*Update: The Groovy Giraffe is offering readers of The Pleasure Monger a lifetime discount of 15% off all WINK to LEARN products! What are you waiting for? Simply enter the coupon code RachelTPM at checkout to enjoy the discount!
[SPONSORED POST* – GIVEAWAY and promotional details in this post] Parents endeavour to give their children the very best, and I am no exception. As a mother to a little girl, I am always on the lookout for quality clothes, toys, books, foods and other knick-knacks.
In the series ‘I Have My Eye On‘, I share my favourite finds for my daughter.
I have a confession to make. I wish I could say that I’m an on-the-ball mama, but I really am a mother who is much too laid-back. I barely plan any educational or enrichment activities for F other than let her roll around wherever we end up (that includes scrutinising strands of hair lying on the floor and exclaiming ‘HAIR,’, true story, yo!) and err…let her fiddle around with egg shells and markers for that ONE crafting session I planned during Easter. The most educational thing I have done with her is to read our library of board books with her (because I would love for her to revel in the power of imagination one day); even that lonely stack of English flashcards was gifted because I didn’t see the need in buying them. What about pre-school, you might ask, ‘You seem to put her in one pretty young for a laid-back mum?’ Well, we put her in one only because we wanted her to socialise and be a wee bit more independent; I won’t deny that putting her in the care of teachers I trust for a few hours every week gives me much-needed time off to manage other aspects of our lives. So, now that you know my parenting style, you wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I know NOTHING about the methods of early childhood learning, let alone plan insightful activities. I grew up playing and imagining and messing with things around me and I’d like to think that I turned out fine, unless you count my laid-back parenting style as anything but. YEAP, I’m a tiger mum’s worst nightmare.
Even then, I do recognise the benefits of conscientious teaching and early learning. My social media feed is chock full of mummy and daddy friends who make impressive efforts (they put me to shame!) to teach their children languages, science, math, music, arts and the likes, and also to nurture their creativity. The benefits are there for all to see; their children are very engaged and learn so very quickly at such a tender age! Even F, whose can’t-be-arsed mother (ME) is lazy and absolutely uninspiring, has been demonstrating the plusses of going through that neglected stack of English flashcards. She started learning the English language from our daily interactions and one day, asked about the flashcards that she got so very curious about. That was when I began teaching her its contents, always at her pace and at her request, and very, very soon after, F was going through them like a pro.
I did think about getting her started on the Chinese language too because M and I are bilingual, except that I had no clue as to how to do it (I went to a Chinese school for years, the irony…对不起, 老师们). We speak Mandarin to her occasionally and sing loads (which she absolutely loves), but I have never really gone on to get her to associate nouns/verbs in Chinese with objects/subjects/actions, etc. It sounds very silly, especially when I am fluent in Mandarin but teaching the Chinese language, for some reason, intimidates me! It didn’t bother me though. I figured that she would pick up the language sooner or later, as with everything else, but when The Groovy Giraffe invited me to give the WINK to LEARN Speak & Read Chinese Program (including simplied and traditional Chinese) a try, I thought, ‘Why not?’
I had my reservations though. The program comes in the form of six DVDs. As laid-back as I am, I try not to let F have too much screen time. I don’t want to go into details on the adverse effects of excessive screen time, because the truth is, I’m not an expert and I don’t know how it will affect MY child (for example, I grew up watching lots of TV and I wasn’t and am not hyperactive, whatsoever) but I don’t want her to be sucked into a screen and not interact with the people and environment around her. The rationale behind minimal screen time in our household is as simple as that. Everything is done in moderation, as with screen time, and we do let her watch the TV when we are too tired or unwell to keep her occupied, or during ER-worthy times like when we have to, erm, snip her fringe or fish a scale wedged in her gum, or when she is dying to sing along to the tunes of Frozen (can’t say no to those puppy eyes). But, I did a quick research on the resource, and was very glad to know that the program is planned on a one-lesson-a-day basis over a period of six months; that works out to only less than eight minutes of screen time a day, which is perfectly okay in my books!
There are a number of things that need to be adhered to for the program to be effective, as detailed in the parents’ guidebook. Two aspects, which stood out for me, are for the parent to watch the program with the child, and for the parent to stop the lesson before the child gets bored. These made perfect sense to me, as I would want to know what F has learnt at every lesson, and I would want her to stay engaged. The latter wasn’t a problem for us though; every lesson is so short and succinct, that F almost always asked for more after each lesson has ended. I have to be firm and say no, and she is fine with that as well.
We have been on the program for slightly more than a month now, and have covered topics in the first level, including the body, actions, numbers, nature, belongings, animals and relations. Every lesson alternates the image depicting the word shown, followed by the word itself (similar to what you do with physical flashcards). This goes on for a number of different words in the same topic, and the entire sequence is repeated. The lesson then ends with a song that puts the words into context. It is all very simply laid out and easily followed by children. To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting anything more than F recognising the images and yelping ‘眼睛’ (eyes), ‘笑’ (laugh/smile), or ‘走’ (walk) when she sees the images, but she did this and so much more! She actually recognises some of the words, not just from the Chinese characters displayed on the screen, but also from the ones I scribble on scraps of paper; this means that what she has learnt is transferable! I was utterly shocked when she piped up after I wrote the words ‘一’ (one), ‘二’ (two), ‘三’ (three), ‘爸爸’ (father), ‘耳朵’ (ear), ‘鼻子’ (nose), ‘头’ (head), ‘妈妈’ (mother), without showing her the accompanying images. The amazing thing is each topic (i.e. numbers, relations, body) was only played twice a day (a total of less than eight minutes a day) for two consecutive days before we moved on to the next topic. A revision of the older topics was only done at the end of the month, after all the lessons in the first level have been dished out. I’m not sure how or why retention is possible with minimal repetition, but the teaching methods by Dr. Glenn Doman and Dr. Makato Shichida, which inspired this program, must have worked!
Onto some things I like and don’t like about the program:
Likes: Each lesson is very short and succinct. The songs chosen contain words that round out the topics nicely and make for good revision. Screen time is minimised, even though it’s not entirely eliminated (this is okay with me because I believe that moderation is key), and the program is presented in a convenient format for parents to incorporate into daily educational activities. The methodology used is very effective, judging from the fact that F has learnt so much from every (again, I emphasise) super-short lesson.
Dislikes: I am a sucker for type and design but the fonts, riot of colours and images grind my gears. They aren’t what I call pretty, even if they are very practical and realistic. I wish the lessons could have been more pleasing on the (well, MY) eye, but hey, whatever floats the boat for the kids! F didn’t seem to mind one bit at all. I also think it would be great if the program captures a person on the screen enunciating every word to aid lip-reading. I found that F had difficulty reading the third intonation in hanyu pinyin and ended up mistakenly reading that word in two distinct syllables. F also couldn’t make out the p’s, k’s and other consonants at the start of certain words and end up pronouncing them inaccurately, but I could easily correct these as I watched the program with her (as advised by the developers of the program). I’d like to add that I think she found it useful to look at my mouth as I enunciated.
My dislikes aside (which are far from being deal-breakers), we have seen shockingly good results in learning to speak and read Chinese with the program, and I’m definitely going to go through the remaining five levels provided in the set. It’s a great way to get children to love the Chinese language, something which I see F doing; she asks for ‘Chinese show’ (referring to the program) everyday and flashes big smiles whenever we go through the lessons. She also recites the words whenever she spots similar subjects/objects/actions in real life, even when the DVD isn’t on, and is happy to converse and sing in the Chinese language, something that I deem important in picking up a language easily. The program is a wonderfully easy platform to aid clueless parents like myself in coming up with informal lesson plans for picking up the Chinese language. The best part is it only takes a wee bit of time every day, leaving the rest for play (yay!) and other activities, and the short duration ensures that kids stay engaged without getting restless before the lesson ends. After all, we know that children have short attention spans, and should be given frequent breaks during learning! I like that F is more bilingual now, and we can converse with her in two languages (well, three, because I speak Hokkien to her too). If only I learnt Japanese, French and Spanish…I wouldn’t hesitate in getting F started on those languages as well!
Want to give the WINK to LEARN programs a shot? The Groovy Giraffe is giving readers of The Pleasure Monger a whopping 20% off all programs, including the ones on sale (which means you get an additional 20% off the discounted price)! It’s the perfect time to get a set for cheaps and I’m pretty sure you can find a program to suit your needs. Other than the Chinese language, the Speak & Read sets come in English, Thai, Spanish, French, Malay, Filipino, Japanese, even German! The Groovy Giraffe also stocks SING to LEARN programs in English and Chinese, and encyclopaedic DVD sets on Animals in the Safari, Amazing Rainforest, Australian Wildlife, just to name a few. Don’t forget to check out the Super Saver Bundle Deals, many of which are already going for half-price (and this is BEFORE you take an additional 20% off with our promotional code)! Simply enter RachelTPM at checkout to enjoy the 20% discount, valid until 25 August 2014.
We know some of you will be keen to try the program out on your child, and so The Groovy Giraffe is giving away one set of the WINKtoLEARN Speak & Read Chinese 6-DVDs program (comes in a DVD case with a cover page inlay) to a lucky reader! Enter the giveaway HERE! Certain steps can be done once a day, for every day of the giveaway, so don’t forget to check back to get more entries into the draw!
Terms and Conditions of the giveaway:
* I was gifted one set of the WINKtoLEARN Speak & Read Chinese program to review. An addiional set will also be sponsored by The Groovy Giraffe for the winner of this giveaway. No other monetary compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored service/items, should I find the products/services unsuitable.
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