Credits: Allison Shelley / The Verbatim Age

By choice or obligation, some French parents school their children in American school. It's not always obvious. Yasmine Garreau was able to realize. This mother settled in Washington preferred to re-school two of her children at the French school Rochambeau after several years in North Carolina in American schools. "They hardly spoke French anymore. I worried because I want to leave the door open for a possible return to France ", explains the expatriate, mother of four, who had not had the option to educate her children in a French school earlier.

For parents like Yasmine Garreau, whose children have 100% Anglophone schooling, keeping French is an everyday struggle. Strategies vary. Some use French speaking nannies or au pairs to reinforce the practice of French at home. Others use the CNED (National Center for Distance Learning), but admit to be a little overwhelmed by the organization of online courses, difficult to reconcile with a family and professional life. "It's good and really useful, but you have to be consistent," relativise Audrey Phay-Van, who educated her two daughters in American school in San Francisco.

The choice of French-American private schools

To ensure a solid foundation, some parents prefer to wait a few years before enrolling their children in American school. This is the case of Sandrine Perrin, who preferred to educate his son Baptiste in the Franco-American private school in Princeton, New Jersey for several years. "The integration of English was really interesting because 70% of the students were French and 30% were English, but they were completely integrated into the school curriculum", explains Baptiste's mother. The young man has thus acquired an excellent level of French. "That's when we decided to put it in the American public"she explains.

Sandrine Perrin has been educating her son in an American high school for several years. "Baptiste is now 14 years old and he will not be able to go back to a French school anymore. So, we speak every day in French and we used to watch French TV news and listen to podcasts, she continues, without any regret. We must distinguish between a three-year expatriation and a longer or permanent move. If you are sure to return, you have to go to a French school and if you like the United States, why not try the American school experience?"

Bilingual extra curricular programs

Options for parents wishing to school their children in French are growing in the United States. In addition to private schools that sometimes offer an IB option (International Baccalaureate), families living in large cities can also count on more and more French-English bilingual programs in US public schools and summer camps. after-schools in French offered by small private structures. Created in 2001, FLAM USA (French Langue Maternelle) associations, which federated in 2017, offer French lessons after school for children between 3 and 18 years old. FLAM USA saw enrollment climb to 2,500 students in 2018.

"The decision to have a life in total immersion in an American school makes sense, because high schools are often excellent. In addition, most French international schools do not offer high school levels "says Marine Havel, president of the FLAM USA federation and director of PhilaFlam. In all, 12 FLAM associations federated in the United States and 500 students enrolled in 2018, with a network of 177 teachers. "Some parents want their children to learn to write in French because their goal is to return to France. For others, the notion of bilingualism is very important ".

Jerome Quentin, a Frenchman from New York married to an American, educated his eldest in a non-bilingual college after trying a bilingual French-English program. He also enrolled him at the CNED courses "evening and weekend " for him to practice. However, dad recognizes the limits of the formula. "I have a teaching background. Can we ask a parent to take the place of tutoring? It seems adventurous. " Fortunately, there are also other options, non-academic. "There are online resources, Netflix, bouquets of French chains that bloom. I subscribed them to magazines, like I like to read and Okapi, which are very good".

Céline, a French mother who educates her child in American school, tries to travel regularly to France to immerse her son in culture and language. She also enrolled in an after school program in French. " With this program, I know that a small world in French can be built every week. It's important for them to understand their mom and dad. "

With Alexis Buisson (New York)


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