To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool?

While my hubby, my handyman is in the high DIY spirit and assembling our new bookcase, chest of drawers and organizer for the new baby, I decided to write this post about homeschooling. There’s only one electric drill anyway, so I’ll just let him be Angus the Constructor. When I was still single, I used to assemble the furnitures myself. Now that I have him, I have so much more time on my hands! (Admiring hubby) 

Ok, back to the subject. Homeschool. 

Ever since I have been in Taiwan and was surprised to see junior high students still going to class in the summer, I’ve decided that my kids should enjoy summer and being young. 

Another point is that I would like to have a bilingual (Chinese and English) environment for the children. While there are still good bilingual options in Taiwan, I still need to look into them. 

On the other hand, Taiwanese kindergarden and some elementary schools are pretty impressive and would give the children a good educational experience without compromising their childhood.

Good news is that I have some 4-5 years to think about it. Being curious me, I attended a “Homeschool Seminar” organized by the Tainan Education Department. 

Homeschooling in Taiwan

Unlike homeschooling in Canada or the states, teaching kids at home is still a relatively new (maybe around 15 years) concept. More families are getting involved in homeschooling and the government is putting frameworks in place to help make this work. 

In Taiwan, the government is responsible for every child’s education from 6-15 years old. So, if your child is past 6 years old and not attending school, the government’s in trouble, and so are you. Therefore, all children have to be registered for some kind of education. 

Homeschool cases are supervised by the Department of Education for each county. Every family who wishes to homeschool must write a proposal and apply to the government. 

Homeschool Proposal

The proposal itself is quite extensive. It includes sections on “Education Theory” and proposed education plan, curriculum and schedule for the period that the parent intends to homeschool their child. Some people apply every year as they change their curriculum on the way. Others might write a proposal for the 9 years of homeschool. However, if changes are made, the proposal need to be modified and re-submitted. 

Proposals could be submitted in two time slots for Tainan, one for fall/winter semester and another for winter/spring semester. 

Parents are allowed to be quite flexible and free with what they decide to teach their children. 

Local School Resources

When the proposal is passed, each case is paired with a teacher from the local school and the child is registered under that school. The child is also part of a class of his age. 

What I like about this system is that the school is a resource for parents. Parents can choose to let their children participate in classes, school events, competitions or school insurance programs. For example, if the parent wants the child to only participate in physical education classes, then he will be a regular for those classes for the semester. The schedule and level of involvement at the local school could be discussed with the teachers and principal. The school is also responsible for informing parents on any school events and activities. 

At this point, only about 10% of schools are dealing with homeschooling families. Most likely, your child will be the first case the school would have dealt with. However, the government has an intensive training and supervision program for new schools with homeschool cases. 

Grading

Basically, the parent(s) would grade their children according to their curriculum. They then need to translate their grade or scores to the format used by the local school. Of course, the Department of Education trusts that all parents would be fair and not give their children straight As. Parents grade according to their child’s efforts and realistic strengths and weaknesses in the study area. 

How About Getting into College?

One of the main concerns for homeschooled kids and parents is whether or not their curriculum would be sufficient for the child to qualify for higher education. In Taiwan, it’s a yes and no. Basically, in Taiwan, there is probably no university that has a special enrolment procedure or requirements for homeschooled students. The criteria for university entrance are based on Taiwanese curriculum and test scores. Students would still need to undertake the gruelling national examinations like other high schoolers.

In Canada and the States, most schools have spots for homeschooled students. Schools could ask students to take certain exams, such as SATs in the US or other validating credentials. There are also online colleges that do not require a high school diploma. Apart from high school grades, the emphasis is on personal development, self-learning abilities and involvement extra-curricular activities, which are in the favor of homeschoolers. 

Who knows, maybe in a decade, the system in Taiwan might be more accommodating to students who choose to have alternative education. This would be a giant step forward for the education system.  

Helpful Resources

Here are a few resources about homeschooling in Taiwan and the application process.

HSLDA: Taiwan – Advocates for Homeschooling (English)

Taiwan Homeschool Advocates (Chinese)

Taiwan Homeschool Laws by the Chen-Wernik Family (Chinese)

Mujen – Christian Homeschoolers Resources (Chinese)

Tainan Non-School Experimental Education Website (Department of Education Tainan in Chinese)

OK, so what did I actually learn from the homeschool seminar? I’ll write this in the Part II of this post, which will be out in a couple of days. Until then, have an amazing, out-of-this-world week!

25.6 Weeks: Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

Today, I had to take my second trimester glucose tolerance test and draw blood to test for Hepatitis B. 

Glucose tolerance test is used to measure gestational (or pregnancy) diabetes. According to BabyCenter, “Between 2 and 5 percent of expectant mothers develop this condition, making it one of the most common health problems during pregnancy.” Apparently, often the condition goes without any symptoms and testing is the only way to know.

What is gestational diabetes? 

Gestational diabetes is a condition when pregnant women have higher than normal blood glucose levels. Since pregnancy causes dramatic changes in the mother’s metabolism, the pancreas’ secretion of insulin and regulation of sugars in the body can sometimes function improperly, thus causing this condition. 

According to American Diabetes Association, blood glucose levels are considered normal or healthy if levels are:

  • Before a meal (fasting blood glucose): 95 mg/dl or less
  • 1-hour after a meal: 140 mg/dl or less
  • 2-hours after a meal: 120 mg/dl or less

How does gestational diabetes affect the mother and the baby?

The immediate risk of gestational diabetes is having “fat” babies, or babies born overweight. This is caused by the excess blood glucose that are stored as fat in the baby’s body. An overweight baby could also be at risk of becoming an overweight or diabetic adult. Furthermore, the large size of the baby could cause difficult birth for the mother.

Mothers with gestational diabetes can often give birth to perfectly healthy babies. However, if gestational diabetes is not treated with weight management, proper exercise and a healthy diet, mothers may need to take medicine to control the diabetes. After childbirth, if the mother’s blood glucose levels remain high, she could be at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. 

My glucose test experience

In my mind, I have never had any high blood glucose problems and am pretty confident that I’d strike clear for the test. So, I came into the hospital expecting the sugar water to taste awful and nothing else. 

My test was the 1 hour glucose tolerance test. It involved me drinking 50g of sugar mixed with water and waiting exactly an hour before drawing blood. 

oralglucoseBasically, I had to pour into my cup FIVE of these vials of pure glucose (pictured above), then filling the cup 80% full with water. Then, I gulped the whole thing down and placed a timer on my cell phone – 1 hour to be exact. 

The sugar water, to my surprise did not taste as evil as people describe them to me. When I got the glucose vials from the pharmacist, she remarked to me how disgusting and “too sugary” this drink is. 

What bothered me was not the taste, but the aftermath. The effects of the high glucose was felt within 5 minutes of taking the drink. I had a light-hearted dizzy feeling and was a bit sick. For the next hour, I read a book and kept yawning as if I’m not getting enough oxygen. 

Finally, the hour was up and I had my blood drawn. The nurse said that some people vomit or even have hot flashes and felt terrible all over from the sugar. I guess I did well. 

For the rest of the day, I just felt pooped and tired. Although I did do a few loads of laundry (side note: I received my cloth diapers and are so happy washing them. They are just the cutest little things!), met with a friend and cooked dinner, I felt my energy was just not there.

The other effect of the glucose was super active baby! This whole day, he was kicking, flipping, hiccuping about 3-4 times more than usual.

It will be another 4 weeks till my next check-up and I will find out the results then. 

From this experience, I swear that being sugar high is one of the grossest feelings. I will try not to dunk my baby in coke and chocolate for all our sake! 

Encouragement for New Beginnings

Sunflowers Road by Jean Marc Janiaczyk

Each one of us encounter new beginnings as long as we eat, sleep, breathe, live. Walking on this trail called life, there are crossroads, split paths, rocks, rivers, and mountains of challenges along the way. The path is not always smooth and paved, but then again it may be the roughness that makes this trek worth the adventure. 

As I face my own new beginning, I do one of two things: jump full into it or watch and wait for signs that says, “Go.” I have usually taken the first option. At times, I was confident and everything turned out fine. Other times, after the leap, I found myself in a completely different situation from what I initially pictured. These days, I have been more careful and quietly waiting for a clear sign or a gush of fateful wind pushing me ahead. Thinking about it, I have chosen the passive route. 

My goal, however is neither of the two. I would rather be pro-active, yet steadily pacing myself to have time to reflect and strategize on how to reach where I would want to end up. 

Experiencing a career change and the new role of being a mom, uncertainties are butterflies fluttering in my heart. They could unmask into crippling fears or pleasant surprises and blessings. 

Here I am once again in a new place and I realize that I am not alone. I could feel a gentle and firm hand guiding me and reassuring me. Still in awe that the God of the universe would care to communicate with my tiny soul, I am completely humbled. Everyday, I am met with words of encouragements addressed specifically to me and my current situation. 

I jotted down a few encouragements this week and hope they could continue inspire:

Encouragement 1: Listening to music on a YouTube playlist, one random video was not a song, but a person (Kris Valloton to be exact) telling his story of stepping out in faith when he felt least confident in a completely new career path. He talked about how a lot of people have been waiting and watching for the right season to start something new. Perhaps, the season is here and rather than watching from the sidelines, it is time to step out. He prayed for faith and confidence for those in this situation. That was what I needed.

Encouragement 2: I received a weekly newsletter and this week’s topic was titled, “Why You Need to Quit Your Job”. This article came in a time when pursuing a new career is a financially difficult choice for me. Although my decision to finish my current job was already made, I needed someone to say, “You’re not crazy.” 

Encouragement 3: Every morning I read from Stormie Omartian’s “The Power of Praying”, this morning’s excerpt reads,

“God is always wanting to take you to a new place in your life, and you will keep Him from doing that if you are hanging on to the way things have always been done. He will never allow you to rest on past success. If you rely on the way things have always been done, you aren’t relying on Him. And that’s the whole point. No matter how old you are, God has something new He wants to do in your life.” 

Encouragement 4: My dad was visiting me this week. After writing his memoir every night after work for the past 1.5 years, he published his novel last week. This is definitely an amazing accomplishment! He told me that he thought writing a book would be hard, but when he started and finally finished, he found out that it wasn’t nearly as hard as he thought. For me, changing a career or parenting seem like Everest at this point. Once I start the climb, it won’t be nearly as hard as I imagined. 

These little signs could just be tidbits, but they have been immensely helpful to me. Maybe you are facing a difficult decision, unexpected circumstances, or like me, a new beginning. Are there any small tidbits in your life that can encourage you in a time when you most need it? 

Image Credit: Sunflowers Road by Jean Marc Janiaczyk

21 Weeks: 4D Ultrasound

Last week, for the first time, we went for a 4D ultrasound. I had no idea what I was in for. 

Cross-Sections

Walk in the sonographer and a medical student who politely asked if he can join the session for educational purposes. Yeah, why not. 

Within a minute, we knew our sonographer was an experienced professional passionate about scanning babies. After about 10 minutes in and feeling that we were all pretty interactive people, she began explaining her theory on scanning. She loved martial arts movies and said her job is like Chinese martial art.

“It is the balance between strong and soft pressures in order to see clearly all the organs and body parts.”  Mmm… interesting lady. 

It took me awhile to realize that the beginning shots were in detailed 2D cross-sections. Yes, cross-sections. If you took a knife and sliced a part of your body like bread, then that would be a cross-section.

So, who in the world pictures a cross-section of a body on a daily basis? It’s more like looking at a contemporary art piece, one of Dali or Picasso’s. Without our sonographer curator, we wouldn’t have a clue. 

“See, that’s the lungs.” Where?

Lungs

Apparently, those are the lungs in the big circle. The small bubble on the right is the umbilical cord.

 

3D and 4D Real-Time

Once she had taken all the measurements of the body parts and I had counted how many toes my baby had, she announced, “Ready for 3D imaging?” 

She clicked something and within seconds, the face of our baby came on the screen. At first, the face was somewhat blocked by his hands and a thick umbilical cord. Our baby was shy. 

Elijah_shy_3D

No photos, please!

Sonographer lady poked my tummy a few times to get him to lower his arms. The second he did, we got a beautiful shot of his face! 

At only 21 weeks, our baby had defining facial features. He clearly has is dad’s full lips and v-shaped chin. Chuckling, this one will look like him. 

Elijah_face_3D

Here he is in real-time. Beautifully and wonderfully made. 

Basically a 4D ultrasound is when the 3D picture is moving in real-time. Unfortunately, I don’t have any videos of the 4D. 

Big Surprise!

We didn’t expect the sonographer to tell us right off the bat, but in the first minute of the scan, she said, “Oh, here’s his birdy. It’s a boy!” 

What? I didn’t catch that. She later showed us again many times and confirmed that we are having a boy!

When I first got pregnant, I had a very strong feeling that we’re having a boy. Although we are happy with both baby boy or girl, I just had a weird hunch. Well, mothers’ intuitions are proven to be very accurate.

Listen to your mothers. 

Halfway There 

While I looked forward to check-ups every month and seeing how my baby’s growing, I feel a sense of relief afterward. The baby is healthy, the weight gain is good, amniotic fluids are plenty, blood sugar levels are fine. Check, check, check. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in grade school taking an exam. I’ve passed the test, this time. 

Now halfway through my pregnancy, I have come into grips with the good and bad days. 90% of the time I am enjoying it, but I am still confronted with the 10% of worries and anxieties. Unnecessarily, I overthink into the future, “How will I raise a boy?” 

The best remedy is telling myself that no one is perfect and just chillax. Enjoy the ride!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear – 1 John 4:18a

At times like this, my favorite Bible verse always comes to the rescue. And it is so true, in love I should not fear whatever may or may not happen. You are in good hands, baby boy. 

Ultrasounds

This is what we got to take home at the end of the day. A roll of abstract art!

17 Weeks: First Movements

Around the end of September, I hit 17 weeks. Before that, I was experiencing “what it means to be pregnant” with all the dizziness and tiredness of first trimester. Babies should already have normal reflexes such as sucking and hiccups by 12 weeks, but those movements were too small to be felt. 

To my surprise, at spot on 17 weeks, a new kind of tingling bubbled in my lower tummy. It wasn’t bloating, bowel movements or a stomachache. I am quite familiar with those feelings. After a few more bubbly tickles, I knew it was my baby. 

What a new and exhilarating feeling! Knowing the baby is alive and kicking is such a satisfaction for mom. I couldn’t get enough of his little kicks, nudges, and sometimes he’d flip 360 degrees, as my friend puts it, doing “baby somersaults.” I could imagine him being an acrobat, spinning and swimming in the ocean of my womb (calling it amniotic fluid, or what it really is: sterile fetal urine – is so not romantic). 

I started tummy games with him. In the beginning, he didn’t quite react. Once I found he was awake and moving, I would gently tap on where I felt him move. After a few days, he got it! Wherever I would tap, he would respond with a nudge. We’d do that about 3-4 times and he’d just fall right back to sleep. We still play this “knock-knock” game everyday. I just couldn’t get enough.  

17_weeks_home

Here I am at 17 weeks with a tiny little bump!

Thoughts on First Trimester Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a special experience. Mothers who have 15 children would probably still find differences with each pregnancy. After all, every baby is unique. 

Keeping a pregnancy diary, I thought would be a great place to record these precious memories. Unfortunately, it didn’t come into action until my second trimester. I would nevertheless like to pick my brain and write about what my first trimester felt like. 

Faith in Uncertainties

The first 3 months were both exciting and at times, completely unreal. My tummy didn’t show very much and the baby was yet too small to feel any fetal movement. 

I would say that those months were a test of faith. You can’t see or feel the baby, but you know that he/she’s there. The risk of miscarriages during this period is also highest. This time tests whether you and the baby are both healthy, strong and up for a full-blown pregnancy. 

To my surprise, my baby is more resilient than I imagined and could make it through some pretty scary events. 

Body Changes

One of my thrills is to see my body change. First was getting fuller and bigger breasts. Woohoo (coming from a small-chested Asian)! Then, it was the butt. Let’s just say I had to put away a few pairs of shorts in storage. 

How I would tell that my baby hasn’t miscarried in the earlier days, was to test whether my boobs stayed full. If they didn’t shrink to the original size, the baby’s still there! 

My appetite was poor in the first semester, so by the second month, I had lost 1 kg from my pre-pregnancy weight. Fortunately, I wasn’t on a weight loss streak. By the end of the third month, I had gained 2 kg and was happy to see a glimpse of a bump. 

Aches, Stretches, and Exhaustion

In the beginning, I could feel my back and shoulders ache more than usual and my womb stretching. That stretching was an inner pulling like an overly stretched pizza dough, uncomfortable but bearable. I used to reach up to hang the laundry and found that difficult for awhile. This all cleared up in the second trimester.  

Apart from aches, I had strains in the funniest places. One of my top pregnancy muscle strains were on my butt. Getting butt strains are hilarious and PAINFUL! Sitting wasn’t bad, but it’s when you get up and walk, OUCH! It does go away, but the worst part was that most people couldn’t comprehend, “What the heck is a butt strain?” 

Well, if you get one, you’ll know. And you won’t like it. 

Then, I was just tired. My adjustments were from doing 5-6 activities and meetings a day to choosing only 1-2 to do, so I won’t be running around exhausted. This all changed in my second trimester when my energy level came back. 

Morning Sickness and Heat

Everyone’s different when it comes to morning sickness. The only thing I can say is “THANK GOD!” 

Well, also thanks to mom and grandma for passing on their genes, I had almost no morning sickness. The only times I would feel the urge to vomit was due to the 38°C and 90% humidity of southern Taiwan. I was also creating so much heat from being pregnant that I couldn’t go without aircon (and I rarely used it in previous summers). 

I’ve read that morning sickness means a healthy baby with strong yang element in Chinese medicine. Kudos to moms with morning sickness, your baby’s doing great! So, I guess my baby’s a bit yin, and I’m perfectly happy with it. 

Morning sickness really has to do with hormones produced during pregnancy and how both mother and baby react to them. Another factor could be genetics. My mom and grandma never had morning sickness, so I was lucky.

Injuries

I have no idea if pregnancy made me absent-minded or I was always a bit tipsy. Sometime in my second month of pregnancy, I got up at around 4 am thirsty for a glass of water. I filled the cup, drank it and came back to my room with the mug. When I put the mug back on my dresser, the next thing I heard was a loud CLANG!! sound and the mug was severed on the floor. A gushing pain rushed through my body and my big toe was bleeding excessively – the result of a 350 grams mug traveling at the speed of gravity is lethal. 

My husband woke up, half-asleep, took my feet and lifted it up, pressing my toe hard with a pad of tissue. I couldn’t remember much, except me laughing and crying at the same time. It HURT! And the pain didn’t go away, so for the next 30 minutes I was just somewhat in deliriousland. The only thing I could do was pray in unintelligible language because it hurt too much. Toe_injury

My black toe

During the whole process, I thought it was hilarious. Who in the world goes and deliberately drops a heavy mug on their toe? I wish I had taken a picture of the culprit. That evil mug! 

i2278751Found a pic of the evil mug online 

Basically, I couldn’t walk for 2 days.

Hubby Support

The most worth mentioning factor that got me through my first trimester smoothly was having the full support of my husband. When I was exhausted, he did the dishes, brought home food, cleaned the house and hung the laundry. Although he already did these chores gladly before I got pregnant, he took extra measures to make sure I felt comfortable. 

His words were always encouraging and positive. After taking care of the house by himself, he would say to me, “You are working so hard, are you doing ok?” 

What? I didn’t do squat, but he made me feel being pregnant is important and enduring work. What he believes is true. Being pregnant and taking care of baby and me is extremely important. 

On better days, I helped out in the house more, but there were also times that I couldn’t do anything. 

Friends and family also made me feel like a princess. Growing up very independent, I have never been so cared for before. 

Truly, I cannot imagine being pregnant alone. I am grateful to have a wonderful husband and people around me to help me through this challenging time. 

Happy Baby, Happy Mother

While there are the not-so-glorious side, honestly I am filled with joy throughout my pregnancy. Completely humbled by the fact that a life is growing in me, I couldn’t stop smiling, praising God and loving my baby. It’s a miracle!

These massive physical and hormonal changes are telling me that I am becoming a better home for the little one. Everyday, I am testing the limits of what I can and cannot do in my new body and finding satisfaction in the little things I can accomplish.

All in all, I am honoured to be pregnant and to become a mother. What an adventure!

Knowing that my baby is healthy at each check-up is a reassurance that all’s going well.

People often ask me, “How is the baby?”

I would always reply, “HAPPY!” 

 Ultrasound_10weeks

 If you have any imagination, you could pick out the portrait of my little baby at 10 weeks. He/She is a good-looking one! 

Salty Preserved Lemons

This whole idea started because I wanted to make use of the bag of dates I have left. While searching for date recipes, I came across this mouth-watering dish:

chicken_and_lemon_tagine_75608_16x9

Photo Credit: BBC Food Recipes 

A fan of spiced and delicate Moroccan dishes, one of the ingredients for the tajine was, yes the PRESERVED LEMONS! Since I couldn’t just go out to the nearest Taiwanese grocery store and get a jar, making my own is the next logical choice.

Following Jamie Oliver’s and Epicurious’ preserved lemons recipes, I’m feeling oh so excited to add these zesty treats to stews, salads and tabouleh! Of course I’ll have to wait patiently for 30 preservation days till they’ll be ready. 

 

Salty Preserved Lemons
Preserved lemons to savor any dish
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup sea salt (Coarse sea salt are easier to stuff and adds just the right amount of saltiness)
  2. Peppercorns
  3. Fennel seeds
  4. Coriander seeds
  5. 2-3 bay leaves
  6. 1 cinnamon stick
  7. 6 medium-sized lemons
  8. Note: I eyeballed the peppercorns, fennel and coriander seeds. About 1 tsp for taste.
Equipment
  1. 1 airtight glass jar
Instructions
  1. Sterilize jar by steaming or in boiling water for 5 minutes.
  2. Wash lemons with drinking water and towel dry. I added baking soda to the wash to remove any wax or pesticide residues.
  3. In a shallow bowl, mix together the spices with the sea salt.
  4. Make two deep cross-slits on the lemons until close to the bottom, but do not cut through.
  5. Start stuffing the salt mix into the lemons.
  6. Pack the stuffed lemons in the jar next to each other. Layer with sea salt.
  7. Place the remaining cinnamon stick and bay leaves in the jar along with the salt mixture.
  8. Close the jar, label the date and keep in a dark warm place for 30 days. Make sure to shake the jar everyday to evenly distribute the salty juice.
Notes
  1. Epicurious recommends filling up the rest of the space with fresh lemon juice. However, I have decided to let it sit a few days before adding any extra juice.
Adapted from Jamie Oliver and Epicurious
Adapted from Jamie Oliver and Epicurious
Jen Safari http://www.jensafari.com/
 The sea salt and spice mixture smelled fantastic as I stuffed in the lemons. 

salt

And don’t forget to label the jars! After 30 days, the lemons are good to be kept at room temperature for up to a year. 

lemon_label

It’s so easy to make. Let’s see if they’ll be a success in a month!

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