Monday, February 8, 2010

Kids Rule!

My camera lay dormant today (possibly a first), and the two terrific drawings that Iris made (one of a house made entirely of mussels (!) and the other of a stick-figure self-portrait surrounded by the letters "I Rok!" - woo-hoo!) are at school - so tonight, I pay homage to the great spirit of kids with praise for Le Petit Nicolas, the classic and hilarious peek inside a little French boy's life in the 1960s, with drawings by Sempé (of New Yorker fame), which has been turned into a movie, which has just now come out on DVD. The little fellow has quite a website, too. At the Tabac/Presse shop in town, you can buy newly released DVDs with a magazine and a book, and Mac will be first in line tomorrow - it'll be the kids "Hey, wow! You've been in French school for 6 weeks" gift. Can't wait!

This morning was a happy, happy morning - Iris and her friend Cellen did the little bisou on the cheeks and the Thinking Bench produced this plan for the Mussel House (happy!); Eleanor now walks us to the door to say goodbye - we read a book first (in some half French, half English combination) and then she sends us off (happy!); and Oliver had brought his Harry Potter book today (I have very mixed feelings about this, as I can see him retreating completely into Potter-land, despite his best intentions, so we've bought him a French activity book that he can do when the other kids are doing things that are beyond him - there's a longer, more angst-ridden entry to be written here about how Oliver waits until he's completely mastered something before venturing forth with it (cf. how he barely read anything until Harry Potter), but truth be told, that little guy has surprised me so many times that I know better than to think I know better. I think) so he was happy.

Ok, so, in brief, here are the small but significant bursts of light that came through today:

Eleanor knocked my socks off when Iris was telling me about her day and using Play-Doh and I mused out loud: "I don't think I know the word for Play-Doh in French." She was standing in front of me, whipped around with an impish smile on her face and said "Plasticine." !!!!! Truly, parents are always the last to know! That one word, and the confidence and secret joy with which she said it just spoke volumes about what she does at school, and how much she's absorbing. She told me they'd been using plasticine for weeks - "Well, you never asked did you?" she might as well have asked to my surprise! If she knows this word, how many others does she know by now? How can I tap into her little reservoir of words? Man, the fun they have in Maternelle Petite Section.

Iris greeted me in French today with the phrase "tout à l'heure" (later, at a later hour) - she just loves the sound of it. So now we play "Maintenant ou tout à l'heure?" and I'm always having to come up with stuff that she'll do "tout à l'heure" (like do these math equations, but I bet she'll be doing those before I know it!). Of all the kids, Iris is interweaving French the most ("pauvres petits" she says about the Aristocats kittens, and "quoi?" when her French "Toboclic" interactive DVD suprises her). Her love of this phrase will do nothing to help my procrastination...

Oliver really surprised me today. His "interactive teacher" (what we call his school tutor), Patrice had asked that Oliver read some simple books to the girls, so Eleanor chose this book for him to read the last time we were at the library - it is very funny with a surprise ending (he doesn't eat lambs, and goats and pigs, grandmothers and kids, he loves them all, each for a different reason - it's just that what he loves about kids is to scare them!). We had it in his backpack today in case he was going to work with Patrice, but it turns out today wasn't the day. "Too bad for monsieur le loup," Mac said - and then Oliver tells us that he took the book out and read it to his regular classroom teacher instead. Hoorah! "les agneaux" is no picnic to say - I'm just so proud of him that he had the desire to share this with his regular teacher, too! He wants to speak French so badly, but he wants to express himself just like the other kids (not just say "baby stuff" he'll say), but nor does he want to methodically study the language (which I understand, although I find that satisfying - but I'm a grown-up). All I can think to do is keep presenting him with as much play and exploration in French as I can. Le Petit Nicolas should be an incredible boost here.

Mac and I have our little flashes of light as well: his work on Dix and the memorialization/ memory of WWI is getting very subtle and intricate - art history's been quick (too quick, thinks Mac) to dub the graphic nature of Dix's war paintings an anti-war act; Dix (he'll be arguing in his book), is more interested in the truth (the brutal, graphic truth) of his experiences than in any kind of pacifism. The burning question that Mac's work prompts for me is "How are we to interpret images of war?" Each one is framed, created very specifically by its maker (be he or she painter or photographer) - they have narrative, ideology, effect - that this self-portrait is made using the medieval woodcut technique, for example, says what about Dix's stance on modernity and industrialization? To be continued...

Here is my dear Louise de Savoie (1476-1531) in the guise of Prudence from a 1509 manuscript (the year after she and her children had been called to live with the King, Louis XII; three years after her son, François, had been betrothed to Louis XII's daughter, Claude, thereby putting him first in line for the throne of France). Prudence is a virtue which Aristotle had denied in women and slaves (neither were believed to be thoughtful or strategic enough). Considering that Louise's son was François Ier, the great Renaissance king of France, and that she served as Regent Queen of France not once but twice, I'd say Aristotle needs to rethink things! I'm tracing the characterization of Louise as Prudence throughout her life, and seeing how she uses the association throughout her courtly and political career. What I love is that the virtue of prudence is very ambiguous about truth - many times it is prudent to not tell the truth. This is in such stark contrast to Dix, for whom the truth was an absolute necessity (if not ideology), no matter how brutal. Prudence was on its way out as a virtue as of the 18th century (precisely when, through the Enlightenment, values (such as truth) became more absolute). The rise and fall of ideas are some of the most fascinating moves we make as a species.

But wait! This was supposed to be all about the kids, for, as Oliver says "Kids rule, grownups drool!" Well, not yet, but those little guys sure impressed me today. I think that I'll get some plasticine tout à l'heure, after I read Je suis le loup. Bonne nuit!

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