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Homeschool Chinese: Getting Started with Teaching Mandarin Chinese

Role Playing “我叫。。。”


When my daughter expressed her interest in learning Chinese, I was needless to say, apprehensive.  I didn’t speak Chinese myself and I thereby assumed it would be a major struggle.  I was determined, however, to make it happen for her and thereby sought out learning opportunities in our local area and looked for curriculum that we could use as non-native speakers.

We chose to go with Mandarin because it is the official language in China and Taiwan and is used by most of the Chinese schools, colleges, and universities, as well as their TV programs, movies, and radio stations. As my children were young, I opted to begin with the “My First Chinese Words” mini-book series. I was also able to find a native speaker and thereafter began to work together using a story-line approach.  The tutor would introduce new material in class and work on pronunciation skills.  She would also incorporate other resources and often created simple activities or games to keep her interested and engaged.  Because we were working with a native speaker / tutor, I opted not to purchase the accompanying workbooks when we first started.

At home, I encouraged my daughter to practice her developing language skills daily using the online resources  that included animated lessons, stories, and songs and rhymes.  Here is a video of Meili reading from Book #3, What is Your Name? 《你叫什么名字?》 This video was recorded in March 2009, after 7 months of instruction.

In August of 2011 our family moved and thereafter began to work with a different Mandarin tutor.  His style and approach to learning a second language are dramatically different than that of our first tutor. Coincidentally, we made the decision at the time of our move to also begin Mandarin instruction for my son.  Our new tutor started my son on his Mandarin language journey with the book,  Pin-Yin for Everybody.

Cooking with our Chinese tutor

I highly recommend this book and it now has an online option.  My son and his tutor worked through these lessons together while also using “My First Chinese Words”.  The lesson text and exercises made learning the Chinese tones and pronunciation fun.

Eva Varga

Eva is passionate about education. She has extensive experience in both formal and informal settings. She presently homeschools her two young children, teaches professional development courses through the Heritage Institute, and writes a middle level secular science curriculum called Science Logic. In addition to her work in education, she is an athlete, competing in Masters swimming events and marathons. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, learning new languages, and above all spending time with her family. ♥

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. Lauren permalink
    January 6, 2013

    I am trying to decide whether to purchase the simplified or traditional characters. Which do your children use and why?

    Background: We are a homeschool family with no native speaker in the house, although we do have Chinese relatives to contact via phone and email.

    Thank you.

    • January 7, 2013

      Great question, Lauren. We chose to go with simplified characters. I’ll be writing a post soon to explain further our reasons behind our decision. To summarize, however, simplified is the standard writing form employed in the mainland of China whereas the traditional form is mainly used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. We thereby chose to go with simplified because the majority of the population uses Simplified Chinese.

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