kids?

More importantly, are we harming our children while we think we are helping them? For instance, when we let our kids watch Baby Einstein, are we helping them or are we actually hurting them? What could be so bad about Dora the Explorer?

You may be shocked when you hear the answers.

The video is an hour long, but I promise you, it's well worth your time.

How do we protect our children from this kind of manipulation and perversion? Please feel free to share your suggestions.

Jan 9, 2012

Educational and Child-Safe Computer Sites

Source: Ian Britton FreeFoto.com
If you're reading this post, you must have a computer at home. And if you're like me, your kids probably know how to use it. And you probably worry sometimes too (in my case, I worried often) that your kids may be getting into sites that are not exactly safe for kids.

So when I got this list of child-friendly, educational Web sites from my friend Abby Sasscer, who runs the Sacred Heart Home School, I immediately put the links in the kids' browser white list and blocked everything else! Now I know that even when my kids go online, they're not viewing anything violent, pornographic, obscene, materialistic, hate-filled, etc., etc.

What's more, the sites are educational! Just this afternoon, my son Josh learned all about compound words, contractions, living and non-living things, thunderstorms, ants, and armadillos in his two-hour session at Time4Learning.com.

If you want the same peace of mind that I've recently gained, you might want to check these links out too:

Starfall.com: I use this site for my five-year-old. It contains free activities beginning reading and early literacy.

EWTNKids: Since my family is Catholic, I especially liked this educational Web site by the EWTN Global Catholic Network. It contains all sorts of free activities teaching Catholic kids about their Church and their faith. There are also dot-to-dot puzzles, dress up games, music activities, etc.

Sheppard Software: Has free fun games for all sorts of subjects and grade levels. There was a game where an equation was displayed and you had to shoot the fruit that displayed the correct answer. (The kids were supposed to play it but I couldn't resist and had to "borrow" the mouse just this one time!)

Fact Monster: This site, I found myself when I was looking for arithmetic flash cards for Josh. The flash cards are great for motivating my son to practice math. The rest of the site is filled with activities and materials on other subjects such as sports, science, vocabulary, etc.

Time4Learning: We use this for our homeschooling because it provides U.S. state-standard curriculum (i.e. K-12) and activities for our kids. It's our first day to use it and, as mentioned above, Josh learned a whole bunch of stuff in a two-hour session. There is a free demo, but you have to pay to access the rest of the materials. Cost is $20 per month for the first kid and $15 for all other kids that follow. If you're not homeschooling, you might still consider the program as it is cheaper than getting a tutor -- and more fun.

SpellingCity: This is a sister company of Time4Learning. This site focuses on teaching your kids spelling, parts of speech, and vocabulary. A lot of materials are free. Paid membership, which allows you to register up to five kids in one payment, is just $25 per year.