Foreign Language at Our House, by Lynne
“Why don’t you speak French with your kids?”
Because I’m fluent in French, have lived in France, and have a Master’s Degree in French Literature, I’ve been asked this question many times. My answer is always the same- “It’s not my native language. It seems unnatural to not speak in my native language to my own children.”
Don’t get me wrong. I do speak French at my children from time to time. They absolutely hate when I do that, but they’ve learned several words, such as:
Pousse-toi (Get out of the way)
Du calme! (Calm down!)
Qu’est-ce que tu fais, là? (What are you up to?)
Oh, la vache! (OMG!),
and my favorite bedtime command,
Allez, monte! (Go on, get upstairs!)
I don’t know why my parental exasperation comes out in French. Perhaps it’s because the words just sound better in my ears- less like I’m yelling, and more like I’m teaching.
I believe that learning a foreign language can open up whole new worlds for students. I certainly learned a great deal and had many unexpected and life enriching experiences in my study of languages.
We’ve been informally studying Latin and French in our homeschool, mainly because I’m already familiar with these languages. (I decided against tonal languages when my high school BFF’s family tried to teach me Cantonese, and got a huge kick out of my failure to reproduce the sounds.) We’ve also been studying sign language, and my kids go to Hebrew school at our synagogue. Even though it seems like a lot, we’ve been doing these things slowly and casually, so as not to become overwhelmed.
People often ask me which French curriculum I recommend, and I reply that I haven’t written it, yet. I really haven’t found what I consider to be a perfect French curriculum for homeschoolers, but I do like Classical Academic Press’s new French for Children. Memoria Press’s First Start French is a decent beginning program, and I’d recommend getting the teacher’s guide and pronunciation CD. Breaking the Barrier is another good program. I have the iBook version, and the format is understandable and easy to use and also has audio, which is helpful. My advice is to see if you can look at a program in person, or really look at the sample pages on websites to see if you think that program would be a good fit for your child. Here’s a tip- don’t bother with Muzzy. It’s awful. I’ve had lots of people ask me about the Duolingo app, and I think it’s a great tool to help you learn some vocabulary, but I don’t think you’re going to get a comprehensive understanding of a language’s grammar with Duolingo. If you’re looking to learn French, but not necessarily looking for a full blown homeschool curriculum, here are a few good resources:
Easy French, Step by Step
Living Language French
French Vocabulary Study Cards
My sixth grader has been really into Greek Mythology and Greek heroes lately, so I have him doing the Greek Alphabet Code Cracker from Classical Academic Press. It’s a little below his ability level, but it’s a cute introduction to the Greek Alphabet. If he wants to continue, I’ll find another resource for him. My seventh grader is working on some more French. And I’ll probably sign him up for Latin through the Lukeion Project next year. I think he will do well with an online course. I’ve seen the Lukeion presentation at a homeschool conference and was very impressed. If my younger one wants to continue with Greek, I’ll sign him up for online classes with them, too. I told my boys that I’d like them to do one classical language and one modern language in high school, so we’ll see what happens in a couple of years.
Another thing we do, in addition to studying Latin itself, is to study Latin and Greek roots in English words. We use Michael Clay Thompson’s vocabulary program to great effect. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have encountered a new word while reading and can figure out the root meaning of it because they are familiar with the components of the word. For example, the word “circumscribe” might be unfamiliar, but they know that circa means around and scribe has to do with writing, so they know that the word literally means to draw around. When they learn that the definition is to restrict or limit something, the light bulb goes on. “OH! A boundary has been drawn around it!” I am of the opinion that if you don’t want to do foreign language study, you should at least do Latin and Greek roots, because they are very, very useful in vocabulary building. People frequently remark on my kids’ unusually mature vocabularies.
So, that’s how we do foreign language at our house. I’d love for you to join in a discussion about foreign language at your house in our Facebook group.
Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past 4.5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school. Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment. Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio. Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature. She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables. You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.