Life at Warp Speed

life, faith, food, parenting, homeschooling and just about anything else that is on my mind

San Diego Safari Park – $21 – 2 days only! April 30, 2012

Filed under: Deals,San Diego,Things to Do with Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:08 am
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If you missed out earlier this month on the living social deal, here is a new one!

AmazonLocal San Diego – North County: Adult Admission to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

This is a really great price for the San Diego Safari Park in Escondido, CA. This park is located in northern San Diego county. Admission is for this park only and not the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park. This is a world class zoo and a must see if you visit San Diego with your family. Enjoy this amazing zoo and the tram tour of the park.

Even though it is for adult admission, I would suggest buying this deal over purchasing a child’s admission. Regular single day admission is $42 for adults and $32 for children. Amazon Local is limiting your purchase to 6 admissions.

Promotional deal can be redeemed through 12/20/12. There are certain blackout dates listed in the fine print. This deal expires in 2 days.



Better Chinese – My First Chinese Words (PreK to 2nd) April 26, 2012

Filed under: Early Elementary,Learning Chinese,Preschool — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:55 pm
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Better Chinese – My First Chinese Words.

The age-old dilemma of American born Chinese parents everywhere is how can I possibly teach my child Chinese when I can’t speak or read myself. I have researched tons of Chinese curriculum that is out available for purchase. Universally, all of that curriculum is pretty near impossible to use unless you are fluent yourself, and you pretty much better be able to read Chinese. Also, most of the time, the curriculum was developed to be used overseas and hasn’t been adapted for Western learners and sensibilities. So, you will frequently find the material to be just plain off putting, questionable, or too foreign with very strange English translations. I also found the emphasis was frequently heavy on rote memorization.

Enter the answer to my prayers. I have put off writing this product review for quite awhile, mostly out of sheer laziness since I knew that it would take a little more time and effort to write. Better Chinese is a well developed curriculum with a thoughtfully designed pedagogy. It is the only one that I have found that was intentionally developed to also be used by non-native learners. I have My First Chinese Words set right now. I really love that this is a context/story based curriculum which is really helps children from a non-native speaking home. It does not assume previous exposure to Chinese or that the parent have any exposure in Chinese.

I did purchase the Homeschooler Starter Kit which is linked here: I started using this curriculum with my son when he was 2 years old (now 3 1/2). I have not introduced the workbooks yet which introduce writing exercises. I mostly concentrate on using the 36 My First Chinese storybooks and pull out the relevant flashcards to introduce them to him. I plan to spiral back when he is ready for more formal learning exercises. We listen to the songs that support whichever storybook we are reading this week. I actually spend about 2 weeks per storybook since repetition is key. If you can’t speak or read, there is an audio CD that you can listen to with your child so that they can hear and practice the correct pronunciation. The stories are colorfully illustrated and are designed to help your child make visual and auditory associations. There are sample lessons that can be downloaded for you to try out as well.

The curriculum is offered in both traditional and simplified Chinese with standard pinyin which is really rare to find these days since most traditional Chinese curriculum uses bopomofo (the Taiwanese phonetic system). There are a lot of great supporting learning supplements with this curriculum like their DVDs, online learning activities and videos (over 1,400), and games. If you order this, you need to remember to specify that you need the English instructor’s guide otherwise you may get the one written in Chinese. This can be exchanged, but it just saves the hassle of exchanging later.

The challenge that I have found with Chinese language schools in areas with larger Chinese populations is that there are frequently huge gaps in ability since you have students from native speaking homes and non-native speaking homes. Frequently, these teachers are strong Chinese speakers with limited English abilities which makes it a huge problem if they are unable to adapt for students from English speaking homes. It can be pretty hit or miss with various schools with their curriculum choices as well. If you are very lucky, your school segregates classes based on exposure to Chinese. To be quite frank, I am pretty hesitant about a lot of Chinese language schools since the instructors frequently use teaching and classroom methods which I dislike for philosophical reasons. I really don’t like shame based classroom discipline style, and I dislike dictatorial teaching styles which I don’t think helps to foster any love for learning. So, I am leaning towards delaying formal Chinese school until my son is much older.

Better Chinese has also been adopted as the standard Chinese curriculum in many school districts (like San Francisco) and states (like Texas). It is even being used in a number of weekend Chinese language schools now as well. I found the curriculum really refreshing and quite easy and enjoyable to use. I look forward to continuing on with Better Chinese My First Readers (ages 7 +) when my son is a little older. They also have middle school and high school/AP level curriculum available as well. I am fluent in Cantonese which is entirely the wrong dialect if you are trying learn or teach Mandarin. However, I do have one year of college Mandarin which helps me since as long as I can read the pinyin, I can master the vocabulary with some practice.

Highly recommended for pre-K to 2nd grade. This is a really wonderful curriculum for homeschooling families or families who want to start teaching Chinese while their children are still young.


ETA 2/21/2016: After completing 36 storybooks, my main focus was speaking and listening. I decided to loop back through, and this time he was older. I chose not to move up to the next level yet because I didn’t think he was quite ready for the writing output required.

I focused this time more on character recognition working with reading the storybooks and the flashcards. I would ask him to use the flashcards to make new sentences. This was really helpful to him to begin to put together new sentences and be able to visually see the sentence he was composing and made it easy for him to read it back to himself and double-check the grammar of his sentence and easily correct himself when he realized his errors.

I started him on practicing a little writing by picking one character to practice. You can use this free printable. The rice grid version is helpful to young children with proper positioning when writing their characters. I would take a character and write out a step by step example with arrows across the top row of the practice paper adding in the next stroke with each box. I also wrote it out using color to show the next new stroke that was added.

After we finished our loop back through, we worked through the 12 book series “I Love Chinese” and PinYin for Everyone from Better Chinese.


Wee Sing & Learn ABC – Free for limited time! April 25, 2012

Filed under: Apps,Homeschooling Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:11 pm
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App Store – Wee Sing & Learn ABC.

From the well known Wee Sing music based learning products, Wee Sing & Learn ABC app is available for free download for a limited time. Normally, this app is $2.99. This app is produced by iStoryTime.

This app does a good job of creating an interactive beginning ABC learning app. You have the ABC song, a play along with the song, interactive ABC animal and musical instruments flashcards, and an explore the letter names. The app is pretty interactive and engaging. However, it is not worth a paid app price of $2.99. There are apps that are far cheaper or free that accomplish the same things although not necessarily all in the same app.

Recommended for ages 18 mos to 4 years. Grab this while it is free!



Grocery Mate App – Free for limited time!

Filed under: Apps — lifeatwarpspeed @ 1:18 pm
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App Store – Grocery Mate – Easy to Use Shopping List.

Grocery Mate is a pretty useful iPhone app (universal) for creating shopping lists. It is available for free download for a limited time. Normally, it is $1.99. It isn’t super fancy with tons of bells and whistles. Just an app that let you create multiple shopping lists with quantities and sorted by department. The only downside is that anything not mainstream isn’t programmed so your ethnic grocery list will have to be typed.  The real attraction behind the app is that it syncs your lists across devices and allows you email and share your list as well. I love that both P and I can add to the lists.

I still like my abcnotes app for making to do lists, but this helps me focus on just shopping. It also solves the problem of P calling and asking if I need anything from the store. No need for that or trying to furiously text him a list on the spot. What mom can ever do that anyways with a child under 5 hanging on their leg? Just sync to update the list, and you are good to go. No more scrounging around for that scratch paper you were jotting things down on. It is so helpful that you can easily edit the list to keep anything that wasn’t purchased. I organize my app lists by store and use it for all my shopping lists.



Fodor’s Travel Guide Apps – Free for limited time!

Filed under: Apps,Travel — lifeatwarpspeed @ 9:05 am
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App Store – Fodor’s Paris Travel Guide.

App Store – Fodor’s London Travel Guide.

App Store – Fodor’s Rome Travel Guide.

App Store – Fodor’s Barcelona Travel Guide.

App Store – Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide.

App Store – Fodor’s San Francisco Travel Guide.

Hot deal for anyone planning to visit Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona, New York or San Francisco from Fodor’s. Their travel apps for these destinations are available for free download for a limited time. Normally, these apps are $4.99.

What a convenient way to have a portable travel guide! The guide uses your device’s GPS location to identify nearby attractions. You can search by neighborhood, sights to see, restaurants, shopping, lodging and nightlife. You can download maps to your device in case you don’t have wi-fi access. They even includes subway maps which are great for all of these cities. There is also this cool field notes feature where you can add your notes and observations to different attractions. It is a travel guide right in your pocket.

That being said, I personally am a huge fan of the DK’s eyewitness series for travel guides. I generally find great pricing at the Costco warehouse. No lightweight travel guide with DK. Just packed with tons of great information and background. If you don’t want to buy theirs, they do have let you create your own personalized guide with a blend of info from their Eyewitness guides and user created content. Create your own personalized travel guide : DK Travel.

Happy traveling!



$10 for admission for two @ Bay Area Discovery Museum April 23, 2012

Filed under: Deals,SF Bay Area,Things to Do with Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 10:17 am
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Google Offers in Oakland / East Bay – $10 for admission for two (up to $22 value).

One of the best places to go with young children in the SF Bay Area. This is such a wonderful, imaginative and delightful place to explore with your child. Good for children up to age 8. Great deal from Google today: $10 for 2 admissions. Note that your visit must be redeemed  by July 31st. Also note that this admission is restricted to 12 pm until closing (cannot be used for morning hours). This deal is best for families with children who no longer nap.



Spelling Hero App – Free for limited time! April 21, 2012

Filed under: Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 11:06 pm
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App Store – Spelling Hero – Custom Spelling Lists and Spelling Tests. (free right now, normally $0.99)

App Store – Spelling Hero Advanced – Pronunciation and Review. ($0.99)

Tap to Learn is making their Spelling Hero app available for free download for a limited time. If you are looking for an app that can easily help you make customized spelling lists for practice, then this is your app. You can set up different student profiles to track their progress and set word lists based on grade level range. I love that you can set up custom word lists, track misspelled and mastered words, and access the pronunciation, etymology, definition and sample sentences. There is a learn setting and test setting for the app. This is a huge time saver since no flashcards need to be made, students can practice on their own, and parents can track their child’s progress.

This app is perfect for any student who is studying for the National Spelling Bee since this app is based on leading word lists used in spelling competitions. Spelling Hero has more than 2,000 words. If your child is pretty serious about competing for the National Spelling Bee, you may want to consider getting Spelling Hero Advanced which has more than 4,000 words. I often find the most challenging part of the more difficult word lists is trying to figure out from a dictionary how to properly pronounce a word. This app totally solves that problem. No more flipping through pages or looking it up online in an e-dictionary. Just tap and all of it is immediately there for your reference.

Highly recommended for grades K and up. This is also a wonderful tool for homeschooling families in generating spelling lists and tests. Older students may not like the “hero” theme as being to childish, but the app covers plenty of vocabulary that is useful for SAT prep. This is well worth the paid app price.


*currently the learning scrolling function is a little glitchy, but I expect that to be resolved in the next update.


Smack That Gugl App – Free for limited time! April 20, 2012

Filed under: Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 10:33 pm
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App Store – Smack That Gugl.

Smack the Gigl is a pretty fun and simple game app for the iPhone and iPad featuring the cute Gugl from Tauyasui, the maker of the popular Carl and Gugl apps. This is available for free download for a limited time. Normally, it is $0.99. You may be able to grab some other apps from this developer for free.

Tap on the Gugls as fast as you can to smoosh them before they take over your screen. There are tricky ones that split in two and other ones that must be smooshed by tapping twice. Get them before they turn red. Be careful and avoid the ones that look like they have chicken pox. If you get more than 5 red ones, your games is over. I personally think that Gugls look like imaginary bacteria. This is what my mind imagines that it looks like when your immune system is fighting off germs. There is a kid level and regular level for adult play which is challenging.

Recommended for 2 and up.



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