Some random thoughts on homeschooling and bilingualism

I need a brain dump. Can’t quite focus because too many strands of ideas in my head.  Blogging is like the penseive from Harry Potter.  It empties my mind enough so I can do things I don’t want to do.  ha!

I’ve been super sick the last week. Finally getting better. Pretty much the kids had free rein this week other than Monday. Amazingly the big one still managed to get this done. If that first year was about them learning the rules and procedures of homeschooling and the classroom, and practical life skills, then I think this year has been about learning how to manage their work plan and work records.

Little things happen in life and makes me feel that most of what I’m most happy teaching and why I like homeschooling is all the non academic stuff. It’s not doing the work that’s important, but the fact that I’m teaching her how to juggle things we need to do in life vs the things she’d like to do.  I like that homeschooling allows me to not constantly tell Thumper what to do, because I know I do that often enough already.  When the kids went to school and I worked, things were so busy it’s really hard not to just say, “Do this, and do that.  Hurry hurry hurry!”

There are things you don’t need to especially teach when you homeschool. School squeezes everything into 6-8 hours. And it has to ensure that all children learn things their parents might not have time to teach them at home. One is telling time. Sure, we do a bit of teaching, but really most of the practice is through day to day living, not worksheets of time calculations.

Another thing I don’t teach and which I’m glad the kids get, is being pretty environmentally sound.  The kids know how to recycle.   They like to dumpster dive through the used book area in our local recycling center.   Thumper especially, turns off the shower when she soaps herself.  She’s crazy.  Even I don’t do that.  They know to recycle and compost.  We’re still working on not wasting though.  Because this morning Thumper told me, “It’s okay if I just wasted this sheet of paper, I can recycle it!”   We gather water used to wash rice into buckets to water the plants with.
Change of topic.   I’ve been thinking about bilingualism the last few weeks.  It finally dawned on me this week, really you need to have different strategies for kids with different home language background.  We’re bilingual at home, from birth, due to our family makeup.  This means we’re constantly juggling two languages and the kids easily flip from one to the other anytime one language has just a bit more influence than the other.  By this I mean just the fact that someone who walks into the room speaking the other language can tip the balance.

It’s different from the parents who are both Chinese speaking at home or the parents who are only English speaking at home.  For me at least, the kids grow up with listening and (ideally) speaking skills in both languages from birth.  This is different from kids who have to go outside to learn the other language.   So for us, it means that we focused on Chinese L/S/R/W from birth, and English L/S from birth.  And that as Thumper gets older, I’m switching to English L/S/R/W and Chinese L/S.   I guess my point is, because the kids have been practicing listening and speaking from birth, R/W has been much easier because it’s just adding symbols.

And the more I think about it the more I like this way of learning.   I’ve been watching these TV shows of recent immigrants to Taiwan.  Many have a Taiwanese spouse .   Everytime I see examples of people who learn Chinese later in life but communicate well, in fact with really good command of tones, I think, isn’t this the point?  The more you sound like a native speaker, the more you can fool someone on your language level.  And the more you can communicate with someone.  Much more than being able to read and write well.  I know language learned as a child (preferably before your brain starts fossilizing at 7) has this lasting effect that is just not felt by later adult learners.  Yet at the same time, I wonder why should someone study a language for 8 years only to not be able to converse with someone, vs the person who picks it up as an adult, and maybe they can’t write well after 2 years, but they can hold a conversation.

It’s a funky subject.  My uncle for example, uses English in his daily life as a banker. But does he really need to speak it?  Not really unless he travels. So he needs to R/W better than L/S.  Though without good English L/S, he cannot advance far in his position.

See?  All convoluted.  I’m pondering just how far I need to take this reading/writing if I think listening/speaking is more important.  And how that I’ve brain dumped it, the good thing is I can not think about it for awhile.  Because I don’t think I really have an answer.

Lastly, random things we’re doing that I can’t wait till the end of the month report.  Thumper is reading Wizard of Oz right now in Chinese.  Yippee!  One of my favorite series.   Both kids are watching tons of science TV shows and listening to tons of Chinese  audio.  Which I’m happy about because they’re now playing with each other in English 25% of the time.  Ooo, that reminds me.  I had wanted to write a post about:

  1. With limited time to squeeze in 2 languages, you really need to be super mindful on activities you choose for the kids and things to give up.  I’ve been thinking about how I did that for Thumper and Astroboy till they were 4 and 5.  I chose to not have the kids take ANY classes before then because they were in English.   (Well, Thumper did a few sessions of gymnastics before I gave up because it was in English).  Recently, I realized is I need to cut down on the fiction and ramp up the non-fiction book/video/audio the kids get.
  2. That my advice, if I were to give it, is to get kids up to Chinese 2nd-3rd grade level, before switching to English.  But I reference my above realization.  It worked for us because we’ve always had listening and speaking English in our household.

And then, I realized, all these are things the Great O, fearless leader of bilingual FB group, said!  Haha, I guess nothing like going through it once yourself to really feel it.

Whew, now I feel better.   Things I don’t have to obsess over for another month or two.

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