Greenfield “I Can Read” Series Review


So. Cookie Monster (6.75) and I have finally made it through the Greenfield I can Read Series and truthfully, I hate them.

I know. I know.

I have totally recommended them to folks and for younger children; perhaps it is actually good for them. I’m sure YMMV depending on how you learn and like to teach as well as how your child learns.

Before I get into why I dislike Greenfield so intensely, let me talk about the good. (Incidentally, to find out more about this series, please check out Guavarama’s most excellent post.)

1) Each set has 12 books, a CD, and a workbook. The books are nice and short and I’m sure if we listened to the CD, they would have been fine. The workbooks, we skipped but again, if we used them, they would have sufficed.

2) The best part of the books is that they are supremely short. There are only 1-2 lines of text for pages 2-8. (So, 7 pages total.) Cookie Monster enjoyed zipping through each book in about 1-2 minutes – especially at the very beginning.

3) They also provide flashcards you can make out of perforated poster paper in the front and back of the books. These flashcards also handily tell you which book and set they’re from and highlight key words and phrases.

4) The pictures are vibrant and colorful. My kids all enjoyed looking at them.

5) The sentences are repetitive in either word usage or sentence structure giving the short stories a good rhythm as well as making it easy to predict what comes next. This was good for fluid reading out loud.

6) The stories were amusing and fun (for the most part) and Cookie Monster chuckled quite a few times at the characters’ antics.

7) The books are good to use as readers to check just how many characters your kids actually know.

8) For the beginning sets, there was usually enough context for Cookie Monster to guess an unknown character. (This, of course, really only works if your child is fluent in Chinese.)

Ok. Now, on with what I did not enjoy and really disliked:

1) Ok. I realize that Greenfield is for Hong Kongers so those folks already know how to read the characters.

However.

really would have appreciated the presence of pinyin.

It wasn’t so bad at first, but by the Purple set, I was looking up a LOT of characters.

2) Guavarama says Greenfield uses the whole language approach so as a result, they do not introduce a new character at a time in each section like Sagebooks does. Instead, they are repeating sentences and grammatical structure to teach a child the way Chinese works.

Unfortunately, this makes it extremely difficult to know what characters are new and being introduced.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to which characters they are introducing. And even though they provide vocabulary flashcards, what’s the point if the flashcards they provide aren’t necessarily the ones you need?

I find the whole thing very disorganized and confusing.

3) Clearly, these readers require Chinese fluency and knowledge of several hundred characters prior to starting.

4) The jump in levels at the very end is too high.

Cookie Monster already knows over 1,000 characters so he easily breezed through the first sets (red, orange, yellow, dark green, light green, and blue). But once he hit the halfway mark in the purple series (the 7th set), he ground to a halt. (Although oddly enough, he was fine with the rainbow series/8th set.)

There were SO MANY characters he didn’t know in the Purple set. I want to say approximately 8-10 characters per book. This is due to the structure of the stories. If sentences are repetitive, only 1-2 words are changed per page.

For example (and I will use English for ease of reading):

a) The dog jumped high.

b) The cat jumped low.

c) The bird jumped far.

Some of the later sentences are obviously more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

5) Although the new characters were not problematic enough for Cookie Monster to find frustrating (he was more amused that I had to look up so many words), I certainly found it annoying and frustrating.

6) cannot overemphasize how disorganized I found the whole methodology and system.

It really, really annoys me.

In fact, it made me long for Sagebooks even more. And it made me realize that a good system for learning Chinese is really hard and tough to come by.

I also want another set of Sagebooks 500 even if Guavarama says it’s unnecessary if the kids know zhuyin and start reading more and more complicated books.

7) A lot of the Traditional characters feel as if they’re one-offs. Either because they’re Hong Kong specific or perhaps more commonly used in Hong Kong, or because I just can’t see the relevance in daily life for knowing these more complex terms. (More than likely as not, it was a user problem and not a book problem.)

8) I really wish I did not purchase the series. Not that I feel as if all our time on it has been wasted – because Cookie Monster did learn a few new characters and built his confidence in reading.

However, the same thing could have easily been accomplished via reading more of his early reader books with zhuyin.

Obviously, YMMV.

I have had friends who went through the series when their children were much younger than Cookie Monster is now and they seemed to like it more than I do. So perhaps, it really is an age-related thing. Or maybe their kids are just better suited for this series – not that Cookie Monster had issues with it. 

Mostly, it was me with the issues. 

Cookie Monster seemed to like the books just fine and he raced through them because he wanted to finish a set a day. Which we did until we hit the Purple series. Then we slowed down a lot and reviewed a lot. So it took two days instead of one to go through. Once we got through it (I made him reread the purple series several times for him to gain mastery), the rainbow series was back to being done in a day. 

Now, because I already own the set, I will still use it with my subsequent kids. In fact, when Gamera finishes Sagebooks in a month or so, I will have her go through Greenfield right away. Maybe I will like it better since she knows fewer characters than Cookie Monster did at the start. 

However, other than using the books as readers, I did not enjoy the experience of these books as a curriculum. And if I knew then what I knew now, I would not have spent the money on these books and instead spent it on a box of books with zhuyin from Taiwan. 

Alright, like all things, my word is just my opinion and certainly not to be taken as gospel. If Greenfield worked for you and you liked it, I am very glad! If not, I commiserate (although, I wouldn’t say they didn’t work – merely not what I expected). 

Have a great weekend!

You Might As Well Flush Your Money Down the Toilet As I Mock You: New Baby Series Pt 3

I know. By now you get it. I’m an ass – and not only that, judgmental as well! Since the cat’s out of the bag and well on to making kittens, I might as well tell you what I think are total wastes of money. I’m sure I’m bound to insult pretty much all of you since most likely, you have at least one of these products for your child (if you should have any).

However, I never said this judging should be one way only. I have now given you at least three posts with which to judge me mightily and scoff at my purchases and obviously poor uses of money. So, have at it! If I can’t take it, I shouldn’t dish it out. But until then, here is a non-all-inclusive list of Baby Stuff that I think you don’t need.

Disclaimer: YMMV. Sorry ahead of time if I bruise your delicate feelings. No amazon links because I am feeling particularly lazy today and don’t care enough about these products to link to them.

 

What You Don’t Need

1) Diaper Genie/Champ, etc – although the actual genie/champ is cheap, it’s the replacement bags that are expensive. I would recommend you just get a covered trash can (preferably electronic or a step one for convenience, but that’s not necessary, either). Ours locks in the odors just fine and I use cloth!

2) Wipes warmer – it’s nice, I suppose, but seriously, a total waste of money. Plus, when you’re on the road and use a cold wipe, your kid is gonna be SUPER pissed.

3) Bottle warmer – putting the bottle in a cup of hot water will do the trick.

4) Diaper changing table – really, any flat surface will do. We just use our bed. The diaper changing PAD is useful, though. (Keeps potential spills and accidents off your bed.) Just buy two covers and you’re good to go! With Gamera, our changing pad disintegrated so I just started putting a small towel under her butt. Worked just fine, too.

5) Dreft (or any BABY laundry detergent) – They’re a rip-off. All you need are fragrance free and dye free detergent. I just buy the Costco/Kirkland kind. Wash bedding, clothing, diapers, etc, and all mommy clothes in this.

6) Baby Food Mill (or any BABY food maker) – They’re a rip off. If you have a blender, food-processor or magic bullet, you don’t need anything else.

7) Splat Mat – It sounds good in theory (a mat on the floor to pick up stuff your kid throws down), but it’s just easier to clean the floor. I can see this being useful if you have carpet in your eating area, though. So, I guess, YMMV on this one.

8) Shopping cart cover – It’s lame. One more thing to carry/forget/wash. I get WHY people have it, since it’s comfy and seems cleaner, but totally not worth the hassle. Just wash your kids’ hands!

That’s it. My judgmental list is short and sweet today. (Ok, I guess eight things aren’t exactly a small list, but considering how mean I am in general, this is SMALL. Be grateful!!)

If you’ve managed to steer clear of all these products, congratulations!! You are well on your way to being more awesome like me! YAY!

Your turn, now. What do you think is/was a waste of your money?

The Next Best Thing to Sleep: New Baby Series Pt 2

Of course, if you can get extra sleep with a new baby, I’m sure it’s awesome!! However, I’m more thinking along the lines of baby products. With Cookie Monster, because he was my first baby, I got a ton of brand new stuff. In retrospect, I wish I had just gotten gift cards or cash and gone straight to craigslist. When I see what people are selling their super-expensive baby items (that I, too, own) for dirt cheap, a little part of my soul dies. I just think to myself, “I could’ve put all the money I would’ve saved into a savings account for Cookie Monster’s college fund.” (Hey, with 3+ kids, I’ll need all the help I can get. But that is a different post for another day.)

Anyhow, last Monday, I posted about What You Really Need for a New Baby. This week, it’s all about what is nice but not vital.

Disclaimers: Of course, the usual YMMV et al as well as my using copious Amazon Affiliate links. Do what you see fit.

Now, without further ado, what is NICE to have:

1) Baby swing – I would borrow a friend’s or buy this used. You only end up using this 3-4 months (until the baby is too big/heavy for it). They are really expensive new – and only about $40-75 used on Craigslist. Just wash the washable part and you’re golden. One caveat: don’t make the mistake I did. Get a swing that can go both back and forth as well as left to right. You never know what way your kid will like. Furthermore, your kid could hate it. Another reason to borrow/buy used.

2) Exersaucer – I would borrow a friend’s or buy this used. And I would get Bright Starts Around We Go Activity Station instead of the regular kind because then your kid can practice walking and not go anywhere! I’ve seen these at Costco for $70 and used for $30-50. I am convinced this is the reason why Cookie Monster and Gamera both started walking so early. When they no longer need the walking part of the exersaucer, you can take the seat off. My kids STILL play with the table almost every day. (Mostly drive by playing, but it’s still used.)

3) Bouncer – I would borrow a friend’s or buy this used. You only end up using this about 6 months because once your kid can sit up, it’s dangerous! They have all sorts, from super cheap to super tricked out. But you really don’t get your money’s worth.

4) Activity gym/playmat – I would borrow a friend’s or buy this used. Although, if you do buy it, you do use it more about 9 months, but YMMV.

5) Sophie – Teething giraffe. Splurge and get this! Super cute – don’t get the weird alien kind. That one looks phallic and most babies I know prefer the Sophie. Keep in mind though, that if your car or the temperature is super cold, let the thing warm up before you put it in your kid’s mouth. Otherwise, someone, say Cookie Monster, might bite off a big chunk of the ear and choke (he didn’t). Also, it can get pretty gooey on the snout and ears (with sticky stuff because I think the rubber gets a little degraded and soft and warm and attracts lint).

6) Covered Baby Food Ice cube trays – Nice to have if you’re making your own food. Yes, you can just use a regular ice tray, but then those aren’t covered. I find that squicky.

7) Mother’s Milk Tea – tastes kinda bland (like chamomile) but SO HELPFUL in making milk. Whenever I stopped, my milk supply dropped.

8) Boppy or My Brest Friend – Both are good. The Boppy can be used not only for nursing though. It’s a good baby support to help the kiddo sit up before they know how. I preferred the My Brest Friend for Cookie Monster – it was firmer and easier to use at first. But I preferred the Boppy for Gamera because it was easier to get in and out of. (There is no belt buckle in the back.) If you end up getting two (one upstairs, one downstairs), I would get the second one used.

9) Aqueduck – It’s a faucet extender and everyone always wants to know where I got it. You can see my review here.

10) Swaddle-MesI totally sucked at swaddling. These were helpful so I didn’t have to figure out how to do it. However, honestly, I only ended up swaddling the babies for the first month or so. After that, I got lazy and they were just fine.

11) Food mat – Great for eating out and you don’t want your kid to eat off the table – or break plates. I’ve seen people use the kind where you tape a plastic mat onto the table, but I just find that wasteful. This one you can use again and again. Although, I must say that I used this more for Cookie Monster and didn’t bother at all with Gamera. Not sure whether it was because I had given up on eating out with two toddlers or if I just stopped caring about hygiene or other people’s plates.

Ok. That was my list of NICE to haves. What do you think? What are yours?