How we’re teaching Zhuyin, Part I

IMG_3916.JPGWhether or not to teach zhuyin vs pinyin is something I’ve struggled with for several years.  I can clearly see that pinyin is something we need to learn in the long term because China is so much bigger.  Yet at the same time, there is a “But zhuyin is better!” refrain I often hear from people who have learned zhuyin as a child.  And sometimes it feels like there is an underlying UNSPOKEN statement of “But China is better!” vs. “But Taiwan is better!” depending on which system you use.

I will stop here and just state my preference.   In a bilingual environment, I think zhuyin should be taught alongside or after characters between 3-6.  Then pinyin eventually added in, maybe after 3rd grade.  I personally use pinyin to type now, after trying to use the Taiwanese tongyong pinyin for a few years.  Pinyin in any form is not intuitive to me.  But I find it much easier to type than zhuyin.  One reason is because I learned how to type in English first.  The zhuyin combo is just too slow for me.  It’s clear that if English will be eventually your stronger language, then you will probably use pinyin.  Another thing is that sometimes I can’t distinguish between the different sounds in two words that sound similar because /ng/ and /n/ aren’t pronounced very distinctly in Taiwanese Chinese.  So having the English pinyin actually helps.

So what is zhuyin?

Zhuyin is the phonetic system that was developed in China in the early 1900s.  It has 37 characters.  It’s divided into 3 main groups, consonants, rhymes, and medials.  I like to think of rhymes and medials as vowels.  During my research I found out several interesting things that was not in the English Wikipedia.  The symbols are “Underlying representation” rather than “Surface Representation“.  This means that the symbols can change pronunciation when you combine them with other symbols.  It isn’t always exactly one sound per symbol.  You know someone has internalized the phonological rules if they don’t actually notice the difference when combing the symbols together to pronounce a word.  What a revelation!   It explains why sometimes I cannot find the right zhuyin to spell as an adult but if I were to see it combined, I know intuitively how it should sound.

Another interesting thing about zhuyin is that when medials are at the beginning of a sound, they change pronunciation.  So typically a few combo medials+rhymes are taught as a set.  For example, ㄧ, is pronounced as /i/, as in ㄅㄧ /bi/.  But at the beginning of a combo, it changes to /y/ sound, like ㄧㄝ /ye/.

My decision to go with Zhuyin

Zhuyin, pinyin, or none?  I went back and forth for a few years until Thumper learned about 150-200 Chinese characters by age 6 and only watched Chiao Hu zhuyin lessons but was never formally taught.  I was much against her not learning zhuyin at the beginning but I found this way the best because we’re in the US.  If she had to learn her characters starting at age 6, then it’s too late for her.  Her English level is strong enough at this point and once you learn English phonics you’re already mostly there to reading.  She would then prefer reading in English than Chinese.

About 60% of the reason I’m going with Zhuyin is because I learned it as a child.  There just is something to be said about teaching what you learned.  It’s easier.  I feel like it’s somewhat blasphemous for saying it out loud (see intro reasons above).  But I’ve decided to boldly admit it to myself.  Other reasons (the ones I tell other people) are:

  1. It helps with pronunciation.  I see this again and again with children who are learning Mandarin as a second language.  Really they should have almost perfect pronunciation but they don’t because no phonics are taught.  Whenever I’ve broken down the phonics of a word and ask them to repeat, I find that they pronounce the words perfectly.  This is why I advocate phonics strongly.  You don’t even have to learn it formally, just at least introduce the phonics.
  2. Related to #1, with zhuyin you are not biased with English phonics.  It may not make too much of a difference to young children.  I’ve heard of examples where child isn’t confused when taught pinyin and English phonics concurrently and also of ones where it confuses them.  I figured if you want to teach it to them before age 6, which is when they are also learning English phonics, then might as well learn zhuyin instead.  I’ve always also wondered why there is such a debate over learning zhuyin.  When you learn Japanese or Korean you have to learn hiragana/katagana or the Korean alphabet.  If you know English phonics it can interfere with pronouncing the words well.
  3. My books all have zhuyin in them.
  4. The characters are based in Chinese characters.  So learning to write zhuyin is having really writing simplified Chinese.  It helps with writing in general later on.
  5. I like the fact that it takes at most 3 sounds to pronounce a word.  English words has various syllable lengths.  But Chinese only has one, made up of 3 “sounds” at most, plus tones.  And you can clearly see it with zhuyin. But if you were to use pinyin, you would first need to decode multiple sounds in English combined to make one Chinese sound.  For example, /ai/ for ㄞ.
  6. A phonetic system needs to be introduced so the children are familiar with how to put words together phonetically. This will help when they need to learn English phonics.

How is Zhuyin taught typically?

The way they taught zhuyin when I was a child was to sound it out from beginning to end, just like English.  For 3 letter sounds, you sound out last 2 letters (medial+rhyme), then add first letter (consonant).  The way they do it now, for a consonant+rhyme combo, is to add the tone first to the rhyme, then add the consonant.  For three consonant+medial+rhyme combo, you do medial+rhyme combo, then add tone, then add consonant.  So for example, ㄅㄚˋ you say, ㄚˋ,  ㄅㄚˋ.  This is a better way because again, medials change sound when it’s in front of a rhyme.   So if the child just learns the medial+rhyme combo as ONE sound, they don’t have as much trouble when combing them together.  I definitely see this with Thumper, who ran into this problem.

We went to Mandarin Kids camp for 12 weeks (we missed 2) while in Taiwan to learn zhuyin.  This is meant as a remedial course for children who have learned to read zhuyin but can’t put them together.  I had an enlightening conversation with the teacher.  In hindsight, now that I know that zhuyin is a underlying representation symbol, what she said makes sense.  The way they teach zhuyin in the class is to just read, read, and read.  They go through one short paragraph a week, work on individual word combos or sounds for that lesson, then just read.  The teacher says they don’t teach HOW to combine the sounds together like the way we were taught as children.  Maybe it’s because the children already learned it in school.  But after 12 weeks, the children, who have read enough words, create and internalize the rules and most know how to read.  In a way, it’s the whole word system of reading instead of the phonics system.

Before introducing zhuyin

Because Thumper is such a strong auditory learner, she actually learned how to spell before she learned her zhuyin.  Though Astroboy is much more visual, I’ve trying to do the same with him.  This is a learning philosophy I’ve gradually come to realize should be the way to go.  Language is first and foremost listening and speaking.  Then human invented writing and reading.  Sometimes there is such an emphasis on the latter two, we forget that without the listening and speaking as a strong foundation, learning the mechanics of reading and writing doesn’t mean you know the content.

Similarly with zhuyin.  I started around ages 2 and 3 talking about what sound a word starts with.  ㄅㄚ,    ㄅ,  ㄅ, ㄅ, ㄅㄚ/ba, b, b, b, ba/.  Around age 4, we started spelling.  ㄅㄚ, ㄅ, ㄚ, ㄅㄚ /ba, b, a, ba/.  I would randomly verbally show her  how a word could be spelled.  Again, since it takes at most 3 sounds to make up a character, it was actually SUPER easy for Thumper to pick up spelling.   She got it after a few tries.  What’s amazing is that she did not learn zhuyin the phonics way but she still got it.   We only really need to teach her how to READ zhuyin when the time came, and how to combine it together visually.

Contrast this with Astroboy, who I’m teaching zhuyin as a 4 year old.  As a second child (i.e. not as much time to devote to him), and one who has been much later than his sister in gaining verbal skills, I have not prepped him for learning zhuyin.  So now, we actually need to really spend the time to teach the sound of each symbol, teach the concept of beginning sounds, and have him practice putting the symbols together; basically teaching him how to read.  This will definitely take more time than the way Thumper learned.  He is also a more visual learner so I think this way suits him fine, but I can see through our lessons that if he had the oral preparation, he will get the concept much faster.

How to teach Zhuyin

Typically, children learn zhuyin by its name.  For example, ㄅ (B) is pronounced /beh/.  However, a better way, similar to how we teach English phonics, is to teach the phonetic sounds.  So you would pronounce ㄅ (B) as a soft b sound.  In Montessori primary language, you introduce the symbols by their sounds.  And if children ask, as they will because they are usually taught the other way, you say those are the NAME of the symbol.  For example, when showing ㄅ, you point to it and say, /b/.

Every material you encounter will introduce zhuyin by name, so we have to make our own material.  I still let Astroboy watch Chiao Hu, which teaches zhuyin.  But I don’t teach it that way.   It saddens me I bought a lot of video and audio materials for teaching zhuyin and now I can’t use them.

You also introduce the symbols non sequentially.  There is no need to teach it as  ㄅ /b/, ㄆ /p/, ㄇ /m/, ㄈ /f/.   This has no bearing on how it’s actually used.  Teachers have confirmed this to me.  A child can learn the names of all the zhuyin, but they can’t put it together.  Instead, introduce them as a word.  In English you do the consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) combo.  In zhuyin, you can do the cv combo.

Here is the order that Astroboy has learned them.

Day 1 – ㄅ /b/, ㄚ /a/

Day 2 – ㄇ /m/, ㄚ /a/

Day 3 – ㄏ /h/, ㄚ /a

ㄚ is a great first rhyme to introduce because so many words end in ㄚ.  Especially words children are familiar with (ㄅㄚ /ba/, ㄇㄚ/ma/).  I will most likely introduce the medials, ㄧ, ㄨ, ㄩ after ㄚ.  They are a special group of characters that can go either way, as a beginning or ending sound.  There are lots of word combos that you can introduce once you introduce the medials and ㄚ.

For consonants, we’re basically doing father, mother, sister, brother, and their own names first.  Astroboy LOVES pointing to ㄏ /h/ and saying, “This is my name!”   I also ask him which words he wants to learn how to spell, introduce them if they are 2 symbol combos.  I usually then review the 2 symbols by showing them with other symbols he’s already learned.

We are not quite doing it the Montessori way yet because we’re only learning this on the iPad through the kdraw program, during swim practice.  He gets bored after about 15 minutes and I’m not pushing it.  I don’t want to make the same mistake I did with Thumper, which was to push a bit too hard and now she resists reading.

I also have not introduced the tones yet.  I think I really should.  But since I have not done so verbally, I don’t want to confuse him by showing it visually yet.  It’s adding a new layer of difficulty that is a bit beyond him right now.

Astroboy actually has been exposed to zhuyin for 3 years before I formally started the introduction.  I shall write another post about Montessori way of introducing phonics, some sample activities, in another post. (coming soon!)



Diving into Chinese

Week 5 Day 1

Thumper: lang: Zhuyin, 住 , doubles addition, read set 2 book 1 sage books, read to, crochet

Astroboy: Addition strip board, drawing, reading, read to, cutting cheese (practical life), cooked lunch

Schedule: snack after 1 hour.  Astroboy not focusing

Week 5 already and I’m starting to get a bit anxious as I’m way behind in the Chinese making of materials.  I also havn’t presented the Great Lessons yet because I havn’t ordered those materials as well.  I do like having to list what happens daily as it always looks way more than how it feels while I’m doing it.

Today we did about 3.5 hours of work, counting the half hour snack time.

Last week, I showed Thumper the 4 areas she needs to work on daily.  They are,

  1. Being read to
  2. Read
  3. Math
  4. Zhuyin

She didn’t do them everyday so on Thursday she couldn’t do anything fun till she was done with them.

This week, I added one more to the list, Mandarin.  I also changed the way I did it.  Last week I let her check things off, but this week I’m going to start by having her check in with me with each work and then I will check it off.  Right now, the list is just something written on the whiteboard, but eventually I will probably make a checkoff sheet if we run out of room.

Let’s talk about Astroboy first before discussing the Chinese.  Astroboy has had the Addition Strip Board laid out since last week and he’s been methodically going through each number and adding them.  He won’t let me put them away.  But he also loses interest after 5-10 minutes.  In either case, he requires that I work with him.  He won’t complete it himself.  I know it’s partly because I’m his mom, and also there aren’t other kids in the classroom to distract him or for me to say, “Sorry I gotta go.”  It’s a dilemma because I need him to work by himself, otherwise he will not learn concentration.  That is one problem to think about.

Last week, we did just Zhuyin.  This week, we will be working on 3 Mandarin work: Zhuyin, writing characters, and reading through Sagebooks.

For Zhuyin, we’re working through all the basic zhuyin special combos, what I will call Level 2 of my iFlash cards, which I still have to make.  I’ve talked about How to Introduce Zhuyin in another post already.  I made the flashcards last week and it’s been a good reference as well for Thumper for when she forgets a symbol.  Thumper’s work daily is to just go through these basic combos with me for practice.  It’s not quite Montessori, but it’ll have to do for now.  It definitely shows me what sounds she’s having trouble with.

Today, I had Thumper start reading from Set 2, Book #1 of the Sagebooks Series, this series forms the foundation of how we’re going to learn to read in Mandarin.  She breezed through most of the pages as she already was introduced to many of these characters while in preschool.  I had her write down the words she doesn’t know on post its and put it on the white board.  She’s supposed to write down any words she doesn’t know on the post-it notes.  Her writing work for the week is to choose 3 words out of all the post-its and 1) put them in the dictionary, and 2) write it 6 times.

The dictionary and the writing booklet I spent hours making.  There is always a little sense of accomplishment each time I get a material made.  I love this idea of making a dictionary.  The dictionary has 3 sections: character + zhuyin, stroke order, words.  The finished page goes into a 1 inch binder ordered by zhuyin.

The character booklet you can buy easily in any Chinese bookstore.  BUT, i am super picky about what I want so just ended up making it.  I wanted a book that has bigger squares than normal, with no zhuyin in them.  I also wanted the squares to have 9 mini squares in them so she can learn how to write properly.  I read this post about how to introduce Chinese characters once, I’ll put that in another post later.

IMG_3850.JPGSo today, Thumper picked out a character, 住.  I drew a 9 square box on the whiteboard and showed her the stroke order.  She numbered the stroke order herself.  It was wrong and a perfect opportunity for a mini lesson on how strokes typically go.  We repeated this several times as I pointed out how the character needs to fill the whole large box and she kept trying it out.  Honestly I don’t think this is too Montessori.  I will have to design another work that makes her aware of the placement of her strokes.  As it is, talking about it made her only minimally aware.  She is still not writing it quite correctly.

I then told her for each character she’s learning she needs to write it 6 times.  This is of course very different from how people usually learn to write in Chinese.  I remember repeated writing in grade school.  But unless you’re writing characters as part of words or sentences, honestly children can learn how to write but don’t know how to use it.  So that is why I only ask for 6.  She will get more practice as she has other types of writing to do later.  The point here is more writing with the proper stroke order.


Did I already mention how happy I am I got to try out my new binding machine?   😀

Thumper probably spent just an hour max doing all her “work”.  She spent the rest busily crocheting her birthday present for her aunt.  As much as I don’t like her crocheting so much during school time, I am noticing that she is holding her pencils much better than before.  And I credit crocheting for this change.  So I’m not saying commenting at all.  SO HARD to hold my tongue.

Oh, lastly, Astroboy made gnocchi today.  He got the Trade Joe’s package out of the freezer, cut it open, dumped it all in, and cooked it.  All while dragging around a little step chair.  I only turned on the stove for him and his sister scooped it out.  All part of the 3-step work.  It makes me so happy because I find that it’s the prepping and cleaning up that’s hard for the kids.  They did also put their dishes away but I could not convince them to actually wash the dishes.  Maybe next week!

Fieldtrip Fridays: Muirwoods


Looking for 4-leaf clovers

After skipping a week, we decided to go to Muir Woods for our Field Trip Friday.

We left at 9:30 but had to double back because I left my sweater at home, then there was a side trip to the bakery and stuck in traffic between 580 and 101. By the time we made it it was 11.

There was NO parking whatsoever by then. We parked about a mile away and walked back to the entrance. By now there was a constant trickle of tourists. The kids enjoyed feeling the metal relief map of Muirwoods. We also spent some time at the gift shop while we waited for the long ticket line to shrink. We found out they will have a guided tour in Chinese this weekend during free national park day.

This is our second time at Muir Woods. the first time the children got tired after 15 minutes and said “I’m bored!” and wanted to go home. Made me so mad. That was not a fun trip.

This time around I set my expectations lower. I PLANNED to be there at most 2 hours because we made a play date in the afternoon. And I didn’t try to force feed info to the children as we walked in the woods. When they wanted to go look at the tree with lots of rings while I was trying to get them to admire the tall trees, I said “OK!” instead of getting annoyed. I pointed things out as I noticed them but didn’t go on and in about them if the kids don’t seem interested. We happened upon the last 5 minute of a tour that talked about how Muir Woods came to be. Thumper was really interested into hearing the story when I translated for her. Asyrobot was only really interested in learning what the signs on the walkway said. (Stay on the walkway). And feeling the relief map.

What I learned after the last trip and our travels in Taiwan was how out of touch with nature the children are. Outting a are not fun for them unless it involves a play structure. Very different Fromm happy memories of childhood hiking with cousins every weekend. I realized that I needed to not make nature outings always a learning experience, rather it should be fun and stress free; so that they learn to enjoy nature and like being there. My eventual goal is to base my curriculum in a California nature science one.

All in all a good trip. The children had interesting questions that I had wanted to make materials for this week but I didn’t. I do know for follow up I want to do Parts of the Plant and Parts of the Seed nomenclature cards. Maybe next week!

How homeschooling is going so far

Last week ended our 3rd week of homeschooling.  My brain floats with so many things I want to document and write about daily. But I never seem to find the time. I think that kind of sum up one aspect of how it’s going so far.

We had 2 weeks of prep that gave me a chance to see how the 3 hour work period would go and things went very well. The fact that the children have had months to have a home routine established, with long periods of unsupervised play time, have really helped.  Teachers spend the first few weeks and month establishing classroom rules and procedures, getting to know the children, and creating a community.  You need a good environment that’s conducive to learning.  I hadn’t meant for it to happen this way.  But I ended up spending a number of months establishing these routines, rules, and environment.

We then had one week of Fall Break (more about school schedule later).  I had a schedule of what I was supposed to do daily while the kids are away at grandparents.  But what I actually ended up doing was watch a lot of TV. I did manage to finish organizing the home room spaces and plan this year’s curriculum as well as make a list of activities I want on the shelf. However technically the shelves aren’t ready.

This week I kind of did assessment of Mandarin and Math level for Thumper.  I was really mad for a day that after 2+ years of Montessori preschool (she started at 4), she did not have her math operation facts memorized and hadn’t touched some of the medium level Montessori Math materials.  But I thought about it some more and realized that the curriculum isn’t there to be completely covered by age 6.  It’s the work habits that are important.  And I saw this this week.  When Thumper has something that truly interests her, I have observed that she can sit there for 2 hours doing it.  Now I just need her to clean up and put things away.  She’s inherited her mother’s habit of just dropping them where they are.  This also reminds me on why I want to homeschool. Then I have no one to blame but myself when she doesn’t know something.

This week, in addition to assessment, I’ve been putting materials on the shelf during the work period to try them out. I know it’s a no no but honestly I don’t have the concentration and time at night while the kids sleep.

I like documenting what we do each day as it gives me an idea that the kids ARE learning in some fashion. I know it’s probably boring to read for other people. But that’s always been my problem with the actual teaching:  the classroom management and what happens when you have issues. I don’t read a lot about other people dealing with it.

My priority for next week is to not do more assessment.  I’ve been really stressed this week because the house is a mess once again due to travel suitcases and the 4 bags of used clothes we got for Astroboy that’s been all washed but just sat on the living room sofa all week.   It is yet another thing I learned about myself.  A messy house messes with my motivation to do anything else.   I have all these ideas on what to do in regards to teaching Mandarin, but NO TIME!  Every night I’m so pooped I just go to bed with the kids, and then stay up to watch TV too late as a way to relax.   On top of it, I’m in the midst of transferring files to my new computer (which is lacking a mouse and keyboard).

It’s all driving me nuts.  I’m trying to get to Z, but in order to get there I have to do Y first, but in order to do Y, I have to do X, ad nauseum, till there are a bunch of other things I have to do first, some involve time by myself that I do not have yet, and others involves not wanting to do things due to that lump of clothes on the sofa.  Yeah yeah, hear me whine.  I hate it when I know what’s stopping me is some emotional roadblock that I have a tough time crossing.

Honestly 3 hours a day of school feels so short. Compared to the first two weeks, now I think, “What! Where does the time go? I still have so many things I want to show the children!” We have time to do maybe 3-4 activities and then it’s lunch time. We’re doing 3 straight hours of work, with no time for enrichment classes, or circle time, and it’s not enough.

The way the schedule is working, we also don’t have enough PE time. I figured that Thumper needs 2 hours daily and Astroyboy needs 1.  This seems to be the minimum to get the kids properly tired by the end of the night without crankiness and ensures a fast, no fuss, no playing, sleep time.  I also want to do music, nature, gardening. No time!

Other than that, the overall scheduling is working out really nicely.   I find the spontaneous learning the most fun and enjoyable moments in the day.   I love that we’ve got a routine down and I don’t rush the kids or myself often anymore.  What makes me the happiest so far is that the kids have got the house routines down.  And I can see them slowly forming the living habits I wanted them to have but we never had enough time for before when they were in real school.  In addition, I love the way fact that they are learning the language to get along with each other and ask politely to borrow something.   I like the fact that I have some quiet time daily in the afternoon.   Now if I only can figure out how to squeeze in prep time.

A cranky homeschooling day

Wednesday: Week 3 day 3

Thumper: dry pouring (PL), crochet (PL) , addition strip board (math) & zhuyin assessments (lang), chinese folklore
Astroyboy: addition strip board (math), 10, zhuyin review, number songbook (language, music)

Today was a cranky day where everything is just on the verge of boiling over. It started with Thumper being woken up at 7 by her brother hitting her in his sleep. She couldn’t get back to sleep and neither could I. He managed to wake up at 8:30, which is normal.

All through breakfast the littlest thing would set her off into a crying fit. Nothing went her way. She didn’t want to drink milk (whine whine), she didn’t want to eat the huevosdillas I was going to cook for her (more whining, etc.) I knew she was cranky and I was trying to hold myself in. But whining is one of my pet peeves and really sets me on edge.  I didn’t yell at her too much.  Understanding that whining sets me off helps me to be mindful when I want to really yell.

The good news is that she was ready to go to school at 9:30. Astroboy kind of meandered himself all morning. He didn’t get dressed till 10:15 and I didn’t even bother trying to get him to clear his table. He felt slightly off as well.

In the beginning neither kid could sit still. They flitted from activity to activity. Thumper tried a dry pouring of these little pearl beads and of course very quickly lost patience and started playing with the material. I had to stop her eventually. She started crocheting and though I didn’t want her to I figured it was a good way for her to concentrate and center herself. However she didn’t crochet that long either.

IMG_3638-0Astroboy really wanted to play with the addition strip boards even though he’s not ready for them. But I gave him a lesson anyway. In the lesson you count the blue strip and then the red strip, like “3 and 3 is …3, 4, 5, 5. 3 and 3 is 6“. But he kept wanting to count “3. 1, 2, 3“.  This gave me a glimpse of how his brain thinks. All counting starts with 1 in his mind. So I changed tactics and counting all the numbers instead.  “3 and 3 is …1,2, 3, 4, 5, 5. 3 and 3 is 6”. I don’t think he got the concept at all BUT he learned finally to recognize the number 10 (I’d been trying a few days with no success) and he obviously really enjoyed counting, especially past the number 10.

After a short snack, in which any concentration and desire to school went out the window, I showed Thumper the Addition and Subtraction strip boards. It was so boring for her though she hadn’t used it much before. She kept counting backwards to get her answer, I swear just to annoy me. It’s apparent she doesn’t have the answers memorized from these assessments. But what I’m learning through practice is that the strip board is really there to introduce the idea of addition and subtraction. So since Thumper understands the concepts, I think I need to use the Memorization Charts instead. Though a quick look online shows that you could use the strip boards for teaching other things like communicative property but I’m not sure if she needs this concrete material as she is basically 7.

I finally gave up and just read them books. Why didn’t I think of that before?! We had a really good time reading for half hour. I read Thumper a story about the rabbit on the moon and sang from a songbook about numbers.  I had a flash of insight where I used a stick to get a beat going while reading so that I’m adding music to the curriculum.

We ended the day on a happier note and Astroboy made a really beautiful sushi and Thumper cut them. I was so proud as he’s just turned 4 and he’s kind of detailed if I’m not correcting him. Wish I’d taken pictures.

What I learned:

The insights from teaching are really what people don’t really talk about but what I find most rewarding.  It makes me happy when I’ve figured out one more way of how teaching works.  Today I learned that

1.  It is okay to just let things go when the kids are cranky.  I wiped the table for Astroboy even though it was his job.   I know this goes against the new “must follow through” idea I’m trying to follow.  But I also am realizing that it’s okay to let it go sometimes when you’ve got the kids 24×7.  The habits I’m trying to instill will get absorbed eventually.  And more importantly, it made me happy that I was able to clean up quickly rather than nag him.  This made for a happier me for the kids to deal with the rest of the day.

2.  Sometimes when things are NOT working, I need to take a step back and go with the flow.  When I start showing the children activities, I can get into a mode where I am insistent that they LEARN IT NOW.  This pushy attitude comes across and the children really resist.  I really wanted to hit myself on the head for pushing on the assessment when noone wanted to do it.  They were so much happier being read to and it’s still a very constructive activity.

3.  I need to remember to follow the child.  I’ve been pushing Astroyboy a bit harder in learning numbers and his zhuyin the last two days and I need to ease up. I didn’t go in with expectations for him to learn them, I was really following the child because he asked to learn them. And I had a good brain fart to use the iPad to do it. Each time, it was more play then instruction and I think in general less stressful for him. I didn’t stop him when he wants to draw all over my numbers and zhuyin, to connect them, to color them, etc. I just let him be. But since he’s been making progress and endlessly pleasing me on that front, I’m more apt to get mad when he’s “goofing off” and not listening to me when I’m trying to teach. I have to really stop and remind myself that we’ve arrived at our current love of numbers and zhuyin partly because I have not been pushing him. I need to let him lead and only take the opportunity when it presents itself.

Even with 3-4 hours of straight school I feel quite anxious that we’re not covering everything we need. The hours really go by fast.

What I should have done:
It’s so very hard to stop myself from correcting the kids when they’re trying. It’s one of my homeworks as a teacher. Astroyboy didn’t want to make any more sushi after the first one because I kept telling him how to roll that sushi. It’s something I have to be really mindful of because I catch myself doing this again and again after he refuses to try something despite the initial enthusiasm.