Home study sessions

This past five-day weekend had been both a blast and a horror at home. When the Quezon City government announced on July 8 that classes were suspended until the 10th, I started having palpitations.

The girls were going to be stuck in the house with nothing to do and, predictably, they started fighting over every little thing.

Teachers to the rescue! They sent in a new kind of horror – some work that children, with their parents’ help, should complete at home for Thursday and Friday.

Shobe’s was easy enough. I taught her the difference between ‘a’ and ‘an’, and she was able to fill out a worksheet.

Another was a fun classic Science experiment to do at home – to observe a chicken leg bone, soak it in vinegar for three days, and conduct another observation afterward.

The before notes should read that the bone is hard. I do not know if I should celebrate or bang my head against the wall that my daughter always thinks differently.

I asked her to write down what the bone felt like and she wrote, “The bown fils disgasting.” (Yes, she still does invented spelling.)

For Filipino, I taught her to make lists (talaan) – she listed down all the dogs she knew.

The Math worksheet asked her to fill in six items: and _ make 10. I was happy when she concluded that all she had to do was write 0 1 2 3 4 5 going down one column and 5 6 7 8 9 10 going up the other.

Achi’s home study work was a little more complicated. Since I still had work, I let her finish worksheets and non-Internet based homework first. She made a Powerpoint presentation for her Filipino subject about what she does when there are no classes. This was easy for us because I had already taught her to make outlines.

For third graders, an outline is just a simple list of what to write. The teacher often indicates the number of sentences required to answer each guide question.

If teacher says seven sentences, Achi writes down 1-7 on a piece of paper and fills them up with ideas using only keywords. She uses another pen to change the numbering. Sentences are clustered into categories so they all appear one after the other.

She is very happy to find out that writing 10 sentences to answer one question was not so difficult after all.

For her Powerpoint presentation, she wrote an outline and proceeded to fill in her slides.

Science, English and Araling Panlipunan work were listed in Edmodo, a website where parents, teachers and students connect in a closed group. Teachers create a group and students and parents can register into that group. Parents can then monitor their children’s progress, while teachers can post longer-term assignments and discussions.

When Achi and her classmates finished their essays for Araling Panlipunan, they simply typed up and sent in their answers through Edmodo.

The Science homework was particularly exciting for Achi, because she loves Science. The teacher posted a YouTube video about the skeleton. Achi got our copy of My First Body Book, a children’s book of human anatomy, and finished her assignment.

This was when Achi got a little miffed. Her Science homework was due Friday morning, but I only let her on the Internet on Friday afternoon because I was not at home that morning.

She knows how to get on the Internet by herself, but I trust that she also will not go online when she is not supposed to.

Most of the time, she likes watching YouTube videos. When she was younger, she was obsessed with watching a cake maker making different shaped cakes – guitar, dinosaur, turtles, castles.

These days, she likes watching Mine Craft tutorials and playing the game. Mine Craft is a game where the players dig up (mine) square blocks of resources to build whatever they need to survive in a particular habitat. In all the habitats, the sun rises and sets throughout the day and the player has to build what he needs to either hide from monsters or kill monsters.

Achi only plays on the creative mode, where she just builds and builds. Her dad bought the game’s extended version for Achi because navigating the world in Mine Craft develops creativity, and logical and spatial reasoning.

The easiest way to explain spatial reasoning is to use a regular map. When on the road and navigating, do you need to keep turning the map to match your direction or not? If you keep your map in one position and can tell the driver to turn left or right accurately, then your spatial reasoning is quite well developed. Mine is not; Achi’s is. And I think it is all because of Mine Craft.

In one of her worlds, she showed me a castle with only turrets coming out of the ground. Everything, she claims, is underground where there is a labyrinth of tunnels, rooms, secret rooms, secret passages, and even swimming pools and a farm.

While telling me of the tunnels and passages, she turns the image from the top view to the side view, enters a small door and leads me into a passageway that opens up to an empty room with a door on the floor.

By the time we approached the second door, I was “lost.” Achi, however, has all the patterns solidly in her head and can visualize the entire complex. She never loses her sense of her direction and navigated us out through another series of doors.

Back to the homework. Araling Panlipunan was the most difficult. The students had to watch a three-series documentary made by Lourd de Veyra for the Department of Foreign Affairs on China’s nine-dash line claim to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The documentary outlines our claim to Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) and China’s claim to the islands in the South China Sea.

Admittedly, it was difficult for third graders to understand.

When I looked at their thinking questions though, it made a bit more sense. The topic was about geography – how and where our territories end, and why other countries should not encroach on our land.

I emphasized to Achi that even if the documentary kept saying the “Chinese” do this and that, the speakers were not referring to the Chinese people but to the Chinese government. I emailed the same to her teacher to also help guide their discussions in class.

My experience reinforced the entire concept of parental involvement in school activities. Most of the work that the kids needed to do could be done independently, while some required parental guidance.

However, in all cases, I felt comfortable and confident in speaking with teacher about my concerns. Not all schools are receptive to that idea.

Many parents I know even say that their children’s teachers are resentful when parents give feedback and input.

A school with an open policy to parent involvement is one that provides a clear parent-teacher connection – all for the welfare of the child. So the next time local government declares a long suspension of classes, I can rest easy, knowing that the teachers have the students’, as well as the parents’, back. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 28, no. 4 (July 21-August 3, 2015): 13.