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Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
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
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)
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
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
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
(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
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
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 â€“ 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 sonâ€™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
Re: Importance of community in immersion schools?
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: French Language Preschool
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
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
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
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 am a parent of two children new to EBI (Escuela Bilingue Internationale). I just wanted to say how amazing the school is at dealing with conflict between children, especially bullying behavior. I have three boys who have attended lots of schools, and EBI's policies (and their ACTUAL response) is by far the most personal, impressive, thoughtful, and active of any school I have ever experienced. There are many things I like about the school, but on this issue (which I feel so many schools give lip-service to, but have no follow-thru), I felt I must take the time to commend them publicly! ~A hard-to-impress Oakland parent
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
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
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
Editor Note: a review was also received for The Academy
We are just starting to research preschools for our son and wanted to get feedback on Ecole de Bilingue. We are interested in hearing about your experience! Thanks!
It is difficult to sum up our family's experiences with EB in a small enough space to fit in this newsletter, but I'll try.
We have 3 children at the school. We have now been in all of the levels... maternelle (preschool), elementary, and middle. Our older two both started when they were 4 in what EB calls MK, and our third child started when he was 3 in their PK program. We are not a French family, neither by birth nor heritage. We speak English at home, but both parents have enough knowledge of French to be able to help with some of the homework. Clearly, we are very happy overall with the school!
It would be helpful to know what you are wanting and/or expecting from a school. You don't put forth any questions so it's a little challenging to know what direction to take with this! But a few of the things I LOVE about EB are: very receptive teachers and administration, my kids were able to read and speak and write in two languages by the end of first grade, there is a really great balance between the ''french-ness'' and the ''berkeley-ness'' at the school, and the diversity of the community.
The school has over 30 years of experience in balancing the requirements of the California curriculum as put forth by the state AND the French curriculum as set by the French Ministry of Education. The teachers are really great and the administration does a fantastic job making up classes that work very, very well. And there are financial aid possibilities, one route administered by the school and the other by the French Consulate for families who hold French citizenship .
I would be more than happy to answer specific questions or talk further with you about EB. It is not all a bed of roses... but NOTHING ever is! Please feel free to contact me if you wish. the_missus
One comment: I would not consider EB only for preschool unless you plan to transfer to another French speaking school after. I think to get the full benefit of the bi-lingual education, you should be committed until 5th grade. We weren't necessarily thinking that we would stay past 2nd grade going in, but now that we are there, we definitely think it makes sense to stay and really imprint a base of both languages on our children's education. A. G. L
I have two children aged 4 (daughter) & 5 years (son) old who both are currently enrolled at EB. We moved to the Berkeley area last year when my daughter was three years old. Since she'd not yet had any formal schooling (her brother attended a wonderful play based preschool in Palo Alto-Bing Nursery), we wanted to expose her initially to a play based system. Ultimately, we enrolled our son in mid-Kinder at EB while our daughter attended Step One school in Berkeley.
After a wonderful year at Step One where my daughter thrived, we wondered if we ought to keep her there another year, or enroll her at EB. Specifically, our concerns were a) that the transition from a play based (and English based) model to a more structured system would be too drastic and b) the 8:30-3:15pm daily schedule would be too exhausting. Suffice it to say, our concerns were unfounded, and we could not be any happier for her. She is quite engaged with the multitude of daily activities (eg, library time, gym time, story time etc plus plenty of unstructured play time). It seems that they are always teaching a new song, and-in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner- she recently sang and acted out two songs they learned for Grandparents' Day. All of this is a testament to the teachers, who are dedicated, extremely nurturing, and bright. She is picking up french at a rapid clip and is extremely happy at EB. As an added bonus, she was terrible napper prior to EB, now she seems to take a nap almost daily. In summary, we could not be happier at the decision to enroll our children there. IA
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
Re: French bilingual schools dual national child
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
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
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 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
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Re: Finding a preschool
I would highly recommend Ecole Bilingue, the East Bay French Bilingual School. We sent our children there for all the reasons you cite: diversity, language, art etc After 8th grade, some of them went on to private schools and others to public schools. The school instilled great study habits. They learned a 2nd language effortlessly and received a terrific education which combined both French discipline and American curiosity. I just looked on line and though the tuition is stiff, EB is very generous with scholarships and you can get 55% financial aid. nhu
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.
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
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?
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 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
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.
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