Hands up who is struggling with learning Chinese? Coming from an English speaking family, my friends can attest to how poor my Chinese is. I am totally committed to learning Chinese together with Mittens, since there is no better time to start than P1 right? But now that my eldest is in P2, I have been finding it harder and harder to help him with his school work. Maybe it’s a case of you can’t teach old women new tricks, but learning the required vocabulary words is one thing, but all the reading comprehension and other exercises usually require a much more in-depth recognition of characters!
And then since last year, Mittens has been asking to stop lessons at the “fruit” chinese lesson centre. He had been going there since N1, and said that the lessons were getting boring. I tried for a period of time, but was unable to get him to elaborate more, and he was beginning to really dislike it. Chinese is a an extremely complex language to learn, possibly the most complex in the world, and I don’t want him to dislike learning it.
So when Connected Learning approached us in March 2016 to try out their online Chinese Lessons, I was game to try anything! And so was Mittens! I also thought that it would be a good time to try out something else, as it was just past the first quarter of P2, so no major exams yet, and no need to panic about year end yet. I told Mittens that had to continue with some kind of lessons, no discussion about it, especially since we are mostly an English speaking family. I was very close to finding a personal tutor, so when the opportunity to try Connected Learning came, I immediately jumped on it.
I know many of you are really interested to know more, because when I posted a photo to IG, I had so many questions! To date we have done lessons for 3 months, and we have since stopped the fruit centre. After the trial of almost 2 months with Connected Learning, we have felt comfortable enough to continue our own paid lessons. Here’s a little more about Connected Learning and why we felt it was suitable for us.
If you have more than 1 child – maybe 2 or more, you will understand how difficult and tiring it is to have to coordinate lessons, and transport. I always say, having twins might have been easier since they can attend school/classes/etc together! Even though Singapore is quite small, it is still tiring for both child and driver (guess who) to have to be going up and down everywhere. The fruit centre is very conveniently located at the next block from us, so I was reluctant to give up the convenience, but being able to do lessons from home is even more convenient!
To understand more about how Connected Learning works, you can read their detailed FAQ here. In a nutshell, it’s Chinese tuition via video conference. It happens 3 times a week for 1 hour each, and you have a choice of several slots to choose from. I think 1 hour is a good length of time, because it is an intensive 1 hour, and after a tiring day at school, anything more than 1 hour can be pretty long to be force fed Chinese. And spreading 3 lessons over a week helps to reinforce the learning.
To get started you need to download the free videoconferencing software, and you can choose to use a desktop or tablet. We use an iPad for convenience because our desktops don’t have much desk space for his books and materials. I also invested in an iPad holder from Daiso, that cost me all of S$2! Actually I bought it from Daiso in Japan so it cost me even less than S$2. That was my entire set up cost.
Using a portable device means you can do the lessons from wherever you are, provided it is conducive enough. Our first lesson was done at his grandparent’s house, and it took me a while to figure out how to do the connection, especially since I forgot that the iPad was not even connected to their wifi (epic bimbo moment).
The next few times we had a few minor connection problems too. I suspect that given our iPad is the iPad ORIGINAL, the wifi reception is not as strong, so I had to shift him from his bedroom to the living room, etc. Patchy wifi is unfortunately not uncommon in our home, but that’s another story. If you are trying these classes, I would recommend that a parent be around to help the child troubleshoot for the first few lessons.
Once you’ve logged in for the first time, it’s easy for the child to re-enter by themselves, which means that if you have to be at work, your child can easily be doing the lessons on his own at home. You don’t have to bother the helpers/grandparents/whoever else to ferry them from class to class! I don’t need to assist Mittens anymore, and he joins the class on his own.
Class size is anything from your one child, to 4 students, but so far the maximum we’ve had was 3 students. Usually it has been 1-2 students, and we do not know beforehand how many students there will be. Sometimes with more students there is more interaction, and they have friendly competitions to answer the first, which suits my child well as he’s very competitive. For the evening lessons he even makes sure he’s in his pajamas “because all the other kids are in their PJs!”. Haha.
There are benefits and cons to both individual and group tuition, so in this arrangement it varies between both scenarios, which I think can make it more dynamic and interesting for the students. Most of the time it is the same tutor (unless I have scheduled a make up class which the tutor is not teaching), and one to one classes are also available for a higher fee.
What goes on during the lessons? They follow the MOE syllabus closely (otherwise, no kiasu parents would want lessons that are NOT MOE syllabus based right?), and there is a variety of focus on vocabulary, listening and reading comprehension, ting xie, discussions, a specified assessment book, and even story time.
The teacher will sometimes make use of graphics or she can also write on the “board”. They also set their own test papers which parents can print do the students to do during class time. Teachers also customise a curriculum that suits their students, that is they will actually tailor lessons beforehand to suit the personalities and strengths of the individual students in their upcoming classes.
To check on the student’s work, the student will hold up his writing to the camera for the teacher to see. So far I have liked our tutor. She has a very pleasant voice, and is very friendly. She knows the names of the other two imps that live in the house, and will always greet them whenever they come on the screen (to kaypoh). Sometimes when it is just Mittens during the lesson, they will chat about anything under the sun, which is a great way to practise the language.
One of the drawbacks to online learning is that it is hard for the teacher to correct handwriting or the correct order of strokes, and those of you who have boys will know the pain of this! But for every system there are always pros and cons, and for the convenience of online learning, I am able to fill in the gaps by also reinforcing the school tingxie, and doing handwriting and assesment exercises with him.
The other drawback I find is that it sometimes feels less personable – I’ve observed a few times when the 老师 would ask Mittens some questions and he would not respond. I’m not sure if this is because he didn’t realise she was talking to him or he was just trying to be cheeky. I will probably have to observe them more to see if there’s anything going on there. Boys!!
And you know what? My 6 year old attended the fruit centre for 6 months in N1 and practically CRIED his way through until both the centre and I felt that it was just not working out, and has been fearful of going there ever since. And tonight, he asked if he was could have tuition just like his Gege when he goes to Primary 1. Wow, MOST DEFINITELY YES YOU CAN!!! 😀
The lessons are also reasonable for the frequency:
Of course, don’t just take my word for it. Connected Learning do offer free trials, so do try it out yourself to see if it suits your child. If you do decide to continue, quote MUMMYED for 10% off the first month fees when you sign up for regular classes!
Also do read Dino Mummy’s review here!
Disclaimer: We were invited to a term of online Chinese lessons at Connected Learning, but we have liked it so far and are paying for our own lessons now. Every student’s requirements and abilities are different, so please do your own research and analysis to see if this is most suitable for your own child.