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A Present from France

by Kim Hoffmeister

In October 2003 we moved our family of five, our furniture, belongings and the cat to a quiet but quaint little village in the Cotes d’Armor region of Brittany. We had always wanted to live in France and in 2003 we felt that it was ‘now or never’, and to our family and friends amazement we actually went through with the plans which had talked wistfully about for most of the thirteen years of our married life. My husband left a well paid steady job as a music lecturer, and the children and I gave up our home education together, as it was decided (after much deliberation), that they would go to school in France to help them learn the language and make friends.

The first year in school went relatively smoothly for our two older children. They were somewhat of a novelty in their little primary school with its three teachers and sixty children, but as the year drew to a close it became obvious that our eldest was struggling a little. He had spent most of the year trying to get to grips with the language, and most of the other things ‘taught’ to him had gone largely over his head. His teacher suggested another year in primary school instead of moving up to the secondary school with his peers, which is quite normal practice in France. The second year at school only confirmed that whilst his French was now virtually fluent, his ability to concentrate in a classroom situation was a problem. All the reasons we had turned to home education in the first place were rearing their heads again. Owing to his Dyspraxia his organizational skills were lacking, and he would frequently loose books, pens, homework, or do the wrong class work or homework altogether and he was very easily distracted by anything else that went on in the classroom. His teacher spoke to us many times of the necessity that he ‘get himself together’, and organise himself “or else”, she warned, “He will never cope at the secondary school”. These were to prove to be prophetic words. Less than a term into his new secondary school and we were being regularly called in to speak to teachers to be told he was lazy and unorganized and finally, one weekend after a long ‘family conference’ we decided that we would waste no more time – the following morning we would recommence home education. Three months later, his brother and sister, also now fluent in French, joined us at home and we reestablished our rhythm of daily life as a home educating family.

Now that they are not at school every day, and with the French education authorities always close on our heels, the children have to keep up regular French lessons, and it was out of this necessity that our new business was born. ‘A present from France’ has been developed to provide resources for all children to learn French through games, music, stories, audio CDs, books, worksheets, posters and lots more. The ‘present’ idea is designed to capture the imagination of the children and we have been careful to include something for all learning styles; audio, kinesthetic and visual. The carefully chosen learning tools in the ‘present’ are likely to appeal to children around the ages of 6 - 8, although older children and even parents might learn something too!

The boxes are dispatched every two months and each ‘present’ includes two themed subjects, for example ‘Les Couleurs’ (colours), ‘Les chiffres (numbers) or ‘Salutations’ (greetings).

We are a musical family and are lucky enough to have a recording studio and a live music room fitted in the house. This means we have been able to produce our own audio CDs (stories and music), and we have been able to draw on the local talent of French teachers, speech therapists and singers to ensure authentic French voices and accents on our CDs.

So far, our efforts have been enthusiastically received and we hope to continue to expand our repertoire to enable us to continue our lives, home educating, here in France.

You can visit our website at http://www.apresentfromfrance.com


This article was kindly written by

Kim Hoffmeister
Moncontour de Bretagne
France

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