Thursday, December 29

Quite a Year

'Twas a fantastic year, to say the least. We as family had a great time this 2011, upping levels of expectations in various activities, especially in education, social and spiritual aspects.

In  homeschool, the kids had a very productive year: revalidas for all of them were essentially better than last year's (that's according to their teacher-coordinators themselves), and their activities (and outputs) were way better this year. This may have something to do with the fact that the previous school year was the second in our homeschooling activities, and that kinks in the initial year of homeschooling were ironed out (and perfected?) in the 2011 edition of our homeschool. Aside from the kids having more outputs in their portfolio, we were also able to connect more family activities in homeschool. The kids also showed improved skills in studying, as well as preparing for their periodical interviews.

Still in homeschool, more 'social' activities were incorporated for kids' studies: they attended several art classes (basic drawing, ceramic painting, etc) and also attended cooking, baking and other food lessons. These enable them to mingle with children of different nationalities and allowed them to get more socialization time which was lacking in the previous year's study.

It was an amazingly fantastic year for the family's travel activities as well.

Our first venture to Europe (as a family) happened in the summer of 2011, and even though we have to endure high temperatures in some areas, we still were able to achieve that family bonding that can only be attained by being together and doing family activities day in and day out. And we've successfully done it for more than two weeks!

The family enjoyed the sights and attractions (and sometimes even the nice summer weather) of Paris and Versailles in France, the Vatican City, and the cities of Rome, Florence and Pisa in Italy. We visited and climbed the Tour Eiffel, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Saint Chapelle, and cruised along the River Seine; we explored the Colosseum and the Romano Foro, visited Castel Sant Angelo, the Pantheon and Fontana de Trevi; we sat along the Spanish Steps (as most tourists do); and most importantly, we marveled at the grandness of Basilica San Pietro and the square in front of it, and had a serene experience, while gawking at the marvelous works of art inside the Sistine Chapel. The experience we had, and the spiritual renewal that went with it, while visiting basilicas, cathedrals and churches - Saint Germain de Prez, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Croce, Florence's Duomo, the Pisa Cathedral to name a few, was a memory the family will keep for a long time. Our visits to numerous parks provided welcome relief to our aching feet (from walking here and there), as well as time for light banter when the family starts getting grumpy for hours of walking. Exploring new places, understanding new culture, and learning new things become more meaningful when you do it with your loved ones.

And our adventures in traveling continued in 2011.

On the local front, we visited, and took a more in-depth look, at previously visited places: forts and castles, mosques and water fronts, ridges and mountain tops. We also had a short off-road activity (after two years of not doing it) and climbed the highest peak in the Arab region, the Grand Canyon of Arabia. Of course, we did not forget to visit our favorite park and spend some lazy afternoons there.

Towards the end of the year, we decided to head back to Europe to experience 'real' autumn. Munich and the Bavarian countryside were sights to behold. We had a grand time roaming around the Marienplatz area, as well as other notable areas such as the Stachus, Karlsplatz, the Nymphenburg, the Olympic Area and the English Garden. Ludwig II's castles in Neuschwanstein and Linderhof are grand and of course, fairytale-like, and the German countryside (through the town of Oberammergau) on the foot of the Alps gave us a feel of rural Europe which we loved.

Our short visit to Austria (Salzburg) and its thousands-year old structures was also both educational and entertaining to the family.

And of course, there is again, the visit to several churches, most notable of which was in St. Peter's (and the climb to the top, which will show you arguably the best view of 'real' Europe, in my opinion).

We also made strides in deepening our faith.

Aside from our 'panata' of attending the Filipino mass every 1st and 3rd Sundays, we also did a month-long Advent preparation activity in December. This enabled us to renew our faith more, and for the kids to re-visit theirs, by reading more scriptures. I hope this will continue to a deeper understanding of our religion and our faith, and more family activities towards this end.

'Twas a great year. We're looking forward to another great year ahead.

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