Monday, January 25, 2010


Welcome to the Luv Haws - this is where the Hazel Knight and Princess Wise will be living, once they are married. Their nuptials are the topic of the week on Iris's Thinking Bench. Other kids are now coming to sit down and Iris and I are telling them what the project is - they all have projects, too. Those little guys get right down to it when they get there in the morning - there are weaving projects, drawing, building, probably some motricity - all sorts of things.

This is the wedding itself - Iris says that she was inspired by Gina and Steve's wedding. There are the bride and groom at the top, and the people down below (you can only see their uniformly brown hair atop their pink chairs - the blue things on stems are enormous glasses of blueberry drink the guests will be enjoying soon). Interesting thing, this picture, since Iris sat in the front row - it's cool that she imagines the room looking like this. I think that there are rings being exchanged somewhere in there as well. Lucky Hazel Knight - he's marrying well!

Unbeknownst to us, today was the first day that we were able to see some language gelling with the children. There were all sorts of indications that It (language acquisition) is happening, and each one took my breath away: Eleanor understood everything I said to her about her day and her lunch (tuna salad appetizer, pork tenderloin in a mustard sauce with rice, cheese course and choice of banana or yogurt), answering entirely in English.

Iris got me three times: first in calling out "Au revoir" to her teacher, loud and clear and with ease (as though she's been doing it her whole life), as we were leaving; second by sing-songing "Je n'sais pas" Je n'sais pas" and I said "Oh! you've learned 'Je ne sais pas' - good job!" "No, mom," she replies "It's je n'sais pas" - this is some secret super trick that kids have about learning the language: she's not worried about what verb or word is being contracted - she just says it like it sounds: consequently, she sounds like a little French speaker. Mac totally took a mental note. The third moment came when I was filming a tiny video of each kid saying their favorite French phrase thus far: Eleanor had "pain et beurre" of course, and I thought that Iris would say something similar ("pain et Nutella" is a second favorite around here) - instead, she comes out with "Je suis la reine." - I am the queen. I didn't know that she knew how to say she was the queen! When did that happen??? I love this.

Oliver brought home his classwork notebook for the first time. Now here I am utterly stumped for multiple reasons: apparently, he's doing this work mostly independently and he seems to know what the words are, and he's using the totally cool French handwriting. How does he know what the words mean? He says he just does, although sometimes he can't translate them, they just sound right. I need a linguist here: what is this step when things start to sound right even before we know what they mean? It's utterly fascinating to me. Oliver also brought home his vocabulary book (this is the work that he is doing one-on-one with a tutor the school is providing to build up his vocabulary more quickly). So we got to meet this guy:

Oliver loves this guy. I kind of love this guy. He named all ten parts of this guy's frantic face. We've decided not to name this guy - "Bob" seems too ordinary. So we're sticking with "this guy," or, "ce mec." Eleanor said that it was no wonder he was yelling what with all of the "vocab bubble pins" sticking into him. :-) I just sat there this afternoon, as Oliver rattled off all of the words (with articles). Why, I ask myself, was I not able to do this at home in the States? When I see how easily this comes to him... All praise to parents who raise their kids bilingual - it's magical! Considering the kids have had 12 days of school, I thought that what we witnessed today was pretty amazing. Mac and I are starting to weave certain quotidian phrases in French into our conversation - perhaps we'll just keep building - miraculous every step of the way.

All this prompts thoughts of education in the Middle Ages - of all that little princes and princesses were taught and how. Much less hands on, I would guess (although we've lost probably most of the material culture of childhood for this period) - but texts were highly interactive: read, performed, illuminated, problematic. Did one start with the funny marginalia of a Book of Hours, then progress to Bible stories, then to the Roman de la Rose? Louise had not one but two illumianted copies of Ovid's Heroïdes in her manuscript collection - were those to be memorized? cherished as objects? They are very puzzling texts, these letters from abandoned women and the men who wronged them - when does pleasure in ethical dilemmas begin? and what do we learn from that challenge? Well, for now, I know what Eleanor had for lunch, that Iris is the queen, and that Oliver is a vocabulary machine - and that is plenty.

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