We had another great day today with our China study and The Story About Ping.
Alex started off by watching a video from a British educational television series showing children’s lives in present-day China. Today’s video showed a family celebrating the New Year with fireworks, gifts of money in red envelopes, and a festival meal. We’ll watch others in the series for the rest of the week.
Before we read The Story About Ping I asked her to listen for a phrase that repeats. It involves a lengthy enumeration of Ping’s family: his mother, his father, his two sisters, his three brothers, et cetera, all the way down to his 42 cousins. After the story I asked her why she thought that part repeats several times. She thought it was so you kept thinking of how big Ping’s family is. Then she asked: “How many ducks is that?”
We figured it out two ways. First Alex made groups of dots to represent all the different groups of ducks, and we counted the dots. This was tricky enough that we both got the wrong answer. So then I showed her how you could write her question as a math problem, and we modeled it with Cuisenaire rods.
She wanted to practice the Chinese characters she learned to write yesterday. She did surprisingly well reproducing several of them from memory, and then got out her notebook so she could copy carefully from the samples. She also spent some time studying a Chinese takeout menu we happened to have lying around, and pointed out that the character for “mountain” seems to be part of the name of the restaurant. She was pleased to find the Chinese number three in one of the dish names.
I promised that I would look around for ways she can learn to write more characters. We may try making these good luck banners even though it isn’t Chinese New Year. In the meantime, I was able to use her enthusiasm for writing Chinese letters to encourage her to practice writing English letters: she traced and then copied out the words “The story about Ping.”
After Colin’s nap we went to the Walters, an excellent art museum within walking distance of our house. It has free admission! We take the kids there pretty often, but I had never really looked at the Chinese art. The Asian collection is housed in an exquisite mansion connected to the main museum; we enjoyed the gallery settings as much as the art itself. Perhaps because it was so late in the day, we had the entire mansion to ourselves – which made me much, much less self-conscious about gallery browsing with an exuberant 16-month-old.
We picked up one of their “Family Art Guides” to Asian art. The Family Guides are envelopes full of cards depicting selected pieces of art on exhibit. You hunt through the galleries for the right piece of art, and then the card leads you through a close examination of the object and some creative thinking exercises. Alex had a good time with it, and I’m sure it was great eye training for her to find one particular porcelain vase out of a couple hundred.