Today is my last day of teaching at the university.  When I hand in the grades, I’m finally free to be a full-time mom.  It’s so strange to embark on this “jobless state.”  My husband would disagree because it is a big job looking after kids but what I mean by job in this case is paid work.

After graduating from university, I can only remember two times when I didn’t hold a salaried post.  The first was one month between working in Congress and starting work at the Department of Social Welfare and Development.  It was one of the longest, most excruciating month at that moment because I hated the uncertainty of not knowing what to do next.  Being in limbo didn’t agree with me and towards the end of the month, I hit upon the idea of listing down names of people I admire and dream of working for, contacted the first one on the list and got my next job with her as an executive assistant, a case of the universe conspiring to give you what you want.

The second jobless period was the one year I battled cancer.  Oddly, it was not as excruciating as that month in employment limbo.  Because I was pregnant with my second child, I was hopeful, optimistic and jubilant.  My miracle baby was born healthy despite my going through chemotherapy while he was in my tummy.

After two years working as an English teacher in a Chinese university, I am now again entering but this time deliberately – an indefinite, no-formal-job status zone.  On my own volition, I chose to give up my current “stable” life for adventure on the road with my husband and sons.  No more tension between wanting to finish my work and wanting to be with my children.  Now at last, family always comes first.  How many times have I felt guilty preparing lessons for class or grading papers before attending to Jimmy who wants to play or preventing world war two from erupting between two warring factions.

There would still be tensions but they would be of a different cause and nature.  For example, my husband and I both agree in principle to homeschool and roadschool our kids.  However, we sit at different points within a wide spectrum.  Thankfully, at least we’re not at opposite or extreme ends.

He leans towards unschooling and while I believe in this as well, I am not keen on going all out unschooling during the first few years.  I believe the three R’s — reading, writing and arithmetic — should be acquired first, using more curriculum based methods like homeschoolers, unlike unschoolers who do not have a curriculum since their curriculum is whatever the child is interested in.

In primary school, the kids would spend around seven hours in class.  Now, they only spend less than an hour a day getting lessons from my husband and me plus tutorials thrice a week.  I would like to expand that to have daily tutorials but my husband prefers to teach them on our own.

While it’s wonderful and rare that both parents are able to be at home for their children, I believe we can learn a lot from others who have more experience and patience teaching young kids.  They say it is easier to teach other kids than one’s own. Watching others teach my sons would allow me to see other perspectives that can only enrich my way of instruction.

So I hope and pray that my husband lets me to arrange tutors for our children — both face-to-face and online to able to compare techniques.  Eventually, we might have to rely more on Skype tutors because we would be travelling a lot so it’s good to try them out to find a good fit.  Other homeschoolers and unschoolers around the world depend partly on tutors for their children.  Parents combine teaching subjects they are most comfortable with and getting experts in other areas.  For instance, my sister who homeschools her thirteen-year old daughter, teaches her science, history, English and the bible but hires tutors for math and Filipino.

Perhaps there is more pressure on me to undertake a more structured format because I am responsible for enrolling the kids at TMA, a homeschool provider in the Philippines that helps families comply with government regulations regarding education.  Beacause of this, I am more conscious than my husband about fulfilling academic requirements.  This September, Joshua is scheduled to take a test at TMA so that he can be enrolled in Grade 1.  From then on, the kids will take tests at TMA every year and we will have to submit quarterly portfolios of their work.  In the future, should they wish to attend high school or university, they can more easily do so even if they are homeschooled because of the records and documentation of TMA.

My friend and fellow-homeschooler, Grace told me that it is important for husband and wife to communicate about and agree on the methods of homeschooling because children are very clever.  They can spot if there is a difference in styles and can use it to get their way.   At the end of the day, my husband and I both want what’s best for our children.  We may disagree about the definition of “best” but we can always negotiate the details.







我给两位美国教授发了邮件,他们都认为我的论文开题报告太过于宽泛,因此我开始思考还有没有其他可能,比如写一篇关于”项目教学法”的期刊文章。我一直以来都对此教学法很感兴趣,也是我在中国教学课堂上所倡导的。除了论文和期刊,我还有出书的想法。其实最终的结果如何并不要紧,重要的是不断深入学习和探索的过程, 并且,永远都要把孩子们的教育问题摆在第一位。在旅途中我们想做各种尝试,比如沙发客、空中食宿、换工旅行、实惠旅社及其他一些活动,这样还可以帮助我们节省开支。我丈夫说我可以和大家分享在我身上发生过的奇迹,我曾经战胜癌症,在患癌期间怀孕,还生下了一个健康的宝宝。如果有人对我的故事感兴趣的话,我们可以通过癌症康复协会交流,或是对我故事感兴趣的任何机构都可以和我联系。不过要去环游世界,我们面前最大的障碍和挑战是该怎样说服在中国和菲律宾的家人。对他们而言,这个想法太疯狂了,他们自然会担心甚至反对。




这篇文章是由李松柏同学翻译而成的,同时谢谢陈颖利,李燕和任艳芳同学的热情帮助。我非常感谢她们。This article was translated by Eve (Li Song Bai) with help from Poppy (Chen Ying Li), Donna (Li Yan) and Sally (Ren Yan Fang).  I am so grateful to them.

如果你想阅读原来的文章,你可以点击我原来的微博:The original article in English appeared in a previous blog entry here:

Speaking in Slides (Dream Drive Around the World)


Between Two Moms

Two Christian homeschooling moms talk with each other.  This dialogue may be helpful for mothers who struggle with some homeschooling issues and challenges.  One mother is new to homeschooling while the other has years under her belt.


D: How do you encourage your children to do things that you want them to do?

G: I found a book called The Secret Garden which is made of elaborate and detailed drawings to color.  I printed out the book hoping my daughters could color it but my daughters thought it was too hard to finish so they refused to do it.  I didn’t know how to solve this problem.  So after some time, I decided to color it myself.  I spent two hours coloring it and showed them how amazing it was after.  They realized how beautiful it could be and they asked me to print more pages to color themselves.  After that, I didn’t have to ask them.  They did it by themselves.  If you want your children to do something, you have to do it yourself and let them see the amazing results.

D:  We are homeschooling our children but I think my husband allows them to watch TV and play games in the tablet too much.

G: The most important thing about the home education is the communication between the husband and wife.  You must agree with each other about the education method because children are very clever.  If one parent uses one way to teach or influence the children but the other parent uses another way that is the opposite, the children will choose the easier way for them.  So the most important thing is you should talk to your husband and tell him your opinion.  In the beginning, I faced this problem in my family but now we can discuss and stick to one way that we chose.

First of all, you must understand why your husband allows your children to watch TV a lot. I think a lot of Chinese people do this because they want to keep their children quiet and not make a mess.  In this way, the parents can relax more.  So maybe this is also your husband’s reason.  Look at the reason behind the problem and then you can find solutions to the problem.

D: Do you let your children watch TV and play with gadgets?

G:  In my family, I don’t let my children watch TV but I let them watch shows online. My husband likes watching shows on his mobile phone and he spends a lot of time on his phone.  I don’t like that so I talk to my children how long they can watch TV and we set the clock.

D: What’s the role of fathers in homeschooling?

G: I think in China, most fathers don’t want to raise children.  Fathers want to work and earn more money.  When we were growing up, most of the time, it’s the mother who takes care of us.  It’s the same probably with your husband.

D:  My husband doesn’t work and he is not like the other Chinese men who want to earn money.  He also gets angry easily but he really loves to spend time with the children which is very good.

G: You should understand him.  This is the most important thing and then you should express your own opinion.  As a wife, you must appreciate his help.  Some Chinese men, when they talk to their wife, they easily get angry.  I think this is a problem with Chinese husbands.  After they get married, they fight with their wives.  But don’t worry too much because you are a good mother.  You are doing your best to educate your children.  You are teaching your children to read and that is very important.  After they learn how to read, they can do it on their own.  I hope you and your husband will be able to balance things.  You should appreciate that your husband likes spending time with the children.  Not too many Chinese fathers are like that.

D:  What’s the biggest problem you face now?

If I don’t work, I don’t have money to pay for the meals and rent.  I usually try to set a strict schedule for our children and myself but it’s really hard work.  You know when God closes a door, he opens a window for us.  Sometimes the hard situation is good for us and for our children.  It will all be okay.  I’m sorry about your relationship with your husband.  The communication between the husband and wife is very important.   God also teaches us that we should not try to change our husband.  We can just influence him but not change him.  If you try to change him, he will go crazy.  Some people disagree with other people’s criticism of them.  The most important thing is you do the best that you can do yourself. Your husband will do what he does but he will make the change only if he sees that he must.

Before last year, my husband and I also quarreled.  But I want to listen to God’s words that I should follow my husband so I changed myself.  I began to let him do what he wants to do.  I give suggestions but most of the time, my husband does not accept my suggestions.

We quarrel with each other less than before.  We can sit down and talk about education, daily life and different ideas.  Sometimes he will follow his own opinion, not mine but in fact, I wish he can follow me so it’s really hard.  I accept everything so in this way, he is also changed.  As wife and husband, we should follow God’s word and not worry too much. Everything will be okay.

D:  What other suggestions can you give me?

G:  Let your children spend time playing with other children.  It’s very important because we are part of society.  Everybody needs to learn how to communicate well with each other so it’s good to let children play with others.  It’s important that we should be a happy mother.  If the mother is happy, the family is happy, the children are happy.  If the mother is worried, the others will be worried.  So you must be a happy mother and have a happy family.  God told us, worry does not change anything.  I am a happy mother.  We should also pray a lot.

Monkeys and Mowgli’s


Like monkeys and Mowgli’s, the kids climbed the trees, expertly hugging the trunks with their arms and legs because that’s what they’re built to do.  They scooped up tiny fishes using a bottle and net, caught insects and dragonflies and frolicked under the sun while the mothers and fathers sat in the shade chatting and eating.  Last Sunday, a few Chinese homeschooling parents from Tianjin gathered at the Water Park organized by the lone foreigner in the group –me.  I was proud because it took one foreigner to get them together.  I was happy because I’ve been aiming to meet homeschooling parents in Tianjin for quite some time and all my online research finally paid off.

Mr. and Mrs. Wu brought four out of their five children whom people generally stared at disbelief because it’s not often in China that you find families with more than one or two kids.  Their youngest, still a baby was being cared for by the grandparents in their hometown.  Mr. and Mrs. Wang have a boy and a girl who graciously distributed the homemade sushi into paper bowls.  Hope’s daughter and son, pre-teens, were older than the other kids so they rode on their hoverboard while others ran around.  Donna’s daughter, Chong Chong was so excited by the picnic that she forgot to eat breakfast and spent the whole morning cutting melon and preparing potato salad by herself.  Jason, Joshua, Jimmy and I arrived late because we were the only ones coming from Dagang.  Everyone else was from the city.

It was a good turn-out and the little kids had the most fun playing but the parents had a good time too exchanging stories among kindred spirits.   Hope’s 10 and 12 year old children go to school only to take final examinations but they study at home and do not attend regular class.  Donna wondered how this could be done and Hope explained that she personally wrote a letter to the headmaster explaining why her children have to stay at home to study.  Fortunately, the headmaster agreed and allows them to join the final exam every year.  Not all headmasters and schools can accept this arrangement so most parents face a lot of difficulty when they decide to homeschool.  Hope plans that her children will study abroad someday so they don’t need to worry about the gaokao (Chinese university entrance exam).

For Mrs. Wu, the most important thing is not the academics but how to build up discipline and set boundaries.  Parents believe that when they homeschool, they are able to pay more attention to shaping their children’s character.  The children spend less time studying and more time doing housework.

Through homeschooling, the children have more time to do things which they are interested in such as sports and other hobbies. The parents can give individualized education according to their personality by discovering what they want to learn and what they are good at.

Donna’s daughter, Chong Chong attends regular school and is now in Grade 3.  Donna asked her if she wanted to study at home but Chong Chong prefers to go to school.  In the future, if Chong Chong decides to stop school, Donna is prepared to do homeschooling.  Maybe when Chong Chong reaches a higher grade where the homework and school pressure becomes too much, then she’ll choose homeschooling, but Donna will leave the choice to her daughter.

In China, most parents worry about how their child will enter primary school, middle school, high school and university.  They are very much focused on getting high grades.  In homeschooling, there are no documents, reports and grades so most parents do not even dare consider this method.

After this summer holiday, Mrs. Wang plans for her daughter to attend primary school for one whole week.  After that, she will attend classes only for half a day and spend the afternoon at home.   Hope also did this in the beginning with her two children but now they have switched to whole day homeschooling.

The mothers in the picnic talked about balancing the dream and reality.  Parents need to earn money to support the family while they nurture their dream of homeschooling.  Both need time so like anything in life, it’s a challenging balancing act.


Note:  Thank you very much to Mrs. Wu and Donna for translating the Chinese discussion into English for me.  I wouldn’t be able to write this article without their help because I get totally lost when several people speak in Chinese. 


Video Links At Last!


We have arrived on YouTube and Youku (the Chinese equivalent of YouTube)!   All thanks to Jason Dee and Eve Lee, without whom this wouldn’t be possible.   Jason has been toiling for two weeks editing the video excerpts from the talk I delivered last June 1 at the Tianjin Foreign Studies University in Dagang.  He was introduced to me by one of my students, Eve, a translation major who volunteered to work on the subtitles for the video.

After watching the raw footages of the talk, I thought it wasn’t worth working on them because the sound quality and camera work left much to be desired.  Plus I hated the sound of my voice.  But then Jason’s eagerness and willingness to edit was just too sincere and earnest to put down.  He didn’t feel the two weeks pass by because he loved what he was doing.  Ever dependable, Eve’s commitment to the project was quite touching.  She was also the one who took charge of the auditorium where the talk was held.

The whole lecture was over thirty minutes long followed by twenty minutes of Q & A.  The edited videos capture only five minutes from the entire talk but I told Jason that I preferred producing only a few short videos as well as could possibly be made rather than a lengthy one that would entail way too much time and effort.

Seeing Jason labor over his laptop took me back to a quarter of a century ago when I was editing videos using what looks like ancient dinosaurs compared to today’s compact but powerful gadgets.  My classmates and I spent hours and hours of sleepless nights in the editing room with Mang Tony so I knew the time needed to produce the video I wanted with all the inserts and cut aways.  I didn’t want to take too much of Jason’s time especially since we approached the examination period.

I’d also like to profusely thank my husband — the other Jason in my life, who did the camera work. As Eleven, another one of my students said, we are indeed very fortunate to have found each other because we share the same dreams.  And we are so blessed to share them with you now.

Following are the YouTube video links:

Dream Drive Around the World (Talk Part 1)

Dream Drive Around the World (Talk Part 2)

Dream Drive Around the World (Talk Part 3)

It’s quite strange, almost surreal to see our faces on YouTube since I’ve been so addicted to searching for videos there.  It’s even more surprising how easy and uncomplicated it is to upload videos.

For the Chinese people who don’t have access to YouTube, here are the links courtesy of Jason Dee.





在家教育经验分享研讨会 Points from the Homeshooling Workshop



This is my first blog article in Chinese!


Following are some points from several power point presentations of the speaker at the homeschooling workshop which I attended in Beijing last June 10 and 11.  The workshop was in Chinese so I just translated the content using Google Translate and asked help from two students when the online translation was just too awful.  Thanks to Poppy and Candice.




Parents feel that their knowledge is not enough, that they lack teaching skills and experience and that they do not have the capacity to meet the professional challenges of homeschooling.


The school system puts students under a lot of burden and stress.  At the same time, we really don’t understand homeschooling and true education.

根据孩子的成熟程度,每天学习时间从几分钟到几小时不等。 手工工作时间至少跟学习时间一样多。 每天至少一小时的家庭或社区服务。集中于孩子的兴趣和需求,在一致性、好奇心和耐心方面要竖立榜样。与他们一起经历。

Depending on the child’s maturity, daily study time ranges from several minutes to several hours.  There can be as much time doing household chores and study.  At least one hour a day can be for community service.  Focus on the child’s interests and needs.  You must be consistent, patient and curious.


Real education should be fun, easy, have a healing effect, inexpensive, not stressful and effective.  As long are you love to teach and are able to read, write, calculate and speak clearly, you can be a master teacher.


In a UCLA survey of 1,016 schools, it was found that public school teachers on average, communicate with their students directly for only seven minutes.  This doesn’t give that much opportunity for the teacher to respond to each student.  In contrast, in a typical home school, the number of daily interactions is nearly three hundred fifty times more.


Children enjoy reading and learning.  Reading is the core of knowledge and learning.  Read to the child at least fifteen minutes a day.  It is fundamental that children learn by themselves.  Train them in sequence to speak and then to write.  Parents are their children’s learning guide and helper.  Generally, you do not need to apply school teaching methods but the parents can arrange the learning content for the child.  If the child has a problem, the can ask the parent.  Two to three hours a day is enough for general book knowledge.

Train children from an early age to finish things, clean the house, buy food, cook, do laundry and other household chores.  They can first study by looking and then they can do things on their own.  They can take care of younger brothers and sisters and even help them study and do housework.


Parents are afraid that homeschooling might harm children or delay their progress.  There is no perfect parent just as there is no perfect child.


Children have a strong capacity for self-development, self-healing and can cope with stress.   They are born learners and explorers.

In the time when there were no schools and no textbooks, not even books, how did humans learn language?  How do babies learn language?

声音是语言的躯体,文字是语言的外衣。 婴幼儿学习母语都是从聆听开始!婴幼儿与儿童有强大的聆听能力和聆听专注力。

Voice is the body of language, and characters are the clothes.  When babies learn their mother language, they always start from listening. Babies and children have strong abilities in listening and focusing.
总之,听书具备种种优势。A.好的朗诵引起且增强我们的兴趣,更帮助我们理解;B. 听书轻松,不如读书那么容易累;C. 如果听书听累了,正好可当催眠曲;D. 可以在很多场合与各种活动同步进行,例如,散步、做家务、洗澡,开车,都可以听书;这些场合你无法同步读书。E.不伤眼睛。等等。调侃地说,听读是一种“富人”学习法,视读是一种“穷人”学习法。古代贵族常常雇书僮为自己朗读,当代高官也常用秘书来读文件。我等平民百姓雇不起书僮或“小秘”,但大朗诵家之经典朗诵水平比小秘高百倍,其音频唾手可得而免费使用。为什么不善用呢?

Anyway, listening to books has a lot of advantages. A. Good recitation can provoke and enhance our interest, helping us understand better. B. Listening to books is more relaxing and not as tiring as reading books. C. If you are tired and sleepy, the voice can serve as a lullaby. D. You can literally listen to books wherever you are and whatever you are doing. For example, when you are walking, doing housework, taking a shower or driving a car.  For all the occasions where you can’t read, you can listen. E. Listening to books doesn’t damage your eyes.   Some people tease that listening is for the rich while reading is for the poor. In the past, noblemen used to hire a servant in the study to read books for them. At present, top officials have secretaries to read documents for them. For ordinary people like us who can’t afford to hire a servant or a secretary, why not make good use of audio recordings of excellent speakers? They are accessible online, totally for free and way better than a secretary!



Let’s go back to the earlier and more natural way of language learning which is relaxed and fun.  Get rid of the habit of depending on school methods and textbooks.  Have more time using classic resources which are rich and alive.  Homeschooling can be easy, efficient, high quality and affordable.

Chinese Homeschoolers and the Super Power Blog


Blogs must have some kind of built-in super power.  Immediately after writing an entry about wanting to attend a homeschooling workshop in Beijing, the doors rushed open for its fruition through an inadvertent mistake.  Due to my clumsy reading of Chinese characters, I incorrectly pegged the date in July but it was actually June.  As soon as I pressed the blog publish button, I realized the mistake and made a split-second decision to take the train to Beijing.  In my excitement, I also misread the address in Chinese.  I thought the venue was near the Beijing South Station when it referred to another south station all the way at the opposite end of the city.

Anyway, I made it to the workshop and finally met the people whom I’ve been wanting to meet for the longest time – Chinese parents who homeschool their children.  I arrived a little after five o’clock when participants were sharing their own homeschooling stories.  Everything was in Chinese so most of it flew over my head; I could only catch some words and concepts.  Even if I couldn’t understand most of it, the parents’ spirit of enthusiasm didn’t need any translation.  They were so eager to share that even if they were given only ten minutes to speak, most people expounded beyond that.  I expected more moms to be in the audience of around forty people, but the fathers turned out in full force, while children played in the background creating not as much ruckus as anticipated.

The most surprising participant was Mrs. Wu who had five children whose ages ranged between seven and one.  She and her husband take care of their children during the day and during the night, they tutor other people’s children.  I also met Mrs. Wang who has a son and daughter.  Her very own supportive mother came to the workshop to help take care of the kids.  Mrs. Wang teaches computer in middle school and does not let her children watch TV or use gadgets so that they appreciate studying more.

Majority of the people were Christians and the guest speaker from Huizhou, Guangdong was a pastor who had three children.  Following are points I gathered while talking to various parents in Chinese:

  1. If you have points of disagreement with your husband then listen to your husband. This is a very Christian and biblical perspective of marriage.
  2. One mom plans to homeschool for the first nine years of her children’s life but she will eventually enroll them in middle school.  She explained that before, this couldn’t be done but there is a new law that allows parents to combine homeschooling and regular schooling.  As long as you register your child in a school, you can homeschool and then later, if you choose, they can join the formal school.
  3. Make studying a reward, not a punishment.  Make it something they want and look forward to.  But what if it’s already the opposite? What if it’s already a chore?  Maybe it’s because they use the tablet or watch TV too much so when compared to those, studying is not fun.  Studying competes with gadgets and TV so studying can lose by default.
  4. There are a number of homeschoolers in Dali, Yunnan where we plan to move. One mom pointed out to me the forum for Dali homeschoolers in the China homeschooling website.
  5. A mom with four children shared that the most important thing in the first year is to build the relationship between parent and child and to train them to obey the parent.  This is more important than teaching them knowledge.  In the second year, you can then teach knowledge and train them to study on their own.
  6. Another mom started homeschooling only when her son turned sixteen.  Her son does not have to take the gaokao because he is planning to major in Bible Studies and attend a Christian University in Beijing where the gaokao is not a requirement.
  7. Is it possible to attend top Chinese universities like Beida and Tsinghua without going through the gaokao?  It’s possible for people to attend classes without enrolling.  You don’t get a certificate but there are people who sit in the classes for the sake of learning what they’re interested in.  Makes me want to try that out myself.
  8. Relax. Don’t stress about things. Don’t put pressure on yourself or on the child especially when it comes to reading.  It’s easy to feel pressured about reading but you should remove the pressure so learning how to read becomes pleasant.

While I was attending this talk, Jimmy spent time with his Gugu (Aunt) while Jason and Joshua trekked up Wu Tai Shan.  We were each in our own homeschooling world, learning the way we felt best.

After the talk, I need to assess, change and improve some of my techniques.





I’ve researched about homeschooling, compared various curricula, checked out resources for inspiration but haven’t looked into how people handle disagreements with family members over choosing a controversial method of education.  Right now, we face the expected opposition within the family.  Although my sister-in-law vehemently disagreed with us before, she came to accept that ultimately we, as parents, will decide but my father-in-law is very disappointed.  My mother-in-law stands by my sister-in-law in a sort of well-what-can-we-do-if-that’s-what-you-want support.

One article online advises that the best way to defend homeschooling is by attacking traditional schooling and pointing out its weaknesses.  That’s what a Chinese friend of a friend did when I called her up to explain to my sister-in-law why she is homeschooling her own two children.  The homeschooling mom explained the limitations of traditional schooling which my sister-in-law cannot relate to because her own son is going through the system.  My sister-in-law takes pride that her son regards his studies seriously and is preparing for the gaokao as if his whole life depended on it.  Sadly, in China, life does depend on this one test.

Pointing out the weaknesses of traditional education may not be a good way to convince someone about homeschooling because you’ll end up polarizing the issues and have an ugly us vs. them, me against the world situation.   Opinions are already at opposite ends so the ideal may be for both sides to agree to disagree and respect each other’s opinion.

What might be better would be to introduce the naysayers to parents who homeschool and to meet the children themselves who turn out fine even if they don’t attend regular school.  I do wish my Chinese was good enough to find and meet more Chinese homeschoolers in Tianjin and take my sister-in-law to visit them.  But then maybe it’s not a good use of my energy considering we are on our last two months here.  There are too many things to prepare and if you add to that the burden of convincing people who may never be convinced, it’s too much.

I’m actually not hoping to convince them.  I just want to make them aware of the possibilities.  They don’t have to be convinced but I wish they worried less.   Take for example, my mother whom I know is skeptical about this whole crazy hippie sounding trip.  I asked her if she could attend the TMA homeschooling orientation in Manila so that she can understand it more, not to convince her but just so that she’ll be aware of other people who are homeschooling and that good and great results can come out of it.  But my mom has no time.  Her work schedule is filled to the brim and overflowing.

My husband and I also disagree about specific methods of homeschooling.  While he and I share a fascination for unschooling which goes along and follows the child’s interests rather than imposing any form of structured learning, he’s a bit on the extreme end of the spectrum while I gravitate off-center.  I believe in the philosophy behind unschooling but only after children have acquired the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.   To acquire those basics, I am more inclined towards experimenting with available effective methods that may both be formal and informal. For example, I’d like to try out skype tutors but I have logistical problems paying online which I’m still trying desperately to solve.
Now that kindergarten has ended, I wanted to get a tutor for my sons while my husband doesn’t.  It wears one down trying to argue.  I wish my husband respected my opinion more as a mother who wants the best for her children.  But what if each parent wants nothing but the best but it happens to go against another’s idea of what’s best?  It’s a continuing saga of give and take.  I finally managed to convince him to let the kids enroll in an hour and a half class on Chinese characters.

I found this website of Chinese homeschoolers and they have an upcoming workshop in Beijing.  Of course, I’m excited to jump in and grab the opportunity to network with Chinese homeschoolers even with my limited command of the language.  I wish my husband can go with me but usually, he doesn’t like attending seminars and conferences.  If he did, it would be the miracle I’m praying for.

Contrary to what my husband thinks that I’m always worried, it’s the writer in me who is curious about everything that makes me want to try out things, connect with as many people as I can, research and attend events so I can know more.  As a soon-to-be full-time homeschooling mom, I’d like to apply this passion, meet with fellow homeschoolers and ask them a lot of questions.

In the Philippines where homeschooling is very established, parents regularly gather on and offline, share ideas, hold field trips and build communities of adults and children who carry similar values.  It’s frustrating that I do not have that kind of network here in China because I’m hampered by the language.  Such communities exist but I can’t join their forum.  I’m hoping the Beijing workshop can lead me to such a community and possibly to finding homeschoolers in Yunnan where we plan to move end of next month.

It would be a waste if I attended the Beijing conference alone because my Chinese is not good enough.  If I can’t convince my husband, maybe I can go with Donna, my friend who’s joining me at the 2016 Asia Pacific Democratic Education Conference in Taiwan.  I’d like to invite my sister-in-law but like my mother, she’s way too burdened with office work.  If Donna can’t make it, maybe one of my students who is fascinated by education might.  So this is a shout-out to anyone who might be interested and can help translate for me during the three-day workshop in Beijing.

344Here are the links to China Homeschooling and the Beijing Conference.

OMG, I just realized the workshop is ongoing and I had totally missed the opportunity. I thought it was in July.  Ah well.  My bad.  Perhaps another time.  If anyone can lead me to homeschoolers in Tianjin, it would be very much appreciated.    

Maybe I can take a train to Beijing tomorrow and make it to the tail-end, talk to the organizers and see if they can connect me with people in Yunnan.  But they only give the workshop address to those who have registered.  Ah well.  There must be another opportunity coming. 


Ken and Aurora


I started a blog entry about homeschooling and the challenges of facing family opposition but I have to take a break, gush and fawn over the writing of my current favorite, Ken Ilgunas.  His book, Walden on Wheels is one of those purchased from Amazon while researching the go-around-the-world project.  For now, I am a happy couch traveler gawking and salivating at stories other people tell but one of these days, I’ll have my own tales to share while on the road.

My husband shared what happened when he was in a beach in Africa and felt the loneliness of a solo voyager.  He wanted to swim in the sea but he couldn’t put down his backpack for fear of something being stolen.  Now that he has a family, he doesn’t have to travel alone.  Taking a trip as a family soon, we’d look out for each other while reveling in the world’s magnificence together.  Actually, we have been doing that a lot – trekking up and down the mountains of China, but soon we’d even be doing more of that and not limited to this country.

Ken’s words about the Aurora Borealis conjured a picture in my mind of the four of us–Jason, Joshua, Jimmy and I staring in awe at the stars in the sky wherever in the world that may be.  We’ll be together.

Forgive this rather long quote but I dare not cut it into pieces and ruin the experience for you.  In the italicized passages below, Ken describes his encounter with the Aurora Borealis in Coldfoot, Alaska where he has been stuck in a miserable menial job to pay off his student loan.

I felt a strange twinge of anger looking at the stars. It was as if I’d just learned of an inheritance that had been stolen from me.  If it wasn’t for Alaska, I might have gone my whole life without knowing what a real sky was supposed  to look like, which made me wonder: If I’d gone the first quarter of my life without seeing a real sky, what other sensations, what other glories, what other sights had the foul cloud of civilization hid from my view?

We can only miss what we once possessed.  We can only feel wronged when we realize something has been stolen from us.  We can’t miss the million-strong flocks of passenger pigeons that once blackened our skies.  We don’t really miss the herds of bison that grazed in meadows where our suburbs stand.  And few think of dark forests lit up with the bright green eyes of its mammalian lords.  Soon the glaciers will go with the clear skies and clean waters and all the feelings they once stirred.  It’s the greatest heist of mankind, our inheritance being stolen like this.  But how can we care or fight back when we don’t even know what has been or is being taken from us?

A pale green band appeared.  It inched across the sky, a luminescent caterpillar slowly nibbling its way to the eastern horizon.  Then several bands of light materialized–all parallel to one another–making it look as if the firmament wore a celestial comb-over.  Those pale bands began to pulse.  One ball after another would move down the green bands like a family of rabbits being digested by a python.  And suddenly the aurora bloomed into full color.  The sky lit up with spumes of reds, pinks, purples and blues that swooped, twisted, and curled into each other.  There was no sense, no order, no logic to the aurora’s movement.  It moved wildly and swiftly, changing into a different shape from one moment to the next.  It was a glowing, throbbing, sashaying curtain of color, a Rorschach test that looked like whatever you wanted it to look like: a heavyset grizzly, a woman’s hips, a highway climbing hills.  The aurora was a powwow of ancestral spirits–writhing apparitions, conjured from the depths of a village bonfire.  It was a desert storm, a million individual particles of light whipping over dunes in patterns that no human mind could comprehend or computer-generate.  The aurora is alien and unworldly, but it does not frighten or flabbergast; it is a tranquilizer that sprinkles down only its onlookers an opiate from the heavens.


I couldn’t pick a picture of the Aurora and figured no picture could capture it’s grandeur so instead I chose from Google images, paintings by Luiza Vizoli and Karla Nolan.  I wrote about Ken Ilgunas in a previous blog entry here: Serving Kafka

Speaking in Slides

This is our dream to drive around the world and this is our team made up of my husband, two sons and me.  Since my husband is passionate about off-roading we plan to rent SUVs or converted 4×4 campers for each leg of our journey.  Our children will be roadschooled meaning the whole world is their classroom.

Other families have undertaken such trips with their children in tow.  The Zapps started out as a couple and had four children along the way in different countries.  They have been traveling for 15 years using a vintage car.  Other families have embarked on similar adventures, lasting a year or more and they have websites and books recounting their story.


The first route I made was too ambitious and I reckoned would take much more than a year so I worked towards simplifying it.  Then I hit upon the idea of doing a PhD on alternative forms of education.  Pinpointing the locations of these schools then gave the exercise more focus.  We are sure that the route will change but we are flexible and adaptable travelers.  Instead of one continuous long trip, it’s cut up into manageable parts where we can go from one destination back to our new home base in Yunnan and then after a while set off for the next leg of the journey.  Currently, we live in Dagang, Tianjin located in the northeast portion of China.


Meeting an Australian professor gave me the idea that the dream to drive around the world can possibly be combined with a PhD thesis.  At first, I thought it was such a far-out concept but then it made more and more sense as I worked out the details in a full-blown research proposal complete with a list of literature to review, a conceptual framework and a list of over 20 non-traditional schools and learning centers around the world.


I emailed professors and authors my proposal, seeking advice and guidance.  In the title of my thesis, Walden Meets Ken and Gray: Journey as a Search for Knowledge in Nature, Creativity and Play, Walden refers to the classic book on living with nature by Henry David Thoreau; Ken refers to Sir Ken Robinson who has been very vocal about creativity in education; Gray is Peter Gray, psychologist and author of Free to Learn.  I emailed Ken and Peter but only Peter replied telling me that he’d be in Taiwan this coming July for the Asia Pacific Democratic Education Conference.  Of course, I lunged at the chance to hear him in person.  My friend, Donna and I have booked the tickets to see him and attend the conference.

I emailed two American professors who thought the thesis proposal is too broad so I’m working on other possibilities such as producing a journal article about Project Based Learning (PBL).  PBL is something I’ve been very interested in applying to my English classes in China.  Aside from the thesis and journal article proposal, there’s also a book proposal.  Whatever the end product is, what matters is the enriching process of learning and exploration — and never forget the primary importance of our own children’s education.


We’d like to try out things in our trip such as Couchsurfing, Airbnb, Helpexchange, the Affordable Travel Club and other ways that could help us stretch the budget.  My husband thinks that I can also share the miracle of surviving cancer while pregnant and then giving birth to a healthy child.  We could get in touch with cancer societies and organization who might be interested in hearing the story.

Hurdles abound and probably the most challenging would be handling the reaction of our families both in China and the Philippines.  They’ll be worried and would oppose what to them is a very crazy idea.


All my life, I’ve been trying to find my Ikigai, my reason for being.  I’ve tried studying different things, ventured into various jobs, failed businesses, prayed for enlightenment and direction when I felt lost and unsure, but never experienced that sense of fullness that I longed for that’s best illustrated in this Venn diagram below.  I know people whose circles have merged beautifully in their lives but in mine, the circles float around seemingly unconnected and disjointed even if I have pursued many things with passion and purpose.  This project gives me hope that the circles will draw closer to an intersection.