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.
Our first year homeschooling after taking a year off. Thumper (7) started Sagebooks in the fall and finished in April. (She already knew a lot of the characters to begin with from preschool) I started her on beginning Level 0 books. This was the year she learned to read.
Astroboy (4) started in the spring and we got stuck in set 1 by the end of the semester. He also took zhuyin class when he was close to 5 but he was not reading.
Thumper was 8. Once she learned zhuyin in the summer, she really started reading. This was the year we went through all the bridging book levels, basically from 1st grade level to 3rd grade.
She spent this year reading Level 1-3 books, with series like Reading 123 and Magic Treehouse, random books from the library. By the end of the school year, she could read without zhuyin and read books like Story of the World and Little House on the Prairie, but was reluctant. In a way, we had no books for her to read between these two levels.
I noticed that her Chinese vocabulary really increased with a year of reading.
We picked up Sagebooks again for Astroboy (5) and finally finished the set by the end of the school year, when he was 6. He took zhuyin class in the Fall semester. Though he could read Little Bears and what not, he was also reluctant. I was too busy with Thumper to focus on improving his comprehension, which I knew would help him read.
2016-2017 (This Year)
We spent 3 months in Taiwan. This was the year we finally made the break through to upper elementary reading as she’d been resisting reading long books without illustration. In hindsight, the 3 months in Taiwan definitely made a difference.
Thumper read Harry Potter ebook with zhuyin, then moved onto the physical books with no problem. She’s reading the Harry Potter 4 right now and tons of science manga, also without zhuyin. She can read books like the Circuit, 狼王夢, a few books in the Cross Century set, Little House on the Prairie, or books from the Reading 456 set, but she’s reluctant. But in general, she’s solidly in the non-zhuyin reading realm.
I wonder if this kind of mimics English reading. Spend the first year learning to read then it takes about two years of reading to become very fluent readers.
Astroboy finally started reading one day in the spring semester when he picked up some fables. He’s reading I Love Martine right now. He can read a few of the 小火龍 set from Reading 123 and even a few from Ferris Wheel set, but is reluctant. He’s more happy with long picture books.
Looking back through 3 years, Thumper did not start reading till 7.5. If you spend the time they don’t want to read on comprehension, when they finally can read with zhuyin, they will progress rather quickly till they hit books at their comprehension and maturity level. Thumper jumped about 2-3 grade level in reading in one year, purely because she has the comprehension. I’ve seen this with friends whose kids also have the comprehension; they go through bridging books rather quickly, at most a year.
Astroboy didn’t read till 6.5. And he will not zoom through these reading levels like Thumper, because he doesn’t have the comprehension. I guess I like to point out that my kids did not read early like most kids when people tell me they worry. It’s never too late. But you need to work on comprehension.
Every year, there are the books they can read, and the books they want to read. They want to read books that follow their current maturity level and comprehension. For Thumper it was school life or funny silly stories that first year, and now it’s adventure and fantasy books. She’s not quite ready for the thoughtful books though I keep offering them to her.
Similarly, once Astroboy started reading, he did not want to read the Little Bear books or Ferris Wheel sets. He wanted to read longish stories with tons of illustration or magazines, funny stories like Mr. Men or daily life stories like I Love Martine. The novel looking Reading 123 sets are too intimidating looking.
If I care to pay attention, my kids clearly show me what books are suitable for them. What’s hard is then finding those books that will grab their attention and entice them to sink into a story, even given the largish library I have.
For this school year, my goal is to entice Thumper to read more books written by Chinese authors, like 狼王夢, books that are in the fantasy/adventure realm still . I may put off the books that are worthy of discussions till the following year probably. For Astroboy, it is to consistently read to him and provide reading time too him so he can read Reading 123 level books.
What about Writing?
I’ve been yaking about their reading because writing has been non-existent. Last year, I finally realized that I can only focus on one thing a year. For example, Chinese reading, English reading, Chinese writing, etc. This year will be the year of writing.
I have to say, waiting to learn to handwrite and write composition has also been beneficial, at least for Thumper. With two years of reading Chinese under her belt, she now can actually write very long paragraphs, even with horrible grammar, whereas before it was just painful for her, she did not know what to write about. We’ve been slowly and methodically learning to write 10 Sagebook characters a week, and that also has been not painful now compared with 2 years ago. She’s definitely a late bloomer when it comes to having a good strong pencil grip for writing.
On the other hand, Astroboy will learn handwriting starting this year. His pencil grip came earlier. What I realized last year is that the two kids have very very different learning styles and so Astroboy will be learning the two languages a different way than his sister. His language learning will progress around the same level in terms of reading/writing/listening/speaking. Whereas his sister will do better with listening/speaking first.
Because apparently she’s a visual-spatial learner (or something like that) and she learns her subjects unevenly. But that’s for another post.