Friday, September 5, 2008

Parlez-vous français?

This breezy, summer-like morning, before the kids settled into their studying, the doorbell rang.

“Quick, Mom, she’s here! Hurry up!” my daughters urged me away from my computer where I was already checking the morning email on my company’s computer.

“I’m so glad you could come,” I greeted Karol, our new French tutor.

Karol recently retired from teaching French and Spanish in a nearby public school system. I had met Karol at a missionary prayer circle, and had sat next to her at a church luncheon back in April. I hadn’t known Karol, so I asked her what she did. When she said that she had just retired from teaching French, a language that she loved, I asked her whether she would consider tutoring my daughters this coming school year. (My daughters were taking French in public school last year.) Although she didn’t know anything about homeschooling, Karol sounded interested.

That was in the spring; would she still be interested in September? Perhaps, like many retirees, her schedule had become filled with volunteer work and visits to other cities, extended vacations and projects that she hadn’t gotten to during her work years. So I prayed before I emailed her last week (I didn’t have her phone number, only her email address.) And the result is that she came to our house today.

She is quite an exuberant person, as I’d expect a French teacher to be. Although Larissa has had only one year of French and Alexandra had three, Karol will be tutoring them together for the most part, giving Alexandra more extended vocabulary exercises and pulling Larissa along more quickly than she’d otherwise go. Larissa did mention that last year she doodled a lot in class because many classmates were slow in picking up the language and held back the class.

That’s the beauty of homeschooling – and tutoring, if you can afford it and have the good fortune of finding a tutor. Karol is not cheap, but with half of Africa speaking French, I want my daughters to keep learning the language. Why, I was stunned – stupefied – that after 30 years of not using French at all, I could still understand the language when I ended up in Senegal on a mission trip a few years ago. I could no longer speak French, but I could follow what others were saying all around me. It’s really worth learning another language.

So the girls had their first session of getting to know the tutor, and of Karol getting to know them. With her public school connections, Karol is going to try to borrow textbooks and materials from our school system. I even put in a call to Alexandra’s French teacher – the one she had for her Honors class last year and would have had again this year. Perhaps she can lend us some books.

“How about teaching them some Bible verses in French?” my husband chimed in towards the end of the hour-long session. Work has been slow for my husband George, a general contractor, so he’s been fixing things around the house lately. “After all, isn’t it the idea to use French on mission trips?”

“Excellent idea!” said Carol.

“I’ll try to find some simple Bible stories in French,” I volunteered. With the Internet, that shouldn’t be too difficult. I hope.

I would love some recommendations if anyone has any.

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What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)