The Good and The Beautiful Curriculum Review

I wanted to review this fantastic curriculum we have been using since July 2017 called The Good and The Beautiful.

Last post on homeschooling was about Simply Learning Kids and Peaceful Preschool. Their approach is a very gentle Charlotte Mason/Waldorf/Montessori approach to homeschool. It is not super rigorous but does emphasize good quality children’s literature and fun art projects that go with the letter or books. Its schedule uses Letter of the Week (some even extend to a letter per 2 weeks) and for a certain age, I think that is a little too slow to introduce letters and sounds once kids are motivated to read. I know we are aiming for mastery, but many letters of the alphabet do not need 3 to 8 days of coverage. I think PP is the perfect pace for 2-3 year olds but for my 4 year old he was asking for more and I didn’t have any more than what I prepped for that day. For that reason, I am glad to have implemented The Good and The Beautiful and Challenger Phonics Fun using songs to learn letter sounds and rules (see below).

I found The Good and The Beautiful (TGTB) curriculum through online searching for homeschool curriculum that used Charlotte Mason style. I was impressed by the affordability of the curriculum and looked at all the samples on their site as well as watched Youtube review videos by Salty Tribe Co, which are extremely informative and show how passionate its users can be. TGTB also has an emphasis on good literature, but its Pre-K is not solely art projects, handiwork or even around the children’s literature. It teaches basic skills like letter sounds, counting, colors, and introduces money and art appreciation.
I started TGTB when D was almost 4.5. I knew at that stage he needed more academic work. His Chinese is pretty good but he was a little behind in English proficiency. After several months of using this, I know this is a good fit for my son. He loved the literature of Peaceful Preschool, but I didn’t use the curriculum in full because I don’t have the time to prep for and do all the fun activities. TGTB is just the right amount of schoolwork. It seems too simplistic at first glance but it actually perfectly addresses the student’s needs and gives exercises to help them practice but in short lessons that don’t exhaust the child. For example, I had no idea that kids this age confuse lowercase b and d but the course book addresses this using fun practice activities. Kids do not realize they are learning but they are.

A friend (who does an informal homeschool co-op with me) thought her daughter knew all the letter sounds and identified letters but when we tested her blending skills it was so apparent she’s still working on letter sounds especially the vowel sounds. We’ve been working on each letter using TGTB when we’re at our place and it’s just the right amount of work for these 4 year olds.

I think the right amount of work is a lesson from TGTB and an art literary activity from PP or SLK

I have purchased the science units and history in support of this curriculum even though it is intended for grades K-6. I haven’t used these yet but I can tell you that they are so beautifully printed and thoughtfully made. There is a very minimal prep work involved, which for a busy mom like me, has been a breath of fresh air. My preschooler is of the logical and concrete style, so he doesn’t really miss the art. I think I will still try to incorporate it every once in a while for a well-rounded education. I find he really loves doing homeschool every day and asks for more. That’s pretty incredible.

I think it no coincidence that I gravitated towards simple but engaging curriculum like Peaceful Preschool and The Good and The Beautiful and that my blog (2013-present) has been called Simply Beautiful Beautifully Simple. I like things to be simple; I like things to be beautiful and uplifting and want to create this type of world in my home as a contrast to what is out there in the world.

I think I might return back to PP when my twins are ready to learn in a homeschool setting for tot school.

I will add that Peaceful Preschool and The Good and The Beautiful all have amazing Facebook communities; it really adds to my faith knowing there are others with similar values and are trying to intentionally raise their kids with a love of God and His word, respect for country and self, and many other things I feel is lacking in the public schools. I feel there is a great support system now that we have the Internet to connect us.

Challenger Phonics Fun

A short side note about Challenger School Phonics Fun – This is super old school (circa 1991) but I still like it. I attended Challenger School for preschool and still recognize some of the songs. It is much more intelligent than most (if not all) of the trash on Youtube pretending to be ABC and phonics songs. D loves the characters and the music. What I love is that the songs teach phonics rules and their alphabet song (“What does the A say?”) will teach vowels’ long and short sound as well as all the other letters’ sounds. The alphabet song (to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle) most kids in America learn, “A,B,C,D,E…” is not enough because it only teaches letter names (not needed for learning to read).

I will also add that he doesn’t watch any TV in English except for the Pixar Cars movies and a little YouTube so he really loved watching Challenger and then kind of grew out of the first and second volume. The third volume is better introduced when kids have mastered the content in one and two because irregular vowels get tricky.

The activity books are excellent for him and I love that this set includes all the flashcards you need, unlike All About Reading (which is beautiful and I’m sure, very nice) where you need to buy multiple levels. It works for us, and I’m not saying it will work for everyone, but it’s what we’ve been using for our limited-English proficient child who is making a lot of gains in the language. 

I personally think you can teach reading earlier. TGTB doesn’t teach reading at pre-K, it is mostly reviewing letter sounds and letter formation (basic handwriting). We are currently half way through level pre-K and it hasn’t touched on blending or phonics at all. So that is why I felt D needed something supplemental. However, if you are fine with gentle approach, I know TGTB will eventually work on phonics and flash cards, so don’t worry too much.

This year’s curriculum:

I plan to use pre-K and the K Primer in the year 2018. This curriculum does take a back seat to our Chinese work using Qiaohu so we go very slowly compared to our monolingual homeschooled peers. I plan to start using Sagebooks for Chinese character reading; still anxiously waiting their arrival!

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Magic Holes Board Books Review

 

Just wanted to share that I found an awesome deal on the Magic Holes/Look and See books through Sharon’s Dynasty, an online bookstore that is closing at the end of the year. Please, please, please GO NOW and find a few titles for your Chinese-speaking littles. THIS CLOSING SALE ENDS 12/31

These used to be published in Chinese in Taiwan who bought the rights from La Coccinella (Italy). The English edition of the series is called Look and See and is available on Amazon; SimpleGuy said he grew up reading a few. (What?) My mother brought all of her Taiwan series (with a heavy ridiculous old-school spiral binding that was tearing the books up) to Texas once on one of her trips (bless her heart!).

This new edition is MUCH better than the old Taiwan version. They’re not perfect but there is actually a storyline. The old Taiwan version (which I gave to my sis-in-law and my older brother–sorry guys, it’s all we had before QiaoHu) was seriously written by idiots. I am sorry but I could have done better and I’m not native.

This edition uses simplified Chinese and there is also pinyin for those ABC moms like me. (Speaking of ABC moms, you NEED to check out this site chalkacademy.com –there are tons of awesome Chinese learning resources Montessori style for preschool and kindergarten aged kids. AND look at her book list, I am trying to acquire them all.)

I think the print is quality and kids LOVE the cut out holes. The storyline compared to a lot of other Chinese kids’ books is decent to adequate. The illustrations are FAR better than most YouTube style digitalized cartoons for the masses. (No, QiaoHu doesn’t count! He is from Japan and has a ton of educational and cultural content! lol)

Right now they are 60% off with the code CHRISTMAS during checkout. She uses Shopify for checkout and yes, I have received my books all in plastic wrap (just be careful, the pages get stuck together because they were in shrink wrap for some time).

You do pay for shipping Media Mail rate, but it is by weight. Example, 12.99 for an order 9-20 lbs; I think that is reasonable!

Recommendations:

  1. Little Star – Did I mention that a lot of weight is placed on illustrations? For books for this age range, it is so important that the art is beautiful, quality and comforting. That is really what reading at this age is about–enjoyment. So the Little Star book is pretty good here. The main character is a little fox who can’t fall sleep.
  2. A Year Has Twelve Months – This is also one with good illustrations. Luckily the months of the year are extremely easy in Chinese (January is month 1) so I actually need this in English for D to learn months of the year. Hopefully you celebrate holidays in your home because if you don’t then this book is not for you. Halloween and Christmas do appear.
  3. The Curious Cat – Another title with good illustrations. This one has big to little holes, most are animals’ homes, others are a little different: example, a hole in a leaf that a caterpillar has eaten etc.
  4. Who Weighs the Same – This has cute illustrations but also does a good job of comparing weights of different animals. It’s a good way to show kids the idea of “equivalent weight.” Example, a dinosaur apparently weighs the same as two whales.

Ones that are…interesting?

  1. Circus of Colors has some really weird colors like yellow and orange on the page for orange; magenta and purple for the page for purple, etc. and it has a woman cut in half on the dark blue page–yes, it’s a circus, but a little perplexing for youngsters.
  2. We happen to have the Wheels on the Go in Chinese and English now. I’m not a huge fan of it despite the fact that D is totally into cars, all day, every day. The vehicles are all really odd; they do not appear from large to small; there is no sense to them. It’s fine but just could have been better.
  3. I feel that What’s This and Hello Baby are extremely childish, just by judging the book’s preview pages. I could be completely wrong but I do feel I am a good judge of children’s literature. I’m shopping for 2 year old twins so I skipped these titles, but maybe you’d consider them for a infant or young baby.
  4.  The Little Green Caterpillar is so similar to Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar but just more nasty (no one wants to share their food with the caterpillar) so I just suggest skipping this one for the classic Carle book in Chinese which is also available on Sharon’s Dynasty.

 

Qiaohu 巧虎 2017-2018 Preview

I’ve received many responses and feedback from my previous Qiaohu posts, so I wanted to share the new updated subscription information.

This is the QiaoHu (CiaoHu) 幼幼 Youyou (Yoyo) version. Remember that the website and the version names use Taiwanese pinyin not hanyu pinyin, so if you search online for “Qiaohu”, it will only give you information for the mainland China not Taiwan version.

UPDATE: Do you know there is also a Cantonese version of Qiaohu too? Contact their California office for more information!

Twin Baby B is OBSESSED with 小花 XiaoHua. She loves her like a baby doll. She has played with XiaoHua literally every day for the last year. It’s kind of annoying. But it is the perfect size for toddlers. We took it to visit family and a 2-year old cousin M (a boy, I might add) loved to hold and play with her too. D still loves it whenever XiaoHua is in the DVDs. I don’t get why she’s so cute, I just know it’s cuteness overload for all kids!

D still plays with the restaurant food from this version; it’s cute and small, way smaller than our Learning Resources food. But it’s really the perfect size for them, small enough to develop some fine motor skills too.

Yoyo “Toddler” ban for ages 2-3

Here is 快樂 (kuaile) or Happy ban for ages 3-4. I LOVE the talking pen in this version, it is really a great teaching tool. D loved it and the books have some very advanced topics: the book on the hospital was a huge surprise. I don’t know if the books are different this year than last; if they are different, I’d be tempted to order just the books.

Kuaile “Happy” ban for preschoolers ages 3-4

Below is Chengzhang 成長 ban, the current version we get for D. It’s pretty awesome. It started to teach zhuyin and has more math and science covered in it. Before this version, the only math covered is number recognition for 1-10 and some basic counting skills (some basic dividing).
It is starting to teach more advanced language skills. This version also has zhuyin written in the workbooks, which makes it actually easier for me (as an ABC) to read. If you have gaps in your Mandarin Chinese reading skills, but learn zhuyin, you will be able to “spell out” the words.

I’m not stoked about the toys in this year’s Chengzhang ban subscription but we have PLENTY of Qiaohu toys at our house, so it’s not a big deal. I like that it is more academic in content; I am excited about a new talking pen with similar technology to the one included in kuaile ban.

Chengzhang “Growing” ban for preschoolers ages 4-5

The rate has also gone up from my last post. I am still willing to subscribe, but it is getting pricey. According to recent emails, the yearly rate is $345-355 and $188-190 for half yearly. I am assuming ABC Island (which is not as needed here in the US) is $345 while the Chinese subscriptions are $355.

If the information has been helpful, please consider adding me as a referral when you order. Here is the website. The order form is here. Their phone number is 714-888-5190.

My referral ID is 2600018310, first name’s Kyleen.

Referrers get a small Qiaohu toy or game; it isn’t much but my kids will love you forever. Thank you!

Pre-K with Simply Learning Kids Blog

I have loved using the literature units at Simply Learning Kids (SLK). This blogger mom has done everything right. Her original plans are detailed and creative. You do not need to commit to homeschool to do her activities, there is so much you can do on her site with your child just for fun or rainy day activities.

I honestly needed help finding good literature at the preschool level as I neglected to find these type of stories in English since I was so focused on keeping Chinese the dominant language in our home. Our books were mostly Usborne and by itself, it isn’t enough (and I’m sorry to say that because I am a consultant though inactive) because Usborne is mostly informational and really lacks in quality of storybooks—the classics we grew up with combined with some new modern stories—the good quality literature that helps kids love reading and in the habit of hearing a story unfold. 

SLK mom has transitioned to using the Peaceful Preschool (PP) from Peaceful Press. It’s similar but not completely the same style as her old curriculum. In comparison to PP, the original units at SLK are more time consuming work to prep but at the same time, it’s just prepping paper and lamination. I can do it while binge-watching Netflix. 

PP is a different style of prep work. I feel like PP is more Waldorf and Montessori in style than I’d like to be, so I’d like to apply some of the concepts, it’s just super difficult to with two toddlers and a preschooler. They bake bread, make all-natural cleaners and homemade play dough; I just don’t have time to do these things with my kids right now in my current life situation. I need a curriculum that is already made without time-consuming activities. (Also, because I have placed more emphasis on learning Chinese, I have skipped over a lot of material, like poems, for now. I have a lot of material to go over, more than the regular homeschooling family.) 

What has helped me is to go over all the preparation questions and family vision and school plan in the PP curriculum and her videos available in the Facebook group you join if you buy the curriculum. 

SLK is doing extension activities off of PP with less downloadable material (which is sad!) but even her basic activities and ideas are more what I want to do for the time being: simple art projects, montessori 3-part cards, emphasis on many different types of literature; so I’m grateful for the site. I will continue to make and use her old materials and gradually move to the PP letter units and her extension activities. 

She has recently made all letter unit (letters cards, scriptures, worksheets) and 3 part cards available. This is fantastic news for those of us printing at Staples or similar. You can now print everything you need at once instead of waiting for updated posts.

Please check out this site and for more ideas and inspiration, follow her Instagram. Remember, the key is to have the ideas inspire you, not overwhelm you. 
I love her lists of supplies, books and toys. I am learning so much about the resources to keep a minimalist style of home for kids. It’s easy as a stay at home mom to buy random things at the dollar store or education store without thought of the purpose behind them. While I have to say, I’m not completely minimalist, I do lean that way and strive to be less materialistic.

I have almost bought all of the items on her list of minimalist homeschooling supplies; it cost me a lot of money to buy the art supplies, in fact, initially, it didn’t seem minimalist to me; but as she said on the site, it is quality materials that will last over multiple years of use. And I will likely never go back to Crayola watercolor and crayons.  

A few tips on the supplies:

  • I got my Educational Insights jumbo letter stamps from Amazon and Zulily. Each pad is about $13 and sometimes you can score free shipping. The ink pad is also sometimes featured.
  • Get the watercolor cake palette from Michael’s, not Amazon. The set is only $5. Totally worth it. 
  • Get the XL watercolor paper from Walmart, not Amazon. It’s only $5 a pad.
  • Get the white roll paper from IKEA. It will be shorter in width but a lot less expensive. It also coordinates with the easel they sell. I have rarely used my roll paper because I am only homeschooling one; I probably would use it more if all three of my kids were involved in the art projects.
  • I haven’t bought a printer yet but I am tempted to. I am used to using Staples and Minuteman Press. Some of the printouts don’t need to be high quality if they are consumable, but the cards and activities you laminate and use over and over again probably should be especially if you have multiple kids.

New to Homeschooling

We have begun to homeschool our 4 year old.

This has been a difficult journey for many reasons. For one, I think every parent but especially every homeschool parent feels they are never doing enough for his or her kid. Why we feel this inadequacy stems from our own childhood, what we think we were deprived of, what we wish we had known, and also the tendency to parent the way we were parented, for better or worse. My preschooler’s tantrums really bring out the angry mom in me. My mom was strict with me too and part of it is my personality.

The battle to face your weaknesses is magnified when you homeschool. I realize not all of you want to homeschool, but I think this post can be related to just parenting in general.

I want to share our why of homeschool and share some early challenges:

The Why’s

There are many, many reasons why we chose to homeschool; the essence of why we are homeschooling boils down our family priorities and flexibility or schedule. We want to spend time educating our children on things that are priorities in our family and we think are neglected or dismissed in the public schools. We want our kids to be as bilingual as possible; I know that even in the best immersion setting, kids will not maintain bilingualism unless there is a need to speak the language and a lot of exposure in the real world.  So we want to take our kids to Taiwan/China or even the local Chinese-owned stores and businesses to speak in the real-world, not just on Saturday school. We also want to be able to have a religious education element in our schooling. We also want to have our kids learn about entrepreneurship and true financial literacy; all these things are not taught in regular schools; too many kids are taught to get hired, not to create value out of ideas.

We also want the flexibility to design curriculum and a school schedule that meets our family’s needs. We do not want to get up at 7 am and be out the door by 7:30 am. We do not want to have “early out” days or have to deal with inclement weather days or PTA meetings or teacher conferences. We especially do not want our kids bored for 8 hours a day and on the opposite side, we especially don’t want them stressed out for 8 hours a day.

My husband is somewhat of a unschooler. He and I both attended public school and he reminds me all the time how much time is wasted on classroom management or “parties” or fundraisers or pep rallys. He honestly thinks that our kids will just learn by being with us, going on family outings and unstructured play.  He does not care if our kids go to college, as long as they learn a trade and are competitive in their chosen field. And I might add, he is an optometrist and has a doctorate degree. Of course, he knows college is a good route for those who need a degree like lawyers, doctors or teachers, but we’re talking about other professions that really do not need a college degree.

As the English Teaching major, I have a different view. I think there are certain academics that need to be taught, like reading, writing and math. Also art, music, and history are vital to life-long learning. I love literature and school. I take a Charlotte Mason-classical study approach to many subjects. I would like to use Montessori and Waldorf elements to promote creativity in play. Basically I am an eclectic homeschooler and trying to stay minimalist, but it’s so hard, which takes me to my next topic: the challenges.

The First Challenge

The earliest challenge is determining the identity my home and homeschool will have, especially with our differing views. There are a ton of different philosophies of early childhood education and how that looks like in the homeschool setting. Luckily, we’re only doing preschool which is 20-40 minutes a day and only 4 days of school. Sometimes “school” is just art projects or reading. It’s chill now, but I want a long-term plan for the future and it feels like completely uncharted territory because we throw in things like foreign language and scripture study that others don’t. Do you know of any Chinese-speaking homeschoolers? The community is growing but it’s still incredibly small even in a place like Plano.

I think my biggest take-away right now is to succeed as a parent, you need to stay true to yourself and don’t be swayed by every little blog post, book list, toy list, Pinterest craft or Instagram feed out there. This overload of information is overwhelming and stressful and does not add to being a good parent.

I do think every parent can improve little by little. It is good to read up on child development and education, not leaving it up to others, which the study of homeschooling as done for me.

Recently I’ve been reading up on Montessori and Waldorf, specifically what kinds of toys and activities they use. (And remember, Montessori does offer day care and elementary school, so this is not just for homeschoolers.)

I stayed awake a couple nights ago thinking about how awful of a parent I’ve been for having toys with batteries in them, or for having plastic toys instead of wooden or wondering if I need to get rid of all the Disney, cartoon or pop culture toys in my house (which if you’ve read my Qiaohu posts, we have accumulated a ton of these!)

In efforts to improve, I even spent a ton of money on some homemade wood toys off Etsy (which I haven’t received yet, but I will review if they’re good) because I thought, “I’m really going to embrace this minimalist, natural and open-ended style.” I look forward to trying out a different style of toy for my kids, but in general, I need to avoid any extreme changes to be successful at child-rearing or homeschooling. I do not need to throw out all my kids’ toys right now because I have been attempting to be minimalist in the possessions we buy and have. I just need to improve the process moving forward and learn from my mistakes.

I’ve needed to step back and really think back to my “why’s”. Why do I emphasize certain ideals in my home over others? What has been successful  to excite my kids about learning? Yes, we use a lot of screen time learning Chinese; my son loves it and his Mandarin has improved so much. He has learned to recite a Tang dynasty poem and a handful of Chinese characters. Has it been done in a kind of plastic-toy cartoon-y commercialized kind of way? Yes, but who cares? He loves it. We really do not watch any other TV and he only has about three movies he gets to watch on special occasions.

We do have a lot of plastic toys. I try to buy quality over quantity, like play food and Duplo especially; but I also accept the gifts and hand-me-downs of others which has watered down my vision of our house’s toy stash.

Has it made my life a little crazy? I have tried to make good effort to buy more creative, inspiring and free-thinking toys. I do try to make an effort not to buy those so-called “educational” toys or toys that overstimulate.

I blogged once about used toys and clothes and I still think used and preowned are great options; however, after doing this research, I recently went to my local Once Upon a Child and realized that a majority of what is there is just that, junky electronic toys; not all of it, but most of it.

But then a family member buys a toy that sings and recites nursery rhymes. Another buys a plastic toy car with screws. (Don’t they know we have a ton of cars already? And aren’t plastic?) We have a lot of Pixar Cars and Hot Wheels and my son has played endlessly with them; have they opened his imagination? I think so. Should I feel guilty we have these mainstream-brand toys? I don’t think so.

I will post on some of the sites that have resonated with me, in hopes this will help you if you are doing some “school” time at home. My intent is not to give you pressure to be a certain type of mom but just to show you how you will know if a style of education excites you, then it is probably for you.

love you guys!

Cottage Door Press Board Book Review

Introducing chunky flaps! I have found some new favorite board books from Cottage Door Press, the Peek-a-Flap series and the Chunky Lift-a-Flap series. These are the perfect books for active toddlers who destroy everything. My firstborn was the perfect toddler, who never ripped or tore a book ever. He’s also mildly OCD so we have had our share of challenges.

My twins are much rougher with books. If I gave them my Usborne Peek Inside series (which I love and recommend as a must-have from Usborne), they would destroy or fold up the flaps in 30 seconds.

These flaps are durable, made of the same cardboard material as the book.

I found the Chunky Lift-a-Flap (Little Green Frog and others) at our local Barnes and Noble and I even let my twins try out the flaps and they did not destroy them! Usually I do not believe in using the bookstore like a library but in this case we were fine because the books went back on the shelf in perfect condition.

I like that the Peek-a-Flap combines a word book with flap books with informational text. This is age-appropriate for toddlers; babies might get easily bored with it, but you don’t even need to read every word; just talk about the illustrations.

I’m sure these will be dropped, worn and dented over time, but I am fairly confident the flaps will remain in tact.

For the younger babies, I liked the Chunky Lift-a-Flap series. I especially like Babies on the Farm and Little Green Frog.  I gifted Baby B with Babies on the Farm for Easter because spring and farm animals are so suitable for the season. I like that it uses vocabulary like goat kid, piglet and duckling instead of simplifying the words (like “baby duck”) as so many other baby books do.

Just based on my previews of the other board book series on their website, I was not as impressed with the other chunky flap books like First Word (called Babies ❤)  series or others, but I am judging them by their covers.  A lot of them seem cheaply done to me, however, these two series I’ve mentioned are fantastic and I highly recommend them for their illustrations and durability.

I own a lot of word and board books already and I’m trying to get the most bang out of my buck for each book I buy. I used to buy whatever was cheapest and I’m learning to stretch my dollars buy buying less but with more quality. I know there are a ton of choices out on the book market today, but these offerings are truly unique.

I would highly recommend Peek-a-Flap or the select few Chunky Lift-a-Flap for first-time parents. You will not be disappointed.

Toddler Busy Books and Activities 

I’ve sunk some good money into quiet activities for my kids since we go to church every week where quiet is desirable (but really hard for this age group). I think it’s worth investing in independent play that not only teaches academic concepts and fine motor skills but also teaches appropriate behavior by redirecting them to a hands on activity that does not require screens.

 Here’s a list of some of my favorite resources:

  • Magnets — my favorite activity is magnets because unlike velcro and zippers, magnets are relatively quiet. I like this set from Janod which are made from wood with a nice gloss finish. I bought them for about $8 from Zulily. Please note Zulily doesn’t offer returns, but if you know what you’re getting and will keep the items, it’s a good way to shop for a bargain.

    • File folders — this is an old school method used by a lot of mom friends. Finch Family Games is one of my favorites, they have some LDS and Bible themed, but there’s also plenty of secular themes. They’re styled similar to old school Carson-Dellosa classroom decor, which speaks straight to my teacher heart. Keep in mind the hard copy books offered are black and white (b/w). The digital downloads are available in color or b/w. We make our file folders to last using quality materials.We use this Scotch laminator from Wal-Mart. The laminating sheets are cheapest at Amazon where they do go on sale often, so wait for a good price and do some price history checks (camelcamelcamel and slickdeals.net are my go to for Amazon prices). We use plastic file folders from Staples, which we scored for about $4 with a coupon for $10 off $10 but we also used regular Scotch tape for the laminated sheet inside so we will be able to reuse the folder. I also splurged on 3M Dual Lock rounds to use in place of velcro, they’re available at Jet.com but you need to buy in bulk, $100’s worth. It’s quieter to pull off and adheres to the paper well. You can go the more budget-friendly way, which is to use plain file folders, use b/w copies, do the coloring yourself, use thinner lamination and clear velcro or alternatively, adhesive magnets which are cheap but don’t look as nice. 

      • Magnets part two with pom poms or other homemade magnets– I’ve also used a magnet board with pom poms; my first version was a simple cookie sheet from Walmart for 88c. But this was slightly bigger than a sheet of paper and kind of loud. So I updated to thinner and smaller, a 8×10 Loran magnet board from Joanns (with a 50% off coupon about $3.25), it’s used for needlework patterns. This requires smaller play mats than 8.5 x 11 but you can always adjust when you print. This slimmer piece of metal can be made safer with masking tape around the edges and then placed into a sheet protector with an adhesive magnet closure, so that metal sheet and laminated worksheets are kept in one pocket. You could do this with your own sheet metal as a more cost effective way but I didn’t want to go through that hassle or danger. Just fyi, my local Home Depot does not cut metal and I would have had to buy a large roll of sheet metal there for about 10 bucks to do the DIY method.
      • Check the One Spot Dollar section at Target. A friend of mine found these great felt busy books for $3. It pays to have mom friends looking out for you! Felt is a great option for a quiet book but takes a lot of time designing, cutting and gluing. It is probably the quietest of all quiet book materials. I’ve also purchased a nice magnetic scene board with transportation from there; since Preschooler loves cars, we got a lot of use out of it. 

        • Check the dollar store — craft supplies, toy cars, puzzles, are all worth buying at the dollar store. We had a dollar store puzzle made of erasers with a farmyard scene that kept my kid busy for 20 minutes. It was his first puzzle experience and now he loves them (but needed a lot of parent help at first)
        • Binder pouches with random distractions — once again, quiet is best. It’s best to find a binder pouch that is relatively quiet. Walmart used to carry these sturdy plastic ones with the slider zipper instead of the traditional zipper. It is very quiet and easy for kids to open by themselves. I definitely recommend these over the others with a regular closure. My crafty friend carries kid scissors, paperclips for making chains and Popsicle sticks for shape making. This is kind of like the restaurant kit people make with a makeup bag, only with 3 ring pouches, you can extend this to as many pockets as can fit in a D ring. Even my toddler twins love just holding the plastic and “flipping” through the pages.

        Materials needed:

        You need scissors, tape and hot glue and adhesive magnets and/or clear velcro fasteners are available at Home Depot (but 3M Dual Lock fasteners are recommended as an alternative to velcro) 

        If you choose to do the lamination yourself, you’ll need a Scotch laminator and pouches.

        A craft paper trimmer is optional but nice to have for straight lines

        Craft supplies are optional and vary based on project:pom poms, Popsicle sticks, neon binder pouches  (recommend Casemate binder pouches with black slider zipper or equivalent)
        Enjoy!

        Qiaohu 巧虎 2016-2017 Preview

        Yoyo “Toddler” ban for ages 2-3
        Kuaile “Happy” ban for preschoolers ages 3-4

        I found these images off the Qiaohu website, for those of you who are interested in seeing what the 幼幼版 (Youyou or yoyo ban) and 快樂版 (kuaile ban) subscription receive each month from September 2016 to August 2017.

        Remember the best time to begin the subscription box is at the beginning of each school year, so you get the whole slew of topics and variety without repeating unnecessary content or subject matter.

        I mean, the songs can get so annoying,  you really do want fresh material each month. If you subscribe by calendar year, there is a risk you will receive repeat gifts or dvds with similar content or lessons.

        Now is the time to subscribe for September!

        In a conversation I had with the office, they told me that this year’s Yoyo ban has toys each month which is a new feature, they used to not have so many toys, but everyone who’s been around a 3 year old knows they need imaginative play and a lot of it.

        I really wish I could subscribe to both but we are advancing to Kuaile ban this September because my child needs more stories and early literacy rather than imaginative play, which is why there will be less toys and more storybooks in the kuaile ban.

        But honestly I can’t wait for my twins to subscribe to Yoyo ban because it’s so much fun to have stories in DVD form and thematic toys that go along with the subject or topic. My child’s language development has really blossomed with the use of these DVDs and imaginative play.

        The boxes really do well at addressing needs of the children and their development.

        If this information has been helpful, please consider adding me as a referral when you order. My ID is 2600018310. They give out Qiaohu gifts to referrers. My kids will love you forever!

        Note: there is a BaoBao ban for babies ages 6 months all the way to grade school, age 8 plus. Check out the site.

        Qiaohu 巧虎 August 2016 Preview

        Since I’ve received a lot of inquiry into the QiaoHu (CiaoHu) subscription box, please allow me to preview the latest box’s content. I’ve been really impressed with each box we’ve received. Toys are simple, cute and educational. The DVDS can get annoying on a loop but doesn’t that happen with all kids’ music, toys and interactive fun?

        Parent’s user pamphlet
        August activity workbook cover
        Stickers from activity workbook

        Sample pages
        DVD
        CD
        Special workbook/storybook

        Each month they send a DVD, activity workbook, parent’s user pamphlet and either toy, CD and/or storybook.

         I think it’s totally worth it! (For me, I break down the value this way DVD $10, workbook $10, toy or CD $10. Some of the toys are extra special and are worth $10-15—perceived value, of course!) The educational value language-wise is worth it to me. And they also cover colors, numbers, shapes, and certain preschooler know-how’s like tidying up and sorting. 

        *I would totally appreciate it if you added me as a referral on your order should you choose to subscribe. I’m a fan not an employee. My kids will receive a complimentary gift from Benesse. My Referral ID 2600018310, first name is Kyleen

        Qiao Hu 巧虎 and Fortune Cookie Mom

        Just wanted to share some of my new discoveries for teaching kids Chinese at home: the QiaoHu subscription for my 3-year old learning Chinese and a neat free printables and teaching ideas site by a mommy blogger in HK.

        QiaoHu 巧虎 subscription 

        Each month they send a DVD about 25 minutes long, with a variety of songs, rhymes, stories and introduction of toys (included in some of the months) that teach good habits, manner and practices for young kids. We started watching the DVDs we inherited from a church friend, mostly to distract Toddler while I fed the twins but it has been surprisingly educational for him. (Search YouTube for some examples.) He watches almost daily, but he doesn’t get much more screen time, other than a few movies mostly about cars and their truck friends. You know, those ones.

        As a example, June 2016’s box the DVD has theme of about categorizing; each activity or song connects to sorting and categorizing. But there is also some Chinese-Taiwanese cultural aspects to it like there is a Tang dynasty poem put to song, which is even difficult content even for me. In the past months they discussed Dragon Boat festival and Chinese New Year etc. Also I saw one once on YouTube for elementary kids about using the special hole-in-the-ground toilets they have in Taiwan, and Toddler will never see that in real life here in America. But it’s kind of interesting to talk about the different cultures and ways of life. The DVD also has a segment about not hitting other kids when playing and how to tell other kids to wait while they’re still playing with a coveted toy.

        Each month there’s an activity book or workbook with stickers, with content similar to the DVD with the stories in paper form instead of video form. It’s all in Chinese, so I actually can’t read 100% but I feel like it’s a good practice for me to read because the subject matter is basic.

        yoyo

        Then some months they have little toys, a little XiaoHua (QiaoHu’s baby sister) to take care of, a pretend cash register that makes sounds etc. Each year’s program has slightly different varieties of toys, some will repeat, others will not.

        This is this school year’s toy lineup, just so you can see that some toys will repeat (car, XiaoHua, fishing game):

        I began subscribing in June, so I will only get the last few months of the previous 15-16 calendar.

        The Qiaohu agents wanted me to advance to the next level for 3 to 4 year olds in September, and at first, I didn’t want to mostly because I only wanted to subscribe to one version per year and thought to obtain one whole year’s worth of materials from Yoyo so I could reuse materials for the twins but I do plan advance him now. If there is new content later,  then I guess I will have to subscribe to two versions, one for Toddler and the other for the Twins.

        For new subscribers, I would recommend starting in September so you will not get repeating material, basically getting on their schedule of school year vs calendar year. However, I know my kid has enjoyed having new materials this summer especially since we’re homebound with so many littles and with the Texas heat outside. He’s still learned a lot from each month.

        There are materials from infant (baby) up to 5th grade, the subject matter getting more academic as you get more advanced. I plan to use the program as long as Toddler has interest because a friend shared with me some of the materials her kindergartner is using, and I think they are all pretty well made: there’s a talking pen that reads stories and more complex puzzles and games. They introduce Zhuyin, which is good if you plan to use reading materials from Taiwan later on. I’m probably going to use Hanyu Pinyin with Toddler and will just try to use the Zhuyin for my own reading aloud to him.

        The subscription costs $308 for 12 months or $168 for 6. It is pricey but it’s a luxury I’m willing to pay for, just because I haven’t found good Chinese language materials that are age appropriate and Toddler is very close to native ability, though we use a ton of Chinglish. I found to continue his progression, he needed materials made specifically for native speakers. Yes, it’s SUPER cheesy and kind of silly but it really is one of the best programs I’ve come across that’s widely available.

        Here’s the website, but keep in mind it’s in Chinese for those of you like me who struggle with characters.

        I’m super excited to find this as teaching Chinese to my kids is super important to me. Part of the reason why we are seriously considering homeschool is because we can incorporate our faith and the Chinese language and other things important to our family that are not addressed in the public school. A discussion for another day.

        If you are interested in subscribing, please message me and I’ll forward you the contact information you need. Let me know if you have any questions.

        *I would totally appreciate it if you added me as a referral. My kids will earn a complimentary gift from Benesse. My Referral ID 2600018310

        Qiaohu is also known as Shimajiro in Japanese is you are looking for the Japanese equivalent. I found a Tomy Qiaohu car that way.

        Fortune Cookie Mom

        I came across Fortune Cookie Mom by way of Facebook because she is probably a friend of a friend of a friend. We have a lot in common, both of educator background and advocates of homeschooling.

        Since subscribing to her newsletter, I’ve found her free printables really well done. I will definitely be using them in my future homeschool if we choose to go that route or even use the materials for quiet books and rainy day activities. Please go check them out.

        Fortune Cookie Mom website:

        Fortune Cookie Mom