Using Free Chinese Math Workbooks to Practice zhuyin

math book

Our homeschool has been going really really well the last two weeks with my revamp of the kids’ work plan.  (Well, we’ll pretend that Astroboy didn’t cry big fat tears about not wanting to go to school the other day.)   One of the new items on their work plan is working with the free Chinese math workbooks put out by the National Academy of Educational Research.

I really like these books because from the quick flip throughs up to 6th grade, they seem a bit Montessori-esque.  Or maybe if I say Singapore Math-esque, that sounds better (even though Singapore Math also took it from Montessori).  For example, in Book 1, they introduce place values with very Montessori like materials (thousand cube, hundred squares, ten bars, and unit beads).  They’re just not in Montessori colors and it’s on paper.

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Installing Chinese and Zhuyin Fonts for Mac

Today, I install my Chinese fonts for the 3rd time on a third computer, and figure it it time to document the Chinese fonts on my Mac.

Mac comes preinstalled with Chinese fonts.  So there is no reason to install more fonts unless you

  • Need zhuyin + traditional character fonts
  • Need pinyin + simplified character fonts
  • Need pinyin + zhuyin + simplified character fonts
  • Need hand writing (鋼筆體)fonts

If you want to find your own fonts, google 字體.

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Zhuyin Week 2

Week 2  ㄈㄏㄓㄔㄨㄚㄜ is introduced.

When I was making my flashcards, I realized that 康軒 is introducing these zhuyin based on frequency.  For sure, ㄠ is actually one of the most occurring sounds.  I thought it would have been ㄚor ㄧ or ㄨ.  I guess because those are learned first in a way with family names like 爸爸 媽媽.

I would have thought reviewing 3 times each lesson is too much, but I’m finding that it’s actually a good number.  Because each time you can add something new to it, from remembering the symbols to beginning sounds to blending.  So, we’re actually progressing really fast with this class, with only 1.5-2.5 classes spent per 6 zhuyin. I may need to adjust the speed later on.   For Astroboy, it’s the ending sounds and tones I’m working on.

This week, we started by watching a tongue twister video.  We didn’t watch the whole thing, just the story part.  The second class, we watched this video again and reviewed it again.  The tongue twister was then assigned as homework, where Astroboy had to write down the tone himself.

媽媽騎馬, 馬慢, 媽媽罵馬。

Then we officially started the class with our zhuyin song, modified from the following video:

zhuyin blackboard

Zhuyin display to sing along to

Immediately after, I worked on tones, trying to add the tones to the tongue twisters video we watched. Sometimes Astroboy needed a reminder with the hand gestures.  The more we practice, the more he’s getting it.

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Zhuyin Textbook: 小康軒 ㄅㄆㄇ大口袋 (Zhuyin Big Pocket)

I recently got my hands on a sample of 小康軒 ㄅㄆㄇ大口袋 (Zhuyin Big Pocket).

Kang Xuan is a textbook publisher in Taiwan.  They provide some of the textbooks children use in public schools.  What I didn’t know is that they also publish textbook and curriculum for preschools.

Background Info:

The pics below are of the 2014-2015 school year Zhuyin Big Pocket.    There are 4 “sets”, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.  Remember, these are textbooks for preschools.  Apparently, these are marketed as Spring/Summer for 4 year olds (中班) and Fall/Winter for 5 year olds (Kindergarten/大班).

In 2015-2016, they added 2 new books to the series.  They’re basically marketed for the 3 year olds (小班).  These 2 new books basically focuses more on introducing the symbols only.  Whereas the 2014-2015 version starts with introducing symbols and blending (the way I prefer anyway).

Just like other curriculum books that are only made available per semester, the 2015-2016 version only has sets 1, 3, 5 out right now and you have to wait for sets 2, 4, 6 next semester.  The 2014-2015 versions are all available now.

Kang Xuan also sells another set call 歡樂 ㄅㄆㄇ (Happy bopomo).  Apparently, these are much like the new sets 1 and 2 in the Zhuyin Big Pocket series.  They only introduce the symbols.  I have not seen these, this is just what the distributor tells me.

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Homeschool Summary July ’15

Wow, I just looked over all the pics I took over the last month and we’ve been doing more work than even I remember.   These pics were taken mid July to first week of August.  I’m the most happy not because of the variety of work we did manage to do, but because the kids actually will spend most of the work period being really concentrated on their work.  Especially Astroboy.  By the end of last year, he could not sit still in the classroom.  Now, with zhuyin class 3 times a week, playdates the other 2 times, and maybe some work periods on the weekends, we’re actually not doing that many 3 hour work periods.  And yet they manage to have really good ones when we do.

What I Learned

One thing I learned from the tutoring class is how I need to really sit with the children when they work.  That and the 3 months break is helping them spend 2-3 hours actually working instead of running around.  I was going to say it’s also due to them being used to the work period routine, but given how the last week they are starting to resist work (because we have not been playing as much) I don’t think that’s the reason.

The other thing I’m seeing is that the children’s limit are about 1 to 1.5 hours of concentration time.  They naturally want a break after that.  This matches what I’ve observed of my own concentration time.  And lastly, I noticed that sometimes the kids do their best work at their 7pm homework time, after a day of playing outside.

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How long does it take to learn zhuyin?

One of the things that annoys Baba is my insistence in reading a movie review before I watch a movie.  I like to at least get a general idea of what’s going to happen, rather than a surprise.  At home, watching a movie, I will fast forward to the end first to make sure the main character isn’t going to die, before going back to enjoy the rest of the movie.

When it comes to the kids, I’m often the same way.  “How long does it take to normalize a classroom?” “When do kids potty train?” “When do they how to walk/talk/run/tie shoelaces, etc etc etc”.  I really really hate it when people says, “it all depends on the child”, even though I know it’s true.  I just want a general time frame dag nabbit!

So I’ve been recently wondering, “How long does it take to learn zhuyin?”  I asked both friends and teacher friends I knew.  The answer is kind of obvious but I hadn’t thought of it.  However long it takes kids to learn to read in English, it probably takes just as long in Chinese.  Supposing a child comes into kindergarten and doesn’t know how to read.  I believe between K-2, it is expected they will be working on reading.  Of course if you learned to read in preschool, you would read much earlier.   I vaguely remember now someone mentioning that by the end of Kindergarten, the children have been introduced to all of the alphabet, and are working on sounding simple words out.  That’s not that fast at all.

I somehow had it in my head that you can learn zhuyin in 3 months because I know teachers teach it the first few months of first grade and then the kids move on to learning characters and reading zhuyin.  I hadn’t realized that that’s just the teachers teaching zhuyin characters in 3 months.  The kids then need to practice reading.  And that’s probably daily zhuyin practice.  So it would take even longer in the US?

I had a long talk with a teacher friend tonight.  Now I’m thinking it’ll take me probably 3 months to introduce all of zhuyin to Astroboy, and then we’ll need to spend this upcoming year to learn to blend and read words and sentences.  I imagine it takes even longer in preschool since they’re just not as developmentally ready.  My friend told me that it doesn’t quite matter if the child knows English or not already.  Though of course it’ll help them learn to sound things out faster. Because the flip side of knowing English is that zhuyin is a foreign/second language to them.   So there’s the added learning curve of learning a second language.

To her, the important thing is the effort I spend reviewing with Astroboy outside of school time.  Totally true.  I see the progress he’s making with the homework he has to do.  Because our class is 3 days a week, we end up doing homework pretty much daily, on top of reviewing and relearning in class.   In a way, we’re doing about 2-2.5 hours of zhuyin-related work 3 times a week, and 0.5-1 hour the other 2 days.  I feel like the frequency is definitely making a difference.  Of course, Astroboy is only 5, so he is not getting it as fast as the older kids.

Still, thinking it may take 6 months to a year plus makes it feel soooooo long.  By then he’ll be 6!   Sigh.  Sometimes knowing doesn’t help me stop being impatient.

Zhuyin Bingo


On top of the zhuyin class, we’ve also been doing zhuyin activities at home.  I won’t document all of them because it always varies depending on where they’re at in the process.  Are they learning to:

  • recognize zhuyin characters
  • learning to blend and read
  • reading sentences
  • writing zhuyin

Here is one fun activity we did the other day.  It is specifically for learning to recognize zhuyin characters.  The zhuyin I used are specific to the first 4-5 chapters of the Kang Xuan 康軒 book we’re studying from.  I think the game is more fun when you already know most of the characters so it is best to play this after you’re past chapter 3.

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