Cold and Very Cold

Age: 7 & 10

Science Co-Op Session 1 Week 1: Cold and Very Cold

Agenda:

  • Norse Myths
  • Cold and Very Cold
  • Blow up Balloon with Dots

After a whole year of gap year traveling, we are back to doing our science co-op.  This is the only way I’m able to squeeze in science, by forcing myself to meet with other homeschoolers once a week.

After talking to Eclectic Mama, we decided to change the format of the class now that the kids are older.  Namely:

  • Limit to age 7 and up.
  • Limit to 4 kids in the beginning
  • One person teach
  • $10 material fee per person.
  • A scheduled start and ending time
  • Bilingual science/history class

The format of the class got set once I realized that I really do want to teach the class because I wanted to do Montessori science.  I’m partial to it because it ties all the different disciplines in science together.   The other thing I really need, because I now have a 4th grader, is a class that doesn’t just have fun activities, but more thoughtful discussion and perhaps some writing.

In order to do that I had to limit it to a group of similar age kids (3 year difference max).  To help with the prep and to encourage people to arrive on time, we also added a $10 material fee and I even wrote up a class description.  All to make it feel like a class that you need to commit to.

Lastly, now that the children are older, we can add English into the class.  In fact, most of the kids actually need some English instruction to help with English exposure.  This, along with the material fee, would help make prep easier, as one reason I kept procrastinating was because I did not relish the painstaking task of translating something like the First Great Lesson story into Chinese.

Thankfully I have cool friends who are easy going and willing to go along with my always overly ambitious plans.  Eclectic Mama even spent an afternoon with me while I babble through my lesson plan options.  Because I can only think through problems by talking about it, rather than thinking in my head. (more…)

Practical Life: 彩虹編織器 Rainbow Loom

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.

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How to Pack Books from Taiwan for Luggage and Shipping

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.

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Book Review: Harry Potter 哈利波特

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.

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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

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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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