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Everything posted by OneThoughtMayHideAnother

  1. I was in a very similar situation with my son, who is turning 6 in a couple of months. He has been reading independently for over a year now, but I delayed his handwriting instruction because he's a lefty, and also because bad handwriting runs in my family. So I was nervous and kept overthinking. I did teach him basic letter formation when he was 4.5 using two iPad apps: the Letter School (you get to choose the font, and I believe both ZB and HWT might be among the options) and Wet Dry Try by HWT. I also ended up getting him a small slate on eBay and had him use it to practice writing letters in chalk, the way Wet Dry Try teaches them. It was fun. The HWT app has a toggle for lefties to adjust the direction of some of the strokes. If you are not ready to commit to a curriculum, perhaps you could try these two apps + slate and chalk first. So, anyway, we finally started proper handwriting instruction in September. I decided to go with GD Italic, and we both love it. I really don't know what I was worried about. My son's handwriting is completely legible now, and actually quite pretty as for the handwriting of someone who's only been practicing for two months. GD has some recommendations for lefties in terms of positioning the paper, etc, and I let my son use some of the lefty modifications he learned from the HWT app. I watch him like a hawk when he practices because I want to make sure he forms good habits. I often step in and have him practice a letter that I think he's not doing very well with. I always try to explain why a particular letter looks good or bad. But we keep our handwiring sessions very short for now: one page in the GD workbook plus one sentence he gets to come up with by himself. I like the look of GD Italic, although I prefer the loopy cursive styles if they are done well. Still, my goal was for my son to have legible, comfortable and pretty handwriting, and I thought GD Italic would get him there with the least effort and the least risk of having him end up with an illegible or unattractive style. Additionally, we can later do Italic calligraphy (which I think looks stunning) if we want to kick it up a notch. Anyway, I know Italic is not on your list, but I thought I would throw it out there since your situation sounds similar to mine, and the curriculum has been working so well for my leftie. Good luck! P.S. My son finds the Paper Mate triangular #2 lead mechanical pencils very comfortable to write with. I have a bunch of those things that you put on pencils to make the grip more comfortable, but we haven't really been using them.
  2. My son and I have recently discovered an amazingly fun adventure (story-based) game aimed at practicing math facts: Math Quest. The game is built around a very involved world (just have a look at this map.) You go on quests, dig for treasure, collect interesting items, visit shops, towns, caverns, deserts and mountains. You can even find a cave-dwelling sage that rewards you with gold if you answer a math puzzle correctly. It's so much fun I'm almost hesitant to share it because I'm afraid that once it becomes popular, the website might struggle with the traffic, given that it's completely free. From what I understand, that website (which has a ton of other well-made games, including Math Quest 2, which works on touch screens) was built by just one teacher. I'm in complete awe of the amazing work that person has done. Back to Math Quest. The way the game makes you practice math facts is by having random creatures (an angry bee, a woodland viper, a desert troll, etc) attack you. You defend yourself by answering math fact questions. (You can also use some magic, once you've learned enough of it.) The attacks happen very often, so you end up answering A TON of questions in a short time. It starts off gently, with easy addition, and slowly builds up to include subtraction, multiplication and division. You need to answer quickly, otherwise the creature will defeat you. Defeat is not the end of the world, though: you simply get transported back to your base to recuperate. Make sure to save your progress as you go. My son is about to finish 3rd grade Math Mammoth. He's OK at math, and knows most of his math facts, but he is still a bit too slow with them, so I want him to keep doing regular practice. He adores this game and asks for it daily. I've previously had him go through Reflex Math for addition and subtraction, and we did some games for multiplication (Timez Attack, etc) but this is by far his favorite. If anyone ends up checking it out, please let me know what you think! Edit: So, apparently, the Math Quest 2 on the same site is supposed to be even better and easier for younger children to work with.
  3. Congratulations to everyone! My DS only did the first 30 Qs, and he got gold! On the one hand, very proud of him because he's technically still in pre-K (old for pre-K, though: born a month after the cut-off.) On the other hand, not surprised since at some point he was so enamored with Greek myths, he spent half a year reading and listening to stories from D'Aulaires over and over. When I asked him to maybe listen to them as a refresher before he took the test, he said he wouldn't because "mom, the questions are multiple choice." Well, alright. Anyway, we'll have to do the special theme section next year, too! As many on the forums suggested, we'll probably just keep adding one section a year until he's able to do well on the whole test. Excited. Haven't told him yet because I know he will get impatient to get the medal. (Yeah, he's not in it for the sense of academic accomplishment, he just cares about getting an actual medal he can play with, lol.)
  4. DS5: K Math: we'll probably be anywhere between half way through to mostly done with MM3 in September. So he'll likely get through MM4 and half of MM5 by the end of his K year. I'm amazed at how efficient one-on-one mastery-based tutoring is. (Although I shouldn't really be amazed given Bloom's 2 sigma problem and all that.) Anyway, we do about 30 mins of math every day: 2-3 worksheets and some games, if he feels like it. At this leisurely pace we easily get through 2 grades of MM a year. This is quite exciting to me because of all the cool things we will be able to study once we have a little bit more math under our belts. Of course if he ends up being into math for math's sake as opposed to only wanting to treat math as a tool, that's great, too. We can always add BA or competition math into the mix. I'll continue offering fun math books for him to read, perhaps he'll get into some of them at some point. ELA: Reading. I'll just keep letting him read whatever he wants. He reads voraciously, so I'm determined not to fix what ain't broken (for now.) He's currently enjoying Dahl, and still adores his Usborne Young Reading books (the Usborne libraries are literally the best homeschool purchase I've ever made.) We will also keep doing our read alouds at bedtime. ELA: vocabulary. I keep giving short definitions for any new words we encounter in our read-alouds. Currently also casually trying out other things. We have the Mrs Wordsmith's word-a-day thing, Vocabulary Cartoons, will also see if he'd be interested in Greek/Latin root study. ELA: handwriting. This one I have been procrastinating on. We did the HWT printing app eons ago, so he knows how to print his letters, but that's about it. This means that he constantly needs me to scribe his "stories" for him. I love doing it but often simply don't have the time... So no more procrastinating. GD Italic Kindergarten: here we come! ELA: writing, grammar, spelling, etc. Well, once he knows either how to type or write by hand, he'll be able to write his "stories". Good enough for me. We need to finish Talking Fingers: have been very inconsistent about it. I'll teach grammar concepts as they come up, but no curriculum yet. I might start teaching phonics rules for spelling from the LoE book, but definitely not doing an actual curriculum either. Mandarin. This has been exciting. We've studied it for a bit over a year now, and he's made amazing progress. He knows about 700 characters at this point, and understands about 1400 words. We are using a variety of materials: easy chapter books written for CSL students, Sage Books and LeLe readers written for native kids learning to read the language for the first time, QTalk, Little Fox, and others. So the plan is to finish the current chapter book series we are working on, finish Sage for the sake of completeness (he's already learned most of the characters by now from other sources), do a bunch of the LeLe books, a good selection of the Pleco graded readers, and read most of the Mandarin Companion books. We'll continue our Saturday school, but will think of switching him to the track for heritage speakers. Polish. So since Mandarin has been so much fun with us actually being able to read and watch so much material, we haven't done anything about his Polish. He speaks it daily to his grandparents, and watches some great cartoons in Polish, but that's about it. I'm tempted to leave it on the back burner for another year. Perhaps I'll make a conscious effort to speak it to him more often myself or to read more Polish books to him. History. Will probably keep our unschool-y approach: just read. He loves the Step Into Reading historical readers, and has enjoyed some of the Who HQ biographies. There is also this really funny series on early American history he is currently listening to on audio about a time-traveling history teacher. Perhaps we'll look into listening to the Story of the World, too? Science, geography: unschool (read, read, read, do fun "experiments".) Tennis, soccer, martial arts and art classes for fun. Also, biking and scooting daily for exercise. Piano: can't decide what to do, and feeling guilty about it. (Basically, do I "require it"? If so, then how long and how often? He's only 5, so I don't want to "require it.") Chess: also can't decide what to do. He likes chess, but we enrolled him in a class with a really mean coach, so I had to pull him out in the middle of the semester. He constantly asks to play chess on the iPad. Maybe will try another class in the fall? DS2 The little one is very jealous of me "doing school" with his older brother, and he insists on doing some himself. He demands to read his Chinese books (Sage) daily, many times a day. He has mastered over 60 characters at this point and he's also sounding out 3 letter words in English. I have no plans for him, though, other than indulging his requests, so in the next 12 months he could either be reading second grade level stuff the way his brother was at his age, or not. He could either continue to to learn to read Chinese at a frightening pace or not. Will be interesting to see.
  5. Has anyone still not gotten theirs? I'm still waiting, and wondering when I should reach out to them to ask. BTW, what is the packet going to look like? A letter-sized envelope?
  6. We also registered a while back and haven't received anything yet.
  7. I'm having a really great time homeschooling, and I'm starting to feel a personal need to keep better track of the whole adventure. I would like a record that I could fondly look back on. For example, I wish I had a list of books that my son has read, including his thoughts on his favorites (he's only 5, so he doesn't write reports yet.) I would also like to record things like how my approach to teaching him Chinese is evolving. It's a very data-driven, very fun process for me, so I would like a place where I could write it all down. It's fascinating to see how my child's stamina and comprehension grow. Then, I'd also like a place where I could paste things like videos of my 2 year old singing the ABC song or reading his first words. And I would like to be able to share all of this record with family across the world. I have a friend who does a fantastic job chronicling her homeschooling life on Facebook. She posts pictures of her two boys and her daily thoughts on how the whole education thing is going. And this is the sort of thing I'd like to do, but the problem is that I really, really don't want to rely on Facebook (for many reasons, but primarily because I don't trust them with my most personal data). And my problem is not just with Facebook. I don't want my family record to be owned by and at the mercy of any corporation. I'm looking for an open source solution that gives me maximum control. So, what are the alternatives? Should I look into starting a blog with Seems like an overkill, especially if I have to pay for privacy protection. I do like the idea of a blog, though, even though this is primarily for personal use. Still, I would appreciate being able to share some of the less personal, more technical stuff with other homeschooling parents. I wouldn't want to publish anything personal, like photos of my kids, on the internet, though, unless I have a mechanism to restrict viewership of photos and videos to family only. Facebook makes it easy. So, are there any good alternatives to Facebook/Google/etc? (If there are no good alternatives, I'd be open to hearing why Facebook is not that bad, after all.) I am considering setting up a TiddlyWiki, but I don't love the look. But perhaps a TiddlyWiki for personal stuff and a blog for public posts? Or maybe I should do the public stuff on Facebook, since it's public anyway, and find a separate solution for personal posts, pictures and videos? What would be a good medium for such personal record? What does everyone here do?
  8. This might be the only chance I get to actually stop and reflect on what I'm doing with my boys, so let me jump right in! The older one, who has just turned 5: Chinese. Continue working on Chinese literacy and comprehension. I use vocabulary counts as a crude marker for where he is with his Chinese studies. He's learned about 1000 Mandarin words in his first year of studying the language. In 2019 and 2020, I hope to teach him at least 1500 a year so that we hit 4000 before he turns 7. This should bring us to a level where he can truly understand the cartoons he watches in Chinese, read simple books, and have conversations with native speakers. At that level, his study of Chinese might become more self-sustaining: we will be able to learn more from just reading progressively more difficult books and talking to the grandparents. In 2019, we should be able to finish Sage Books & read through at least 2 levels of our LeLe Chinese booklets. We will also likely finish studying Journey to the West via the fun Little Fox cartoon version. His current vocabulary covers about 73% of all the vocab used in the show. By the end of the year, I think we will be closer to 90%. I will probably stop focusing on writing Chinese so much, because he's currently not enjoying it. He knows how to write about 350 characters, so we will keep reviewing those, but likely won't add to that number next year. Polish. Perhaps I will finally finish teaching him how to read in his second language: Polish. He continues speaking Polish on a daily basis with his grandfather, so I just need to focus on making sure we read Polish books to him daily so that his skills keep progressing. We will keep it light and fun. Math. We will finish 2nd grade Math Mammoth by about March or April. We should be able to get most of 3rd grade done by the end of 2019. We don't spend too much time on math everyday, and as much as I'd like to add more, I think I'll stick to the 20 or so minutes a day that we do now. It is working well. It is an appropriate level of challenge and not too tiring. Handwriting. It's time to start! He knows how to write his capital letters from when we did some fun activities with an iPad app and a HWT-style chalkboard about a year ago. I will look into doing 5-10 minutes of handwriting on most days. Haven't decided on a program yet, but leaning towards Getty-Dubay italic. Spelling. I might look into doing a fun spelling+typing-in-one program for a couple of minutes everyday. He reads very well for his age, but doesn't have a great grasp of phonics. I intend to fix it through a spelling program. Not sure what we'll use yet, but I'm planning on keeping it light and easy in 2019. Piano. I will likely not get a teacher yet. We will continue self-studying with Hoffman Academy, Piano Maestro and Soft Mozart. No goals other than to enjoy it and hear music everyday. I might look into getting a guitar for him, too. Reading and literature (in English). His 5th year of life was when he went from reading early readers to 100+ page easy chapter books. I haven't been monitoring his progress recently: I just let him read for pleasure, which he does a lot, reaching mostly for books from our Usborne reading libraries & the Magic Treehouse series. In 2019, however, I'd like to go back to monitoring his progress at least a little bit. I will likely ask him to read a couple of pages to me every night before our usual read-aloud time. We will continue covering classics of children's literature as read-alouds. Some of the ones we enjoyed the most in 2018 were: "Heidi" (just finished), "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH", "Jenny and the Cat Club", the Catwings series, "The Tale of Despereaux", and "Winnie-the-Pooh". He has also recently started reading Harry Potter with his dad. He's enjoying it immensely, and I hope they continue with their semi-regular reading sessions in 2019. 2018 was also a big Greek mythology year for us. He was enthralled with d'Aulaires and George O'Connor. He's really eager to sign up for the National Mythology Exam, so we will probably do that in early 2019. Then we will likely temporarily leave the Greeks, and cover something else: the Bible perhaps? He's very much enjoyed the couple of stories I have recently read him from Egermeier's, so we might do a big project where we'll read from it everyday in order to finish in 2019. It does seem a bit daunting, though, so might not get done. Perhaps we'll simply continue with d'Aulaires, and cover their Norse Myths. Sports. We've aged out of our local baby soccer program, so I need to figure out what to do instead. We will likely resume our tennis lessons in the spring, and I might look into doing them more regularly. We might shop a couple of local martial arts classes, but I'm not committed to anything at this point. We will continue to make sure the boys walk, bike and scoot daily. Also hoping I'll be able to find a very low-pressure chess class for him, since he likes playing chess so much, and since I have no time to support that interest at home. The class we signed up for this past semester was a disaster, with a very high-strung coach. I want something light and fun. Not planning on making a Kasparov out of the little guy: just want him to meet people, learn a little bit, and have fun! History, science, everything else. I'm tempted to say I will not do anything formal about any of these in 2019! At most, I will institute 30-minute read-aloud sessions to continue exploring these subjects. Perhaps I could come up with a weekly schedule: reading from a history book on MWF, from a science book on TuTh. Maybe. Definitely not committing to anything, though. The little one, who has just turned 2. He is an early talker who speaks a lot in all of our 3 languages. So we'll continue playing with him in all 3. He knows all of his letters, and his brother started blending before he turned 3, so we might be able to teach the little some simple reading skills, too. But only if it's fun for everyone. My big hope for him is that he'll start being able to focus on books. I'd love to read more to him: we have all those board books and picture books from when his older brother was younger! The 5-year-old, I'm sure, would enjoy hearing most of them again, too, so if by the end of 2019 we can all sit down for our read-aloud sessions together, I'll be a very happy mom. Oh, one more thing. I would love to come up with a good and easy way of recording some of the stuff we do. Some sort of a diary with pictures. There are so many wonderful moments in our homeschool that I wish I were capturing.
  9. Thank you for posting. I need to look into registering my son. As to the tests from previous years, does anyone know if they publish them anywhere? Would libraries have them? It'd be great to get a couple for practice and to figure out if my guy will be even able to sit still for long enough to answer all the questions. :)
  10. Gil, this is so inspiring. Do you happen to have any notes or blog posts detailing your boys' math journey? I'd love to learn from your experience. Very curious as to when they started, what curricula/books you used, what material got covered when (e.g., 3rd and 4th grade in one year, etc), daily math routine, participation in any math enrichment/competitions outside the home, etc. You will now have so much time to cover other exciting subjects before the boys leave home! Great work!
  11. Edit: nevermind. I went to their Facebook page, and it said their they had a planned outage this weekend. What a relief. Our data will likely not be lost. :) Has anyone experienced issues with what seems to be their newly rolled out website? I'm unable to log my son in. Same on the iPad app: the interface seems to have changed just slightly there, and it doesn't recognize our log-in info. I'm really hoping we're not going to lose our progress data, because my son is now at 97% in addition/subtraction, and we were planning on having a nice family celebration when he reaches 100%.
  12. Could you share what curriculum/program you used with your kids and at what age? Thank you!
  13. May I please have an invitation, too? I'd love to be in the group!
  14. David, Skritter allows you to enter both words and characters as items to learn, so that you can learn characters in isolation or practice them within a word. If a particular character is causing you trouble, you can choose to add several words containing it to your study queue in order to get extra practice. My list contains only traditional characters as well as some of the radicals that make them up. Skritter allows you to use the same list and choose the option to study the simplified versions, though. Most of the items I selected for the first list, although not all of them, are the same in both systems. There is logic and connection between subsets of the items on the list, but, correct, no logic and connection between all of them. I used those subsets (e.g., teaching the mu4/tree character/radical together with the sen1lin2/forest word) to make up fun, rewarding daily mini-units of new character writing practice. I teach my child radicals before teaching him characters made up of those radicals. Some radicals such as the one for "woman" above are stand-alone characters anyway. Knowing basic radicals makes it much easier for him to remember how to write characters such as "ting1". He's only 4 and he's not finding it confusing. He understands there's a radical/character mu4 for eye and then there's the word yan3jing, for example. Knowing radicals also helps him guess the meaning or pronunciation of characters he's never seen before. I think our method is very efficient. We only study characters about 10-15 minutes a day most days, we have a ton of fun while doing it, and he's learning how to write (with emphasis on the correct stroke order) over 50 (traditional) characters a month. He can read many more than that. For example, he's recently learned to read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" in Chinese even though he doesn't know how to write all the characters in the book yet. So, anyway, if we keep it up, we're on track to learn *how to write* the 3500 characters that make up a vast majority of texts by the time he's 10. He will likely be reading many more than that by then. And, at this point, my main challenge is slowing him down, explaining that this is a marathon not a sprint, and that it's probably not a good idea to add all those new characters he's encountered and wants to practice to our study queue at the same time. Sooo, anyway, all this is why I do believe we have come across a very efficient, painless method of conquering one of the hardest (but also the most fun) parts of learning Chinese. Of course I understand that knowing characters alone doesn't mean you know Chinese! We use a variety of books, programs, and videos to learn the language in addition to character practice. In this thread I focused on character practice because that's what OP was asking about. OP also mentioned she will hire a tutor to make sure her children are in good hands. No disagreement from me about Chinese being a difficult language. It seems like you're doing great supporting your daughter's Chinese literacy while living in an English-speaking country. If you have any tricks, wisdom, resources (or your own Skritter lists) to share, I'm sure many here would very much appreciate it.
  15. While I hope you do stick with Skritter (and encourage your kids' future tutor to use it with them), since I think it's amazing, and it makes people who aren't even that much into languages go from "Chinese is not happening" to "I just learned 10000 characters using Skritter", here's one alternative that might work well while you're busy on a trip:
  16. First of all, you have my admiration! :) And secondly, some resources I liked: Reading Bear: - 100% free & very comprehensive. 50 multimedia presentations covering all the main phonics rules. You have the option of having the vocabulary items it covers sounded out slowly, sounded out quickly, or having the sounding out left to the viewer. After you go through the first couple of presentations with your child, you could teach them to go through them themselves, so it could be a very hands-off method. Teach Your Monster to Read by Usborne: Free computer version, and I think about $5 on the iPad. It *is* for British English, but my son didn't seem to mind, and his reading improved dramatically from going through this program. If you create an account online, you should get three free PDF books as your child completes the three levels. The game consists of three worlds. We didn't do the first one, because my son already knew his letters when we got it, and I think there are better resources out there to teach letters and their sounds. LeapFrog Letter Factory to learn letters and their sounds for kids 3+. Preschool Prep: Letter Sounds for kids who are 2 to 3 years old. You could use those with your younger children. :)
  17. Are you using the iPad app, madteaparty? If you log into your Skritter account through their website using a browser (works pretty well in Safari on the iPad), you will see the option for it to walk you through all the strokes (the 水 icon with the little numbers) as well as the option to show you the whole character before you write it (the eye icon.) Also, if you download the Pleco app, the dictionary can show you the stroke order for every character. Although that might be available only in the paid version of the app: I don’t remember any more at this point. (BTW, you can easily search the dictionary by entering pinyin or English terms.) That being said, it's still tricky when you're new to it. I recommend starting with the simplest characters and building up. This way you naturally get used to the stroke order, which in time becomes second nature. As I teach my son, I come up with little phrases or stories to help him remember the characters. I make the stories as funny and personal as possible. Some of them I act out, so they don't translate to writing very well, but I will try to share some basic ideas below. Here is a sample list you can start with, along with some notes on how you can try to help the kids remember the characters. (Please note that the notes are just mnemonic devices and, most of the time, don't reflect the actual etymology.) After you’re done with the 88 (ahem) items in the Skritter list, I think you’ll be much more comfortable tackling new characters from that point on. The process I use for all new characters I want to learn is to 1) look them up in Pleco, 2) check what individual components they are made up of (in the CHARS tab under "Components"), 3) learn all/some of the components I think might be important, 4) come up with a story to help me remember the character, 5) practice the character in Skritter. It might not sound like it, but it’s a lot of fun. 一 yi1: it means "one": one forward stroke 二 er4, it means "two": two forward strokes 三 san1, "three": three forward strokes 十 shi2, "ten": picture a bundle of ten sticks lying together horizontally being tied by a string, which is stretched out vertically 女 nǚ3, "woman": picture a woman's belly, arms, legs 子 zi3, "child": imagine a baby: you start drawing the baby's head, then the body with curled up legs, and then you draw the arms 好 hao3, "good": woman and baby; if anything's really good in this world, it's woman and baby – together 口 kou3, "mouth": picture an open mouth 日 ri4, "sun": the character looks like a window: picture the sun shining through the window 月 yue4, "moon": looks like a crescent moon 明 ming2, "bright": the sun and the moon together: the two brightest objects in the sky 朋 peng2, "friend": the moon is lonely in the sky, if only he had a friend, if only another moon could keep it company 友 you3, "friend" 朋友 peng2you, "friend" 木 mu4, "tree": we start to draw it the same way we did shi2 ("ten"); picture a weeping willow with branches hanging low 森林 sen1lin2, "forest": it's a forest made up of trees! 人 ren2, "person": picture a thin silhouette, two legs 大 da4, "big": a person stretching out their arms showing how big, really big something is 天 tian1, "sky": a big person (Titan Atlas?) holding up that extra stroke at the top representing the sky 明天 ming2tian1, "tomorrow": hoping for bright skies tomorrow 火 huo3, "fire": you draw the tiny strokes on the sides of the person in the same direction: just like when you have sparks from a bonfire being blown by the wind in the same direction 山 shan1, "mountain": you start with the tallest peak: that's where you want to go; how do you get there? you first climb the smaller peak on the left; you finish your hiking trip by climbing the last peak on the right 火山 huo3shan1, "volcano": a mountain that spits fire, fire mountain 水 shui3, "water": you start with a horizontal stroke: imagine a droplet falling down into a pool of water, then you see ripples that seem to go (like your strokes) to the center and away, and again, to the center and away on the other side 冰 bing1, "ice": I wish I had a video for this one because it’s hard to describe: move your hands from side to side like water flowing, and then suddenly FREEZE with your hands pointing in the same direction as the first two strokes of this character 上 shang4, "above": the little stroke on the right is above the "ground", i.e. the long stroke at the bottom 下 (xia4), "below": the little stroke on the right is below the long stroke 早 (zao3), "early": the sun (ri4) and ten (shi2) 早上 (zao3shang4), "early morning" 早上好 (zao3shanghao3), "good morning" 門 (men2), "gate": the character looks like a gate 問 (wen4), "ask": picture a person/a mouth asking for something at the gate 手 (shou3), "hand": I have no good story for this one, but I try to guide the writing: backward stroke, forward, forward, and then join them 目 (mu4), “eye”: similar to ri4 (“the sun”), but with two strokes in the middle. One middle stroke for the sun, because we have only one sun, and two middle strokes for the eye, because we have two eyes. 看(kan4), “look, see”: a hand, with its downward stroke brushed away to the side to make room for the eye underneath; my son and I read a lot of Greek mythology, so this one made us think of the Graeae holding their eye in their hands 見 (jian4), “see”: the eye (mu4) walking around on two legs and seeing everything; or, you can introduce the character兒 (er2, “child”) and teach the “legs” as being a part of that; seeing is the child of the eye 戈(ge1), “halberd” 我 (wo3), “I”: now that we know shou3 and ge1, this one is a bit easier, although we do change the stroke order of the individual elements a bit to accommodate their merging into one 我們 (wo3men), “we”: the men2 part is phonetic; we have the standing version of ren2 (“person”) and men2 (“the gate”) 羊 (yang2), “sheep”: picture horns and ribs connected by a spine 美 (mei3), “beautiful/America”: yang2 (“sheep”) on top and da4 (“big” at the bottom): America, the land of… big beautiful sheep?! 心 (xin1), “heart”: this character looks very anatomical to me, chambers, blood flowing through them 小 (xiao3), “small” 小心 (xiao3xin1), “be careful!”: small heart, or don’t be too brave, be careful 馬 (ma3), “horse”: can you see a silhouette of a horse in this character? 媽媽 (ma1ma), “mom”: nu3 (“woman”) and ma3 (“horse”) – moms do work hard, like horses, but I think this one is just phonetic 車 (che1), “car/vehicle”: we have er4 (“two”) split in the middle by ri4 (“the sun”) and connected by a downward stroke; when you look straight at a car, the headlights are like two suns 火車 (huo3che1), “train”: fire vehicle 草 (cao3), “grass”: sounds a bit like zao3 (“early”) with some grass growing on top 太 (tai4), “too (much)”: da4 (“big”) with an extra little stroke, which makes it just too much 太大了 (tai4da4le), “too big”: the le part is the first two strokes of zi3 (“child”) 太小了 (taixiao3le), “too small” 果 (guo3), “fruit”: looks like something growing on top of a tree (mu4) 水果 (shui3guo3), “fruit”: water makes it juicy and delicious 也 (ye3), “also” 他 (ta1), “he”: the standing version of ren2 and ye3; he is also a man 她 (ta1), “she”: nu3 (“woman”) and ye3: she is also a woman 不 (bu4), “no”: no, no, no, this is not the right way to write mu4 (“tree”)! 杯 (bei1), “cup”: I introduced it to my son when he was holding a cup by asking, “What’s in your cup? A piece of WOOD? No!!!”; or you can just think of a hollow (bu4) wooden cup 言 (yan2), “speech”: sound waves flowing from the mouth (kou3) 課 (ke4), “lesson”: a lesson is the fruit (guo3) or what we get from (someone) speaking (yan2) 白 (bai2), “white”: think of white light coming from the sun (ri4) 百 (bai3), “a hundred”: phonetic, sounds almost like bai2 千 (qian1), “a thousand”: picture shi2 (“ten”) wearing a fancy (backward stroke) hat 中 (zhong1), “middle/China” 中文 (zhong1wen2), “Chinese” 雨 (yu3), “rain”: picture an umbrella and droplets 你 (ni3), “you”: you are a man (ren2) in a funny hat & you’re small (xiao3) 英文 (ying1wen2), “English”: England has a lot of grass (cao3); the bottom part looks like mouth (kou3) on top of big (da4) – coming up with a story for this one left as an exercise for the reader ;) 耳 (er3), “ear” 土 (tu3), “ground” 厶 (si1), “private” 去 (qu4), “go”: you go to your private (si1) ground (tu3) 罒 (wang3), “net”: it looks the part 王 (wang2), “king” 重 (zhong4), “heavy”: just like a car (che1), but with two extra strokes at the top and at the bottom to make it extra heavy 忄(xin1), “heart”: the standing version of xin1; you can make the regular xin1 out of pieces of strings, and then straighten up the longest stroke while joining it with the middle “dot” to form the long horizontal stroke in the middle 聽 (ting1), “hear”: this will be different if you’re learning simplified, but here’s how I remembered the traditional version: it’s important to hear – the ear (er3) is king (wang2) and it’s worth ten (shi2) nets (wang3) and one (yi1) heart (xin1)
  18. Just remembered to add: the Pleco dictionary for Android/iPad is really, really good. Janeway, I had completed the Fluenz course, which only gives you basic conversation skills and then learned about 1000 characters using Skritter before I started teaching my son. If you're willing to study alongside with them, I think you can definitely teach your kids at the same time. If you don't want to study the language yourself, you should still be able to introduce them to the basics. For example, this lady here, who doesn't speak Mandarin, has a nice write-up about teaching her daughter Mandarin with links to many resources:
  19. Fantastic. You will love Skritter! When you sign up, you can choose from a number of their pre-made lists for beginners. And I will also post my character starter syllabus for Skritter here when I find it, so probably when the kids are asleep. I think the app works best on Android and in browsers, but the iPad app is good enough, too. (If your kids like the iPad, you can use both the iPad app and the browser version in Safari.)
  20. Yes! I have recently started teaching my 4-year-old Mandarin (traditional characters) and he's up to being able to write 160+ after 3 months of 10-15 minute daily practice. We do spend additional 20 minutes or so on conversation/speaking. I use a variety of resources and make up my own syllabus as I go, and since languages are my passion, I would be more than willing to share everything we have done! My Mandarin isn't very good at all yet (weak conversational + knowledge of about 1000 characters), so take everything I say with a grain of salt. If you have a generous budget, I recommend Fluenz Mandarin to learn the very basics very well. (They have really good sales in the fall, but not sure if there are any discounts throughout the year.) How old are your kids? They might be able to use it with you if they are mature enough. You can view a free lesson to get an idea of how their program is structured. If you don't have the budget, ping/PM me and I'll think & recommend something else. Also, if your kids are on the younger side, I have a ton of other resources I can recommend, so talk to me. Fluenz doesn't teach characters, though. It teaches basic grammar and conversation skills. There is a fantastic app you can use to learn the characters, which is what I have been using for myself and my son, called Skritter. It literally makes the learning of the characters addictive. It's based on spaced repetition so it's incredibly efficient. You can use it with both traditional and simplified characters. I can share more details if you're interested, including a sample character-writing syllabus I wrote to be used with Skritter for the first couple of weeks. Skritter has a 2-week free trial, unless you get it via someone's referral, which I think gives you an extra week or two of free play. (I haven't tried if the referral system works.) I'm on my phone now and off to make breakfast for the kids, but please do PM me or respond in this thread if you'd like me to share more info. Hope you're having a great time on your trip!
  21. My son is 4, almost 4.5. Here are some things I'm thinking we'll try to accomplish before the fall: Reading Bear (this has taken us forever. We are on the last two presentations, and I just need to get better about spending 5 minutes on it everyday. I want to do it for the sake of completeness and to have an excuse to celebrate.) Magic Treehouse series. We are reading it together out loud, taking turns. I like it as an intro to historical concepts, and I think once we're done with it, we'll be ready for SOTW. Although, if we lose interest half-way through the series, I don't really care if we finish it. Learn to read in Polish (he's bilingual, but only reads in English for now.) Go through maybe half of the Sage Books series for reading in Chinese. (I'm teaching him Chinese as a foreign language.) Learn to write 300 Chinese characters. (Writing Chinese characters is his absolute favorite activity right now.) (Tentative.) Get his addition/subtraction math facts to 90-100% fluent in Reflex Math. This is tentative, because I'm not sure how I feel about it. Personally, I'm all about conceptual math. I've taught him how to add and subtract using mental strategies. Is there really a need for him to do automatic recall? How much value is there in it? As he practices, he'll use the mental strategies faster and faster anyway, and in the end it will be almost as fast as having the facts memorized. So, anyway, as long as he enjoys Reflex, I might stick with it, but I'm just not feeling that great spending the time on it. Basic chess. (A weekly class at a local enrichment center.) Soccer and tennis. Start doing something about piano/music: find a teacher, or decide on a program. I've been dragging my feet on this. Things I am considering for the fall: (Tentative) Logic of English Foundations, with emphasis on handwriting and spelling. Finish Sage Books for reading in Chinese. Maybe go through an actual Math curriculum, perhaps Math Mammoth grade 2. Or maybe give BA 2A a try again. (My DS loves the book but is not so eager to do the practice problems. I think I need to hold off a bit to give him time to develop some more maturity before we tackle it again.) If we don't do an actual curriculum, we will likely continue playing with DreamBox and ST Math. Keep reading. This is a nice list for literature I think I'm going to tackle: Keep reading science books, especially the Let's Read and Find Out Science series. Find time to do the experiments suggested in the books (DS has been asking to them and it's been hard for me to find the time.) (Tentative) Continue tennis, chess, piano.
  22. My 4-year-old has recently asked me to teach him cursive. He said, “Mommy, can you teach me how to write like this: up and down, up and down…” while pretend-writing with a stick in the dirt. Truth be told, I have been putting off teaching him handwriting. First of all, I don’t think I’m going to enjoy the process, and if I don’t, I’m afraid he might get discouraged, too. I am hoping that if we start when he’s older, it will come more easily to both of us. Secondly, my own handwriting is terrible, so I don’t feel awfully confident taking this on. I also believe he might be left-handed, which comes with its own set of challenges. That being said, he’s almost 4.5 now. He reads very well for his age. (He reads aloud to me daily from a variety of books, e.g. the Magic Tree House series, which he finds easy, or the Usborne Young Reading Series 1 & 2, which he finds more challenging.) And he’s interested in writing. Not just handwriting, but actual composition. He often wants to write a note or a letter, or something else inspired by our reading. But then he gives up because it takes him too long. After all, all he knows is how to print capital letters (which he learned a while back from the HWOT and some slate & chalk practice.) So I’ve looked at a bunch of curricula and I think I want to give Logic of English Foundations a try. Here’s what I’m hoping DS will get out of it: · Learn cursive and have fun while doing it. · Explicitly learn phonics/spelling rules. He reads well, but even though I’ve always emphasized phonics when we learned how to read (Reading Bear, Teach Your Monster to Read), he gravitates towards the whole-word approach, and does a lot of guessing instead of sounding out words that he doesn’t know. · Learn basic spelling. · Learn basic grammar concepts. Doubts/Questions I have: · Is 4.5 too early to learn handwriting? (Although I suspect the answer is no.) · Are Foundations really the most efficient curriculum for a child who is already reading? Perhaps I should just get the Rhythm of Handwriting, then do a phonics-based spelling program and add a grammar supplement. And then move onto MCT or IEW, or something to that effect. So what does everyone here think: is LoE Foundations the right choice for us? How long do the daily lessons take? Has anyone done it with a child who can already read? How was it? Is it a lot of busy work? I really want to avoid busy work. I’m all about minimum work for maximum results. Although I’m willing to sacrifice some efficiency if there is fun to be had. The poor thing is only 4.5 after all. So, is LoE really fun? Would it be fun for a child who doesn’t like to sit still and hates worksheets?
  23. Restrooms are a bit hard to find if you don't know where to look, but there are some: Good luck. :)
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