Suck It Up, April

How is April mostly over?

You know what this means, right? 1/3 of 2017 is over. That just sounds wrong.

As usual, here is my monthly check in to see how I’m doing with my yearly goals, aka: My Year of Sucking it Up.

1) Take family and personal health seriously.

What does that look like? I want to:

a) Cook at least 5 meals a week.
Still doing well in this category. I was getting a little bored with my cooking, but whatever. At least we are eating.

Oh, the new thing I did was pre-made two dozen hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. That way, I can quickly add protein to a dish (it has to be separately added because Glow Worm is allergic to eggs) and Gamera LOVES eggs but rarely gets them so she is in Heaven. Hapa Papa is really happy about it, too.

I am a bit disappointed in myself this month, though. I have personally eaten out more, but my kids haven’t. It has been mostly once a week, but that is more than I would like.

b) Be active once a week.

Ha! Next.

Does watching my children be active count?

d) Take vitamins and supplements.

Again, I’m still remembering to take these most days. I consider it a win.

e) Go to sleep when the kids sleep 4x a week.

Better than last month, though I have yet to sleep early 4x a week. But I do sleep when the kids sleep at least a couple times a week.

Sadly, STILL TIRED.

f) No texting while driving.

I did better this month although I slipped up again near the end of the month.

One good thing about these posts is that I catch myself texting or reverting to my naughty ways and I force myself to stop because I don’t want to tell you guys how I am endangering my life, my children’s lives, as well as the lives of other people.

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously.

Pretty sure I did a bunch of unpleasant adulting. I even got a handyman and a housecleaner.

Hey. Part of adulting is delegating.

WIN.

3) Write.

I did awesome this month!

I finished writing and editing my ebook!!! I finished the first draft of my action plan that goes with the ebook!!! I wrote a bunch of posts!

And get this. I got my first sponsored post! (You will get to read it Friday.)

And I also volunteered to write for a few friends’ sites as well as swap posts with some other sites so look out for those next month.

So excite!

Alright. That’s it for this month. How did you do for April? Let me know in the comments.

小黃點 Book Review


Title: 小黃點 (xiao3 huang2 dian3)/Mix It Up!

ISBN: 9789577625038

Author/Illustrator: Hervé Tullet

Publisher: 上誼

Level: Chinese Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: Follow the instructions and see what happens to the Little Yellow Dot! Press the dot, shake the book, and blow on the pages.

Sample Pages:





Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: This book is hands down, my children’s favorite of the bunch. It definitely is Glow Worm’s (3.5) favorite. He never gets tired of this book and doesn’t exactly follow the directions, but he loves to hit every single dot and count all the dots of each color. It can be mindnumbingly dull when he does this. But hey. He’s 3.5.

He also enjoys pointing out all the characters he recognizes so that’s fun, too. Like the other books in the series, there is no zhuyin and some of the characters are unfamiliar to me and despite me looking them up a bjillion times, I forget them just as quickly.

Such is the consequence of having an older brain.

At least it’s pretty easy to figure out what they are saying from context and it’s ok with me to just guesstimate. Perhaps not the best for increasing literacy, but laziness wins.

 

Highly recommend.

Below is a video of me reading the book to Glow Worm.

Chinese Progress: 9 Months After Taiwan


Has it really been nine months since we got back from Taiwan? That’s a PREGNANCY, people!

Anyhow, I meant to do an update earlier and keep better track of when my children made the switch from Chinese default to English default, but that would have required me to pay far greater attention to my children than I am wont to do.

So, I want to say the kids kept up their Chinese for about five or six months before they started to backslide into English a lot. And the only reason it kept up for that long is because we homeschool in Chinese, the majority of their classes are in Chinese, and for awhile, all they did was watch Chinese YouTube.

Just to give you an idea of how quickly they can convert to English only, for our Spring Break, I had the older kids in a basketball camp as well as a cooking camp. Thus, they were surrounded by English speakers and spoke English for six hours a day for five consecutive days.

The effect was almost instantaneous.

It was all English all the time. And not only that – their English improved.

I tried to combat it with listening to Chinese stories in the car, but we really didn’t drive much so they didn’t hear much Chinese at all that week. I can only imagine how much their English would outpace their Chinese if we were not homeschooling in Chinese.

This is all just to say that the after glow of Taiwan was only sustainable for so long because we homeschool in Chinese as well as have the majority of their classes in Chinese. 

I cannot say that the Chinese effect would be as pronounced or sustainable if they went to an English speaking school surrounded by English speakers all day.

Thus, the main thing to remember is that the majority of your work is done with your kids if you just speak Chinese to them already.

Alright, without further ado, here are some of my observations that have definitely been blurred by the effects of time and life.

1) Glow Worm’s (3.5) Chinese has exploded. I mean, so has his English. (He FINALLY speaks!) But in general, his Chinese has 開竅了 (kai qiao4 le5)/for a child to begin to know things.

This is also not because of anything special about Taiwan, but more because he goes to a Chinese preschool twice a week as well as a Mandarin Mommy and Me once a week. Just the addition of two days with a Chinese tutor has upped his vocabulary a lot.

I can’t wait for how it will improve after our Taiwan Trip 2017 as well as when he adds 2-3 additional days of Chinese preschool.

2) Gamera (5), easily the child with the best Chinese, has started to resist speaking Chinese all the time. Even when I try to couch it in terms of helping Glow Worm and Sasquatch (5.5 mos) learn Chinese, she doesn’t really care.

Her default and stronger language is definitely English – and she wants to keep speaking it when playing.

However, her Chinese is still really good. I’m constantly amazed how when admonished to speak Chinese, she can switch from English to Chinese mid-sentence and finish the thought. She is truly bilingual in the sense that she doesn’t have to think about what to say in English first, then translate into Chinese. She just speaks her thoughts in Chinese.

I have noticed that the loss of three days of Chinese preschool and being home with me more has affected her Chinese ability (and not for the better). But because she still watches a lot of Chinese YouTube (especially Chinese game shows and variety shows and Chinese YouTube acts), her Chinese can often be better than mine.

3) Cookie Monster (7) definitely prefers English, but still dutifully switches to Chinese when told. He just needs more vocabulary to express his thoughts – and he would have that vocabulary if I were not so lazy about him reading consistently to me in Chinese.

Just one day of Chinese class is not enough. It’s ok in terms of preventing more attrition, but not enough in terms of gaining in Chinese. Even his teacher has mentioned to me several times that he is regressing and forgetting characters.

This is definitely my fault.

Plus, he doesn’t find the Chinese programming as interesting as Gamera does (although he is also obsessed with TF Boys like his siblings).

It definitely shows.

4) At least Cookie Monster and Gamera are good about speaking Chinese to their peers who only speak Chinese. They know that they can only speak to Guavarama and Fleur’s kids (as well as some of our other Chinese homeschool kids) in Chinese.

This, of course, only works because all the children have similar levels of Chinese fluency (albeit, better than my kids) and can express and play adequately in Chinese. If my kids’ Chinese were not up to snuff (or vice versa), the play language would default to English in a red hot second.

Thus, I am ashamed I did not capitalize more on our trip to Taiwan last year. We’ve had a good run, but we definitely will need the boost when we head to Taiwan again this summer. Unfortunately, this time we will only be back for four weeks. I’m sure the missing two weeks will equate to an even earlier Chinese language cliff.

This is especially important to note because I am not going back to Taiwan in 2018. (Yes, I plan this far ahead. No, YOU take an 18 month old with three other children to Taiwan.)

I need to remember in Summer 2018 to not go overboard with English camps/programming and to find ways they can be “immersed” in Chinese.

Anyhow, I hope this update was helpful in terms of giving you an idea of how long the Chinese boosting effects of an extended trip to Taiwan might last. Of course, YMMV.

Did you find this true for your children? Let me know in the comments.

兩隻老虎歡樂歌謠 Book/CD Review

Title: 兩隻老虎歡樂歌謠 (liang3 zhi lao2 hu3 huan le4 ge yao2)/Two Little Tigers Songs

Producer: 風車圖書出版 (Windmill)

Level: Children’s songs, zhuyin

Summary: A collection of 40+ children’s songs. Some are translations of English children’s songs. Some are Chinese/Taiwanese children’s songs.

Sample Pictures:

Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: My kids love this CD set. In fact, most people I know own this set because it was featured on AsianParent.com and is easily accessible.

The best part is that they include lyrics with zhuyin for every featured song. I find this super helpful because just because you hear the song doesn’t mean you actually have the right lyrics. I have trouble identifying lyrics correctly in English – let alone Chinese.

Anyhow, this is all just to say that it’s useful to have the lyrics in Chinese with zhuyin because I am semi-illiterate and this helps. They also have fun illustrations.

Highly recommend.

Here are three videos of Gamera singing some songs from the book.

 

火車快跑 Book Review


Title: 火車快跑 (huo3 che kuai4 pao3)/Freight Train

ISBN: 9573212404

Authors: Donald Crews (著/唐諾 克魯斯,譯:劉思源)

Publisher: 遠流出版事業股份有限公司

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: This book is a Chinese translation of Freight Train by Donald Crews. First, we read about all the different types of railroad cars on the train. They are also listed by color. Then we follow the train as it makes its journey across the rails and goes faster and faster. 

Sample Pages: 





Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: This book is super easy and fun to read. Gamera (5yo) read it very quickly and loved the pictures and story. It helped that both Gamera and Cookie Monster (7yo) heard this story often when they were attending Chinese preschool. 

Gamera recognized most of the words and the ones she didn’t (or forgot), she sounded out easily with zhuyin. In fact, I am pleased with how well she did – even though I know it is a simple and easy to read book. 

Plus, the illustrations are beautiful and dreamy and I find them to be my favorite part. 

Highly recommend. 

Below is a video of Gamera reading an excerpt from 火車快跑 (huo3 che kuai4 pao3)/Freight Train.

好聽啟蒙故事 CD Review


Title: 好聽啟蒙故事 (hao3 ting qi3 meng2 gu4 shi4)/The Best of Enlightenment Stories

Producer: 台欣 (Tai Shin)

Level: Non-Fiction, Fiction, Fairy Tales,

Summary: 10 CD collection of bedtime stories; CDs 1-5 are fairytales, fables, and stories; CD 6 is biographies of famous composers; CD 7 is samples of the famous composers; CD 8 is stories of famous and great people (eg: Archimedes, Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Washington); CDs 9-10 are about constellations and random music (so I guess Greek/Roman myths).

Sample Pictures:


Rating: 4/5 stars

5 Minute Review: All my children love this CD set. The production value is great and fun to listen to. My only complaint is that for the first 5 CDs, the sound is off because they play songs within the stories but the songs are much louder than the narration so it’s really hard to hear in the car. However, this is a small problem.

The CDs on composers is nice because the background music is from the composer and it’s fun for me to try and figure out the composer based on the music alone and their translation of their name.

CD 7 just has a few words explaining the piece background and then plays classical music for each composer in CD 6.

CDs 9-10 could have been condensed into one CD. There is no reason why there needs to be bad instrumental music between each constellation story. 

Incidentally, the CDs on composers, famous people, and constellations were a bit over my head. I got the gist, but the vocabulary and topics were definitely not on the same level as the story books. (My kids also didn’t find them very interesting.)

My main beef with this series is not with the CDs/productions themselves – but rather the actual fairy tales themselves. So I often have to stop the CD and tell the kids that it’s stupid for a princess to give her kingdom to a random dude who kisses her and frees her from some stupid spell.

Or that it’s dumb to plant a tree that grows silver leaves and golden apples but to leave all that to marry the first knight to show up instead of selling the silver leaves and golden apples to live by herself.

My children’s favorite story, though, is 胡扯國的故事 (hu2 che3 guo2 de5 gu4 shi4)/The Ridiculous Country’s Stories. It’s two minutes long and all it is are examples of ridiculous statements (eg: three mice chased down a cat and scared it). For some reason, Gamera (5) and Glow Worm (3) find it hilarious and demand to hear it on repeat.

I don’t understand.

Either way, I am very satisfied with the CD set. We listen to them in the car and I will have us listen to each CD a few times so they get used to the story and recognize them and hear the vocabulary before I swap them out for other CDs.

Even my Chinese has improved!

Highly recommend.

Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 9

Hello, all! It’s been two months since my last Homeschooling update. (This makes me sound as if I’m at an AA meeting. Well, I guess I’m addicted to homeschooling so perhaps it is an apt comparison.)

Anyhow, I have been remiss lately in both the writing and the homeschooling, but thankfully, the beauty of outsourcing a lot of our homeschooling is that I can personally slack on stuff but the kids will still be educated.

Also, “everything” and “life” is considered “school” so that is also a great “cheat.”

Now, just because I haven’t done a lot of at home teaching doesn’t mean I haven’t learned anything. So then, here are the things I’ve reluctantly learned from homeschooling in February and March 2017:

1) Practice reading every day or there is no momentum.

I swear I constantly forget this. If we practice reading (be it Chinese or English), it is much harder to do it sporadically than to do it consistently. If we continue with the sporadic reading, we have to restart each day and it is super frustrating each time.

However, when I force myself to be disciplined and have the kids read daily, there is a cumulative effect and the kids improve much faster and build their confidence at a greater clip.

This is also the reason why Cookie Monster (7yo) improved at piano once he started practicing daily for 5-15 minutes. And now that he is much better at playing piano, he will play for fun throughout the day.

I suspect (rather, I know) that once their reading hits that highly competent level, they will also want to read for fun on a daily basis. My hope and my dream.

Unfortunately, this leads to my next lesson.

2) Unless I am willing to do the work, my children will never get self-sufficient.

The best part of Cookie Monster playing piano is that he can pretty much do 99% of all his practicing by himself. I only have to help him with his theory homework because that requires reading in English and we have only begun on that.

It was PAINFUL to get Cookie Monster to the point he is at today in piano – but it has been well worth it. I no longer have to sit with him and help him read notes, etc.

Thus, whether it is painfully teaching kids step by step on how to put their bowls and utensils in the dishwasher (which is really a multiple of intuitive steps – but only to grown ups), or teaching them how to slowly cut vegetables with a knife, or even reading so that they can finally read their own instructions, it all takes work on my part.

But then, once that initial pain period is over, I am free.

3) Be kind.

I am a very no nonsense and gruff type of person. I often am exasperated when I teach because I truly don’t remember not knowing how to read English, read music, read zhuyin, or do a lot of things.

But I also know from experience that having someone judge you the entire time you’re doing something new is very hard to feel comfortable enough to risk and make mistakes so that you can actually learn something new.

I need to remember that whenever I am kind and patient, (truly alien concepts to my personality), my children respond so much better. And they end up LIKING the hard thing.

Most recently, I was teaching Cookie Monster how to do division with remainders. He was having a really hard time understanding the concept and he was getting frustrated.

Instead of being exasperated as I am wont to do, I chose to be patient and kind and as a result, after about ten minutes, he understood the concept. He wasn’t perfect, but he got the main idea.

Then, he said, “Thanks, Mama! Remainders are FUN!”

I don’t think I would have ever thought that remainders are fun. But because I was kind, instead of hating something hard, Cookie Monster thought it was fun. And then proceeded to try a lot of the problems because he thought they were fun and that it was fun to apply his new knowledge.

4) Do things not because you benefit but because you are family.

Because the kids are getting older and because quite frankly, I’m lazy and tired, I often tell them to do things that don’t directly benefit them. Or I tell them to pick up things that they didn’t mess up.

Inevitably, I’m asked, “Why do I have to do _____ when I didn’t make the  mess?”

I then proceed to ask them if I should make them food since I’m not the one eating. Or if I should help them bathe because I’m not the one who’s dirty. Or if I should take them to their activities since I’m not the one doing them. Or pretty much, ANYTHING IN THEIR LIVES.

That shuts them up right quick.

5) Turn off the screen. Let the kids play. Don’t interrupt fights.

I put these three together because all too often, I forget that if a screen is on, of COURSE they won’t play. And then, I forget that the only way they can learn  physical as well as emotional boundaries is to let them fight.

And when the screen is off, they go out in the back yard and make mud pies and climb the muddy hill and dig holes and climb stuff. They build elaborate dinosaur and army men war set ups with blocks and then have a great time messing it all up in the game of war. They set up car societies with all their toy cars and play families (which sounds all sweet and lovely until you realize you and Hapa Papa are dead in these scenarios).

They have a fantastic time.

6) My kids need outside/park time.

We had a great run of 2-3 weeks where we met Fleur and Guavarama’s kids’ almost every week day for park play dates. It was particularly welcome because it was coming off of several weeks of nonstop rain and gloom.

Those park days were glorious.

And even my cold, dark heart thawed a bit and was semi-unannoyed.

I forget that kids need sunshine and fresh air. That in turn makes them less wiggly and cranky and that makes ME less cranky.

Oh, and they get to climb trees. Bonus.

Alright. I know these lessons aren’t exclusive to homeschooling, but that’s the context in which I learn them. Have a wonderful weekend!