When it comes to home school Chinese to a non-native child while working full time, I feel that I have a lot to say because this is our reality.

We live in Australia, an English-speaking environment. My daughter is a little Aussie to the core as she knows more Aussie slang than I do. She is not a native Chinese kid, so every Chinese word she speaks, reads and writes, I taught her.

I’m working full time juggling between homeschooling Chinese, my accounting business and my blog.

I’ve started homes school Chinese a year ago when my daughter reached five.  I don’t teach my daughter English or other subjects because she gets enough of that from her school.

Not long after that, I started Panda Mama Chinese blog because I felt there might be similar families like us who needed help.

My blog is also where I document our homeschooling life to inspire and be inspired by a like-minded parent just like you.

It doesn’t matter which country you live in or what dominant language you speak; if you home school your non-native child Chinese and work full time, this post is for you.

Hopefully, after reading this post, you can get a glimpse of what home school Chinese is about as a full time working parent: not picture perfect. Instead, it’s constant planning, prioritising, adjusting, and self-motivating.

Before we dive in, here are a couple of videos for a glimpse of how I teach my daughter Mandarin Chinese at home.  There’re more videos like these on Panda Mama Chinese YouTube channel.

1. Time management for homeschooling.

I know, I know. You’ve probably heard time management many times. But for a working parent, how do you fit your child’s Chinese learning into your already busy life, plus the groceries, the cleaning, laundry, the pets, and still leave some time for yourself?

Believe me. If you are a working parent like me, you need to have some “me” time so that you can be a happier and healthier person to be around.

As a mum, you are the GLUE to all of your family members (no offence if you are a dad). Your mood directly affects the weather in your home and the well-being of your child’s development.

I know this because this what happens in our family. When I am happy, I’m more patient to my daughter, husband and clients. When I feel good, I’m more creative in designing Chinese homeschooling resources and have more energy to get my work done.

So, how do you start to manage your time wisely? How do you fit in all of the things you must do for the day?

It all starts with a pen, a notebook and managing your time.

I like to keep it simple and more accurate,  so I only plan for the week ahead over the weekend. As for the annual events such as birthdays, school performances, holidays, I’d put them in my iPhone calendar and set up reminders. When the time comes, I’ll then incorporate them into my weekly planner.

Now, what you need to focus on are the things you MUST DO for next week. Let’s break this down to four steps:

Step 1 – Write down the things that you MUST DO  and WANT TO DO in no particular order.

(e.g. your work, workout, your child’s Chinese learning, house cleaning, laundry, groceries etc.)

Step 2 – Estimate the time that’s required to do all of these things listed in Step 1.  

Ask yourself, can you fit in all the MUST DO and WANT TO DO things in your day and week? If not, what are the MUST-DOs? Write A1 against those MUST-DOs. You will likely have more than one MUST-DOs, in that case, write down A1–1, A1-2, A1-3 against those things and so on.

Step 3 – Eliminate those WANT-TO-DO things, or put them off to another week.

If you want to do something but you don’t have enough time this week, put off until next week. Get those MUST-DOs done first. If you still have time left, list those WANT-TO-DOs as A2-1, A2-2, A2-3 and do it in sequence.

Step 4 –  Stick with your weekly planner or to-do list. That’s it!

If you can do this for a consecutive four weeks to get started, I guarantee that you’ll have a new routine that you’ll love.

You’ll feel that you are more in control of your life and more confident to deal with whatever life throws at you.

I learnt this time management technique from one of my favourite self-development authors Brian Tracy in my 20s. And I’ve been using this skill ever since.

It helps me to focus on what’s important in different stages of my life.

As a Chinese saying goes: “ A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step 千里之行,始于足下”. The things you do every day determine the outcome.

I even get my daughter involved in planing her life. We have a dedicated whiteboard at home for her to write down her to-do things in a month.

For example, her sports day, school news day, extra curriculum day or any other days that’s scheduled in her monthly routine. It shows what to expect each day.

It also helps her to understand how to use the calendar as well. Children learn to use the calendar in Year one anyway. 

Here is what our planning board looks like.

a little girl is writing on a monthly calendar

I started this planning board at the same time when we started to homeschool when my daughter was at age five. I used to write the dates and events for her. But now, she writes out herself.

Only when she doesn’t know how to write the words that I’d help.

Having a planning board at home like this one is as easy as 1-2-3. All you need to do is to draw the grid and write the weekdays on top of the board in Chinese and English with a permanent marker because this won’t change.

At the beginning of each month, help your child to write out the number of days and her to-do things in that month with a whiteboard marker because this changes every month. Then it’s done!

As you can see, the four steps above are not rocket science. But not everyone can do this. Why? Lack of motivation, I guess. That’s what I’m going to cover in Part 3 of this post: self- motivation.

2. How to plan your Chinese homeschooling time when you work full time?


If you are planning to homeschool your non-native child Chinese while working full time, the first thing you need to do is to work out what’s the best time for you and your child to sit down and learn Chinese.

For us, it’s in the morning between 7:30 am – 8 am just before my daughter goes to school. As she attends a local primary school which is only a few minutes away so leaving at 8 am is perfect for us.

We’ve been doing this since she was five. She’s very much used to this routine, so after breakfast, she knows it’s Chinese playtime.

Here is our morning routine as a guide:

  • 5 am – 5: 30 am – I get up the bed. Have a coffee. Dress up for work out. If I don’t do a workout, I’d dress up for my day, read a few pages of my books and review the to-do list that I planned last week.
  • 5:30 am – 6:30 am – Workout or read my books. Usefully self-development books to pump up my spirit for the day. More on this in Part 3 of this post. I’ll also place the Chinese learning materials on the table and ready for my daughter. See the photos below for before and after our learning in the morning. 
home school chinese
home school chinese
  • 6: 30am – 7:30 am – Wake my daughter up. Feed her and get her ready for our Chinese learning time.
  • 7:30 – 8 am – Chinese learning or what we call it – Chinese playtime.
  • 8 am – 8:30 am – Drop my daughter off at school and come home start my work ( I run my accounting business from home).

Now, what works for us might not work for you. As I said earlier, find the best time that suits you and your child and stick with the routine. It’ll make your life a lot easier once you both adapted to this new lifestyle.

The good news is that you don’t need hours to teach your child Chinese in a day. From my experience, 15 – 30 minutes of targeted teaching during weekdays is enough to get a good result for a young child age up to six. Older than that I don’t know because my daughter is only 6 at the moment.

Use other times to play Chinese related games, read Chinese stories, or watch Chinese cartoons.

Now my daughter is in Term 3 of Year 1, and she’s started bringing homework home. It doesn’t take long, so we usually do that in the afternoon.

As for what to teach during the 15 – 30 minutes, it depends on your child’s age. I won’t go into too many details here because that’s for another blog post.

In short, for younger child age around 3 – 4, I’d suggest using this dedicated time to play Chinese language-related games, read Chinese stories and sing Chinese songs. Whatever you do, make your child laugh, giggle and enjoy the moments.

Two benefits you can achieve by doing this:

1. Prepare your child for the Chinese homeschooling routine, which is coming up at age five.

2. Send a message to your child that learning Chinese is FUN! We all know if we love something, we will keep going back for it. This works for children too.

When your child reaches age five, you can start to introduce more targeted teaching in Chinese, but still play-based.

In the beginning, I used to buy resources to teach my daughter. Then, I quickly found those Chinese resources are not suitable for a non-native kid like my daughter.

So I started to create bite-size teaching materials that fit into the 15 – 30 minutes we have during each weekday. We don’t do Chinese homeschooling over the weekends although we still play impromptu Chinese games.

3. How to motivate yourself when you are feeling down?

Homeschooling Chinese is not for the faint-hearted. I salute to those parents who are doing full-time homeschooling that covers all subjects. I can never do that.

  • One, I’m not smart enough to teach all subjects.
  • Two, I don’t want to give up my career as an accountant and my accounting business.

I can only focus on what I know best, which is the Chinese language.

Because I have learnt English as a 2nd language at the age of 24, I know what to focus on in homeschooling my daughter Chinese in an English-speaking environment.

However, as confident as I am, there were still times when I just want to throw my hands in the air and don’t want to carry on anymore.

You know what? Over time, I’ve learned that it’s perfectly ok to feel that way. We are only humans, and we have our ups and downs.

The question is, how do we manage these emotions and pick our self up from the rabbit hole? How do we self-motivate ourselves?

Allow me to share three things I do that worked well for me when I’m feeling down.

  1. Step back and stop homeschooling for that day or week. Do something else that’s not in your routine.

Sometimes, I find I feel better already by not following my routine. Imagine that you do the same thing over and over, you get tired. So, threw something else into the mix is the way to go.

  1. Do some workout that makes you sweat.

HITT, yoga, pilates, weights, running, swimming, or whatever you like. It’s an instant mood booster. When you are happy, so is your child. You will think better and act kinder. Want to know more about the benefits of exercising? Ask Dr Google.smile

  1. Read self-development or motivational books, magazines or blog post like this one.

This is your mental nutrition. It’s what keeps you going when things are getting tough. When your eyes are scanning through the motivational words, your brain is working unconsciously to lift your spirit and mood. That’s the reason I always read this type of books in the mornings because I know those words can strengthen my mind.

There you have it. These are my “secrets” for homeschooling Chinese as a full-time working parent.

I know every homeschooling life is different, hopefully, by showing what’s going on in our home that you can work out what’s best for your family.

Homeschooling is not razzle-dazzle. It requires your dedication and commitment. Think about the difference you can make to your child’s life.

How many times that you’ve heard the 2nd or 3rd generation Chinese saying “I wish I learnt Chinese when I was a child”?

If you don’t want your child to say that when they grow up, then do something about it. Be in mind homeschooling Chinese is not just about helping your child to learn Chinese, it’s also about to cultivate the joy of learning in general.

You don’t have to homeschool as I do. But the only way for your child to learn Chinese is for you to take action, either you teach or find someone to teach.

You got this, I know.


Are you a full time working parent who is homeschooling your child Mandarin? If not, would you like to start but not sure how? What are the roadblocks in your way? Feel free to leave your comments below or go to the Panda Mama Chinese Facebook page to join the conversation.

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