The Weight and Gift of Raising Multicultural Kids – #RaisingMCKids blog series

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The photos for this blog series are from a beautiful centuries old mountain road in Yanmingshan National Park 陽明山國家公園 just outside of Taipei.  My husband’s Taiwanese relatives planned a wonderful weekend on the mountain during the Mid-Autumn Festival. We packed into two vans and hiked and smelled the sulphur of the dormant volcano and ate and ate some more. This well worn road was used for hundreds of years by Taiwanese fisherman. They would walk from the coast at the very north of the island (seen in this photo in the distance), and over the mountains to trade their fish with neighboring towns.

Standing on that mountain, sweating profusely with my toddler on my back, I felt the weight of my husband’s cultural heritage stretching back generations. His family has a dozen red hardback books in their dining room china cabinet that includes their family’s genealogy going back centuries! My own family is not as close to their cultural heritage. I know my great grandparents names but that’s about it.

I continue to feel this responsibility to pass down, along with my husband, the language, history and culture to the next generation. It sometimes feels like a burden and I can get anxious that we aren’t doing enough or doing it right as a non-Asian mom (especially in the language department!)

But then I realize that the parts of our cultures that I love most and want to pass down the most are all GIFTS. They are not burdensome at all! It is a joy to teach my daughter Mandarin and have her face light up when she connects a new word with its meaning. I am so proud when my daughter tells a stranger, “did you know I’m Chinese?” and then proceeds to tell them about how she lived in a skyscraper in Taipei (It was not. We lived on the 12th floor!) I am delighted to see her offer anyone older than her a snack first and then eat it herself last (when she remembers!)

Being a multicultural family has always been a gift. Keeping this perspective helps me temper any feelings of being overwhelmed and encourages me to continue to CELEBRATE our family’s cultural heritage any chance we can get.

 

Practical Application Idea:

Consider planning a play date with a friend or two that is centered around one of the family’s cultural heritage. Make it simple and low key! We just joined another family for a play date around the Lunar New Year. The kids colored Year of the Rooster coloring pages and helped us wrap dumplings.

  • If you are hosting, its a great way to show your child the gift of their heritage. They can take pride in sharing a part of themselves with their friends. And what child doesn’t love Show and Tell?!  Invovle them in planning a simple craft or preparing a simple snack that want to share with their friends.
  • If you are participating, this is a wonderful opportunity for your child to learn from their friends about other countries and cultures and increase their curiosity in the world!

 

Would love to hear from you in the comments or on Instagram about your own experiences with the gifts that come with being in a multicultural family! 

 

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Raising Multicultural Kids Blog Series: #1 Presumptuous Blog Title (aka Introduction)

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The title of this blog might be a little bit presumptuous.

‘Multicultural Mama’ — what do I know of raising multicultural kids? I am nearer to the beginning of this parenting journey than the end. I am a white mama living in the US. I grew up all over (Egypt, Germany, the Netherlands, Kansas, and South Carolina) and never thought I would settle down — much less live in America! But here I am, living outside DC in an unincorporated suburb for the foreseeable future. After an incredible year reconnecting with my husband’s family and culture in Taiwan, we now find ourselves very content here in the States.

During the past year since our return from Asia, I have felt a strong stirring to be more (buzzword alert) intentional. I want to be more intentional at celebrating the gift of being a multicultural family. More intentional at celebrating the cultures of my daughter’s friends and our neighbors. I want my daughter and son to have the curiosity and zeal for people and cultures that I was given by my parents. And most of all, I want my children to know and celebrate their own individual, precious story.

So I guess a more accurate title for the blog would be “Mom who wants her children to celebrate their own multicultural identity while simultaneously inspiring curiosity and love for other cultures.” But that doesn’t fit in an insta account. So even though I felt halfway embarrassed registering for the domain name, I remind myself of the old cliches. Parenthood is a journey and I am in the process of learning alongside other families who have tread this path. I have only been actively posting online since the new year (after years of stalking other blogs!) and have already learned so much from other moms around the world! I am so grateful to continue to learn and share with you.

Programming note: I’ll start blogging in earnest later this week. My goal is to include my family’s perspectives alongside practical tips on how to celebrate cultures in the home. If you have any ideas or advice for me, please leave a comment or message me on Instagram @multiculturalmama.

Gratefully,

Jennifer

4 Daily Tools to Teach Toddlers Mandarin Chinese (3 are free!)

img_5719I am by no means fluent but I am determined to continue to learn Mandarin Chinese and teach my children in the process. I’ll write more about my thoughts on language learning in the future but I wanted to start off with 4 practical tips because I’ve found that’s the most important part. Simply learning 1 thing each day will help build confidence and excitement for your kids and yourself! 

For background, I am a non-native Mandarin Chinese learning mama to an almost 4 year old daughter and 9 month old son. My husband’s first language is Mandarin but he still takes reminding to use it around the house. We lived in Taiwan for 9 months in 2014 and 2015 and I studied for 3 of those at the Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University or Shīdà 師大.

#1 Google Translate App on my phone 

As a non-native speaker trying to teach my daughter a tonal language, it is imperative that I teach her the correct pronunciation of each new word. I rely on the free Google Translate App’s speaker function to repeat teach the new word and it’s an added bonus that she likes pressing the button! I use Google Translate throughout the day when I come across a word I don’t know. Also when we have a pocket of free time (and I remember!) I will ask my daughter if there are any new words she wants to learn. Usually it’s quite funny to hear the random words she comes up with!

Couple of tips to maximize this free app:

Tip #1: Download the offline translation file so you will always have access to the Chinese dictionary. The app will prompt you in several places including the home screen and when you select the “live” feature.

Tip #2: Place a yellow star next to the words or phrase you want to practice in the coming days and weeks. This is a sort of flashcard system built right into the app. Simply select the star icon next to the vocab word that you searched for and it will be saved in your “favorites” section where you can review at anytime. To delete a “card” just swipe left.

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Tip #3 The “live feature” button can be helpful specifically for learning written Chinese. When we lived in Taiwan this was useful to read food packaging at the grocery store or a menu at a restaurant etc. It is not always perfect, but helpful to get closer to a translation if you have limited experience with Chinese characters.

#2 Instagram…or whatever social media platform you use the most! 

This is a new discovery for me and already I have seen results! Over the past year I would often fall into the same pattern each week. I would schedule time to learn Chinese or have intentional playtime with my daughter to teach her new vocab. More often than not I would never cross it off my to do list. There would be interruptions or more pressing things to do around the house. And if I am completely honest, it’s easy for me to procrastinate this important activity because I am often tired and don’t have the mental energy to go into the “language learning mode.” But ever since I joined instagram and followed some Chinese language accounts, I have been learning more throughout my day by simply scrolling my newsfeed! Below are a couple of accounscreen-shot-2017-01-12-at-9-35-43-pmts I’ve fo
und helpful that post vocabulary images and quick videos to jumpstart your curiosity:

@chinesefor.us

@mandarinhq_

@yoyochinese

@instaideogram

#3 CDs in the Car

We drive to preschool or errands at least once a day and I try to have Chinese instruction cds or Chinese kids music from my music app playing most of the time. I love NPR but my daughter will usually ask me to turn off the “boring people” and play Chinese songs. It’s amazing how quickly children will pick up songs, especially when it’s fun upbeat music!

There are lots of youtube videos with Chinese kids songs for free that you could stream. 

One of our favorites is not free but I highly recommend it. Our main staple is “Let’s Learn Mandarin Chinese with Miss Panda” which you can find on Amazon or iTunes or her website. My daughter loves Miss Panda. She has a calm voice and each track includes a couple minutes of a short spoken instruction and a song. 

We also love Stream of Praise Christian worship music from Taiwan for kids. They have lots of CDs and DVDs you can purchase on their website or YouTube has lots of videos. 

#4 Peppa Pig in Mandarin on YouTube

If you have toddlers you’ve probably already come in contact with Peppa Pig but in case you haven’t, Peppa Pig is a simple 5 minute British cartoon and it has translations on Youtube in Mandarin! (As well as in many other languages including Cantonese, French, Dutch, Italian etc.) I probably don’t have to tell you how great cartoons are for toddlers!

Here’s a link to a playlist of 91 episodes of Peppa Pig in Mandarin — 不客氣/Bù kèqì (You’re welcome!)

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What language learning tools have you found helpful? Any social media accounts you recommend to learn Chinese?