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Bilingual (Fre/Eng) literacy and education - moving back and forth

(11 Posts)
Marionlam Fri 13-Mar-15 13:24:03

Hi all,

I have 2 boys aged 2 and 5. We follow the OPOL structure (daddy is English, I'm French) and they're both doing ok, although there is a noticeable speech delay compared to other kids (particularly in French, but then we do live in the uk).

My oldest son started reception this year and he's doing well. His reading amazes me! Yet I can't seem to find a way to introduce written French without confusing the hell out of him. To complicate things, we have an opportunity to spend the school year after next in France. That year my oldest will be in year 2/CE1 and my youngest in year R/Grande Section.

So I've been torturing myself with the pros and cons of spending a year back home and then moving back to the uk. Does anyone have any thoughts on / experience of any of the following concerns?

- how difficult will it be for them to (re)learn French phonics without forgetting the English ones ? And will it set them too far back to join their normal school year again upon our return?
- do I need to somehow follow the CP syllabus with my oldest next year in preparation for this, or is CE1 still easy enough that he'll catch up?
- I understand it is possible to delay the reception year and that summer born children can start a year later, and I though this might be an option for my youngest, ie do a Grande Section year and then join Reception when we come back, even though he'll be the oldest. Or should I envisage putting him straight in year 1 and skip reception altogether?
- how different are the syllabus in all the other subjects, and in maths in particular. How difficult would it be for me to bridge the gap upon our return?
- how much support (if any) can I expect from both the English and the French school system?

It is very much my own decision as my sailor of a husband will be away for most of that year anyway, and I'm struggling .... Thanks for your tips and support!!

Marionlam Mon 25-Jan-16 12:42:44

I just wanted to re-kindle this thread... Hubby will be away for most of next year's school year, so I need to decide what to do in the meantime....

Any thoughts on the above dilemma, anyone ?

ImpYCelyn Mon 25-Jan-16 13:06:52

Your boys are similar ages to mine (5 and 3).

We don't use opol, as we're both bilingual and think the boys should know that people can be bilingual and learn to swap between languages. We live in the UK, so their spoken French is a bit behind, but they understand everything and watch TV and have stories in French, in about the last 3 months they've both started speaking a lot more French (really decent sentences). No speech delay at all in English.

I don't think the French teach using phonics, certainly their cousins aren't learning that way. So we've been reading French books and just pointing at frequent words, and my eldest is starting to recognise them. At this age they'd be doing very little reading in France, they start much later.

We are planning to move to France for good when my eldest goes into year 2 and youngest year 1, I'm not worried about them being behind. Based on relatives experience when they moved back from America, the French system is entirely unsupportive, but the kids weren't behind and coped fine.

As long as you keep reading and writing in English with them they won't lose that. They should be fine to rejoin.

Since my else's was 3 we've been using age appropriate cahier de vacances, so that they are exposed to school type vocabulary. I'd recommend those. Especially as handwriting counts for so much in France still.

I think you can delay reception before you start, but I think they'd be very reluctant to put a bilingual speaker with school experience in with reception, and I think your ds would hate it. Better to go back into year 1.

I don't think other subjects should be a problem.

Do think about the effects it could have on your oldest a friendship groups and how settled he is. You'll be taking him away from friends in England and then in France.

Yakari Mon 25-Jan-16 13:23:38

We live abroad but are a French/English speaking family. We've had our kids on French, English and bilingual education Best advice I had from the Moyenne Section teacher of my DS was 'which language do you believe they will do University in?' For us this was English.
There are very few kids who at such a young are who are genuinely 50/50 in terms of verbal, written and reading. Pick the primary language long term and focus there. But keep the second one relatively prominent.
So for us English is the primary language, DS at 9 now reads and writes reasonable French - I'd say he is 60/40. DD at 7 ( and always in english led education) is 70/30 but now she is confident to read and write in English is rapidly picking up French.
Personally I think it's really hard to learn both 'equally' at the same time.
Based on your Op I'd embrace the French for a year - get the basics well established but really keep up the English at home - videos, educational games, conversation. When you come back to the uk year 1 is fine to play catch up when you return. You may need to do some extra work in some areas (not handwriting the French are way beyond in that!) but it's year 1, seriously not a big issue.

Yakari Mon 25-Jan-16 13:26:52

Oh sorry and support... French system, I'd say none I've found them very unsympathetic to anything outside the norm. English depends on the school and how much he needs to catch up - you may find they group your child with other kids who gave English as a second language or who is a struggling but again year 1 not a big issue and fairly normally to have support lessons.

ImpYCelyn Mon 25-Jan-16 13:58:44

Yakari is my eldest's favourite book series! We have loads of the BDs. Sorry, just made me smilesmile

Yakari Tue 26-Jan-16 02:09:59

Got to love Yakari grin

Marionlam Wed 27-Jan-16 09:22:09

Thanks everybody!

I'm off to buy some Yakari books as we speak... I'd forgotten about him ! :-)

I've just tasted the waters with the local school to see if they'd authorize an extended leave of absence, and they're proving incredibly unsupportive of the whole situation. The head teacher threatened me with court action potentially leading to imprisonment hmm if I took him out of school for longer than the allowed 10 sessions..... She said the only way to let them go to school somewhere else would be to taking them off their current school and re-enroll them when we're back, and the school is over-suscribed, ie waiting lists etc.

SO it looks like coming back could be interesting! :-)

Yakari, I totally agree with your comment that they don't learn both languages at the same pace, and ultimately they'll be lucky to be bilingual regardless of their level, but I want to make sure they don't miss out on the rest of the key academic skills such as maths because I've been moving them around. + My eldest is a very anxious kid (he bites his nails so much it looks painful) so i don't want to do anything too unsettling for him.

Interestingly, there's a new boy in my eldest's class from a young family who has just moved to the UK from France and the school is being quite helpful I think, they've allocated a TA to help the youngest learn English.


elelfrance Wed 27-Jan-16 09:35:22

I'm english speaking, living in france, so the other way around to you OP. Just thinking, would it be in any way feasible for your oldest to start in CP rather than CE1 ? From what i understand, they really start steaching them to read in CP, so he might get on better with that ?

Your youngest being in maternelle, I doubt there'd be much of an issue

As regards support from the french schooling side, where would you be headed for ? we're in the western suburbs of paris, where there are regularly expat kids coming & going, and the schools are pretty good with it

Lico Tue 23-Feb-16 10:05:11

Our daughter is bilingual (French-English).
She is in CM2. We always followed the one parent one language method and worked very hard at the minority language (French as we live in UK). DD went to a French School, in France , for Moyenne Section, Grande Section and CP then a bilingual school in the UK. For French, we placed a lot of emphasis on the French syllabique reading méthode which , interestingly, facilitated her learning to read and write English; we did it both at the same time (bilingual schools do).She now reads, writes, speaks fluently in both languages and follows both the English and French curricula. It is too early to decide which university she will want to attend but we always wanted her to have the choice whether UK or France.
With this in mind, in our case, reinforcing the minority language academically (French) on a daily basis is the best way forward as it can deteriorate very quickly.
Hope this helps.

WoTmania Mon 28-Mar-16 12:01:11

I agree with Lico that it might be helpful for your eldest to start in CP - My family moved to France when I was 8 and my brother was 6 so I went straight into CE2 (slightly different to your DC though as I had no French at all) and struggled. I moved down to CP after a couple of months and at the end of the year was ready to move back up to my age group.

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