Preschool Archives - Eva Varga

April 18, 20173

My children have been learning Mandarin Chinese since they were each five years old. We do not live in an urban area like Portland or San Francisco – so access to bilingual schools or immersion programs have not been available to us. We have thereby relied on the materials we could find online.

I was compensated for this review; however, all opinions are my own.
Miao Mi Amazon Channel Review
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission.

When we first began our journey with Mandarin, we struggled to find resources and materials that were targeted at second language learners. Much of the curriculum I found was directed at parents who spoke Chinese themselves and desired to teach their children their mother tongue. As I don’t speak Mandarin myself, I was at a loss and unable to assist them with instructions.

Over the years, the availability of materials has increased and I am continually learning of online learning resources, bilingual materials, and curriculum designed specifically for families like ours. When I learned of Miao Mi, an educational channel on Amazon, I was delighted to try out the material with my kids.

Miao Mi offers an excellent way to support language learning, and provides a Mandarin language immersion approach to learning a new language.

Miao Mi is Educational

Miao Mi is a collection of animated programs in both English and Mandarin. Each series is designed to educate and entertain through captivating animation, adorable characters, and clever storylines.

The target age for the Miao Mi educational programs is preschool and early elementary. I was therefore a little apprehensive about sharing the programs with my teens – I feared they would balk at the content and find the animation babyish. Much to my surprise, they not only enjoyed the animated storyline but were engaged in the language.

By writing and dubbing each episode in Mandarin and again in English (without translations or subtitles, using appropriate character voices) Miao Mi provides high-quality, entertaining, immersive experiences in both languages.

Miao Mi is a safe, ad-free channel or subscription based service provided by Amazon Prime presenting high-quality animations from Asia’s leading producers of children’s programs.

Miao Mi Amazon Channel Review @EvaVarga.netMiao Mi is an Immersive Experience

Miao Mi is designed to provide immersive language exposure for children who are learning Chinese (Mandarin). Most of the programs do not provide language instruction, rather they immerse the child in the language.

My teens enjoyed the programs, “The stories are really cute and it was easy to follow along.” Though they were familiar with most of the vocabulary, the words that were unfamiliar could be easily understood based on audio and visual context clues.

While prior exposure to Mandarin will help a child learn the language more quickly, the immersive experience of Miao Mi will provide an entertaining supplemental resource that extends the language learning experience.

For Amazon Prime members, ongoing access to the Miao Mi channel is only $5.99 per month.

Miao Mi is Variety 

One of the greatest benefits of Miao Mi is the diverse content. There are several programs to choose from – each of which offer multiple seasons and subsequent episodes.

The Miao Mi language learning video-on-demand service offers over 500 videos specifically curated for kids around the world.

September 1, 20106

We bid summer adieu once again with our third annual Summer Art Camp this week. I’ve seemingly exhausted my repertoire of ooey gooey messy art activities so this year we brought camp to our home (rather than the neighborhood park).

You can read about our first art camp here, I sadly didn’t blog about our second year of art camp, however.

I gathered everyone on the carpet for introductions and in doing so also explained my expectations for their behavior: no running around … we are here to explore our creativity in art, not to play – though there would be time for a little of that – but I expected everyone to give 110% and not rush through the projects. Setting the stage early proved to be worthwhile … everyone behaved beautifully and their artwork was excellent!

The first activity we did was to create traditional medal-backed buttons with the words “Third Annual Summer Art Camp 2010 :: Bidding Summer Adieu” around the perimeter. It was a great little ice-breaker and provided a nice souvenir to celebrate. In years past, we’ve created T-shirts but I thought these were more memorable and could be saved like race medals.

We then moved on to Zentangles which were indeed a hit with both the kids and adults. Creating Zentangles is one of my favorite art activities and provides for an easy way to entertain busy bodies at the doctors office, in the car, or on the airplane.  On a white board, I provided a sampling of patterns that could be repeated within the subdivided areas of their canvas (simply a square piece of cardstock). [Admin Note :: The website encourages artists to purchase their starter kit but we simply used permanent markers (Pigma Micron pens work best) and standard cardstock.]

I was impressed that everyone really took their time to see their project through to the finish.  Some choice to use a single color while others chose to use many colors.  Interestingly, this was the one and only project that inspired the moms to give it a go as well.  I was delighted that I was able to introduce them to a new art form … but I must give thanks to my friend Kristin, who first introduced me to Zentangles earlier this year.  🙂

We concluded the first day planning for our Alfombras or carpet mosaics.  I first learned about Alfombras from a Honduran friend of mine and as we studied Central America earlier this year in Passports Club … I knew I wanted to give this a try.  When I was planning this activity, I didn’t really know how to proceed.  My father has a small sawmill and I was able to obtain a large quantity of sawdust which I then dyed with RIT clothing dye (we used just 4 colors:  red, blue, green and orange).

The kids were then encouraged to plan our their design on newsprint in advance.  I showed them numerous images of Semana Santa Alfombras in Central America … pointing out details of the mosaic style and repeated patterns.  Suffice it to say, the kids ventured in their own direction putting their own spin on the idea.  Many created images of what they were interested in … MeiLi created a planet, Buddy created a mosaic of our recent trip to Todd Lake, a couple of the girls created hearts, flowers, and ladybugs.  The boys were more ecclectic … a rocket ship, Crater Lake, and another boy took the word alfombras literally and created a small ‘carpet’.

I had assigned each of the kids a full square on the sidewalk in hopes they would fill up the entire square with their design but like most children’s art, they created a small picture leaving a lot of ‘open space’.   It is difficult to encourage them to use the entire canvas.  I suppose we need a lesson specifically on this!

I discovered this website as I was typing this up .. I didn’t realize until too late that pine needles are frequently placed down first and that other media (flowers, vegetables, etc.) are also used.  We’re definitely going to give this another try.

Other more traditional art activities included watercolors and chalk pastels.  Again I was impressed with their creativity and work.  Our two days of art camp have always been a highlight of our school year (and indeed it is one of the things we do to kick off the new academic year).  This year was particularly enjoyable, however.  The kids are getting older and more can be expected of them.  I set high expectations and they rose to the occasion.

June 15, 20101
This is the first year that I have opted administer Charlotte Mason style exams with Buddy. I have never done any formal preschool type lessons with him.  Rather, I’ve allowed him to explore his interests and occasionally squeeze in lessons when I can catch him in the right mood. Formally, he does math and mini lessons in reading and writing.  He sits in on science and history lessons and I’ve gradually required more from him in terms of output. 

1. Which was your favorite read aloud book from this year?  Why? 

Percy Jackson.

2. Can you retell a part of your favorite read aloud?

All of it.   

History / Geography:

1. Tell me what you remember about Muhammad OR Charlemagne OR Eric the Red OR Leif Ericsson OR another historical figure of your choice.

(will add his response soon)

2. Who were the first Europeans to discover North America?

The Vikings

3. Show me Great Britain, Romania, Honduras, New Zealand, France and Scandinavia on the map. What can you tell me about one of these countries?

Buddy could only show me where Russia and Norway are located on the globe. We’ve obviously got some work to do.

1. What was your favorite science unit this year.     SPACE

2. Tell me something you have learned about space.

I learned that there are 8 planets in our solar system.  They revolve around the sun.  The planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.  Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune!

3. Tell me about your favorite planet.

Jupiter is my favorite because it is the biggest.  It is a gas giant.  It has lots of moons.  Jupiter has a small ring.

Music / Art Appreciation:

Here is what Buddy said about learning piano and guitar.

My favorite songs that I like to play are I Was Working on the Railroad, a folksong.  I also like A Horse with No Name that I am learning on the guitar.


1. What can you recall about The Twelfth Night.
I liked The Twelfth Night a lot.  It was about a ship hitting rocks during a storm and sinking. The captain threw everyone off and then he jumped in but he didn’t lose his hat because it was strapped onto his chin, I think.  The captain and this one girl swam up onto a beach.  Then the girl wanted to be like a boy. 
2. What was your favorite scene?
My favorite part was the ship wreck in the beginning. 
Field Trips:
1. Of all the trips we’ve taken this year, which one was your favorite?  Why?
Pine Mountain Observatory because we got to see the big telescopes 
2. Describe two things that you learned on this trip.
I learned how the telescopes work and what the stars look like.
What would you most like to study or are most looking forward to studying in the coming year?
I want to study more about the Asteroid Belt. 

August 27, 20083

To bid summer adieu and as an opportunity to get our little friends together, I took inspiration from Shez at Homeschooled Twins and coordinated a messy art camp. We met down at the local park for two days of messy art activities. I had four projects planned for each day and as can be expected of any endeavor with children or adults for that matter, some were more successful than others.

Monday ~ Day One

Plaster Masks: The first activity we undertook was to create plaster masks. Not everyone was willing to do this – some of the kids were a little apprehensive and scared. What surprised me was contrary to their typical personalities, Buddy volunteered to be first and Sweetie opted to have her hand cast (in the form of a fist for Taekwondo) rather than her face. Despite the reassurances of those who were first, there were still a few who chose to sit this one out. The masks turned out very well – much better than I had anticipated.

Bubble Burst Painting: While the adults cleaned up after the plaster activity, the kids busied themselves with an attempt to do bubble art on a roll of paper I had hanging up between the pillars. I was unsuccessful finding a dozen or so small bubble wands – the kind that come in the small bottles of solution. I didn’t want to buy the small bottles as I had earlier in the summer purchased a gallon size jug of bubble solution – it just seemed like an unnecessary expense. In retrospect, I should have. It would have been easier had the children each had their own bottle of colored bubble solution and their own wand.
Anyway – what we used instead were large wands that were dipped into a shallow bowl (I had added food coloring to the bubble solution). While this typically makes great bubbles, it was near impossible to get the bubbles to actually POP on the paper. The kids got to slinging the ‘wands’ at the paper and making splash/splatter marks rather than bubbles. The end product didn’t turn out as I had expected but the kids had a great time nonetheless.

Marble Painting: An easy activity in concept. Place a small square of paper into an aluminum tin with a few marbles. Squirt in a few colors of paint and roll the marbles around to disperse the paint. I was busy cleaning up messes and didn’t really pay attention to how much paint the kids were squirting into their tins. Turned out – they squirted way too much. Their ‘canvases’ had to dry overnight they were so thick with paint.

Glubber: The kids loved this one! I distributed a ziploc baggie to each and assisted them with adding 1/4 cup of warm water, 1/4 cup of Elmer’s glue, and a few drops of food coloring. They mixed this around (baggie zipped of course) and to that I added a 1/2 teaspoon or so (it wasn’t exact) of Borax. They mixed this as well and soon a solid was formed. They removed the solid and played around with it for some time.

Here are a couple of links for more information if you’d like … White Glue Putty and Glubber & Glue Putty. What is great about this is that it can be adapted for many ages – for upper level students, the kids can investigate polymers… set up an experiment to determine how different amounts of Borax affect the outcome… etc.

Wednesday ~ Day Two

Painting Our Plaster Masks: I didn’t get a chance to take photos of the kids as they were working, but I did get a few photos of the end product. The masks turned out great!

Sand Collage: This was perhaps my favorite of all the activities… easy, colorful and very engaging!

Flour Paper Collage: Essentially, this project required the artist to smear flour paste onto their canvas (watercolor paper). They then tore and scrunched up colored tissue paper and placed it onto their paper in a colorful, textured collage. This was a highlight for many – but a few of the boys (surprisingly!) didn’t want to get their hands all gooey. I loved this activity and will likely do it again with my kiddos.Pastels: A simple, last minute change lead us to cancel the parade. It was really windy and we were concerned our banners would have been ripped apart and our art work carried off with the gusts. Instead, I handed out paper and chalk pastels and allowed the kids to quietly draw whatever they desired.Park Structure Play: As the kids finished their projects and between clean-ups, the kids enjoyed climbing on the structures and playing with one another.

It was a very successful camp and I am already planning for next year! Hopefully, the weather will be more cooperative and we can actually do the parade as planned.