Posts Tagged ‘Trevin’


Jill Posted in Uncategorized,Tags: , , , , , ,

This should have been written back in May, but better late than never.  We bought a new piano!  I am so happy!!!  Most of you will probably think I’m just weird, but maybe some will understand.  I feel like I go through piano withdrawals when I don’t get to play for a while!  I knew when we moved here that we would be without one until our piano in Albuquerque sold.  (Let me know if you’re interested in it; it’s still not sold!)

Anyway, after about 4 months of not playing a single note I couldn’t take it any longer.  I think Todd also realized I was slowly going insane.  So, piano sold or not, we busted out the bank card and bought a brand new Yamaha upright!  It is very similar to my other piano (the one that is still waiting patiently for a new owner in our house in Albuquerque…).

I’ve been so happy to be able to play again!  And what makes me even happier, I’m teaching again.  I had decided that once we got a new piano I would make piano lessons for the kids a priority.  So, beginning in May I started giving the 4 oldest kids piano lessons.  Yea!  I have been telling myself I would do it for a long time.  I did give the oldest 2 lessons for a couple months and they played at my last recital.  But after that life got crazy–adoption, overseas move, etc. and I let them, and myself, quit.

Well, this time it’s different.  We don’t have a million after-school activities to get in the way.  No other piano students to schedule around.  I don’t even have to stop to make dinner.  (Love that.  Thank you, Wang Ayi!)  I’ve scheduled the time and we do it.  Every Wednesday.  Faithfully.  We took a month off when we were in the States for the summer, but we haven’t missed a single lesson otherwise.

KIDS’ PROGRESS–oldest to youngest.

Michael is doing well.  I think he has the potential to be quite good if he decides he likes it.  He does love to play once the song is learned.  It’s hard for him to start on a new song and put the work in up front to learn it.  He just wants to be able to play it–immediately!  Fortunately he learns quickly and does pretty good at practicing if I remind him.  He’s doing much better practicing the last couple of weeks thanks to Trevin.  (I’ll explain later.)  He started in the middle of the primer book and is now half way through the grade 1 book.  Not too shabby for 2 months of piano lessons!

Kaylee Ann is also doing well.  I think she also has a lot of potential if she can focus more when she’s practicing.  She is usually more interested in making up her own pretty ditties, but will get back to the task at hand if I remind her. :)  She’s at the same place as Michael–half way through grade 1–and picks up new material very quickly as long as she doesn’t forget to practice.

Jasmine is also doing piano!  She actually begged to, and I thought it would be a good idea too.  She cannot move her left hand fingers independently, so we are focusing on playing with her right hand.  Even though she will probably not be a concert pianist (though you never know!) learning to read music, increasing hand/eye coordination, and reaping all the other brain benefits of music still make piano lessons very worthwhile.  We work with her left hand to play as much as it is able, but we use her hand more than her fingers, if that makes sense.  She works hard, but it is difficult for her, even with the right hand.  I’ve discovered that rhythm is very hard for her to hear and feel, but she always practices when it’s time.  She is in the primer series for younger beginners.  She finished book A, most of B, and will begin book C in the next few weeks!

Trevin.  What can I say about Trevin.  Trevin is giving his 3 older siblings a complex!  First with spelling and math, and now piano.  (The kids didn’t notice these things while they were in school, but now that they’re all at home they get to see the work that everyone else is doing.)  He started at the beginning of the primer book (half a book behind Michael and Kaylee Ann) and is now in the same place as them in the 1st grade book.  That boy LOVES to practice, he does it all the time, and does it exactly how I’ve showed him to do it.

When the kids first started piano I told each of them who my best students had been in the past.  I said, “My very best students were the ones who did exactly what I asked them to do every single week during practice.”  I write down their song assignments in their notebook (about 5 songs per week) and they are required to play each one at least 5 times a day exactly as I’ve written in the notebook.  With each song I write something like “count out loud” or “say the note names” or “use good legato technique.”  Anyway, Trevin does exactly what is written every day (and MORE) and has made tremendous progress because of it.   Michael and Kaylee Ann are realizing this.  Trevin is flying through these books, and the thought of their barely 7 year old brother surpassing them is spurring them into action. :)  They didn’t realize he was catching up until they heard him playing songs they’d just played the week before.  “Wait a minute, TREVIN is playing that song?!”  Ahh!  Panic!  Now EVERYONE wants to practice more!  Thanks, Trevin. :)

- Jill

Zhong Wen Progress Report

Jill Posted in Uncategorized,Tags: , , , , , , ,

(If anyone is wondering, “zhong wen” means “Chinese” in Chinese. :))  We have started our new homeschool year!  I wanted to give a little update on our progress with the language so far.  I think it will be fun to compare this entry with an entry at the end of the year to see the progress we’ve made.  Our kids are now in 5th, 4th, 2nd, 2nd and kindergarten.  Hard to believe!

One year ago our children spoke very little Chinese.  They each had a vocabulary of probably 20 words or less.  When we brought Jasmine home we all learned a bit of Chinese from her.  We also had the older two kids start studying a bit more since we knew we’d be moving to China.

Seven months ago we moved to Beijing.  At that point our 2 oldest children had vocabularies of 100-200 words and could speak a few basic sentences.  The 2 youngest boys knew fewer than 50 words.  None of the children (except Jasmine) could read more than 10-15 Chinese characters.  And they couldn’t write any of those characters.

As part of our homeschool we have a Chinese tutor come to our house 4 days a week, 3 hours a day.  The oldest 2 now have some basic functional fluency.  Yea!  Kaylee Ann’s Chinese has really taken off.  I think it’s because she and her Mandarin speaking sister spend so much time together.  Having Chinese friends here has also helped.  It’s fun to hear her speak with her friends when they come over!  She also organizes games at the park–in Chinese–with all the kids.  I’m so glad she’s gotten over some of her shyness when it comes to speaking Chinese.  Michael also knows quite a bit of Chinese, can read and write a little more than Kaylee Ann, but isn’t as comfortable speaking yet because he’s a little shy making friends with the Chinese boys in the neighborhood.  I think if he can make a few Chinese friends this year it will help a lot. :)

Trevin reminds me everyday that he doesn’t want to learn Chinese.  Luckily he is such an obedient boy that he studies anyway. :)  He has very basic conversational skills, can talk about his family, his age and birthday, likes and dislikes, etc.  He is also learning reading and writing and diligently write his characters every day.

Spencer, our new little kindergartner, has started formal Chinese.  He has been working on speaking and listening only until now.  As of August 1st (our first day of the new homeschool year) he began reading and writing!  He is a very diligent little student and loves to do his work.   Yea!  (So happy to have another one of those in the family!)

As I was about to finish this post, I realized something.  We visited the U.S. for the entire month of July.  And I realized that our two girls stopped speaking Chinese to each other at that point.  We will probably need to begin speaking Chinese with all the kids at home if we want them to really become fluent.  We’ll have to give that a shot.  Only problem is, that means I’m going to have to speak Chinese too!  Wish us luck!

- Jill

Da Boys ;)

Todd Posted in Uncategorized,Tags: , , ,

Michael, Trevin and Spencer showing off their snacks with the smoke stack in the background we are about to go explore.

On Tuesday, I took the boys out for some good ‘ol boy time.  We spent a few hours Tuesday morning walking around and exploring more of the area near our apartment.  When we first arrived in our new neighborhood, it was too cold to just wander about for long amounts of time, and this has really been my first chance to just walk around without a specific location planned to visit – doing some good ‘ol exploring with Michael, Trevin, and Spencer!

We first walked from our apartment (the yellow house icon in the map below) about a block or two away to the Hualian marketplace (the yellow shopping bag icon in the map) to check it out.  I had been there a couple of times myself on some early exploratory missions to see what is close by to our apartment, but this is the first time I had taken any of the kids.  I’m sure we’ll come back here in the future, as it has the closest movie theater to our home – and I like watching an occasional movie now and then ;)  We looked at the movie offerings they had – and none of them looked quite like something to show three kids, all of them were local Chinese movies – so we opted not to watch a movie.  Instead, we went through several of the stores in the market place – actually I’d better describe it as a smaller mall, it is a very nice and clean place – but being clean, it obviously is marketed toward’s a crowd with more than the average income here in China.  There is a grocery store in the mall as well – and that is where each of the boys selected a snack of their own that you see in the above photo.  We also got some yummy bread snacks at the bakery in the mall – I must admit… I love Chinese bread bakeries and the creative bread creations they make (hrm … I need to write more about Chinese bakeries in a future post).

View Exploring on 19 April 2011 in a larger map

We wanted to climb higher - but opted to not get ourselves hurt or into any trouble ;(

After eating our snacks, we just decided to walk around and see what we could find. The smoke stack we saw near the store (see the first photo above – the smokestack is in the background) looked interesting so we decided to see if we could get a little closer. It turned out that the area around the smoke stack itself was easy to get to – and the gate was wide open seemingly inviting us to check it out, so we did :) Although I wanted to climb up on the smoke stack myself – I figured that might get us into trouble so decided to stop them at the first platform. We took a few photos here thus the camera icon on the map above representing where this location is at.

What a temptation ... wouldn't it be fun to climb up?

Plenty of coal still laying around to run around on :)

An extremely nice lady working her garden in the small space available that still has dirt ;)

After playing around for a few minutes near the smoke stack – I noticed there were people in one of the buildings there. I went and asked them what this area was, and they told me it had been closed for some time now – which begged the question as to what it was they were doing there. They seemed to be playing mahjong when I interrupted them – so I decided to let them be and we continued on our way. Directly outside of this area I saw this older lady working in the dirt – obviously working on her garden in the small amounts of dirt still available in the outskirts of Beijing. I was interested to learn more myself – so drug the kids over and started to chat. I’m hoping to run into her again, as she was extremely nice and a joy to talk to. She and others in the neighborhood share the small area of dirt there behind the Hualian market area to plant some of their own food. Turns out that she has a son living in the United States as well so was interested to hear we were from the United States. Like so many of her generation that I meet in China, she was all smiles when it came to meeting the kids – and told me how fortunate we are to have them! I agree ;) I think the kids even had some fun practicing a bit of Chinese with her – Michael successfully introduced himself, and understood and answered fluently with no hesitation when she asked him his age! I’m impressed by how quickly all of the kids are learning Chinese, they’ll likely pass my abilities in the language before I know it.

After leaving I realized I should have asked if we could perhaps come back and help from time to time. I’d love to have a garden again ;) although the walk from our apartment is about 10 to 15 minutes so it is not the most convenient location.

At this time is was about time to walk back, but we took one more side route to check out some back alleys… lot’s of cool stuff there to see, will have to go back when I have more time ;) And of course, Spencer and Trevin had to play at the play area just outside our community. We’ll leave you with a photo of Spencer on a little car he was sharing with a local boy being watched by his grandpa:

Spencer having some fun with a borrowed car ;)

- Todd