Ecole Bilingue de BerkeleyCommunity Subscriber
- See also: Ecole Bilingue Preschool
Founded in 1977, Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley offers a high quality bilingual education from preschool (age 2.5) through 8th grade by carefully integrating the French and the American curriculum, in a nurturing international environment (over fifty nationalities represented). EB’s graduates are accepted to the best high schools in the Bay Area. Accredited by WASC, CAIS and the French Ministry of Education. Shuttle service offered to students Kindergarten and older from Walnut Creek and Lafayette areas.
Excellent question! We left Ecole Bilingue, but were sad to leave. The good part first: EB offers excellent French immersion. Our child's progress in French stunned us and we met families from all over the world. Also, the curriculum is very global in its coverage, and the school doesn't feel "ritzy". All this is hard to find here, so we were sad to leave. The decent: EB offers a good after-school program (which could be better supervised), and an acceptable, if bare-bones, social-emotional learning curriculum. For us, the big problem was math and science instruction. EB has revised its math and science curriculum, and brought in one strong science instructor. But EB does not compare in these domains with other top bay area private schools in terms of the amount of instruction, the level of instruction, the number of specialist teachers, student test scores, and extra-curricular teams and opportunities. EB is very focused on providing excellent opportunities for students who are weak in French to catch up; they succeed in this very challenging task but it comes at a cost. EB administrators compare themselves to other Francophone schools, whereas for us, the relevant benchmark was what other bay area private schools charging similar tuition offered.
My daughter goes to Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley. Right now they are planning to open next year. They are applying for permits to increase the number of classrooms (mobile classrooms etc) as well as breaking up the gyms and multi-purpose rooms into multiple classrooms in order to maintain the social distancing requirements. If those fall through they are planning to prioritize the preschool thru 2nd grade to on campus 100% of the time with 3rd thru 8th doing a hybrid in-class/distance learning. From what I understand from friends in the public school system they've been told that the distance learning will likely go into the fall and as late as January 2021.
If price is not a consideration, you choose EB without hesitation. I live in north Oakland (lower Rockridge) and my commute is 20 minutes on bike to EB. Driving can take anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes depending on traffic. Class size doesn’t exceed 18 in the lower grades and we love the international vibe of the school. Go check it out.
My daughter goes to EB and we're happy with the school although it is expensive. We live in Oakland in the Dimond and the commute in the morning isn't bad although in the evenings it could take 40+ min to get home. If you're in North Oakland/Berkeley the commute would probably be a lot better especially compared to Francophone. One thing to note is that Francophone doesn't have a preschool (just TK) so EB might be your best bet if your son is young. Also, we have friends whose kids go to Francophone and they told us the school will likely move next year to the Oakland Airport area. Not sure if that affects your decision or not. I assume price isn't an issue because in that regards Francophone is the far better a choice. A number of kids at EB left for Francophone once they start kindergarten for the cost alone.
Hi! Welcome to the East Bay! Another great school to consider is Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley (EB) - its a French immersion K-G8 school, with a focus on the "whole-child". It's the oldest bilingual school in the East Bay so its program is very well established and strong. All three of my children are there and we're loving it. The teachers are great and the community is very special - diverse, caring and lively. There are families from all over - many American, but also about 50 other countries are represented. I just love how globally oriented and inclusive the school is and what engaged, bright children it is producing.
My family has been part of the EB community for seven years. Our daughter began EB in the moyenne section (four year-olds), and is now in fifth grade (CM2). While I do speak French at a conversational level, English is the only language spoken in our home. From my perspective, the most accurate way to describe EB is as a school with a strong academic program that has the added benefit of building fluency in French. In other words, I don't feel that we have sacrificed anything in terms of academics to provide our daughter with a bilingual education.
I've been giving tours and helping with admissions at the school for several years, and I'm often asked how quickly and effectively fluency in French is acquired by the non-native speaker. In response, I always tell the same story. I took a sabbatical two years ago and my family and I spent the year in France. Our daughter attended French public school (third grade) and the transition was as smooth as can be. Her teachers told us throughout the year that her command of French was indistinguishable from that of the local students, from accent to grammar, reading comprehension to vocabulary. Granted, this is only one data point, but I do consider my daughter's experience to be a true test of how well EB fosters bilingualism.
The one other aspect of my daughter's experience at EB that I will note is how confident and self-assured she has become during her time at the school. How much of that is attributable to the school versus other factors? There is no way to know, but I can say that the school's emphasis on presentations, performances, and poetry has helped to become quite comfortable speaking and performing in front of an audience.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
I have a daughter at Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley (EB) and am in a somewhat unique position to evaluate how well the school provides its students with French language fluency. My daughter, now 9 years old and in fourth grade, started at the mid-K level at EB. My family and I spent the last academic year in France and my daughter attended French public school. According to her teachers, as well as other adults with whom we interacted, her French was indistinguishable from a native speaker, in terms of accent, intonation, vocabulary, grammar, spelling, reading comprehension, use of idioms, etc. For me our year in France was a true test of how well EB imparts fluency, and needless to say the school earned an A-plus.
Now, I know your question was mostly about the Renaissance School, and I confess I know nothing about its programs. However, I felt I should respond, both to provide one person's experience with EB, and also to distinguish conversational fluency from true fluency. I studied French in high school and college and have taken classes periodically in the evenings. I am conversational. My accent is not quite authentic (especially with the ''R''s), and I sometimes need to pause ever so briefly to translate from English to French in my head. No one is going to mistake me for a Frenchman. My daughter is fluent. Her accent is authentic, and she flips back and forth between French and English without any effort whatsoever. Doug F
Deciding between EB and EBI
We plan to enroll our child in a language school this fall and are deciding between EB and EBI. I wonder if other families are in the same boat or were in past years, and would like to hear about your decision process.
For us, we love nearly everything about the French school (EB) except that the language is French(!), which is terribly impractical. The only other niggle is that the music program does not start until 2nd grade (WHY?!). But we love the 30 year track record of the school, the class size, the weekly garden program, the emphasis on cooking, and poetry and most of all, the international community. Every parent we met thusfar, we have liked and clicked with. The school seems well-organized and the admission process has been smooth. The new campus improvements coming this summer will be the icing on the cake. We are torn with the value of French in California, however.
On the other hand, EBI is Spanish - very useful and practical! But the school is new and the admissions process wasn't organized (very hard to get a phone call back) and we are worried that this might reflect the administration as a whole (although realize it may not). We have met almost no parents and have no sense of the community (again, the fault of admissions, not of the parents). The Alcatraz campus is not great: there is NO green space, no garden program and the kids have to eat lunch at their desks. The music room is literally a closet. On the other hand, they have a great music program!! The teachers seem warm and caring, the IB program is strong and class size is good.
We wonder if it is better to go with an established organized program in an impractical language, vs a new, potentially disorganized one with a big upside, the practical language, but is also more of a gamble... Thoughts? Feedback? Thank you! Nervous about our upcoming decision
I think you have identified very well the strengths and the weaknesses of EB -- the main weakness being French is impractical in California, and the main strengths being the all-round education in which (almost!) all aspects are strong, an efficient administration and a truly international community. I am sure that many schools, public and private, have caring and engaged parent communities, but in EB the child is ''in the world'' on a daily basis. It is not the case that most parents at EB are seeking to cement their existing French roots -- several families, ours included, do not speak French at home.
In addition to the strengths you mention, EB has outstanding teachers. This is our 5th year in the school, and I have so appreciated the *gradual* change from a loving play-based environment prior to kindergarten towards the more structured -- but with plenty of art and music and sandbox -- environment as we are nearing the end of 3rd Grade.
On the 2 issues you rightly raised: First, EB does not have music ''class'' till 2nd grade. This is because a significant amount of teaching in Lower School through Grade 1 is *through* music. Our son learned to sing in French well before he could actually speak it, right in his regular classroom, without a formal music ''class''. Singing and art are thoroughly integrated into the EB education, at least at the Lower School (we do not yet have Middle School experience). The music teacher from 2nd Grade on, Barbara, is just wonderful -- you can see the love she has for music and for the children. Second, French is not practical in California. That's 100% true, and we had to think about this very hard in making our own choice. Overall the track record and environment of EB sealed the deal for us - in addition to many parents assuring us that their kids left 8th grade speaking English, French, and Spanish, as both Spanish and Mandarin are offered in Middle School as electives. And of course if you speak French Spanish is easier to learn than if you don't have any other Romance language.
Good luck with choosing a school -- I agree with you that early immersion is a huge gift to any child and I wish you the best for his / her future education! EB mother (and pleased to be one)
We are EB parents and I can not really compare with EBI.I think you have noticed all the possitive things that both schools have to offer.If your struggle is the''French language''being impractical then I do want to point out that French is a world language.There are 220 million French speakers in the world.We looked at it from the point that if our kids speak at least 2 world languages it would open a lot of doors for their future.It doesn't matter where you live in the world.French is not an easy language to pick up later in life. And if you already speak French then it's easy to pick up a Latin based language like Spanish.
That said in the Middle school EB does offer Spanish,Mandarin and Latin programs. We also wanted a curriculum with very high standards like the French one has.That together with the 35 years of experience in Bilingual education EB has. The fact that EB has such a strong Bilingual acadamic program might be the reason why there is maybe less time for music (which was another concern of yours).Hey there are only a certain amount of hours in a day.You can not do everything.And the Maternelle teachers do a great job with bringing songs and music in all the time.And since we have more then 50 nationalities there is always somebody on the drumms,playing guitars etc.And not to forget they do have after school violin,piano and guitar classes. I think it would be a mistake to let the ''French language''stop you from choosing an excellent Bilingual awesome school. M.C. Verry happy EB mom of super happy EB kids
I'd like to take a moment to sing the praises of EB. Our son has been at EB for two years now - in the MK class as well as in Kindergarten. His experience, as has ours, has been wonderful!
We are not a French-speaking family (full disclosure: I speak Spanish, Romanian and some French - though my French is noticeably cobbled together from my Spanish and Romanian skills). My husband does not speak a second language all. A second language was important to us, but really, we were open to any second language.
I'm so excited that our son is thriving in a school where the curriculum is presented in French (1 hour of English per day). We fit right in with the stats - just 57% of EB families have a person at home that speaks French. A majority (77%) of families speak English at home and 28% of families speak a 3rd language at home.
When we toured the school we were extremely impressed with the philosophy, curriculum, staff, organization, and commitment to a caring, cheerful environment for the kids. Our priority in our Kindergarten search was to find a school where we felt our son could learn, grow, and collaborate with students and teachers alike in his learning process. We found this in EB. The icing on the cake was that our son could acquire a second language. It is for these reasons that I wholeheartedly recommend EB. Andrea A - Happy EB Parent
[Editor Note] reviews were also received for Escuela Bilingue Internacional
Ecole Bilingue vs Black Pine Circle
I'd appreciate hearing other people's experiences with these two schools and any thoughts on which school was 'better' for your family and your child. We are considering these schools for our K-age child who currently attends a language immersion pre-school. What we like about EB: language immersion, global focus, solid academics. What we like about BPC: small school/family feel, great balance between whole child and academics, music and performing arts starting in K. Our concerns about EB: it may be too big for our child who is 'mild/shy'; we perceived a lack of socioeconomic diversity - is that the case? It looks to have a more 'traditional' curriculum, and it's 20% more expensive (is the difference worth it?). Our concerns about BPC: the facilities didn't impress us, and we have questions. Is there enough focus on globalism? How much screen time is in the classroom from the early grades? Is the air quality poor from being close to Pacific Steel? They're both great schools, and we're fortunate to have these options, but it's hard to know which will be best for our child. Any thoughts/advice is very much appreciated. Thank you. Debating dad
Our son is at EB. We cannot compare BPC to EB as we don't know BPC well -- we did look into it a few years ago when choosing schools, but have no specific information on BPC since then. So this message is not a comparison. But I would like to address a couple of anxieties expressed by the thoughtful father posing the EB v BPC question:
(1) We do not find a lack of socio-economic diversity at EB, especially for a private school. More impressive is the global diversity; your child will be ''in the world'' from the get go, and this truly does define the character of EB
(2) The teachers in all 5 years (thus far) have been terrific. The way they know your child, as an individual, is amazing.
(3) Art and music are a natural part of the curriculum, for all areas of study, especially in the Lower School. This was quite important to us when we were choosing a school. We looked at the artwork displayed in the corridors, and were very impressed. The music teacher is also wonderful. She loves music, and the children can see that and be inspired by it.
(4) It isn't a ''big'' school; the class sizes are quite small and the parent community is engaged and diverse. Our son is not shy (this is a mixed blessing) but he has friends who are quiet or reserved, and they are doing equally well in the EB environment.
It's impossible to say if the additional fees are worth it. ANd no school is ''perfect'' for any one kid. But EB helps you to raise a globally comfortable, well-rounded, confident child, in addition to providing high-quality academics as well as an integrated art curriculum. In the end we made an all-things-considered judgment in favor of EB 5 years ago, knowing that there were indeed other excellent schools to choose from. And we have never regretted our choice.
Hope this helps! 3rd grade EB mother
I have three children currently at EB and one who graduated last year. We are not a french family. We chose EB for the language immersion (we used to do a lot of traveling) and the community diversity as well as a reputation for strong academics. We felt that if we were going to pay for private school, let's get something we really cannot get elsewhere. So, for us, it's worth the money...and I know the tuition is comparable to other independent schools in the East Bay. Perhaps BPC is less than most? I don't know about BPC's accreditation, but EB is not only accredited by the state of California but by the French Ministry of Education.
Our first child to attend the school is very much an introvert. He did not seem to get lost in the crowd. He started as a 4-year old. The first two years had a teacher:student ratio of 8 or 9:1. I found that to be not a problem. Beginning with 1st grade the class size was never more than 18...but his year/group was a particularly big one with retention all the way through 8th grade...biggest graduating class in EB history. It was not easy for him, being a more ''closed'' personality...but I truly believe that his issues would have dogged him no matter where he went.
On the matter of socioeconomic diversity, people don't walk around talking about their finances so it's kind of hard to say. There isn't ''showing off'' that I've noticed. Some people drive Porsches and live in spendy houses in reputedly fancy neighborhoods (we don't), but I've never noticed this to be a problem...neither with the parents or with the kids. The school offers good financial aid based on need, and French nationals might be eligible for the country's Bourse aid. They do a good job keeping the school fiscally responsible while maintaining a good mix, in my opinion.
Our recent graduate (the quite/shy introvert) is now at a top-ranked private high school and LOVING it. He speaks very fondly of his years at EB and feels like he was emotionally and academically ready and eager to make the move to where he is now.
It hasn't all been sunshine and roses...but it never will be no matter where you go Any time any of our children have come forward with issues, they or we have gone to the teachers and administration who have been extremely receptive and active in resolution.
Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.
Glad We Are At EB the_missus
We also debated between BPC and EB. We now have 2 children at EB (2nd grade and K). We think the school is fabulous and are very happy with our decision. Our first child was ''quiet'' and we thought he would get lost / overwhelmed at a bigger school so we were happy with the small class sizes at EB. Also with 2 adults (teacher and assistant) in the K classes the kids often work in small groups getting a lot of individual attention. Because it is a language school a lot of time is spent drawing the children out and getting them to communicate with one another. We don't think the socioeconomic diversity at EB is any ''worse'' than at any other private school in the Bay Area. In fact the school is very committed to its financial aid and scholarship programs. The cultural diversity is huge. My kids are in class with native French speaking children who have arrived from countries all over the world. I think there are a lot of definitions of traditional curriculum. We looked at some schools where all work was project based and there were no ''traditional'' workbooks or writing assignments. EB does have these traditional elements to the curriculum, but there are many non-traditional activities too, particularly in the younger grades. They have gardening, music, cooking, computer, library and field trips. They have classroom visitors from the SF Opera, Chinese Acrobats and many others. Yes it is expensive. We feel we are paying to have a bilingual kid and for the amazing facility upgrades that are being undertaken. Every family and every kid is different. We found our fit and hope you do too. Good luck. EB Mom
My children (5 and 7 years old) attend EB. We are very happy with the school and the community. In my opinion, the sociodiversity is better than at some other private schools as many French families receive scholarships from the French government and some American families receive financial aid from the school. The community is very international which we really appreciate as we are not Americans ourselves. There are plenty of events dedicated to building the community and we love to attend them (and help to organize them too). The school doesn't feel big at all. After three years there, it seems that my kids already know half the school as kids get mixed in new classes after one or two years (some classes loop for two years). It gives them opportunity to make new friends all the time. They don't miss old friends either because they see each other very often in the yard, at lunch, etc. There is plenty of art making, playing and singing, especially in kindergarden. We were also a bit worried if the school is too academic but my daughter who wants to become artist when she grows up has thrived there. The gardening program is also great and with a whole new playground/sports facilities coming this summer, I think the kids will be getting an excellent education while having fun and pursuing their own interests. Good luck with making the decision! Petra
When we were faced with having to pick a school/kindergarten for our daughter last year we had a few very solid choices and although we wavered for a while and initially thought that we were going to go with a different school, we ultimately picked Ecole Bilingue. I cannot say how happy we are that we made this decision. We really love the school, as does our five year old.
The faculty and administrators and support staff are all great and treat us like we are part of an extended family and the parent community has also been very welcoming.
And last week during a break when we were worried that she might lose some of the French (her first encounter with French was pretty much when she started at EB in September), she started speaking to me in French, correctly using some pretty complicated grammar. I can only say that I was almost speechless.
I really can't say enough how happy we are that we chose to send our daughter to EB. Suffice to say that she has a baby sister who we hope will also join her there in a few years. Ashley
Editor Note: reviews were also received for Black Pine Circle
Re: Immersion school for gifted kids?
I have two children at Ecole Bilingue. The opportunity to learn in two languages is definitely a way to engage and challenge a bright child. Children can really thrive by receiving a bilingual education. Academic research shows that it can open the mind in a number of ways, such as cultural awareness and improved multi-tasking abilities. While I would not consider my children gifted, they are smart and spirited, and the school has taken the initiative to address their individual needs in different ways while providing an exceptionally nurturing and holistic education. The school has designed a very impressive methodology for teaching the two languages and leveraging the unique curriculum to meet both French national and CA state requirements. Students greatly benefit from the English and French curriculum collaboration and structured approach because they have the opportunity to gain insights on, for example, ways to express oneself or ways to do math and they can compare and contrast them. In 2nd grade the school took the initiative to test my older son and recommended to us he skip 2nd grade and enter 3rd grade mid-year. They provided him with extra one-on-one tutoring in French to support this move up for 3 months. Now he is in 5th grade and the transition has been seamless. The teachers provide him with thoughtful extra class and homework when it is needed to challenge him. The small class size (~15) supports the individualized attention as well as the looping system ( student has same class and teachers for 2 years in a row -- this happens for 1st and 2nd and then again for 4th and 5th) that enables teachers to really get to know the children, and their respective strengths and weaknesses. The teachers are not only teaching academic subjects and skills but life skills. For example, my son's teacher gives all the homework for the week on Monday and then the child makes a weekly workplan and develops self-organization skills.
For my younger son, after some testing, the school decided to have him enter 1st grade as the youngest child in the class by 1 year. The first month was an adjustment, the teachers in both English and French provided him with some extra emotional and social support and he has settled in and is doing very well academically and loving the teachers and the school.
Both children have very special relationships with both their English and French teachers as well as the many special subject teachers and staff overseeing the play yard and other activities. I highly recommend the school (and more broadly speaking bilingual education) and suggest you contact the school directly. I am also happy to answer more questions if you would like to email me directly. tc
We have been at EB for 4 years.This school has now 50 nationalities. It is a blend of many cultures and races.I can not express enough how happy we have been with this.It's an amazing experience for both our kids and us as parents.Our kids and we as parents have made great friends and we never felt any separation in our school community. We are glad we found a school that offers great academics and this kind of environment to prepare our kids. I would love to invite you to come to some of the events such as our'' World celebration day'' or ''the Marche''or a tour in the classes if you have not done so yet. Michelle
Re: EB vs. Renaissance School for preschool thru 8th grade
Hi-- I'm a parent of an EB kindergartner. We started our son there when he was in preschool.
Why did we choose EB (and why do we continue to love it?)? #1 for us was diversity. EB is not just diverse in the sense we all hope and expect Berkeley schools to be--it's internationally diverse. 40+ countries represented. There's just no other student body in the East Bay bringing the world together like that on one campus, and that opportunity to broaden our son's perspective not just in theory but with a broad multi-cultural experience was something we couldn't pass up.
Our actual experience of that diversity has been everything we had hoped and more. He has had teachers from Africa, France, and the U.S. just in his two years. He has friends who speak Farsi, German, French (of course), and Hebrew.
All of these cultural strains produce challenges--which is great! We love the different perspectives, norms and values that different kids/families bring. And EB has a really good environment to make those differences work: small class sizes; a tolerant but structured setting; a genuinely warm and caring school community. So you get the benefits of international diversity with the intimacy that helps bring it together.
We also chose EB due--truthfully--to the engaged classrooms we saw during our campus visit. We were pretty blown away by the energized, focused kids we witnessed even as they got up into the classrooms filled with pre-teens. The school does a really good job of promoting a love of learning.
As for the ADHD factor, I can't speak to that specifically, but I can say that the admin has been overall very responsive about whatever needs we and our friends have brought up (from allergies to shy children struggling to present special projects to their classmates). And EB is certainly challenging and will keep your child engaged. It's a pretty rigorous curriculum (but not until first grade--until then it's mostly community-building, social skills building, play-based, and language intensive of course, etc.)
We have a wonderful group of parent friends at EB, ranging from wealthy lawyer families up in the hills to artists struggling to make ends meet. Some go on ski trips all the time and some can't figure out how they'll pay for summer break activities. It's a pretty good cross-section and everyone seems to come together.
We're also excited about the much greener, more open campus that is coming in the next year or two as part of a major campus expansion and renovation.
Best of luck as you explore your choices! Happy and Impressed EB Parent
It is indeed hard to choose a pre-school! We didn't consider the Renaissance School so this post is not a direct comparison -- it's more a comment on our EB experience. We have a son in EB, Grade 2; this is our 4th year at the school.
We chose EB because:
(1) We wanted an immersion education;
(2) Our colleagues at UC Berkeley with children at EB highly recommended the school for its academic as well as its cultural qualities;
(3) EB is accredited by the French government and the California Association of Independent Schools, which we thought gave the EB curriculum credibility and recognition;
(4) The parent community is exceptionally diverse -- in a global and not just in a US sense -- so EB children seemed to be in a mini-UN environment; and
(5) EB has been around for 30+ years and has an international network of alumni, many of whom remain close to one another long after their EB years.
We are staying with EB because:
(1) Our son loves his school, his teachers, his friends, his friends' parents, his after-care supervisors, his pretty much everything at EB;
(2) The teachers are excellent; they are usually from France or from Francophone countries and really know their stuff -- and, as important, they really know your kid;
(3) We like the teaching style, which is structured and curriculum-driven, but in which singing and art are integrated into all aspects of the curriculum;
(4) The EB community is wonderful -- truly international and socio-economically diverse -- creating an excellent school without a feeling of privilege and exclusivity; and
(5) Our son is speaking and reading French with no help from us; we are totally non-Francophone. (At least, we *think* he is speaking French when he's not speaking English, and the parents of his French, Canadian, Senegalese and Vietnamese friends seem to understand him).
Good luck with your choice of school. Each child is unique so it's always a bit of a leap in the dark when you choose a school for your child. But for us, at least thus far, EB has been a great way to go. IR
My son has been at EB since he was 3 (he started in his PK year, the first year of the maternelle/preschool). I don't have any experience with the Renaissance school, but I can tell you about our experience at EB, which has been very positive. We don't speak French at home, so he had no previous exposure to French. However, he is an articulate child and he places a high value on understanding and being understood. For this sort of child (or really for any child), the first year in an immersion or bilingual school can be hard if one doesn't already have a certain comfort level with the language. In our case, the first year was challenging, but the teachers at EB were nurturing and created a positive environment for him. By his second year of preschool he was happy and settled and becoming comfortable in French. Now he is in second grade and is so fluent that French parents at the school assume we are French speakers when they hear him talk. As for the school's community, it is a wonderful community of families. We have made very close friends through the school, and we love the EB events. EB is extremely multi-cultural, which was important to us. The playground is lively and happy, both during recess and in the after-school program. The preschool's playground is separate from the big-kids playground, but if you go check out the playground, you'll get a sense of what life would be like for your child there. EB is also investing heavily in its campus, and has plans to expand the playground and facilities in the next few years. But already the campus is really nice, with lots of running-around space and spaces to accomodate kids interested in all different kinds of games and activities. I also appreciate the drop-in system for the after-school program - no up front commitment, just a pay-as-you-go system where you only pay for the actual time your kid spends in the after-school program. So, I recommend EB highly. Our son has had really wonderful, warm teachers, and is very happy there. He complains when I pick him up early because he wants to stay at school. Happy EB mom
Hi, We have our kids at EB. We are french. I have few things to say about the school, only positive. The 1st thing is how happy we are about the way they deal with our oldest who has ADHD. They were very helpful and understanding even before we had the diagnostic. Teachers are fantastic and take time to talk to you and help your child. They are capable to adapt to difficult situation. The 2nd thing is even if we speak French at home, their French improved right away. I thought they would help their classmates and not learn. I was wrong. My kids in comparison with their cousins in France have as good a level as them. Actually, my daughter was with her cousin for the last week of class in France and did the evaluation there. The teacher was impressed about the result. About the discipline, they make the point on ''You have to respect each other''. You could walk in the hallway,see the classroom doors opened and hear how quiet it is. Kids are listening and very polite. Being French, I like it. I like the diversity too, being surrounded by different nationalities, cultures. Parties are wonderful, food always excellent. Best party of the year is ''La fete du marche'' where everybody can participate. It is a fundraising. I would be very sad if for any reason they couldn't stay at EB and they would be too. An happy maman from EB
Re: Evaluating academic strengths of local private schools
My daughter graduated from Ecole Bilingue last June and is currently a freshman in the International Baccalaureate program at Berkeley High. She loves BHS and is doing extremely well. She tested into Geometry (sophomore math); so did most of the other kids in her class who went to BHS. Her geometry teacher even said on back-to-school night ''yeah, EB kids tend to do well''. EB's curriculum prepared her well for the global focus of the International Baccalaureate program, too. French has been her hardest transition -- at EB, everybody's fluent so the focus is on the quality of your ideas as you express them in French, whereas in the Berkeley High French program the emphasis is on grammar and making sure every last silent ''e'' is in the right place. And that will bring out the immature side of pretty much any teenager, which tends not to bring out the best in a teacher -- but now she knows what her grade is based on and studies accordingly. That's another strength of EB -- she learned really good study habits and time management, which have really helped her land on her feet in high school. And because of EB's laptop program, she knows how to evaluate online sources and how to use a computer to build an effective presentation. (She built her first web site in 7th grade!) Weaknesses at EB? Hmm. Because they cover a dual curriculum, that leaves less time for subjects like music and sports. I'm OK with that trade-off, but it's definitely something to know about when you're choosing a school. Mom
I would love to hear from any parents who have experience of Ecole Bilingue and Head Royce, or Ecole Bilingue and Prospect -- who either moved between schools or had one child in each school-- and who would be in a position to make a knowledgeable comparison. We are at EB and one of my child's teachers is recommending we move her to a school for the gifted. She is very happy at EB and so are we, but I want to make sure that we do the right thing by her. The school for the gifted is in Hillsborough, so I'm trying to think of alternatives closer to home. Thanks -- another mom
I can't speak directly to your question, but based on the academic literature I know on teaching gifted children, the bilingual environment at EB might still be your best bet, especially compared to a mono-lingual environment at another school. Continuous learning in two languages, and use of multiple languages, stimulates cognitive abilities. You might just consider after-school activities or summer camps that supplement your child's regular school curriculum.
On a personal note, I was identified as gifted in 4th grade and given the opportunity to go to a school for gifted children. I fought NOT to go because I didn't want to give up my friends and a secure environment. My best friend did go. When we went to the same school again for high school, we did equally well, were equally well-adjusted socially, and we both went on to great colleges. Going to the gifted school (or staying at the very good public school) seemed to make absolutely no difference in our cases. former ''gifted'' student
We had 2 children at EB (a boy and a girl), both of whom excelled academically. Currently, one attends an academically challenging high school and the other an Ivy League university. While at times we thought both children could have benefited from a more rigorous academic experience in the classroom, the entirety of the EB experience -- inside and outside of the classroom -- proved to be a wonderfully supportive and rich environment in which to raise academically inclined children. Indeed, both of our children believe EB provided a strong foundation and important skills sets for subsequent educational experiences that placed them in academic ''tracks'' with other high-achieving students.
Why EB vs. other schools that also welcome the academically gifted? First, the bilingual curricula allowed for challenges in one language or the other, and offered opportunities at school and at home to integrate and to compare/contrast the two knowledge bases. This experience developed a certain mental agility, willingness to experiment, and ability to listen that some gifted children have not had the opportunity to cultivate.
Second, perspective, perspective, perspective -- kids at EB come at problems from different angles, think a bit differently from many of their fellow students, and are welcomed by faculty at all levels of American academia. The ability to think from at least two perspectives should not be minimized -- it becomes ever more important and ever more distinctive as the academically inclined advance in age and find more intellectual peers and more challenging educational environments.
Third, particularly in the lower grades, the French have an integrated, whole-child approach to education, taking into account social and physical maturity as well as academic progress. We found this a very balanced and healthy approach to dealing with gifted children (many of whom either struggle with being different or develop an arrogance based upon their academic successes).
Fourth, in the middle school, the curricula opens up with many course offerings and teachers, providing an unusually rich opportunity for students to ''find'' challenging teachers who push the academic experience for those who are willing.
Fifth, the relatively small classes and long-term relationships that develop over the 8-10 year tenure at EB provide wonderful friendships with fellow students and adults in the classroom and the broader school community. We found these relationships critical to raising well-rounded, emotionally balanced, and academically proficient children.
Sixth, when we went outside of EB to give our children additional academic experiences, we found that the school's reputation preceded us. Teachers in any number of well recognized academic enrichment programs (e.g. Cal's ATDP, Stanford's summer courses for the academically gifted, the Johns Hopkins program, etc.) love EB students and offer courses that complement the EB academic experience.
In sum, the diversity of the EB community, the bilingual curricula, and the supportive relationships that can develop only in a stable community over a number of years all afforded a rich, balanced, and challenging environment in which to raise kids who are academically inclined. EB Alumni Parent
I am a parent of an Ecole Bilingue (EB) student in the 6th grade and have two older children (one boy; one girl) who attended Prospect Sierra for middle school (both initially attended public elementary school). Our youngest daughter started EB in Kindergarten, and we have never considered switching her out of EB. Interestingly, we actually chose EB because we considered our daughter to be gifted. She doesn't test off the charts, but she tests high and the bilingual education at EB has provided a rigorous academic environment while affording unparalleled opportunities for cultural awareness and growth. There are other ''gifted'' students in our daughter's class, and efforts are made to stimulate high-achieving students. Prospect Sierra also has gifted students in attendance. In most subject areas, the academics are also rigorous and stimulating. I have no experience with Head Royce or the ''gifted'' school in Hillsborough, but I would honestly think twice before making the move you are considering. Your situation is most likely far more complicated than your inquiry suggests and perhaps your child offers a unique challenge for other reasons. I admit that I am an EB zealot, but I honestly believe that this school provides a unique educational opportunity for monolingual American kids without compromising rigorous academics. As a fellow EB parent, I am happy to discuss this further offline, if you prefer. Best of luck to you in making this important decision. prudhomme
Editor Note: a review was also received for The Academy
Summer Camp at Ecole Bilingue
With summer coming to an end I thought it was a good time to ask families about their experience with EB summer camps. Did your children have previous French or are they English-speaking only? How old are they? Did they have a good time? Learn some French, make friends? Were they well engaged? My child is young and would be 4 next summer so I'm wondering if being on the youngest end of the spectrum is a good idea for this camp? Curious Mom
Based on one summer's experience: EB pre-school summer camp is OK. Not great, not bad. It wasn't as engaging for our child as some others that we've been to. Nor is it French ''immersion'', exactly. It's a fine, safe place for the kids, but it's more like childcare with some French exposure than it is like a summer camp. anon
I loved the Ecole Bilingue Summer Camp. I had 2 kids go there and they had a great time... Each week had a different theme so they were never bored. There favorite was ''Top Chef'' and ''Project Run Way''. The staff was hands-on and super involved. Plus...my kids learned a few french words!!!! See you next summer for sure. Summer Camp Parent
We sent our 4 year old to the EB summer camp & were not impressed. We specifically chose the camp (despite it's significantly higher price) because we wanted to immerse our daughter in the French language (spoken by one parent at home). Oddly, the French immersion program at EB camp only had a french speaking teacher present from 9-12. Considering that the program lasted until 3, this was inadequate for us. We were also disappointed that they showed the kids a movie one day. If I'm paying a lot of money, I expect more focused engagement than pressing play on a dvd player. The clincher on the movie, though, is that it was shown in English. At the least, they should have shown a French movie! Although the teachers were nice, the camp appeared to be an afterthought for the school (the campus had construction that made things a bit chaotic at pick-up & drop-off, my child's belongings were always scattered about; the communication was a fraction of what happens at my child's pre-school, etc.). My child did have fun (& loved the bounce house at the end of each week). Given the expense & the claim of language immersion, I expected way more engagement and French. anonymous
My 7-year-old daughter attended EB's Summer Program. She's been in a few programs this year and EB was one of her two favorites (the other was Oakland City Parks and Rec camp). They did different things every day. Very engaging activities. Her favorite was the rock climbing. I look forward to her being able to attend next year. She does not speak French, but picked up numbers and surprised me one day by counting something in French. Very cool. Crystal
Re: French bilingual schools dual national child
Loving Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley. We currently have three children there. My oldest is in 5th grade and started when he was 4 years old in the level immediately prior to kindergarten. His sister is in 2nd grade and also started at that level. My third child is currently in the 4-year olds class, but he began last year when he was 3. We are not a French-speaking family. I do think it is generally easier on the kids to start before kindergarten, but we do have friends whose children are thriving and started in K.
How the children adapt to the immersion program if they are not familiar with French is really individual. How each child and family finds their place in the school community is also very individual. It is a school that provides many, many opportunities for building community... for getting involved. What you choose to do with these opportunities is up to you... which is great because sometimes it might work for you to dive in up to your eyeballs and other times it may be necessary for you to be doing other things in your life.
Each of our children has had a very different experience due to their completely different personalities. Overall I would give the school the big two thumbs up! Yes, there have been times when problems have arisen. But what I have finally learned about life is that there will always be something somewhere that bugs you... and if it isn't there now, it will be someday. And it may be resolved only to be replaced by something else. Whatever issues any of my kids have had at EB they would have probably had somewhere else. On this topic I do really want and need to add that the teachers and the administration have ALWAYS been totally super, amazing, receptive to the feedback, questions, issues I have brought to them. And I have many, many friends who feel similarly. I will be sending my infant daughter there when she is old enough, provided we have the resources.
I would recommend you go to an information night and schedule a school tour. And if you want to talk more about EB, feel free to email me. Marjorie
Re: French Language programs in elementary schools
Your question is comparing French programs which are very different. My kids go to EB and it is a French immersion school. Art is in French, Math is in French, PE is in French. The teachers speak in French. Your kids will become fluent very quickly. My husband and I do not speak French but my two kids who go to EB do - one is in 3rd grade and one is in 1st. The other schools that you mention in your question may or may not teach French (I don't know) but taking a French class at an English-speaking school is very different from EB. It all depends on what you are trying achieve for your kid in terms of speaking a foreign language. Mary Kathryn
Re: French Language programs in elementary schools
Are you looking for an French immersion program? Or are you looking for a program that offers one or a few hours of French a week? As far as I know, in the east bay, the only French immersion program is offered by Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley. The students are taught various subjects in French, such as math, music, art, history and so on. My daughter has been with the school since pre-k, and she is now in second grade and she is completely fluent in French, even though we do not speak French at home. yyz612
Re: French Language programs in elementary schools
As far as french immersion programs go, EB is the best... hands down (in my opinion). The school's purpose is delivering a top-notch bilingual education and instilling a global cultural view. The student body is diverse... 40 nationalities are represented. At EB, the children actually learn in both languages, they don't just ''learn'' the language. By the end of first grade, the children can read, speak and write fluently in both languages. I didn't believe this until our family experienced it. Mathematics, art, music and physical education are all taught in french. Up through third grade the science curriculum is also covered in french.
If you have reservations for some reason about EB and would like to talk candidly with a parent about her family's experiences there, feel free to contact me. We are a non-native speaking, all locally born and raised family and have 3 children currently attending. the_missus
Re: Daughter will be ready for K, but is too young
At Ecole Bilingue (the French-American school in Berkeley), the cut-off is December... I don't think there is a specific day in December. In my children's classes, there have been children who had late December birthdays and so were quite young compared to some of their classmates. You don't say if exploring private schools is an option, but here is one that will let younger kids (December birthdate) do kindergarten if they are ready. Good luck to you and your daughter. eb parent
My son is 19th months old and soon enough he will be of age to go to school ( 2010) Being half french from birth ( I am French and my husband is American) he is eligible to get financial aid from the french government to go to the Ecole bilingue de Berkeley, which we are considering. Are there any parents around who are/ have been in that same situation who could tell us about the procedure to get financial aid and what their experience has been? Pascale
I have two kids at EB and while we haven't received financial aid through the French Consulate we have applied twice. My husband has dual nationality French/American and I am American. If you haven't already, make sure your child is matriculated through the consulate, that can take a while. The actual application process is quite rigorous. You will need to present all proof of income such as your most recent IRS income tax (1040), investment/bank/financial statements for several months, pay stubs for several months, plus an application form. Then you go to the consulate for an interview and they review your paperwork and then they may request more documentation or clarification. If your income isn't that high the french government can be quite generous. The scholarships aren't funded in a randomly, the amounts are based on income/expenses. The school has a yearly meeting with a representative from the consulate that goes through the application process and how they make their choices. Good luck! We have enjoyed the school and it is great way to be connected to French culture in the US. anon
We are sending our child to Ecole Bilingue this year and are very happy about it. We really think a bilingual eductation is very valuable. My question is not actually regarding the school, but rather the other parents. I know that this is quite absurd of me, but I just need to be honest about it. Just like at any other school, we are likely to interact quite a bit with other parents for events, the friends our child makes, et. From what I have seen, so far, my husband and I don't have the same level of education nor multi-cultural experiences as many of the other parents. Nor have I, personally, had an ambitious career or job that has required very much intellect or creativity that many of the other parents have. I feel like somehow I will not be interesting enough, or something to that effect, with the other parents. I'm also an introvert and can be quite shy. (Being an introvert doesn't bother me. It's just that in certain circumstances it can make getting to know other people more difficult.) My husband could care less about this, as well he should. And I know this sounds so ridiculous on my part, like I'm the kid that the ''cool'' kids won't hang out with. I would love to get some honest feedback from anyone else who has felt this way and the quickest way you have gotten passed it. Foolishly Insecure
We were Ecole Bilingue parents who don't speak French and aren't particularly outgoing, but we both enjoyed our child's and our experience of EB. We certainly didn't hit it off with all the parents, but there was a good group that we gravitated towards. It seemed to be relatively easy to become friendly with the parents of our child's friends, and, as with most groups, it only takes a few friends to make one feel welcome. All in all, Ecole Bilingue seemed to us to be a more easy going school socially than some of the other schools we heard about. And the school functions/pot lucks were great because there were so many great cooks. parent of Ecole Bilingue graduate
Dear FI- I have a child who has gone to EB for many years, and I can see how you might be intimidated. Many of the parents are high-powered, wealthy,etc. Some,especially from outside the U.S., are only well-dressed! ;-) I personally may have the intellectual chops, but we are definitely one of the poorest families at the school, and can't afford the ski trips, vacations abroad, 2nd home, etc., that many others there can.
That said, I have found all kinds of parents at EB, and it's one of the things I like the most about the school. It is truly an international community, for one thing, and many of the families come from modest backgrounds. There are also lots of families with 2 parents in very ordinary jobs, just working to keep their child there. In my case, I am a single parent, spending every penny on my child's education, and for that alone, I sometimes feel I don't quite fit in, but then I remember that there is a broad spectrum, and it is really up to me to speak to people and make friends. I have found most, admittedly not all, parents there to be extremely friendly once given a chance. They have always been eager to help one another out in a pinch - illness in the family, for instance, usually brings a barrage of carpooling, childcare, etc., and I've experienced their support more than once. You will probably find that you make friends through your child and their playdates and parties, in any case. And the friends that your child makes will stay with them all through school; the kids get to be very close. YOu will have the opportunity to cultivate those relationships as slowly as you like - you'll have at least 9 years! My child loves it there, and cannot bear the thought of leaving, so that says a lot. And remember, true ''cool'' is not caring whether you're cool! kimbav
I will have 3 children at EB this fall. My experience has been this: I am a very educated person with some very interesting experiences who has been a stay-at- home mom for 13 years. I have never done anything with my fancy education and have always worked in retail. I never traveled internationally until I was in my thirties, and then it was always on a shoestring. We are not well-to-do, like some of our children's classmates. While I am rather on the outgoing side of the spectrum, I also have self-confidence issues and was never ''cool''.
I have managed to accumulate a small but wonderful group of friends among the parents I have met at the school. We tended to talk more about the kids at first. My friendships with the other parents seem based more on our mutual respect for one another as parents and sort of magical and unexplainable connections (sounds so Berkeley and hokey, but I don't know how else to put it) than on being impressed by one another's schooling, careers, or multi-cultural experiences.
As this is your first year, I am guessing your child is between the ages of 3 and 5. I will have a 3-yr old and a 6-yr old there this fall. Wanna hang out? I'll give it a try! Just email me. the_missus
I know how you feel. I was somewhat intimidated by the parents at my son's school because I felt we didn't have much in common. And I too am a somewhat introverted person. I asked some friends for advice on this and the consensus seemed to be- Just Say Hi. Start with Hi. You don't have to share a lot of personal information. You don't need to apologize for who you are or what you do for a living. Just say hi. Stick to neutral topics before you get to know people, such as ''can you believe this rain?'' or ''little Olivia is so sweet, she shared her snack with my daughter.'' ''The kids are so excited about the field trip.'' Something to that effect. Let your sense of humor show, and keep things short and sweet.
Our neighbors are Ecole Bilingue parents and they are just the nicest people. I'm so glad they're our neighbors. True, they are more educated than we are, and they are a more culturally diverse family, but it has never felt like an issue. They got to know us and seem to like us the way they are.
There's no reason the families at your child's new school won't like you- unless they feel all kinds of negative freak out vibes coming off of you! It's hard to act like a normal person sometimes, for me anyway, but this year I'm going to fake it ;) Mom Was Right, ''Just Be Yourself Honey!''
I have my daughter at Ecole (this is our fourth year). I do have multicultural background and masters degree BUT I can gaurantee you that you have nothing to feel insecure about.... There are many parents where the moms are home stay moms without too many outside activities or education and their primary focus is the kids.....Being multicultural or highly educated is not a criterion necessarily for making one interesting....it is who you are as a person...caring about your kids and just participating in some of the many of the activities will give you lots to talk about and share with the other parents.....and you will enjoy and be amuzed by some of it......:) happy parent
I might not be the best to respond to your question (I have professional degrees and int'l experience), but let me assure you that you and your family are VERY welcome within the parental community. I have found very, very few of the other parents to be snobs or pretentious. Indeed, it is really hard to figure out what other parents do since many are self- effacing about their jobs and positions. I don't think you should be worried.
I think it is relatively easy to meet other people, too. You can volunteer for field trips or to do things in the classroom, come to the many events, etc. Just do not be shy to introduce yourself to others. Asking other families for play dates is also a great way to talk to others.
The thing I have found hardest about forming a parental community at EB is that I think the school and other parents under-estimate how difficult it is for dual-working couples to be part of EB activities; I sometimes feel shut out by the non- working or flexible working parents who all seem to know each other because they go to events during the day. (This is not because they are unkind; just that they interact more with each other.) There are many breakfasts for parents, school event, etc., but almost all are during the day, impossible for working parents to attend. But this is probably not much different than other private schools, and perhaps public schools, too.
In any case, bienvenue!! other EB parent
Dear Foolishly, We've been at EB for 3 years now (moved from France and it was just to obvious school for us to enroll our kids at). We were somewhat intimidated at first, having to deal with the move and the new school community all at once.
EB has a buddy system where established families are asked to get in touch with new families to help them with the transition and answer all questions. We were very fortunate in that our assigned buddy family was just the best. They invited us and a few other newbies to a barbecue a few days before school started, so we got to meet several people in a more intimate setting before jumping in. Have you been contacted by a buddy family?
Since our introduction by these now-great-friends, we've been seriously meaning to volunteer to be buddies for the next generation, but never did. If you'd like to get in touch and meet up, we'd be happy to do that soon. We have 2 sons, entering 1st and 4th grades.
Feel free to e-mail me with questions, or if you'd like to meet up. Oh, and we're not stuck-up either. Noemie
Our child went to EB from age 3 through 8th grade. EB parents come from all sorts of backgrounds and while some are pretty high powered, there are probably many with education and experience similar to yours.
I guess the message is that I wouldn't worry about it. I think you'll find that if you hang around after drop off, you'll find parents that you'll be able to talk to and some you'll make friends with.
If you'd like to discuss this some more, please send email. Richard
1-Please advise us on how difficult it is to get into this school at the preK or K level. My understanding is that the school has to cater to the French population first and foremost; and therefore, there's not much opportunity of admissions for the other non-French applicants.
2- Anybody whose child was admitted way after the March admission decision?
3- Any experience as compared with Le Lycee in the city? (At Le Lycee, we did everything we could: early application; actively pleading our interest and situation...to no avail. Only three openings in the preK-K program.) Any advice is much appreciated. Merci beaucoup! anon.
My experience is that if you want your children to attend EB, with some patience, it will happen. I originally applied for my daughters to attend PK for the 2006/07 school year. They were ''waitlisted''. The admissions director was very straight with me that there was no chance of a place opening up, let alone two. (I believe that there was only one PK class that year and that it was primarily filled with siblings and French natives.) My niece, who applied at the same time, was admitted to the MK. I was disappointed that my girls would not be attending the same school as their cousin and concerned that the delay in exposure to French would make it more difficult for them to pick it up. But, I understood the situation and enrolled my kids in a preschool around the corner from our house. EB held my application and my daughters were admitted to MK for the 2007/08 school year. It was tough changing schools because the other school was good, fun, and we could walk there from our house. I really wanted my kids to have a bilingual education and to attend school with their cousin, so, with some reservations, I moved them. I wondered if I had made the right choice (you know the clichH my kids ''loved their school'' and were ''thriving'') and to make it worse my sister moved so my niece changed schools. Now that we are nearing the end of our first year, I am sure I did the right thing. The MK level is a good introduction to the school and to the French language and culture. The extra year doesn't seem to have made much of a difference with respect to learning a new language. My kids understand French, pick out and listen to French stories on tape at home, and are starting to speak French (just when I thought it would never happen!). Bilingual education was one of my primary motivations for sending my kids to EB, but after being there this year, I would want them to attend even if it weren't a bilingual program. It was worth the wait. Louisa
Our son who is now in the MK program was not admitted with our initial application. He remained on a waiting list and was admitted the following year. In retrospect, it was a good outcome for us because we realize now that neither my husband and I nor our son were entirely ready for the program. In the following year, we were more comfortable facing the separation, the longer days and the intensity of the bilingual program. I have never had the impression that or heard that EB caters to the French population and what I have observed is that the school population is international. I have considerable confidence in the administration at EB as well as in the admissions director and find them to be highly professional and compassionate. We are an English speaking household and both my husband and I have just a little bit of French in our backgrounds. Bonne chance! an EB parent
I wanted to offer a different perspective on EB. I am a mother and a graduate of EB. I have also been a nanny for two kids going there. I have seen it be really good for some kids but I have also seen it be very hard for some especially in middle school. The kids who did not have french at home had a harder time across the board. Thats not to say that all of them did. The academic curriculum is very intense starting from around 4th grade. I think every family should consider changing schools at 5th grade depending on how their child is doing in school. By 8th grade I remember having 4 hours of homework a night and crying through much of because of the stress. I have also seen children having trouble with speech in english flourish with the emergence of french early on. I think it is a good school to try but to make sure you are really on top of weather it is the right school for your child and to make changes if it is not. After all that I do not think that we will be sending our child there. mom and alumni
We would like to add some information to the post from an EB alumna who described stressful middle school years at EB.
EB has made a number of changes to its middle school curriculum over the years. Teachers now coordinate homework and tests among classes so that students do not have multiple deadlines at once. We recently surveyed students and found that they spent an average of ninety minutes per night on homework. We instituted an advisory program, so that each middle school student meets regularly with one faculty member who follows their social interactions and academic progress in all their classes. We implemented several programs that have students working across grade levels on interdisciplinary projects; this has helped build community spirit and also allows students to explore interests as diverse as web design and pieata making. This year, our school-wide professional development focus has been on differentiated learning, so that our teachers can better support the different types of learners in each classroom.
All of these changes have been well received by parents and students. In a comprehensive survey of parents conducted this past February, 94% of our middle school parents were satisfied with the programs, and overall, parents who do not speak French at home are as satisfied as those who do.
Of course we agree with the poster's advice that parents should periodically evaluate how well a school is working for their child, and we strongly encourage parents to choose a school that is a good fit for their child's interests and temperament. But EB has changed since the poster's time there, and we are proud of the academic and emotional support we provide our students. Frederic Canadas, Head of School
I was wondering if anyone could share their experience with enrolling their child in Ecole Bilingue in K rather than Pre-K. Was it difficult for your child to adjust to kindergarten as well as learning a new language? Are children at a deficit for not beginning in the Pre-K year? We are an English only household, but my son has been exposed to Spanish since birth, so I think language acquisition won't be completely new to him. I'm just worried that K may be late for starting a language immersion program. Any advice or personal experience is appreciated. anon
I enrolled my daughter at the K level without knowing any French or any other language. We are an English speaking household. My daughter was a bit lost the first few months but by the end of the year understood French and by the time she was in the first grade spoke French and now that she is in the second grade she is fluent in French. Actually she likes her French homework better than her English homework. We have been very lucky because the teachers that she had in all her classes were great and my daughter really liked them and it made her want to learn everything from them.....and speak French. This has been our experience and I think it is so individual. However, if you feel that your son is ready for kindergarten, I do not think the language is an issue. The kids are like sponges......If you have any questions you can contact me. A
I can offer my experience of the kids in my son's kindergarten class at the Lycee in San Francisco. I would say it's much better to start in preschool if you can. My son was already bilingual when he started this year in kindergarten, as he lived in France the first three years of his life, but some of his classmates started this year with no French whatsoever. They are doing ok, but it has been hard on a couple of them, their parents tell me. The Lycee gives special tutoring to these kids, a few hours extra per week, to help them catch up. And it does end up well in the end, but I would definitely try to get your child in as early as possible -- it's much easier for them to pick up a new language the earlier they start. I can see this with my second son, who left France as a baby...he is starting preschool at the Lycee in September at age 3 1/2, and he is more reluctant to learning French than my younger one, who was in daycare and school in France starting at age 1. Good luck! Kristi
My daughter started in K at EB last year. We are a non-French speaking household. She is now in 1st grade and doing just fine. She is speaking and reading in French as well as the non- French kids who started in pre or m-K. When she started in K, it was challenging at first and probably took about 3 months to adjust. I don't know if it would have been any easier had she started earlier. Her teacher in K was fantastic -- very warm, caring, understanding and patient. There was one other child who was in the same situation as my daughter (started in K with no French background) and he did very well too. I don't think it's too late to start in K. The kids pick it up so fast. Please call me if you want to discuss further. 510-282-0298. Amy
I definitely don't think that K is too late to start language immersion. Our daughter started at EB in K with zero French and is in first grade now. Neither my husband nor I speak French. The school has been wonderful for our daughter and us. I was definitely a little worried that she would freak out on the first day, particularly since she was not so psyched to go to kindergarten in the first place. She was fine. The school has been operating for 30 years and they have dealt with this situation many times - they know what to do. I'm not exaggerating when I say that she never mentioned that she couldn't understand what was going on or that everyone was speaking French. It was just part of the new experience of kindergarten. She's really happy at the school and speaks beautiful French. Is it better to start in Pre-K? Language acquisition may be a little easier then, but there's no way K is too late. Our son is finishing his English-speaking pre-school and will start kindergarten at EB in the fall so that probably speaks for itself. mkl
We started our daughter at EB in K, I was nervous about her feeling frustrated and alienated, and none of those fears materialized. It went beautifully. The teachers have been warm and at the same time professional. K is not at all too late to begin EB. kf
Our son started Kindergarten at EB for the first time in the Fall of 2007. We are an English speaking household and he had very little previous exposure to the French language. We had the same concerns that you do.
Sure, he was at a bit of disadvantage coming into K with no French experience (only our son + 2 other new kids in his class did not speak French). However, EB did a great job a placing him in a classroom with classmates and fantastic teachers that were a really nice fit with our son's personality type (they have 4 Kindergarten classrooms, so they have the flexibility to do that). The teachers were great with our son, particularly in the first few months to ease him into the language (using a lot of gestures and also speaking English when necessary). It was a little hard for him to make the transition at first, but by the second half of the school year, he has become very comfortable with the language and the French-speaking environment. We recently took a trip to France (during the school break) and our son was very enthusiastic about speaking French while there. So we donmt feel that Kindergarten is too late to begin an immersion program.
While we think it might have been an easier transition at 4 years than at 5, we are happy with our decision to put our son in an immersion program and think he is having a good and positive experience at EB. kfk
My daughter started Kindergarten at EB in Fall 2006. Although I took some French classes in high school and college, we don't speak French at home. My daughter didn't understand much vocabulary at first, but she loved the school and her teacher and she found she wasn't alone in being new to the French language. She is now in first grade and doing fine. I think these decisions are very individual and lots of elements will go into your decision but starting EB in kindergarten has been a good experience for us. Happy to discuss. cd
we are looking into sending our child to EB, but worry that it would be more traditional than developmental. we would love to hear from present/past families. and if you did find it too traditional for you, where did you send your child and how did you address the french language education of your child? hesitant parents
Only you can answer the question of EB being too traditional for you. It is a more traditional, academically-oriented school providing a bilingual education. At times, I think my oldest child would have been happier had he attended a Montessori school or something more ''free'' and experimental....child-driven or something like that. When he seemed to be struggling on all fronts and I questioned my decision to enroll him at EB, I did some research and posed the idea of changing to him. He was horrified at the thought. Of course, EB is all he remembers as a school. His schooling began at a very soft and gentle, sweet and small, Montessori-based preschool so EB was a huge shift. He is currently in his 5th year there and this seems to be the best year so far...the culmination of all past efforts. He is thriving academically and socially. And he can read, speak and write in English and French. His younger sister has loved the school from the get-go and has progressed with no issues thus far. We are not native speakers, but both my husband and I were very interested in our children having a bilingual education. It is definitely not a school for everyone. I think it works for us because I am not too intimidated to speak out when something does not feel right. Determining your priorities is the best advice I can give. There are some french language programs that you can supplement a ''regular'' education with...things like ''french for fun'' in Lafayette. I wish you the best of luck in your process. Feel free to email if you have questions... Current EB parent
Dear Hesitant Parent- I would be more than happy to talk to you about our experience at Ecole Bilingue in hopes that I could assist you in removing or diminishing any fears you may have. It's hard in an e-mail for me to directly address your comment regarding your concerns about the school being ''more traditional than developmental'' without further direct conversation to understand what that means to you. What I can share with you is that I have 2 boys (twins) who started EB at the MK preschool level. They are now just about 3 months through Kindergarten. We do not speak French at home (although my husband and I are taking French lessons) and chose EB because we wanted our kids to grow up bilingual. We are somewhat Francophiled (my husband and I cycled through France a number of times and my sister-in-law is French) - which is perhaps why we had more of a passion over other languages. Our boys transitioned really well into the MK classroom. It contained elements that were familiar from their old preschool with circle time, manipulative activities, cooking, music, painting, etc.. -- alot of fun, fun activities all while the French language immersion is beginning. We've been excited to see them flourish in Kindergarten as well. Our guys have a constant flow of energy and I think that while they get an opportunity to expend it on the playground they also positively direct it by the nature of the immersion. It's truly amazing. At the end of the day they are learning, having fun and making friends. The teachers are extremely dedicated. They abound with endless energy. The community of families are all very friendly and truly are a representation of the world. It's been nice to make new friends too. I really believe that you do take on this bilingual journey (sounds cliche-ish and I'm sorry about that) with a certain amount of faith(confidence), commitment and stick-to-it-tiveness if you are in an English only household -- that you will see the fluency come to life. Please don't hesitate to contact me so I can try and answer any other questions (or the actual question you posted) if I haven't done so with my input already. Hilary
We started our son in the preschool when he was almost 3 years old. If I were to do it again I would have started him in Kindergarten and that is what I am going to do with my daughter. The preschool is very structured and that is sometimes good for that age but the day was too long and the program a bit too structured for him. He is now 8 years old and thriving and is fluent in French. He struggles with school but the the class size is small and the school is great at providing tutors/support for kids with problems with English or French. If you really want your child to learn French then the school is great for that. Speaking French well is even difficult for some of the children at EB when the parents don't speak the language at home. I also like the community at EB - the parents are involved and friendly. I recommend it highly. Berkeley Francophile
I've had kids at EB for the past 4 years, and am very happy with the school. It IS more structured than an average American school, but there is still a lot of room for individual differences among kids, and a lot of dedicated, energetic, caring teachers.
My younger daughter is now in first grade, and has a strong nonconformist streak. But her teachers have always recognized this and given her room for it. They strike a good balance between setting expectations but allowing her some leeway about what she does and when. I think this has been very beneficial for her, and she is certainly happy and thriving at the school.
My older daughter is now in fourth grade, and doesn't have the same nonconformist streak, but she does have some mild learning issues, and her teachers have been very accommodating and supportive. She has really benefited from the structure, and is developing very good work habits that help her compensate for her issues. Also, one of the schoolwide priorities this year is differentiated learning, i.e. training teachers to support the vide variety of ability levels and learning styles in any classroom.
To answer your other question about supporting French language education: I don't think my kids would be bilingual if they weren't at EB. Their dad is French, and I'm a fluent speaker, but before my daughters started at EB they could understand French but barely speak it. The influence of English is so strong around them, and it only gets stronger as kids get older. And although I'm sure that they could have learned spoken French just through travel, if they don't also learn to read and write in it then they won't be able to take full advantage of their dual nationality. And neither their dad nor I would have the time or the skills to teach them that. Thanks to EB, my daughters will have the possibility of continuing their education in France or working there as adults.
So overall EB has been a very good fit. The curriculum is great (where else do fourth graders study the Middle Ages as well as the Gold Rush?), the community is incredible, and my kids love it. Happy EB Parent
We put our son into Ecole Bilingue in September. He is in the MK class. I wish very much that my daughter had made it into the preschool because our son loves school so much and we love being there with him. I do not think that it is too traditional. To be perfectly honest, I believe that EB is absolutely perfect for us. In fact, we recently had an opportunity to move to London but chose to stay here because we love the community at EB. Our son's teachers really love the children. They have wonderful art projects, music, field trips, etc. Recently my father-in-law spent a day at EB with our son. He asked if he could enroll in kindergarten himself. Every day our daughter asks if it's her turn to go to her brother's school.
What else can I say? We really, really love EB. We do not speak French but are planning to take French classes. We listen to French music at home, French flashcards, books, cartoons, etc. to help all of us learn. Our son is picking it up so quickly! It's just amazing!
His classroom is full of the most amazing, diverse children! The parents are very involved. The teachers are very caring. There is art EVERYWHERE! Today as I was walking down the hallway I thought, ''am I in an enchanted forest?'' It's just amazing! We want International children. That is why we put our son in EB and have committed our daughter to summer school and Kindergarten there.
I have no complaints. I highly recommend EB to anyone!! flycorey
We have our 3 year old daughter, and six year old son currently enrolled at EB. Our son started at the MK level and we are very grateful for the early French exposure as well as the special buddies he had an opportunity to make. He enjoys school, has friends, organizes his fifteen minutes of homework himself, and laughs (a lot).Our daughter is really enjoying her PK year, ''loves my whole class'', and is also joking and laughing when we see her at school. And that is just the point for us, structure makes our kids feel safe, but within that structure there is creativity and joy.The parent population runs the gamut from academics, many creative types(artists, designers), to business and finance sorts. And the standards and placements are top notch. We could not hope for better for our family.The descriptive adjective that comes to my mind is not traditional, but progressive. Please feel free to contact us directly with questions/concerns. tina
For anyone who sent their English speaking child to the French American School, how difficult was the language acquisition at the kindergarten level? I am strongly considering this school for my daughter who is happily enrolled in another preschool. I could let her finish the preschool (she's three now) and start Ecole Bilingue in kindergarten but I'm concerned that waiting another year would make things more difficult for her and put her behind the other students. We do not speak French at home so she's already somewhat disadvantaged though I understand that half of the students speak no French at home. Any thoughts? Thanks.
We are a non-French speaking family of a 6yo girl who just entered the 1st grade at Ecole Bilingue. She started in Kindergarten. Originally, we were interested in the Spanish immersion program in the Berkeley Public Schools, but we were unable to get into this program. Deciding on EB was a difficult decision for me, and I would be dishonest if I didnt say that I still keep a close eye on my decision. We chose EB and language immersion because:
1) We believe speaking at least two languages is a valuable skill, and easiest learned as a young child. If you do not speak the other language in your home, what better way is there to help your children learn another language than school and an immersion program?
2) We were not impressed with the public school in our neighborhood/zone. Private school, for too many reasons to explain here, was our choice, and we felt Ecole Bilingue was unique among the various private schools we looked at due to the 40+ ethnicities represented in the school community. In one day, my daughter not only hears French and English, but many other languages on the play yard.
3) EB feels like an international school, providing a worldview approach to learning. This is important to us. Our daughter is part of a traveling family, and feeling like a world citizen, not just a US citizen, is ! something we think is important.
4) As it is reputed, EB is structured, and very academic in nature. However, I have also found the faculty to be very loving and sweet with the children. This is not an overly rigid school at all. My daughter has adored her teachers at EB. That said, I will also be honest in saying that, even after a year at EB, I have yet to stop worrying whether or not I have caused an undue hardship on my daughter in putting her in a language immersion program when we do not speak the language at home. Her teachers say she is doing fine, and she seems happy. However, I know that even after a full year, she is not speaking French yet. She understands much of what her teachers say. She can get by on basics (asking where the bathroom is, numbers, colors, etc.), but she isnt conversational yet, and I worry that she might get bored in class, or not feel excited about the projects, when she cant fully communicate with her teachers. It is indeed a difficult decision, with more challenges to face than the normal school experience. All I can say so far, in our second year, is it is going well not GREAT, but we! ll. I dont know if this helps you much. I just want to give you a realistic perspective so you can make a confident choice either way. If you send your child to any duel- immersion program (French or Spanish or other), this will be more of a challenge for your child, at least at first. Hopefully, this will pay off with the reward of bilingualism, and the benefits of this type of early learning (see: http://www.ebfas.org/bilingualism.html), but it is indeed a bigger challenge for your child. You will probably also need to get your child a language tutor beginning in 1st grade. We are pursuing this now.
One last thing Remember that Ecole Bilingue is the French American school, not just the French school. Your child will also have plenty of English speaking classmates and teachers. I find more people at EB tend to speak English on the play yard than French, and beginning in 3rd grade, the curriculum is 50/50 French/ English. I hope this helps! Feel free to email me if you want to chat more. Anne
Without having seen the original question, I wanted to offer the following comments. Our daughter started Ecole Bilingue in kindergarten and had a wonderful time from the beginning, though neither my husband nor I spoke French. Her teachers were gentle, playful, creative and fun, and she picked up French from songs and games and other ''instruction,'' and there were no tutors. Not that a bilingual education is for every child - my understanding is that the Admissions Director evaluates each child to assess whether Ecole Bilingue would be a good environment for that child. We didn't view the kindergarten and early grades as overly academic as one writer suggested. Our daughter is now a 19 year old sophomore in college who is proud of and greatly values her bilingual education. From my vantage point, Ecole Bilingue helped her learn different ways of viewing and solving problems and exposed her to many different nationalities and experiences in addition to a traditional education. History courses were not as US- or California- centered as with other schools, although students were exposed to much of the history we grew up with. In elementary school, they visited a California mission, lived on a farm as late 18th Century pioneers for 3 days and visited Washington DC. But they also stayed with a French family for 2 weeks and later were host to a French student. She (and we) learned a lot about French culture (including food). Ecole Bilingue is a wonderful community of teachers, students, parents and other staff and a wonderful environment for children. We encourage parents to look into EB to see if it is the right place for their children.
The Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley (East Bay French American School) has been an excellent experience for my daughter (now in 8th grade), and for our family. She loves her school,has received an excellent education and has real breadth from her experience.
One reason we selected EB for her in kindergarten was to give her the chance to become fluent in another language at a young age and learn more about a non-US culture. My husband and I both have French ancestry but neither of us really spoke French. The students at EB become fluent in French and English, reading, writing and speaking both with ease and without accents. Watching them switch back and forth between languages as if turning a light switch still amazes me. But more than that is the global perspective which they have learned - that there is more than one way to do things, that art and literature and politics and history are a function of culture, and even why the French and American ways of doing math are different (yet both still reach the right answer!). World history is rather different in the American and the French curriculum, for example, and provides an opportunity to challenge one's preconceptions and develop critical thinking skills. And I was also impressed with the difference in the approach in the early years - kindergarten there is very nurturing and playful, not quite so academic and yet by third grade they can read in two languages.
The families at EB are wonderful, and we've made many good friends there, and even children who leave the school often stay in close friendships with their buddies. Because there are many international students at EB, we've also had the chance to build relationships with families overseas, and the children's 5th grade exchange with France is a wonderful experience. The student body is relatively diverse (compared with other independent schools) in terms of ethnicity, language, economics, religion and family structure. The school follows both the California curriculum and the French curriculum, and after three years of immersion in French (one hour a day in English) they spend about half the day in English and half in French.
EB is about the mid-range among private schools in terms of tuition, but in many ways I feel that we really received something quite a bit extra - fluency in two languages, appreciation for two cultures, and a global perspective. These days more than ever that has real value to me. Theresa
We're considering sending our child to Ecole Bilingue, to start their pre-K program. The one recent review is quite negative, and I wonder whether other parents have anything to add, positive or negative, about their childrens' recent experiences at the school. I also wonder what parents' thoughts are about starting children at 3 vs. 4 vs. 5?
It was not clear from your posting what negative information you have received about EB. Our daughter has attended the school for two years now and we are very happy with many aspects of our experience there. We also have several friends with grown children who attended EB and their experiences have been mostly positive. As with any school, however, some people will have negative experiences. The definition of negative experience will differ from one person to the next and what might be negative to you may not be so for another person.
As you may know, kindergarten is divided into three parts PK, MK and K. Our dughter started in MK and is now in K. We are very satisfied thus far with the experiences in both classes. She started out speaking no French and is now almost fully fluent. We speak three other languages besides French in our home and she understands all four and is open to many other languages and cultures. We credit a lot of this openness to her experiences at EB as well as our attitude to cultures at home.
I have heard of negative information received by other parents contemplating EB for their children and just about all of them have been erroneous. For example one parent told me that she heard that children are made to wear dunce caps in a certain grade if they do not understand what is being taught. I have inquired into this claim through other parents, students and teachers and none of them have heard of or experienced such practices. It is true that the curriculum becomes much more challenging after approximately second grade, and is more so if neither parent speaks French. However you mentioned in your post that both you and your spouse are French speakers so this should not be a problem.
One thing that I would like to see improved at the school is their level of diversity, both racial and economic, but that is being addressed and hopefully will improve in the next few years.
My views regarding the appropriate age to start your child are that it definitely depends on your child's temperament and maturity level. Our almost 3 year old will be starting PK in September and we believe that she is mature enough to start. However, we have friends whose older children are also in the school who have an almost four year old who could begin MK in September, but they believe that he is not mature enough to start and will wait until K to start him. It is a full day program and whether your child can handle a full day bilingual immersion program mostly depends on his/her ability to cope with such a program.
You should attend one of the information nights and try to meet with some parents of kids who currently attend to get a realistic and honest sense of their experiences at EB.
Best of luck in your school search.
I have been a parent at Ecole Bilingue for a long time; two of my children started at the pre-K level, one in K, and I'd be happy to tell you more about their experience if you'd like to email me directly. It is hard to generalize as so much depends on the age and maturity of each child as well as on the needs of individual families. My oldest child thrived in a half-day nursery school program and I wasn't sure that she had the stamina for a full- day program prior to Kindergarten at EB. Her younger siblings appeared more ready for a full day program at the same age and they enjoyed the fact that their MidK class was part of a ''big kids school''. Another major issue is language. Clearly there are some tangible benefits to starting language immersion two years before learning to read and write in a foreign language if the child doesn't speak French at home. But I have also known children who started only in K and went on to become flawlessly bilingual and utterly at ease with the language. Again,it is hard to generalize. I too read the recent negative feedback and was disturbed by it, especially since the new parents I have spoken with this year had very different experiences with the school. I heard a lot of praise regarding the Pre K and K program especially. It also appeared that there was a misunderstanding regarding EB's view on attrition. Don't hesitate to email me if you have more specific questions,and I'll do my best to answer them, Laura
Hi, I have two daughters at Ecole Bilingue. There are definitely pros and cons, but I have to say my kids love it there and it is a joy to have them learn a second language so young.
I waited to think about EB until my oldest was ready for kindergarten, so they started at 3 and 5. They both did fine, but as far as language aquisition went, I noticed a difference. They both picked up comprehension rapidly but with the 3 year old it was more unconcious, and with the 5 year old you could already see the mental wheels turning as she worked out what was said and what it meant.
This is their 3rd year there, so my youngest is now in kindergarten and my oldest in 2nd grade.
I know that some of the pre-K kids have some issues with the program at first; I think especially if they have not been in another pre-school situation. My 3-year old had already had a year in pre-school before going to EB, and the pre-K school day was not too long at all for her. She was a big napper, so the day was generally the morning routine, lunch, then she slept until it was almost time to go home at 3. It was a great pre- school experience for her. satisfied mom of EB pre-schooler
I pulled both my sons out of French American last year after four years. We tried to make it work, but found the social environment too damaging.
A couple of many specifics: One of my sons was teased, so we told him to tell a teacher. The next day, he said, the kids chased him and threw his hat over a fence, and when he told a teacher, he was told to run faster. Another time one of my sons knocked out a kid's loose tooth. The kid bled, washed himself, and walked around untreated. The school found out when we told them about it the next day. My son said once when he fidgeted in his chair, he had to work bent over at his desk for five minutes.
The education was mixed -- the math was good, the English weak. There are positives, particuarly a diverse multicultural student/parent body. There is a new headmaster, and some of the problems may be addressed -- I wish them well. But parents looking at French American should remember that the school depends on a very rote curriculum. Generally girls, and boys who like to sit still, will do better. Bear in mind that there are far more early-grade students than there are older kids, owing to the high attrition rate -- something the school both expects and may need, because of a cap on the number of students at the facility. At least one of my kids would likely have been told to leave, had we not pulled them out ourselves, owing to his eventual refusal to participate. Quentin
I have looked at the website already and most of the posts are very positive regarding this school (most are from 1998). I am interested in hearing from any parents who do not speak French and have sent their children to this school. We are considering sending our child to the mid-K program next Fall (he will be four), but are concerned that he might not be able to keep up with the French immersion program if we don't speak the language at home. If anyone can share their experience on this specific topic, that would be helpful. Thank you. Susan
I wouldn't worry about not speaking French at home. Our son went to EB for a few years, starting in 1st grade. He was one of only two (out of 60) non-French-speaking children to start at that level. Even so, he didn't have a problem with the immersion approach and was more or less conversationally fluent by Christmas. For a 4 year old I wouldn't expect it to be a problem except in the rare case of a specific learning disability. Obviously, if either parent speaks French at all, even if only at the "high school French class" level, that is all to the good, but I don't think it is a critical factor at all. Tim
Although my answer is not completely related to the French American school, here it is. We speak Romanian at home and we sent our daughters to preschool when they were two years old without them having any prior knowledge of English. They both learned to understand and speak (in this order) English very quickly (2 months) and they adjusted perfectly. Children do pick up foreign languages very quickly and easy. They have a wonderfully large capacity of learning that we don't usually "feed" enough. I'm thinking of sending my daughters to the French American School not only because of the French language and culture but also because of the european school curriculum that is applied there. I spoke to the teachers and they told me there are several trilingual students there that do just fine. I know a couple of examples too. Good luck. Simona
We are considering the Ecole Bilingue (French American School) for our daughter who will start kindergarten this fall and would be interested in comments on the school from other UCB parents. If your child was not a native French speaker, how was the adjustment? What would you say about the teaching approach and quality, leaving aside the language aspect? What do you think about the school as a parent - participation opportunities, responsiveness to parents, bureaucracy or lack thereof?
My daughter started school at the French/American school in kindergarten. Sofia, now in 4th grade has enjoyed her teachers, classmates and the entire world of French/American school. When Sofia started she spoke only English, though my husband is a Francophone we never made Sofia, who never seemed interested in anything but English speak French until kindergarten. Sofia is a completely bilingual child, reads for fun in both languages and speaks whichever language is appropriate without any effort. I would recommend this school highly to people who can help at home with French or can afford tutoring as well. The school is a happy place for the children and all seem to be enjoying themselves. I also have three neices at EB who are doing well and enjoying school. They started with French and are now French/English. Our girls are very happy with THEIR school.
We have two kids at Ecole Bilingue: a daughter in 1st grade and a son in Pre-K. It's their second year; both started out knowing no French. They have done extremely well, and the fact that 80% of their day is in French has been no problem. I believe 60% of the children at the school speak no French at home. I do speak some French (though my husband doesn't); that has been helpful since my daughter started having homework (that is, since she started first grade). But the teachers are well trained to deal with these issues.
There is an optional after-school study hall for which you can sign up your kids, where French- and English-speaking teachers can help children with their homework. So far the homework has been fairly simple (10-15 minutes on school nights) so my daughter goes to etude only once a week, and that's mainly because her best friend goes. I understand that the homework load increases quite a bit in the higher grades, so that would be a way to solve that problem. I've heard that kids learn to ask their teachers for help with their French homework, rather than their parents.
As far as the instructional philosophy and program, I suppose it is on the more structured end of the spectrum, but the teachers I have known personally have been very warm, talented, kind, and aware of my children's strengths and weaknesses. The school is accredited by the French government, and in order to retain its accreditation must cover the entire curriculum of French schools, as well as meeting the requirements of our school system. I haven't seen any indication that the amount of structure has negatively affected the amount of attention and support or the quality of instruction.
It was hard initially making the adjustment from a cozy 3-room neighborhood Montessori school to a large, urban school with many "big kids," but we have been very happy with our decision to send our kids to the French-American School. Anyone with questions is welcome to e-mail me privately.
I am a founder of Ecole Bilingue, and was the first chair of the board from 1977-79. It is a marvelous place. I sent all three of my children there: the oldest began in 1st grade, the next in kindergarten, and the youngest in pre-kindergarten. All are still bi-lingual, and the oldest actually speaks four languages. In fact, she is the editor of a Spanish language medical magazine, and also puts out editions in Portuguese. (And yes, she still speaks French, though not as often. Her husband is Mexican, and Spanish is their household language.)
Any child entering a bilingual environment will do better the earlier he/she starts. Even though the earliest grades begin with 80% or so of French, that is to compensate for the English surroundings they are in. It is very easy for them to acquire a new language through songs and games and art, and they will also have good accents! Yes, the curriculum is structured; it satisfies for American and French educational requirements. But it is also very loving.
Don't worry about not speaking French yourselves. You will not be able to help acquiring some. But many of the parents don't speak anything but French. We had familiarity with French, but spoke English at home.
One of the reasons we wanted to found a French - American bilingual school, verses German or Spanish or any other world language, is just that French is spoken in so many different cultures around the world. Consequently, it is not just European heritage that is taught. I think this is an enormous plus. The children become very international in their outlook, and the School community is probably more diverse than you will find in any public school.
My stepdaughter attended Ecole Bilingue (EB) through middle school and is now a junior here at UCB. My daughter is currently in 4th grade at EB. We wanted our children to be bilingual and EB has a very successful immersion program. The older daughter is now studying her fourth language (Catalan) in preparation for a year studying abroad. (EB introduced Spanish in 5th grade and she is quite fluent in Spanish, as well.) When we were considering a school for her sister, she recommended EB as a place for her sister to attend.
We are largely happy with the bilingual program and the school. The teachers (even the French teachers) are warm to the children and my daughter has really liked her teachers. All schools have their pros and cons and I don't yet know of any perfect school. The children seem to be happy whenever I visit the school and other parents have commented on this as well. There are specialists which teach subjects such as drama, computer, art, p.e., science, and music. It has also been an education for me in French culture and attitudes. Currently EB is looking for a new head master. The interim head, Sue Maino, is excellent.
My step daughter (now at UCB) went through EBFAS lower and middle school and my daughter is in 5th grade this year at EBFAS. We have been very happy with the school and the results of our daughters being bi- and tri- lingual. (My step daughter began taking Spanish in 6th grade and kept up her French and Spanish through high school and first years of college and is now on a year abroad in Barcelona.) The school does have to keep up with the French curriculum so that any French student can attend the school for a year or two and return to their school in France without skipping a beat. Neither I nor my husband speak French, although we do have second languages that we speak. The school generally makes available French classes for parents if the parents are inclined to learn the language. When the children start school, teachers will speak in English when it is needed. There is also some adjustment, moreso for parents, to learning some of the French ways. There are generally great teachers and an active parents' group.
My niece, who is now in high school, started at Ecole Bilingue in kindergarten. She was later diagnosed with a learning disability which the teachers failed to pick up. Her parents found the teachers very cold and unhelpful, rather on the French model. She was miserable there and moved to another school in the third or fourth grade. She never gained any confidence in her abilities and is still having a hard time. I have also heard people who love it, but I really think that it depends on the child.