I forgot from which mom blogger I learned about Sagebooks first. But that mom has literally changed my life. It was one of these amazing moms to whom I owe my gratitude @guavarama @mandarinmama @chalkacademy. Still thankful for their amazing blogs and inspiration to keep us trekking along in this Chinese language journey. As far as I’m concerned, they are practically like the pioneers of Chinese homeschooling using Sagebooks.
Prior to learning about Sagebooks, I never thought that I could teach my kids to read Chinese because I know probably less than 1000 characters myself. I do not have the reading fluency of even a Taiwanese first grader. However, whether you are a native speaker or completely non-native, the Sage Formula is easy to follow. It has continued to motivate my kids to progress in the series as they find out that they can read and remember the characters.
But they are not magical. We still need to clock in man hours to keep up the interest. Enter word walls, and worksheets, activities, and flashcards. And stickers. All the stickers.
We are going at a snail’s pace, but at least we have established a manageable rhythm. My kids are also learning English and Spanish, and with Chinese being the MINORITY language in every sense living here in Colombia, there is just no way to push too hard on the subject. I truly want them to appreciate their heritage language–not to have cause to reject it. I started with just my two older kids doing this, and just by osmosis, my younger son decided he could give it a whirl. All thanks to having a word wall in the hall way (fancy way of saying I taped flash cards to the wall). Whenever the older kids would do their vocabulary review at the wall, 弟弟 would linger around and learn the characters too. One day, after school (he has half days in preschool) while his older siblings were still at school, he picked up his brother’s book and started reading it. All self motivated and unprompted by me. He just wants to be like his 姊姊 and 哥哥…can I get a collective awwwe?
Their weekday Chinese homework consists of the Daily 3: Review, Read, & Write. Every day they need to spend 5-10 minutes to review previously learned characters (whether through activities, games, worksheets, flashcards, Quizlet, or simply reviewing by reading), read the pages for the 3 characters learned the day prior and read the pages for the 3 new characters, and practice writing the 3 new characters. Since my 8 year old has more capacity, she may work on up to 5 characters a day. Keeping up with school work is priority though. In total, daily Chinese homework should take just 15-20 minutes. In the evenings, if I by some miracle have extra energy, I do try to slip in some sort of review…”hey, mommy has a game for you…” So, on a “good day”, they will spend maybe 30-40 minutes on Sage related Chinese homework. On Saturdays we may also spend more time together doing review activities. We have our “bad days” too. That was almost the whole month of January for 哥哥. Life happens. Just keep encouraging progress.
Writing doesn’t come easy for my boys. They don’t like it in any language. Well actually, if they had to choose, it would be Spanish because it’s phonetic. They just get tired out easily. Writing for each of my three kids who are currently working on Sage looks different. My 8 year old daughter has lovely penmanship. She takes her time to write neatly. Since I always circle the character that I think they write the best, she makes it her goal to make it hard for me to choose my favorite. A gal after my own heart. For my 6 year old boy, I let him write two characters on paper and one character he can choose to use Skritter (he usually chooses to Skritter one with the most strokes, fair enough). For my 4 year old boy, I make special worksheets for him to practice getting the hang of stroke order with tracing, character recognition, and fluency practice. He may write some simple characters with 5 strokes with some guidance. I also let him use Skritter for the 3 new characters on top of his daily worksheet(2). I’ll be starting him on a starter pack of stroke writing practice soon.