Hero’s Journey 3.0 Happening February 2018


This is a special and unique tour to the Philippines where the parents and children start and finish together but in between there will be a separation, hence the name, Hero’s Journey.   Each is on a quest to find the hero within the self.

The children attend a camp in an art center with facilitators who ensure that they will be totally immersed in an English environment while enjoying nature and the beautiful surroundings.  While this is happening, the parents will tour other sites.  When they are re-united with their children, the parents will watch a shadow play performance which is the output of the kids’ workshops.


This camp is recommended for children ages 9 to 12 and will be good for them to experience another culture, practice being independent and enjoy an English environment.

This is the third Hero’s Journey conducted with children and parents from China visiting the Philippines.  Through this, we hope to increase each child’s confidence in speaking English through fun, uplifting and educational activities indoors and especially, outdoors, enjoying all nature has to offer.

Throughout the ten-day journey, there will be 5 facilitators who will be with the children, conducting games and activities with them.  They have 10 years of experience running summer camps for children and will ensure that the kids are in a totally English immersive environment during their entire stay in the Philippines.  Carl from America will also be one of the facilitators.  He has been running an English Learning Center in Tianjin for a number of years with his wife, Samantha.  Taj, the shadow play workshop facilitator also has more than 10 years of experience teaching shadow play and art.

These are the two different routes for the children and for their parents.  The parents’ route deviate from the kids’ for a few days.



We hope you can join us this coming February 2018!


Check out more stories about the Hero’s Journey here:

Culmination and the Awesomeness of Ensemble

Surviving the Obstacles

On with the Journey

Meeting Destiny at Prado Farms

Las Casas Filipinas, Island Waters and Six Mothers

Hero’s Journey Version 2.0

Why Hero’s Journey

Hero’s Journey 1.0





美国神话学大师约瑟夫·坎贝尔(Joseph Campbell,1904-1987)在《千面英雄》总结出英雄是能够了解、接受进而克服自己命运的挑战之人。《千面英雄》从“千面”的角度来解释单一英雄原型。“启程”“启蒙”“归来”是坎贝尔神话理论的中心思想。我们再次前往菲律宾原始热带丛林,未经雕饰的海水沙滩探险,享受淳朴的风土人情。想象一下,湛蓝的天空、变化多端的海,高耸的椰子树、悦耳的涛声。

天津乐学乐尚Levelup教育中心负责人卡尔Carl倾情加盟,他与妻子Samantha创办的幼儿园,英语和艺术培训机构。5年间,乐尚默默无闻的存在,不打广告,学员近300人 。这十天的旅程由Carl和5名菲律宾引导师facilitators全程陪着孩子们。他们拥有10多年与儿童工作的经验,能够确保孩子们在菲律宾的整个过程都能处于英语浸入式环境。第一英雄之旅,孩子们与引导师Camile,Marc等人结下了深厚情感。第二次英雄之旅,我们共同见证影子戏老师Taj 与孩子们营造的光与影的梦幻世界。


孩子居住的艺术中心:这里不仅有音乐,画廊,雕塑,日式禅意庭院,专业演出舞台,还有15亩芒果林,离海滩步行5分钟,天然的游戏场所,让孩子们身心得到释放。孩子们七天独立生活: 混龄生活,男女生分宿。4-5人一间,拥有独立卫生间。温馨提示,自然环境中,蚊虫多。



Photos from Hero’s Journey July 2017

Photos from Hero’s Journey February 2017

We hope you can join us this coming February 2018!


Places Included in the February 2018 Hero’s Journey:


Check out more stories about the Hero’s Journey here:

Culmination and the Awesomeness of Ensemble

Surviving the Obstacles

On with the Journey

Meeting Destiny at Prado Farms

Las Casas Filipinas, Island Waters and Six Mothers

Hero’s Journey Version 2.0

Why Hero’s Journey

Hero’s Journey 1.0


Discovering Sadhguru

Donna and I are hoping to attend the Asia Pacific Democratic Education in India next year.   Today, I chanced upon this video on Youtube while I was viewing videos on parenting which led me eventually to this interview about education and the Isha School. Just posting this here as a reminder that when we go to India, we must try to visit the Isha Homeschool.  It’s another school I definitely want to include in my research.

“Our social structures have created extremely complicated survival processes. A child’s ability to look at life with utter freshness and involvement is slowly disappearing. It is the duty and responsibility of our educational systems to bring that back. Education can never be a profession – it must be a passion. In the process of education, it is very important to see that the child does not lose his joyfulness, his spontaneity, or his ability to be truthful without any fear of consequence. At the Home School, we are striving to create the necessary platform where education is not about loading the child’s mind with information, but about making the child’s mind capable of razor sharp perception, capable of knowing life in its full depth and dimension. Education is about expanding the horizons of human experience and becoming inclusive. Only in a state of inclusiveness can the empowerment of education become a bounty all of us may cherish.”

– Sadhguru.

These are the videos on parenthood that directed me to the interview above.

And if those videos didn’t get you hooked (like me), here are some quotes from Sadhguru:

For those in China who don’t have a VPN and can’t open the videos because they’re from YouTube, here are some Sadhguru videos from Soku:

You can know only now

Why am I stressed?

What is the purpose of human life?

Who Wants to Go Ad Astra?


Carl got me obsessed with his object of obsession – Elon Musk’s Ad Astra.  It’s contagious this disease of wanting to create an ideal school for your kids but what if you don’t have the resources of somebody who sends people to outer space, builds solar power roof tiles and the sexiest electric cars?  You refine your dream in your spare time hoping for a synchronicity that will bring people the magnitude of Alibaba’s Jack Ma to your doorsteps.

Yes, I could totally pitch this idea of an alternative school to Jack Ma and jointly study how it could be scaled up in China.  Right now, it doesn’t seem scale-able, expandable because it’s like a micro-school.  This is the conceptual schedule:

9:00 – 10:00 am – study tutorial (one teacher for every 5 students)

10:00 – 11:00 am – free play and personal project time

11:00 – 12:00 nn – study tutorial

12:00 – 1:00 pm  lunch

1:00 – 1:45 pm – optional classes to choose from or study tutorial

1:45 – 2:30 pm – free play and personal project time

2:30 – 3:15 pm – optional classes to choose from or study tutorial

3:15 – 3:30 pm – group meeting (one teacher for every 5 students)

The teacher to student ratio is low – one teacher for every five students so that would make this endeavor costly and probably more expensive than the typical private school. If you have near-unlimited resources like Elon Musk, you can experiment and push the ratio as low as you want but what if you’re dreaming of a system that is accessible to anyone regardless of income or nationality?

The model I’ve come across that has a highly personalized, one-on-one tutorial style mixed with loads of free time is the North Star Self-Directed Learning Center for Teens.  I could ask Ken Danford how the concept could be applied to the elementary level where learning the rudimentary skills of reading, writing and math would still play an important part.  Grade schoolers can study reading, writing and math through topics and books that personally interest each child.  High schoolers could break out of the box more having acquired the basics.  It would be a school with no grade levels, no grades (in terms of A, B, C, 100%), no tests but it could help prepare for tests voluntarily chosen by the students themselves such as those in preparation for college.

The limitations of this model is the cost.  Factor in you’d want resources and facilities such as library, garden, playground, laboratory, workshop, space for arts and sports and it would be wonderful located by both beach and mountain or even right in the city but in an unused lot with lots of trees, then the cost can be astronomical.  Might as well send your child to a good International School or a progressive private school since they’ve got economic viability down pat.  If you want something more affordable, there’s always homeschooling.

But Ad Astra calls.

Maybe we could run it first as a two-week camp for homeschoolers?

Maybe we could study how micro-schools operate?

Maybe homeschooling parents can take turns as volunteer teachers?

The Agile Learning Center which started in New York and adapted in other states and countries might be an interesting model to pitch especially to a visionary techie like Jack Ma.  It would be good to see a version of this in China or the Philippines.  It would also be interesting to study how democratic schools were scaled up in Israel, entering the public sphere and acquiring government funding.

In Cavite, Philippines, there’s the Gopala Learning Haven for homeschoolers and learners of all ages in a farm setting.  Maybe they could try mixing academics and play.

In Dagang Youtian, Tianjin, China, two mothers, Susan and Rita dream of appropriating land for children to grow vegetables and transform it into a children’s playground like what this man in China did for his daughter.  He sold his house in the city, rented 110 acres of wasteland and built a fairy tale home with garden.  Susan and Rita are eyeing a piece of land that can be used by their kids and other people’s children as a way to reconnect with nature during the weekends.

Ad Astra – Elon Musk’s School

Elon Musk builds alternative un-school

Children build their own three-story playground

Dangerous playgrounds of the 1900s

Story about the man who sold his house in the city, rented and transformed wasteland into a fairly tale home and garden

The photos here don’t have anything to do with this blog entry’s topic but I missed posting these pictures.  Anyway, a place like this could be a good site for that kind of imaginary school. This area is near the Great Wall in Tianjin but then most people in that town would be sending their kids to traditional school.  The location would play a key role in that there is a concentrated number of families who share similar ideas or have overlapping visions. Or it could be a pop-up school that is not location-dependent — like the Hero’s Journey Camp but re-conceptualized with more academic bent and content.

Possibilities, always possibilities.

Ad Astra, by the way, is Latin for “To the stars.”




Football and School Updates


Joshua is truly the happiest when he’s either on the field playing football or snowboarding on the mountain slopes.  So when we finally found the football club he can join here in Dagang, it was such an exciting celebration for him that he can have his fill of football twice a week.   His foot was hurt on Saturday during the 3 pm session and his coach said it’s because his shoes were new, but Joshua still insisted on playing Sunday.  He already had one class Sunday at 8:30 in the morning but when 10:00 rolled by, he saw his friends come in the converted warehouse and joined their class so he had a total of three hours playing football that day.  I thought it was too much but if he’s fine and joyful about it, then it’s okay.

Jimmy decided not to enroll in football class because he said he liked the Futbol Fanatics in Manila better.  Whenever we’re back in the Philippines, we try to fit in as much football practice as we can.   For the age group of Jimmy that Saturday in Dagang, they only had practice exercises and no game so Jimmy didn’t like it and ever decisive, he made it explicitly known to the coach and me.  The coach thought Jimmy’s body is built for football so maybe when he’s older and more mature, he could try joining again.  I didn’t enroll Jimmy in football and had to find other things for him to do.  This Sunday, Jimmy went to the big playground in the mall with his best friend, Yang Jia Yi where they let ’em rip and roar.

It’s not a surprise both Joshua and Jimmy don’t enjoy Chinese school so I try to compensate by making sure their weekends are packed with fun, with some studying on the side.  They both think school time is too long and play time is too short.  We sneak in some extra playground time after picking up Jimmy in class but that is limited because the kindergarten guard rings the bell exactly fifteen minutes after five, reminding everyone to go home.  We also have playtime at the park after dinner.

I wish Joshua and Jimmy can attend a school which strikes a better balance between academics and play but we’d have to go back to the Philippines for that most probably. Anyway, it’s good to experience challenging and difficult things to spur the growth process.  I just hope we make a transition to a better school system soon.

Anyway, I see the good effects school has on Joshua.  He is more responsible and considerate.  He takes his study time more seriously than when we were homeschooling. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t take studying for granted anymore since he sees his classmates and playmates seriously doing their homework.  Daily classroom dynamics make him more aware of the importance of preparing for school.  Even when I work with Joshua now on his English studies, he has improved his sense of interest, focus and attention.  He packs his bag for school by himself and overall, the training is quite good for him.   It’s like an extended camp only there’s too much time sitting on the chair.   I wish it could be more interactive and physically more engaging for them but what could I do?  We’re in China.

I still wish I could be Elon Musk who built the Ad Astra School for his kids.  I have this picture in my mind of what would fit Joshua and Jimmy.   The school would be structured this way:  one hour academic tutorials sandwiched between free play time.  It will be one hour of study time with only three to five other students, followed by an hour of free play and the whole day alternates between study and free time.  The free time is the Sudbury – Democratic School part while the study time is more of a tailored-fit tutorial.   The teachers only handle three to five students at a time and they can switch among the groups of students.  There will be an abundance of resources – board games, chess, computers, 3-D printer, Lego sets, robotics, wooden blocks, and complete facilities – laboratory, swimming pool, football field, swings, slides, a giant trampoline . . . . . Oh and it’s near the mountain and the sea so they can trek up the mountain and play on the beach. . . . . Okay, okay, I’m shooting for the moon but you get the point.  There is a Filipino saying that goes, “Libre namang mangarap” (Dreaming is for free).   Who knows what the universe can conspire?

My school concept sounds far-fetched but there is a Standford study that shows, “School recess offers benefits to student well-being.”   The study shows “that recess is a profoundly important part of the school day. Well-organized recess programs engage students in meaningful play and prepare them to learn once back in the classroom.”

And that’s what I kept telling Joshua — I loved going to school when I was young because of recess during which time I got to play with my friends.  However, in China, they don’t have recess because people don’t take snacks between meals so their break time is really too short.  Filipinos need their merienda.  How I wish I had the power to turn my Elon Musk-Ad Astra dream come true. Imagine recess period not just fifteen minutes long but a full hour!

Here’s to longer recess in the future!

(And no, please do not take the photos above to mean that my son is a supporter of the madman currently sitting in Malacanang.  Jimmy just happened to pose that way without any prompting or deliberate reference.) 






Our Community Library is Open!


Yesterday, Sunday, September 17, 2017, our community library opened it’s doors.   Dreamed up by Susan and me over a year ago while waiting for our sons in the kindergarten yard, we can’t believe it has become a reality merely a month after we had just come back from living and traveling elsewhere — a case of the universe conspiring.

It started with a nearly empty room of tables.  We met twice in the room to conceptualize and plan the launch.  The first batch of books came from four contributing families.  The stools came from a neighboring room and furniture was added from our storage space. Signs were made by the art teacher and her students.

I thought that we needed to raise funds and amass book donations first but it rolled-out faster that I expected because my partners were more proactive about the whole thing. Why wait for books to fill up the shelves?  Open the library even at its bare state, and let the people come with their books.  To be a member, all you need to do is bring at least five books and then you can borrow three books at a time.

“If you build it, they will come,” the quote from the movie Field of Dreams goes and the people came bringing their bags of books.  Never underestimate the power of four determined mothers who love books and who don’t want their children to lose out on the opportunity of having their own library.  Chinese schools and towns don’t automatically come with a library.  There is a public one in Dagang Oilfield but as one local said, the books are too old and the place is not at all inviting.  There are a couple of commercial libraries but you need to pay a monthly or yearly fee to use those.  In this case, all you need is to contribute your own books and you’re welcome to borrow from the library.

A community library could be a shot in the arm and it doesn’t have to operate every day. We are starting out with Sundays, 3:00 to 5:00 pm, hoping that the more volunteers step up, the more opening periods we can have.  It’s a regular community activity that brings people together, an impetus for sharing resources and in the future, the space can be for anything the users and volunteers imagine it could be.

The pioneer mothers envisioned the library to be managed by children – a library for children, by children.  It’s called Four Leaf Clover after the four founding families. The kids themselves thought of the name, explaining that in the future, the four can grow into five, six, seven, onward.  On the launch day, the children delivered the explanation about how the library is used, while two moms manned the laptops, recording the book titles.

Outside the library, there’s room for noisier activities co-opted by kids who dart in and out.  It’s a good thing the Yunke Club has the facilities where their unlimited energy can be expended.  Jimmy and Yang Jia Yi spread out pages of Plants vs. Zombies on the play mat while Joshua turns the Spiderman bag into a football hurtling through the corridor. They find an unused ping pong room downstairs and balls fire away.

Next week, when things have settled down, we’ll have a quieter, calmer library and it’s okay even if it’s not.  It’s what people want it to be.

And to Susan who’s beaming with giddy happiness and who couldn’t believe all this was real that morning she woke up, we got to work on the vegetable garden-farm-playground next.



Around four years ago, a friend of mine was leaving China and she gave me a book that helped her go through a relationship crisis in her life — Mindful Loving by Henry Grayson.  I read some parts and saw her fuchsia pen marks and underscored passages but somehow the book didn’t resonate with me a few years back.  Yesterday, I went rummaging through stuff in storage and the book popped out of nowhere back into my hands and I read a passage and was hooked.  This time, I understood things more.  I don’t know what happened between then and now but our receptivity somehow opens up and what was incomprehensible before makes more sense in our current life.

But Albert Einstein had a profound awareness of our gross misunderstanding of who and what we are, and suggested a possible solution:

A human being is part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness.  This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living things and all of nature.

Indeed, the reason we blame others – particularly our partners – for our unhappiness is that we do not recognize the two central aspects of our True Self: (1) that we are not separate, but interconnected to each other and the universe; and (2) that we are powerful beyond measure.

When we begin to realize our interconnectedness, that everything we think, feel, say, and do affects those around us in some way, then we begin to own our magnificent power to influence all our relationships.  We awaken as if from a bad dream, no longer able to view oursleves as victims to others’ feelings, behaviors or actions.  Now awakening to our True Self, we are able to move from ego-based relationships to more peaceful and happy relationships.

I was going to continue typing the passages but it’s easier to post them as photos:



It is important to recognize, however, that we can never really separate, since all separation is an illusion anyway.