Monday, October 3, 2011

Owning It

In my first post about our French classes at Language Stars, I promised to answer this question:  

"Why, when your children's father is fluent in Spanish and their grandparents are native Spanish speakers, did you sign them up for French?" 

The reason is simple: Because their father is fluent in Spanish and their  grandparents are native Spanish speakers.

Can't they teach them Spanish? It's true we dropped the ball when the girls were babies. As I've said, I realize now that the smart thing would have been to make Anthony and his parents speak to the girls only in Spanish. Still, it seems silly to put the burden of teaching the girls Spanish on their gringa mother now.

The rest of my reasoning is this: I studied French for 7 years from middle school through my first two years in college. In fact, I was originally a French major when I started at George Mason University 24 years ago (though my proficiency has long since evaporated). I don't speak Spanish and, to be frank, I would simply prefer to relearn my French than learn Spanish. If that sounds selfish, so be it. As a homeschooling mom, I have to teach my girls everything, whether I like it or not. Is it so wrong to choose one subject for them that I want to learn, too? I'm not afraid to admit to the fact that I'm as thrilled with the French classes for what I'm getting out of it as I am for what the girls are gaining: It gives us something extra to enjoy together, to bond over. It keeps me motivated to stick to it with them!

So, last Thursday, when we had to miss French class because my husband and I had a conference to attend, I was as disappointed as the girls.  Brontë and Chloë had new French books to show Clémentine and Carys was eager to "show" her that she could now count to 15 in French. I was worried missing a class would slow us down. We are already feeling impatient to learn more and though I would love to add an extra 90 minutes of class a week, it just isn't realistic for us at the moment.

The girls didn't let missing a class break their stride, however. They turned to their new books and picked out words they knew and asked me to help them with words they didn't know. They used the phrases they are most familiar with more often and with less prompting from me. They don't have everything down perfectly yet, of course. Carys doesn't seem to get that je means I, so she will ask for a drink by saying, "Mommy, I'm j'ai soif."  They asked me to read to them in French: Though they don't understand what I am reading (and neither do I half the time), they love hearing the language and scream with delight even at my pitifully rusty accent. 

They are digging in. They are claiming this project as their own.

A few weeks ago, Brontë mentioned to a visiting friend, "We go to French classes."  This week, I overheard her tell someone, "We speak French." While we may not "speak French" yet, it illustrated to me that she wants to speak French, that this isn't merely a class she's taking but an experience she's incorporating into her life and forming goals around. 

This mental shift, if turns out, was right in step with yesterday's class. Our new material centered around the alphabet and then the topic of recycling with Clémentine asking if various objects were recyclable (Est-ce que je peux recycler le journal?) and the children answering ("Oui, je peux recycler le journal!").

When it came time for snack, the routine changed a bit. Instead of Clémentine asking the group the usual questions, each child was given the task of making the inquiries. It was exciting to see them take on this responsibility and challenge and even more so to catch a glimpse of their satisfaction in knowing, for that moment anyhow, they could say, "We speak French."

1 comment:

Julie said...

When things work out right, it sure feels good.