7 years old, Bilingual Journey

First Grade Updates 2019-2020

I’ve heard many parents lament that Chinese goes down the drain once kids enter elementary school. Even with all this forewarning, I never thought things would change so soon and so swiftly. I guess in my mind I had pictured it occurring sometime in middle or high school.

Last year, i.e. kindergarten year, everything was fine and proceeded pretty much just like preschool.

Enter first grade. ACK!!!

It’s not that my son doesn’t like Chinese because he likes it very much and speaks and reads Chinese books every day. What changed is…

Maturity

Somewhere along 6 and 7 years old, suddenly I was no longer needed. Play dates and birthday parties became drop-offs and my role these days is being his chauffeur. How did it go from attached-to-me-at-the-hip to this in the blink of an eye?

Time

The other thing about growing up is, burgeoning interests and hobbies. And if this new hobby takes up 20 hours per week?? Time that was previously dedicated to Chinese? The truth is that we have had to drop some Chinese commitments because there are only so many hours in a day.

Doing Chinese homework while waiting

Academics

Nobody cared much about academics in kindergarten but in first grade, suddenly the sh*t got real. This year I started feeling like scores and grades are serious and impact whether or not your child gets selected for opportunities.

Parental Questions 🤯🤯🤯: What are you willing to give up in the pursuit of Chinese? Should you turn down play dates and spend those hours at home learning? And if so what is the impact on your child socially and will he/she resent you for it?

Should you not spend any time on English and focus resolutely on Chinese, thereby missing out on competitions in elementary school? Do these even have any long term benefit or impact?

Reading Update

The bright side is thank goodness he developed habits to speak and read Chinese fluently before age 7 and these have been maintained.

Reading wise, he has finally moved on from reading Zorori 怪杰佐罗力 after reading each book repeatedly for the last six months! If there are other parents with kids “stuck” on a certain book, be patient and they will grow out of it on their own.

These days I have noticed that Little Man can read Traditional and Simplified with or without phonetic assistance. The transition to no phonetics happened naturally on its own, starting with reading comics and then moving on to more wordy stuff. If you ask me, all that re-reading of Zorori helped a lot with his fluency and word recognition. I have no other way of explaining how he can read Traditional fluently without ever being taught how to read Traditional characters.

Pleasantly surprised he could read non-zhuyin passage

The other series he LOVES and has been repeat reading is Ne Zha 哪吒 and Ma Zu 妈祖 as shown below. He asked for longer versions of these two stories so I have been on the lookout. He also enjoys PvZ and Mi Xiao Quan idiom comics, first with me reading them to him then reading them himself.

Spanish Update

Some readers asked me how I support my son’s Spanish when I don’t speak the language. The short answer is: I don’t. All I do is send him to a Spanish immersion school and pay for his online tutoring 1-2x per week.

He is reportedly “exceeding expectations” in Spanish and his school does a great job individualizing and giving him support to meet his needs.

Don’t hesitate to advocate for your child with the school. I send occasional emails to teachers to check in or advocate for XYZ and it’s made a world of difference. If something is not working for your child, speak up and fix it.

Final Thoughts

Long story short, Chinese is still going well but I have noticed a huge shift in my priorities this year. I no longer spend all my time researching, buying, blogging, teaching Chinese… how weird is that?

I am afraid of what it’ll look like a year from now when I post Second Grade Updates!

7 years old, Audiobooks, Bilingual Journey, Chinese Resources

Ximalaya KIDS audiobook app!

We’ve been using Ximalaya to listen to audiobooks for a couple years now and I can’t believe I just realized today that there’s a kids version! 🤦‍♀️

It is much preferable to the adults version I previously used. It’s simple, user-friendly, and when you enter your child’s age, it populates recommendations. Most importantly, you can let your child scroll through without worrying they’ll click on some inappropriate junk!

It’s also easy to narrow down to your interests by clicking on the icons: Science, Classics, Chinese Literature, Popular, etc.

There’s a lot of audiobooks for free but some are VIP only. VIP subscription is $2.49 per month which I find completely worth it. We have enjoyed many of the VIP audiobooks and find them excellent! My son has listened to all the 米小圈 numerous times – hugely popular series from China.

The other thing I’m excited about is the Learning section of this app, where there’s audio recordings for elementary Chinese textbooks they use in China! There’s even quizzes at the end to see if you retained the info.

(Not sure if we will be using this but still kinda cool)

There’s a lot more resources in the Learning section that I haven’t explored. It included learning plans and lessons for Art and many other topics. 🤯 This might be useful for homeschoolers.

Link to Ximalaya Kids app on App store: 喜马拉雅儿童-by Xi Da (Shanghai) Network Technology Co., Ltd.

While we’re on the topic, 「親子天下」is another app we sometimes listen to. It is by one of our favorite publishers of children’s books in Taiwan.

The selection of books is smaller than Ximalaya but the quality is excellent as well. It has some audiobooks of the Reading 123 series which is nice to listen first if you’re trying to get your kid to read the books. My son enjoys listening to 「字的童話」which is a series of funny short stories that have word plays and puns.

It is also subscription based but more expensive at $5.99 per month.

The benefit to having both of these is you’re pretty covered for Chinese stories from both China and Taiwan! There are many regional differences in the Mandarin spoken, from pronunciation to vocabulary to culture so I enjoy listening to both.

Link to 親子天下 app on App Store: 親子天下有聲故事書 by CommonWealth Magazine Group

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7 years old, Audiobooks, Bilingual Journey, Chinese Resources, Home Library, Magazines

Comparison of Chinese Magazines

Chinese magazines. They are soooooooo good and have been a lifesaver for me these days since I’ve been quite busy. If you’re a busy/lazy parent, magazines are your friend!

The best thing about Chinese magazines, in my opinion, is that they come with audio read-aloud CDs by native speakers. They are fantastic quality and provide a lot of advanced, non-fiction vocabulary input.

We spend about 2 hours in the car every Saturday commuting to various activities so I just pop a new CD in every week. By my son’s request, we usually listen to each CD at least twice. This is my quick and easy way to learn new words together with my son.

The magazines are themed and the topics change with the season/holidays. For example, since it is now Fall and we have two fruiting apple trees in our yard, it was perfect timing to listen to the Apples issue.

If you’re wondering which magazine would be a good fit for your kids, I compiled a table below to compare them:

magazines.PNG

Factors to Consider:

  1. Publisher After buying thousands of Chinese books, I’ve found that I have very strong preference for two publishers which are 康軒 and 親子天下 and I tend to stick with them. Conversely, there are some publishers I stay away from. I won’t mention which ones since I’ll probably really offend some people LOL.
  2. Content – This is probably the most important thing! What are you looking for in a magazine? I prefer a mix of current affairs (e.g. culture, geography, history, news) and science so I can expose my son to a wide range of vocabulary.
  3. Illustrations – My son tends to gravitate towards books with “cute” illustrations. And yes, he really loves comics.
  4. CD – All the magazines come with read aloud CDs that are fun and engaging. Far better than my own accented (and possibly erroneous) read aloud.
  5. Activity books – Honestly we don’t usually do these because ain’t got no time for crafts. But I know some kids really love their stickers and crafts.

Sample Pages

小行星幼兒誌 Little Planet Magazine

little star1
Image from c-stems.com
little star 2
Image from c-stems.com

I was really surprised by how much my son liked this magazine, I think possibly because he is familiar with 親子天下 books and this magazine by the same publisher has similar illustrations, style and voices. He also really enjoyed the activity book that had a detective theme and you solve the clues to find the culprit.

Link to subscribe here

新小小牛頓 Little Newton Magazine

My first impression of this magazine is that it’s very “old” but again I was very surprised by how much my son likes it and has retained information from it. This is the most “sciency” of the three mags. We also enjoy the CDs very much! I heard the DVDs that come with it are also very good but we have not watched them.

This magazine is no longer in circulation so you can only buy old issues.

Links to buy:

康軒學習雜誌 Kang Xuan Top945 Magazine

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Image from c-stems.com
kx2
Image from c-stem.com

This magazine is my personal favorite. My son loves the illustrations and comics but content is sometimes too advanced for him. This is not surprising since it is a 1st to 3rd grade magazine so I feel that it will continue to grow with him. I love the wide range of topics it covers and exposure to culture of different countries, especially Taiwan. When we went to Taiwan this past summer, my son was already very familiar with many Taiwanese foods, landmarks, places of interest, etc. due to reading this magazine.

Link to subscribe here

Other Reviews

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of 康軒學習雜誌 初階版 and 小行星幼兒誌 by C-stems.com (official distributor of these magazines in the USA) for review. Opinions are my own.