Phalaen is a native Mandarin speaker, born and raised in Taiwan until she was twelve. Her husband is American and doesn’t speak Chinese. She speaks Chinese to her three children.
3.5 year old son (started: right before 3; progress: ~6 months)
15 month old twin daughters (not applicable)
IN HER OWN WORDS
1. Why did you choose Sagebooks?
I was researching how best to teach my son Chinese (character first vs bo po mo fo) and was reading many blogs (especially Guavarama's) about people's journey. Many people mentioned Sagebooks. I was on the fence because they are not cheap. But it happened that a local family was done with the set and I got them for a good price so I decided to give them a try.
2. What was your experience with going through Sagebooks? What did your typical lesson look like? Did you do additional activities?
My son was about 3 weeks away from his 3rd birthday when we started. It has been 5 months and we are at Volume 3, Book 3 right now. We flew through the first set (with me deliberately slowing down the pace) and hit a roadblock around Volume 2, Book 2/3. Right now we are back on track with Volume 3. On average, we do 1 book every 1.5 to 2 weeks.
3. What did your typical lesson look like? Did you do additional activities?
We read before he goes to bed every night. It is a habit we started when he was 1 year old. Now I just substitute one of the books with Sagebooks. We typically do 5 lessons a day.
First day I would just read the whole thing while pointing out characters for all five lessons and my son would follow along. Second day I would leave out certain characters for him to read out on his own. Third day, he can usually just read all 5 lessons on his own. Then if he shows any sign of being bored, on the fourth day, we move to another 5 new lessons and repeat the process.
Before we move on to the next book, my son would have to be able to read the current book from cover to cover on his own. I would make a game when he gets bored. For example, I read odd pages while he reads even pages or I read odd number lessons while he reads the others.
I have done very few additional activities besides the first 2 months (life happened....). I made magnetic characters and arranged them in phrases on the blackboard. My son then read the phrases out loud. He liked being videotaped so that was his motivation for reading new phrases. We were on a road trip and when he got bored in the car, he asked me to write short stories (<10 short sentences) so he can recite them back to me.
4. What did you like about Sagebooks? Was there anything you didn't?
I like the story lines. They are very suitable for young toddlers. My son can't wait to get to the end of each book to find out what happens. I wish there's a version with traditional characters and zhuyin that my son can practice zhuyin at the same time.
5. If you have more than one child, would you do it again?
Of course! I am planning on doing it with my twin daughters (who's 15 months) in 2 years. They like flipping through Sagebooks now with my son so who knows if I might start them earlier.
6. Any advice for parents who are just starting?
Just start reading and make it a game! I never thought my son would be able to retain so many characters in that little head of his. I thought it was a waste of effort but decided it was worth a try. Some told me to start him later but hey, you never know if your kid is ready until you try. My son refers to Sagebooks as his 山 books.
Thanks so much for taking the time to detail your process, Phalaen! We wish you the best of luck (although we all know luck has little to do with it) for the rest of the series.