Revision books for kids for during the summer holidays are big business here in France. Every major educational publisher produces them, and every newsagent, bookshop and supermarket stocks them. And they sell well.
But why? Don’t kids learn anything at school during the year? Do they really need to work during the summer too?
France takes education seriously. As I’ve written elsewhere, schooldays are long, the curriculum is broad and there’s a positive attitude about learning at every level. The French government is prepared to support its schools and students. And on the whole, parents are too. So, although children of every age learn plenty during the school year, there’s a willingness to make sure kids are up to scratch on the various subjects during the holidays. Every student is sick at some point during the year and misses being taught certain topics. A spot of holiday revision means they can catch up.
Are they any good?
Educationalists have mixed opinions on the subject of these revision and activity books. Some say they don’t do much good, others that they’re brilliant. I go with my gut feeling. Until the other day, I had only ever bought one for Ruadhri the summer he finished at maternelle (2007). I wanted to make sure he’d picked something up during his first year. The teacher had told me he understood well but didn’t talk much, but I felt the need to make sure the first part of that statement was true! It was – Rors breezed through the activities in his holiday book. And I’m sure he’ll do the same this summer too. However, towards the end of term, he was coming out with some strange theories about maths. He assured us that the fraction 7/7 was bigger than 6/6. Nope, I argued, they both equalled one so they were the same. My maths isn’t great but even I was sure about that one. Mais non, my youngest responded. Teacher had said if there was a bigger number on the bottom, then it was bigger, full stop. Hmm. His school report had a few more ECAs (= en course d’acquistion i.e. not quite got the hang of yet) than I’d have liked to have seen, and on top of the fact that teacher didn’t hold any meetings with parents to discuss their children’s progress during the year, which I’m pretty sure she should have, I decided we needed to do a spot of work over the vacances. Rors has one more year at primary school before moving up to collège, so I want to make sure he’s covered all the groundwork. (One of Ruadhri’s ECAs related to his mastery of the COD – complément d’objet direct, which sounds as scary as it is. French grammar is a minefield – however, we’ll do our best.)
I’ve bought Ruadhri Hachette Education’s ‘Jouer pour Réviser du CM1 au CM2, 9-10 ans’. It looks fun. It’s colourful, lively and the subjects are all mixed up so there’s no great chunk of maths or French in one foreboding lump. English is covered too, so those pages will give Rors a boost when we come across them. And it comes with a free pencil! It has to be said that Hachette are rather good with the educational stuff. I subscribed Ruadhri to their Tout l’Univers encyclopaedia series. This arrived in parts over several months. It’s a real treasure trove of facts. The drawback is that the cellophane-wrapped block of pages come all muddled up. You have to rip each one off and file it away at the correct point page-wise in the relevant section of the numerous folders that come with the series. This takes ages and you rapidly lose the will to live during the exercise. Well, I do. However, it does also mean that the kids are actually looking at the material. If it came pre-sorted, then the danger would be that it would never get opened. We never get many pages sorted at a time because Ruadhri quickly becomes engrossed in reading them. Which is good! Maybe by the end of the summer we’ll have it all organised.
You don’t have to pay out to do some summer revision with the children. There are oodles of websites offering free activities and printable sheets and exercises. One good example is Ma Primaire. It isn’t the highest tech or the snazziest looking, but it’s solid and the material is there. We’ll be trawling through its webpages, and through other sites too, over the next few weeks.
Caiti is planning to do some revision too. Her six-month illness took its toll on her marks, and she missed quite a lot of days of school in the end. She’s an extremely motivated student, although an even more motivated sleeper, and she wants to do well in her Bac. So, it could be quite a quiet holiday with everybody’s heads down.
All Work and No Play – Not at Les Fragnes!
But it’s not all work and no play here, no way. Just to prove it, a photo of a lively Beybladez match going on between Rors and his dad. I’d been winning, which is why I was sent off to take a photo! (And look at our poor brown lawn, but there still isn’t officially a drought in Creuse.)