Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bookish Day

This is one of the many marvelous reading chairs in our living room - a club chair that, by rights, should be Mac's roost, but the kids have adopted it as their own (at times, they all three squeeze in there!). Everyone was feeling bookish today: here's Iris with a fantastic reading arrangement: index and third finger holding up Oliver's Harry Potter glasses (which, in Iris's book, make her Hermione), thereby leaving plenty of room for necessary thumb sucking - ever the engineer, she's figured out a way to be practical and comforted. :-) She chose well in deciding the delve into the world of Jules Verne!

Oliver, too, picked up a book this afternoon after school: the 5th volume of Harry Potter, which he'd laid aside for several days. He had taken it to school today "just to have it in my backpack" and had been looking forward to reading it all day - how delicious is that? I love that he just needed the weight of the book in his backpack with him - I completely understand that. You see him here doing something he does often: reading while standing up - I wonder if he just forgets about his body or... He's up in the room the children are sharing - a lovely desk, beautiful engravings of the region, and the exposed beams that are the most dramatic reminder of the fact that we live in a 17th-century house.

Eleanor was not feeling so bookish today. :-)

The kids came home with other great Tales of Lunch, and I actually picked up another amazing tidbit about the school lunch from the coiffeuse (yes! I went for my own haircut this morning - fun fun!) - it is, indeed in three parts, but now I know that they are called: 1) hors d'oeuvres (classic French for "appetizer"), 2) plat de resistance (I'm sure this is a common usage, too, but there is something about the phrase that just cracks me up: "de resistance" as in "pièce de resistance" as in "the kids can't possibly resist this delicious food!" and indeed, they can't: Iris said that she ate every last bite today), 3) produit laitier (which means either yogurt or cheese) and 4) dessert ('nuff said). It really ups the ante to think that when I cook, I'm not just making a main course, but a "plat de resistance" - voilà! We also talked of homework and drawings and singing and books written and more than ever I wish I wish that I could see them in action in school - a little fly on the wall!

So we watched the kids play after our snack - they were replaying a game they've been playing together on the playground during recess, "Tiger and Monkey," which seems to involve a significant amount of chasing. They were laughing and running and yet there I sat, wondering "but if they just play with each other during recess, how will they learn French?" Shame on me. Mac saw me worrying and reminded me that this was only their fifth day of school. Which prompted me to remember two things: a) that my first memory of America after first coming to it was Valentine's Day (i.e. 6 weeks after we'd gotten there) and b) that it took me a good three months before I could speak English. So really, we're just at the beginning of it all, and instead of worrying about a show of steady progress, I should instead marvel at the totally cool and inventive ways that children have of learning languages.

I think that part of me is on some kind of Winter Term inner clock - if this were a Winter Term trip we'd be close to halfway through and our thoughts would be turning homeward and schoolward. I have to remember that we're here for six whole months and that there is time for everything. And that even if the kids just learn "pain et beurre s'il-vous-plait," it's been totally worth it for how much they've played and been together.

And then, of course, right before the last kisses good night, Iris says this: "Oh Daddy! I wanted to tell you. At school, at lunchtime, one of the chefs came over and asked me "ça va, Iris?" and I said "Oui" because it was true, but I didn't even think about it!" So there it is - the magic that is children learning. The chef asks "is it going well?" and she says "yes" just like that! That must be one of the key differences that makes it easier for children to learn another language: they get to that unconscious reaction faster - they don't stop and translate and think through every little word, they go with the flow. I've also noticed that Eleanor has a good deal of receptive language in French - when I ask her to go get her "manteau" she goes right for her coat. Oliver's still immersed in the writing - I wonder if he'll be reading before he'll be talking...

Mac was reading all sorts of cool stuff today: WWI monuments, ethnic identity in Weimar Germany; I'm working with my Thenaud 1512 travel text and have decided to couple it with Daisy Delogu's excellent book entitled Theorizing the Ideal Sovereign: the rise of the French Vernacular Royal Biography (Chicago, 2008) - I'm letting myself linger over the challenges that translations and the popularity of Aristotle's Politics and Nichomachean Ethics presented to Augustine's traditional claims about the ethics of kingship. When this all connects with images (and right now, there's much to be mulled over in the role that "prudence" plays in Aristotle and the fact that Louise had herself represented as prudence), I'll return with more details.

Right now, Mac is out at our little local movie theater (fewer screenings than Ashley Square Cinema in Greencastle! but hey, mostly European films) watching The White Ribbon (a difficult film) and I'll be watching a debate on French national identity connected to the three-month national debate on French identity launched by the government dubbed le Grand débat sur l'identité nationale (wo-ha!). If you're feeling bookish, you can read up on it all! :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment