Thursday, December 29, 2011

四季树 - 4 seasons tree

This is definitely a first for me; a new post daily (here's last evening's post).  The joy of being on leave and having the time to share more. :)

After this post, I will try and share more on Science and Math. Math is definitely an interesting journey for Dumpling and I as she is bored with any form of rote learning which makes it challenging at times.

The beauty of homeschooling is that you are able to change course, speed and even the "subjects" if your child is not ready or when you wake up suddenly one morning and have what you think is a great idea! :)

That's sort of what happened to me last week when I woke up having suddenly remember a post I read on My Playschool and, decided to introduce "seasons" to Dumpling but in Chinese using "craft". Though she understands the concept and can read the words in English, it was another story altogether trying to expose her to and have her recognise " 春、夏、秋、冬". Even as I am typing this, we are still working on the words "季节".

What I used for this activity are:
1) Craft using 四季树: 4 seasons tree
2) 梅花与小鹿
3) A sticker activity book: 玛蒂娜的四季

Basically the 四季树: 4 seasons tree has 4 panels where each panel shows a different season using a tree. You can then embelish the tree and work through how each panel is different from the next with the change in season.

I first saw this tree in a post from My Playschool where Pauline shared her experience working on it with both English and Chinese resources. Like her, I worked on this with Dumpling using a literature based approach. In Pauline's post, she also shared her lesson plan with a mindmap / diagram of the various disciplines - Geography, Social Studies, etc included in her sessions. I found the post informational and most definitely useful.

In the same post, Pauline has also listed a link to download the template for the tree. I did not attempt to do the trunk hence my tree looks a bit different as compared to hers. (Maybe that also explains why my tree is not standing properly now. :p). Pauline also uses a different storybook from me and it is definitely worth your while to borrow that book too. I am definitely going to reserve my copy from the library.

To start off, I used an old cardboard box to prep for the tree and cut out some leaves with construction paper and added some flower punch outs with punchers from Daiso. I then read the chinese book with Dumpling (item 2 above where the 4 various seasons were very briefly mentioned) and discussed how the pictures / 梅花树 (tree) look different  from  one  season to another. I also paid attention to the adjectives used to expose and build up Dumpling's vocabulary.

Dumpling then helped to draw some veins on the leaves and stick on to the correct "colour" for the tree cut-out for Spring (we used Blue for winter, Green for Spring, Yellow for Summer and Brown for Autumn).

Thereafter, I worked with her on word recognition as well as adding on more words to the tree by asking her simple questions such as: "冬季是冷还是热?", "在冬季时,那 些白色的东西是什么? 是雪花", etc.  

I complemented the lessons with a sticker book (item 3 above). I find this series fairly useful as Dumpling is at an age where she still likes stickers and the series seems to have a book for everything - home, school, park, beach, etc. In addition, the stories in the book are kept very short and it also introduces us to new words and reinforces some vocabulary.

What I also found useful was to explain the formation of words. For e.g. for the word 秋, we printed the leaves using our thumbs with red and orange poster colours to show the changing colour of leaves. I specifically used these colours as they are the colour of 火 (fire). As Dumpling recognises the word 木, it was easy for me to draw the connection between the 木 and 火 and how in Autumn, the colour of the leaves are liken to fire hence the word 秋. I further elaborated that the top stroke above the 木 in 秋 resembles falling leaves. This is what I did for the rest of the "seasons" words too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Montessori Chinese (Preschoolers) 新蒙氏阅读 Part 2

Dumpling and I have slowly moved on to Section 2 of the Montessori Chinese set.

I started off with the thought that it would be simple but boy, was I wrong! It was not as quick and simple as identifying body parts but it links the words to our "senses" and forming phrases and short sentences.

In this second section, I placed more emphasis on Word Recognition 认字 hence I tried the word matching exercise without any picture aid. :p

Here's the link to download the simple activity.

How we used this was, I first taught her how to recogise the words by comparing the similarity of the cartoons / pictures with the shape of the words (page 1). These are what worked for Dumpling so do improvise / change accordingly to whatever works best for your child.

Thereafter, I read the rhyme with her placing more emphasis on the words we just learnt (Page 3, left side). The next exercise is to then do a word matching exercise (Page 2, left side).

 Finally, you can use page 2 (right side) for memory game, word hunt or 排字. We also extended to 手 and 摸. This is where I bought my set from.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chinese Characters and Radicals

I was searching for a guide online because while explaining to Dumpling at times, I realise that I have forgotten some of the radical terms!

Here's a part of table share. Due to formating, I was not able to paste the table down so I saved the below as a picture file as a "preview".

For the full list, you can get it from this site: 
Alternatively, I have also saved it into a document and coverted it into a PDF file. Click here to download (6 pages in total).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Storybox - a great tool in our Chinese Home Learning

I have been out of action for a while because Dumpling had high fever but I am happy to say that I am better rested this week. :)

One of the earlier "craft items /projects" I did with C is to make a story box for retelling and the "acting out" of Chinese stories. This was when Dumpling was about 2.5 where she started babbling more in the language and I knew that I had to participate more in the Chinese front to encourage her interest.

The challenge I had was, how to make it fun and engaging? I did not want to take on the role of serious learning such as word recognition, etc., then because I wanted to leave that to her school. My focus was more on getting her exposed to the sound / tonation of the language, just reading loads with her and perhaps do more craft related things.

I came upon a blog entry on someone using an old box as a theatre and that triggered a thought that I can get Dumpling to do this up as a storybox based on "丑小鸭" - Ugly Duckling.
This is also a great way to recycle an old box. We spoke about what materials to use and how we were going to use each of them.

I had help from her in cutting. 

Thereafter, Dumpling pasted this to resemble the tall grass at the riverbank.

Thereafter, we discussed which panel to use to create a 'pond'. 

I precut the ducklings and had her fill in the missing parts - great way to understand spatial relationship.

Our little scene from Ugly Duckling - 丑小鸭! :) After the storybox was completed, I would then read out the story where she acted out using the various duckling cut outs (we also had "eggs" too) for the various scenes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Home made mee hoon kueh 麵粉粿

I only made this once loooong time again and I had the urge to cook it over the weekend since these days, I try to cook at least a meal for her on either Saturday and Sunday.

Here's the recipe to share:
The dough
  1. 500 gm of plain flour + 2 tbsp of corn flour
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 200 ml water
  4. Pinches of salt
  5. 2 tbsp cooking oil

 Mix 2) to 5) in a bowl and stir well. Then pour slowly into the flour and knead it. It took me perhaps about 10 mins to knead by hand. The end result should be a bit of a sticky paste and has a bit of "springiness" to it when you press it in. Cover with either a damp cloth or cling wrap. Leave aside (not in fridge) for an hour.

The soup
  1. 200 - 300gm of ikan bilis
  2. A can of whole mushrooms
  3. A can of button mushrooms which I down to slices
  4. A packet of baby chye sim (or you can substitute with spinach, etc.)
  5. Oyster sauce and fish sauce to taste
  6. Minced garlic (1 - 2 tbsp depending how much you like it)
  7. 300 gm minced chicken with a dash of pepper (I am not a big fan of pork so I used chicken instead)
Heat up a bit of oil and stir item 6) till golden brown then add in 2), 3). When fragrant, I added it to a pot of water (I used a medium size pot) and made the stock with item 1) adding 5) to taste.  I added 4) and then 6) by rolling them into small chicken balls only after everything is simmering over the stove for at least half an hour.

Roll and flatten the dough with a rolling pin (the best option) use your palms to flatten it till paper thin then tear the dough into small pieces and add it to the boiling soup. It is important to get it as thin as you can because the dough bounces back a bit once it is in the soup. If it is not flatten well, it will be a tad hard and too chewy.
When the dough is cooked, add in vegetables. I cannot live without my fried shallots which adds a wonderful flavour to the soup. Then top off with fried anchovies and other condiments which you like (spring onion, coriander leaves, etc.). Serve warm. I add chili padi and a bit of soy sauce to mine. :) Enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A tiger mum in all of us?

Intrigued by the response towards the book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mum", I decided to pick this up from the library last week. 

I admit that when I started off reading the book, I was somewhat  biased. Afterall, which parent would not find Amy Chua's methods a bit extreme? This is a famous excerpt from her book.

"Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

- attend a sleepover
- have a playdate
- be in a school play
- complain about not being in a school play
- watch TV or play computer games
- choose their own extracurricular activities
- get any grade less than an A
- not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
- play any instrument other than the piano or violin
- not play the piano or violin."

I remembered thinking to myself "wow, this woman is a bit extreme" when I first read some online reports and reviews of her book.

So, it was somewhat of a surprise that as I read on, I was entertained. Throughout the book, she openly compared the different parenting styles between a Western mum and a Chinese mum. Some of the statements are downright outrageous and provoking. Here's one:

"If a Chinese child gets a B — which would never happen — there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion.The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A." (from Chapter 10, Teeth marks and bubbles)

Though I find her methods extreme, I do know for a fact that many parents do pack in many many hours of assessment papers, etc., for their children. Hence I have to concede that this Tiger Mum really has the and determination to drive and direct, guide and many a time, force (lol) her children to excel.

Here's an excerpt which I like: (From Chapter 22 (“Blowout in Budapest”):

Here’s a question I often get: “But Amy, let me ask you this. Who are you doing all this pushing for – your daughters, or” – and here always, the cocked head, the knowing tone – “or yourself?” I find this a very Western question to ask (because in Chinese thinking, the child is the extension of the self). But that doesn’t mean it’s not an important one.

My answer, I’m pretty sure, is that everything I do is unequivocally 100% for my daughters. My main evidence is that so much of what I do with Sophia and Lulu is miserable, exhausting, and not remotely fun for me. It’s not easy to make your kids work when they don’t want to, to put in grueling hours when your own youth is slipping away, to convince your kids they can do something when they (and maybe even you) are fearful that they can’t. “Do you know how many years you’ve taken off my life?” I’m constantly asking my girls. “You’re both lucky that I have enormous longevity as indicated by my thick good-luck earlobes.”

Though I do not think that this is my parenting style, there are some parts of what she shared in the book which sounded familiar.

Amy Chua shared that even during vacations, her daughters were expected to practise their instruments. Being a homeschooler, I take every opportunity to share, guide and teach Dumpling. Even when we are out for playdates / dinners, I will always have some books in my bag to read with her. During our holiday in Perth, I brought along books and lapbooking resources so I can homeschool her every evening instead of watching TV.

While it is easy for many mums to snub or say that they do not subscibe to Amy Chua's methods, as I read on, I realised what she is doing is not far off from some parents I personally know as they ferry their children from enrichment classes to classes every weekend and packing in many hours of tuition on weekdays. So are many of us that far off from her (minus her extreme "rules" mentioned above)?

While it is not a method that I will adopt, I do respect her efforts (and in case you do not know, one of her daughters did rebel against her) and that unrelenting focus. Both her girls are unbelieveably talented and I do believe if she did not push them the way she did, they would not have achieved as much. When her youngest daughter decided to lay off the violin for a while, I felt sad for Amy Chua and to my surprise, thinking about what a shame it was for the younger daughter to "throw" the gift away. 

I also felt sad for her, from the perspective of a mother, that the very same drive (ok, narrow-mindedness and forcefulness :p) which pushed her girls to excel, backfired. I also recalled finishing the book with the thought that I hope her daughter would, one day, pick up the violin as her love for it is renewed. The only difference is that she pursues it on her own accord and based on her own motivation.
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