This is Part 3 of studying foreign languages in a Charlotte Mason homeschool.
In Part 1, I discussed Francois Gouin, whose Series approach Miss Mason recommended in Home Education.
In Part 2, I highlighted some of the learning activities suggested by Parents' Review articles, the PNEU programmes, and Miss Mason herself in Volumes 1 and 6.
This time, I want to share how we'll be putting those suggestions into action this year with my second graders.
As I have mentioned before, since we're learning a less-common language (Italian), the open-and-go resources for children's learning are few. I'm trying to see that as a benefit--I have the opportunity to design my own course of study that both (1) meets what I see as some essentials of a Charlotte Mason-style program for young children and (2) works for our family.
As for the first point, we have talked about those in length over the last couple posts. On the second point, I want to add a note or two. When I say "works for our family," I have in mind a few things:
:: The size of our family. I have lots of little ones, which means we keep home quite a bit. It's not feasible for me to corral the younger four while my two "big kids" take class after class, so I prioritize our extracurriculars schedule. If I only had the two older children, I would likely enroll them in a course taught by an Italian teacher, as this is a subject I wouldn't mind outsourcing. ;) But right now, I have piano lessons and nature study on our "fall outings" schedule, and that's about all I can manage at this stage in life.
:: Our location. Speaking of an Italian teacher: if we lived a half hour or so north, there's a good chance I could actually find an Italian tutor to come to the house. Where we live, that's not possible right now.
:: Our preferences. We don't "do screens" for our children, so I need something that isn't DVD- or computer-based. Later on, I plan to utilize these kinds of learning tools, but not with in the early-elementary years.
:: My own limitations. For one, I'm not fluent in Italian. I have taken some Italian classes and I'm trying to refresh those language skills, but obviously, my plans would be different if I were a native speaker. I also have a limited amount of time, so our schedule has us doing our language lessons during mealtimes. Which means that whatever I choose has to be doable over the din of toddlers. ;)
And so on. What I want to point out is that all of us have particular needs when we're assessing what will work. The plan I have listed here isn't my ideal. It's what I think will work at this stage in our home.
So what would my ideal look like? Probably something like Miss Mason suggested in Volume 1: an Italian tutor coming to my home for a few hours a week to work with the children (and me!), using picture lessons, Gouin series, and lots of conversation. She could drop off prepared assignments and discussion starters for me to use with the kids through the rest of the week on my own. And maybe she could cook me some lasagna and bring a nice bottle of red wine along? You know, learning about the culture and all. And didn't Clara Daniell's article mention something about international travel...
Yes, so ideals are sometimes less than helpful. ;) So I have tried to discern here what I think will actually work in our home rather than what I wish would work.
Our Plans for Italian - Second Grade
Last year we took a couple resources (Pimsleur for listening/speaking and Teach Me Everyday Italian CDs for songs) and worked through them in order. This year, I organized our studies into thematic units. My goal is to cover one unit every 3-4 weeks, but we will slow down if necessary.
To plan the units, I chose a "spine" of sorts--a book that would give me a progression of topics to cover and some vocabulary/grammatical ideas for each topic. This spine is for me--the children will never see it. This year, I'm using Italian in Ten Minutes a Day. I picked it because it was at my local library; if it hadn't been, I would have picked another one. I want to emphasize that this book does not use a CM-ish study method. I'm simply using it as a organizing tool. Any user-friendly textbook that isn't too grammar-heavy would do. I'm using the units in roughly the same order, with a few adjustments for age-appropriateness (we're not using the Italian currency chapter, for example) or length (I'm stretching a few units into two).
Here are the other resources we're using for this year:
:: Teach Me Everyday Italian, volumes 1 and 2 - These are great. We used them last year with success and are happy to continue with them.
:: Filastrocche Italiane - A bare-bones book that I already had on my shelves. It doesn't have that many rhymes, but it's sufficient for a year of lessons.
:: Italian for Children - I picked this program from the library. It is a compilation of worksheets and pretty twaddly activities, and though it has an accompanying CD, I'm not even using it because I was very unimpressed. All that said, I pulled a couple of the little board games from here rather than drawing them from scratch, and I adapted some of the conversation ideas to do on my own.
:: Italian Picture Word Book and Let's Learn Italian Picture Dictionary - I'm using these children's dictionaries from my shelves to pull my vocabulary from.
:: Kids Stuff Italian. More on this later. :)
(Just as with our spine book, my children aren't actually seeing any of these resources since we're doing it all orally. So we're using these as teacher's helps rather than as an actual curriculum.)
From these various resources, I compiled the materials for each unit that I would actually use with the children. So for each unit, we have:
:: The theme (such as Animals)
:: Songs (using the Teach Me Everyday Italian series)
:: Rhymes (using Filastrocche Italiane)
:: Games or activities (pulled from Italian for Children and my own brain ;))
:: Conversation prompts
:: A Gouin series or a set of picture lessons
:: Vocabulary for me to introduce (mostly through conversation or games)
Here's an example of our current unit's outline:
|Unit||Italian in Ten Minutes a Day||Teach Me Everyday Italianvolumes 1 and 2||Filastrocche Italiane||Other Activities|
|2- ANIMALS||Unit 3 - Odds and Ends|
|Andiamo allo zoo (2. 9)|
conversation (2. 8)
Casimiro (2. 17)
All fattoria del nonno (2. 20)
Nella vecchia fattoria (2. 21)
Agnellino bianco (2. 21)
C'e un topolino (1. 25)
|Fillastrocca della lana||:: Picture Lesson - A Day at the Farm|
:: Game: Che animale sono io?
:: Game: animal charades
:: Game: Quanti animali hai? (with animal cards)
:: Game: Go Fish (with animal cards)
:: Practice: counting animals (plural endings)
:: Conversation: Ch'e il tuo animale preferito?
:: Songs: continue Nella Vecchia Fattoria with other animals
:: Songs: continue Andiamo allo zoo with other animals
:: Game: I Spy with zoo/farm scene
:: Game: Chi dice? (using Italian sounds for animals)
(A note: This unit is actually a little different from most of the others because Italian in Ten Minutes a Day doesn't have an animal unit, but I knew I wanted to include one. I used this chapter, which is basically an extended grammar lesson dealing with plurals, and made animals the content. Coincidentally, describing barnyard and zoo scenes provides a good opportunity to practice how to change a singular noun to a plural. Not that my children are ever hearing those grammatical terms or getting any sort of grammar lesson! They're absorbing the rule through songs and through conversation with me.)
In addition to these notes, I also have a (currently handwritten) sheet with a list of vocabulary to cover, question-and-answer prompts, and other little conversations we can have using the material from this unit. As usual, I prefer to plan weekly rather than daily, so I like working off a master sheet like this rather than trying to handle daily lesson plans. Our aim is 10-15 minutes of Italian, four days a week. We usually do it over dinner so that the little ones can listen in too.
In addition to that dedicated time, we're also incorporating Italian in other ways:
:: Daily calendar work. We have been doing our calendar in Italian since my oldest two were little.
:: Memory work. I have moved the songs, poems, and series we have learned into our Memory Work binder so that they'll be practiced without cutting into our daily Italian-learning session.
:: Non-"school" conversation. I'm taking a note from Gouin's discussion of "subjective language" and adding in conversational idioms through, well, conversation. That means that I'm memorizing phrases to use with the children and expecting that they'll eventually pick up on them without having to add them to our formal curriculum. For this, I'm using a (strangely-titled) gem of a book: Kids Stuff Italian. It's a thorough compilation of the kinds of things one might say to or talk about with children. There are sections for different ages and scenarios (bedtime for babies, cooking with older children, bathtime with toddlers, etc.), and in the back, there are lists of vocabulary words by theme (animals, in the kitchen, clothing) that make it a great reference.
Other Elementary-Age Ideas
I don't want to plan too far in advance because I want to see how this year goes first obviously! But I have a general idea of some things I would like to incorporate in the next couple years:
:: More complicated picture lessons
:: Continued Gouin series
:: Reading and narration from familiar picture books, folk tales, fairy tales, and fables
:: Memorization of proper Italian poems (rather than nursery rhymes)
:: Plays (I'd love to arrange for the children to do a nativity play at Christmas or something similar)
:: Songs, including not just children's selections but also Italian folk songs
So that's that! I hope to come back at the end of the year to share how things worked and what progress we made. I can also share more specifics for others doing Italian in their homes--just let me know what you'd like to see!
And do you have any great resources for learning Italian you think we might enjoy? Please do share.