China Archives - Eva Varga

October 20, 20171

These past couple of weeks have been crazy busy and so very fun! I took on a new job with VIPKID and I have thus been immersed in learning all the material as I have dove head first into this new adventure.

I first learned of VIPKID in late September. I was intrigued by the possibility of working from home and most importantly, finishing my “work day” before my own children crawled out of bed.

Through VIPKID, I now teach English to children in China. Because of the time difference, I generally begin teaching at 4:30 or 5:00 am each weekday. I could begin even earlier but I fear I would be a zombie the rest of the day. It’s been a very rewarding experience thus far and I am excited to share with you.

My VIPKID Experience @EvaVarga.net5 Questions I’m Often Asked About VIPKID

You have to get up at 4am? Are you crazy?!

Yes, I have to get up early – Beijing time is 9 hours different than Pacific time. Admittedly, when my alarm goes off, my knee-jerk reaction is, “What have I done? I just want to sleep!” But once I am in the virtual classroom and I see the smiling faces of my students, I am quickly reminded of the joy this new job brings me.

VIPKID was listed #5 on the “best places to work from home” list from Forbes this year.

Teachers at VIPKID are able to set their own calendars. I homeschool my kiddos and also substitute teach. With the time difference, there are only certain times (Beijing time) that I am available. Sadly, in November my available hours will be even less due to the time change. I may consider waking even earlier – at least a couple days a week to accommodate my return students.

Working with these children is so much fun! I’ve already connected with several students who have continually booked classes with me 3x each week and it’s only my third week!

I’ve never taught ESL? Is it difficult?

Teaching with VIPKID is a lot easier than I initially anticipated. They provide powerpoint slides for each lesson. I thereby need only gather a few props to augment the lesson and I’m ready to go.

You learn all you need to know through online training workshops and tutorials. They also offer in-person coaching at some cities around the country.

Through the interview and mock class process prior to signing the teaching contract, I learned tips and suggestions for success in teaching each of the levels. Most importantly, I learned how to teach students with little or NO English experience by using lots of modeling – a technique called Total Physical Response (TPR) – and lots of props.

Classes are one-on-one and it’s a great cultural experience. I love getting to know the students and engaging the advanced students in conversation.

Are you required to work a certain number of hours or certain days?

Just like substitute teaching, I can create my own schedule and teach as many classes as I want. It is entirely up to me!

Some VIPKID teachers teach on the weekends – even pulling all-nighters. But not me. I designate a few hours each weekday morning to VIPKID and the rest of the day is my own.

How much are you paid?

Teachers at VIPKID can earn anywhere from $14 – 20 per hour. Each class is just 30 minutes (25 minutes of actual teaching time and 5 minutes allowed to write feedback). Arriving on time to class and teaching 30+ classes per month earn you bonuses.

While you aren’t going to get rich and the hours are not guaranteed, it is super fun and a great way to make some money on the side. The company is helpful and they always have fun incentives. They pay you for successful referrals and offer fun contests where money prizes or swag items are awarded.

If you are interested in teaching with VIPKID, please use my referral code 04XIOQ  –  and let me help you along the way!

VIPKID is a Chinese-based company, and if you work for them as a teacher, you are working as a contractor, which means that you will need to primarily be responsible for promoting yourself and ensuring your own success.

Teaching online? Do you need to be tech savvy?

You can work from anywhere in the world as long as you have a reliable internet connection, a webcam, and a headset. Teaching online is definitely different, however, than teaching in a real classroom. There are nuances and obstacles – often related to tech issues – that sometimes arise and this can affect both the parent feedback you receive and your pay.

Though I have only been with VIPKID for a month, I have found nothing but positive experiences working for this company. They are constantly working to improve – their communications, their curriculum, and their system of incentives.

The Chinese employees that handle parent communications are helpful and supportive. The pay is commensurate with the amount of work expected.

December 23, 2015

I feel very strongly that a comprehensive world view is important in today’s society.  In our homeschool we strive to develop an awareness of other cultures and lifestyle choices by reading great books, diving deeply into history, and immersing ourselves in other cultures through our travels around the world.

As our communities become more diverse, many parents are looking for literature and other tools to help their children develop a deeper understanding of their neighbors.

Through our studies of Mandarin language, we have developed a greater understanding of the Chinese culture than I had dreamed possible. My children enjoy cooking Chinese foods and celebrating many of the holidays unique to China (Mid-Autumn Festival, for example).

multiculturalbooksdayI received these books in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions below are mine and I was not required to write a positive review. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Exploring Chinese Culture with Children’s Books

One of the best ways to learn about another culture is through children’s books. China Institute has published four hardcover books about the Forbidden City, one of the world’s most fascinating landmarks. Each of the books will have its own interactive e-book app, which will feature a bilingual option to toggle between reading and listening in English and Chinese.

For Younger Readers

Bowls of Happiness: Treasures from China and the Forbidden City by Brian Tse  teaches children about Chinese artwork and culture and their universal spirit of generosity, love, and respect for nature. The loveable illustrations are coupled with photographs of porcelain art found in the Palace Museum’s collection.

After reading the story, my kids both wanted to create their own bowl of happiness. We went to a local pottery studio and painted our own. I’ll be posting pictures about this experience on Facebook and Instagram very soon.

Brian Tse has also authored This is the Greatest Place! The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals. This charming book teaches children about Chinese architecture, how nature’s influence can be seen around us, and how people and animals can live together in harmony. The illustrations capture the majesty of both the natural world and the Forbidden City and are enhanced by interactive components for readers, including a gatefold spread and lift-flaps.

multiculturalbooksdayFor Older Readers

In the book What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? Life in China’s Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-chiu and Eileen Ng readers will journey through the average life of an emperor and learn about the real people who lived in the palace, including the prince who fought off a rebel invasion, the palace maids who lived in the Inner Court, the emperor who ruled twice, and the emperor who loved crickets. This book can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, with lively illustrations that encourage reader interaction.

In the Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-chiu is a large format book which conveys the grandeur of the Forbidden City through highly detailed line drawings of its buildings, gardens, and courtyards with numerous foldout spreads. Each page is populated by a large variety of characters and peppered with entertaining anecdotes. Every book includes a plastic magnifying glass for looking at the drawings more closely.

Be sure to check out the lesson plans and interactive activities that accompany these delightful books.


Multicultural Children’s Book Day

The Mission

The mission of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book.

The annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day is made possible by a team of 12 amazing Co-Hosts (you can view them here), the initiative’s non-profit status, and 200 participating bloggers like me.

We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

The Reading Challenge

The Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge is a special project connected to Multicultural Children’s Book Day ~ 26th January 2016 ~ that gives classrooms the opportunity to earn a FREE Diversity Book for their class!

The goal of the reading challenge is to help teachers build their classroom library with diverse, inclusive and multicultural books! This special project is free of charge to all teachers and schools and helps MCCBD achieve their mission of getting multicultural books into the hands of young readers and teachers. The MCCBD 2016 Classroom Reading Challenge has begun, learn more here.

MCBookDay-white-21-300x234Special thanks to all our Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors:

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books * Lil Libros
Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk * Candlewick Press
Silver: Lee and Low Books * Chronicle Books * Capstone Young Readers
Bronze: Pomelo Books * Author Jacqueline Woodson * Papa Lemon Books * Goosebottom Books * Author Gleeson Rebello * ShoutMouse Press * Author Mahvash Shahegh * China

March 23, 2015

We have been using North Star Geography for a few months now and I am continually impressed with all that it encompasses as well as how flexible the program is for our homeschool lifestyle.

Cultural Diversions with North Star Geography Sidebars

This post contains affiliate links.

Cultural Diversions with North Star Geography Sidebars

Embedded within each of the sixteen high-level geographic lessons are green sidebars that bring attention to real-world examples of the concepts and topics addressed throughout the curriculum. In the introduction author Tyler Hogan writes,

“The hardest part of writing this curriculum was deciding what NOT to include. So many interesting places, facts, and stories are with discovering ….”

I love this! These sidebars not only provide clear examples of geographic concepts but introduce students to places of cultural importance around the world.

As we travel internationally each year, the sidebars embedded within each lesson are of particular interest to us and we have often jumped around in the text seeking them out as they relate to our travels. We use the sidebars as points of comparison and as the carrots of our rabbit trails for student-led learning.

The Tube Map

In the first unit, Geography Skills, one of the sidebars focuses on subway maps. I love that the author describes how the London subway came to be called the Tube and how maps of the underground transportation system evolved to more user-friendly.

My children first experienced a subway when we were in Sweden. Though my husband and I had experience on the New York subway – navigating one in a foreign language added to the difficulty and we had a few moments of stress. stockholmtubemap

Fortunately, the people were very helpful and we made our way from our hotel, to the T-Centralen station where we transferred to a trolley before reaching our final stop on the island of Djurgården, though one stop farther than necessary so we backed tracked on foot.

We further practiced our skills at reading a tube map in China as we utilized the subway to get around the major metropolitan areas of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Having experience reading a tube map was particularly useful as fewer people spoke English.

The Three Gorges Dam

One sidebar that was of particular interest from the Physical Geography unit was that of the Three Gorges Dam in the Hubei province of China. While we hadn’t visited this area when we were traveling, we enjoyed comparing the construction of this dam to that of Shasta Dam, which we toured a year ago.

The sidebar briefly mentions the ecological results of constructing the dam and from this a discussion ensued. The kids were able to recall watching an Oregon Field Guide episode on breaching the Condit Dam.

The Chinese One-Party System

An understanding of the culture and politics of China is of growing importance and as students of Mandarin Chinese, we found the sidebar describing the Chinese One-Party System from the Human Geography unit of interest.

Utilizing this sidebar as a starting point, we then used the graphic organizers in the Companion Guide to direct us in researching our own state and national government.


Linked up with The Massive Homeschool Geography Guide at iHomeschool Network.

December 21, 20143


Welcome to the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop!

The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop is a place where bloggers can share multicultural activities, crafts, recipes, and musings for our creative kids. We can’t wait to see what you share this time!

Created by Frances of Discovering the World through My Son’s Eyes, the blog hop has now found a new home at Multicultural Kid Blogs.

This month our co-hosts are: Multicultural Kid Blogs, Crystal’s Tiny Treasures, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share, For the Love of Spanish, Eva Varga, and Tara Kamiya.

My Favorite Post

I am excited to co-host for the first time and look forward to being a part of the wonderful group. A global world view is important to us and we learn so much from all of you.

My favorite post from last month is from by Cindy at The Art Curator for Kids. In the month of November, she posted everyday [an amazing feat in itself] – Art Around the World in 30 Days – focusing on a different country each day.

She selected a piece of artwork to focus on and shared a little bit of information about the art, provided at least 3 art discussion questions to use with your kiddos to help you talk about it, and suggested at least one idea for an art learning activity or art project you could do to help teach about the artwork in question. I love this!

China_Shen_ZhouAs you know, Mandarin is a huge part of our homeschool and we are always looking for ways to integrate Chinese culture lessons into our lessons. Cindy’s Around the World: China post is wonderful. My kids enjoyed the lessons and the discussion questions really helped us to focus and look at the details. I am excited to continue with her Art Around the World series.

Guidelines for the Hop

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop is a place for you to share your creative kids culture posts. It’s very easy, and simple to participate!

Just follow these simple guidelines:

  • Follow us via email, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook. Please let us know you’re following us, and we will be sure to follow you back.
  • Link up any Creative Kids Culture post, such as language, culture, books, travel, food, crafts, playdates, activities, heritage, and holidays, etc. Please, link directly to your specific post, and no giveaways, shops, stores, etc.
  • Please grab the button code below and put it on your blog or the post you’re linking up. You can also add a text link back to this hop on your blog post.
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Note: By sharing your link up on this blog hop you are giving us permission to feature your blog post with pictures, and to pin your link up in our Creative Kids Culture Feature board on Pinterest.

The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop will go live on the 3rd Sunday of the month. It will run for three weeks. In the blog hop the following month we will feature a post that was linked up. If you’re featured, don’t forget to grab the button below:

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Thank you for linking-up, and we can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to!

October 25, 20134

Zǎochenhǎo (早晨好) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. Today’s post on Hong Kong is the final post in the series whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.

hong kong lightsHong Kong, officially named Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is a city that’s full of surprises. Hong Kong is much more than skyscrapers, teeming shopping streets and Jackie Chan. Forty percent of the land is devoted to natural habitats – sandy beaches, woodlands and mountains. Hong Kong is a water city with different islands to explore, and kids will have fun taking ferries everywhere.

Use public transportation in Hong Kong to get around – it’s varied and fun. The subway is the easiest way to get between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Take the double decker buses and trams for a bird’s eye view of the city. Ferries are a must, the shortest of which is the Star Ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong. Longer routes connect the islands.

The green and white Star Ferry has been in operation for over a hundred years, chugging back and forth between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The trip doesn’t take long, but you get a great view of the harbor, junks, hydrofoils, sampans, and barges. You can also pick up a ferry to go to Lantau, Lamma or Cheung Chau Islands.

The night view along the beaches of Victoria Harbor is a famous attraction. Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula are full of high-rise buildings so at night, the lights blaze so magnificently and so beautifully around the harbor.

We took the ferry over to Kowloon to enjoy the Symphony of Lights show in the evening.  The largest permanent light show in the world, the 15 minute show is performed by the towers of Central District, Hong Kong. It is presented by the tourism commission through organizing 44 skyscrapers and landmarks that lie on the sides of the Victoria Harbor. Through interactive lighting and music show, it shows the vibrancy and glamorous night view of the city.

If you enjoy unusual attractions or engineering feats of wonder, you will enjoy the Central-Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system – the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The entire system covers over 800 meters in distance and elevates over 135 meters from bottom to top.

There you can take the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak. Once at the top, if it’s a clear day, you’ll have a spectacular view of Hong Kong. It was a little cloudy when we visited but the view was still stunning.

As it was Sweetie’s birthday and our trip had also come to a close, we wanted a relaxing day – she wanted the beach.  We asked the staff at the hotel and learned there are good swimming beaches at Repulse Bay and Stanley, staffed with lifeguards in summer.

hong kong

We thereby boarded bus 260 – a double decker for a scenic ride to the other side of the island – with spectacular views of the bays and mountains.  We stopped at Stanley first as it was the farthest away and we planned to work our way back to the hotel.  We did a little shopping at the nearby markets and then took a peak at the beach.  The wind on this side of the island was great for wind surfing, evidenced by the many boards and bodies in wetsuits, but the surf was too high for swimming.

We thereby opted for the more protected cove of Repulse Bay.  I learned later that the beach at Repulse Bay has wonderful plaster statues of Chinese deities and mythical figures, but we didn’t see them when we were there. We enjoyed the water here – though the water was murky, we couldn’t even see our toes when we were swimming.

Sweetie enjoyed collecting small shells and agates along the waters edge.  At one point, three Chinese tourists came up to her and literally picked her up and stood beside her for photographs.  Had we not become a little accustomed to the attention, this would have taken us by surprise.  It was still a little disconcerting but we understood their intent at this point.

On our return to the hotel, I mistakenly left my iPhone behind on the bus and didn’t realize it until we were walking through the lobby.  Fortunately, the clerk at the counter was able to help us and she called the bus station on our behalf. While Patrick and Buddy waited, Sweetie and I ran back to look in hopes I may have dropped it along the way.  When she and I returned, we learned one matching my description had been turned in.  She wrote out instructions in Chinese characters and we made our way to the bus terminal.  What a relief!

Like Shanghai and many of China’s mega-cities, Hong Kong is recognized by its skyrises.  Earlier, I shared with you a sneak peak at a new unit study I have compiled titled, The World’s Tall Buildings: An Engineering Unit Study.  If you’d like to receive this curriculum supplement for free, simply subscribe to my newsletter.

Thank you so much for joining me on our discovery of China.  I hope that you have been inspired to travel yourself .. whether your travels are abroad or close to home, you will certainly create memories you will cherish for a lifetime.


For your convenience, all 10 days of Discovering China are linked to one landing page.  This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. Visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration.


October 24, 20131

discovering china

Nihao!  I’m delighted you are joining me for the seventh of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Today, I bring you to Yangshou – where you will discover caves, cormorants, and snails. Of all the cities we had the chance to see during our three-week family holiday in China, Yangshou remains the most special to me. The scenery was stunning.  The people were so welcoming.  It reminded me a little of my beloved Oregon.

yangshouIn Chinese paintings there are scenes of fantastically shaped misty mountains – these aren’t merely in the eye of the artist – you can see this landscape around Guilin. The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is famous for its scenery dominated by the karst peaks that create some of the most famous landscape images of China. You’ve likely even seen them featured prominently in an episode of Star Wars.


What you don’t see in those photos are the hundreds of caves that go right along with the landscape (where there’s a limestone mountain, there is a cave). The area around Yangshuo – where we stayed – has many caves for spelunking, some you wander through, some in which you can even enjoy a mud bath.

We had to make changes to our original itinerary and we didn’t have as much time here as we’d hoped. For this reason, we sadly didn’t make it to these caves.  Even so, we had a wonderful time and Yangshou remains one of our highlights.  With the help of our hotel, a driver met us at the airport in Guilin and escorted us to our resort in Yangshou. We arrived just in time for lunch – a local favorite of braised beer fish – and thereafter enjoyed a delightful motor boat cruise on the Li River.

Li River

The motor boat was loud and in the humidity, it was not the most comfortable ride (our driver went up river very slowly – I think every other boat must have passed us).   After about 45 minutes, he stopped at a small island where he directed us off the boat and we were immediately encouraged by the vendors to sample their offerings as well as have our photo taken with the captive cormorants.  This made me uncomfortable but I obliged.

After our river cruise, we visited Xingping, an ancient village in existence for over 1500 years. In the village, we could see stone streets and crumbly brick buildings with tiled roofs, surrounded by the mountains.   We then returned to the Yangshou Mountain Resort where we were staying to change and go down to dinner. Can you believe we ordered burgers?  The freshly in  house-baked buns and local vegetables (particularly the tomatoes) made it one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten.


Later that evening, we went into town again for the cormorant fishing show. Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method in which fishermen use trained cormorants to fish in rivers. Historically, cormorant fishing has taken place in Japan and China since about 960 AD. The types of cormorants used differ based on the location; Chinese fishermen often employ Great Cormorants (P. carbo).

To control the birds, the fishermen tie a snare near the base of the bird’s throat. This prevents the birds from swallowing larger fish, which are held in their throat, but the birds can swallow smaller fish – we observed this on a few occasions.  When a cormorant has caught a fish in its throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the boat and has the bird spit the fish up. Though cormorant fishing once was a successful industry, its primary use today is to serve the tourism industry.

yangshou cormorant fishingThe following day, we stayed close to the resort as we were to depart in the early afternoon for the train station.  We enjoyed a lazy float on inner tubes reminiscent of my childhood on the Yulong River amid a beautiful backdrop of karst mountains.  We played a little Pīngpāng qiú (乒乓球) – a sport in which China dominates.  We slowly, reluctantly packed our things.

While in Yangshou, travelers can also enjoy a relaxing ride on a bamboo raft on the river. The skillful crewman uses a long pole to navigate the raft.  As our time in Yangshou was limited, we didn’t have the chance to take a bamboo raft down this section of the river – but we did enjoy watching others.


The kids would have liked to captain their own raft but had to console themselves with the one that was anchored near the resort.  Here they found numerous snails who they quickly befriended. We’d watched the movie Turbo just prior to departing for China, so they both had a fond affection for snails.  You can read more about our impromptu snail study in my earlier post, Nature Study in China: Phylum Mollusca.

Had we had more time in this province, we would have enjoyed a trek in the Longji Rice Terraces. This famous area is north of Guilin and famous for its minority villages and incredible scenery. The mountains here are terraced from top to bottom and create a stunning landscape.

I will be wrapping up the Discovering China series tomorrow with Hong Kong where during our final days in China, we celebrated Sweeetie’s birthday.


This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration. Have you taken a peak at some of the other posts?  If not, I encourage you to do so. You’ll surely find something to inspire you!

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!