I took seven years of French in school, but my six-year-old has blown past me with the language.
That’s because Eliza has spent the last year in a full immersion French school. Everything in her school is taught in French: math, science, reading, music, gym… everything but her English class (which is 30 minutes a day).
This is such a cool opportunity for her. She gets the chance to have teachers from other cultures (she’s had teachers from the Middle East, Africa, Belgium, and France so far) and has started down a road that gives her a very marketable skill in a globalized economy. That’s not what’s most important to us, however. Learning a foreign language at a young age gives children the chance to develop a near-native pronunciation, enhances cognitive development, and is statistically correlated with higher academic achievement (if you don’t believe us, take it from Duke University). Instruction in a foreign language also increases creative problem solving, which is no surprise, considering that full immersion students spend all day trying to problem solve by figuring out what their teachers are saying!
There was always a chance Eliza would not get in to her amazing school. Her school is a charter school, which means it is a free and public school that is not part of our area’s school district, but is still subject to state laws. Charter schools draft an agreement, or charter, with the state to be allowed to differ their instruction from the standard requirements in some way. In Eliza’s school’s case, they do everything as the state of Missouri requires, but in French.
Charter schools are not populated with the children living nearest to the school, but rather parents interested in the school must choose to apply for their child. Eliza’s school receives far more applications each year than they can accomodate, so they draw children randomly for a lottery.
It was a big gamble, staying in the city and trying to send her to this school, because there are no other schools in the area we’d be willing to send her to (I would have home schooled her if she hadn’t got in). Luckily, siblings of current students get picked first, so we won’t have to go through this process again with Jonas or future children.
We are so lucky and so thankful that Eliza and her younger sibling(s) have such a great opportunity. Eliza LOVES her school and is proud that she can speak French. She’s always singing a French song, asking me questions in French to see how much I know, and teaching our friends French phrases. And man, does she correct me when I mispronounce French words!
There was definitely an adjustment period in the beginning; she cried and got upset very easily, which is understandable. Starting school for the first time AND hearing a foreign language all day is mentally exhausting! She had a big breakdown the first week of class over the way her name is pronounced in French. “My name is Eliza, stop calling me ‘Ill-iz-a’ my name is not “Ill-iz-a’!!!” But she quickly progressed past that and is skipping when she gets off the bus each day. She only got a week off before summer school started on Monday, but by last Friday she was already asking when she could go back. She was also talking to me more in French more than usual by the end of the week, so I could tell that she was itching to get back to that as well.
Our main goal in life is to raise super kind super nerds. I think we’re off to a good start.
We’re giant advocates of full immersion, and will be happy to answer any questions you have.
If you want to read more about Eliza’s school and foreign language experiences, check out these posts: