education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

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education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Hidee » Tue Feb 21, 2017 20:24

So I posted to Formosa but I've only had one response (though h/she was very kind and thoughtful!!)

So here I am :) sorry about the copypasta.


Looking for advice as stated in the title of this thread.

Background:

Mother (me):

    SAHM and thus primary carer.

    I am [redacted] but I grew up from a very young age overseas. I can speak/understand mandarin but can't read/write.

    I have been speaking exclusively to kiddo in English since birth.

Father:

    Taiwanese.

    Works in [redacted]

    Speaks exclusively to kiddo in Chinese.

Kiddo:

    Holds dual citizenship (like me).

    Speaks both English and mandarin though his English is much stronger. He is still able to interact in mandarin with his cousins and his grandparents etc.

    He can recognise 50ish Chinese words.

    Can read English (has been reading since two and a bit. He was an early talker, late walker). Is learning to spell longer words (he's mastered three letter words). Has worked out long addition/subtraction.

    Hates rote learning but can do it but really really really hates it. Loves to ask questions ie. why is the moon orange? Why doesn't this float? Etc. Very curious about everything. Has not attended any form of schooling so far ie. daycare, preschool etc.

Family Situation:

Another baby due soon. Financially can afford international schools but money will be tight. We do not believe in corporal punishment. Kiddo and little one due soon has not been nor will be exposed to such from us.

What we are looking for:

Husband wants kiddo to be able to read and write in mandarin. Something I can't help with I admit.

I don't want kiddo's curiosity to be stifled by the rote learning system in Taiwan. I want him to remain curious, not be afraid to ask questions etc. (We have always emphasised that adults can get things wrong too, and am quite happy to admit when we make mistakes etc.). We don't use the "because I said so" phrase.

Ideally I'd like to send him to a school where the structure is more "western" orientated (learn through play, lots of experiments, questions encouraged etc) but where he can also learn to read/write Chinese.

Ultimately would like kiddo to attend high school or university overseas (ideally where I'm from).

Current situation/dilemma:

I was pushing for Hsinchu Holland International School. But apparently their Chinese class isn't enough for kids to be fluent? Also school fees are phenomenal. We can afford it...but budget will be tight.

Husband was thinking of Stanford American language school. But I've been reading so many horror stories regarding how they treat their teachers etc. I don't think a place that treats their staff abominably is one where I'd entrust my child to. This also goes for any other private bilingual school too.

Open to advice and or other options. Thanks!!
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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Toad » Tue Feb 21, 2017 20:49

Can't really help with the general questions, but reading and writing is done in one and only one way: reading a lot and writing a lot. It's the same in any language and there's no getting around it. Doesn't necessarily need to feel like rote learning, but that's basically what it is.

Does he like to paint and draw? How about getting him a Chinese calligraphy kit? Or just a box of paints, a paintbrush, and some big pieces of paper? Obviously you're not going to introduce a five-year-old to dry'n'dusty works of calligraphic art, but you could teach him stroke order first (dead easy, although it is a case of 'because I say so') and maybe brush technique if he really gets into it. If he draws a picture of a cat then show him how to write a big colourful '貓' next to it, and let him practice writing the bestest '貓' he can manage. Rote learning. Except it isn't. If your own reading and writing isn't too good, maybe you can make a game of it for the both of you.

Also, lots of books to read. You know, big pictures and half-a-dozen words. These are so cheap in Taiwan. Maybe you could make it a weekend-treat thing: saturday he gets to choose a new book, as long as it's in Chinese. Dunno, do kids still enjoy books? I hope he hasn't been introduced to the dreaded iPad.

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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Hidee » Tue Feb 21, 2017 21:19

Wow thanks for the awesome ideas! I'm teaching myself reading/writing but like kiddo, "because I said so" doesn't work (arts/languages etc. was not my strong suit growing up; maths and science was another story!). Fortunately I've have been able to locate a few resources which gets down to the etymology of the characters. Zhongwen.com has been a big help. I do admit this method is slow and tedious but it's certainly helping me remember the words better.

I'll try involving kiddo in my poor self taught lessons. Normally he reads English books while I do my little study session (and yes he does love reading; Roald dahl is a firm favourite).

Husband reads Chinese books with kiddo when he gets home and does the flash card thing. Makes a game of it.

iPad unfortunately has been introduced. But all the apps are math games. YouTube has been deleted.
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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby cranky laowai » Tue Feb 21, 2017 22:05

Hidee wrote:Fortunately I've have been able to locate a few resources which gets down to the etymology of the characters. Zhongwen.com has been a big help.

Noooooooo. :runaway: Do not trust that site for etymology. It has has a whole lot of things that are the linguistic equivalent of "to assume means to make an ass out of you and me."
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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Hidee » Tue Feb 21, 2017 22:14

Really? Can you recommend any other sources? Thanks in advance!
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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Dragonbones » Tue Feb 21, 2017 22:40

Hellow Hidee, and welcome to Taiwanease!

First, I cannot speak to what schools are available around Xinzhu (as I write it using Hanyu Pinyin); we have never enrolled our sons (ages 2 and 5) in schools (we live in Taipei and plan to rotate between Taipei and Mexico, seasonally).

My initial comments: Your son’s doing fine (greaty, actually) being able to recognise 50ish Chinese words and do long addition/subtraction at age 5, so absolutely no worries there. Both are ahead of our older boy, and I have no problem with the level he’s at.

Next, no one likes rote learning. Some is needed, as Toad says, but it can be worked in creatively. For instance, a friend today told me about how when she wants her boy (6) to practice spelling and writing, she first has him invent a story (creating a fictional town and characters in the process), which he builds on over time (thus developing creative skills). She writes it down, and he gets to copy it. Copying text is ‘rote’ but since he gets to learn how to spell and write his own story, it’s something special and fun. We have done similar things with, for instance, letters to Santa, on a smaller scale.

“Loves to ask questions ie. why is the oon orange? Why doesn't this float? Etc. Very curious about everything.” Then he’s a perfect student for the right kind of teacher (e.g. in schools encouraging this, which are probably rare in Taiwan, or in homeschooling, which is what we are starting now).

When our son asks why volcanoes erupt, we explain the best we can, and within a day or a week we have a custom-made lesson on it ready for him, backed up by Youtube or other videos, and build a model with baking soda and vinegar for fun, followed by a trip to the Jilong maritime museum to also see undersea volcanic vents and tube worms. I allow almost NO computer games, Youtube etc., but make an exception for specifically selected videos, e.g. explaining the life cycle, from egg to larvae to gilled sub-adult to gill-less adult, of a post-Dubya Republican, complete with Oompa-Loompa complexion. It doesn’t have to be dull.

“Has not attended any form of schooling so far ie. daycare, preschool etc.”
Same as our son (5.9 yrs); we are homeschooling, something that started naturally, with home life skills like sewing, baking and gardening, around age 2+, but which we plan to continue as he reaches school age.

“Financially can afford international schools but money will be tight.”
I think such schools are overpriced. There are better options. For a SAHM there will be a time when ‘baby soon’ will be rough and a distraction if you are trying to homeschool, but it is workable, with creativity, and in your case baby 2 is being born late enough that it will be easier than for us, as your 1st son will be old enough to engage in self-directed studies by the time #2 is old enough (age 2) to be a distraction. He’ll be old enough to read directions on his own and follow them, and thus will be able to do homework with minimal supervision, per my experience.

There are homeschooling groups on Facebook for instance, in Taiwan. Research them ASAP. Ask here if you need links. I can't provide extended help on this, but my wife can probably give some contact info if you're up for The application deadline is likely within the next few months but this is not a major barrier if you get on top of it now. And it's not an all-now thing. You can enroll in traditional first grade while you prepare your application for a homeschool/in-school combo for 2nd grade.

“What we are looking for: Husband wants kiddo to be able to read and write in mandarin. Something I can't help with I admit.”
Enrolling as a homeschooler but asking the local school to teach him Mandarin (yes, a hybrid setup, tailor-made to the parents’ desires is an option) might be something to consider. The Mandarin part might end up being rote, but since that would be only one class, you might be able to live with it. The school should be happy to help with whatever part you can’t do. And it can be supplemented by enrolling him in Chinese calligraphy classes, getting the Fun With Chinese Characters series, and so on. Your son might be well past bopomofo learning, I don’t know, but ours LOVES playing ‘Memory’ with bopomofo symbols, which reinforces his recognition of them (see post here: post135667.html#p135667), and you can build on that, e.g. extra points if he combines the phonetic symbols he has collected to form words, and extra points if he can then write the characters to match.
Homeschooling the remainder (other than Mandarin) would ensure that his curiosity would not be crushed.

“I'm teaching myself reading/writing but like kiddo, "because I said so" doesn't work (arts/languages etc. was not my strong suit growing up; maths and science was another story!).”
I am semi-native at Spanish, in a way similar to your Mandarin. When we were expecting son #1 of 2, I decided I wanted to teach him all four of our native tongues, and started brushing up on my Spanish in a serious way. Now I’m actively teaching him Spanish to the best of my ability, and I let him know honestly that sometimes I’m not sure of the right word or grammar, but that I’ll be sure to check, and if I make a mistake, please understand. He learns that teachers are fallible but can be humble, and that we all learn together, rather than being an authoritarian system. He learns that it’s ok to question, in a respectful way, and that such questions are respected. And we learn together. For me, this situation has resulted in a twenty-fold improvement in my Spanish, because having a fire lit under me motivates me in extremis.

“Fortunately I've have been able to locate a few resources which gets down to the etymology of the characters. Zhongwen.com has been a big help. I do admit this method is slow and tedious but it's certainly helping me remember the words better.”
I don’t want to lead us into a side-debate right now, as the main topic is FAR more important, but in the future, perhaps we can chat about the difference between ‘folk etymology’, ‘mnemonic devices’, and real ‘etymology’. Sources like Zhongwen.com are wonderful, useful mixtures of the three but fail to distinguish between them. I'm wording this gently, and let’s not go further on this for now. It will be a fruitful topic for further discussion.

“I'll try involving kiddo in my poor self taught lessons. Normally he reads English books while I do my little study session (and yes he does love reading; Roald dahl is a firm favourite).”

Don’t sell yourself short. What could be better than a loving parent teaching a child directly? Roald Dahl is wonderful stuff, too. Consider getting bilingual material for each beloved story, e.g. Mandarin and English for Charlotte’s Web (animation, live action, audio book and/or book), BFG, and so on. Rotate between formats and languages. I hope to discuss this more soon!
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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Just Jennifer » Wed Feb 22, 2017 00:18

Great responses from the guys! The Taiwan Homeschool Assn is a good resource. They have a Facebook group and are easy to find on Google too.

I attended a workshop about how to complete the homeschool app. Great resource.

We went a different route and it's been a good fit for us but my kids are much older than yours.

Good luck!


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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Toad » Wed Feb 22, 2017 09:57

What could be better than a loving parent teaching a child directly?

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

What he said. Loads of fantastic advice there. It sounds like you're already doing a great job anyway if the lad can already read. You don't really need anyone's advice - just keep doing what you're doing. Completely agree with DB's approach to involving your son in your own language learning. He'll take a far greater interest if he sees that you think it's important.

People are brainwashed into thinking it's only 'professional' teachers who can edumacate their kids. It's true enough when they're, say, 15 years old and learning chemistry, but my impression is that young kids learn 90% of what they know from their parents. School just fills in a few minor details, and a pisspoor job they do too considering they have the kid there for 7 hours a day.

Chinese reading/writing: There's a book I have somewhere (I'll root it out later) which is organised very well. It starts off with characters which are both simple and frequently used, and then moves on the other characters which are built from radicals you already learned. Makes it much easier to get a grip on things. Also, just staring at characters and trying to remember them doesn't work. You need to write them and use them in sentences. IMO it doesn't matter in the slightest if the etymology or derivation is off; as long the mnemonic is memorable enough to keep the character in your head, that's all that matters. Make something up if the official explanation is boring.

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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Hidee » Thu Feb 23, 2017 12:22

Many thanks to everyone for their advice and encouragement! Apologies for the late reply; we've been having internet issues.

I would consider homeschooling (in fact this was what we had planned on even before our first child was conceived) but alas our next child is a high risk case. We've specialists on hand taking care of us, so all is well so far. As for how our next child will be after birth, no one can guarantee, so we're currently playing the waiting game.

Dragonbones:

Thanks so much for your detailed response! You've given me much food for thought. While I can't consider 100% homeschooling, the part school (to learn Chinese), part homeschool maybe something I can try.

Also we began reading and writing Chinese together yesterday and it went fairly well. We're learning to write the days of the week in English and I had him make a short journal where he had to write the days of the week on each page and draw what he did each day. So we simply added the Chinese days to it. He did mention that he liked writing in English better because he could sound things out, but nevertheless he did it.
Husband was very impressed when he got home and kiddo was very proud of his work.

By the way, thanks for the indirect recommendation of the Dr. Goods oven. Was researching ovens in Taiwan when we came across an old post of yours and so glad we did too! Awesome oven! Love it!

Toad:

Yes, please if you don't mind giving me the name of the book. The more books the merrier I say! I've also been using "Fun with Chinese Characters" and William McNaughtons "Reading & Writing Chinese". But you're right in a way, as long as I can somehow memorise the words I shouldn't be tooo pedantic about how accurate the etymology is right? It was just frustrating growing up when my mum did try to teach us Chinese. She'd give us a list and have us write the words out over and over. Asking why anything was written the way it was always came back with the response: it just is.

Yep, not fun.

Just Jennifer:

Thanks for the link. It says that homeschooling needs to be applied for by age six...so does that mean I have a year before I need to officially apply?

Again, thanks everyone for the encouraging words. I'm feeling so much less stressed about everything now. Thanks again!
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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Dragonbones » Thu Feb 23, 2017 15:41

Hidee wrote:I would consider homeschooling (in fact this was what we had planned on even before our first child was conceived) but alas our next child is a high risk case. We've specialists on hand taking care of us, so all is well so far. As for how our next child will be after birth, no one can guarantee, so we're currently playing the waiting game.


Best of luck with that, Hidee. As to homeschooling, remember that you can switch back to in-school as needed, and you can also sign up for in-school for some classes, and then change your mind on that later. Just discuss the need for flexibility with the school, if you do go that route.

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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Toad » Thu Feb 23, 2017 16:17

Yes, please if you don't mind giving me the name of the book.

um . . . it's the one you already have, Reading & Writing Chinese. I did go to classes to study Chinese, but I find that book very helpful. I assume your speaking/listening ability is good, so you'll have no trouble associating the visual image with your existing knowledge of the way each character is used; that's the main stumbling block for non-native speakers.

The key, though, is to write the characters. By hand. No need to repeat it a million times like they do in schools though; that's just a waste of time. Draw each new character until you can do it more-or-less without looking, then put it aside until the next day. Then repeat the same thing again. After three or four days of repetition, it'll be fixed in your head. At each sitting, where you might be focusing on three or four new characters, go back and pick an older one to revise. You'll be surprised how quickly your vocab builds up.

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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Hidee » Thu Feb 23, 2017 18:19

Dragonbones wrote: Best of luck with that, Hidee. As to homeschooling, remember that you can switch back to in-school as needed, and you can also sign up for in-school for some classes, and then change your mind on that later. Just discuss the need for flexibility with the school, if you do go that route.


Thanks again :) Second baby should be fine really. It's just that I've worked in the medical industry (in the "front lines" so to speak) and have seen more than enough to make me a pessimist when it comes to anything health related. Not a very healthy mindset to be honest.

We'll probably go with maybe half days at a local school or something at first and see how kiddo adapts to it. It'll be hard on him the first year of his little siblings life as we will be in as out of hospital more often than not but hopefully when things settle down...well we'll see :smile:

But everyone's suggestions and encouragement have been awesome. Am beginning to feel better and more optimistic about our children's education. It'll be tricky but it's all about trying to find the right balance isn't it? :) thanks again!


Toad wrote:um . . . it's the one you already have, Reading & Writing Chinese. I did go to classes to study Chinese, but I find that book very helpful. I assume your speaking/listening ability is good, so you'll have no trouble associating the visual image with your existing knowledge of the way each character is used; that's the main stumbling block for non-native speakers.

The key, though, is to write the characters. By hand. No need to repeat it a million times like they do in schools though; that's just a waste of time. Draw each new character until you can do it more-or-less without looking, then put it aside until the next day. Then repeat the same thing again. After three or four days of repetition, it'll be fixed in your head. At each sitting, where you might be focusing on three or four new characters, go back and pick an older one to revise. You'll be surprised how quickly your vocab builds up.


Hahaha. Well thankyou for the book suggestion all the same :smile:

And thanks for the learning tip. I have been doing just that and am pleased to report it is working. Slow and steady!
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education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby HeadhonchoII » Fri Feb 24, 2017 15:13

I suggest sending your kids to local public schools as that is by far the best way to learn Chinese.
There is no better place to learn traditional Chinese than sending your kid to Taiwan's public schools (caveats but places where they might speak a lot of Taiwanese). In Fact I heard from colleagues that Malaysians send their kids to schools in Taiwan to learn Chinese!

The other very important point you should know is that they go to school for just for four mornings and only one day is a full day for at least the first grade. In the afternoons my son has plenty of time for many great sports and music activities at the school. He also has made some friends and is quite happy.my problem is the ugly and cramped school infrastructure and not so much the education system (because we live in a densely populated district).

It's not Sweden and swinging out of trees but he's doing just fine. My wife also teaches my kids English. Kids only start elementary school at 6 years old so if you don't send them to preschool you do have quite a few years to home school full time.

My point is that the elementary schools aren't that bad in general (country schools are often much much nicer than the crowded city schools) and for Chinese it will be very hard to do better. There are no easy shortcuts it is the world's most difficult language to master reading and writing it does require large amounts of time and effort.


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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Hidee » Fri Feb 24, 2017 16:04

Thanks, I am slowly coming round to the idea that yes, unfortunately the best for our son in regards to learning Chinese will be to immerse him in the school system for the moment.

I have relatives who work as teachers in Taiwan and they tell me of children sitting in class being lectured at. Then there's the repetitive reading and writing tasks (not to mention the same goes for other subjects too;not just Chinese). I have also been privy to some of the homework examples that a few nephews/nieces bring home too (and it looks soo....repetitive!)

It makes me want to grab kiddo and fly back to my home country. Hahha.

But I'm hopeful that perhaps not all schools are like that.

I've been reminiscing with my husband on what my education was like (and I'll be the first to admit, yes, I went to some very very good schools growing up; I'm slowly realising just how spoilt I was!). But learning for us was an enjoyable experience. We rarely listened to teachers talking about a subject for very long. Most of the time was getting us to think and ask questions and then encouraging and teaching us to find the answers ourselves (well, at the beginning it was in groups).

Learning wasn't a passive activity but an active one and not only that, it was emphasised to us that the aim of school wasn't to teach us just how to get perfect test scores, but how to find and draw the correct conclusions to questions ourselves. Learning is a joyful thing and a lifelong process.

That's what I want my children to experience and I guess why I'm freaking out right now.

But everyone talking about homeschooling etc. has really been very encouraging. So yes, in a way we may have to compromise what we want...but there are alternative means to education too and as Dragonbones mentioned (just parodying here) we are the best influence over our kids.

So yah...not sure where I'm going.

Still, thanks for your input :) You guys are all so awesome!

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Re: education advice for 5 year old in Miaoli/Hsinchu area.

Postby Dragonbones » Fri Feb 24, 2017 22:14

Hidee wrote: and as Dragonbones mentioned (just parodying here)...


:lol: I'm often parodied here. Thanks for joining. :wink:
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