Tuesday, November 12, 2013

French Essentials - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

My home schooling with my son began many years ago based upon the teachings of Charlotte Mason. One of the concepts of a Charlotte Mason education that I had never successfully implemented was that French was to be a daily part of the child's education. Now, thanks to French Essentials, I have finally begun to teach French to my son.

For many years my son actually resisted my efforts to begin a French program arguing, with good reason, that in our area it was much more practical to study Spanish, And study Spanish we have. However I, having a broader exposure than my son to the world in general, not to mention classical literature, am firmly convinced that it is also important for him to study French. Fortunately our family interest in the television Dr. Who, among other things, seems to have softened his attitude toward French, and he has been willingly working on it with me since we received access to the materials. "Allons y, Alonzo!"

French Essentials, a small company out of Canada, kindly offered selected individuals on the Schoolhouse Review Crew, their Full Access Online Program (one full year, all modules, of their French lessons) for purposes of review. [Fear not, the fact that the company is in Canada does not mean the French is the Canadian version -- this course teaches the universal version of French.] For four to five weeks we have been working our way through the beginning of their program.

When I initially attempted to get started up with the program, I immediately ran into trouble. The program relies strongly on downloaded documents, which are then clickable for audio and video files. What cool technology! I'd never encountered it before and was not familiar with it. But, sadly, as I sat click, click, clicking my mouse, nothing was happening. I emailed the company, and they responded quickly. First they asked me for my phone number and a time when they could call, and then they called when I asked them to. It was much easier to work through the issue by phone than by email, and the issue was quickly resolved. It was related to a setting on my computer that I had been unaware of, having never used this technology. Without help I would not have known what I was looking for or how to change the setting. I also learned that I was speaking directly with Greg Shone, the co-author of the program, and I learned how small a company it actually is. It was such a delight to be dealing right with the owner/author, and to be taken such good care of.

It was also fun to find how much of my high school French I still remember. I might not speak French any better than a French three year old, but when M. Shone wrote me a follow up letter, throwing in a few French phrases, I was delighted that I knew exactly what the phrases meant: 

C'était un plaisir de vous parler ce matin. (It was a pleasure to speak with you this morning.)
Bonne journée! (Have a good day!)

So, finally equipped to get the program to function, we began our journey. Going first to the French Essentials website, there is a row of button choices (Home, Parent Info, Student Area, Purchase, and Free Registration), select Free Registration.  I was going to give you a step-by-step instruction of what to do next, but I found there is a Quick Start video you can watch to see what to do next.

To get started, once you have purchased the program, you can get familiar with how the program works on the "Parent Info" section,
but the meat of the program is in the "Student Area" (pictured below):

In case you aren't clear on this, the above French sentence is saying the same thing as the English sentence that immediately follows it. The first thing you will want to do is go to the download area, open Module 1, and download the PDFs for all those lessons, storing them in a file on your computer. When you are actually ready to start with your student, the first three Lessons are just PDFs.  The PDFs have embedded audio and visual files, and for the first three lessons, that is all you need. When you get to Lesson 4, you will also go into the "Online Exercises & Lesson Tests" pictured above, and the "Culture" section pictured above. When you click to go to the Exercises & Tests, this is what you will see:
This section provides reinforcement of the audio and video, pronunciation and spelling, and also provides

Workbook and Evaluation

Students practice their reading and writing with the printable written exercises. This also helps to reinforce speaking and comprehension as students correctly understand grammar and sentence structures. 
From their website:
New! Registered users now have access to the new Student Area with online quizzeslearning activities Savais-tu! (French culture). The quizzes include:

  • Online flash cards
  • Listening comprehension & spelling
  • 2 challenging games (Scatter & Space race)
  • A Test section that gives parents 4 different evaluation options.
Starting with Lesson 4 the student will also learn about French Culture with each lesson by clicking on the "Culture" button also pictured above. When the student clicks the "Culture" button, this window will appear:

I really got a kick out of my son's reaction to that first Culture lesson. Without reading, he looked at the photo, his jaw dropped, and he said, "How old are those kids? That's ridiculous!" He meant it was ridiculous for young children to be kissing. He didn't yet understand that "La bise", the kiss (right side first!), is a normal European greeting, first right then left.
French Essentials currently contains the first five modules, but is scheduled to have ten modules, hopefully by this time next year. The program is recommended for anyone grades 3-12. The recommended plan for teaching the modules is:
Grades 4/5 to 7/8 - modules 1-5
Grades 7/8 to 8/9 - modules 5 & 6
Grades 10-12 - modules 7-10
Adults will actually also benefit. I had four years of French in school, but I will be taking this course with my son in hopes of improving my fluency.

Each module is divided into lessons, and most students will complete an average of one lesson per week. The best way to complete the lessons seems to be to go over the material initially on Monday, and then review the material daily through the week. The first three lessons are strictly the PDF download with audio and video files, but beginning at Lesson 4 of Module 1 there are also online activities for the student to work on daily to help cement the vocabulary and usage, to play games, to take quizzes and tests and get immediate results, and to learn about culture. This is the format that is working in our home, anyway.

And the program is really working with my son. He has totally retained what we have covered, testing out with 100% on the tests. The material we have covered so far has been very easy for him, but he's an 8th grader. According to the plan I mentioned above, this material is age-appropriate even for younger students, so I will probably step up our pace to start covering the material more quickly than I have been. I think he can handle it.

I have really enjoyed working through this material with my son. I am trying and hoping to help him grow in the area of computer accountability and reliability, so that I can permit him to work on programs like this on his own. So far, though, we're not there yet. Right now, offering him an open computer with the password unlocked also unlocks a temptation to rush through any assignment so that he can (without permission) slip into the computer game of choice and play. So using the computer for educational purposes is still an ongoing challenge. I just wish I could hand him a list of assignments, a pile of books and a computer, and that he would just (like a perfect angel) apply himself to be the best that he could be at every subject we're trying to cover. But until that is a reality (no, it won't ever be a reality...), I either work with him or near him while he has access to any computer for any reason. But... that's my job, so that's what I do.

If you have been wanting to teach your children French but have not known which program to use, you should consider French Essentials. Each module can be purchased for $69.95, or you can purchase the complete program (all modules) for $149.95. I received all modules (currently available) and 12 months' access to the website for free for purposes of this review. Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew have also written review of French Essentials. To read their reviews, please click on the link below.  
Each module can be purchased for $69.95 while the full year(full package) of all modules can be purchased for $149.95. - See more at: http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/french-essentials-review/#sthash.QK25leBz.dpuf
Each module can be purchased for $69.95 while the full year(full package) of all modules can be purchased for $149.95. - See more at: http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/french-essentials-review/#sthash.QK25leBz.dpuf

No comments :

Post a Comment