DROPPING OUT OF FRENCH SCHOOL – Why taking our children out of French school was one of the hardest decisions we have had to make.
This post has sat in draft for some time. Some of you may be in complete shock to see this post. I have read it over numerous times and just was not sure if I would publish it or not. I decided to publish it because I know people will have questions about why our girls are dropping out of French school, people already do have questions. Instead of me having to repeat the story over many times, I can share it with everyone at once.
Parents naturally want what is best for their children. Putting our daughters into French school was a pretty easy decision for us. Although my husband and I do not speak French or any other language, we wanted to offer our children the opportunity to learn another language. We know how difficult it can be to pick up another language later in life. We have a French last name, and we wanted to bring the French back into our family heritage (my husbands grandpa was French and only learned English when he was an adult).
Although there was not a French school school in our community, there was the opportunity to have our daughters go on the bus to the French school in a neighboring town. We knew it would not be easy sending our daughters to French school knowing that all the communication would be in French, but we were determined.
We were excited, dedicated and hopeful.
- We brought our girls to the French playgroups before they were old enough to start kindergarten.
- We took 2 years of French classes ourselves and used the French Rosetta Stone program to strengthen our French vocabulary.
- We bought French toys, games and books and borrowed French books and movies from the library.
- We had our girls involved in French after school activities and French programs during the summer.
- We went to French story hour and hired a French speaking tutor to help with reading.
- We planned playdates and get togethers with French speaking families.
- We never missed a school concert – even if we could not understand what was going on.
We were excited that our daughters were growing up with a bilingual education. For the past 7-8 years, since our oldest daughter was in preschool, we have considered the French school our girls educational home.
Everything seemed ok…until it wasn’t.
I tried to push the feelings away, I wanted my girls to be in this school till they graduated high school. I wanted my girls to be bilingual and have the opportunities in life that I didn’t. I wanted to believe that everything would be ok – so I just kept pushing my doubts aside. For 2 years I pushed those feelings away until I just could not do it any longer.
Our 7 year old, once happy and joyful child was a distant memory. Bubbly, outgoing, and happy were replaced by insecurity, tears and frustration in class and at home. Hiding under the piano bench after school became the norm and nightmares became frequent. Our girl began to worry about everything, her self worth was slipping away. She struggled and cried that mom and dad could not help her or understand. Sadness seemed to continually seep out from her little veins.
Our 10 year old would never complain, but we would see tears as she was trying to do homework late at night because she did not have enough time at homework club to finish. My husband and I could not help because of the language barrier.
She would occasionally ask us questions regarding other schools, or if we thought she would have to stay at this one forever. I do not think she was trying to cause a stir, just processing things in her mind while trying to keep the peace as oldest children often do. We knew she was skipping her recess times to volunteer in the kindergarten class instead of being with children her age. The extreme bullying she faced earlier in the year had seemed to stop, but she became a genius at avoiding possible confrontations. She never had a bad word to say about anyone, but her unfinished lunches, bad stomach aches and loss of interest in school activities began to speak volumes.
Both of our girls’ self-esteem had plummeted and their insecurities became like mountains.
I sat frozen in disbelief.
We were good parents, we tried to be involved. Our girls were not ashamed that we could not speak French, but I know in my heart they wished we could volunteer in class, without the language barrier. We as parents were doing everything to give our kids the advantages that we did not have – and it failed. Not in the academic sense of the word – our girls were easily average students academically (3’s and 4’s on their report cards), but their emotional health was taking a toll and I had to put my pride aside. Would we really be dropping out of French school – really?
I never realized how much I cared about what others thought about me until I went though this. As I am writing this I worry that my English friends and family will say that putting our girls in the French school was the worst thing we ever did in the first place and I worry that our French friends will say that is why only french speaking families should go to French schools or that we did not try hard enough. I worry that people will think I am bashing French education or the school my daughters attended, when I truly have so much respect and love for it. I have stayed awake hours at night wondering what I could have done differently.
If ever there was a time that I let MOM GUILT take over, it is now.
<<insert the feel sorry for myself, ugly cry here>>
My heart breaks because as mush as I don’t want it to happen, our girls will likely lose their French language. I can pretend that they will keep it up by watching French TV shows and playing with one another in French, but in my heart, I know that all that we have worked for will likely be gone and it makes me sad.
So if we are dropping out of French school do I think that having my girls in an English school will solve everything?
NO! Far from it.
Our girls will encounter good and not so good teachers everywhere, they will go through struggles with friends no matter what language or school they are in and they will end up in tears over homework too.
The difference is that…
- mom and dad will be part of the community where they are going to school.
- mom and dad will be able to understand the homework and help them when they are discouraged.
- mom and dad will be able to actively and fully volunteer in the classroom and on field trips.
- mom and dad will be able to interact with our daughters’ friends and teachers.
- most importantly our girls will know that mom and dad cared about their their emotional health when it mattered most.
I never thought the words “Dropping out of French school” would come out of my mouth, but after the very tough decision was made to change schools, it seemed like a weight was lifted off our girls shoulders… I need to take comfort in that when those times of guilt come back over me like waves of doubt.
I plan to share more of our journey as time goes on. For those of you wondering, I read this post and talked to my daughters before posting. This is as much their story as it is mine, and so I wanted to respect them and not post it if they did not want me to.
Although there were struggles, I do want to say thank-you to the staff at the school who really did care – you know who you are. Some of you will never know how much you impacted our family in a positive way. I also want to thank the French friends I made these past few years, the visits over coffee or texts meant more than you know.
So many tears have been shed and I know there will be many more as the decision was so incredibly difficult. I can’t get caught up in blaming myself for not being able to learn the language – I tried my best. I think if we lived in the French community it may have been different, but I really do not know. Nobody promised that raising children would be easy. It takes a village.
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