State of Our Chinese Before 2015-2016 School Year

When I pulled Thumper and Astroboy out of school 1.75 years ago, Thumper was speaking more English during school to her friends, knew about 250-300 Sagebook Characters, could be read to in the Reading 123 Series from 小天下, but some books were slightly over her comprehension level sometimes.  Astroboy was starting to speak English more, couldn’t read or write, and was fairly bilingual in that he couldn’t speak either language well.

Fast forward almost 2 years later, with 3 months in Taiwan and 1 year homeschooling.  The state of our Chinese now is….


  • Reading – 600+ sage books characters, mostly guesses new words based on understanding of character components.  Reading 巧克力冒險工廠 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory right now.  She already had this book read to her in English and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The other day I asked her what she thought of the book, if she understood what she was reading.  And she said not as much as English(!).  She had heard the English version at least half a year ago.  Given that we are doing practically no English at home except Baba reading to her, TV watching, Baba talking to her, listening to audio books, listening to NPR, 1-3 weeks at Grandma’s, imagine my surprise at hearing that.
  • Zhuyin – Good enough to be reading books but not 100% familiar still.  Mostly problem with tones and being too impatient when reading.
  • Writing – Still not writing too many words, but has learned how to use a real dictionary to look up characters if she can’t find it in our homegrown dictionary, which she still prefers. Knows her basic strokes and components.
  • Listening & Speaking –  We listen to the Children Can Listen Chinese History and Children Can Listen Encyclopedia  CDs and though she does not understand them sometimes, she enjoys listening to them.  Magic Treehouse was a bit over her head but she also enjoyed those in audio form.  She enjoys watching those Chinese cartoons we have at home.  She surprises me with the amount of vocabulary she knows or can guess from context.  But I can see that she needs to up her vocabulary in words that more often appear in books and aren’t used as often in daily speech. Thumper is now enjoying being read to in the Reading 123 books now, we even did some books that’s considered 3rd-4th level reading.

So in general, I’m please with the progress.  I feel like we’re now at lower elementary level.  Maybe 1st-2nd grade in reading (due to comprehension), beginning months of first grade in writing, and 1st-2nd grade in listening and speaking.  And I’m saying Taiwan level, not US.  I know she will never know as many words as the children in Taiwan but it’s good enough to get her by.

Right now, she’s telling me she wants to learn English and sometimes she fights learning Chinese.  I know it’s my fault.  Gawh, I really need to watch what I say sometimes.  I told her this year we have to learn English because our homeschool teacher will want that.  She tells me she doesn’t want to live in Taiwan anymore (she was willing after our trip 2 years ago), and she wants to live in the US and speak English.  I know it’s just a phase….but it tells me I need to do a bit more.  To me, we don’t do as much Chinese as we need to, we’re more floating on the efforts I put in when she was younger.

But that said, she does have a pretty good grasp of basic vocabulary, from being read to and watching Qiao Hu.  From these she learns a lot of new vocabulary from context.


  • Reading – 30 Sage book characters.
  • Zhuyin – Blending and working on tones.  Needs work on ending sounds.   Can read words (2 characters)
  • Writing – Cannot hold pencil well yet
  • Listening & Speaking – Speaks in Chinese to anyone he knows that speaks Chinese, even if their English is better.   Made a recent language leap again around his 5th birthday and is using more advanced vocabulary.  Astroboy can understand the Frog and Toad and Little Bear series books.

I think Astroboy is on par with a regular 5 year old boy in his Chinese vocabulary.  It’s not at the high comprehension and speaking level Thumper was at at this same age.  But he just is on a different trajectory than his sister.  He learns differently and is good in different things.  To me he’s at the perfect level for entering in kindergarten.  And he’ll do well in it because the focus will be on reading and math.  I know I don’t read to him enough and he doesn’t listen to enough music.  So something we will be working on this coming year.

I’m very happy we’re homeschooling.


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