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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.

dropping out of French school - Why taking our kids out of French school is one of the hardest decisions we have had to make.

image via Shutterstock

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

dropping out of french school - why taking our kids out of French school was one of the hardest decisions we have had to make.

image via Shutterstock

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Kind of lost....

Friday 28th of January 2022

Would very much like to chat on this and seek help as we are going exactly through the same process, changing route for our 7-year old. This post is old and don't know if I still have this chance to discuss this subject.

The oldest of two who was pulled from French immersion

Saturday 12th of December 2020

Dear parents (caregivers)

I am an adult now but I was very much one of these children. Let me tell you it from this perspective. This may help you feel better.

My parents put both my younger sibling and myself into French immersion. We are almost exactly a year and a week apart. This is import to the how this unfolded. My younger sister did fine and stayed in French immersion until the end of Jr high (middle school. The 9th grade.)

However like many of the issues the children faced in your posts. I also faced too. I had changed. I was stressed and unhappy. Even if I didn't understand this or see that. I just knew I was slow and really struggled.

Even with both parents teachers, even though they spoke English but knew/spoke/read/wrote well enough in French to help. I still had a hard time. We did all the work I couldn't finish in class home. That was an extra hour. Then homework. My mother had me tutored. In programs. She took her own time on my weekends to teach me too. All to keep up. All the extra work/study/tutors between the ages of 5 to 9 ish just caused friction between myself and my mother most. It felt like a punishment just as I didn't understand. My mother suffered through me complaining, and being mad at her for helping! As a teen one day I thought of this. I thanked them both mostly my mom. I understood they did all this to help even if I didn't see it then. I STILL thank them for this and I'm 30 now!

My mother saw what I did not. She saw me sad. When she asked of school, I woukd answer that "I didn't want to talk about it" So parents considered it best to take me out and hold me back a grade even more so with the issues of my own native language. I couldn't read or write in my own language. (English) We also didn't know yet that I had learning issues. Still the struggle was obvious as was the toll it was taking. They noticed I used French grammar rules when trying to write in English or sounding out words. Some of these stuck with me all through my schooling years. Sometimes it still happens. (This may be due to learning issues or maybe it's because the English language is a bit odd/curious. )

This is how they presented the idea to me. They came to me with the idea. My father told me he struggled too once and had to do the same even without language issues. I agreed to stay back a grade knowing I had not failed. This helped me feel like I had not done wrong. I felt less worried when they said I would go to another school. This was to help me avoid any possibly of embarrassment of having a younger sibling in the same grade or the stigma of failing (even if I had not and this was a choice other children didn't know this)

Later we move houses. I attended the same school and class as my sibling. Like twins. We already had that relationship. At the new school no kids questioned it after it was explained I had changed from French immersion to English but continued core French.

My sibling gave up immersion in that school and went back to it in Jr high/middle school. She gave it up in highschool grade 10. For other reasons.

We both did wonderful in core French. When it came to core French in highschool minus spelling and grammar (that I stuffer in any language still haha) I did wonderful. I was that shy kid but even so, I often asked to go first with speeches in French. That I totally made up on the spot!

My last year we had the big bad oral French exam! The one they send off after they recorded us. I didnt study for I just pulled it out of the air and passed easily.

Highschool was over a decade ago. I have not use it in years but I could likely manage to communicate in a simple manner. I still understand a fair amount of spoken French. Whole conversations. I can still read a fair amount of French and it's handy as sometimes my English directions seem to always be the ones thst are missing! (appliances or putting together a table ect)

So please remeber what your child does not understand now they one day will. Don't be surprised when they say it means a lot to them now. That they understand you sometimes you played the bad cop just to help them. It must have been hard and frustrating for you too.

They just want you to know that they are grateful now, even if it's late. They didn't understand all of it then but it doesn't make them less thankful!

I felt the need to share the story from the other side so you can understand what it was like and what your thoughts mean to us. You don't get instructions for children as each are unique!

We still love you when we are mad and frustrated.❤️


Thursday 17th of May 2018

Thank you for writing so honestly and for sharing your experience. found this article a couple of nights ago when I was up late fretting about having just taken our 10-year old out of the German school he had been attending since age 4. I know firsthand how very hard this decision is, especially when you've poured your hopes into a future that doesn't happen and invested so much effort into trying to make it work.

We don't speak German at home, however I do speak the language fluently, and it was no problem for me to easily communicate with teachers and parents, or to help our son at home (e.g., reading or chatting in German). Nevertheless we had a very similar experience (nearly word for word) as what you describe.

I've spent a lot of time trying to work out "what went wrong" or what we "could have done differently". But I think at the end of the day, it was really just that this particular school/class group wasn't a good fit for our child. The bilingualism and everything we'd emotionally invested in this particular school just made it especially hard for us to let go, and somehow because of that we felt we'd "failed", which isn't something I think we would have felt had we been taking our son out an English-speaking school.

I really hope your girls have been flourishing since their school change and I'd love to hear more about what the experience was like.


Thursday 17th of May 2018

I forgot to mention it was an international German school and we're native English speakers living in an English-speaking country. Very similar situation to what you describe, except that our son was learning in German.


Thursday 3rd of May 2018

I am so glad that I found your post. I am about to move my daughter to English school but not sure if I am making the right decision. My 6 years old daughter is in Grade 1 French Immersion. She went to English Kindergarten when she was 5 years old. French language is a new to her. My husband and I do not spear French. My daughter who already speaks two languages is not the best of students but working so hard. My daughter's teacher is more focused on discouraging her from attending and continuing with the French class then helping her to thrive. She searches for insignificant errors my daughter makes occasionally. I can see my daughter loosing her self confidence and being scared of the teacher. Looks like the teacher is so ambitious and trying to dismiss average students out of the class. I witnessed a couple of times situation when teacher was talking to some of daughter's classmates who are very fluent in French. My daughter does not have a chance to compete with this kind of student . My daughter's friend is in the same school and the same grade but the next door class. Her teacher does not have such a high expectations from the students. I do hesitate. Should I move my daughter to English school or should i push harder on my daughter. I am trying to secure better future for my daughter but I do not want to hurt her.


Wednesday 25th of April 2018

Thanks for your helpful article I and my wife do not speak French. Intermediate English :( and mother tongue is Russian. however, we are thinking to register our 4y daughter in a French immersion school because of half of Ottawa bilingual speaking. From your view. in our situation whats the best way for our daughter to go through.

Jody @ Mommy Moment

Wednesday 25th of April 2018

I think every family needs to do what is best for their own situation. Talk with the school to see what resources are available for your family and what advice they would offer. All the best, I'd love to hear how it goes!