French in the Summer

Homeschooling over the summer?  Try some French!

Instead of taking a break from homeschooling until the fall, let me show you how you can sneak in a little French over the summer.

If your family likes camping, consider one of the many campgrounds in Quebec.  Campgrounds (especially private ones) often offer programs for children.  In the camping directory (http://www.campingquebec.com/) look for the term “Animation pour enfants” which refers to programming for children.  Some campgrounds offer animation full days while others only half days.

The “animation” is usually led by university students who organize crafts, sports and other camp-like activities.  The opportunity for your children to be immersed in French among francophone children for a week can enhance your efforts in French instruction, especially if you go over a few words of vocabulary first.  Outside of Montreal, very little English is heard so choose a campground east of there in places like Granby, Roxton Pond and Lac Brome.  Excellent campgrounds also exist northeast of the city near Trois Rivieres and Shawinigan, in the region known as Mauricie.

Our family has spent considerable time in Quebec to take advantage of the cheaper prices and French immersion experience.  If camping near a town, look into enrolling your child for a week into that community’s public day camp.  For the entire summer, we paid $145.00 for both girls to attend day camp ($75.00 for the first child and $70.00 for the second).  This was cheaper than paying for a week of day camp in Ontario!  Even if you enrol your children for one week, it is worth the price.  Look up Camps De Jour in the community nearest your campground.

A very unexpected and fun French immersion experience our girls had one summer was taking a cooking class at Loblaws.  The teacher was a young exuberant employee who was delighted to have two anglophone children in his class.  As a bonus, no other children enrolled that week so they had Jerome all to themselves!  Jerome began the half day class by introducing the recipe of the day.  Then, the three of them took a tour of the store to collect the ingredients.  This was a great exercise in reinforcing French vocabulary.  Once organized, they prepared the dish according to the recipe and of course, at the end, they enjoyed the fruits of their labour.  We, as parents benefitted as well; the girls could actually prepare a few dishes for us at home!

In many places we were amazed at the variety of museums even in smaller communities.  There are many educational benefits to these of course but even attending one and hearing French being spoken can fire up the synapses.  In larger communities, there is a Museum Pass for $30.00 that allows you to enjoy museums, historic sites, interpretation centres and art galleries.  On a rainy summer day we visited Trois Rivieres’ Musees des Ursulines, the Musée Québécois de Culture Populaire and then went next door to tour the Old Prison.  On the outskirts of town, the Forges du Saint-Maurice National Historic Site was extremely interesting for the girls.  The site of a former major iron producing facility, it is designed to present workshops to schoolchildren during field trips so a great, child-friendly infrastructure already exists for summer visits.

There are more mainstream ways to get your child to hear and experience French.  Any of the numerous blockbuster films will be playing, undoubtedly, in a local cinema; I guarantee your child will not mind what language is being spoken as the story unfolds.

We made a point of teaching the girls how to order food.  They giggled when they learned that “bagel” in Quebec was the same word, just pronounced differently.  They will be more likely to attempt this if you agree to try it yourself.

When we set out to take advantage of the immersion opportunities over the 4 summers we spent in Quebec we had no idea how many would present themselves.  Try it for yourself and see how it encourages your children to appreciate and learn French once you get back home.

Janet LoSole and her husband of 20 years, Lloyd Stringer, use the communities of the world to homeschool their two girls, who, when they are not travelling, read books and sing show tunes.