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From wushu to Zen

/ 09:38 PM March 15, 2012

“Yoga, Yoga,” my son proposed as he stood on one leg, arms outstretched.

I realized the other week that the kids’ summer break was coming up, and I had a mild anxiety attack wondering what to get them to do. I take summer activities seriously, knowing how we all grow up with the best, and sometimes the worst, of childhood memories associated with what we did during those breaks.

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Summer breaks are also vital parts of children’s development. For toddlers (aged 5 and below), it’s a time for them to explore all kinds of experiences and to maximize the rapid learning capabilities they have, for sports, arts, and especially language. For those in middle childhood (aged 6 to 12), this is a time to focus on particular interests—music for example—with such intensity that they become lifelong passions.

Not surprisingly, my younger kids were more oriented to fun activities, like going to the beach or, hear me sigh, Disneyland. My eldest, the shy one, just smiled and I knew she wanted to continue with dance. She puts in long hours in school and at home, and roams the Internet to watch videos and to get music to accompany her. But even as I confirmed we’d go for summer dance classes, the youngest, who is 2, declared, “I want also,” and went into something that looked like a combination of a ballet pirouette and tumbling gymnastics.

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I spent the weekend looking for activities, amazed at how the choices for kids have expanded over the years, with room for more. But before I share my list of activities, let me emphasize that there’s a lot that can and should be done at home. Check the bookstores for guides prepared for parents and teachers on what can be done. There are also all kinds of low-cost workbooks now for reading, writing, counting, cutting, pasting. Take time to buy some of the many Filipino children’s books, not just to practice reading Filipino but to learn to be Filipino.

Exciting stuff in PH

Resist the temptation to use television to keep the kids “busy.” Even so-called educational channels often have dismal fare, more sensational than informative. As an anthropologist, I cringe at the way non-western cultures, including our own, are exoticized like the wildlife.

The best way for kids to learn about new places, and new cultures, is still travel. I’ve been firm with my “no” for Disneyland in Hong Kong. There’s so much more exciting stuff you can do in the Philippines for historic places, nature treks, outdoor sports and thrill rides (so many ziplining places, where parents end up more terrified than the kids). Research on the Internet, look up fiestas in May, and get a copy of “Linamnam,” a comprehensive review of our heritage food all over the country.

You don’t need to travel too far from Manila. Start with the province of Rizal with a growing number of places for domestic tourism: Antipolo, Tanay, Angono, Baras.  Move farther out into Calabarzon: Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon. If you’re lucky to have a home province, make it a point to bring the kids there and help them trace their roots.

Let’s get now to the summer activities.  I’m listing summer schools in my residential area, mainly San Juan and Mandaluyong but while researching I did find many other schools in all parts of Metro Manila. I’d love to get your suggestions, maybe to do a second column. I’d especially like to hear about innovative activities—kids’ yoga, for example, and foreign language immersion specifically for children.

Athletes and chefs

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Here’s my list, which might give you ideas as well for your own area. (Some of you might want to start your own summer schools!)

Sports. Many private schools are opening up their athletic departments to the public. Xavier in San Juan is offering, among others, badminton, basketball, chess, fencing, football, street dance, wushu shaolin, swimming (even for infants as young as 6 months!), table tennis, tennis.

Cooking. My kids are still too young for this but you might want to check OB Montessori’s Instituto Culinario (723-9060) with summer offerings of “Cook like a Junior Master Chef” and “Bake Your Heart Out” for kids aged 8 to 12, and a Summer Culinary Arts course for teens aged 13 to 19.

Music. Greenhills Music Studio (greenhillsmusicstudioph.com, 724-2543) offers Suzuki classes (for children as young as 3) in piano and violin, as well as more traditional classes for a variety of musical instruments, and for voice, for older kids.

Theater. There’s the old reliable, Philippine Educational Theater Association, offering Children’s Theater 1 (aged 6 to 8), Children’s Theater 2 (aged 9 to 12), Teen Theater 1 (aged 13 to 16) and Theater Arts 1 (17 and over). Check its website (petatheater.com) for a full listing.

Dance. There’s Julie Borromeo (724-3476, 775-0827, ask for Joan) who has been around for many years offering ballet, jazz, flamenco, tap dance and hip-hop. Dance is so important for children to build up self-confidence and discipline, as well as grace and patience.

Meditation

You might also want to go for summer-camp-type packages, where the kids get to go home but get a menu of varied activities. All my kids went through The Learning Connection (725-2300, 725-2400, tlcpreschool.com.ph) where they have a Camp TLC (arts and crafts, music and movement, cooking, science, creative drama), Fit Kids (yoga, karate and dance), Children’s Theater and Headstart (reading and math for students about to enter “big school” or kindergarten).

For a different kind of summer camp, you might want to try offerings at two Zen centers: Ocean Sky Monastery in San Juan (oceanskymonastery.blogspot.com, 723-6123) and Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay temple in Manila (fgsphilippines.com, 559-9540). The “camps” include exposure to Chinese language, calligraphy, folk dance, even traditional drum, and a bit of meditation. They’re both open to non-Buddhists and to non-Chinese.

Summers should be for adults as well. Take swimming classes with the baby! Or sign up for social ballroom dancing while your kids do ballet or hip-hop. If you want something more calming, check with the Zen centers I named above for meditation classes. In addition to Ocean Sky and Fo Guang, there’s also Zen Center Philippines (zencenterphil.wordpress.com/news), which will offer introductory classes in Marikina (starting March 18), Cebu (March 24-25, April 21-22) and Baguio (April 28-29, June 2-3).

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TAGS: arts, dance, featured column, Music, sports, summer events Philippines, travel, zen buddhism
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