An Odelay to Maternelle

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I’ve written quite a bit on the blog about the homework struggles with our eldest.

My youngest – who started maternelle (aka junior kindergarten – French school board) this year – has kind of flown under the radar.

Her first evaluation from the end of September looked like this:

maternelle_eval1For the non-French folk in the house “x”s on the left under the letter “A” means good. Skill acquired. “X”s in the middle mean the skill is en route to being acquired. “X”s in that last column are bad. It means your kid can’t do it.

So in brief, this report was a huge relief. My youngest had all the skills my eldest has struggled with since even before kindergarten. It gives me hope we aren’t in for the homework hell we met in First Grade with my eldest and are still diligently, daily, sometimes weepingly slogging through in Second Grade.

My youngest can handle a crayon, recognizes her name, can count to 18 in French (50 in my opinion, but whatever), can dress herself and takes care of her stuff. And she’s well en route to being able to wait her turn to talk, adapting to her new school environment, learning the routines and reciting prayer.

That one x on the right? Not a huge surprise.

She doesn’t yet speak French at school.

We knew that.

Since this update in September, I think she has already started to improve on that front.

As a quick reminder, dad’s French and I’m English. She understands French completely, but aside from counting, speaking it has been pretty sparse to date (oui, merci, bonjour, non + smatterings of Grace and the national anthem).

It’s not too surprising. Until September, her daycare was English. I speak fluent French, but I’m English. Her in town Grandparents are the English ones. The world around her basically operates in English.

There’s a lovely French expression that roughly translates as follows:

You catch English.

You learn French.

I will disagree with that as we get to the finer points of the language. But broadly speaking? It holds true.

English is everywhere. Even in bilingual Ottawa, English is the clear default and you have to make an effort to find French stuff.

My eldest now speaks French, so I know my youngest will get there.

That said, we got a note home from school on Thursday letting us know that they evaluated how many letters she recognized. I think we need a song in honour of this moment. I apologize that I couldn’t find one in French:

Yup! Letter “O”. That’s it. Not even the first letter of her name (which for the record, she routinely points out at home, but again – whatever!).

Sidebar: Octopus in French doesn’t start with “O”. An octopus is a pieuvre. Really, it’s one of the lonely examples where I think the English word is WAY cooler. Pieuvre. Ech. Rather like “moist”.

But I digress.

Either way, not awesome.

So this weekend we pulled out Old Faithful.

Links to source.

Links to source.

Alphabet Bingo.

Both kids were pretty excited about it – which was cool. My eldest remembered it as “her” game. So I had to explain she needed to “pass the torch” so to speak. My youngest remembered playing it.

We did a number of rounds on Saturday. Much fun. Big sis helped little sis. It was all kinds of “every place is a learning place” awesome. And my youngest can clearly match letters, if not name them. I’m confident that will come with a bit of effort.

My youngest is also la princesse du LeapPad (en français) chez nous in a concentrated way that my eldest never had to electronics, so I thought computer might work and spent some time surfing the resources provided by my eldest’s teacher’s website (ponder that irony a moment).

The winner to date comes from that clear stronghold of Canadian franco-fièrety: Alberta (who, for the record, I know really does have some francophone community roots).

Learn Alberta has this fantastic intro to French for young kids site here.

The site, entitled “Bonjour les amis!” has 20 sections to play around on with young kids.

And it’s pretty perfect for my 4-year-old.

So far, we’ve spent most our time on the “repetition is my job” song page, the alphabet page, and we also had fun with the “Je ou Tu” pools.

alphabet_alberta

What the “alphabet” page looks like.

We are also planning to shift my youngest from Kumon Math to Kumon Reading – even though it’s in English. I’ve written before about how we are using Kumon Math in French to help my eldest with that bit of school and mentioned we’d signed my youngest up too, given we were going anyway. I wish they also did their reading in French, but they don’t. But I figure at this stage letters and learning to write can happen in either language. I know from my working in literacy that the skills are transferable, and I’m hopeful that works out well for my youngest and doesn’t confuse her as she does school in French.

Do you have any good French language tools you can share? Please let me know!