My Franglais Kids and the Workload

Our family has officially been in France for one year, a small victory. We put our Canadian children into school just after fall break last year. At that point, we had travelled Europe and homeschooled for nearly 6 months.

Neither had a good understanding of French when they started public school in France, but just one year later, Angelina is not an obvious native English speaker in her CE1 class. Daniel in CM1 has more difficulty, not with his speech, but with his grammar and comprehension.

The problem may be that our children were Montessori educated and then road schooled (travelling version of homeschooling). Before France, they never had so many evaluations in a row or with such pressure on them to study. Daniel studies close to 3 hours a day. The jump from CE2 to CM1 was huge for him. Consequently, the jump was huge for us too, as we are the ones that help him. Our French is just okay, although we are trying to improve.

Over the course of the last 3 weeks, Daniel had two dozen tests. He scored either close to perfect or close to zero, and nothing in between. At home, he knows the lessons, and we go over everything with a fine toothcomb. When the test comes, some questions are worded in a way that his limited French cannot comprehend.

Maybe you are thinking he may not be that smart, however, he is not alone, as the other children are far from perfect too, and they are French. He is in the 50 percentile of his class. Daniel has always been a clever boy, and has excelled in school, enough to skip a grade level in his English courses. I hope that next year things will be easier for him. His workload is heavy.

Reguardless, we need to bring his and our comprehension and grammar skills up. Any suggestion for our family is appreciated.

The French lessons sound potentially great - and a good opportunity for you and your husband to settle in very well. I could do with some more French, too; just committed a howler during a lovely evening at a friend’s house, and that despite (or perhaps because of?!) my degree in the language! And understanding my kids’ friends is another subject. Ah well, you live and learn, but it is somewhat frustrating, I do understand!

Thank-you Rosemary, you have eased my mind.

Alfonz and I are learning the language through CD's and are coming along ourselves. The frustrating part is not being able to help them as well as we would like. I take the lessons, and spend an hour going over it before explaining it to the kids. We are getting better.

Next year, once we are officially part of the system (an uphill battle) we can take free French lessons in Beziers for new residents.

Hi Eva! Just to reassure you:
My kids started in CE2 and CP respectively when they arrived in France just over 2 years ago. They had had gentle classes in French for bilingual kids in Glasgow before we knew we were coming (I’m English, my husband is French and we speak to them in basically our respective languages). My daughter (and I!) spent Wednesday and Sunday mornings for the first year doing 3 hours of homework each day, getting our heads around the standard required, the content, the approach, which was very alien to us. She had been getting very good marks (as far as we knew) in the Scottish system, but here, it was an uphill struggle. Last week she informed us that she had got top marks in her Science test and she is now able to prepare independently for dictations. Her learning style is very dialogue-orientated, so she still needs us to test her orally before the school tests, and she still has her head in the clouds a fair bit (I remember that. . .) so we have to help her to focus, but the work we put in during our first year here as well as her increasing maturity have both paid off.
Our son is made of different stuff, being very quick off the mark, and he effectively spent the first year re-doing everything he’d already done in Scotland (ie reading, writing, number work), but in French, and frankly if his French had been any better, we might well have asked that he skip the year. We didn’t because we wanted him to take the time to integrate properly without too much stress and without denting his confidence. He is a boy, and needs to focus on being precise and consistent, but can now read Harry Potter in English quite fluently (up to book 4 - he doesn’t like the rest!), learn a French poem and understand it in no time and is now the class representative, so I think we’ve achieved our main aims.
One thing that we did, and still do, is from time to time to arrange homework sessions between friends (and their respective parents!) so that the children could help each other to de-code the instructions and expectations of the homework, and so that I could double-check that I understood them, too. Valued companions have been the Bescherelle for verbs (book detailing all the verb groups and their conjugations), a school-age dictionary, and my bilingual Collins English-French-English dictionary from university. Add a Larousse so that the children can understand ALL of the words in the poems they have to learn, and you’re covered.
As an aside, in my kids’ school there is an English girl who arrived in CP without any French at all, and is known for having spent virtually the first year without speaking. The Directeur decided that that was ok, and she is now part of the top of her CM2 class, keeping her English up to the mark as well. Every child will work things out over time, in their own way, as long as adults support but don’t get in the way. . . Bon courage to all your family! You’ll get there in the end!

Good Luck Eva and hang on in there - I'm grateful for the changes next year so my little one's shouldn't have homework. I am sure there will be many other challenges - given my girls are 2 + 3 going on 12 & 13 I have no doubt they will be answering me back in French whilst I struggle to keep up!

Thanks Jacqueline! Daniel is in split class with CM2 and the lessons are virtually identical. In his class are all the FSL kids, and the directer pushes them hard to catch them up tot he class levels and is successful for the most part.

Brian again, you are wise, and I hope our kids follow in your steps and succeed.

I agree with the above comments: just hang on in there! They sound as if they have made brilliant progress in the last year. All that grammar and comprehension will fall into place in time. CM1 is often percieved as a difficult year and CM2 is almost a "revision" year before going into college, aiming to get all the pupils ready for the big step. good luck!

The leap from CE2 to CM1 is a gentle step for some children and a mountain to climb for others. CE2 depends on the teacher too, and our daughter was lucky in that he is the best teacher in the school, had several teachers' children (including one of his own three) that year, a core group of very bright pupils who carried the rest. He took them up to CM1 by the end of his year so that when they returned after summer break they actually started a couple of steps back down. Daryl was reading and writing well before coming to France, like adult versions of Harry Potter at 7, so as she picked up French it slotted into place and she reads poetry with the French meta. That is hard. My wife studied in French speaking Switzerland (her mother tongue is Italian) and she cannot do that after 20+ years. We did not push the French at home but have maintained a blilingual regime with both daughters, so that now one speaks French more than English to me, the other vice versa, and all vice versa again with Mama!

Those who go in with advantageous skills seem to compensate and many of them go quickly into the top marks group of the class. CM2 will be another challenge because that prepares for college and all kids are on tenterhooks anyway - growing up and all that. Our friends' kids in or who have been through that are fine.

Last year both kids had a tutor for an hour each day. This year Angelina is top three of her class too, like Brian's daughter, no tutor required.

Daniel goes early to school on Thursdays and Fridays to receive help with grammar and will occasionally get a tutor during class time, but he misses vital information when he leaves a lesson and I think they may have decided to stop that. Both of Daniel's teachers are helpful,(directer and regular teacher) making sure he gets his homework written down correctly, they take the time to help him understand a sentence if he seems lost. And all the teachers my kids had speak English but only resort when we are seriously not understanding.

They give Daniel previous years homework to catch him up on grammar fundamentals he missed. Angelina is lucky to be younger. In Canada she was learning to read and write, and last year, a school year later, her peers in France were just beginning to read and write in French. She picked it up faster than the others being her second language.

I was hoping someone would say the jump from CE2 to CM1 is big but CM2 eases off and next year will be a breeze, so hang in there! Anyone?

Off topic but...any chance of a profile photo please Lib? Thanks! x

I tend to agree with the 'getting there in the end' thesis. Our girls have been in school here for now over three years. One has special needs so let's not go there. The other was one in the top three of her class by the end of her second year. On the other hand, when somebody says the only way it really works is by getting a tutor should tread carefully. The other English first language pupil in her class has been messed up by the tutor not being in synch with classroom work so that that boy is now in the bottom five. As his father said, two years of tutoring in good faith and at a price and he is worse of that he would probably have been.

Just get involved, sit in and help as best you can with homework (which is only this year then finished anyway). Talk to the teachers as often as possible and try to work on the weaknesses with them. That way the teachers are happy as well as the kids. Patience is great, bearing in mind that they learn many times faster than us should be borne in mind at all times. Also, if they appear to be passive using French out of school that does not mean they are not non-stop talkers in school. No stress, no pressure and talk about it. My bright little one comes to me, we wrap up in a duvet and talk about her problems and she has them. Mama is for other problems. Try it, see how well it works.

Yes I agree, It may just be the way the questions are worded that throws him. A tutor who is up to date and knows the ropes for his age-group will be worth their weight in gold. If it were me, I would n't muck about, I would get a tutor pronto plus it will very quickly do wonders for his confidence. Go girl!

Ask the school if there is any chance of giving him some extra help? And also, really, really, really, please don't stress - they all get there in the end. You sound like a concerned, involved family and I'm sure your kids will be fine even if the road is tough some times! xx

The only thing that really works is getting a tutor. Otherwise, these things take time and that may not be quick enough for you...

I need the same advice.