Learn Chinese Profile: Chinese When Your Kid Goes to Public School

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…)

Homeschool Summary Apr/May 2017

School officially ends this year mid May because we are off to visit family for the summer.

Horray!

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.

Thumper

  • 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 

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Case Study:  Organizing an Unfamiliar Chinese Book Collection

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.

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Summer Reading and Listening for the Homeschooling Teacher

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.

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Homeschool Summary March 2017

I’m going to be sad when Spring semester is over.  Finally, after 3 years, I have figured out what homeschool daily routine works for me and what kind of homeschooling method/curriculum fits me.  I’m also very close to figuring out what kind of homeschool fits my kids now that I’ve discovered Myer Briggs.  Since March is so long ago, I no longer remember what I learned that month.

Thumper
  • English – Read Percy Jackson book 1 & 2 (GRL W & S), Frindle (GRL R)Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (GRL V).  Half way through Book 8 of Explode the Code.  Homophones, homographs, Singular & Plural possessives, comparatives/superlatives.  All About Spelling book 3, L2.  Handwriting.
  • Chinese – Percy Jackson book 1 & book 4, 晶晶的桃花源, Writing first 60 characters in Sagebook,
  • Math – common multiples, least common multiples, factors, prime, divisibility of 2, 5, 25, 4.
  • Geography, Art, History – Listening to D’Aulaires Greek Mythology audiobook, reading Chinese history, introduction to biomes, Waseca North America biome portfolio
  • Others – violin lessons, orff lessons, cooking class, Fieldtrips to learn about local foxes and birds, hiking, running laps

(more…)

Video: 生活裡的科學 Science Around Us

Age: 6.5 & 9.5 (Suitable for Kindergarten+)

For recommendations on other books/videos/audios, I’ve indexed them all under the Chinese Books Page.

We’re making our own sourdough starter and tonight the kids watched an episode from Science Around Us 生活裡的科學 to give them some of the vocabulary they are encountering.   Though it turned out that’s not what the episode is about, I was reminded just how great this series is for elementary kids.  I need to let them watch this after we’re done with 甜心格格 Sweetheart Princess.

Science Around Us 生活裡的科學 is a series put out by Daai TV, owned by Tzuchi Foundation, a Buddhist organization based in Taiwan.  But the series is secular.  This is the description on their website:

Science around Us is a children’s program that solves the mysteries behind all sorts of phenomena in people’s everyday life.

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Using Line to Help Learn Zhuyin and Reading

We’ve been doing a remedial zhuyin class for Astroboy for the last few weeks.  He really needed a review because he just doesn’t know his tones and tends to pronounce things wrong.   I know the problem is that I did not spend a very long time teaching him zhuyin well before I left him to read on his own.

But before I go on, let me vent a little on how people traditionally teach zhuyin.  They spell to children,  馬 ㄇㄚ 馬, when it really should be   馬 ㄇ ㄚˇ 馬.  I’m not immune to this.  It’s how I learned zhuyin and how I unconsciously said it to my kids.    It drives me nuts because you’re not teaching kids, right off the bat, to hear the ending tones.

What happened after the initial teaching is, I drop the ball on finishing teaching zhuyin, Astroboy went to reading and he semi succeeded since he can sometimes guess words from context and the characters he already can read, until he can’t when the book is too high a level.

So maybe I have no one to blame but myself.   Except I think this is a very common problem amongst people I know who learn Sagebooks first, then zhuyin, then move on to reading very quickly due to the desire to learn to read ASAP.

In any case, now that Thumper can read, the next step for us is composition.  However, since she doesn’t know how to write many characters, I thought I should let her review her zhuyin a bit first.

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Video: 甜心格格 Sweetheart Princess

Ages: 6.5 & 9.5
Suitable for: 6 and up

Reading 西遊記 to the kids this semester is our foray into more advanced Chinese, including vocabulary used in court.  Chinese is kind of like Japanese and Korean.  There is a more formal and polite way of speaking, with specific vocabulary used to denote relationship hierarchy.  But thankfully, unlike those two languages, there are no verb tense changes.    I’m hoping that knowing these terms will help with reading more advanced Chinese literature.

Since a very good way to introduce new vocabulary is through listening, namely audiobooks or TV, first, off I went to finally look into 甜心格格, translated as Sweetheart Princess (though the official images I’ve seen says Ori-Princess, which makes no sense).  We first watched the anime series when we were in Taiwan 3 years ago on Momo TV and the kids really liked it.   But I hadn’t been able to find a Taiwan dubbed version.

This time around, I gave up on the Taiwanese version and just used the Mainland version available on Youtube.  The series is from China anyway.  I knew some of the pronunciation and terms used in China are different from Taiwan, so I’d wanted to keep the exposure consistent.  But at this point, with the kids Chinese fairly good enough, it doesn’t matter.

The series is set in the Qing dynasty and about a princess who was raised amongst the commoners and “rediscovered” by her father the emperor.  He brings her back home and attempts to convert her to a princess and the antics that ensue.  Sophia the First she’s not.  Don’t let the title Princess turn you off.  It’s more just about her adventures with the background set in the imperial palace.

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Audiobook Review: Mr. Men and Little Miss 奇先生妙小姐

Age: 6.5 & 9.5
Grade Level: 4+ (listening), lower elementary (reading)

This semester, I’ve introduced a new routine.  The children can listen to an audiobook while they fold their laundry during work hours.  I offered Astroboy Mr. Men and Little Miss 奇先生妙小姐 one day and finally, there is something that is at Astroboy‘s comprehension level and actually engaging.

Astroboy has been listening to the series for the last month.  Mr. Men and Little Miss is just like Thomas the Train.  After a few repeats, the kids can tell me exactly what each Mr. Men and Little Miss’ story is about, and knows to request a specific one that they find especially funny.  Then, when they’re not listening, they will discuss the stories and laugh their heads off.  Even better, because Fleur and Mandarin Mama‘s kids are also listening to the series, sometimes they would discuss the stories on the playground.

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Homeschool Summary February 2017

We did bare minimal homeschooling while in Taiwan and getting over jet lag took me all of January.  Early February, my ceiling leaked, which resulted in the removal of a bookcase.  As a result, I needed to reshuffle all my books, which lead to a general purging and organization of the living room/homeschool area.

Finally.  I had a homeschooling area again.  Who knows how long it would have taken me if the ceiling hadn’t leaked.  February was the first month we’ve tried to stick to a 3 hour work period in a long time.

Here’s what the children did this month. (more…)