French Maternelle - Help!(11 Posts)
We moved to France last year and my son started maternelle in September. He is the very youngest in the school (31st December birthday) and spoke no French at all when he started. He still speaks no French, although his teacher feels that he does understand basic instructions. He finds school extremely difficult -not attempting to engage in a positive way with the other children, not wanting to join in group activities, will sit in the corner and play on his own or do puzzles but seems not to "get" the whole group thing, and is not inclined to obey instructions (even when given clearly in English). The last few school mornings he has had massive tantrums before going in (although he calms down once he is in the classroom and I have left.) He is only 3 and I am starting to think that it is partly just an age thing - maybe I should take him out and just start again in September when he is older..but then he will be even further behind on the language front. Only other option is for me to start thinking about going back to work so I can afford to send him to an expensive international school where he can learn in English. Anybody done the maternelle thing before me and can offer any support/suggestions? He only does mornings at the moment - tried afternoons as well for a few weeks in February but it was a complete disaster.
My best friend went through the same thing (but different country). Kids learn language very quickly. Her first coped absolutely fine, her second found it very difficult (a bit like your son). Give them time and lots of encouragement and if he wants to wait until September to start again, then I wouldn't worry about it. My friend's second child didn't really pick up the language until she was about 7 or 8. She was top of her year aged 18 and highly successful bilingual teacher herself now. Be patient, the rewards of having a truly bilingual child are worth it.
Thanks for the support bizzybee. I know he can do it. It's just tough not being able to do it for him!
My DD went to maternelle from September to December last year. She's an August 27th birthday so she was 3 y and 4 days when she started. She was absolutely fine though. I'd not really spoken to her much in French before we went so she was starting from nothing.
She settled in straight away! I think she had several things on her side though: she knew the ATSEM who is a friend of mine, and is friends with her daughter (in MS) and several other children in the school; she was already used to being in an institutional type setting all day because she'd been going to day nursery in the UK for 2 days a week since she was 21 mo; she is very gregarious and talkative and loves routines and school generally. She started communicating in French after a fortnight and by the time we left she was starting to talk in complete sentences and taking full part in everything at school.
Back in the UK however, she's refused to speak French since then but she does understand everything and does the classic thing where I speak F to her and she answers in E. I am confident that it's all in there somewhere and will justcarry on speaking to her in French.
Back to your DS however- is he naturally talkative? My DS used to have the most almighty tantrums at this age when I tried to talk in French (hence why my older DC are good in French but not fluent as it was impossible to speak French near DS without severely distressing him). Is he used to being in a schooly-type setting? Is he quite young for his age?
I have to say that in your shoes I would be tempted to just tough it out (in the absence of illness etc which might make him more clingy and upset) He is young but there are probably some 2 yo in the same maternelle, no?
I had your situation two years ago and I feel your pain. Ds1 is a 28 dec birthday so the youngest in his class. We moved to France when he was 8 months, but we are both English speaking and he was at home with me until he started school. He went through exactly what your son is. He struggled hugely with the leap to the group setting and the lack of choice in his activities, with being away from me and if course with the language. The teacher spoke English and French with him but the children were only French. He pretty much cried his way through the first year. Drop offs were awful, pick ups the same. We didn't even attempt afternoons that first year. If I hadn't had a new baby and no family to help out I think we would have pulled him out. But we stuck with it.
The second year was better but still not great. He was getting into fights with his classmates because he didn't have any other way to resolve arguments over toys etc. and then all of a sudden his French clicked and he started speaking it confidently and school became so much easier.
Currently he's halfway through grande section and doing really well. His French outstrips mine easily, he's confident with his friends and otiduce if having both French and English friends. He's still the youngest in the class, so he is behind the older ones in his development and some skills but this is normal. He still moans about going to school but that's because he's rather stay home and watch cbeebies not because he hates school!
While its true that they pick up the language etc as the pp's say, my experience was that going straight from home to maternelle was too big a step for ds. Most French kids have been going to crèche at least part time before starting maternelle, so they are used to the group setting, the strictness, the noise, the lack of choice etc. If I had my time again I would have got ds1 into a crèche that first year, just a few half days each week, and then starred him in maternelle when he would have been the oldest in the class, not the youngest.
Ps if you go pill him out and start again next year you won't be holding back HUD language in any way. He'll learn it just as fast when he does go, probably faster if older and more emotionally robust.
One more thing - we wronglyi thought that if ds looked to be struggling with being the youngest in the class, we could choose to hold him back a year. Not so. Turns out that once they are in their correct year group, that's where they stay. Unless they are struggling hugely with the work. Emotional development doesn't seem to come into it. The only flexibility seems to be right at the start where you and I could opt to not start them at school until they are actually three.
It's fairly way to negotiate a redoublement later - CP is fairly classic - but by then they're established in the year group and it's a more difficult decision. You could talk about it this year with the teacher and see if they would accept him redoing PS.
If he's never been in some kind of group childcare school will be a huge leap. It's one of the reasons I've sent DS PT to garderie, even though we speak both languages at home and I don't think there are huge developmental benefits to him. Being in a group is important before maternelle IMO and it's difficult to access the same range of toddler groups etc that you find in the UK.
Thanks so much for your really helpful posts. Up to the age of two, DS was very outgoing and was at nursery in London 5 days a week. Then in 2012 he stopped nursery, his little sister arrived, we moved house twice and then he started maternelle. Obviously not the easiest year for him but like you ruthyroo I was desperate for the childcare. Now DD is at childminders 2 days a week so I have the chance to step back a little and work out what would be best for DS. They have Petite and moyenne in the same class anyway so at least next year he would be average age for the room rather than youngest. There are just no real options here in terms of toddler groups etc because most of his peers are at school. In terms of personality he is just all boy - big for his age physically and just wants to run and jump and shout. His English is very good and he has always been a big talker, which i think is why he found French extremely irritating from day 1 of our move here.
As a Nursery Teacher in the UK, I still have a fair number of children who struggle with the school thing, especially the ones who started after Christmas and would be a similar age to your DS. It could be an age thing, rather than a French thing.
My DS went through Maternelle but had had a little experience of the Halte Garderie in the year before he started, so he was used to hearing the language. He was a June baby though, and was ready for Maternelle. His French was pretty non existent for the first year, but by the time he got to MS, he was chattering away in much better French than me & DP. Sadly it's all but gone now, but that's another story
If I were you, I would persevere, keep to the mornings only as the afternoon will be napping anyway in PS. There isn't much of the school year left now, so fingers crossed for you all that he settles down.
I feel your pain. I live in France. My eldest went to an English speaking Montessori for ps and ms, then moved to gs in a French maternelle when we moved house. All fine.
Middle one was already 3.5 and had been to creche 2 days a week when she started ps, again, all good.
Youngest -straight into ps at 2 1/2 (December b'day) and hated it. Screams and sobbing every morning for a month. It was so awful. Her teacher was a miserable bag too. She got cross when DD didn't understand and yelled at DD1 in the playground for speaking to her sister in English
Anyway, we got there in the end. I had to persevere as I had to go back to work p/t but otherwise, I would have pulled her out. I hate that they send such tiny tots to such a formal school setting over here tbh.
Hope your DS is getting on better and starting to enjoy school. Not long til the grandes vacances now anyway
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