Overview of the summer
Quick recap of our family
- English is the dominant language (small town, USA); my children’s minority languages are Chinese and Korean.
- Our kids are exposed to all 3 languages almost daily through the one person, one language method (OPOL)
- Dad: English with very intermittent Korean
- Mom: Chinese (limited conversational proficiency)
- Nanny: Korean (conversational proficiency)
- 4.75-year-old 老大 (lǎodà / oldest child) enjoys reading Chinese (~1000 characters), and she can read Korean (simple picture books). She speaks and understands all languages, but English and Chinese are preferred. She loves dance class and started swim lessons over the summer!
- 23-month-old 老二 (lǎo èr / second child) speaks 2-4+ word phrases in each language and seems to have a fairly equal amount of vocabulary in each language. In contrast to my daughter who was matching upper & lower case English letters, knew her Hangul consonants, counting to 15, and potty trained at this age, my son does not recognize any numbers, characters, or letters yet. And he’s about a million miles away from potty training readiness. But this little guy is a runner and a builder! In other words, he is a perfectly normal kid. 🙂 I know I don’t write about him much yet on this website, but he’s learning so much each day at his own pace.
- My husband works full-time outside of the house; I work part-time from home.
Summer trilingual schedule for 老大 and 老二
- No summer school or camp for my daughter, because we wanted the kids to have more time together.
- No screen-time during the week for my daughter, because it made her cranky and difficult to transition to dinner. During the weekend, my daughter had the option to watch a Chinese show for 30 minutes in the morning and my son usually watched with her. (Unfortunately, younger siblings get exposed to everything earlier!)
- My daughter’s Chinese teacher returned to China for 4 months.
- 4.5-year-old 老大 has ~98 waking hours per week
- Red = Chinese = 35 hours (36%)
- Blue = English = 36 hours (37%)
- Yellow = Korean = 27 hours (27%)
- 23-month-old 老二 has ~91 waking hours (nap around 12-1p daily)Red = Chinese = 28 hours (31%)
- Blue = English = 32 hours (35%)
- Yellow = Korean = 31 hours (34%)
Here’s a visual breakdown of our kids’ schedule by language!
Please note that during these times, the primary language is indicated by the color. However, my children are never 100% immersed in any language because English is always heard in the community and on playdates. In addition, my kids often speak to each other in Chinese, even when they are with our Korean-speaking nanny. They will listen to Korean and Chinese music at random times, even if they are with an adult who doesn’t speak that language.
General Weekday Schedule
The schedule was highly variable over the summer. However, I’ll share a general overview since many friends have said that it’s helpful to see a typical “day in the life”! Please see the above schedule for exceptions to this general timeline.
- 7am: Kids wake up. Son nurses. Daughter picks an activity of her choice, usually drawing, building with blocks, or puzzle. My son usually copies whatever she does after he is done nursing. Husband goes to work.
- 8:30am: Breakfast & get ready for the day. Daily devotional.
- 9am: Kids play outside
- 11:30am: Lunch
- 12pm: Son’s nap time. Daughter’s Korean learning time with our nanny
- 1:30pm: Kid’s play outside
- 3:30pm: Shower/snack
- 4pm: I am done with work. Nurse son while reading to kids
- 4:30pm: Activities in the kids’ area. Dinner prep.
- 5:30pm: Dinner
- 6:30-7:30pm: Clean up eg, wash dishes, kids put toys away, everybody Swiffers
- 7:30pm: Kids play with daddy when he gets home from work. Veeerrry slooowwwly get ready for bed. Storytime and prayer.
- 9pm: Bedtime (always ran late in the summer!)
Monday Homeschool Schedule
I’m embarrassed to say that I almost forgot to add time for our daily devotions on this schedule. But I wanted to share this unedited photo because in real life, academic pressures can easily lead us astray from our spiritual journey.
Here is how things went for each subject for my kids!
- Since English is the main language for our family, my husband and I have agreed that family time and bible time should be in English. However, when I’m alone with the kids, my daughter and I will try pray with them Chinese.
- Each day, we read the One Year Devotions Book for Preschoolers with both kids (available here). I love this book because it is has a simple lesson followed by a verse and short prayer. The illustrations are realistic with diverse characters. We also have The Beginner’s Bible (available here), but unfortunately we have not been consistent about reading it. I think we will need to build this into bedtime reading so it doesn’t get missed.
- On Sundays at church, my daughter attends Sunday school where they teach a verse and do a bible-based craft.
- Almost daily, the kids had fun listening and dancing to Stream of Praise Chinese Christian music on their CD player. Although it was initially difficult to convince my daughter to trust my son with CDs, my son was excited that he learned how to use the CD player properly! (We still have to remind him to not to throw CDs on the play mat when he’s done with them!)
- On the weekend, the kids would watch a few of the Stream of Praise performances and mini bible lessons on our DVD player. You can learn more about Stream of Praise music in my review here.
Despite our Chinese teacher being away for the past 4 months, my daughter’s Mandarin pronunciation was maintained by listening to Chinese children’s stories on Ximalaya almost daily. My daughter would try apply new words and phrases from those stories into our daily conversation. However, although her speaking proficiency is good for her age, her overall vocabulary is growing at a snail’s pace compared to native Chinese-speaking children due to my limitations and the lack of other Chinese-speaking people in our community.
In attempt to improve speaking while our Chinese teacher was away, we tried to connect with other native speakers.
- Each week, we called my favorite Auntie via FaceTime. However, Auntie uses simple language with my kids. Since she lives in Canada and speaks primarily in Shanghainese with her family, she has lost a little bit of her Mandarin fluency.
- We also tried to FaceTime with my Taiwanese friend (a Chinese teacher) and her daughter a few times. Unfortunately, my daughter was a bit shy on FaceTime, and we were not able to call as frequently as we had hoped.
- A handful of times, we were able to meet a Chinese grandmother at a playground. This nice lady used to be a Chinese teacher and loves children! This was by far the most effective way to improve our Chinese, let alone befriend a kind, like-minded person. But unfortunately, since we live 40 minutes from each other, we were unable to meet regularly.
At the start of the summer, we were on a nature theme but then we kind of went off course and just read whatever! Here is a summary of our summer reading routine:
- For books, I always let my daughter choose, even if the books are below her reading level. Each time a book is re-read is an opportunity to discover something new with the illustrations and text. I also choose some books as well as to make sure she is exposed to new concepts and vocabulary. Here is a partial list of Chinese books that we read this summer with links to these books:
- Previously my daughter was stuck at around ~800-900 characters. This summer, we were able to increase her recall to about ~1000 characters (estimated count based on the Odonata readers). However, further reading progress is challenged by so many new words and phrases that we don’t use in our daily conversation.
- Although my daughter was reading Chinese bridge books such as the Little Bear Series and the Frog and Toad series last year, she still prefers picture books. I have been trying to buy a wide range of books from Taobao so that we can expand our vocabulary on everyday topics.
- When we start a new book, we take our time looking at the pictures. Then we listen to the stories on Ximalaya and then read it ourselves.
- For new words, I write it large font on a Post-It note and stick it to that page. On the back of the Post-It, I write tiny Pinyin +/- English translation for my reference. I also write down words that make my daughter hesitate (eg, needs some time to recall) so that we have an extra chance to review it.
- Sometimes, I also write down similar-looking characters on Post-It notes so we can compare them side by side such as 帅 (shuài / handsome, smart) and 师 (shī / division, teacher, master, expert)
- After reading the book a few times, I take out the Post-It notes so we can review them. We played reading games, such as Tic-Tac-Toe and hide and find the missing Post-It note!
- Here is a video of her reading 阿惠的妹妹住院! Currently, she can read several 30+ page picture books back to back with good stamina. You can see some of the aformentioned Post-It notes in this video.
Although I had hoped to introduce Zhuyin and traditional Chinese this summer, there was just not time to diligently pursue that endeavor. I have always struggled to keep up with learning simplified characters compared to my daughter, so I thought it would be more satisfying for my daughter to just enjoy reading what she knows instead of adding another reading system. Furthermore, I am thinking it will be more efficient to dedicate time for traditional Chinese learning when my son is ready to learn. This way the kids and I can learn simultaneously. I also found out that Qiaohu will be teaching Zhuyin with this fall’s monthly packages, so there was no rush for me do that at home.
Although my daughter has been writing English & Korean letters since age 2 to 3 years, Chinese characters are much more complicated. Therefore, I wanted to delay formal writing lessons until she was ready to follow stroke order rules.
- During the first half of the summer, my daughter learned the basic Chinese strokes through Chinese stroke order sandpaper cards. She also practiced writing basic characters through Montessori-inspired sensory writing trays.
- The Chinese Characters Magnetic Spelling Puzzle was also very helpful for practicing stroke placement (detailed review here).
- We also had fun using our water painting calligraphy mats (available here) and writing in the shower on the steamy glass door!
- During the second half of the summer, I tried to introduce traditional tracing worksheets that I made via the Arch Chinese website, but my daughter refused to use them. Instead, since she likes tic-tac-toe, we just practiced writing with that game! You can read more about how we used Tic-Tac-Toe to learn Chinese and download free printable Tic-Tac-Toe templates in this link.
- Since my daughter can do addition and subtraction up to 12 in her head, I thought that she might be ready for Singapore Math. We ended up skipping the Kindergarten level (available here) because it was too easy with mostly counting and coloring activities. The content was similar to the Daily Noodles Chinese numbers activity book that my daughter did when she was 2 years old. Although she flew through several sections of both the Singapore Math 1A and 1B workbooks (available here), I realized I should hold off on using these books until my daughter reads English fluently. While she understood the concepts, reading comprehension is very important for understanding instructions as a foundation for mastering word problems. I also found that she was getting distracted by the numbers and regurgitating memorized facts instead of trying to think through certain problems. To me, that was a sign that my daughter need to spend more time on hands-on, concrete materials.
- We are continuing to use the Montessori math materials, and I’m trying my best to learn how to optimally present each material by watching My Works Montessori and Educational Video Publishing. The learning curve is steep for me as a homeschooling parent who learned most things by memorizing worksheets and flashcards! So I am grateful for advice from Facebook groups such as Montessori-Inspired Kids Learning Chinese and Montessori Homeschooling. Here are some math activities that my daughter did over the summer:
Reviewed the Hundred Chart (available here)
- Montessori counting boards from Etsy (product reviews here)
- Montessori decanomial beads to practice addition, subtraction, and skip counting (2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s); also multiplication and division by 2s (available here)
- Playing the snake game
- Practicing multi-digit addition with the Montessori golden beads (available here and here)
- Just starting to explore the Pythagoras board (available here)
- My daughter quickly completed the Paint by Sticker Kids’ books (available here) and is now (slowly) enjoying the Paint by Sticker books for adults (available here). Unfortunately, there is no in between level, so it was a big challenge to jump to the adult books. These books are fantastic for number and pattern recognition as well as fine-motor skills.
- Lastly, my daughter’s absolute favorite way to practice math is through verbal word problems! We have been doing this daily for the past year and have so much fun to come up with silly scenarios! My daughter will compute basic calculations either mentally or with the help of her Montessori beads.
Therefore, I was confused about where to start with teaching English this summer. I have several learn-to-read series, including the following:
This is where most of the learning occurred for my children! Of course they fought with each other and invaded each other’s personal space. But they also learned how to apologize and forgive each other. They learned how to help each other and when to ask for help. Chase, hide-and-seek, block-building, and drawing time were favorite activities at home. At the park, the kids had so much fun on playdates!
- You may notice that we are not necessarily progressing to “harder” or “more advanced” materials. If my daughter expresses interest in something that seems “easier”, than that is what we will do. I strongly believe in following the child’s interest and that there is usually something to discover and learn no matter how “simple” something might be. This is why I am a huge fan of the Montessori method which encourages a solid foundation of patience and discovery. Learning is not necessarily a linear process.
- Sitting down to teach an older child is very difficult with the cute distractions of a younger sibling! When my daughter and I have one-on-one time, she actually has an extraordinarily long attention span for her age. I am grateful that I was able to take one morning off from work per week to do our Chinese/English/Math teaching while our nanny watched my son. (I work from home and can catch up with work at night). Our nanny did her Korean teaching during my son’s naps. But otherwise, “academic” learning often occurred in short and sporadic carpe diem spurts!
- Just because something is working for one language doesn’t mean it will work for another language! We have a fantastic Korean workbook that my daughter enjoyed completing with her nanny. But my daughter refuses to do worksheets or workbooks for Chinese learning. On the other hand, my daughter will choose to read Chinese any day over Korean and English.
- Turn off distractions from social media. While I credit Facebook groups for a wealth of information and support that I don’t have in real life, the downside is FOMO (“fear of missing out”) if you don’t do something that everybody else seems to be doing. I began to second-guess my teaching style after reading too many posts from other parents who are against hands-on learning. But I realized that the whole purpose of my writing about our family’s learning was never about fitting in with the “norm” or marking off check boxes. All parents are trying to do what’s best for their family, and children benefit from a caregivers who are in tune with their unique needs. The best way to learn for one family may not be the best for another family’s circumstances. Putting down other learning methods only discourages others from exploring other ways that could help their children.
- Since the idea of hands-on, child-led learning is still relatively new when it comes to learning Asian languages, I hope that it can become more accepted by our sharing. I am motivated to continue writing about our experience and hope it brightens your homeschool experience!
- Find a group of parents that share your goals and interests and can lift you up instead of stress you out.
For the next school year, my daughter will be repeating preschool due to her fall birthday. In California, schools strictly adhere to the cut off of 9/1 for Kindergarten entry, and schools don’t care if children are academically advanced before they turn 5. Therefore, we decided to send my daughter to a part-time classical school for 2 half-days a week so that she can still have fun socializing with friends at school but have more time for Korean and Chinese homeschooling. This will also allow us to take our time with morning devotional on the days when my daught er does not have school. We will also increase to two dance classes and continue swimming through the school year. In addition, I will start teaching my daughter how to play piano!
As for my son, we will continue to enjoy playful, open-ended learning with him! It’s nice not having to worry about planning a curriculum for him at this time!
For advice on raising multilingual children, please explore the following posts:
- Raising Multilingual Children As a Non-Fluent Parent: 7 Lessons Learned in 2017
- Teach Your Child A Second Language at Home: 5 Key Steps
- How to Get Your Child to Speak the Minority Language
- One Person, One Language: Our Family’s Trilingual Schedule 2017-2018
- Fun & Educational Chinese Activities – A How-To Guide
- Bilingual children refusing to speak the home language (Language on the Move)
- What to Do When Your Bilingual Child Won’t Speak Your Language (Bilingual Monkeys)
- How To Create a Chinese Language Ecosystem (CE Bilingual)
- How To Jumpstart Your Kid’s Chinese (Mandarin Mama)
Bilingual Facebook Group
As always, please leave a comment with any questions, and I’ll try my best to answer them! Or better yet, please join our Facebook group! Montessori-inspired Kids Learning Chinese and English is a community of parents worldwide who are excited to share bilingual book recommendations, Montessori tips, and learning materials!
For more support, I also recommend the following Facebook groups:
- Raising Bilingual Parents in Chinese & English
- Christian Parents Raising Bilingual Children in English & Chinese
You can also follow me on Facebook where I share my latest posts as well as favorite articles about children’s education, Chinese resources, and hands-on activities from other websites! In addition, on Instagram, I share activity highlights and how we integrate Chinese learning in our daily life!
Happy learning, friends!