Franc-O-Fun French for Children is a unique language experience offered right here in Wilton. This charming and wonderfully effective French program provides young children with a bit of culture and a lot of accent in our own backyard.
Franc-O-Fun started in 1995 in founder Kimberly Fox’s home, and has grown into a flourishing program that includes Summer French Camps as well as weekly after-school French classes for children ages 3-10. Franc-O-Fun’s unique method teaches everyday French language and culture to young children, using stories and a variety of real-life themes. Basic vocabulary words and phrases are incorporated into games, role-playing, puppet shows, songs and finger-plays, allowing children to learn the language almost effortlessly.
Madame Fox believes one key to the children’s success is the hands-on teaching method she employs.
“Kinesthetic learning—using sign language along with the words—really helps the children absorb and retain the French,” Fox says. “We tell stories together in French using our bodies and facial expressions. The results are truly remarkable.”
The magnifique Summer French Camp experience is offered for three weeks in July at WEPCO (48 New Canaan Rd.). Brand new beginners to intermediate French students are bienvenue (welcome). Children speak, sing and breathe French during these summer sessions of intensive learning as they are immersed in French and swept up into a world of fairytale fantasy and fun. Children learn vocabulary with the creative use of puppetry, music, games and sign language.
“They prepare to perform in a fairy tale theatre production and dramatically grow in their acquisition and fluency of French in just a few weeks,” says Fox. The campers also enjoy sessions creating arts and crafts and cooking traditional French treats. Children ages 6-and-older spend parts of their days reading and writing French. Target vocabulary is very carefully crafted so that children are exposed repeatedly throughout the day to build retention and comprehension. Original songs are written specifically for our students and the last day of camp, the French campers perform a French play with costumes, scenery and music for their families – tout en français!
This year Fox is also holding a one week French Cooking Camp, “Chez Pierre,” where les petits chefs will make (and eat) two French desserts per day and enjoy learning French words and songs as they pretend to also work in a French bistro. During the last two weeks of July, Franc-O-Fun will offer the original French fairytale of Belle et la Bête (Beauty & the Beast) where children will promenade through a pretend French village with Belle on their way to the enchanted château. Fox and her staff completely transform the camp space so that the campers feel as though they are stepping into a live fairy tale.
According to Fox, age is an important consideration in learning a language, according to Fox. Over the years she has found that children under age 10 are less inhibited, more inquisitive and enthusiastic about trying new sounds. Her observations are backed by current research, which shows that the brain’s ability to learn a new language is highest between birth and age 6, and drops considerably after puberty. Wilton Public Schools offer French and Spanish beginning in third grade, when children are around 9 or 10 years of age. Fox says she started Franc-O-Fun as a way to bridge that gap, trying to help meet the need for foreign language learning to begin at an earlier age.
Fox says she hears frequently from parents of Franc-O-Fun students, who are most excited about the ways their children are able to apply French to their own lives. Some parents, she says, report that their children recognize French words in everyday settings, like in ballet classes. Others have watched in surprise as their children taught French numbers and letters to younger siblings.
One mom put her daughter’s skills to the test in France. In a quote she gave to Fox, that satisfied parent said of her daughter: “We spent a month in Paris last fall, and her confidence was great. She ordered from a restaurant menu, from a butcher shop—it was just so delightful to see it in real life.”
Fox said another mom told her, “We started with the summer camp and Emily absolutely loved it. Right away she was speaking, reciting the colors and the alphabet. We were amazed. Now, if she sees or hears a French word, Emily is quick to recognize it.”
Her students attest to the affect Franc-O-Fun has had on their continued study of, reflecting the foundation they received.
One student, Natalie, was a Franc-O-Fun student from ages 3-10, and then from age 11-13 she worked as a junior assistant counselor-in-training at French Camp. She wrote,
“Being a part of FOF made a huge impact on my life. I started as a shy 3 year old and grew in confidence enough that I was even able to sing a solo in one of the French plays. I had a teacher who was consistently compassionate and patient with me until I felt comfortable opening up to talking and singing. When I started taking French at my public school in 6th grade, I already knew all of the curriculum up through my 10th grade year! I truly believe that I would not be who I am today without my experience over the years with Franc-O-Fun.”
Fox has a varied curriculum, from visit to local stores as part of the Allons en Ville (let’s go in town) to occasional educational trips to France for students and parents. Franc-O-Fun offers ladies’ conversation and grammar classes, as well as tutoring services for junior high and high school students who need help with pronunciation, preparing for quizzes and tests and engaging more confidently in French conversation.
To register for one of the Summer French Camps today, visit the Franc-o-Fun website or call 203.762.5645.