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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Playing and Learning Mandarin on the Lawn

We hit another milestone last week!  Yea!  My oldest son (almost 3 1/2) stayed at Language Stars* class with his sister for a FULL 3-hour session!  I was so shocked when, on the first day of the summer "camp" classes (held outdoors with more games and fun stuff), he sat right down and asked to stay the whole time.  I'm sure it had something do to with all the balls, colorful parachutes, and active classes that he saw happening on the lawn.  I have to admit, I was scared to get that call in the middle of class that he just couldn't take it anymore, so I didn't let him stay.  Instead, I promised him that, if I got a good report about his behavior, he could stay the full time the following week.  Guess what?!  He got a great report AND asked again if he could stay the full 3 hours the following week.  I have to admit that I almost fell over!

So, Tristan stayed the full time last week (sans the meltdown that I expected, either during or after).  But, why should I be surprised?  I was just telling someone this week about our classes at Language Stars and how "child friendly" and "developmentally appropriate" they are.  Believe me, a Mandarin class is hard enough to find, let alone one that is geared toward young children.  It's harder still to find classes that are in the play-based form that young children need.  I was telling her how I feel really lucky that my children have the opportunity to attend classes at Language Stars.  It has become one of the top reasons why I'm glad to be living in Chicago.  Since I'm from small-town Kentucky, I know that opportunities like this certainly don't exist in most places.  The chance to learn a second language didn't come for me until I was in high school.  That's already too late to gain the accent and you have to work so hard at memorization.   No "play-based" approach there!

But for Tristan, at 3 1/2, everything is play.  Learning is still fun (when it's presented in the right way).  He doesn't think about memorization, only about how to have fun or how to get something that he needs/wants from the teacher or about how to make Mommy proud (He knows one sure way is by repeating some Chinese!).  His focus really isn't on learning the language at all, at least not in the way adults try to acquire language.  For him, the language is just a means to an end.  For us, it IS the end product.  I think that's what makes 2nd language acquisition so difficult for us:  It is not immediately useful unless you use it every day at work,  need it for a trip to another country, or have friends/family who speak the language (and refuse to give you a glass of water until you ask for it properly).

The truth is, I would LOVE to stay for the 3-hour class with Tristan, too!  I think I'm already doing pretty well in the Parents & Tots class and I'd really like to move up!  But, it makes total sense why parents can't attend.  My kids misbehave a lot more when I'm around (what IS that about, anyway?).  While I understand, I know that I'm missing out on a fun way to learn a language.  Yes, I bought a CD-ROM thing for Mandarin, but I'll be honest:  I haven't even opened it!  Like my son, I'd rather be out playing ball or sitting on a parachute in the middle of the lawn doing a fun activity.  When LS decides to open a parent class, I'll be the first one signing up.  Until then, I'll have to hope my kids learn a lot and then come home to teach me.  Or, at least, withhold my glass of water until I can say it right!

As always,
Thanks for reading!


*We receive 50% off our Language Stars classes for blogging about our experiences.  But, all opinions expressed are my own.  
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Free Fonts for Commercial Use!

Blog hopping gets me involved in some new project almost every time!  Today, I happened to see a Facebook post from "First Grade a la Carte" about fonts . . . She happened to mention making them with iFontMaker on an iPad and the next thing you know, I've spent an hour making my own fonts!

I had 2 that actually turned out, so I thought I'd share them with you.

Both are in the public domain, so feel free to use them in personal AND commercial projects!  

Thanks for reading,

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Longest 2 Weeks EVER!!!

     Those of you who have been following this blog for a while now know how important it is to me that my children learn to speak Chinese.  I put a lot of effort (and money) into getting them to class on time, practicing with them at home, seeing that they receive the proper encouragement from other family members, nudging my husband every now and then to murmur the proper elated response when they speak Mandarin, etc. etc.  They put effort in by just staying in class at Language Stars* without mom (no minor task, let me tell you), speaking a few words for Mom every now and then, performing little poems and songs for the family, AND ACTUALLY LEARNING SOME CHINESE WORDS!

     Well.  Given my strong desire for my children to go to class, learn something, and then regurgitate it to me, I was very sad when I learned that we had a 2-week class break at Language Stars*.  I guess I made a very strange face when our Center Director at Language Stars* told me that we would be on break for 2 weeks.  She said, "And the look on your face is why it's only 1 week next year."   All I could think was how many words they would lose.  How many I would lose.  You've heard of the "summer slide" in education, right?  It's the concept that students lose a lot of the gains they've made over the school year because of summer break.   That's what I saw in my mind:  Chinese words sliding quickly down the slippery slope of too long without a Chinese class.  But, I composed myself and said something about how I more than anyone else (because I am a teacher, too) knew how much the teachers needed and deserved a break.  I tried not to sound too worried or panicked.  My kids wouldn't forget too much.  Their Mandarin would be okay, right?


     Looking back on it, I suppose this story is a little funny in a too-enthusiastic-soccer-mom sort of way.  At least my husband certainly found it funny,  even as it was happening.  I, however, did not find it funny at all (at least, not at the time).  I know I got at least 2 or 3 more gray hairs from worrying that they'll never learn Chinese.

    I just throw out Mandarin words at random sometimes.  Or, I'll point to an object and ask what it is.  Well, a few days ago, I asked my son what color his toy was (in Mandarin).  He just stared at me.  Stared.  I mean, he gave me the blank look of all blank looks,  like he had never heard that word before.  He understood what I was asking in Chinese, which was reassuring, but the strange look on his face told me that he could not find that word floating around in his brain anywhere!  (I know exactly what that face looks like because I'm sure I make it a lot in class myself.) Yikes!  My worst language-related fear had come true!  It was the evil, two-week slide monster!  As my husband watched and later reacted to this second horrible look on my face in 2 weeks, I could hear money and effort being flushed down the toilet.  My son finally broke the silence by saying in English, "Orange."  "No, in Chinese," I said, desperately awaiting a correct response.  "I don't know," he said.  I said "orange" in Chinese a few times, had him repeat it, and tried to mentally will my hair to not turn gray.  I later complained to my husband. "What does he mean he doesn't know? We've been taking classes for a year!  We use the Mandarin color words every time we play Candyland! (And he LOVES to play Candyland!)"

    So I did what any good, Mandarin-obsessed mom would do:  I found some new ways for him to practice his colors in Mandarin.  In fact, there happen to be several decent apps just for that.  And, I quiz him on colors every chance I get.  My husband (after laughing at me, of course) did his job of reassuring me.  "He just named several things in Chinese for me this morning," he said, listing 4 or 5 objects.  I felt better.  Plus, he usually does really well, so I can name many more words that he DOES know.  But, I won't feel totally happy about avoiding our "summer slide" until we are back in class.  Lucky for me, we start tomorrow.   Perhaps I should have my son wear his Language Stars* shirt.  It's orange!  :)

Thanks for reading,

*We receive 50% off our tuition for blogging about our experiences at Language Stars.*  But rest assured that all opinions are my own.  I LOVE their classes!  


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Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Pin It to Win It!"

Are you as addicted to Pinterest as some of us are? I always see great stuff for my classroom and wish that I had it. Have you ever seen one of the products from my TPT store and wish that you had it?

Well now you can. . .for FREE! I'm a part of the "Pin It To Win It" contest being held by a group of TPT sellers on Pinterest.

      Head to my Pinterest board titled "Pin It To Win It" (Click here) and do 
     two simple things:

      1st - Re-Pin the product you would like to win from my store.
      2nd - Leave a comment in the "comments section" of the pin and be sure to leave your e-mail address.

On Friday June 15th I'll pick 3 winners in the first ever "Pin It To Win It" contest!  Each person will win the item from my store that they love the most!

Check out some other participating PIN IT TO WIN IT boards below:

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