Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to tackle teaching a second language when you don't speak any other langauges! Part 2

What I am learning about Chinese is that it is an extremely complex and beautiful language, the more I learn about it the more I shake my fists and go "Why did I choose this language why not something easier?" Well I like a challenge and it is such a different language. Anyway on to the topic.

The really good thing about Chinese is that there are many, many resources to teach Chinese and many websites that help you. Chinese as a language is growing in popularity and as China increases it's economic power knowing the language will become ever more important to our children who may or may not in the future have something to do with China in their chosen careers.

This moves me into the how to teach the language with a huge anount of resources on the net saying my product is the best product to teach Chinese, which one will get the desired result? (My desired result is having my child be able to converse and read the language with an understanding of chinese culture)As I go through this journey with both my girls I will write as honest review as I can on the products I use.

This brings me on to a recent product I bought which to be honest I am not that happy with. It is the My Montessori House Beginners Bilingual Manual for teaching Mandarin Chinese which retails for $39 USD which I paid for.  Now I was expecting a manual which actually went through Chinese grammar and how to construct sentences and basically teach you how to teach a little child to be able to speak Chinese. Well this manual falls far short of really teaching anything. It teaches all the the numbers from 1-40 and then goes up in ten by 50,60,70,80,90,100 in simplified Chinese characters and does have the pin yin to be able to pronounce each one and the Chinese characters to go with each number. The Chinese characters are very large and easy to trace.

My biggest gripe and the reason why I bought this manual was to teach my daughter and myself how to construct a sentence in Chinese as well as write a sentence. (My belief is the more you write in the language the more understanding you have of it) While this manual has many of the Chinese characters for  basic words such as Mum, Dad, Hello,  this, what, good, again, meet, go, not, don't go, etc etc you get the gist. It does not really go in to how to construct a sentence, all the manual does is tell you to basically take the chinese characters out, they them on the floor and mix and match them with your child a 'make your own sentences'.

This particularly annoys me. Learning a language is hard enough when you don't speak the and know very little about the language. To me a language is about getting it right I correct my own daughter when she makes grammatical mistakes in English, so she understands that is not a correct way to speak why would I not want her to speak Chinese correctly to?  For me to feel comfortable using this manual to teach Chinese to my DD I would need more information. Its great to say have fun making Chinese sentences but I'm not going to tell you how so you really can't teach anything.

I rate the manual about a 2 out of 10. All it really is, is a bunch of sheets with Chinese characters on it only really good for tracing.

I hope this helps you in the search for good and reliable resources.

Happy Teaching

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My review of My montessori house math DVD

I have recently purchased a DVD set from My Montessori House. A website that sells DVDS and manuals relating to the Montessori way of education. I will review each DVD one by one as I watch them with my DD to give a decent review.

First things first, this is the FIRST DVD that my DD has asked to watch twice since first putting it on to show her. My DD does not like anything to do with maths, numbers or counting. I recently got out a puppet which I have named mathematics owl and she told the owl I don't like numbers, I only like words. So it has been an uphill battle for a long time with maths so when she asked to watch it again I was impressed.

The DVD only goes to ten but covers basic addition and subtraction and teaches what the number 1 actually represents a quantity. I think it presents this concept very well. It does repeat them and go over the quantities several times.  This DVD is certainly aimed at children who have not been introduced to numbers and makes sure the concepts are clear and not mixed up. It has no right brain methods there is no flash card concepts. Everything is very methodical and logical in how the information is presented to the child. Which is very Montessori.

It is very different to what I am used to watching with her. It is very slow to go through everything and the graphics are not of high quality and the voices used are a little condescending to the child watching it. The voice to me is a bit high and shrilly but in saying that it works for my child and she does not notice. My dd1 does struggle to sit through the whole DVD but sits through enough to learn what she needs to learn.

My DD2 does not watch she is doing Little Math through brillkids and is enjoying that. My dd2 is only 5 months and this is certainly not the age group this DVD is aimed at. I would certainly be looking at this DVD for an older child (2-3 not any younger than that) and if your child is extremely active I would wait until later to purchase it when they are able to sit still for at least 15-20minutes.

So down to the nitty gritty,

  • Covers each math concept very well
  • Repeats the concepts
  • Logical in order presents what each number represents (Here is one and shows one thing)
  • Has basic addition and subtraction,
  • Very methodical makes sure the math concept is understood.
  • Fantastic price tag for an educational DVD $15USD plus postage
  • Most importantly my child who hates maths asked to watch it twice

  • The quality is not high, graphics are very basic in a cartoon format.
  • The voices used are high and shrilly (This annoyed me not my child)
  • Only goes to ten does not cover numbers higher than ten
  • Very long and slow and my DD can sit for about 20minutes of it although she has taken a lot of the concepts in.
So that is my honest opinion of this DVD. I think it is a great introduction to basic math concepts. It forms a good basis for you as the parent to build on. I think this is a good addition to your educational library and a great one if you are on a budget. (Which lets face it we all are) I hope this review will help you in your decision. Check it out for yourself

Happy Teaching

Friday, May 20, 2011

toilet training what a nightmare!

i have heard lately that if your children don't have the terrible twos they certainly can be worse at three. I am beginning to wonder if that is the case for me. My DD1 is not that far off three and she is becoming the most argumentative, willful, stubborn, have-a-tanti-at-a-drop-of-a-hat child I have ever known.

Toilet training this child has been an absolute nightmare she is so strong-willed that she will fight with you about going to the toilet because she does not want to stop what she is doing. I have asked nicely and taken everything away from her. She knows she has to go and was often taking herself until she went to daycare realised if she argued and refused to go she would get put back in a nappy (diaper) and she could conveniently go whenever she wanted without having to stop what she was doing. So my little DD decided she was going to try this on at home.

This week she has been a pain in the backside having 'accidents' for no other reason other than she can't be bothered. My dd actually sat down and coloured with me she says to me "Mummy I need to do a wee" "Quick go to the toilet" which is two steps from where she was. "NO I WILL NOT GO TO THE POTTY I AM DRAWING" which resulted in a five minute argument to get her on the toilet and then i finally picked her up, pulled her pants down sat her on the toilet and said yelled "YOU WILL GO ON THE POTTY OR NO COLOURING" she went and got off the toilet and said "Mummy I did a wee like a big girl can I have a sticker?' to which with steam coming out of my ears and through gritted teeth I replied "No you can have a sticker when you go to the toilet ALL DAY." I have no idea what goes through their little minds!!!

I just need to vent, this toilet training has been an horrendous experience it has taken my Mum and me to clamp down on her to make her go. Although my DD will do anything for her Nonni. Hopefully tomorrow she will be willing to go.

signing off with one big sigh,

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Letting our children fail or learning to let go

This post should really be called 'learning to let go as a parent so even our tiny tots can fly'.

I recently was doing a workbook with my DD1 which was 'Let cut paper' by Kumon workbooks. I was 'working' on this book with her showing her how to cut each page out correctly and not to make any mistakes. Follow the grey line I kept saying to her and when I saw her go off the Grey line I was quickly taking the scissors out of her hands and showing her how to do the exercise until I heard 'Mummy I want to do it. My scissors' I soon began to realise that I was so afraid of her making a mistake or not cutting it the page correctly I was afraid that she would 'fail' and not get the 'reward' (a nice picture) or half chopped off face picture and be disappointed.

As I took a step back from this little event and realised I was being a hindrance rather than a help. I started to think that I was taking a real opportunity for her to learn away. She was not being able to make the mistake and learn from it or even being allowed to correct herself. She was missing out on a deeper level of learning that making a mistake is okay and as long as I learn from it the world will not fall apart. I had become the all in all HELICOPTER parent one who hovers over their child always there just in case they are about to fall and save the day. Now I know there are situations where you must be there to help, but how often do these situations arise? Is letting them fall every now and then such a bad thing? If we teach them 'okay hon, yes you fell, yes you made a mistake but you have corrected it and learnt from it so you know not to do it again'. Rather than always standing over them in anticipation of them making a mistake and never letting it happen.

I think this is particularly hard for any parent to let go of. We do not want our children to go through pain. We do not want them to fail, so it is a lesson for us to let go and trust the process. and trust that our own child will get it right. Which is easier said than done.When I finally caved and gave my DD1 the scissors back and let her cut out the pictures on her own, I will not forget the beam on her face as she held up the picture of the Tiger she had cut out with its ear missing and proudly held it up to me and said "Look Mummy I cut the picture out all by myself." and to think I could have taken this moment away from her.

My DD1 finally got to the end of that book and with each Kumon book there is a certificate for completion. I could give her that certificate knowing that she had earned it and by the time she got to the end her cutting skills have improved significantly.

From on Humble Mummy to another

ps Please note I do not let my child use scissors unsupervised I was in the room when she was using them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A quick update about my next project (Music)

Well I thought I would let you know that I have gone and bitten the bullet and bought Tuning Forks to teach my kiddly winks perfect pitch!!!
 I have thought about this for a long time and because I know nothing about music and can't even read music I would love my girls to learn and discern sound so when they do take a musical instrument I would make it easier for them and also in the hope it will also help them to learn other languages.

This is also taking the plunge right into Right Brain Education and teaching something that I presumed to be something that was God-given and reserved for those who are truly gifted. Since delving into this world of Early Childhood  Education and having some of my own jaw dropping moments with my dd1  I have come to realise that little children have the most amazing potential and now that I am a little more converted and a little less sceptical I am willing to try new things and see how they go. I still am skeptical but I will give anything a go once as long as I do not believe that perfect pitch will hurt my children.

I am bit excited as well as a bit apprehensive. I will give you updates a long the way.

Happy Teaching Mummy's

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How to tackle teaching a second language when you don't speak any other langauges!

Hi Everyone,

It has been a long time since I posted but I am back I have been busy laminating and making flashcards presentations for my little ones and they take a long time to make.

So what have I been doing in this time with my little ones, well I have undertaken the task of introducing a second language. The second language I have chosen is simplified Mandarin Chinese. Why have I taken on this task? You might say I am a glutton for punishment! You would probably be close to right but I was given some DVD's to try by a friend and my Daughter loved them soo much I ended up buying the complete set and I have not looked back.

I also have other reasons for wanting to teach Chinese and it is not the first time this has crossed my mind. I have wanted to teach a second language since DD1 was born but I have always felt daunted by the task as I speak no other languages other than English and even my English could do with some improving at times.

My other reasons for wanting to teach Chinese are
1. It is the world's most spoken language (with over 1Billion people speaking Chinese)
2. They are the world's next economic power and Australia will continue to have a very strong relationship with them and I think for future job prospects of my children it will help if they have an understanding of this language.
3. It is a very different language from our own. Chinese is a tonal language with four main tones and if you get a tone wrong you can change the whole meaning of what you are trying to say. Chinese does not have a lot of words like English does.
4. The Chinese people claim they have the highest rate in the world of people with perfect pitch (The ability to hear a sound a be able to tell what key it is in) I would like to train my daughter's ear especially if they take up music at a later stage.

Any hoo. So now that I have taken on the task of teaching my daughters' Chinese. You may be asking how I am going about this.

As I mentioned before I have bought a DVD set called Baby Learns Chinese ( I have bought the first 6 DVDs and I plan on getting the phonics set later once I know that DD1 has a good understanding of the Chinese language. She loves these DVDs so much that she asks for them all the time and if I am not careful she would gladly sit in front of the t.v. all day and watch them. They have the right balance of cartoon and real life images with children as well as songs to gr child get your child off to a good start. I bought the packs that came with the Flashcards to be honest I think the flashcards could be better made with the simplified characters on the front with the pinyin tones on the back so you could read the card out to the child then have a slide come out of the picture. Except the cards have Simplified Chinese on the front with the pinyin tone (an English translation on how the characters are pronounced) underneath in small writing. Since I am learning myself how to read the characters I find I fall back to reading the pinyin which my daughter sees and she to reads the pinyin instead of the characters.

I have also bought a few Chinese CD's to play to DD1 at night time for her to listen to while going to sleep. She has come out with a few Chinese words not many and I have no idea how much she has taken in but you do need to immerse yourself in a language as much as you can so I continue to keep this up.

I have a digital Flashcard programme called Little Reader ( and I have both the English and the Chinese versions of this programme and she loves it. My DD1 did the English programme and has enjoyed and I have had great results with it. My DD2 is now doing the programme and enjoying it, plus she is being exposed to a lot of Chinese words as well as English to. My DD2 is 5 months old and is too young to see any results yet. The main thing with her is making sure she gets a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Through the power of the Internet I have also started making my own cards and sticking them up around the house in an effort to immerse the kids and myself in Chinese and I hope I will absorb some more Chinese I also find that writing the character myself helps me understand the language so much more.

I have ordered a manual for teaching Chinese to pre-schoolers from My Montessori House ( I have not received it yet and I am looking forward to using it to teach myself and my DD's more of this fascinating language. I will give a very honest review of the manual once I have had some time to use it.

My results so far. Well, I have to say that My DD1 would easily know 100 Chinese words from the DVDs. She is getting better with the characters but her love of learning this language will help and she is always asking me what is this word in Chinese and what is that word. She also likes to correct my tones when I get it wrong. :)

Well from one Mummy to another.
Good Night, and Happy Teaching