Programs and Education

All for French Immersion – is it worth it?

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This past January, I like many other parents had to register my little one for JK.  As I prepared to have Ella get ready to enter “real school”, I started to hear more and more things about French Immersion (FI).  Yes, French is a dying language that is not as useful as say Mandarin around the world these days, but I figured it would be “included” and they had to go to school anyways so it couldn’t hurt – right?  Also, now that we’re starting to look forward to retiring one day (yes – we are getting old), the perks of a government job  with their retirement packages seemed to be a choice I wanted Ella to have down the road.  It’s crazy that at 4yrs old, I’m thinking about her retirement!

So I started to make a mental list of pros/cons to confirm my feeling that I was going to put her into the French Immersion stream.

My PROs list:

  1. Additional job opportunities
  2. Surrounding her with classmates who might be a little more serious about school (if they last beyond the first three years of FI since most kids who are not enjoying or doing well in the program drop out during this time.  And yes, I’m sure stating this is not a politically correct comment and I realize that there are lots of kids who are serious about school in the English stream!)
  3. Additional brain development and related benefits (stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia?!?)
  4. Ability to more easily learn additional languages (Spanish, Italian etc)
  5. Further exploring Ella’s interest in languages

My CONs list:

  1. Issues with grammar (although to be honest, I know many people whose only language is English with this issue)
  2. Delay in progress of learning/advancement with school curriculum due to demands of learning French

After about two months of research, I weighed the options and decided we will still move ahead with the FI program.  In our school district, this meant they would start in grade 1 so I had two years to plan.  In my findings to my surprise, our school district had moved to a lottery system – only 25% of the school population would get in!  I’ve played the lottery before and have never won anything except a free ticket or $10 so I wasn’t comfortable with taking my chances with a lottery system when it came to Ella’s education.  Unfortunately the “free” French only public schools required that one or both parents are fluent in French and/or the child had to pass a french fluency test.  So it came down to two choices, moving to another school district or sending her private school.

Private school seemed to be the easiest option since we really liked our house and the thought of cleaning out all our years of accumulated junk and packing everything up was overwhelming.  Doing some digging into the private school options, I was confused with trying to figure out the quality of schools out there.  In addition, most of the schools were not conveniently located and required either re-adjusting our work schedules to accommodate drop off and pick up times or looking into busing options and before and after school care.  So speaking to parents who had sent their children to private french schools and doing some research on-line, time and time again, I kept hearing about TFS.  Looking into tuition fees of approximately $25K per year and yes that is for kindergarten this quickly no longer became a viable option.  With this option we’d have to move anyways since we could only live in a shack to be able to afford those fees!

So moving to another school district it was.  Of course my husband had to be filled in on my master plan 🙂  He was not as open to this fixation I had with FI and after many long “discussions” and weeks of back and forth we decided we would look into moving.  For those of you who know me once I make up my mind on something I move quickly.  Less talking and more doing is more my style.  My husband spent countless hours and long nights finishing up our basement and we started looking to see what house options were available in our price range in the new school district at the same time.  Once the basement was completed, we put our house up for sale.  We listed our house on a Wednesday, sold on the Sunday and bought a new house on the Monday!  All just in time for Ella to start JK in the new school district in September (even though we technically didn’t have to move until she was registering for Grade 1 since kindergarten was not part of the FI stream).

We are now settled in our new house, Ella into her new school so hopefully once she enters grade 1 and the FI stream she will actually like it!  I guess that is the only part of this master plan I can’t control but at least I feel like we’ve done everything we could to give her this opportunity.

Other thoughts on FI?  Anyone else currently with children in the program with experiences to share?  As always comments welcome below.

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A few related articles that might be of interest:

www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html

www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/10126883/Why-learn-a-foreign-language-Benefits-of-bilingualism.html

https://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/collaborateurs-contributors/articles/mythes-myths-eng.html

www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/why-french-immersion-should-be-in-all-schools-or-none-at-all/article12999772/

2 thoughts on “All for French Immersion – is it worth it?

  1. This is a very interesting conundrum you found yourself in and it sounds like you handled the best way you could and I hope Ella is enjoying her classes. Admittedly, I had never even heard of this whole “French Immersion” thing until a co-worker of mine mentioned it as an option they’ll have for their kid. I’ll have to talk to my sister about this since I know my niece will soon be reaching the age where she might be eligible for this kind of thing; I’ll have to remember to recommend your article to her, so she can see the pros and cons that you weighted before making the choice.

    1. I’m glad the article is helpful to at least start the discussion. It’s different for everyone and I too was new to the French Immersion debate until Ella was ready to start school. Good luck!

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