Parenting is never without its difficult decisions and for the most part I feel like I have handled them with ease and tact and things have always flowed quite well for us in that matter…but there is one decision that is weigh in heavily on me and it is hard for me to wrap my head around what the right thing to do is. When Jacob first started school I had every intention of putting him into the French Immersion program in the September of the year he turned 5 years old….well guess what snuck up on me – the boy is turning 5 in June. We went to the various orientation sessions and have learned everything possible about the early immersion program and quite frankly we are faced with an inability to make a decision. We have gone back and forth on this decision for the past nearly 6 months and now we are hit head on with a deadline to decide…Tuesday. I sent out a public cry for help on my Facebook page a few days ago seeking out the opinions of other people and I guess this is my second cry for help including the much anticipated list of pros and cons that we have thought about as we decide. I ask my readers to thoughtful consider these lists and chime in by leaving a comment on this blog post to tell me your gut instinct.
In keeping with a spirit of optimism let me start by the list of PRO-IMMERSION ideas:
If he was successful and completed all of the required hours of learning through primary, middle, and secondary schooling he would be considered bilingual and a second language may come in handy for a future career choice….in addition French is the joint national language of Canada along side its familiar English counter part.
This is the year he would need to enter – you can always enter and withdraw from the program but once you are out you can not get back in if you “change your mind”…you can not enter the early immersion program without starting in SK. Teachers can decide at any time that your child is “not right” for french immersion and your child would slip back into the English language learning program (this cold also be a con – see below) so it is great that they are not stringing struggling children along.
Bilingualism has been show to have a positive effect on cognitive skills.
Bilingualism helps makes 3rd or 4th language acquisitions easier (as long as the alphabets are the same).
Jacob has advanced skills in English and Mathematics and is currently reading at a grade 2-3 level and completing math at a grade 1-2 level when he is just 4 years old….I worry about boredom causing behaviour problems at some point and wonder if the french immersion program would keep him interested as it is all new to him.
And finally the CONS of FRENCH IMMERSION (from our point of view)
The move into the french immersion program would mean a move to a new school – at this new school he would have to be bused and the bus does not pick up directly at our home – it is at a centralized location about four blocks from our house…his current school is pretty much directly across the street from our home.
If he remained at his current school he would have the same teacher again next year who he loves and whom we also appreciate and respect greatly. His new school would only have half day of classes where as his old school would start being full day as of next year.
It is very common for Early Immersion students to show a lag in their English literacy and writing abilities during the primary years. (although some research suggests that they do eventually catch up).
There is a large criticism that students do not in fact become completely fluent and that their structure of the language suffers in the area of grammar and problems in their speech pronunciation.
The french immersion program is often referred to as an “elite” program due to the fact that most students registered in it are from a higher social class – due in large part to the over-achieving parent syndrome I think.
The instruction is entirely in french from kindergarten straight through until the start of grade 4. My work hours will not always permit me to be home to assist with homework and my husband has zero ability to assist with french learning.
Where he is quite ahead academically I feel he makes up for this with a slight lag in social skills – although his teacher says he is “on par” in regards to his peer group – it is painfully obvious to me that Jacob is not interested in typical childhood activities with the other kids in the school yard… due in large part to his obsession with phonics, letters, and math. I recall my own experience with french immersion and at that time the immersion kiddies were considered “social outcasts” – I’m not sure what the idea is at this time.
I wonder if I am over-obsessing about him being bored in class – would it be a mistake to take him out of a place where he is confident and successful academically and press him to be challenged – am I being one of those over-achieving parents that I never wanted to be? Kids have so much pressure and stress these days – it’s a known fact that childhood anxiety disorders are on the rise because parents are placing too many expectations on their children.
If he got pulled out of the program at any point he would have to restart back into a new school with new classmates that he didn’t know and this could happen at any point along the way.
I’m sure more things will come to mind after I am done posting this but I would at this time be curious to think what you would do if this was your decision?! Would you take the leap? Would you leave well enough alone? Don’t fix what is not broken? Would you go for the challenge? What would you do if it was your child?