We are considering placing our 4 year old daughter into a French immersion school beginning next year for pre-k. Any comments?
Our daughter has been attending pre-school for two years and we feel that she would be more challenged with the french immersion. Will it be too difficult? I am drawn to the 'world perspective' the school takes as they follow the French national curriculum. She is pretty smart and very social. I feel like this could help her be a bolder, more confident adult. I am concerned that the translation for science, bio, chem etc will be difficult. The school only goes to fifth grade (now-but believe it will be extended). Also, how do i help with homework?
courtneyfink - the member who asked this question - selected this as the best answer posted by another Education.com member.
from a fellow member
I can respond to you from personal experience. The year before kindergarten, my two daughters went to a French speaking babysitter, who spoke French to her children and English to mine. Truly a bilingual experience! Plus, my girls continued in French Immersion schools throughout grade twelve.
Yes, it would be more challenging for your daughter to learn another language. In the city where I live, the children who were in French Immersion classrooms were, by and large, children who were more able language learners, so it was a good challenge.
My husband spoke French so that helped with homework, but, I must admit that I often felt frustrated because I couldn't read with my children in French. Nor did I know how hard the books were that they were choosing from the library, etc. Actually, my husband also had this difficulty because he wasn't certain, at each grade level, how much students should know. So, this will likely be a frustration for you.
Where I live, every year the children take one or more classes in English, so I was able to keep check on my children's progress that way.
I decided early on that if my children were falling behind in their English development, I would take them out of French Immersion. That wasn't something that the French teachers would necessarily have recommended, but I felt that English was the more important language to master. In the end, I didn't remove my children from the French classrooms because I saw that they were learning both. And this facility in two languages was what I had desired in the first place.
Learning the vocabulary of another language is a great challenge in the beginning. You might want to take a "Learn French" class yourself.
If you don't live in a community with many French speaking people, then your daughter won't have much opportunity to practice speaking French, except in school. The school might arrange field trip experiences to French speaking communities and countries.
I'm a little concerned when you say the school follows the curriculum from France. The school district where I live uses the same curriculum in French and English. I think that you should compare the curriculum of this school and your state curriculum. Perhaps get an educator to take a look with you.
In the end, my daughters are fluent in English and French, and have high school Bilingual certificates!!! They also have found it easier to learn other languages, such as Spanish. This is the advantage that Immersion educators have always spoken about.
I have a few friends who have enrolled their kids in immersion programs. From what they've said, this can be a GREAT experience for a child. You're giving her a gift that few American kids get - being bilingual and having a deep understanding of another culture.
That said, there are definitley challenges. The biggest, as you pointed out, is that if you don't speak french at home, it might be tough for you to support her efforts (although at the Spanish immersion school in our town, the more technical subjects are taught in English in the higher grades).
I think the most important thing is to talk to the school to find out whether they mostly have kids like yours (English speaking kids whose parents want them to learn a second language) or if they mostly have French speaking kids whose parents don't want them to lose their native language. Find out how many families have non-french speaking parents and what support structures are in place for those families.
If most of the families are french, or if the school is not well organized to support families like yours, she may have a tough time socially and accademically. The last thing you want is for her to lose her love of learning because her first years of school were too frustrating.
Another mom asked a similar question in JustAsk. I'll post it below so you can take a look at the answers she got.
Research shows that bilingual, biliterate kids out perform thier school aged peers. I suggest doing a bit more resreach as per the earlier response (about student population, etc) then going for it! All best!