Mara and Roberto Bianchi wanted to improve their English fluency. Both had need of English in their jobs and spoke well but felt that there was room for improvement in their English skills. They also wanted their three children Francesco 9, Clara 8 and Silvio 4, to have the chance to be immersed in English too. The two older children had begun English at school and this was an opportunity to get Silvio started too. They were looking for a venue where they could be be surrounded by English, all be able to take some lessons which were appropriate to their ages and ability but, as it was during the holiday period, they did not want anything too ‘academic’.
Fleetham Lodge seemed the perfect choice.
They came, as a family, for two weeks from the beginning of August.
On all our family courses we want to co-ordinate the lessons so that the whole family can be free for activities and trips at the same time – we generally use two teachers to enable this. We were faced with the issue of Silvio and how to manage his mornings. The solution, a teenage baby-sitter! Silvio worked with the other two children for the first 30 minutes or so of their lesson where the teacher played games and focused on speaking activities and then he spent the remaining time with one of our teenage daughters who played games, did some art activities and even watched a bit of English TV – Cbeebies The parents were on hand but Silvio thoroughly enjoyed being with his ‘new friend’ and rarely sought them out. So parents had their dedicated lessons, Francesco and Clara were able to engage fully in what they needed and Silvio ‘had a ball’.
In the afternoons everyone was available to go out and about which we did together – teachers and the family – on some days the family went off by themselves to explore and be tourists. York was a perfect venue for this as we were able to take them to the train (the train station in York is in the middle of the city so it’s very easy to get everywhere on foot) and collect them again at the end of their visit. Newby Hall is another fab family day out as there is something for everyone – the house for the adults, the wonderful children’s play area for the kids, the stunning gardens for everyone and then tea and ice-creams before heading home!
Having two teachers means that the children can be supervised outside while the parents visit the house (children are welcome to do this too but in this case there was little appetite for it!).
The accommodation arrangements are also perfect for a family. They occupy a whole floor of the house and so have their own privacy and can arrange the sleeping arrangements to suit them. In this case the two boys shared a room and the daughter had her own. Everybody is close together and they have 3 bathrooms between them.
We view mealtimes as part of the learning and as such will always eat together. In the evenings meals were eaten together; the family, teachers and our own family who were here. However, sometimes, as when for example we had pizza and movie night for the children, all the adults were able to enjoy a more ‘sophisticated’ meal (the teachers stay here also during the courses) after the kids were in bed.
And the results?
Well the children, as is to be expected, began absorbing English like sponges and chattering away to everyone. The adults also enjoyed the opportunity to use English constantly in a relaxing and non-threatening environment and improved their own fluency a lot. One day when Roberto was helping to make coffee, he began to count out the spoonfuls in English – he was amazed – “Now I’m even thinking in English” he said!!