What do Beavers, Dolphins, Owls, Foxes and the Simpson's all have in Common?

It sounds a little bit like the animals on the Chinese calendar. By the way, I'm always so pleased to discover that I'm a rat. You don't need a calendar to tell you that. Or maybe, I'm talking about some strange horoscope? Give up?

Today, after a half hour of Miley Cyrus in Hannah Montana with dutch subtitles, we brought out Les Simpson, Totalement Dejantes. I bought it from the bookstore called 'Club' in Wavre Belgium. We went there on a special trip Saturday in search of some fun French books to have around the house. The idea being that we could use it as one of our study pieces in a sort of fun fashion with context, imagery and familiar settings.

We bought the book Saturday, and every night, after watching whatever T.V. the kids pick (I don't want them watching too much, and definitely, I don't want them watching it last thing before bed, thanks to a little advice from 'A New Earth' by Eckhart Tolle), we sit down to the Simpson's in French.

The idea is, if we go through it in a comprehensible fashion, pacing ourselves to words we all understand, and using our elementary French, piece by piece, we will slowly begin to understand more and more of the book. Whenever we encounter a word or phrase that we don't understand, first we try to figure it out using the context. If that doesn't work, then we ask Google or 'My French Coach'. Then we also write down the words right on the page. Soon, the page begins to fill up with translation all over the place. Hayden likens it to National Treasure. Cue theme to National Treasure, or Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Tonight, Hayden and Logan dig right in to the exercise. Shea starts off pretty enthusiastically, looking up every single word. Even the teeniest of words like de and le... which is perfectly fine, expected, hoped for and promising, because everyone starts somewhere. But rather quickly, she begins to fiddle and wish she were somewhere else. She slowly inches off of the couch to do something else. I allow it, just to see what she's up to. She has that look of, "A girl of my brilliance and creativity can't really be troubled with such tedium." It's probably true. I pull her back in. Now I'm losing Logan. "I can't do this from behind your back dad." That's probably true too. I have but one book, and the whole family is trying to look at it over my shoulder. Much better might be to have several copies of the book, or little teams working on different books together.

By the end of tonight's exercise, it seems clear that while this exercise works well for me and Hayden, and Logan, it isn't so productive for Shea and Colleen. We went through one caption in about 1/2 hour. It read something about Homer watching a T.V. game show in which the contestants dunked their heads in a water tank with dollar bills floating around. Pretty funny stuff, but it was getting clear that we had better break soon, or mutiny would occur.

I suggested that better behavior and respect was expected. I got too frustrated, and took too much of my frustration out on my kids. I suggested a short break for ice cream, to be followed by more.

When our break finished though, I didn't pick up the book. An Improv idea filled my head. I played one of the French audio lessons I brought along that led us through some simple French conversations. After running through it a couple of times, I recommended that we adjourn to the stage! Shea? you are Ms. Isabel. Hayden? you are Pierre. Please play your roles kind of like you heard it on the tape. if you do, you get a Disney pin from Carrefour (a local grocery store).

Shea lit up immediately. Now this was more like it. Finally a challenge worth paying attention to. Conversational French began bouncing out of Shea. I was delighted. Shea and Hayden began to talk all about the French conversation. Logan too. I couldn't believe it.

I brought out my iphone to record the event. When Shea discovered that the camera was on, and that she would be featured on my Facebook page, her French began to form. Her Rs began to roll in the back of her throat and her lips even began to purse together in typical french fashion. Her arms and hands began to gesture like a curly moustached, beret wearing french painter. Hayden as well.

So, what does this have to do with Beavers, Dolphins, Owls and Foxes? Have patience. I will be there in one more moment. I must complete the setup here.

I couldn't believe the change in Shea. This was one of those moments when I could tell I had learned something significant, and I had better take a moment to process, discuss and discover what it was that I had discovered, else it could be lost, possibly never encountered again. In this moment, I began to glimpse a way of reaching Shea. Shea has been neglecting her French studies, almost entirely if possible, to where she has been on lesson 8 & 9 for over two or three months, while her brothers raced past lesson 70 weeks ago.

But Shea is on fire. She is asking questions, and rehearsing key French phrases. Somehow, I have appealed to her learning style, or perhaps I have succeeded in not insulting her sense of self and sense of style. I don't know for sure, but what I did know, is that I need to continue on this path to guide her away from a life of living for watching T.V. to a life of creativity, cultural engagement and social connectivity.

What could it be? I felt I must know... but it might take a while. Most things do...

We put the kids to bed, tucked them in, and returned to our almost nightly (and daily) ritual of researching local schools and houses & apartments for rent. Until we settle this, I think we will not be able to settle down and feel at ease. After some study side by side, Colleen and I, Colleen sounded excited.

"This is so me!" She said. "This reminds me of Shea." "What could she be studying?" I thought to myself. I looked at her glowing screen to read the words she was connecting with:

The road children take to acquire knowledge is intrinsic to their personality. Now let’s see if you can recognize your child’s (and your own) learning style:


Beavers love to go about their work in a methodological way. They are consistent, like lists, adhere to the timeframe, do as you ask and feel comfortable within a framework.

They are challenged when they are required to come up with innovative ideas, creative concepts and open-ended questions. It irritates them when others frolic around and do not seem to be responsible for a solid outcome.


Dolphins are very much in tune with the emotional life of others, they like to assist, help where they can and often have a very positive influence on a group. Their work is colourful, unique and well cared for.

Due to their eye for detail, adhering to a time frame can be a challenge. They love brainteasers but dislike memorization and tedious study that needs drilling. Those boring questions do not deserve their energy.


Give them knowledge! They are deeply interested in the functioning of the earth, mechanics, and the sciences in general. Knowing why and how phenomena take place absorbs their thinking. A deep, individual concentration assists their hunger for facts.

Needing to be a team member or even a leader can be a source of great stress. They like to be left alone and are often not aware of the needs of others. Social interaction seems a waste of time, keeping him/her away from the more important things in life.


The fox is quick. They are multi task people, who know what others are going to say. They are keen and witty and understand concepts very fast. Give the fox a problem and solutions are found very fast.

Give the fox a book or series of calculations to work through and you will have a minimal response. They need to be able to wander on new roads, tease their mind and be innovative. Otherwise they will switch off and classify the surrounding as boring and uninteresting.
We found this on an International Montessori School website describing learning styles. Colleen identified with the Beaver, and matched Shea with the Dolphin. After reading the Fox, Hayden's experience with so quickly boring in Kindergarten surfaced to our recollections and both of us matched Logan to the Owl. That boy constantly requests the T.V. be turned on to watch documentaries. "Oh, I love these science shows!" Its quite a hoot.

Knowing these different learning styles may enable Colleen and I to recognize and use more effective teaching methods with our children. In turn, we may enjoy ourselves with them more, and them with us as well.

So, what do Beavers, Dolphins, Owls and Foxes all have in common? Well, I just found out, that they are all members of my family that I have been ignoring to some extent, missing out on some very creative moments. These four animals represent a starting point to a more positive and engaging life experience for me and my kids. these three animals have brought an interesting element to planning my evenings of study with my kids. Of course, not forgetting about T.V. but with the help of Dr. Tolle, putting it into the right perspective. Providing some context for new views, opening your eyes, and active engagement with your surroundings. I look forward to the sessions to come.


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