Ting Henderson’s Journey

This week’s Parent Spotlight is Ting Henderson and she started both her children at the same time at the beginning of 2018. Her older child blazed through in four months and her younger child is set to finish by the end of the year. Ting puts in a lot of effort and uses a technique called “spaced repetition” to help her children with the characters. Spaced recognition is a learning technique that regularly increases the time between reviewing previously learned material to take advantage of the “spacing effect.” It’s a highly effective method to acquire and retain a large amount of information.

 FAMILY BACKGROUND (in her own words) 

I am a Singaporean Chinese. I grew up in Singapore speaking English at home and learning Simplified in school. I hated Chinese as I wasn’t good at it, and I hope to change that around for my kids. I now live in HK where I find teaching Mandarin challenging as the local kids here speak Cantonese and we are not immersed in the language. My husband is American, and we speak mostly English at home. I had only in the last 10 months been speaking more Mandarin with them, encouraging them to speak more Mandarin, and teaching them how to read.


5-year-old daughter (started: 5 years 3 months; finished: 4 months; knew 200+ characters before starting Sagebooks)
3-year-old son (started: 3 years 6 months; currently on Fluent Reader Book 2 Lesson 8, targeting to finish by December 2018)


1. Why did you choose Sagebooks?

I was in Singapore when I chanced upon my first 2 Sagebooks. The bookstore was selling Sagebooks individually and I didn’t think much about getting a whole set. It was only after joining Raising bilingual children in Chinese & English that I realised that several parents have been talking about their experience in using Sagebooks, which is when I realised that I got the first few Sagebooks and I was also intrigued into starting the set. It was at the same time Mandarin Mama started the Sagebooks HK Parent Support Group and started her son on the set as well. And so... I followed along!

2. What was your experience with going through Sagebooks? What did your typical lesson look like? Did you do additional activities?

Started at 5y3m, girl, finished in 4 months. (knew 200+ characters before starting Sagebooks)
Started at 3y6m, boy, started Jan 2018, targeting to finish by December 2018. (currently set 5.2.8 = Fluent Reader Book 2 Lesson 8)

3. What did your typical lesson look like? Did you do additional activities? 

We work on Chinese twice a day. Every morning, we start with revising previously learned characters using a spaced repetition app. We would read the characters and form a vocabulary or sentence with every character we revise. 2 new Sagebooks characters will be introduced during this time. We will then read through the 2 new chapters on Sagebooks and then we are done for the morning. After dinner, we will use the app for revising previously learned characters again, until there are no more characters for the day. We try to read very simple Chinese readers outside of Sagebooks, but we typically do not have time for anything else.

4. What did you like about Sagebooks? Was there anything you didn't??

I liked that every new character is emphasized in a chapter repeatedly, and I can use the chapter to explain how a character is used, as well as how a character is sometimes a 多音字 as well. It is also excellent in intentionally including previously learned characters in their chapters as we move ahead.

I’m not sure if my observation is accurate, but a few of the context are in Cantonese and are at times incorrect in Chinese language usage。 For example, 一張刀 in Cantonese, but 一把刀 in Mandarin.

5. If you have more than one child, would you do it again?

Yes, I would and I did!

6. Any advice for parents who are just starting?

Start slow, maybe 1 new character a day as it is intended to be.

Like Mandarin Mama always reminds us, be consistent! It took my son 3 months to be used to the new routine and expectations of needing to read Chinese daily, twice a day. My daughter had been very positive about Sagebooks from the get go and progressed really well with wanting to go through 5 chapters a day, enjoying the stories in the process.

My son had been displaying more resistance but we have been consistent in going through 2 chapters a day even during our overseas vacation. The expectation has been set that we will learn at least 2 new characters daily and the kids know that they can't get away from it!


Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us, Ting! You’re amazing (and so are your kids).

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