Monthly Summary Nov/Dec ’15

Yay!  The semester is over and I survived!

November and December summary will be short on summary and pics.  We all retreated upstairs to work on our dining room table because it’s so cold downstairs.  That threw off all our routine.  We keep having to move things to the sofa to eat our meals.  There’s no place to sit when guests come over.  BUT!  The amazing thing is, we ended the semester with Thumper finishing all of her work on her work plan, all by herself, for two days, before we went on Christmas break.

Really I feel like this month is more about me reflecting on all the things I learned this semester about homeschooling and being a teacher.  It feels like homeschooling is just slowly coming together.  I’m slowly getting how it needs to work for me.

I think the biggest thing for Thumper is really, as I said, her easing into the whole routine of doing work during work period.   And outside of work, doing her chores without much reminding from me.  I actually consider this her biggest accomplishment for this semester, rather than whatever knowledge she’s learned.  She seemed to have gone through a growth spurt recently (what with eating 2 bowls every meal) and is now suddenly at this much more independent stage.  She cooks herself breakfast and sometimes lunch, she preps for her school day, she feeds the cat, all without me nagging most days.
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Easing back into a new semester

640px-Darjeeling-tea-first-flush-in-cupMonday morning, I woke up at 8am to a just made cup of oolong tea and the children having already eaten their breakfast of heated milk and scrambled eggs, cooked by Thumper.   Right now, both kids have been quietly working by themselves for at least an hour, the first in many, many weeks.

It’s so good to have our routine and normalized classroom back.

Ever since we got back from Christmas Break we’ve been having a hard time getting back into the routine of things.  The children often woke up at 8:30 and didn’t start work till 10am.  It culminated with Astroboy getting sick and for two to three days, both kids were waking up at 9:00, 9:30am.  He didn’t go to school those days.

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Back to Practical Life: Making scones


As the semester progressed last Fall, I started feeling more and more unhappy because Astroboy was fighting the work period.  I would too if my teacher asked me to do the same thing every day.  For me, I had wanted to read to him daily and do Sagebooks.    But it is no fun when it’s a must-do rather than a choice.

I was also reminded of how important it is to do practical life with the children watching Waldorf Mama work with her children.  In Montessori, Practical Life is the foundation for all primary work because it cultivates concentration and trains the hands.  While I knew that, I again was not following the philosophy because I felt anxious about the Chinese and not meeting his needs in math.

Sometimes I know that whatever it is I’m doing isn’t what I want to do, but I don’t seem to be able to stop myself from the momentum I gathered.  But as always, a pause in homeschooling during the holidays provided an opportunity for me to reset myself.

For the new year, my New Year Resolution is to 1) not be on the computer during the work period and 2) do more practical life with Astroboy to help him with his fine motor skills.   It is hard not being on the computer because sometimes I run off to print a worksheet or look up some information and that turns into a 3 hour trip on the Internet.  However, cooking is a sure way for me to not look at the computer.

Today, Astroboy and I made scones.   My good friend Glass Mama also Montessori homeschools and once I watched her having her 5-year old child show us how to make Dutch pancakes.  Watching him opening ovens and putting in a hot cast iron pot, scampering up their counter to take down a super large plate, and bringing said plate to the table in an off-handed manner nearly gave me a heart attack.  But he didn’t break any plates nor burn himself.

I realized that I have to give the children more credit.  It’s obviously a judgement call.  But if they’re shown the proper way and slowly work up to it, they can do more than what I think they can.  The other thing is environment.  Without an environment designed for children’s height level, tools designed for their smaller hands (For Small Hands is a good resource) it is often hard for children to cook.

The third is trust.  I forget that it took me years of practice to reach the fine and neat movements I use in cooking.   Especially in the beginning, their motor movements are very rough and jerky.  It’s taken me quite a few years to accept this as the norm, not something to correct.  It takes a lot of will to stop myself when I see them not beating the eggs properly or having trouble opening cans or cutting apples, to bite my tongue and not offer my help or tell them it is a hard thing to do.  (I don’t want them to whine and say “This is hard!” and yet I find myself telling them that all the time!)   Pausing that extra 5-10 seconds before I butt in has helped.


So yes, we made chocolate chip scones today bought from Trader Joe’s today.  I curbed my impatience and had Astroboy stir the dough and scoop them onto the baking sheet.   I even had him put the pan into a warmed up oven by himself, my first.   I did take it out of the oven for him though.

And then I ended up munching on most of them throughout the day because they were so delicious!


  • Chocolate chip scones –  巧克力司康餅 qiao3 ke4 li4 si kang bing



世界的故事 Story of the World: nomads and cavemen

Story of the WorldBeginning January, we added a history portion to our coop.  We’re following the book used in the Classical Curriculum, Story of the World 世界的故事 by Susan Weiss.  This set of 4 books tells history from the beginning to civilization in the Mediterrean to Modern times.  Book 1 has 42 chapters and goes from nomads to the end of Roman Empire.

We’ll be covering 1 chapter a week.  Everyone is supposed to read the chapter at home before we meet on Wednesday.  In “class”, we will start off with a relevant picture book and then do an activity from the Story of the World Activity Book.  We bought the PDF version of the activity book directly from the publisher so we can re-edit it into Chinese for the maps and stuff.  The activity book includes questions in English, which I’m translating slowly and painfully into Chinese every week.  There is also an English audio CD version.

So far, I’m liking this curriculum.  It is not the most interesting book (try Magic Treehouse instead), but it includes actual facts interspersed with stories.  It’s meant as a jump off point.  I like the fact that it has no zhuyin and we can practice learning new characters and are being exposed to higher vocabulary.

I always think the children are not learning and that we’re not covering enough in depth.  But after 3 weeks, I can see that Thumper has learned something with the co-op and all the supplemental material I actually have been giving but didn’t realize when she was sprouting facts to a friend today.

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Chinese Bridging Books 橋樑書

Bridging Books
This is Part 6 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.  In Parts 1-5, I gave some background on children’s books and how we pick them, and did a survey of local libraries and publishers and Taiwanese authors and started describing my Board Book and Picture Book Collection.  

This post is split into two, the next part on Bridging books is actually Books for Lower Elementary, Part 1.

Some Background

In this research paper on Reading 123 閱讀123 (p. 23), they say that an Eslite magazine started the term 橋樑書 by borrowing the English term Bridging Books, which is used to describe Early Readers (also known as Easy Readers, Leveled Readers) and Chapter books.  Even more interesting to me, chapter books, which is the bridge between early readers and children’s fiction (3rd+ grade level) was introduced in the 1980’s!

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Planning for our 3 months sojourn


Temple in Taichung

The short story is, we’re considering staying in Taiwan for 3 months like we did 2 years ago and I’m starting the planning process.

The Long Story 

A few moths ago, Thumper started speaking English, even when she’s in Chinese play dates.  By this I mean she clearly knows the words in Chinese but she didn’t want to speak it.  She seemed to want to flaunt her English for some reason.

After yelling at her a few times, I went into Project Speak Chinese mode and I started contemplating a stay in Taiwan again.  I guess I should be glad that out last stay lasted us 2 years of Chinese speaking.

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Chinese Books for Lower Elementary Kids 中低級橋樑書, Part 1

This is Part 7 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.  

As I mentioned in my last post, which might not have been published yet as I’m jumping around, Taiwanese publishers seem to call all non-picture books that have illustrations as Bridging Books.  Since this means these books cover a wide range of reading level, I decided to put Early Readers (Level 1) in the last post, and Chapter Books (Level 2-4) in this post.  This will put you up to 4th grade.  Even though Chapter Books are considered Bridging books too, to me, you kind of need a certain level of reading skill to start reading these longer books.

To recap, the levels, taken from the 閱讀123 (Reading 123) series are:

  • Level 1: <5K characters.  Around 64 pages.  Picture to text ratio 1:1
  • Level 2: 5k-10k characters.  Around 128 pages.  Picture to text ratio 1:2 (1st-2nd grade)
  • Level 3: 10k-20k characters.  Only some illustrations.   (1st-2nd grade)
  • Level 4: 20k-40k.  Few illustrations  (3rd-4th)
  • Level 5: 40k+?

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