2 Weeks to France: Prepping the boys

Reading books and building context                

Family Explorers is based on the idea of putting things into context—working to engage your family in learning about your destination before you go.  With that in mind, I had grand plans for studying Napoleon, the French Revolution (all of them), and at least half of the artists in the Louvre before we leave.  BUT, as these things go, our summer has been a bit busy, and life with all four of my little crazies at home all day leaves little time for studying art history.  So I’ve modified my family preparation plans a bit.

My boys, like most kids, love to read stories, and reading is something I can easily engage them in.  So we’ve collected several children’s books about Paris.  These books are a great basic introduction to the city, the language, and many of the most well-known monuments.  Here are the ones we’ve enjoyed:

Madeline is especially fun for noticing all of the famous scenes pictured in the background and quizzing the kids to see if they can name them.  A Picnic with Monet is one in a series of board books called Mini Masters that feature Impressionist paintings.  I love the beautiful art in these little books!

My boys also love maps.  We have a great world map on the wall in the kitchen that we use to trace our route from Austin to London to Paris.  We talk about how many miles we’re going to travel and what the weather will be like in Paris.  It’s laminated and can be used with dry erase markers (it even includes one).  We also got a great big Paris city map that is fun to spread out on the table and study (though a bit big to use on the streets of Paris).  We located our rental apartment and marked it with a sticker.  The boys are good at picking out metro stations and important sites (in that order).  Our three-year-old, Peter, is maniacally obsessed with trains.  He asks every day if he can “go on a train ride.”  So when we told him that in Paris, we actually will ride a train (the Metro) every day, it was like we’d just told him we had an M&M tree growing in the backyard.  All his dreams come true.  The metro riding is a big source of excitement in our family.  We’re totally prepared for that.

We’ve been practicing our French at dinnertime.  Lucky for us, Spencer speaks French so we have our own personal family tutor.  It’s important to me that the boys at least know how to say “please” and “thank you,” and generally be gracious and polite in French, so we’ve been grilling them on the basics.  It’s pretty cute.

I’ve found that my kids respond to and retain information well when I present the information as story.  So for the rest of my preparation I’m putting together stories about French artists, French monuments, and French history.  For example, we talked about how the Impressionist painters, tired of being excluded from the Salon (big Paris art exhibit), banded together and held their own art exhibition.  We talked about how their style of painting was very different from what was considered quality artwork at that time, and how the experts all thought their paintings were really bad.  We discussed what we like about their style of painting.

So we’re steadily working on our preparation.  I still have a lot of work to do in collecting stories about individual artists and specific works of art we’ll see, as well as monuments, buildings, and maybe some interesting political history that involves the guillotine.  My plan is to stick to the story format—compiling interesting stories about the details that engage my kids and ignite their curiosity.  When we have the Paris stories all pulled together we’ll share them here!

2 replies
  1. Beth Schellhous
    Beth Schellhous says:

    This is fantastic! So are you moving to France or just visiting? We live in Scotland now but will be visiting France in the fall. I can’t wait to see how your boys do there! Adorable family.

    Reply

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