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Seeking advice for preschool/K

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By way of introduction:  I am not a native French speaker, but I am reasonably fluent.  I taught French as a foreign language at both the elementary and secondary level.  My older son (11 years old) attended a French-language school in Ontario, Canada, from maternelle (junior kindergarten) through grade 2.  We did bilingual homeschooling for his 3rd and 4th grade years.  He is currently attending an (English-language) American public school for 5th grade and maintaining his French knowledge through reading and watching tv (we get Canadian channels via satellite).


My second son recently turned 4.  Now that he is approaching the age that he would be going to maternelle if we still lived in Ontario, I am feeling like I should make a greater effort to help him learn French.  He regularly watches French-language children’s programs on tv, though I’m not sure how much he comprehends.  We have some workbooks and flip cards that we occasionally do together.  We have a decent selection of books in French that we sometimes read together.  We have some French apps on our tablet computer that he enjoys playing with, but I keep the tablet for special occasions (like long car trips).  I’ve been trying to speak to him in French more frequently during the day.  He has a basic receptive vocabulary (colors, animals, everyday objects, common phrases) and will use a French word he knows in an English sentence to respond when I’m speaking French to him.


I feel like I should have a somewhat more structured approach to teaching him, but I am struggling with figuring out what to do.  He doesn’t have enough knowledge of French to keep up with materials aimed at native-speaking same-age peers, but he’s too young for an academic foreign language approach.  I don’t expect him to achieve the kind of fluency his brother has, but I do want him to learn enough to understand and communicate in French.  Although we have had a great year of homeschooling for preschool, I am expecting a baby in July, so I want to avoid overly-ambitious plans that would be setting myself up for failure next school year.


My general questions:  What is your philosophy/attitude/goal for bilingual education?  How have your attitudes/goals changed over time?  How do they affect your curriculum?


More specific to my circumstances:  Any advice for my situation?  Are there any resources I should be aware of?  

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Have you considered just switching your home language?  You could start gradually.  Since your older son is already bilingual, you could communicate with him exclusively in French. That would certainly give your younger son a reason to want to speak French as well - children need both exposure and a reason to want to speak the language and I am pretty sure hearing you speak French to his brother would have both covered, ;)


As for your questions: in our home we do One Parent One Language.  I speak to my child in one language, my husband speaks to him in another.  Most of his classes are outsourced now, but when he was smaller we either used curricula in our home languages or translated it into our home languages.  Any screen time was in the minority languages, as were most books.  We made an effort to find other speakers, especially other children,  in order to reinforce the importance of speaking the languages. 


Is there an Alliance Francaise in your area? They often offer classes or story hours.

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I would definitely speak mostly/only French to both children, and try to find a local French community with French-speaking adults and children. It will be good for your continuing to speak French to have other francophones to ensure you maintain vocabulary and grammar. It's so easy to lose the language if you don't use it. The more that you, yourself, are using and thinking in French, the easier it will be to continue to speak it naturally with your family. Listen to French radio, TV, podcasts, etc. The more motivated, comfortable and fun things you do with French, the more the children will want to join you.


Then see how you can use all the resources and knowledge you already have from teaching French and you ds already having gone through French-only school. 

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I agree that the most important thing I can do now is to increase my younger son's exposure to French.  However, I don't think it's realistic, or even desirable, for me to use French exclusively with my sons.  For now, I've decided to try to speak only/mostly French in the mornings.  If I can keep that up successfully, I will try to extend it until I'm using mostly French throughout the day.  It helps that my son is so young that I only need to concern myself with building his oral communication skills for now.  It'll be more complicated to figure out my approach when he reaches the age of literacy.


We live far from any major cities, so the Alliance Française is not an option.  I am on the e-mail list for the French club of a nearby university and I have brought my sons to a couple events they have organized, but since they're aimed at undergraduate students, most of them aren't a good fit for kids.  Our only regular contact with francophones is with a family from Cameroon with two kids (in between my sons' ages) that attends our church.

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