Learning Norsk: Sommer Kommer

Earlier this year, the kids learned the first verse to a fun Norwegian song, “Sommer Kommer“.  Since then, the Barnesklubb kids have expressed interest in learning the other verses.  As winter is upon us – though it doesn’t feel that way here in Northern California where it was 81 degrees just two days ago – I thought it was a good time to followup.

Fortunately, I was able to find a video on YouTube so that I could assure our pronunciation was relatively accurate.  As you may know, I am learning Norwegian myself and I didn’t want to lead the kids astray. It’s a fun song and one I know we’ll return to again and again.

Summer

Sommer kommer, sommer kommer
sol og regn og latter og sang
sol og regn og latter ha ha ha
latter sol og sang

Autumn

høsten kommer, høsten kommer
blader og skole og vind og genser
blader og skole og vind who ho ho
vind blader og genser

Spring

stormen kommer, stormen kommer
skyet og regn og torden og lyn
skyet og regn og torden (clap clap clap)
torden skyet og regn

Winter

vinter kommer, vinter kommer
is og snø og kakao og kaldt
is og snø og kakao brrr brrr brrr
kakao is og kaldt

Chinese Culture: Cooking Chinese Food

One of the biggest worries I had prior to our relocation last year was in finding a native speaker of Mandarin to continue my daughter’s lessons.  I posted an inquiry on the local homeschool board hoping another family could recommend someone.  My query resulted in only one option – can you feel my anxiety?

I gave him a call shortly after we moved and made arrangements to meet.  Both Patrick and I were very impressed and agreed to continue our studies with him.  Phew!  In addition, not only would Geneva be continuing her lessons (two 1 hour sessions each week) but Jeffrey would begin as well (two 30 min sessions each week).Exploring Chinese Culture: Cooking Chinese Food @EvaVarga.net

The other major difference was that the lessons would take place in his home.  One of the greatest advantages of this is that it enabled us to take part in regular cultural lessons, specifically cooking.   Over the past few months, we have had three cooking lessons – each very different:   饺子(jiaozi),  热干面 (règānmiàn),  and  毛豆 (máodòu).

“For me, cooking is an expression of the land where you are and the culture of that place.” ~ Wolfgang Puck

Each dish has been wonderful and the kids and I have been able to recreate each a few days later to share with Dad.  It has been a delight … and a bit of surprise.  When we were reflecting upon 2011 and discussing our goals for 2012,  Jeffrey stated that his favorite food was Chinese Food (I hadn’t realized this before) and that he wants to get better at cooking.

Exploring Chinese Culture: Cooking Chinese Food @EvaVarga.net

As we have continued to learn how to prepare a variety of Chinese dishes, I have compiled the links to the recipes and lessons below for your convenience. I will continue to add to this list as we progress.

谢谢老师

Gum San :: Field Trip

We were delighted when the museum announced the return of the Gum San exhibit, exploring the impact of Chinese Americans on the history of United States … the only exhibit to tell a comprehensive story of the Chinese experience in the High Desert region.  As a student of Mandarin Chinese, MeiLi was very excited when I informed her that we would be going not only with her best  péng yǒu / 朋友 who also studies Mandarin (in fact, this is how they met), but with their  lǎo shī / 老师 as well.  

MeiLi and TianTian enjoyed looking for characters they recognized in the prints, most were traditional Chinese,  however.  It was so nice to have an opportunity for the girls to explore a little more about Chinese history with their lǎo shī.  In addition to the exhibit, they were also able to participate in a couple of Chinese crafts (knot tying and paper lanterns) as well as sample a few foods (barbeque pork, spring rolls, etc.).

DìDi / 弟弟 wasn’t very enthusiastic about the exhibit, however.  I thereby provided him with an impromptu scavenger hunt.  As he is passionate about trains, I encouraged him to find at least 3 different artifacts or photographs related to trains.  Success!  One of the things he found was an axe-head, with Central Pacific Railroad markings. “Look!” he said, “It’s a wedge! A simple machine!”  Curriculum integration at it’s best. 🙂

wǒ xiān zuò huǒchē / 我先坐火车 
(If only I could get him to stop making these crazy faces … such a comic!)
Still on exhibit, Live Butterflies! We had to visit this one again, of course, as it is a family favorite.  Very crowded but still enjoyable.  🙂
wǒ ài hú dié / 我爱蝴蝶 
(I can rarely catch her looking at the camera … always looking elsewhere!)

Which Wings? A Word Families Activity

I came across a great activity in a Mailbox magazine I picked up at the library last week. Essentially it was station activity that provides an opportunity for learners to create a list of words with similar sounds or spellings. As teachers & parents of young learners, these are typically referred to as word families. For example, at, cat, hat, and fat are a family of words with the “at” sound and letter combination in common.

Utilizing the Word Families chart from Enchanted Learning and the creative idea from Mailbox, I created a simple game for Sweetie to discover the word families on her own. Here are the steps to create the game:

  1. Using red construction paper, I traced out a circle shape several times.
  2. I then stacked several sheets together and cut out the circles.
  3. The circles were then cut in half to create half-circles.
  4. On one half, I wrote the word endings (-all, -ink, -ore…. )
  5. On the opposing half, I wrote the beginning sounds (st-, m-, b-…. )
  6. **Optional: I then created one slightly larger black circle with a half circle on one side to which I glued a pair of craft eyes.

Sweetie then played the game with me – I assisted her in sounding out the blends (a skill she is still working on). Here are the steps to play the game:

  1. Select one word ending (one right wing) and place a beginning sound (one left wing) next to it on the black template.
  2. Sound out the word and if it makes a true word, write it down on a piece of paper.
  3. Then select another beginning sound, continuing in this way until all the beginning sounds have been used.
  4. At that point, select a second word ending and proceed in the same way.

As I opted to create a wing for every word in the word family chart at Enchanted Learning, Sweetie created a words lists for only 2 families. It would have taken a long time to do all of them. I was thereby very pleased with little time was invested in creating this activity whereby its return will be great.

Sweetie and I are also putting together a variation for Buddy, using a simple picture on one wing and the starting letter sound on the opposing wing.

Joyful Signing

I have been trying for months to get Buddy interested in an activity like Taekwondo, Soccer or Sign Language. Each time I ask if he would like to do Taekwondo with his sister he says, “No, I can’t. I not big enough.” I continually reassure him and try to encourage him to try but he always says no … his facial expression nearly kills me … he looks withdrawn and rejected. I ask him what he would like to learn and his response is, “Nothing. I not want to do anything. I want to play with trucks and cars.” I don’t want him to feel like all the classes we do are for his sister and not him. I feel so bad.

When he was two, we did a Parent-Toddler Creative Movement (dance) class and he seemed to like it okay. There were three other boys in this class but now that they are older, the boys have moved on to other activities. If he were to continue with Creative Movement (ballet/tap doesn’t begin until age 5 at this school), he would be the only boy. I’ve been a little frustrated with the school anyway.

The choreography has been basically the same every year and Sweetie (having had taken classes there since she were 3) is bored with dance. She has even asked if she could do just the recital and not the weekly classes. We’ve lightly considered another school but haven’t looked into much as she seems content to stick with Taekwondo. DH is insistent that the kids do just one activity and he is a little frustrated that she does Taekwondo and Mandarin Chinese. Urgh! I’ve hijacked my own post – I was talking about Buddy. This is a material for a completely different topic.

Anyway, we have had these Signing Time DVDs since Sweetie was an infant. We used Sign Language a lot before the kids were speaking, though we haven’t used it much since. In August, another homeschool family offered to teach a Sign Language class for homeschoolers. I signed Sweetie up immediately. When I spoke with the instructor, I got permission to stay in the room with Buddy but my assumption was that he wouldn’t be interested. When the opportunity to take Mandarin arose, I briefly considered dropping Sign Language due to the schedule conflict but opted to give it a try knowing we’d have to leave early.

In anticipation of the class, we borrowed some of the newer Signing Time DVDs from the library. When we watch the videos, Sweetie is always eager to sign along with Alex and Lea. Buddy, on the other hand, sits attentively and simply watches. We’ve tried to encourage him to sign too, but he always replies, “I can’t.” I feel bad for him but I always respond, “Yes, you can, Buddy. When you want to try, I’ll be waiting.”

Imagine my delight when earlier this week, he started signing tree, forest, candy, more, and please as we were going about our errands. He has also only recently been able to work his fingers to sign ‘I love you’.

So, yesterday was the first day of Sign Language class. As we left the house, as usual the kids started asking, “Where are we going first? What next?” I went through the plan with them and they were both excited to go to Sign Language. When we arrived at the church where the class is taught, Buddy started asking, “Sign Language my class? I take Sign Language?”

A light bulb went off in my head – “Yes! This is your class, Buddy. You get to learn Sign Language. We will be there to learn with you so we can practice at home, but this is your class. Sweetie is learning Chinese. You get to learn Sign Language.” I think he liked to hear this but just before class started, I think he got shy again when he saw all the other kids. He said he wasn’t going to say anything. I explained that in Sign Language you don’t use your mouth to talk. You use your hands. He wouldn’t need to say anything. He said he didn’t wan to do that either. I told him that we would stay in class and that Sweetie and I would sign. When he was ready, he could join in.

He didn’t sign at all during class. However, when Sweetie was in Chinese shortly thereafter, I got him to practice the ASL alphabet with me a little. Then, in Taekwondo, he started pointing out the letter ‘A’ but rather than point with his index finger as he has done in the past, he was signing the letter and gesturing in that direction. I responded with enthusiasm and we did letter ‘B’ and ‘C’ as well.

I think he is warming up to it. I suppose I just need to be a little more patient. He is more reserved than she was and I need to remember that. He’ll find his niche soon.

How Will We Begin?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my goals and expectations for homeschooling. I actually spent some time coming up with a schedule that alloted a specific amount of time for math, reading and writing each day as well as an hour for theme studies (social studies 2x a week and science 2x a week), nature walks, and picture studies (Charlotte Mason approach to fine arts). Looking back on it, I realized it was too constrictive and would take away from what was most desirable about homeschooling, flexibility.

Through my research, I have discovered that there are probably as many different approaches and styles to homeschooling, as there are those that choose to undertake the responsibility themselves. In other words, I know that I can do whatever works for us and that what we do will most assuredly evolve and change over time. As a teacher, it will be difficult to change my approach… difficult to not schedule specific time for each subject.

However, I know that we all learn best when we are hungry for knowledge… when something has excited us and we want to know more. I’ve therefore decided to let my children lead the way… while I sprinkle the 3Rs daily.

I am very intrigued by the Charlotte Mason philosophy. While some of her ideas don’t necessarily fit with our lifestyle, we already incorporate others. Some of her ideas that I will be integrating into our studies include:

NARRATION
Narration is the process of telling back what has been learned or read. Narrations are usually done orally, but as the child grows older (around age 12) and his writing skills increase, the narrations can be written as well. Narration can also be accomplished creatively: painting, drawing, sculpting, play-acting, etc. I definately want to do more of this… so frequently when I finish a story or book, I close it and set it aside. I am now going to make a more conscious effort to ask the kiddos to give me a narration of what they have heard.

NATURE WALKS & NOTEBOOKS
In spite of often rainy, inclement weather, we will go out once-a-week for an official Nature Walk, allowing the children to experience and observe the natural environment firsthand. We will each have a notebook or artist sketchbook in which we may draw plants, wildlife or any other natural object found in its natural setting. These nature journals can also include nature-related poetry, prose, detailed descriptions, weather notes, Latin names, etc.

DAILY WALKS
In addition to the weekly Nature Walks, we will continue to take our daily walk in the evening with Daddy for fun and fresh air, no matter what the weather.

ART APPRECIATION/PICTURE STUDY
Bring the child into direct contact with the best art. Choose one artist at a time; six paintings per artist; study one painting per week. Allow the child to look at the work of art intently for a period of time (maybe five minutes). Have her take in every detail. Then take the picture away and have her narrate (tell back) what she’s seen in the picture. I love this! I never had the opportunity to study art (with the exception of one art class I took in high school).

JOURNALING
There’s great value in keeping a personal journal, encouraging reflection and descriptive writing. Record activities, thoughts and feelings, favorite sayings, personal mottoes, favorite poems, etc.Couldn’t agree more… why else would I be blogging? 🙂

COPYWORK & DICTATION
Daily copywork provides on-going practice for handwriting, spelling, grammar, etc. Keep a notebook specifically for copying noteworthy poems, prose, quotes, etc. Especially for the younger kids, it is a great way to practice writing without having to do tedious pages of a single letter. A great resource I was introduced to by a homeschooling friend is Draw Write Now. DD has already done 2 pages! After reading the book Stellaluna, I asked if she would like to do the page about bats and she jumped up with enthusiasm! The next day, she asked if she could do one at bedtime rather than color in her color books (as she usually does at bedtime).

BOOK OF THE CENTURIES
A Book of the Centuries is a glorified homemade timeline; usually a notebook containing one or two pages per century. As children learn historical facts, they make notes in their book on the appropriate century’s page about famous people, important events, inventions, wars, battles, etc. I love this idea, too! Even if I choose to later enroll my children in public school, I know this is something we will continue to do as it will enable them to see the big picture and see how events impact one another.

FREE-TIME HANDICRAFTS
My hope is to finish daily academics in the morning, allowing the afternoon hours for free time to pursue crafts and other leisure activities or areas of personal interest. Of course, some academics will also take place in the evening as we enjoy reading aloud to the children or sharing stories of our childhood with them before they go to sleep. This is important for DDs favorite activity is doing craft projects and if you recall, “Scrapbooking, Knitting, Stitching and Painting” are the things she wants to learn most.