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    A Review of Classical Academic Press’ French for Children {Plus a Giveaway!}

    January 20, 2016 by Carol Hudson

    [dropcap]M[/dropcap]oozle, my ten year old, has been learning French informally for a few years, mostly by listening to French folksongs and copying French phrases into her notebook. This has worked quite well up until recently. Her pronunciation sounds natural, and she speaks the French she knows with confidence, but I knew that it was time she started a more formal programme. This was easier said than done.

    We’ve had a chequered history in the foreign language department in our home, but it wasn’t through lack of resources. I don’t like to think about how much money has gone into buying curricula that sounded so promising but in reality just didn’t work for us. Some of these purchases were not thorough enough, others were better suited to adults or older independent students, and some were just plain old boring.

    Everything you ever wanted to know about Classical Academic Press' French for Children program. The bottom line? Highly recommended.

    I was reluctant to make any more expenditures after being disappointed with what I’d already purchased, but then I saw that Classical Academic Press (CAP) was about to publish French for Children. I’d been receiving their monthly eNewsletter, Insights, for about a year and liked what I’d read:

    Our motto “Classical Subjects Creatively Taught,” describes the essence of all that we publish. We seek to produce classical curricula and media with a clear design and structure, incremental and systematic instruction, all with a touch of delight, creativity, and flair.

    This is what I was after for my daughter … structure, but with delight, creativity & flair.

    Classical Academic Press kindly gave me a free copy of this curriculum for review purposes, and here are my considered thoughts after putting it to use in our home school.


    A General Overview:

    French for Children, Primer A is the first text in a three year series for elementary students. It is recommended for grade 4 and up and has a similar structure to CAP’s Latin series for children. There are 17 Chapters and a choice of weekly schedules to allow the course to be completed in either half a year or a full academic year of thirty weeks.

    French for Children takes a creative immersion-type approach which uses dialogue, translation, chants, vocabulary, dictation, grammar, and quizzes. It is well laid out, uncluttered, and the text is easy on the eyes.

    What the French for Children programme includes:

    French for Children Primer A  French for Children Answer Key  French for Children DVD

    Primer A – Student text, 245 pages • Answer Key7 DVD Set & Chant CD

    What French for Children looks like in practice:

    This will vary a little depending on whether you are covering the material over a half or full academic year. I recommend watching the first DVD to get an overview of the course before you start. It takes you through the structure of the lessons and explains the various components.

    A 15 page section called the ‘Pronunciation Wizard’ is located at the beginning of the Student Text and as the student progresses through the course they are instructed to refer back to various sections to read explanations and listen to the relevant audio track.

    This is how I’ve structured the chapters:

    Listen to the Dialogue – A story is woven together throughout the course & Moozle follows along while listening to the audio. This is partly in French, partly in English and introduces new vocabulary. She gets an idea of what the new words mean from the context and tells me what she thinks is happening. The dialogue translation is in the back of the Student Text.

    Chant – phrases & sets of words to help with pronunciation. ‘Je parle, tu parles, il/elle parle.‘ These are on the CD and Moozle repeats them aloud after listening.

    Vocabulary – new words (about ten per chapter). These are meant to be memorized & students may make their own flashcards for this purpose. I’ve been getting Moozle to write them down in her French notebook.

    Video – these are about 45min to an hour long each, so there is a lot of information. Sometimes I divide them over two days or go over parts if I think it necessary. The DVD’s are very helpful for a parent who doesn’t have a knowledge of French, or needs to brush up on what they did years ago, and are an integral part of the course.

    Grammar – this course emphasizes grammar but also gives grammatical instruction in an incremental way so it’s suitable for a child who may not have done much grammar previously, but is ready for the concepts e.g. at a grade 4 level.

    Worksheets & Quizzes – these include translation exercises, completing charts, verb forms, grammar exercises etc.

    La dictée – dictation! In France, and several other countries (Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, and Canada, for example), the dictations are structured contests, similar to spelling bees. This is something I hadn’t attempted with Moozle because my French pronunciation wasn’t to be trusted, but the dictation selections are on the CD and I just have to press a button. It’s the same as standard dictation except, of course, the sentences are in French: ‘Elle travaille beaucoup.


    Some thoughts:

    I think this is a very thorough curriculum; well-structured and methodical, while at the same time including enough variety to keep it engaging and interesting.

    Personally, I think it is in keeping with the Charlotte Mason approach if it is used, as CAP recommends, for grade 4 and up, as this is generally when the study of grammar is introduced in a CM education.

    The grammar content in Primer A starts with subjects and verbs and continues to add in other concepts such as infinitives, verb conjugation, tense and noun gender.

    After a few years of getting ears and tongue accustomed to French words mostly through the medium of folksongs, French for Children is an ideal next step for us.

    I think it would also be a good starting point for a student who hasn’t had any prior experience with the French language because of its multifaceted approach.

    The only thing I’d add is listening to French folksongs on a regular basis. We are continuing to do this and I’ve included a playlist of some that we have used below.

    Classical Academic Press has a very generous 64 page pdf of the French for Children: Primer A Student Text that you may download and try out. There is also a free audio MP3 sample here and the video below is the first chapter of the course (about 45 mins long):


    Your chance to win!

    Classical Academic Press are giving away two French for Children: Primer A bundles for USA residents! Just use the Rafflecopter form below — opportunity ends midnight on 1/31/2016.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway
    A 20% discount off of all CAP French products with the discount code FFC2016 is also available through to January 31st for anyone to use. It is also valid on the already discounted French for Children full-program (the bundle). If a person in the USA orders from CAP with the 20% off and then wins the giveaway, they will be refunded.

    As usual, the winner must response to the notification email by the given deadline or another winner will be chosen as a replacement.

    A playlist of a variety of French songs and folksongs that we’ve used at different times:

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  • Reply Valerie Ortiz August 15, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    Hi Carol, I would love to play the French folksongs you mention. But I fail to find a link. Thank you for your help.

  • Reply Lisa January 27, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    I went to a CM conference this fall where Sonya Shafer (from Simply CM) brought a foreign language curriculum from Cherrydale Press. They have at least French and Spanish. It was interesting, and unlike anything I’ve seen before. I’d love to hear if anyone has tried that one and how they like it. My 4yr old is currently in a Spanish immersion class and that’s really the way to go but we have to drive pretty far for it. I think finding a teacher and doing a language immersion class would be perfect for a CM co-op. I’m not sure that we’ll ever have one in our area though 🙁

  • Reply J. R. Meyers January 24, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the review. 🙂

  • Reply Cari Legere January 23, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I would love to try this curriculum. We love Latin For Children!

  • Reply Katrina January 23, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    I would really like to try this. It seems like it would be a good fit for us.

  • Reply Bev January 23, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    I’m interested in this program and I’m going to take a look at the .pdf. I wish I could find something to be a good fit for us. It’s been tough.

  • Reply Hillary January 21, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Carol – you describe the videos as an integral part of the course. Are they an essential part, or just nicely woven together with the bookwork? We are using Latin for Children and have just the audio CD, not the video DVD, and that is working well. Would you say that CAP’s French curriculum could be used well without the DVD, or not really? I am decently familiar with French, spoken and written, and was a college foreign language tutor.

    • Reply Carol January 21, 2016 at 11:31 pm

      The DVDs go through the different parts of each lesson – vocabulary, conversational French & how French grammar works. In your situation it probably isn’t essential, but it’s the closest thing to having a teacher in the room that we have. I like the combination of audio, visual & text – the lack of a multi-faceted approach was something that bothered me about some of the foreign language resources we’ve used previously. The other thing to consider is whether your student will be working independently to a certain extent, in which case the DVDs would be very worthwhile.

      • Reply Hillary January 22, 2016 at 5:17 am

        Thanks! Those considerations will help me decide. We’ve got a good younger-level French plan but my 4th grader can handle more.

        • Reply Hillary January 27, 2016 at 6:33 am

          We have used the sample all week and love that CAP put an entire chapter plus its video on their site to try out. It gave us a good idea of what using FFC would be like and how it might work here. The sample PDF also includes their suggested one-week/two-week-per-chapter schedule. A very helpful way to actually give it a trial run.

  • Reply Axon January 21, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    I so appreciate any posts about French or Latin, as both are on my to-learn-and-teach list but I am so unsure of how to begin. I would love to win this curriculum and I am looking forward to playing the folksongs for the kids!

  • Reply Sarah January 21, 2016 at 11:49 am

    I would love to win this! We’ve been trying Spanish for the last couple years and it’s not really going well. This would be perfect timing as my oldest will be starting 4th grade next year.

  • Reply Camille January 21, 2016 at 11:03 am

    How lovely! Sounds like a great French program!

  • Reply Mrs. H January 21, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Would love to try their French program!

  • Reply Lynn January 21, 2016 at 6:39 am

    Would love to win this! 🙂

  • Reply Kansas Mom January 21, 2016 at 5:51 am

    I’ve been pleased with the CAP materials we’ve tried and was so excited to hear they were making a French program! We’ve been listening to a Whistlefritz CD of French songs but it would be good to have something more formal.

  • Reply tess January 20, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    For anyone who is interested in teaching or learning French, I have to recommend “Les Petits Livres”— a mail-order library of French children’s books out of CA. We’ve been members now about two years, and my kids (4, 6, and 9) love our French book read-alouds during morning time.

    LPL has also partnered with Storyplayr, a subscription app that has a pretty extensive library of French children’s books, many with audio recordings of the text.

    I’m not a sponsor or anything, just an extremely happy customer!

  • Reply Cassie W. January 20, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I’m very interested in this product. I really want my children to learn French but they are not willing. My oldest tried Spanish this year and it’s not going well. I’m curious to have this French program compares to the Spanish. We have the Spanish program and it has not gone well but I think it’s the student and teacher and not the program. ; ) I would love to win it because I don’t think I can purchase any more foreign language programs (we have a good collection already).

    • Reply Carol January 20, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      Maybe you could try introducing some French folksongs to start with. If you watch the dvd & click on the pdf above it will give you a good idea of the programme’s structure & content. I haven’t seen the Spanish course yet so can’t comment on that except it has a different person doing the dvd & audio.

      • Reply Cassie W. January 20, 2016 at 7:53 pm

        I’ve been looking over this throughout the evening and I see some differences and similarities. Our biggest problem was the amount of vocabulary and other stuff to memorize in each lesson. It was too much at once even for my older (14 yo) student. I’m just now getting to the lesson of the sample to look those over. Would you consider this high school level for a student new to the language? What would you add to make it high school level? I’m thinking you have older students too so maybe you could answer this. (I find it tough to find good high school level materials for foreign language.)

        • Reply Cassie W. January 21, 2016 at 6:09 am

          Thank you!

        • Reply Carol January 21, 2016 at 2:02 pm

          I had a look at the samples from CAP’s Spanish curriculum & I think the French version has a better layout. The French lessons are longer & there are two more DVDs.
          Re high school level: I’d be happy to use it with an older student new to the language because of the varied approach, & cover it in half a year if possible. The dialogues might seem too childish to a 14 yr old but that’s just one section. I’d add in a couple of folksongs – they are a painless & enjoyable way to get a feel for the language. I’m in the process of putting together a playlist of French folksongs that are more suitable for older students, although there are a couple on the playlist above that would be ok.
          Keep a French notebook – write out vocabulary, sentences etc (would help with memorising & review)
          A decent French/English dictionary eg Oxford
          Use the French subtitles on DVDs (we have a TinTin which is totally in French).
          ‘Living French’ by T.W. Knight (Revised by Jean-Claude Arragon: book & CD) ISBN 978-1444153972 – I have this & would have used it for my dd but it’s better for an older student. CAP would be a good kick start prior to attempting this as it offers more support. Hope this is of some help!

  • Reply Clarissa January 20, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    French is what I want to teach my kids as well and have been wondering about this program! Thanks for the information!

  • Reply Kristi January 20, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    This looks great, thanks for holding the giveaway! Would it be a good potential tool for parents who are not fluent, but would like to get a head start on learning so they could better use it to teach their children when they’re old enough (in a few years)?

    • Reply Carol January 20, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      I think it would work well for that, Kristi. The dialogue section is more suited to about age 12 and under, but apart from that the rest of the content would be very helpful.

  • Reply Jamie January 20, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    We love Classical Academic Press and have used Latin for years. We would love French!

  • Reply Leslie January 20, 2016 at 11:22 am

    We are currently using the CAP’s Spanish for Children. We have been very pleased with all the products that we have tried from Classical Academic Press.

  • Reply Karen @ Living Unabridged January 20, 2016 at 10:47 am

    We have several things for learning French (including an old edition of Rosetta Stone) but we’d love to try this too.

    Thanks for the chance!

  • Reply michelle January 20, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Thanks so much for this post. I loved all of your ideas here and will begin using a few right away.

    • Reply Carol January 20, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      I’ve found a few more folksongs to add our list and will post them on journey & destination in the next week.

  • Reply Lauren January 20, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Thanks for your reveiw. We started with French Folk songs last week so this sounds so nice!

    • Reply Carol January 20, 2016 at 6:37 pm

      You’re welcome, Lauren.

  • Reply Beth H. January 20, 2016 at 8:52 am

    I love French! I’m thrilled to see this new curriculum and hear good things about it. We’ve been using some other things, but at this point we need more structure.

    • Reply Carol January 20, 2016 at 5:51 pm

      Yes, this was how I felt. There are a lots of French resources around – even using the subtitles on dvd’s were helpful, but children need the structure. A programme that lays it out in an engaging, incremental & creative way makes a foreign language much more do-able in a homeschool situation. I wish it had been available 10 years ago when some of my older dc were learning.

  • Reply Kelly January 20, 2016 at 8:34 am

    We’d love to try this program out — we’re currently dabbling in Latin and Spanish, both of which my husband and I have studied, but finding a curriculum in an ordered pattern and works for our family has been challenging. Thank you for the tip!

  • Reply Ann-Marie January 20, 2016 at 8:22 am

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on this, Carol! We love CAP products so much and are using LFC now. Love that my kids learn so much grammar so easily through LFC too. Would enjoy FFC I am sure. If it is half as thorough as LFC I am sure it is excellent! Thanks for the chance to win!

    • Reply Carol January 20, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      My pleasure, Anne-Marie! This is the first time I’ve used any CAP material.

  • Reply Jenni January 20, 2016 at 8:22 am

    We have this program on our wishlist because we already enjoy CAP products so much!

  • Reply Anna January 20, 2016 at 8:00 am

    I’d love to try this program with my older boys. They are doing The Learnables French right now. And I’ll be checking out that playlist too – thanks!

  • Reply RobinP January 20, 2016 at 7:39 am

    This really looks excellent. We haven’t been pleased with the French options out there, either.

  • Reply Karen January 20, 2016 at 7:18 am

    I would like to hear more about anyone’s thoughts on French dictation. I have a child just beginning dictation (in English) ala CM. I usually use a combined approach with dictation: ‘here is the rule why this is spelled this way’ and ‘make a mental picture of the word’. Any difficulties learning spellings of two languages at once?

    • Reply Carol January 20, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      This is the first time I’ve used dictation for French but we’ve used dictation for English for years in our home school. I started Moozle with English dictation (studied, as per CM) about 12/18 months ago. Her spelling back then was woeful but I noticed a fairly rapid improvement over that period of time. I was doubtful about starting French dictation but was pleasantly surprised at how well she did. We’ve only done fairly short sentences so far and I get her to study the words carefully beforehand. I think the way that CAP structures their course has helped make dictation manageable for us.

  • Reply Bernadette January 20, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Thanks for reviewing this. I just came across it the other day and was wondering about it. Sounds fantastic. I’m torn because I feel like I “should” teach my kids Spanish, but I LOVE French. Plus I studied French in school, so I know it (a bit.. ahem).

    • Reply Carol January 20, 2016 at 6:23 pm

      For us in Australia, Indonesian, Mandarin, Japanese or some other Asian language would have been a more ‘practical’ choice but dh & I decided on French for a number of (un-utilitarian!) reasons. At the time we had a native French speaker to practice on, which was wonderful & that influenced our decision, plus the fact that both dh & I had studied a little French in school. My eldest dd took the photo above when she visited France late last year. Funny – she’s never been to Indonesia, China or Japan! I never thought when we chose to study French that any of my dc would be likely to go there.

  • Reply Alana January 20, 2016 at 5:33 am

    This does sound very thorough. It sounds like it would be a good tool for when we are ready to add French to our current language studies.

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