It was about this time last year when we first started considering a French Immersion program for Emma. She was in her last year of Casa at the Montessori school my wife teaches at and would be going into Grade One in the coming fall.
I have to admit, (as silly as this may sound) part of my motivation for considering it, is that we have a very obvious french last name and it has been a life long thorn in my side, having to admit to collegues and acquaintances that I don’t really speak a lick of french. ”What? A last name like that and you don’t speak? Shame! Shame!” (It’s funnier if you say that with a french accent). Anyways, if Emma can avoid that, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Anyways, our initial plan was to keep Emma at Janey’s school because 1) It’s a great school and 2) It’s really convenient. The only issue was if we were at all going to consider a French Immersion program, it had to be then. (F.I. starts in Grade 1 and if you miss it… you miss it).
We kind of considered this one of the first “big” decisions about Emma’s education. Up until then, it was all pretty easy. She went to Janey’s school, no worries about daycare or before/after school programs or drop-off and pick-ups. It was kind of the perfect situation.
Not to mention that (at the risk of sounding a little dramatic) this decision would be pretty significant when we considered how it would change the course of Emma’s educational life and how my wife and I could particpiate in it (as mentioned, our french language skills are pretty limited).
So we attended a couple of information nights and chatted with some teachers and administrators of the school to get a better understanding of the program and to have them answer some of our more logisitcal questions. It also helped that we had friends who’s daughter had been attending the same school for a few years already.
Here’s what we came up with:
1. There is no downside to learning a second language (although it may be a little dangerous when your kid can chat circles around you in a different language)
2. The program is designed for students whose parents don’t speak (or speak little) french so there are resources to support them with homework etc.
3. English is not ignored and by the time F.I. students finish Grade 8, they are both fluent in french and compare equally to english-educated students in measureable english skills (less worried about this one but something to consider nonetheless)
4. The F.I. school had a great reputation and ranked highly vs the Ontario average
So really, the only thing left to consider was if we thought Emma would be a good candidate to succeed in the environment. The information sessions even help with this providing some simple guidlines to help you determine if the program would be a good fit for your child. (They’re pretty basic and straightforward).
So after a few more discussions and some logisitcal figuring, we pulled the trigger and registered Emma for the program which she started last fall and so far, we couldn’t be happier.
There were certainly some adjustments for the first few weeks. Going from a small private school to a massive (800 student) public school presented a bit of a culture shock – but Emma seemed to deal with it pretty well. Five months into the program she’s already impressing us with her new-mad-french-skills around the dinner table. (“Puis-je avoir un verre d’eau?”)… uhhh, ask your mother.