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.
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.
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.
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…)
Age: 6 & 9
My February monthly summary is sitting in draft, because we’re finally back on track homeschooling-wise and I had so many things to document. Since who knows when they’ll get published, I wanted to do a short post so I can at least document my happiness that things are going (mostly) well. It’s taken me 3 years, but I finally figured out what daily routine works for me.
I would fill this with pics, except I only remembered to take one.
Our homeschool day is supposed to be 9am-12pm for Astroboy and 9am-2pm for Thumper. On this day, the children started their work day at around 9:40 after getting up between 7:30-8am. We worked till 3pm, accounting for random breaks, chores, snacks and outside lessons. I tend to go with their flow when it comes to meals and rest. Usually they need a break after about 1-1.5 hours of work. They always get cranky or start not paying attention (as in I have to say something 2-3 times).
7:30am I wake up before Astroboy for once and quickly pop some Trader Joe’s berry scones in the oven.
8:00am The kids get up. I’m busy cutting flashcards and reading email and try to ignore them while they get ready for the day and eat breakfast.
About a month ago, I finally started that book club I’d been wanting to start for over a year. This is our fifth week and I think I kind of have the format down now.
There are 4 kids in our club, ranging from 5 to 9. Because of the range of children, my goal wasn’t to have a the children read one book at home and then discuss and analyze in the club, but rather just to foster reading and have the children discuss books with each other. The idea came to me when I saw how happy Thumper was, discussing, drawing, and giggling with Bebe about Harry Potter. I realized then just how powerful it is having peers to learn Chinese with.
Here’s what our most recent reading club meeting looked like (more…)
Age: 8 & 9
Thumper was a late reader. She learned to read Chinese around 7.5 and English around 8.5. I like to console myself by thinking that’s only late if you think in terms of US schools. If a child goes to school at age 7, learning to read either language between 7-9 sounds about right.
By the end of last school year, we’d hit a road block with All About Spelling. Knowing her open and close syllables and how to segment a word definitely lead her to start reading Early Readers. But once she hit the longer words in higher level books, she couldn’t pronounce it.
She needed more work with her phonics. She was doing fine learning the digraphs and diphthongs in spelling, because each chapter in AAS focused on one sound, but she couldn’t use it when she read. We learned when c should be /s/ sound and when it should be /k/, but she never remembered when she read.
It was time to try something else.
Since we were traveling in the fall, I decided to buy Explode the Code, online version, through Homeschool Buyer’s Club. It’s only $35 a year for the subscription. Explode the Code is published by the same company that sells Primary Phonics. At $35, it’s a great deal compared with having to buy the actual books. (more…)
Grade: 3rd-JH （中高年級到國中), most are 5th-6th
For other book reviews, please see my Books page.
It’s kind of strange to be writing a book “review” for a series when Thumper’s only read 2 of them. But I love what we have read so far and am singing the series’ praises left and right. Since I plan to collect the rest of the series that are out of print, I thought I will create a reference doc for myself for this book review.
The Cross Century Set, otherwise known as 跨世紀小說 from Eastern Publishing (東方出版社), is a set of 54 books. Eastern Publishing translated a bunch of award winning or nominated novels (Newberry medals, Carnegie Medals, etc) and also acquired the rights to several out of print books from another publisher, and published them under the Cross Century name. Their website describes the set as (and I very roughly translate into English):
From countries such as the U.S., England, France, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Ireland, Germany, and Spain, these award winning children’s literature explore topics on friendships, family, adventure, life, and growing up…..
We’ve been back for 3 weeks now. Ironically, life in the States is faster paced. There are so many more chores and various other “life” activities that need to be taken care of. The kids don’t have built in daily playdates anymore, requiring way more conscious scheduling and driving time.
Before our daily routine overwhelms me and I forget completely, I thought I should look back on our trip in Taiwan.
So was three months mandarin immersion in Taiwan worth it?
The short answer is a resounding yes.
At the 1.5 month mark, I was questioning whether or not we were seeing any effect. But since returning, I have noticed how Astroboy would spout new vocabulary that I hadn’t heard out of his mouth before. The taxi driver on our way to the airport said that the children’s Chinese are more fluid than 3 months ago. Definitely Astroboy‘s listening comprehension and range of vocabulary is much better. We listened to Magic Treehouse in the car the other day and he didn’t get bored like before.
Was it Taiwan? Because he wasn’t interacting with local children daily. Or was it the huge amount of cartoon they watched in the last month? Was it the fact that he had to speak Chinese to random people daily, other than me? That even the little amount helped? Who knows. But now, just like three years ago, his overall language development went up because we were only doing one language for three months, instead of two languages here. That’s just my conjecture.
This is part of my series on building A Chinese Library. For a complete list of posts, see here.
Last year, I re-organized Mandarin Mama’s Library. This year, I helped Fleur organize the 8+ boxes of books elfe brought back from Taiwan. We’re not quite done yet, but at least the books are mostly on the shelves. She has a substantially larger book collection, probably 500+ books and tons of magazine.
I wrote a super long post, but really the process is the same, with 1 or 2 tweaks. So instead I’m going to just modify the original “recipe” and list them here, point out some of the things we did differently, and post tons of pics. Because, when the Chinese books are all lined up along a wall, it’s so pretty! (more…)