TaoBao Basics: How to Actually Find Stuff

Method #1: Searching in English

Pro’s: You’ll probably find exactly what you’re looking for and it’s super easy.

Con’s: TaoBao sellers that use English in their descriptions and titles are almost all going to hike their prices way up.  Also, it will only be able to search for those English words, so you’re only going to get results from the small subset of sellers who use English in their store.

Method #2: Searching in chinese using a translator

Google Translate or the Pleco app are your best bet if you’re going to go this route.  Simply type the English word you are looking for and copy/paste the chinese translation.

Pro’s: Way more results than searching in English and the prices will be lower.

Con’s: It is sometimes harder than you’d expect to find an accurate translation than what you’re looking for.

Example: I was looking for a griddle for making pancakes on.  Using the Google Translate word for “griddle”, this is what TaoBao gave me…

Not quite what I had in mind… So, when you’re translator fails you – what can you do?

Method #3: Searching by photo

Pro’s: You can search all of the listings on TaoBao with out using any chinese whatsoever.  

Con’s: It’s certainly not foolproof.  Sometimes it works like a charm and others it’s a total fail.  

Example: This time, I did a Google Image search for pancake griddles.  I saved a clear photo of a griddle on a white background.  Then I clicked the camera icon in the TaoBao search bar below and uploaded my griddle photo.  

This time, I got these results…

Much better!  But take notice of the boxes at the top that I circled.  These are categories.  TaoBao will automatically try and guess which category you were looking for.  If it guesses wrong, just click through the other categories to see if there’s a better match.

Here’s another example.

This time, I searched for a photo of a candy cane and TaoBao sent me to the toy category.  Let’s look for a food category instead…

There they are!  Now, if you don’t want to blindly click through each category and you can’t read chinese, I highly recommend using the Zhongwen Chrome extension.  It allows you to hover over a character and see it’s translation (example below).  Since using an auto-translation service to translate the whole page can cause problems with the TaoBao website, I find this tool to be much more useful.

bonus method: The “Ikea hack”

Before I had perfected the methods above, I figured out how to use the IKEA website as a fool proof translator.  For example, recently a friend asked me if I knew how to find those giant rolls of butcher paper on TaoBao.  Since I know that’s an item that IKEA sells, I taught her this trick.

Go to Ikea.com/cn/en  (the “cn” means you’re shopping for items available in China, the “en” means that you want the site to display in English) and search for the object you want.

On the product page, go to the address bar and replace the “en” with “zh”.  This tells the website that you want it to display in Chinese or, as they say in Chinese – δΈ­ζ–‡ (zhongwen).

Now you can copy/paste the product description into your TaoBao search bar and away you go!

Hopefully these tips help you navigate the treasures of TaoBao with a bit more success and less frustration!

The Ultimate List of Substitute Teachers for Homeschool Sick Days

The ULTIMATE List of Substitute Teachers for Homeschoolers - this is an awesome list of resources to keep your homeschool going even when you're stuck on the couch!

When we were newlyweds, my husband did a short stint of substitute teaching.  The way it worked was simple – you applied for the position.  You attended a short workshop to learn the in’s and out’s of the district.  Your contact info was added to the directory of substitutes. And  then a teacher could call you at 6am when they woke up with a raging stomach bug or whatever ailment was going to keep them out of the classroom that day.  

As a homeschooler, I have often fantasized about that magical list…

What a luxury to be able to call in an alternate?!?  

Granted, if you’re a relatively healthy person, maybe sick days don’t bother you.  As long as they are few and far between, you may be content to throw on some Netflix documentaries and call it a day.  

But what happens when sickness knocks you down and keeps you there?  What if you’re already behind in a few subjects and dread the idea of lagging even further?  

This was the story of our entire 2nd grade year.  My autoimmune and endocrine disorders grew out of control. My symptoms drove me to maintaining the bare minimum  on a regular basis.  To make things even worse, I had planned for a surge in new subjects that were all entirely dependent on me.  It was an ideal match for our educational philosophy, but it was a terrible fit for what life was going to throw at us that year.  

I spent the fall semester dealing with frequent bouts of vertigo, low blood pressure, intense nausea, and extreme fatigue – (as a mother of twins who often slept in 40 minute increments while they were teething, I don’t use the term extreme fatigue lightly, this was truly like nothing I’d ever experienced) as well as seeing various doctors trying to pinpoint what was causing it.  It was January before we finally got a diagnosis.  I almost cried tears of joy when I heard the words “There IS something wrong with you.  You have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.”  Having a name for my condition made it much easier to deal with the symptoms mentally. But there were still months ahead of us before we would see a major improvement in managing them.  

Spring semester was full of blood tests and medication adjustments in an attempt to bring my thyroid levels down to a healthy place.  Along with more days in bed than I’d care to count.  Lots of our curriculum gathered dust as I slowly learned how to adapt our plan to take some of the pressure off of myself.  By the end of the year, I’d discovered some priceless resources that allowed me to take the occasional sick day without needing to cancel school.  In that process, I realized that some of them were even doing a better job at achieving our objectives than I was!  

So without further ado, here is your magical list of substitute teachers!  Feel free to recuperate in bed with Downton Abbey while your children’s brains are still getting adequately stuffed with educational goodness.  Most of these resources include options for all elementary ages.  

HISTORY

Story of the World Audiobook and Activity Guide – I am astounded at what a huge hit these have been this year.  My kids literally beg me for history chapters and activity sheets.  The activity guide provides simple crafts and coloring sheets to be completed independently, as well as more involved activities that require parental help.  I love their suggestions for the more involved activities. For example, we made models of Roman columns with sugar cookie dough and dusted them with cinnamon for an aged look. Then we made foil packet Roman soldier meals cooked over a fire. But my kids are more than happy to do the independent activities and coloring sheets while listening to the audiobooks.  History has become a completely hands-off subject for me when I need it to be.   These resources aren’t free, but they are definitely well worth the cost!

MATH

Math U See Worksheet Generator (FREE)- Even if you don’t use Math U See, you can access this site for free. It generates super customized math worksheets with answer keys.  (Hint: if you don’t use Math U See, the levels “Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc” correlate to “1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, etc.”) Print out a couple of worksheets and answer keys and let your student review math facts on their own.  

Math Kid App (FREE) – For an even easier option, try the Math Kid app!  I love how customizable and no-nonsense it is.  It really is just a math drill app.  No shooting stars or cartoon animals needed.  You can opt for visual hints or not.  You can choose to do addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division, along with even more options making it just right for your kiddo.  

READING/LITERATURE

Ambleside Book List on Librivox (FREE)- If Ambleside and Librivox are foreign words to you, allow me to translate… The Ambleside book list is rich, classic literature organized into age appropriate categories.  If you’re ever stuck for what to read next, it’s a fantastic resource.  For elementary aged students, these are meant to be read aloud, not for independent reading time.  That’s where Librivox comes in!  Librivox is an online library of FREE audiobooks.  You can stream them or download them, both from your computer or their free app.  This is another resource that my kids absolutely LOVE!!!  They can listen attentively to Librivox for far longer than I can read aloud. We still try to maintain a good mix of reading to our children ourselves and using Librivox. But I know the amount of literature they’ve listened to has sky rocketed since we incorporated it.

One Minute Reader (Free to try)  – Don’t be fooled by the name of this app, this will fill more than one minute in your school day.  I could write an entire post on why I love this app so much and why everyone with a struggling or reluctant reader NEEDS to be using this, but for now I’ll simplify.  Basically, the child has one minute to “cold read” a passage.  When one minute is up, they tap the word they stopped at and it scores how many words they were able to read in one minute.  Next, the passage is read aloud to them by the app as many times as they would like.  They can also tap on difficult words to hear a definition.  When they feel ready, they move on to a “hot read” where they get another chance to read the passage for one minute.  Then they get to see the improvement  in their speed
after becoming familiar with the passage.  Try it for free, but even at $19.99 for a level-appropriate pack, I consider this a homeschooling steal!  Worth every penny and more!

Sight Words by Little Speller (FREE) – For young students, this is another fantastic, no-nonsense drilling app.  Super customizable and intuitive.  Let your little one get practice with letter sounds, spelling, and sight word recognition all at once.  

Toss in a few chores, some age appropriate copywork, a little independent reading time and you can convalesce the day away without shutting down your homeschool entirely.  

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5 ways to fail your Whole 30

Five Ways to FAIL your Whole 30 - great tips for anyone considering the Whole 30 - a must read!
 
So you’re thinking about trying the Whole 30? 
 
I say “Go for it!” But not without a little prep work first.  And I don’t just mean an all out Pinterest worthy meal prep session – although that wouldn’t hurt… 
 
Read on for the 5 most crucial tips to not failing your Whole 30.  And then, onward to a healthier you!
 

Mistake #1 Not reading the book

 
The list of restrictions for a Whole 30 is widely available on the internet for free.  Just skip dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, and alcohol for a full month.  Simple, right?  Not so much…  If the only thing you did was avoid those five things, you could still totally miss the point (and the benefits) of doing a Whole 30. 
 
The science behind why you’re eliminating those foods is fascinating.  And, especially if you’re dealing with chronic health issues, it’s incredibly motivating to understand how much your diet impacts the way your body functions well beyond the digestive system.
 
Also, as I’ll expand on below, it’s totally possible to eat 100% compliant foods and do it in entirely the wrong way.  The books helps you understand why you’re eating these foods and what proportions they should be consumed in.  Don’t be fooled, Pinterest is full of recipes that are “Whole 30 compliant” but are specifically mentioned in the book as recipes to avoid during your Whole 30.  As they say “a pancake is a pancake.” (Spoiler alert: pancakes are not Whole 30 compliant.)
 

Mistake #2 T-minus 29 days and counting…

 
This piggybacks onto the first mistake.  Whole 30 isn’t meant to be a random 30 day test of discipline or weight loss trick that you try after all your Facebook friends have posted about it.  It’s so much more than that!  It’s a way to commit one month to giving your body a rest from all of the things that might be adversely affecting you, then slowly reintroducing them one by one to evaluate whether or not each food should be a part of your long term diet. 
 
If you enter in to Day 1 simply counting down until your next binge, you’re missing the point.  It’s a chance to retrain your taste buds, retrain your brain, and form new habits.  It’s a really well thought out plan for finding the healthiest long term diet for you.  Including changing your perspective on “treats”.  I won’t ruin the surprise (since I know you’re going to read the book now) but I promise that the new perspective is NOT all treats are evil.  πŸ™‚
 

Mistake #3 Failing to plan

 
I imagine that a lot of people get a few days into their Whole 30 and think “this is just too much work!”  It certainly can require a lot more prep work and cooking time than you might be used to.  But I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Truer words have never been spoken. 
 
Sure, sometimes you’ll enjoy spending time in your kitchen chopping and peeling and stirring and sauteeing and roasting, but sometimes you’ll just need food asap with little to no effort.  If you haven’t planned ahead for these moments, you’re setting yourself up to fail. 
 
You have to rethink convenience foods, since the vast majority of prepackaged foods aren’t compliant.  Some of my new favorites were fritatta slices and spaghetti squash with a hearty meat sauce.  Both were easy to prep a large batch of and package in single servings to pull out of the fridge and pop into the microwave when needed.  I also kept a stash of leftover roasted veggies that I could quickly crisp up in a pan with some coconut oil or ghee. 
 

Mistake #4 Being afraid of fat

 
If you are 30 or older, you probably grew up with a not-so-healthy fear of fat.  After saturated fat was linked to high cholesterol and heart disease, grocery store shelves filled up with “fat-free” and “reduced fat” options of your favorite foods.  Today, there is plenty of science debunking that theory, but the effects on our perspective remains. 
 
Back to Mistake #1 – read the book.  Learn which fats are good for you and why.  And study the “meal map” section to learn how much of them you need to be eating.  If you skimp on the fat, you will be miserable and spend hours daydreaming of brownies and french fries and everything you can’t have.  Your body needs this fat.  My most difficult days during Whole 30 were when I stopped thinking about this and absent mindedly ate too many low fat meals without taking care to add in a good dose of healthy fat.  
 

Mistake #5 Overloading on nuts and fruits

Nuts and fruits are both perfectly compliant, however, they are meant to be consumed in smaller portions than your meat and veggies.   There are plenty of recipes for “Whole 30 granola” made with nuts and coconut flakes, but they need to be used with discretion.  A small bowl of grain free granola with coconut milk along with a hearty plate of eggs and veggies sounds great.  But if the granola and non-dairy milk is your whole breakfast, that’s not really a Whole 30 meal.  (Why not? Read the book…)

The same thing goes for faux baked goods made with compliant ingredients.  Even though these are specifically listed as non-compliant in the book – it’s not hard to see that many of these recipes contain a much higher level of fruits and nuts than recommended. 

And that’s it!  As my husband would say, you can do anything for 30 days.  And I promise you’ll be glad you did!

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