If you live in a non-Mandarin speaking country as we do, you will likely wonder how you are going to help your children in learning Chinese as a second language. In this post, I’m going to share with you the reasons why I homeschool my daughter Chinese.
1. No dual-language immersion school nearby.
We live in the outer suburbs of Perth where there is only a weekend class (approx 25 minutes by car from us) that my daughter goes to on Saturday mornings.
However, it is volunteer-based and teachers change frequently.
Also, children’s Chinese language ability in the class varies significantly.
Children’s learning progress is not tracked and taught accordingly.
The only reason I send my daughter there is for her to hang out with the kids who are also learning Chinese so that she doesn’t feel like an alien.
In the 1st Term of 2020, the local primary school that my daughter goes go will be adding a weekly Chinese lesson (the more exposure, the better).
It’s better than nothing I suppose, but one can not achieve the language fluency by just one lesson a week.
I know this because I didn’t start learning English until I was at age 24 when I did nothing but learning English every day for two years! More on this later.
2. Not enough exposure in the Mandarin Chinese language environment.
Language is a living and breathing skill that one needs to use every day.
The exposure of 2nd language for children should be at least 30% per day to achieve a fluency, preferably more.
My daughter spends 7 hours and five days a week in her school where everyone speaks English.
When she comes home, my husband only speaks English too, which doesn’t leave me much time to speak Mandarin with her, let alone writing in Chinese.
Mandarin is only for speaking. Writing, either in Simplified or Traditional Chinese, is a skill a child needs to learn separately)
3. Our needs for a self-paced and personalised learning environment
This is probably the most important of all reasons for me to teach our daughter Mandarin Chinese at home.
As a child, I was a helpless student because I didn’t like going to school.
I grew up in a rural part of China.
During the 80s, my mum and dad had to leave us ( my brother and sister) with grandparents for an extended period, and work in different cities to make ends meet.
We were looked after for most of the time and ensured food and safety.
As for education, it was UP TO US.
The terms such as play-based and child-led learning was never a part of our life.
I only discovered the joy of learning at age 24 when I voluntarily decided to go back to college study English as a skill to make a living after drifting a few years after high school.
I call those “drifting year” as “idle years” because I haven’t done anything useful to my life during those years. I had a few casual jobs here and there and that was about it. Not sure where I was going and what I wanted in my life.
One thing I learnt though during my “idle years” was that how much I didn’t like to be idle. I desired to be more useful, respected and have a better life.
The only way to do it was to learn a new skill. So I chose to go back to college and learn English.
Why English? Well, China was and still is a world factory with lots of foreign investments. Speaking English meant I could work in those companies that generally paid higher wages than Chinese-owned companies.
Once I started my studies in college, after all the bumps and bruises, I had opportunities and heaps of time reflecting my life, reading self-development books and gradually cultivated the JOY OF LEARNING.
To catch up with the time was lost during those idle years, I borrowed some money from my parents to pay for the tuition, rented a shared flat next to the college, and did nothing but studying English.
It was very extreme by Chinese standard at the time because most of my girlfriends were married or getting married. That’s what my family wanted me to do too.
But, being stubborn as I always have been, I refuse to bend. Kept going for two years then I was offered my first decent job as an interpreter.
Then another job until I met my Aussie husband Mark. That’s why I came to Australia.
I continued my studies while working in Australia and eventually graduated with a Master of Commerce in Professional Accounting degree.
You see, my experience has told me that what you do today to your life and to your child’s life will impact the future!
As a parent, I don’t want my child to go through what I’ve been through. I want her to be brought up in an environment where learning should be FUN and enjoyable.
As a result, I want to cultivate that joy of learning within my daughter, which is a habit that will benefit her forever.
Being a mum, I know what I do, particularly in the early years, will shape my daughter’s view on how she approaches life and career.
So, I’ve decided to teach Mylee Mandarin Chinese at home when she reached five in May 2019 when she was ready for structured learning.
At the time of writing this post (Dec 2019), my daughter is nearly five and a half.
In a short 6 months, she has learnt all the sounds of Chinese Pinyin alphabets and can identify the five tones correctly.
Chinese Pinyin is key for a child or a beginer to speak better Mandarin because Pinyin helps one to pronounce Mandarin properly with minimum accent.
She can also write some simple Chinese characters, which are the building blocks of writing more complex Chinese characters.
I know there is a long way to go before my daughter could master the Chinese language.
By the way, I teach my daughter Simplified Chinese writing, which is the writing system used in mainland China. There is another system called Traditional Chinese writing, which is used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
But hey, we all have to start somewhere. I have all the time for my daughter and I’m sure you do too. Otherwise, you won’t be reading my post this far.
Without our guidance and commitment, our children would simply not learn by themselves.
Our decision and commitment will make a difference in our children’s lives.
It’s a rewarding feeling whenever I think that I’m able to give my daughter this special gift that I know one day she’ll be glad to have.
Time will pass anyway. We might as well make most out it.
How about you? Are you in a similar situation as us? Are you struggling to decide the best way forward for your children’s Mandarin Chinese education? Leave your comments below or go to my Panda Mama Chinese Community page to ask questions, discuss with me and interact with other parents.