Homeschool Chinese: Pros & Cons of Distance Learning


For the past several years, we have enjoyed Mandarin Chinese lessons with a private instructor. We have generally met twice a week in his home for one-on-one instruction. Occasionally, when we have been traveling, we have utilized modern technology to engage in lessons online. This fall, our instructor accepted a full time university teaching position and thereby moved across the country. Though our lessons would continue, they would take place entirely by Skype. I knew we were in for a huge shift in our routines. Could this work long term? Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive about this change. I knew we had had success with it on a few occasions in the past.  But could they stay motivated? I figured it would just take a little more monitoring on my part to assure the kids didn't slack off. The first week after the transition, we were off to a rocky start. My little man didn't start on his homework until the night before it was due and made a rather rude comment on Edmodo (the online system we use to communicate the expectations of the homework assignments). Yikes! As a team, we talked about our goals and expectations. We talked about how it was going to be different. Challenging at times, yes, but it would still be fun. By the third week, we had become adjusted to the new schedule and things began to fall into place. The kids have risen to the challenge and far surpassed our expectations.

Pros

  • The kids are more independent
  • They are forced to pay more attention and thereby this increases their efficiency
  • The headphones help to eliminate distractions and help to focus the sound of the speaker (tones are more distinct)
  • They have learned to better manage their time - dividing the homework up into do-able chunks each day
  • As their skills have improved, they are better able to converse with one another

Cons

  • Technology isn't always reliable - thus we must be flexible
  • It can be a challenge to juggle the iPad (Discovering Chinese Pro or NearPod) and the laptop (Skype) simultaneously
  • The time change makes scheduling difficult
  • You can't hug your teacher :(

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