If it works for dessert, it can work for homeschool material.
For several reasons, financial and otherwise, I am using things we already have to plan Crayons' Grade 4 French. Ponytails (grade 8) is going to be starting the year with the same material so that we can work together, but she will have an enriched version with more grammar.
Our theme and the reading material is coming from a French activity/information book for kids called Les Insectes. (It came from a used booksale earlier this year.) The grammar goals are drawn from the provincial education guidelines for Grade 4 French--for instance, students are expected to use some regular -er verbs in the present tense, but only with singular subjects (I, you, he, she). (In Ontario, Grade 4 is the first year that most students (those who aren't in French immersion or who go to French schools) take French.)
Over the years I've collected three thrift-shopped copies of the Kids Can Press French & English Word Book, which is set up like Richard Scarry's books (double-page spreads with labelled objects). I pulled two of them out of their bindings, trimmed the pages to 8 1/2 by 11-inch size, and punched them to fit into three-ring binders. Instant vocabulary sections for their notebooks.
I'm making a set of insect flash cards using the French names and, where I had ones that matched, some extremely old insect stickers. (I had some leftover pink card stock from last year's co-op crafts.) The rest are being illustrated with miscellaneous cutouts and photocopies. This is just as important for my own reference as for the Squirrelings': I need a quick way to remind myself of the difference between "un pou" (a louse), "une punaise" (either a bedbug or just a bug, according to my Collins Robert French English Dictionary)), and "une puce" (a flea). My own school vocabulary did not include such useful words.
I made a pile of vocabulary cards using leftover construction paper that was already cut into strips. Very useful for making new sentences. "C'est / un insecte." "J'ai / un crayon." "Papa / est / grand."
I also pulled apart a couple of thrift-shopped/book-saled French workbooks and salvaged any useful puzzle or grammar pages--those are more for Ponytails than for Crayons.
For some of the lessons, I am incorporating French Bible verses that use vocabulary words (not about insects, just using familiar words). The Internet is wonderful for this: I go to BibleGateway.com and look up keywords on the Louis Segond French translation.
We also have a book of simple Christian songs and choruses. I also like this website, which (coincidentally) has short articles like this one by Marie-Claude Ouellet, the author of Les Insectes.
All this is going into two (salvaged) binders, one per Squirreling, along with my typed lessons/worksheets (that's taking me a little while and I don't know how far I'll get before Squirreling School starts). Here's a sample from Lesson One, which is meant to be done over a few days. (I've left out the spaces and lines for writing and drawing.)
LESSON ONE: QUELQUES VEDETTES ("Stars of the Insect World")
With Mom, read parts of pages 2 and 3 in Les Insectes.
Learn to say:
C’est un insecte. Ce sont des insectes.
C’est une luciole. Ce sont des lucioles.
C’est un papillon. Ce sont des papillons.
“C’est” means “It is” or “It’s.” “It is an insect.”
“Ce sont” means there is more than one. “These are insects.”
Draw a picture of these things:
C’est un crayon. C’est une gomme. Ce sont des crayons. Ce sont des papillons. C’est une coccinelle. Ce sont des coccinelles.
COGNATES are words that are the same or almost the same in French and English. Here are some COGNATES from this lesson:
Here is something interesting: In French, both moths and butterflies are “papillons.” Butterflies are “papillons de jour”—day butterflies. Moths are “papillons de nuit” or “papillons nocturnes.” What do you think that means?
JE MEANS “I”
TOUCHER is a verb that means “TO TOUCH”
(Remember a verb is an action word.)
If you want to say “I touch,” you have to change “toucher” to “touche.” You take the “er” off the end, and put an “e” back. So: “Je touche.”
Practice: Je touche la mouche. Je touche le crayon. Je touche Maman.
Look in the GRAMMAIRE section of your notebook for the chart labelled “-ER VERBS, PRESENT TENSE.” The word “toucher” has been filled in for you in the first line. Under “je” please write the form of “toucher” that goes with “je.”
Here is another verb for you to learn: AIMER. It means “to like, to love.” What do you do if you want to say “I like?” Uh oh—there is one difference here. If a verb begins with a VOWEL (like AIMER), you cannot use “je” right before it. Those two vowels together sound funny in French. So this time you have to drop the “e” in “je” and use an apostrophe. “J’aime.”
Practice: J’aime Maman. J’aime le chocolat. J’aime la coccinelle.
Fill in “aimer” and “J’aime” in the chart.
Here is one more verb to learn for this lesson: REGARDER. It means “to look at, to watch.” If you want to say “I look at,” take off the “er” ending and replace it with an “e,” the same as you did before. “Je regarde.”
Practice: Je regarde Maman. Je regarde le papillon. Je regarde la luciole.
Fill in “regarder” and “Je regarde” in the chart.
Comment? means How?
Comment dit-on ___________________ en français?
Comment dit-on ___________________ en anglais?
Comment dit-on “ladybug” en français? _______________________________
Comment dit-on “firefly” en français? _______________________________
Comment dit-on “une mouche” en anglais? ____________________________
Comment dit-on “un crayon” en anglais? ____________________________
Je touche la bouche de la mouche.
De, le, se, me, ne, te, je
Le Cécropia est brun, beige et roux.
Le Monarque est noir et orange.
Voilà un autre papillon!
De quelle couleur est-ce? _____________, ________________, ______________
(Draw it here.)