A new "charter" (public school, but separate from the city school district) French-English bilingual school has opened up this year in the city next to us. The school is tuition-free.
I am pretty sure I'm going to at least apply, since it is a lottery with the other city's residents getting priority and there is no guarantee we will be selected. But here are my concerns...
It is far! It is 25-45 minutes away, depending on traffic. Multiplied by four, this will mean 2+ hours in the car daily for my 2-year-old and me. Our current school is 10 minutes away. Carpooling is possible, but I will have a hard time finding another family that has two extra seats in their car since I will have two school-aged kids next year. I also plan on going back to school and then work within the next year or two, and I'm not sure if I would be able to do that commute once I do.
The other concern is that we already switched schools last year, mid-kindergarten for my oldest, and we really like the school she is in! There are excellent teachers, a strong community, and a lot of unique instruction methods. It was a little traumatic for her to switch mid-year, and now she is established there with lots of friends and does not want to leave.
My (monolingual) husband does not even want to consider it as an option, so I would have to really discuss the benefits with him.
I am pretty sure I'm asking a biased audience here, but would you switch schools, if selected, in these circumstances? Thanks!
This probably won't help, but here's the situation of how I enrolled my daughter in a bilingual school this year. It was by lottery too, with only 6 spots available, and after an interview with my daughter in the ml.
The school is 50 minutes from home, but from there it's only 10 minutes onwards to my work. (Hubby, who picks her up, loses more time on his way home.) We're the only family in the class of 30 who is that far. My daughter has to get up at 6.30 in the morning for a school day from 8.30 to 15.45 plus daycare, she'll be home some time past 18.00, depending on when my husband can pick her up.
My daughter had spent her first two preschool years in our neighbourhood public school and had two best friends, their teacher called them "le trio infernal". The new school started in her final preschool year.
I'm the only source of the ml on a regular basis, other than Skype calls with the grandparents, and this school has one hour of ml for native speakers per day, so not really bilingual. It's a private school that follows the national curriculum.
On Wednesdays, I have to pick up my daughter after lunch and take her to the nearest public daycare because the school provides after-school daycare only on the long school days (rest of the week) but not Wednesdays when there's no school in the afternoon (this is the same in public schools).
Needless to say, the school is expensive.
I didn't hesitate for one second. I brought out the champagne when she got accepted. I'm thrilled every single day I take her to school and she runs to meet her friends and teachers. And yes, I would do it again.
Your situation is different, and the logistics sound even more complicated than ours. If the school is already open and running this year, try to get in touch with families who have kids enrolled and ask them every single question you can come up with. The mom of a classmate of my daughter did that and got a very different picture of our school than I did. She ended up hesitating even when her son was accepted.
I would do it if the logistics would be more simple but with such a long traveling time and the fact that you are happy with the school they are in now, I would not do it. The hours you would spend in the car could be better used to promote the ml than to be in the car (although you can do that also in the car). But I like to keep the logistics of going to school as low profile as possible to make our day as simple as possible. Good luck!
Jana, this is one of those difficult decisions where it seems certain sacrifices to your lifestyle would have to be made. We all face such choices, to smaller and larger degrees, where we must weigh our bilingual aim against the daily lives we wish to lead. It's a tricky balancing act that never ends, and compromises on both sides are inevitable, but where and how much we choose to compromise are very personal decisions.
I've shared some of my own choices in this post at my blog (which received some flak), but I was simply being honest about my own experience of this challenge to date--I hadn't intended to be prescriptive about these decisions...
I too have three children, and finding the right schools is an ongoing process for us.
With my eldest being on the autism spectrum, my middle one finishing elementary school and my youngest about to start school, I also had to weigh the pros and cons of private, non-private, near and far.
In the end, the decision was made in favour of the schools where I could see them being the most comfortable. They are all non-ml schools, but since our ml1, English, is widely accepted and supported, that is okay for us. I considered one secondary school that offers ml2 for our middle one, but he begged to be allowed to go to the same school as most of the other children from his elementary school class.
Our youngest is in a Waldorf school now, which means about 25 minutes one way, but we are lucky to have a family close by with a boy in the same class, so we do mornings and they do afternoons. And I don't work outside home, so even if I have to take the bus (and train and another bus) to pick her up (a three hour round trip), it does not affect anybody else so much.
Besides considering ml you might also want to look at what else the various schools offer, such as a music programme or after-school clubs, class size and expected amount of homework. If school finishes early, what are the options for afternoon activities or play dates?
I live in an area with lots of children, so those who know each other from the local elementary school might just walk down the road and ring the door bell of a friend. With my youngest, who already went to a non-local kindergarten, we always have to plan such things in advance and since we have to coordinate with one car, play dates with families living far away can be tricky.
When I grew up my parents also had to make those kinds of tough decisions. In the end my brother went to the far-away private ml school, and my sisters and I went to the not quite so far away semi-private ML school. Sure, my brother ended up speaking better ml than my sisters and I, but I loved my school and positively thrived there and am grateful every day that my parents made this possible for us.
I hope you will be able to make a decision that will be a good choice for your whole family.
Thank you all for your replies! I really go back and forth...sometimes the sacrifices would seem so trivial, since for now, I only work part-time and have flexible hours. (Especially compared with the sacrifices Mayken is making! Hehe) Other times, just facing the battle with my oldest, who is fond of saying "I hate French! Never speak French again!" feels completely insurmountable. Also, if we leave the school she is at now, we will sacrifice our spot (there is always a wait list).
For those of you who don't know our background, I am a non-native speaker and I began speaking (mostly) French with my kids about 18 months ago. The youngest is mostly speaking French, while the older two have a very limited, passive understanding. I am the only ml source, beyond a few francophone friends I have made recently.
I am going to apply next week when the enrollment opens and see what happens!
Jana, Liz made a great point there that I forgot (more than one actually): after-school clubs/activities, and playdates. We have the same playdate problem now that Liz mentions - never spontaneous, always "by appointment". But as I said, I never look back. (We're only two months in, though. )
From your further explanations I can see how important it is for you to get as much additional ml input as possible and that a few sacrifices might indeed be worth it. I hope you will be able to work things out.
The more I have thought about it, the more I think I will regret not sending them if we are accepted. I fear that we have reached a limit of how much the older two will learn with me, and it will only get harder with each year they are in school. Short of us moving to a French-speaking country, I think this is the only way they will become proficient!
My new dilemma is that there is actually room still in the school for this year. I could enroll her now, mid-year, if I wanted to. I don't want to do that to her again, but I'm worried that if she doesn't get in next year, I will regret having missed my chance.
I understand your dilemma. But if you are sure about switching schools, there is not too much point in hanging on to the old one. In fact, after Christmas would be an ideal time to start something new with the new year.
I do know what it's like to have missed a chance and then not being able to get a place at the school we wanted later on. It happened with my older two, unfortunately. So I am glad we grabbed the chance to get our youngest into our top choice school for her.
So apparently, as of yesterday, it is now too late to do so after all. But there is no way I could have talked my husband into switching her now anyway... he has agreed to let me apply and discuss further if they get in, but that's as far as he was willing to go.
The new twist on the unfolding saga is that I just read that 1st grade and above students must pass a French proficiency test--equal to that of the other children in the class--in order to be admitted. I am pretty sure my oldest would not pass such a test, even if we worked like crazy until the test is given at the end of February. But I guess it's worth a try!
I hope you and your husband will find something that will suit you all.
I have no specific advice here with regard to the new bilingual school, however just in case you don't go there for whatever reason, I want to allay your fears with regard to French.
The French Education Ministry runs the CNED, for distance learning. It is, I find, the best run site today for anything related to distance learning up to high school (speaking as someone who has been in the Singapore, UK, Australian, US, French systems). The big plus is that your children can still follow the French Language module (or even the entire grade level) and obtain credits as if they were in a French classroom, so that you know their French is progressing logically. All work handed in for the school going years are marked by French teachers within the French Education system. It even has modules for adult learning by subjects, so you may even find something that interests you if you so desire. I would suggest you eyeball the site.
My point here is, if you continue to bombard their environment with French material, and if you have some form of structure as is proposed by the CNED, your children WILL acquire some proficiency in the language, even if at this point in time, they don't get in. So don't over stress yourself over it.
My children enrolled into a French/English bilingual school in France when my elder child entered high school. Before that, we handled English and Mandarin at home. The year my son entered 4th grade, I did the 2 languages plus CNED for all the subjects in Grade 4 (the French school 4th grade teacher ran home in response to the environment in Africa). I totally understand your concern, and want to say that it will all fall into place! How do I know? My teen has graduated and he is trilingual.
Thank you so much! I checked out the CNED a little bit and will look more into it. I am impressed that you were able to have your children learn such different languages. Very inspiring!
Liz P, I am also impressed that you have three kids learning three languages and in three different schools... I don't know how you juggle it all!
We went to an info meeting and tour of the school yesterday, my oldest seemed to like it (although I didn't mention the idea of her trading her old school for the new one). I loved meeting the school community even more than I hoped. I also asked whether I should bother having her assessed if she only understands but doesn't speak, and they told me to have her tested anyway. The teachers will still prefer a child who understands and reads in French over a student with no previous exposure at all, so they may let her slide and join the francophone group in case of a drawing.
Now, it will be a long wait until they announce who is accepted in March! Fingers crossed...
I have a first grader in a dual immersion program (50/50). I think you overestimate how much kids learn in the first two years. 1.5 years in, and my daughter can count, sing some songs, do basic math, write sentences like "I like...because...and also because..."
I think the biggest advances are in understanding, not speaking. We just recently had a boy start with just the grandmother speaking the language. He seems to be doing just fine.
My daughter doesn't have to be tested as bilingual; she just has to be at the same level of French as the other incoming 2nd graders (many of whom will have only had one year of exposure to French.) I am hoping that if I teach her to read and write a little bit, combined with what she already understands, she will be counted in the Francophone group.
I just wanted to update everyone on our situation... After much husband-wife "discussion," lots of preparation for the French language assessment with an unwilling 6-year-old, and the bribe of a new Minecraft Lego set if she did her best on the test, we took and passed the assessment!
I was so proud, since I am the one who taught her most of the French she knows! The teacher who assessed her even told me afterward that she had a very good vocabulary... Who knew?
My 4.5 year old also passed the assessment, and we just had to wait for the drawing, which was last week! 18 spots for kindergarten, but only 4 for 2nd grade... I was nervously checking my e-mail like a crazy lady for an update! The happy e-mail that they were both selected arrived yesterday.
Now, we just have to tell my kids they will be starting a new school next year together, and leaving their friends and familiar school setting behind. Any suggestions for softening the blow?
Thank you for all the support and encouragement to go for it!
Mayken: My girl and I are going to see her ml grandma in our ml country for the Easter weekend. (And buy more books!)
Apr 13, 2017 4:35:53 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken, I hope you two have a fun, book-happy weekend!
Apr 13, 2017 5:23:08 GMT 9
Mayken: On the train from Paris to Cologne we sat next to another ml mother and daughter from our school! Only noticed when almost in Cologne. It's a small ML-ml world!
Apr 13, 2017 21:40:37 GMT 9
Amy: Got fleeting impression during Skype call with daughter on holiday at grandparents' in ml1 country, that her ml1 pronunciation has improved! She even seemed more confident speaking in ml2!
Apr 14, 2017 23:12:48 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken and Amy, you and your kids are both doing so well! Keep up your wonderful efforts!
Apr 15, 2017 21:26:50 GMT 9
Mayken: During the traditional German Easter fire, my daughter met her friend from her school day in the ml school! So many birds with one stone! (Sorry for the birds ;))
Apr 16, 2017 18:51:11 GMT 9