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French Schools & Preschools
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
The tuition is not cheap but it is a special place.
If you have any questions let me know.
(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!
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
And here's an overview of the program in English from EB's
Jennifer Monahan, Communications Manager at EB
I have two children enrolled at the Ecole Bilingue in
Berkeley in 5th and 1st grade (and a 3 years old who will
be enrolled soon) and it has been a fantastic experience.
The children are not only getting a bilingual education
but a ''world education'' as they learn about different
cultures and ways of thinking and there are students
representing more than 40 nationalities at the school
(only half of the families speak French at home). The
(white boards in higer grades of elementary schools,
computer lab starting in K and individual lap-tops in the
middle school) in a way that helps learning better and in
a more differentiated way. The parent community is also
great and diverse at the school and we made a lot of
friends. You may consider taking a tour
of the school even a year before considering
enrollement (they take kids starting at 3) to get a feel
for the school and a better understanding of the program
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.
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
- 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.
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!
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
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
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
Your question is comparing French programs which are very different. My kids go to
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.
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
The only programs I know of are the French for Fun one and Ecole Bilingue
But EB is a full-time program/preschool (8:30-3:10 Monday through Friday)
believe the admission process for next year has been completed. I don't
know of any
others. Good luck in your search!
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)?
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.
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.
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!
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