Once again, it’s time to take stock of our Chinese before we start our 4th year homeschooling. I find myself repeating our learning to read Chinese journey to various people over the years and I always feel like I’m exaggerating a bit. So it’s handy to have a reference as to just what the kids worked on each year and how their Chinese came along.
I imagine to most people, I come off as super hardcore when it comes to getting my kids to learn Chinese. The reality is, I personally find the topic of learning a language (and education in general) interesting so I do a lot of reading and research. But when it comes to the actual implementation, I have to say I can only really focus on one skill at a time. Many of my homeschooling mommy friends implement the Chinese learning part so much better.
But thankfully, what the kids do well in, namely reading in Chinese, goes along with my idea of how to learn Chinese. So I’ve been okay to let other things drop by the way side.
Wow, it really helps to have monthly summaries even though I never manage it for half the year. I never think we accomplish too much but re-reading the summaries it’s not too bad.
Here’s what the kids did last month. It may look like a lot, but this is what we did the whole day, not just during our work period. Also, something I’m trying this year is only doing the item once a week. I’ll talk more about that in my yearly Workplan post. Having a revised schedule also helps in us having more downtime to do activities like reading and practical life.
In general, we had a very good 2+ week homeschooling and another 2 weeks half homeschooling half playing. The changes I made to schedule and workplan has resulted in a
little bit less frustration on my end and I like that we’re covering the materials I think we need to cover.
Two summers ago, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite for Thumper‘s annual summer vacation at Grandma. Originally I bought it for Thumper to read in English. However, as we moved up to upper elementary Chinese books, I started using it for reading in Chinese as well. The more we use it, the more I’ve fallen in love with it. It is an indispensable tool in our quest to learn Chinese.
As they like to say in Chinese, it has a high CP value.
Why buy a Kindle?
Honestly, it probably doesn’t have to be a Kindle. It can be a Nook. But I don’t know anything about the Nook, so I don’t know if it can do the things that the Kindle can.
- It’s great for traveling. When we Worldschooled this past year for 4 months, I brought only the Kindle Paperwhite along. We used it to read English books and eventually the Chinese books I managed to find online.
- No need for an English library at home. I’ve donated about 80% of my English books at home now that I have a Kindle. We usually borrow ebooks that we download onto the Kindle. For books that have no eBook format, we go to the local library. We only buy non-fiction books we need for homeschooling when we need it.
- It provides support for English learning. Use the Word Wise setting to provide definitions over texts, which is super great for learning vocabulary. There is also a dictionary to look up words you don’t understand. There is also Kindle FreeTime, which allows you to track reading progress, though I have never figured out how it works.
- It’s got Simplified Chinese support! You can read in Traditional Chinese as well, but the menus can only be configured for Simplified. You can highlight Chinese text and look up translations and definitions. For simplified, you can configure it to display pinyin on top of words!
- Entice children to read higher level books. As I mentioned in my Harry Potter book review, kids can’t quite see how big a book is when it’s on the Kindle, so they are more willing to read a long book that they’re capable of reading, but resist because they’re not used to words without texts yet.
- Not worry about the kids’ eyes. I’m no optometrist so I don’t know if it’s actually better. But I feel better that I can change the font size to something huge for the kids. Fonts start getting so much smaller the higher the level and I always worry. In fact, because of this, I actually prefer the kids reading on the Kindle and always try to find an ebook before looking for a physical copy now. When I asked the kids’ optometrist the last time we went for a check up, she said that for screen devices they just need to make sure to rest their eyes every 30 minutes.
Ages: 6.75 & 9.75
During our summer vacation, Thumper got a hold of a free Rainbow Loom and she became obsessed. It’s now infected Astroboy as well. Both spend all their free time on it.
I was very surprised to learn that while I was gone running errands, she asked my mom for her iPad and searched on Youtube herself for instructional videos on what you can make with the Rainbow Loom. (Just google “rainbow loom project-name” and you’ll see a bunch of YouTube videos). She started with bracelets and has gone on to ornamental items.
She’s really growing up and becoming independent.
Of course Astroboy wanted to do it as well but Thumper was hogging it all up. I finally caved and bought a set for him. I didn’t know until after Thumper broke hers (just a week of use no less!) that there are actually tons of imitators out there and you want the real thing which has a metal hook instead of cheap plastic ones.
Back in December last year, Fleur and I shipped about 50 small and big boxes of books for friends and brought back 14 boxes of books ourselves. When I had to take a last minute 3 day trip back to Taipei in March this year, I brought back 2 boxes of books that I packed without Fleur’s help. All of these books arrived in one piece and I think I finally had the packing down to a science.
In my few years of buying books through my book vendor and organizing my own group book buys, I heard a few horror stories and encountered a few issues with packing and shipping. Let me list the horror stories I’ve heard and encountered myself:
- Boxes of books shipped by sea, packed by relatives, lost forever. Each box of 20kg books probably cost someone around $250-$350 total. That’s a lot of money.
- Boxes of books shipped by sea, with corners bent or moisture issues, unable to be sold.
- Boxes of books purchased through a publisher, shipped by sea, arriving ripped open and books lost or books moldy.
- Box of book getting forwarded to USPS Lost and Found because mailing label fell off, and even though we know exactly which processing plant it went to, lost forever.
- People receiving shipment notice by USPS and USPS not finding the box when they go pick it up.
- For my March 3-day trip, I didn’t buy enough books to put them all in Post Office boxes so I had 2 carryon suitcase of books. A hardcover got gauged in the process by the tabs in the suitcase because I didn’t pad it well. So so sad.
Next time I go back to Taiwan, I will try to pack all my books in boxes rather than stuff them in my suitcase. If you’re carrying books back on the plane, it is best if you just use a box instead of packing them in your suitcase. Books are heavy. Often just a few of them will push them over your suitcase weight allowance. They like to come in square shapes. You can’t bend them to pack them in a suitcase tightly.
Ages: 6.75 & 9.75
Suitable for 4th grade and up.
I don’t think people need me to review such a well known series like Harry Potter. This post is more about Chinese translation of Harry Potter and where they fit in the scheme of learning Chinese.
First a little backstory. If you’re impatient, skip to my point.
Two weeks ago, I sent Astroboy to an English camp for a week and Thumper had a week “off”, where she can do whatever she likes and I generally don’t bother her about when to get up or go to sleep. She spent that week re-listening to Harry Potter books 1 to 3 again, in English.
This was after we’d gone to the local library and borrowed Harry Potter 4 in Chinese for her to read, as I’d told her last year that she can read the fourth book after she turned 10. She dropped that after a day and went back to listening to the English version instead. She said while she could read the Chinese characters, she did not understand what it was saying.
Recently, I’ve been having random conversations with Dots about possible books to buy and offering unsolicited opinions on how she ought to teach her kids Chinese. Then I realized I often start my sentences with, “xx does this with her kids”, “yy does that with her kids”, hoping to give her some inspiration.
What I realized is I need to write all of this down as I often use one friend as an example when talking to another friend.
Because to me, many of my friends are way more successful in teaching Chinese than me. But that’s why I homeschool. I wouldn’t be able to do it if my kids went to school.
So I want to write down the stories of friends whose kids have finished Reading 123 閱讀123 by the end of second grade. I think that’s a good marker for Chinese reading success. Why? Because by third grade, English gets harder. If you can develop that habit of reading a longish book by second grade, you have a fighting chance of continually increase your Chinese level through reading without a lot of parental effort. By 2nd grade, that’s 7-8 years of
pushing making an effort for Chinese. It starts getting tiring.
Of course, there are other things one would still need to work on, like idioms, writing, non-fiction Chinese, literary Chinese, etc. But the creation of a reading habit is of the utmost importance for those kids who are learning Chinese almost as a second language.
So the first person I want to profile is Lavender. Her story is truly inspiring and I hope others who read it realize it is never too late to teach your kids Chinese. (more…)
School officially ends this year mid May because we are off to visit family for the summer.
It’s been a year of growth for me. I have so much to say about what I learned this year, its going to get its own perspective post. So here’s a short summary of what the kids did the last 1.5 months.
- English – Finished Explode the Code. Started and dropped Sara, Plain and Tall, read Percy Jackson 4 & 5 (Guided Reading Level W & S), started and dropped D’Aulaires Greek Mythology (GRL X), started Pawn of Prophecy (AR 5.9), superlatives, syllabication, All About Spelling review, Whodunit Detective Agency series (AR 5.x)
- Chinese – Sagebooks characters #61-#130
- Math – opeartor precedence, divisibility of 8, fraction multiplication of 1 unit, decimal multiplication, line, ray, segment, horizontal, vertical, broken, curved lines, division by 4 by 1 digit
- Others – Cowgirl Creamery, running 1 mile , knitting, Orff class, violin class, sourdough, hawaiian mythology, hawaiian hula
I can’t resist the call of a book collection. So I talked Dots into letting me reorganize her Chinese books.
She thinks I’m helping her. But really, I get to check out books I would otherwise not know about. As I learned during our session, she buys a lot of books through books.com.tw 博客來, many I’ve never heard off and several I’ve been wanting to check out but can’t bear to buy because my kids are mostly out of the picture book stage.
Organizing Dots’ books comes with two unique challenges. One, I can’t wait till she buys more bookshelves since I am just visiting. This means that I couldn’t really do a complete reorganization of her books. Two, I was unfamiliar with her collection.
But, I’m pleased with what we managed to do in a few hours.
We started by gathering most of the books together. Her English and Chinese books were mixed together over 7 shelves, 5 in the living room and 2 in the bedroom.
One of my favorite jdrama is Long Vacation. The main lead is an aspiring pianist who is in a rut. There is a scene in the drama the main characters are talking about how he is no longer entering in piano competitions and contemplates giving up altogether. Rather, he’s just floating by giving piano lessons to kids. The female lead suggests, maybe, he is just in a long vacation.
I’ve always loved that concept of long vacation. Maybe you’ve falling off the exercise bandwagon, or the eating well bandwagon, or the homeschooling well bandwagon. But you haven’t failed, just taking a long vacation.
Or as I like to tell my children when I’m feeling lazy, 休息是為了走更遠的路。
This year, we’re staying with my parents for 6 weeks while I help my sister with her sitting month. The kids stayed with their other grandma the first two weeks. I spent my kids-free time doing mostly brainless activities, waiting for my 3 meals to be served, not tidying or tackling the huge list of things I’d wanted to accomplish during my time here.
Finally I got bored enough to get off my butt and do some stuff. Stuff like:
Reading Raising an Emotional Intelligent Child. The author, John Gottman, is a researcher who studies marriages and his conclusion is that we all need to be emotionally intelligent and learning this skill starts in childhood.
We all know the drill of acknowledging children’s feelings, but he goes a step further. How do you guide them when they’re having a moment, be it a tantrum or being sad or angry, and help them during those moments to be aware of and to process their emotions.