Because I am so guilty of everything the book implies I’m guilty of, I’m hoping typing the passages here would commit to memory what I need to practice more.

This is one of the gems I picked up from the Big Bad Wolf book sale and I am rushing to finish it because I want to pass it on to my sister who desperately needs to read it as much as I do.   If I could find this in Fully Booked, I’d grab a copy for her.

Okay, so here it goes: quotations liberally lifted to drum into my head, pour into my being.  I need to live this not just read this.  Imbibe the ideas not just underline them.  Apply the concepts, not just highlight the words.  From Jessica Lahey’s The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go so Their Children Can Succeed:

“I have inadvertently extended my children’s dependence in order to appropriate their successes as evidence and validation of my parenting.  Every time I pack my child’s lunch for him or drive his forgotten homework to school, I am rewarded with tangible proof of my conscientious mothering.  I love, therefore I provide.  I provide, therefore I love.  While I know, somewhere in the back of my mind, that my children really should be doing these kinds of tasks for themselves, it makes me feel good to give them these small displays of my deep, unconditional love.  .  .  . My kids will have their entire lives to pack their lunches and remember their backpacks, but I only have a very brief window of time to be able to do these things for them.

There’s a term for this behavior in psychiatric circles.  It’s called enmeshment, and it’s not healthy for kids or parents.  It’s a maladaptive state of symbiosis that makes for unhappy, resentful parents and “failure to launch” children who move back into their bedrooms after college graduation.”

I know this parent who still helicopters over the son who is nearly thirty years old and to a lesser degree, the other kids who are past forty.   This passage from the book makes me understand this phenomenon:

“The parenting pendulum swings back and forth over time, so the fact that it is currently hanging at its apex at the extreme end of the overparenting arc isn’t really anyone’s fault.  It’s part of the action and reaction that constitute the history of our species.  Early in the twentieth century, parents were instructed not to touch their children at all lest we spoil them, but by the time the nineties swung into view, experts had latched on to attachment parenting, in which we were instructed to sleep, eat, bathe, urinate and breath without ever letting go of our kangaroo-style infants.  Sure, the pendulum swung through a sane, middle ground between 1970 and 1980, and I am forever grateful I was allowed to play in its gentle shade as it passed overhead.  However, that golden moment of equilibrium was over much too soon, and we began our upward swing toward the place we find ourselves in today.”

So this current helicopter parent I know may not have been a helicopter parent in the 70’s but probably experiencing a backlash — guilt from underparenting the kids when they were young led to swinging the other way towards overparenting when the kids became adults.

It takes more time to teach a child how to clean a toilet than to clean the toilet ourselves, as is the case with about every worthwhile lesson . . . .

It’s easier for me to get velcro strapping shoes for Jimmy than shoes with those pesky shoelaces that takes too much time for him to master.  This morning, I stopped myself from helping Jimmy with his shirt buttons and instead watched him do it oh so much slower but on his own.

“. . . . doing what feels good has fostered a generation of narcissistic, self-indulgent children unwilling to take risks or cope with consequences, what will work?  What parenting practice can help our children acquire the skills, values and virtues on which a positive sense of self is built?

Parenting for autonomy.  Parenting for independence and a sense of self, born out of real competence, not misguided confidence.  Parenting for resilience in the face of mistakes and failures.  Parenting for what is right and good in the final tally, not for what feels right and good in the moment.  Parenting for tomorrow, not just for today.”

“Autonomy and independence are similar beasts, but their roots reveal a key difference.  Independence is the linguistic opposite of dependence, but autonomy is something more.  It comes from the Greek auto, which means “self,” and nomos, which means “custom” or “law,” so to be autonomous, a child has to have internalized a system of rules for living independently.  In order to help foster the formation of this self-rule, parents have to help kids come up with a system of guiding principles so they will be able to problem-solve and think creatively while remaining rooted in tried-and-true principles of behavior.  When parents are overcontrolling, kids tend not to think about why adn how they act in the world.  Their choice is to respond to our rules or not.  When they are given more control over their worlds out of our sphere of our sphere of influence, they are more likely to make solid, rule-based decisions.  It’s a win-win situation for parents really, because autonomy begets autonomy.  As kids realize they have control over their worlds, they want more control over their lives and become more responsible.”


Above all, keep your eye on the prize: intrinsic motivation.  Protecting kids from the frustration, anxiety, and sadness they experience from failure in the short term keeps our children from becoming resilient and from experiencing the growth mindset they deserve.

Encourage competence in your child whenever possible.  Watch a child master fixing her own lunch, or listen to a teenager recount the moment he made a goal in soccer practice.  Competence and mastery are incredible motivators.  Once children get a taste of success, particularly success born of their own efforts and persistence, it becomes addictive.  This is the lovely thing about competence: it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”


I am not even half-way through the book, so will post another set of passages next time.

Helicopter Parents are Raising Unemployable Children


Chinese Family Holiday


They left this morning and we miss them already.   Seven days with them here in the Philippines reminded me of the life we left in China.  Though we continue on our separate paths in two countries, we remain one family — solid, undivided despite differences in opinions and ways, even backgrounds and dreams; we stay committed to each other especially raising the next generation.

我看他们我很想很想我们的中国生活,丰富和简单。不过菲律宾也不错,给中国家人看漂亮的菲律宾风景。第一我们在马尼拉,哪儿有厉害的堵车不过方便跟别人见面,购物,也看菲律宾家人。第二我们去Subic 海边看好多鱼。第三我们去Baguio 抓草莓。然后我们去La Union冲浪的地方。我们再回Subic 发现非常美丽的采取。

We traced a route north of Manila: Subic, Baguio, La Union and back to Subic and Manila.  We tried out two resorts in Subic — one had a bounty of colorful fish (Camayan) and the other was much like paradise on earth (Acea) introduced to us by Tita Lens.  We drove up to Baguio a few days before the Panagbenga festival and though we didn’t stay for that, we were able to see some floats in the process of being created.  We went down to San Fernando, La Union and hung-out in a cool surfer’s retreat aptly called and decorated, Flotsam and Jetsam.

The next time our family from China visits the Philippines during the Spring Festival holiday, we plan to head straight to other islands, skip and escape the madness of Manila.

My favorite memories from this trip: 1) Yeye (grandfather) playing Lego with his grandsons while waiting for the ladies to finish shopping for souvenirs, 2) aquarium-loving Jiang Ping having her fill of the real deal in the clear beach waters of Subic, 3) listening to the voice of two-year old Cheng Cheng’s talking, singing and making the long car rides bearable, 4) playing Nerf gun and picking strawberries at the Baguio Country Club, 5) two brothers and one sister in business action mode, 6) Joshua and Jason catching crabs by the rocks on the shore at night, and 7) everyone thoroughly enjoying the water whether in the pool or the sea.












Crazy Project


Joshua, Jimmy and I had a blast seeing The Greatest Showman yesterday, singing along in the movie house and upon returning home, we searched YouTube videos to continue belting the tunes and find which parts of the fictionalized depiction was real and not.  There are a lot of negative reviews and low ratings but it made me think how the critics may be like the bespectacled pundit in the movie itself who could not derive joy from something many people drew delight.  All in the spirit of fun, plus the message hit me in the heart.

One of the film’s anthem probably resonates with most dreamers (unless it’s too cheesy for them):

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind
I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design

‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

You see there’s a crazy project I’m involved with that embodies a vision of the world that may not sit well with many out there.  The project’s unofficial kick-off fell exactly on Valentine’s day, a gift to myself via an online hour-long conversation with Ken Danford, founder of North Star self-directed center for teens and Liberated Learners which “supports the creation of centers based on the North Star model that promote living and learning without school.”

There are young people in my own family whom I know would benefit from this kind of radical alternative but even opening the topic to their parents who are my close relatives is something that I wouldn’t dare do so why am I even contemplating such a thing for total strangers?  Because I know there are families who are more open-minded than some and who would welcome this type of “inclusive club” for their children.

Although I have listened to Ken Danford’s TEDx Talk, School is Optional, it was Joel Hammon’s TEDx Talk, Teacher Liberation that prompted me to email the two of them about the possibility of setting up a place like North Star here in the Philippines.  I was scared and excited at the same time — scared knowing how ludicrous and impossible it would sound to some, and excited because this is staking your life on something you believe in.





Following are centers across North America that Liberated Learners have helped set up.  What will the one in the Philippines look like? 


Read more about North Star and the Princeton Learning Cooperative:

Helping Teens Thrive Without School

Tigers, Humans and SDE








Our Finds at the Big Bad Wolf


I was planning on heading to the check out counter after finding six books but we were inundated with tables upon tables of choices at hard to resist prices.  Everyone had baskets or shopping carts but I was stubbornly clutching the books in my hand, refusing to get a cart because I promised this will be a quick jaunt and I’m not going to over-buy, until I scooped up some more, gave up and decided to get a cart before heading to join the kilometric queue.  When we did merge with the the line, it was a whole new ballgame.  That’s when we found MORE Minecraft books that Joshua and Jimmy were pining for.  That’s when I found two books for myself that I did not intend to get because I get kindle books because they’re cheaper.  This time, the physical books themselves beat the kindle cost so who can resist the lure of the smell and touch of new books.

I usually get second hand children’s books from Booksale and Biblio but this is too good to pass — brand new books at close to pre-loved price.  This is the dream I’ve had whenever I salivated in lust and envy at bookstores in China where they had books the way it should be pegged affordably but the only drawback there was they were in Chinese!

Back at the Big Bad, I saw Joshua leafing through a book called The Savage by David Almond and illustrated by Dave McKean.  “Do you want this?” I asked him.  He answered no.  I leaf through it myself and I want it for myself but I ask him around three more times, “Are you sure you don’t want this?”  He keeps saying he doesn’t want it, but I put it in with our pile and figured I’d still read it to him.  Mine is the mother dilemma of not liking some of the “babyish” books Jimmy wants me to read so I’m always on the look-out for read-aloud books that keep me going.  I don’t know if my sneaky cheat would work but we found the biography of Minecraft creator, Markus Pearsson.  I grabbed it and said, “I’ll get this for you.”   I’m hoping it will make Jimmy fall asleep faster while Joshua listens with (likely, unlikely) sustained attention.

A good technique for next time may be to just go to the tables where the lines don’t pass through, join the line, shop while you queue and voila, time saved.  But there is no way you can really save time with the crowds.  Nobody’s budging because the deals are too good to pass up.  The fun is in discovering books people leave in the wrong pile, seeing you want that book yourself, change your mind and put it in another stack.  That practice should be avoided and you should return things where you find them but that’s the element of anarchy that is part of the game.  Another entertaining feature of standing in line for hours is discreetly ogling other people’s baskets and carts.  A kid peaks into our cart and asks where we found the Minecraft books.

Nearing the cashier, there are more books on the wooden palette dividers.  You can see how people changed their minds before the final purchase is made.  When I get home, I thought hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have gotten these two out of eighteen.  I intended to buy less than ten but ended up buying almost twenty so if I got them at half or more than half the price that means I still spent more than I intended, but still get much, much more than one gets in the regular bookstore.  Chuck budgeting out the window because it’s fun, satisfying and we can’t wait for next year.  I want to sneak in there at 5:00 in the morning.



Treetop and Jollibee Joys


One is scrunched up in fear; the other raises his arm advanced in triumph at the starting line.  After the Superman rider zips them back and forth twice over the lush canopy of Subic rainforest, they all want another turn.  That’s like how we are at times with life – nervous, anxious, doubtful at the beginning but once we get the experience, we’re good to go another round and another.

In a visit to the Philippines, aside from enjoying the sand, water, sky, sea and trees, one must have a taste of the jolly bumblebee’s delight – Jollibee spaghetti and chicken joy.  There’s also Kultura for souvenir shopping – one stop and everything’s there.  The Manila Bay sunset, Toy Kingdom and National Bookstore are bonuses.  You have to let the guests try sinigang (tamarind broth) and halo-halo (mixture of shaved ice, milk, beans, jelly, fruits and other goodies).

We are grateful Camile, Francis, Maebel and Danise prioritize safety especially in crazy crowded areas like Mall of Asia on a Friday night.  We are grateful for the counselors’ generosity of spirit and energy.  We are grateful to Taj and Dingdong for the synergies they facilitated through the workshops.  We are grateful to Gabe and John for leading us to Dingdong.  We are grateful for Carl, Samantha and Zena for braving the exhausting plane rides to and excruciating airport of Manila and for bringing the children to experience something totally different.   We are grateful to all the parents and children for their trust and participation.  We are grateful for your laughter and your screams.  We are grateful to all the people behind Prado Farms, Casa San Miguel and Crystal Beach Resort for hosting us.

It’s quite fitting that “summer” camp (in this case, it’s really winter since it’s winter in China) ends with tearful goodbyes.  Till we meet again next time!




Crystal Mingle


My favorite part of Crystal Beach in San Narciso, Zambales is the part where you go through a thicket of pine trees, bend low as you wade through the needles that gently slap your face, follow the light at the end of the furry tunnel and emerge in a cozy hang-out labeled Mingle in the Jungle.  Mingle in the Pine Forest doesn’t sound as good, so jungle it is.  Two hammocks among the pine trees wait for you not to mention a set of sungka invites plus music from guests who just grilled their dinner.  A few steps away is the beach with perfectly angled lounge chairs for chatting the night away.   We could stay here forever but we had a bonfire roast (hotdogs, smores, marshmallows) planned.

Crystal Beach had another surprise waiting for us: they set up a movie screen on the beach with low tables and banig and they showed back to back two animated features: Home and A Bug’s Life.  What are the chances that they chose these on the night our children’s camp was there?  On a usual night, it would be surfer type movies.  They know how to please their guests.  I remember talking to the owner’s daughter some months back and she said how her dad blended in with the staff because he would pick up trash and wanted people to have doses of thoughtful service.

We stayed, nay cheated a bit in their glamping tents — tents where you can fully stand up and that come equipped with electric fan, light and outlet to plug your gadgets.  On nearby trees, swings hang made of tires and plastic blue barrels for barreling through the air finding your balance.  Wide open sandy space beckons you to play frisbee and volleyball.  I’m glad Camile convinced me to hold the much-awaited laser tag at the obstacle course.  I pictured in my mind that the kids will run a race through the half-burried tires and climbing net but instead, they played the classic camp favorite.  Sometimes, maybe most of the time, reality presents us something more interesting than what we imagined.

At Home at Casa


We could come home to it again and again and it would welcome us with open arms despite anything that’s happened in the past.  That is home.  That is Casa.  Casa San Miguel of my dreams and now, yours.

This time around, it’s twelve kids without their parents.  Only one Mom came and she graciously helped us record everything in photos and videos so that parents back in China can be assured of how well their children are cared for, and more than that, how they are having a rollicking, crazy good time frolicking in the beaches of Zambales, catching tadpoles in the pond, directing a surprise for their fellow camper, making puppets come alive, chilling out with Lego and the piano, riding the Pinoy tricycle, eating pizza, biko and suman, and going round Coke’s mental and physical labyrinth.

In my over 20 years of visiting Casa and its surroundings, I’ve never been to Anawangin Cove and this time, we took the guests there but it’s probably not the pretty, pristine cove it was way back then.  We took the boat to Capones which still rule our hearts because we can own the island for the afternoon and pick shells and tiny bits of coral as much as we want.  Even if we can’t swim or safely ride the waves like in Anawangin, it was enough to feel like ship wrecked adventurers on our very own island.

A 3-minute tricycle ride plus a good sand trek away from Casa, we also had an afternoon swimming in the river with it’s fresh, unsalted, calm waters in sharp contrast to the salty ocean with powerful waves just parallel it and with merely a sandy strip dividing the two bodies. Nature is a miracle worker.

Dingdong from SPIT Manila facilitated the process of drawing stories from the children which were then translated into shadow play through the guidance of Taj.  Camile, Francis, Danise and Maebel joined the fray, gently coaxing the storylines out of the kids and even coming up with their own wacky presentation.  It’s amazing to see how shadow play stamps out inhibitions and brings out confidence as you remain hidden behind a screen.  After a day and a half of workshops, the kids jumped into performance which brought out enthusiastic voices.  After garnering the applause and bowing on stage, the kids went behind the screen and continued weaving their own stories and dialogues like what they do in free play.


Read other articles about Casa San Miguel:

Coming Home to Casa

Hero’s Journey Version 2.0

Culmination and the Awesomeness of Ensemble

Casa of My Dreams

The Ballad of Coke Bolipata

And you can watch this on Youtube: The Story of the Filipino: Coke Bolipata

Look at Casa through the lens of Hero’s Journey 2017 and 2018 and you see the big difference in the structure.  Coke, ever the genius creator, added a bold, radical roof with green wall and hanging woven lamps, pushing boundaries all the time.  I know there are people who miss the iconic silhouette but it always makes me wonder what Coke will cook up next.




Peace at Prado


Luck was on our side driving from Manila to Lubao, Pampanga on a Sunday when we breezed through normally choked EDSA.  After one full day of flying from Tianjin to Xiamen to Manila, leaving very early morning and arriving way late at night, it was good for the travelers to relax the next day in a serene farm dotted with art works, creativity bursting from each detail.  Among the trees, kids played on and under colorful sculptures.  At first they were tentative and scared to go into the pig pen but once they started offering leaves to the pigs, it was hard to get them to stop so the next group can take their turn after the carabao ride.  They brought out a ping pong table for our group to use near the big tree with vines from which it was a joy to swing.

Except for one, all twenty of us stayed in a dormitory which was great for bonding.  Camile and her team of camp counselors, Francis, Maebel and Danise played charades, tag and read the kids bed time stories.  We felt that one day and a night in Prado Farms is too short to fully soak in the trees, sky and fields into our system and next time, we’ll stay longer.

Check out Prado Farms

Hero’s Journey at Prado Farms last year (2017)


Hero’s Journey 2018 Version 3.0


From February 3 to 10, a dozen kids from China, majority unaccompanied by their parents, flew to Manila with three teachers from Tianjin and joined the Hero’s Journey camp 2018.  The third we have had thus far, it combines the best features from the first and second camps, striking a balance between fun outdoor activities and art.  Combining improvisational theater and shadow play, facilitators drew stories from the children that were woven into a performance that brought out their voices and imagination.

We started from Manila, drove to Prado Farms in Lubao, Pampanga where the kids fed pigs, rode a carabao-pulled cart and swam in the pool.  Next stop was Casa San Miguel in San Antonio, Zambales where we had river trek, cove and island hopping, workshops, performances, games on the lawn, tricycle rides and a surprise birthday party orchestrated by the children themselves.  We wished we all could have stayed longer at the next destination at Crystal Beach, San Narciso where we had bonfire, movie night, sungka, swings, frisbee and loads of time chasing the waves.  Treetop Adventure at Subic produced the usual effect of fear first and pure ecstatic enjoyment after.   Last stop was MOA where Kultura (pasalubong shopping), Jollibee (the favorite meal) and Toy Kingdom (Mom, I need more money) were the orders of the day.

We look forward to more Hero’s Journeys in the future and there will be more detailed accounts coming up from this quite dormant blog.   Since my family and I made a transition from China back to the Philippines, I have remained silent on WordPress but will soon be back with reports about the camp as well as updates about self-directed education.