On teaching a foreign language and losing a camera

Taking up our German lessons once again, I send the children out with a list of things to find and photograph: a hen, a cockerel, chicks, eggs and chicken feed. They leave excited; I begin to clean. Their picture taking expeditions always take three or four times longer than they should. Sometimes they even remember what it is they were sent out to do amidst all the pictures they take.

Moments later, they return.

“The camera doesn’t work, mom.”

“What’s wrong?” I ask, as I take it. I’ve been having problems with it, but up until now turning it off and on a few times cleared it.

“It just keeps telling us it has a focusing error.”

I turn the camera off and on. Again and again. Nothing. The camera is dead. Normally, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to go a month or two without a camera. I don’t take that many pictures. I sort of go in spurts, and most of the time when I do think about it, it is only because I have something in mind for my blog.

But this is different. It was messing with my plans, and I never take too kindly to that. These plans went far beyond this one assignment. It was part of an intentional act on my part to make our lessons more involved. To focus less on “getting done” and more on the process. It is an adjustment I have to frequently make for no matter how hard I try, in the hectic mess of the day to day, I frequently resort to streamlining lessons down to the “essentials.” But mom and child do not always agree on the “essentials” and I tend to remove the most engaging portions in the interest of time.

As I sat with the children to choose pictures from Picasa and the internet, I found myself becoming rather distraught. I went from the mild annoyance of having to change my plans to real disappointment at losing this part of our summer adventure. My daughter and I had been planning a short video series, and while I wasn’t sure I’d ever have the courage to actually post any of them, I was looking forward to the shared project. And then there are all the things we’re planning.

Our chicks are growing, along with those mop tops. Our geese should be arriving in a couple weeks. There’s the oil change on the tractor my son was going to help his father with. Our garden. Our bees. Our year of plans.

Now of course, a camera isn’t that expensive. But moving is and most of our extra money is spoken for. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the heat pump hadn’t gone out. Then the car. Then the tires. Which means that for the moment, simply replacing it isn’t so simple.

It means choosing. Would I prefer to replace the camera or rent the tiller? Replace the camera, or finish the fencing to protect the garden from the deer? Replace the camera or purchase our hive? In short, which is more important: the projects or the ability to record them?

Back to the assignment at hand, the children cut their pictures and carefully glue them in place. Each is labeled carefully in German, a task even my writing-averse son takes seriously. Their books turn out nicely, and all week we practice. First, they find the pictures while mom says the German. Then I begin to form simple sentences, using the pictures as clues. They translate and when they have it, they repeat. We do the same sentences every day, turning pages to reinforce the vocabulary for the week.

And it only takes two days for my three year old to stop shouting indignantly,

“That is not an eye! That’s an egg!”

when I get to “das Ei.”

I can’t wait to add to this simple book this week, and get back into regular German lessons.

I only wish we had a camera.


To make a simple pictorial dictionary, all you need is a sheet of paper and pictures of your vocabulary words. We did a simple eight page mini-book. Glue a picture to each page and label accordingly. Make sure each word is conceptually related and it will help your children learn the words in context, more like how they learn words in English. These can be collected together in a folder, glued together in a lapbook or even bound together. However you choose to store them, be sure they are accessible and to use them frequently in your mini-lessons.

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Sorry about this. Check ecost. I got scored Nikon’s for $70 that were originally over $300, they are rebuilt. They are just fine with many nifty features and video and also can record voice captions to photos. Pretty cool.
.-= ChristineMM´s last blog ..The Real Purpose =-.


Ooh, thanks for the tip. I hadn’t heard of ecost. Sounds like a great place to start (and it was a Nikon I was looking at!).
.-= Dana´s last blog ..On teaching a foreign language and losing a camera =-.

Cyndi L.

Try garage sales for a camera. I was able to find a really good one for my daughter at one. They wanted $20 but since the weather was bad and they wanted to get rid of everything they were 75% all the stuff. We paid $5 for it and it works great. Thanks for stopping by my blog too- and commenting! I live for comments. I enjoyed stopping by yours. I’ll be back to read more.
.-= Cyndi L.´s last blog ..Mom’s Day recap! =-.


Comments are the coolest, aren’t they? I hadn’t thought of looking at garage sales. Now to find some of them! 🙂


[…] worry, there won’t be any graphic pictures. There would have been, but as you know, I am without a camera. Related Posts:On teaching a foreign language and losing a cameraCarnival of Homeschooling […]


I’m so sorry you’re camera died. That stinks! What a great idea for a foreign language activity. I taught Spanish for 6 years and might have my daughter do some picture excursions like that! I hope you are able to find one soon — you have some good suggestions to find an inexpensive one! I found you on my BlogHer sidebar, by the way!
.-= ashlee´s last blog ..First Churn of the Year: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream =-.


[…] for you, perhaps, I do not have a working camera so you will be spared any graphic pictures of the […]


I LOVE this idea! I have been trying to figure out how to incorporate teaching more Spanish…this seems simple and fantastic at the same time.

Sorry about the camera. I wouldn’t know what to do without mine…


[…] presents On teaching a foreign language and losing a camera posted at Roscommon […]


[…] From the heat pump going out to the side of the barn being blown off, from car breaking down to the loss of a camera, it seems that every time we make a few strides forward, we are immediately set […]