Wednesday 20 January 2016

Classical Academic Press - Review & Give Away! French for Children

 Paris, 2015

Moozle, my ten year old, has been learning French informally for a few years, mostly by listening to French folksongs and copying French phrases into her notebook. This has worked quite well up until recently. Her pronunciation sounds natural, and she speaks the French she knows with confidence, but I knew that it was time she started a more formal programme. This was easier said than done.
We've had a chequered history in the foreign language department in our home, but it wasn't through lack of resources. I don't like to think about how much money has gone into buying curricula that sounded so promising but in reality just didn't work for us. Some of these purchases were not thorough enough, others were better suited to adults or older independent students, and some were just plain old boring.

I was reluctant to make any more expenditures after being disappointed with what I'd already purchased, but then I saw that Classical Academic Press (CAP) was about to publish French for Children. I'd been receiving their monthly eNewsletter, Insights, for about a year and liked what I'd read:

  Our motto “Classical Subjects Creatively Taught,” describes the essence of all that we publish. We seek to produce classical curricula and media with a clear design and structure, incremental and systematic instruction, all with a touch of delight, creativity, and flair.

This is what I was after for my daughter...structure, but with delight, creativity & flair.
Classical Academic Press kindly gave me a free copy of this curriculum for review purposes, and here are my considered thoughts after putting it to use in our home school.

A General Overview:

French for Children, Primer A is the first text in a three year series for elementary students. It is recommended for grade 4 and up and has a similar structure to CAP's Latin series for children.
There are 17 Chapters and a choice of weekly schedules to allow the course to be completed in either half a year or a full academic year of thirty weeks.
French for Children takes a creative immersion-type approach which uses dialogue, translation, chants, vocabulary, dictation, grammar, and quizzes.
It is well laid out, uncluttered, and the text is easy on the eyes.

What the French for Children programme includes:

French for Children: Primer A - Student text, 245 pages.

French for Children: Primer A - Answer Key

French for Children: Primer A - 7 DVD Set & Chant CD

What French for Children looks like in practice:

This will vary a little depending on whether you are covering the material over a half or full academic year. I recommend watching the first DVD to get an overview of the course before you start. It takes you through the structure of the lessons and explains the various components.
A 15 page section called the 'Pronunciation Wizard' is located at the beginning of the Student Text and as the student progresses through the course they are instructed to refer back to various sections to read explanations and listen to the relevant audio track.
This is how I've structured the chapters:

Listen to the Dialogue A story is woven together throughout the course & Moozle follows along while listening to the audio. This is partly in French, partly in English and introduces new vocabulary. She gets an idea of  what the new words mean from the context and tells me what she thinks is happening. The dialogue translation is in the back of the Student Text.

Chant -  phrases & sets of words to help with pronunciation. 'Je parle, tu parles, il/elle parle.' These are on the CD and Moozle repeats them aloud after listening.

Vocabulary - new words (about ten per chapter). These are meant to be memorized & students may make their own flashcards for this purpose. I've been getting Moozle to write them down in her French notebook.

Video - these are about 45min to an hour long each, so there is a lot of information. Sometimes I divide them over two days or go over parts if I think it necessary. The DVD's are very helpful for a parent who doesn't have a knowledge of French, or needs to brush up on what they did years ago, and are an integral part of the course.

Grammar - this course emphasizes grammar but also gives grammatical instruction in an incremental way so it's suitable for a child who may not have done much grammar previously, but is ready for the concepts e.g. at a grade 4 level.

Worksheets & Quizzes - these include translation exercises, completing charts, verb forms, grammar exercises etc.

La dictée - dictation! In France, and several other countries (Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, and Canada, for example), the dictations are structured contests, similar to spelling bees. This is something I hadn't attempted with Moozle because my French pronunciation wasn't to be trusted, but the dictation selections are on the CD and I just have to press a button. It's the same as standard dictation except, of course, the sentences are in French: 'Elle travaille beaucoup.'

Some thoughts:

I think this is a very thorough curriculum; well structured and methodical, while at the same time  including enough variety to keep it engaging and interesting.

Personally, I think it is in keeping with the Charlotte Mason approach if it is used, as CAP recommends, for grade 4 and up, as this is generally when the study of grammar is introduced in a CM education.

The grammar content in Primer A starts with subjects and verbs and continues to add in other concepts such as infinitives, verb conjugation, tense and noun gender.
After a few years of getting ears and tongue accustomed to French words mostly through the medium of folksongs, French for Children is an ideal next step for us.
I think it would also be a good starting point for a student who hasn't had any prior experience with the French language because of its multifaceted approach.
The only thing I'd add is listening to French folksongs on a regular basis. We are continuing to do this and I've included a playlist of some that we have used below .

Classical Academic Press has a very generous 64 page pdf of the French for Children: Primer A  Student Text that you may download and try out. There is also a free audio MP3 sample here and the  video below is the first chapter of the course (about 45 mins long).

Classical Academic Press are giving away two French for Children: Primer A bundles for USA residents. To enter head across to Brandy @ Afterthoughts and Amy @ Living & Learning and enter the draw.

A 20% discount off of all CAP French products with the discount code FFC2016 is also available through to January 31st for anyone to use. It is also valid on the already discounted French for Children full-program (the bundle). If a person in the USA orders from CAP with the 20% off and then wins the giveaway, they will be refunded.

The giveaway finishes at midnight on the 31st January and winners must respond to the notification email by the given deadline or another winner will be chosen instead.

Congratulations to the two winners: Laura L & Sharron C!

A playlist of a variety of French songs and folksongs that we've used at different times:


One Acre Follies said...

Visiting from Afterthoughts, can't wait to read more and check out these links. Just the kick in the pants I need!

MA F said...

We picked up French for Children around the new year...dd was excited having enjoyed LFC and SFC...we are liking it so far. I like your lesson plan order, I am going to switch ours around and try it that way.

Jessica B. said...

I found you through Afterthoughts. I'd love to give this program a try.

Carol said...

It wasn't my intention to be so violent, but if it helps...

Carol said...

I wish they did an Italian course as well. I'd be happy to add that being another Romance language.

Carol said...

Hi Jessica, there are 2 bundles so you just never know...

Heather said...

Thank you for such a thorough review and explanation of this French curriculum. It only took all day, but I finished watching the teaching video you have posted. I learned so much. We live in a part of Ontario, Canada where French speaking is held up as the ideal and French-immersion and French schools are the most sought after. I have never found anything I liked, so I have only purchased two small books to attempt to get us into the world of French grammar, phonics and vocab. But this seems like it is exactly the type of instruction we need. I plan to purchase it straight-away. I've never used CAP materials before. I'm wondering now if I their Latin is as good as this. Will check into it.

Carol said...

The videos are very thorough and I'm not surprised it took you all day. I've only heard good things about their Latin programme but I haven't seen it. You probably have the similar problem that we have in Australia in not being able to have a good look at something before you buy it.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading French 3,5 years on a regular basis ( 30 books a year... at least) and find READING the best way to increase the vocabulary! Of course the grammar basics are essential...but always reading a French book really helps!

Carol said...

Nancy, I'm really inspired by how varied your reading is. We have a book, 'The Avion my Uncle Flew' which starts off in English & gradually adds more & more French until by the end of the book it is totally in french. It's a children's book but I found it so helpful. I've been thinking that I must tackle one of Charlotte Bronte's books which contained heaps of French. ? Villete, I think. I stumbled through it when I read it for the first time.

Anonymous said...

I'm moving on to non-fiction French books (E. Berl, Essaies) and bio historian F. Furet. Complete change of vocabulary, very erudite. Verbs in books by Berl, Furet drive me crazy: rattacher à ( to associate with; chevancher (to overlap) concevoir (to develop ) #NeedCoffee

Heather said...

If I may sneak into this conversation as well. I read The Avion my Uncle Flew last year and I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to read the last part, the letter to his mother, completely in French with full understanding. But then again, it was written for this understanding. Now you are stepping up the challenge with the mention of this Bronte novel. :)

Heather said...

If I may confess, I usually do not attend the local Christian homeschool conference lectures. I get a vendor pass and spend my time looking at the stuff. :)

C Benson said...

Oh! Italian! Let me wish over here - id love for them to add than one as well. We love LFC. Are going to probably have to use FFC too :)

Carol said...

Maybe we should make a special request...I'm sure there must be others out there who'd be keen on Italian??

The girl who painted trees said...

I speak French fluently and try to speak it often (but English is my thinking language so I often revert back to English! and their school work is all in English). I need a structured resource to actually formally teach it and I have looked at this curriculum over and over. We use Latin For Children and I love it. I have spent so much money already on French resources that I keep resisting. I found your review from your Review of Y6 post. It's making me think again about purchasing it. I think I also bought The Avion after reading about it on your blog, but we haven't read it yet.

Carol said...

There was hardly anything available when we first started homeschooling & I wasn't able to actually see before I bought, being in Australia, so I spent a bit of money too! French was going quite well, but I needed something structured for my dd by the time she was 10, especially as she was really interested in the language. Avion is a great book. I wish there were more like it. Anyhow, I think you'd appreciate the way CAP's French curriculum is done.