Where to start?
With French, probably. We have a habit of occasionally using foreign phrases. Just the odd one, now and again, that we have picked up over the years, and Mr PC and I are used to the fact that we will understand each other when we suddenly come out with ‘Salaam alaikum’ or ‘кофе, пожалуйста’. The other day, without thinking, I asked Miss 10, ‘Qu’est-ce-que tu fais?’ She has been learning French on and off for the last 3 years at school, but she didn’t have a clue what I was asking. I tried it on Miss 8, who I know is currently doing French lessons. The conversation went:
Me: Qu’est-ce-que tu fais?
Miss 8: Ooooh! That means What’s your name, doesn’t it? J’ai huit ans.
I decided they needed some more French lessons. I think it’s such a shame we are so bad at languages in this country. By the time we get round to teaching languages at all seriously, they are beyond the age when they can absorb language easily. We just miss the boat. I got out the Michel Thomas CDs, and put on the first one (with, I admit, a slight worry that they were too young for his approach). On Monday we did half an hour or so, and they loved it! They were so excited at being able to speak sentences quickly, and suddenly realise they already knew thousands of French words. On Tuesday we did another half hour, and they still loved it (this was not a given). I am so chuffed. I think that in one hour we have achieved more than in any single hour at school. I also think that what is done at school is completely complementary to the CDs. The CDs concentrate on speech, and common verbal use, and at school they learn more vocab and spelling and grammar.
Later in the week we went to Stevenage to visit my parents. We haven’t been there for a very long time, but the first thing that Mr 4 did when we arrived was exclaim ‘My phone!’ and look for his toy phone, lost on our last visit. Sadly it was probably left on a train and is gone forever.
We took the opportunity of being near London to do a day trip. We headed to the Science Museum. I was very disappointed. I can remember going there 25 years ago. I quite liked it, and was very excited that they had just added an interactive area for kids, but a bit disappointed that it was so busy that I barely got a chance to try anything.
25 years on, not much has changed. There is still a small interactive area for kids, which is so busy that only the pushiest get a look in. There are still huge areas that are static displays, that just don’t cut the mustard these days. Poor Mr 4 got very frustrated at the screens he was trying to interact with, which were just static screens. I got a bit frustrated that all the information about the displays was on little pillars. These were about a metre high, and the information was on the top surface, so you had to be standing over it to read it. There is no chance of reading anything from a distance and pretending to the children that you are knowledgeable!
There was a range of fascinating things, including a lunar landing module and the control module from Apollo 10, but the kids just walked on past because there was nothing to ‘do’. The only display they seemed remotely interested in was the Stephen Hawking one, because it contained a model of him as a character on The Simpsons. All in all I was really unimpressed. I really expected more after a quarter of a century of technological advances.
On the way back from Stevenage, we stopped off to visit Cousin M. It was his 8th birthday party on Saturday. The kids had a delightful time, mainly eating. It’s a really lovely way to end a half term holiday!