King Cake – A French Tradition

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In order to teach my children all about French culture, I decided to start a new tradition: bake a king cake for Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day, which is January 6th. Traditions vary from region to region. This year, I wanted to make a cake. Next year, I may opt for a galette (pastry) instead.

King Cake and breakfast

King Day Breakfast

We had a lot of fun with it. I hid a LEGO mini-figure in the cake and asked the youngest member of the family to sit under the table and decide who should get each slice.

King Day Traditions

The youngest sits under the table and decides the order of the slices.

The person who gets the slice with the mini-figure gets to wear a crown and be king or queen for a day. Continue reading »

I am no Martha Stewart, but I managed to manufacture a card stock crown while the cake was baking. My daughter glued some beads on it and we stapled it to close it. In France, bakeries will sell the cake with a paper crown.

Girl with mini-figure for King Day

She happened to get the mini-figure in her slice

What do you know? She got la fève (fava bean in French, which is traditionally what they put in these cakes a long time ago). Maybe I should look for a baby for next year, as I hear they also use them in these cakes.

Girl wearing crown for Epiphany

We crowned her queen for a day.

We had fun and thus started a new family tradition, all the while learning something extra about French culture. Vive la reine!


Petra Lingua Revisited

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Petra Lingua is our curriculum of choice for learning French. We read books in French and I talk to them in French in the afternoon, but we build vocabulary in a systematic way with Petra Lingua.

I have written before about this website: here and here. You can learn many languages, like German, Chinese, Spanish, Italian and even Swedish.

In the fall, when it became clear that my local homeschool community did not really have an interest in our French Play Group, I put Petra Lingua to the side and focused on reading to the kids in French. I also tried using French on a more consistent basis with them, in the afternoon.

Then life happened: the holidays in November and December; my father’s passing in January; the flu in February. While they lingered on the bed with no energy, I read to them a lot, but then I also put a laptop in front of them to see if they had any interest and energy for Petra Lingua French. They did!

Children studying with Petra Lingua

My children study French with Petra Lingua while having the flu

So much so, they fought over who to do the exercises. Continue reading »

 They brought the account we have with them from 25% accomplished to 40% and, a few days later, 50%. I was happy to see the progress, and then wondered if we could do this on a more consistent basis, say twice a week. When I grew up, we took French and English in school, starting in middle school. Every week, we had two hours of French and two hours of English. If you applied yourself, you could become an advanced speaker by the time you finished high school, and some of us did.

Children study French online

My children’s energy came back as they worked through the exercises on Petra Lingua

Petra Lingua is not very expensive, it is fun for young kids, and it provides lots of repetition to facilitate memorization. You can purchase it online or on CDs and DVDs. The mascot, a dog named Oiffy, is adorable. You can even get a hand puppet to use with your youngest audience.

They do offer me this software for free in exchange for an honest review. I am here to honestly tell you that this program works if you work it. My children sing along and remember words and phrases many weeks after the lessons. Here’s to consistency in teaching languages!


Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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So glad to be reviewing one of the French Courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages. You know me, I love a good French curriculum for my kiddos. This came available to me through the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. It doesn’t get better than free, right?

Boy and girl watching Le Petit Chaperon Rouge

My kids watching Le Petit Chaperon Rouge

I was entrusted with Elementary French for grades 3-5, obviously, geared towards students in grades 3-5. You might say, “Wait just a minute, Adriana! I thought your kids were in first grade and PreKindergarten. How come you are putting this curriculum in front of them, when it’s for higher – albeit elementary – grades?”  Continue reading »

Provided you said all of the above to me, including “albeit,” I would answer with a reassuring smile: “Never fear, dear friend! I am no pushy mama. My kids can handle this because it is a series of cartoons in French, followed by interactive exercises. I have been teaching them French for five months now, using other resources. Sure, the vocabulary in this course might be a bit over their head, but that’s where learning comes in. They get challenged to learn new words while repeating words they already know. The cartoons keep them riveted to the story line. My kids might even get some words from the context on the screen.”

Middlebury French Course Elementary

What we got out of it was lots of listening to French. Plus, my son, who can read in English and Romanian, was able to peek at the French captioning on the screen while the cartoons were going on – so a gentle introduction to what French sounds look like when you spell them out. Yes, this curriculum is great that way. You can hear AND see the words being said right on the screen.

The exercises are interactive. Kids either listen and choose the right words, or arrange numbers in order or click and move words around on the screen to match concepts etc. They are so varied. After watching the cartoons, which are classic stories like “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge” (“Little Red Riding Hood”), the students get to answer questions which drill vocabulary.

Middlebury Interactive Languages

The price for this is $119 per student per semester.

The curriculum repeats the cartoon after a few exercises. Repetition is the mother of learning, right? This is especially true with languages. After that, more exercises, including – I am not kidding – a language lab! How cool is that? Using your device’s mike, you can record your own voice and hear it back in order to correct your pronunciation.

Middlebury French Course Language Lab

There are also tidbits about culture, called CultureGrams, which allow the kids a window into how people who speak French interact with and greet each other.

Of course, this company offers several courses for different age groups, as you can see below.

Middlebury Courses

For your information, Middleburry Interactive courses for the K-2 crowd include a total of 35 lessons for the semester, while the Grades 3-5 program (what I worked with) has 45 lessons per semester. They recommend two days a week for Grades K-2, and 2-3 days per week for Grades 3-5.

Both the Middle School and High School programs have a total of 90 lessons per semester, with the recommendation that students complete a lesson per day for 18 weeks. All levels are self-paced, so the student can speed ahead or slow down as needed.

We were definitely self-paced. When my kids get into something, they can’t stop. They watched almost all the videos the first session. I sat and translated through them all, then guided them through a few exercises. The following session, they just wanted to watch the videos and do no exercises. I had to tell them we will not be watching any more videos until they work through the exercises.

So even though we did only two sessions per week, we got rather far, but we skipped over some of the drills. My plan is to go back and systematically work one lesson at a time and make sure we cover all the drills available. Otherwise, I don’t think they will remember the vocabulary.

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French Friday, Petra Lingua Review

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We love French in our homeschool. I have started teaching my children French on a regular basis this spring. We joined the Alliance Française of Knoxville, signed up for Popi, and watched Caillou on youtube. However, I felt the need for a systematic approach to learning French. Enter Petra LinguaContinue reading »

Full disclosure: they are one of my sponsors. But I would not be writing about this curriculum if I did not think it was great or if I did not use it with my children.

French learning for kids under 10 - Petra Lingua

French learning for kids under 10

So Petra Lingua is for younger elementary kids, say ages 3-10. However, if you are an adult who needs to study French and enjoy animation, this is a great product for you, as well. I would add that if you feel intimidated by language learning, you should definitely consider Petra Lingua. Their mascot, a cute doggy named Wuffy, will become your best buddy – while teaching you French.

I know my kids laugh every time he enters the screen. He makes an entrance in a different way every time.

The lessons contains songs, repetition, a chance for you to repeat back what the speaker said, as well as exercises to practice what you learned.

Also, you should know this product comes in two versions: an online version and a DVD kit, which offers a booklet with exercises and a music CD, as well as the DVD for the lessons. At the end of the 20 lessons, you will have learned 500 basic words in French and, hopefully, you will have gained some confidence toward more lessons.

They even have a lesson plan you can follow so that you know what to expect (or what to do) for each lesson.

The online product costs $4.99 per month for six months. How’s that for a bargain? You can do one lesson a week and be done in 20 weeks, with no stress and without breaking the bank. If you wanted the DVD kit, which also contains a Wuffy Dog Handpuppet and a set of playing cards to practice vocabulary, it is $75.

So it boils down to how good your internet connection is. I use this set to teach my French Play Group at the library and their connection is not so good on some days. The result? The songs get interrupted a lot as the laptop keeps buffering. I have learned to bring the DVDs instead.

My kids love Wuffy and they play with the handpuppet a lot. They sing the songs and request certain lessons just because they like them. For instance, my daughter really, really likes the Vegetables and Fruits – which happens to be available for free on their website. My son prefers the lesson about counting to 20 – things come in train cars and he loves trains.

If you want to watch the free lesson, go ahead and sign up. You will receive a code for 15% off when you do decide to purchase. How cool is that?

As we progress through these lessons, I will be back to tell you some more about them. Until then, au revoir!


French Friday, Allons Danser! Review

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For a couple of months now, the kids and I have been listening to Allons Danser! – a CD with French music for kids, produced by Whistlefritz. It has been such a great tool for my French Play Group, not just for my children. We use the Bonjour, Les Amis song to start the meeting and Au Revoir to close.  Continue reading »

At home, I play the entire CD as the children play and I cook or do some other housework. It’s the best background music. You know how music can influence your mood even if you don’t understand the words? Marie-Louise Desage’s crystal-clear voice gives me joy. And although I understand the words, the music makes me feel like I am on a beach vacation as I wipe kitchen counters or peel potatoes.

Allons Danser! CD cover

 

The Carribean-infused melodies, written by Didier Prossaird, go along well with summer time or any time of the year when you wish you could have summer back. In short, these songs put me in a good mood – a vacation mode. They are not just for the kids.

Here’s a listing of all the songs, with the vocabulary you can expect to learn and drill as you sing:

  1. Quand Je Serai Grand listen – When I grow up – job titles
  2. Bonjour Les Amis listen – Hello, friends – greetings and the weather
  3. Un, Deux et Trois listen – One, two, three – body parts and, obviously, counting to three
  4. Le Vieux MacDonald listen – Old McDonald – farm animals and their sounds
  5. La Danse des Mains listen – The dance of hands – place adverbs like up, down, to the side etc
  6. Ma Journée listen – My day – a daily schedule of meals and activities
  7. Le Bain listen – The bath – feet, water, tub, getting into the tub, it’s fun – an invitation to have fun with bubbles
  8. L’Heure de Ranger listen – Time to clean up – here, there, now, dusting, cleaning, sweeping, broom, duster
  9. Des Jouets listen – Toys – plane, flying, bicycle, pedaling, etc.
  10. La Barbichette listen – Goatee – to hold, ouch
  11. Il Pleut listen – It rains – umbrella, yes, no, dancing in the rain, big clouds are gray etc.
  12. Les Doigts listen – The fingers
  13. Y’a Pas de Fête Sans Gateau listen – No party without cake – gift, giving a gift, etc.
  14. Les Enfants Quand Ils Dansent listen – The children, when they dance –
  15. La Tête, Les Épaules listen – Head, shoulders – the same melody and vocabulary as Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  16. Le Camion de Glace listen – Ice cream van – all the kids come out of the house when the ice cream van passes by
  17. La Grenouille Reinette listen – A frog named Reinette – whimsical and funny
  18. En Haut, En Bas listen – Up, down
  19. Les Petits Poissons listen – The little fishes – swimming, in the water, little, big, the same as
  20. Au Revoir listen – Goodbye – saying goodbye in different ways, the party is over, it’s time to say goodbye

We all memorize so much better if the words are set to music. This collection will be the perfect addition to your French class. We listen to it in the car, too. I am still amazed by how much I can retain just by listening to 15 minutes of French music a couple of times a week. If you, like me, are looking for ways to maximize learning throughout the day, you will appreciate this CD you can add to your car schooling supply list.

The CD booklet contains all the French lyrics, as well as a vocabulary list for each song. Thus, instead of paraphrasing so you get the gist of the song, Whistlefritz gives you word-by-word translations to help with your goal of learning French. How helpful is that? Any homeschooling mom who took some French and remembers some should be able to utilize this CD and help introduce her children to the sounds of the beautiful French language.

Allons Danser!  CD Booklet

The CD booklet provides the lyrics and their literal translation

My children break into song in French out of the blue, while playing or running around outside. Their pronunciation may not be all there and they may not understand everything they are saying, but it’s a start. Plus, it is a great opportunity for me to join them in song. Sometimes I exaggerate a bit the correct pronunciation so they can correct themselves. Other times I just sing and have fun along with them.

I highly recommend the Allons Danser! CD above any other language learning CDs I have bought – and I bought a few.

Disclaimer; I received a free copy of the product above in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. The Amazon links above are affiliate links. All opinions I have expressed here are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


L’Alliance Française de Knoxville

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About a month ago, I took a more intentional approach toward teaching my children French in our homeschool. I started gathering resources to teach my children French.

Books and language lessons lay the foundation of mastering another language. Immersion and interaction with other speakers of French continue the process and solidify the vocabulary.

So I joined L’Alliance Française of Knoxville.

We attended two get-togethers already:

(1) Picnic and petanque tournament (pique-nique et tournoi de pétanque) at the Cove at Concord Park

(2) Immersion meal (table française) at the French-Belgian restaurant called “Northshore Brasserie” in West Knoxville.

The window of Northshore Brasserie

The window of Northshore Brasserie

Through the Alliance Française, we met people from Québec, France, Iran, Switzerland and even the United States (ha!). The conversations cover a multitude of topics and we all enjoy the interaction in the language of Molière. We definitely plan to join them for Bastille Day, our next “réunion.”

Here are the details

During the first event, we met everybody and played pétanque. Then, we had a picnic. Most of the dialogue was in French, but some of our spouses spoke to each other in English because they do not speak French at all.

Pétanque is a game like its Italian cousin, bocce. The difference is that, in bocce, you run before tossing the ball. In pétanque, you don’t. You stand and toss your ball from the launching spot.

Even though the weather was cold and my children were not too sure about speaking French to any of our new friends, we had a good time.

To say that I was inspired by the fellowship in French would be an understatement. I went home and worked on some more resources for our homeschool, like subscribing to different TV5 Monde newsletters and reaching out via email to a French family living in Knoxville, who were recommended by the members of this group.

By the second meeting, the immersion table, my children had more courage to interact in French. I am surprised by how quickly they pick up a language, but I should not be. Children under 12 are biologically wired to pick up multiple languages.

Alliance Française of Knoxville members enjoying lunch and French conversations  at Northshore Brasserie

Alliance Française of Knoxville members enjoying lunch and French conversations at Northshore Brasserie

After one month of teaching them, they understand simple phrases (what is your name? how old are you? come here, look at me, please, thank you etc) and they can count to ten. My son already uses “Eh, voilà!” when he brings me something.

When asked how old he was during the immersion table, he answered he was six years old. He constructed his sentence half in English and half in French. Progress.

Here’s another observation: their third language, French, is pushing their mother tongue, Romanian, to the forefront.

I spoke Romanian with my children since birth, but they answer me in English 99% of the time.

Today, my son and I were watering the garden. My daughter came over and asked to help, too. We took turns. When she asked to go over her allotted time, my son said, “In nici un caz!” in Romanian, which means “No way!”

I had never heard my son say that phrase before. Ever.

I knew he knew what it meant when I said it, but I did not know he could pronounce it so well and use it in an appropriate context. So I am really, really encouraged to see a bit of the fruit of my labors.

À bientôt!