Seeking a French-Speaking Preschool or School
Archived Q&A and Reviews
My fiance and I are looking for a preschool where our daughters can learn French. Right now they speak mostly English at home with a bit of French and we would love for them to be in a nurturing preschool environment where they can learn and grow and be ready for kindergarten ... and get an extra boost of French throughout the day. We have looked at Ecole Bilingue De Berkeley and The Renaissance International School (TRIS). Does anyone have any additional suggestions or even if you have looked at these two programs, if you had a preference. Thanks!! Kristin
We have a son in EB, Grade 3; we started him at MK, the year before Kindergarten. We chose EB over other options because: We wanted an immersion education; our friends and colleagues recommended the school -- they said their children were very happy there; EB is accredited by the French government and the California Association of Independent Schools, which was important to us because we wanted to be sure the curriculum had depth and credibility; and we found that EB had an exceptionally diverse, international parent community. As a result EB, which has been around for 30+ years, has an international network of alumni, many of whom remain close to one another.
This far EB has been an excellent experience for us, and for our son. The teachers are excellent; they are usually from France or from Francophone countries and really know their stuff -- and they really know your kid. We like the teaching style, which is structured and curriculum-driven, but in which singing and art are integrated into all aspects. The EB community has created an excellent private school but one without a feeling of privilege and exclusivity. Our son is speaking and reading French with no help from us; we are totally non-Francophone. He has become an eager reader in both languages, and a budding essayist (albeit one in dire need of Spellcheck). Please feel free to email me if you have further questions. And good luck with your choice of school! Isha
My son is currently in his second year at Les Petits Francophones preschool in Oakland. He had little exposure to the French language beforehand at home or otherwise and is thriving at the school. The teachers are wonderful and attentive. He loves to be at the school and always wants to stay afterwards to play with the other children. The school takes the children on field trips and other outside activities. And at the end of each year they put together booklets of your child's progress which, I must say, is amazing! You can actually see how much they are learning through their play based activities. I would recommend the school to anyone especially if you are interested in a 100% language immersion program. The school offers both part and full time enrollment depending on your need and budget. You can visit the website atlespetitsfrancophones.com, for more information including contact information to schedule a tour of the school. Catherine
My husband and I have two children at Ecole Bilingue, one in third grade and one in kindergarten. Our third grade son began EB in kindergarten and did not speak any French. Despite this, when our son began first grade, he was extremely well prepared in both languages due primarily to his dedicated and excellent teachers. Our second child began at EB in preschool, is now in kindergarten, and speaks fluent French. We think this illustrates the importance and benefit of starting a bilingual education in preschool as it gives the child a baseline preparation for the more rigorous education that begins in first grade. We have been very pleased and happy with all aspects of EB's academic program. We have had amazing experiences with each of our children. EB offers a full-immersion French curriculum to children from preschool through eighth grade. It has more than 50 nationalities in the community which makes for a rich bilingual environment in which the children learn.What also distinguishes EB from other schools we think is the strong sense of community which means some very specific things to us: a diverse circle of friends or our children from many different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds; a diverse circle of friends for my husband and I as well, which has allowed us to form a wonderful circle of friends; the opportunity for our children to learn and grow in a richly diverse environment; parents, teachers and administrators working together collaboratively for the benefit of our children; and the general sense of support one feels when the community is aligned as one for the benefit of our children. Michelle
My son is attending his 2nd year at Les Petits Francophones preschool. He understands the teachers and is now beginning to speak some French. The teachers are warm, knowledgeable, and excited to be at school. My son is thriving here at LPF. He is writing letters and numbers, bringing home top notch art work, and singing the songs he has learned. This year has been so positive in an engaging environment. at
We are trying to figure out where our daughter will go for preschool and possible through 8th grade. We are looking at 3 schools, but the two we are having a hard time deciding between is EB and Renaissance.
We have a very social, bright and energetic child who might have attention difficulties as she gets older. Both parents are ADHD. We would like her to be challenged and engaged in school.
We are looking for advice on why you either chose one school over the other. And also individual school reviews. I have read what is on BPN and there does not seem to be many recent reviews for EB and The Renaissance school has many new reviews, but I am wondering who has had their child go to TRIS through 8th and how has their kid done the transition to high school. Also how trilingual has your child become?
Thank you for your help. choosing a preschool is hard
My 14 year old daughter is in her last year at TRIS. She has been at TRIS since she was Two years old. Today a parent of a primary child asked me what I thought of my Daughters experience. I told her I was not convinced about the true magic of this school until she was about nine. My Daughter gave her half hour presentation on the History of the Miwok Indians written and spoke in French. I was blown away... She is now preparing to enter high school and she is enthusiastic and ready we visited her high school and she said she felt she could do most of the classes at an AP level. Next year will be interesting. She is not Bilingual she is Trilingual English French Spanish and is working on Russian and Arabic. Her Arabic interest is entirely self motivated. Results may vary because each child is an individual but The educational package has made my daughter into what she is and this parent is proud. EL
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
My name is Liana and my daughter who is 5.5 goes to TRIS. She started there at age 2 and honestly I thought it to be just a nice Montessori school at first. She started in the 2 year old class at pre-primary class from there she learned little steps to independence.
It is bilingual from 2 to 5 in pre-primary to primary (3 to 5 year olds) then when they transition to lower elementary (6-8) and then upper elementary they get lessons in English, Spanish and French. There are 3 teachers in every classroom. They have several art teachers and music teachers too.
It is hard to convince a parent that a school is good or not but if you are interested in TRIS ask to observe a classroom, attend a silent journey, speak to Leslie the head of school. You'll notice the kids are smart, independent, respectful of each other. They have an awesome art, music, math. I am yet to be convinced about science. The kids learn cursive at 3, reading fluently by 5. Before the kids transition to elementary they already know addition, subtraction, single digit multiplication and beginning division.
The school is not for everyone but I have a child who is smart and social but has a hard time focusing. I think the school really helped her focus and she is learning and not only how to work in a team, she learns to work independently and be self motivated. Now she is thriving in this unique learning environment and is happy. As a parent I am completely sold to this school as I see how my child is developing.
The tuition is not cheap but it is a special place. If you have any questions let me know. Liana
(I'm posting the above from another parent at the school -- both my children attend and are in the elementary program. I didn't feel we could address the language question you posed, since we transferred in at the elementary level, but for what it's worth, my kids are soaking it up like sponges. This is our second year at the school and our exposure is only at the elementary level. Of course we wished we had know about it earlier! Fan of TRIS
We have been at the Renaissance school for the past 4 and a half years and are extremely happy with our choice (one child now in elementary and other in preschool). Children receive individual lessons in all subjects so the sky's the limit in what they can achieve. We were also really taken by the out of this world art and music curriculum.. Our boys travel with us to Mexico every year and are comfortable fending for themselves in Spanish there. French is new for my older son this year so can't yet evaluate but an hopeful that he will become proficient in the next year or two. Please feel free to send me more questions off line. And best of luck in your decision! Jeanne
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
We were in exactly the same place a year ago or so. I visited both schools for the same reasons, language immersion and preschool-8th grade. While there were things I liked about both schools on paper, it was really the extended observation/tours that helped me make the decision. When my husband and I went to observe the classes at The Renaissance International School, we stood outside the Pre-Primary class for about 20 minutes at a random time of day. The children were calmly doing their ''work'', having snacks, waiting patiently for the teacher to help them, the feeling was so different. One girl was new, crying for her daddy and was being helped gently to deal with her separation anxiety. The teachers were loving but had a firm way of teaching the children. We just fell in love. I wanted my daughter to be in those hands. When we observed the other classes we saw a very high level of academics, even the six year olds were all doing very impressive math. Again, calmly and independently, with guidance from loving teachers or other students! It was so clear, we signed up right away. We have been thrilled with our time (now a year) and our daughter has learned so much. I am sure they are both good schools academically but the music and art program, the language immersion, combined with the Montessori curriculum at TRIS is truly superlative. Amy
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
Hi BPN! I have a 15 month old and am looking for recommendations for daycare or preschool in Concord or nearby. Ultimately, I would love if the center had French immersion involved but I'm not sure I will find that in this area. Also, if you know of any French immersion care in Oakland/Berkeley please feel free to pass on this information anyway as I'd like to know what may be possible for our situation. Thank you in advance. RMS
You should check out Les Petits Francophones www.lespetitsfrancophones.com it is a new French immersion preschool located in Oakland by lake Merritt. The whole day is in French, it is very reasonably priced and the main teacher has a lot of Montessori background so she incorporates a lot of that approach in her overall teaching pedagogy. My daughter is there and she loves it!! Got to love those kids French songs!
Hello... I would like to hear from parents whose children have attended any of the French bilingual schools in the Bay Area, in particular Ecole Bilangue in Berkeley. I'd like to know what your overall experience was, what age you sent your children there, etc. Anything you didn't like? Would you do it again if you had a 2nd child ready for school? Our infant daughter has dual nationality (French + American) and we're looking into having her attending bilingual schools. I have heard a rumor that the French government offers tuition support for French nationals to attend a bilingual school -- anyone have experience with this? Thanks for your help! - new mommy
Yes, the French government does have a need-based financial aid program for kids who hold French citizenship. It's administered through the Consulate in SF; you can find information here: http://www.consulfrance-sanfrancisco.org/spip.php?rubrique114
And here's an overview of the program in English from EB's web site: http://www.eb.org/index.html/index.php?option=com_content=article=30=34=en Jennifer Monahan, Communications Manager at EB
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
I would like to know if there is any other private schools besides EB, French American School, The Academy and Bentley School that offers French Language from kindergarten onwards. And if there is any public schools that offer French Language from kindergarten onwards. Thank you Anon
There is: - French/Chinese School in East Palo Alto (beautiful new campus). - French School in Sunnyvale - French School, San Francico
I don't know the exact names of these schools but know students who have attended these various schools. Shouldn't be hard to find the names. Don't know where you live and if you are close to any of these. Good luck. -Anon.
There is the French American school in San Francisco. Other than that, it's EB. There are schools that may offer classes in French and private tutorings, but no emersion. If a fluent second language is really your goal for your child(ren), emersion is really the only serious way of doing it. We looked heavily into this before enrolling our daughter into EB. Though, there are programs that may assist with a limited amount of a foreign language, there's just a certain developmental factor you can't cheat. It also opens them up directly to another culture as EB has many French families, as well. If Spanish interests you, EBI opened recently in the Rockridge district in Oakland. I hope this helps! ceme
I am wondering if you are also the person who was wanting to compare Bentley and The Academy in a previous post. Have you considered EB? How much french are you wanting your child to learn? I know of no public schools offering french in elementary school, but The Renaissance School in Oakland does offer french early on.
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
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
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
I posted this question a couple of weeks ago, but didn't get any responses, so I'm trying again. We are looking for a French preschool program for a three year old or French classes. We've looked into French For Fun in Lafayette, but wanted to see what other programs might be out there. We are not looking for a full-time program. Joy
The only programs I know of are the French for Fun one and Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley. But EB is a full-time program/preschool (8:30-3:10 Monday through Friday) and I believe the admission process for next year has been completed. I don't know of any others. Good luck in your search! EB parent
We are looking ahead to preschool (we still have a few years to go) and I was considering the Ecole Bilingue, but it seems that it only offers a full-time program, even for the 3 and 4 year olds. Is this correct? Are there any other preschools that offer a bilingual French program (or even some French) that offer part time programs (either half-day or 3 days/week)? anon
I would like to confirm that it is correct that the Ecole Bilingue in Berkeley offers only a full time enrollment in preschool, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. At the time I was looking for a Preschool for my -French-American- children, I came upon ''Mangos y papayas'' which offers a bilingual program either Spanish/English or French/English. If my recollection is correct, you could enroll for 2 or 3 days a week ; you will have to check on that because this was a while ago.It is located in Berkeley, South of University and East of San Pablo, I cannot recall the street. Good luck! verbal1
Check out French for Fun in Lafayette, www.frenchforfun.com. The drive takes about 10 minutes after you get through the tunnel. The owner/teacher, Mme. Catherine Jolivet-Johnson is a native French speaker with over 30 years of experience teaching children. She also has a background in Montessori teaching methods. She's very talented and is considered one of the best foreign-language teachers for children in the U.S. She offers half-day morning classes for preschoolers and afternoon classes for older children. My daughter currently is in her Mom-n-Tots class and is learning so much, as well as having a lot of fun and making friends. My children have had other French language teachers, and I think Mme. Johnson is unquestionably the best! Satisifed Mere
RE: sending child to French school
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