A couple of weekends ago, Papa and I took Poppette to a French Saturday club that we had found in a neighbouring city. We had been wanting to go along for a goodwhile but had had to wait for La Rentrée (beginning of the new school year).
The club had originally been set up by a group of francophone parents who wanted their children to be able to play and learn in French alongside other French speaking children. It has grown and grown and now offers a playgroup for the babies and younger children and a structured school setting for children aged from 4 upwards. Here children, who are schooled in the English school system during the week, are able to learn to read and write in French.
I am so happy to have found the school. My only regret is that it is not closer to home. With a drive of anywhere between an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half each way dependent upon traffic, it is quite commitment. That said, it is well worth it.
So... first impressions. Well, Papa and I were impressed. The playgroup kicked off with all the parents taking it in turns to introduce themselves and their child(ren). I have to say, I had been nervous for the whole drive over and sitting there waiting for my turn to speak up I could feel the butterflies in my tummy. My French friend who we had gone along with (her son is one month younger than Poppette), gave me a wink to help quell my nerves. Some of the parents seemed a little surprised that both Papa and I were English and had taken on such a gargantuan task as to bring up our baby bilingual, but there was none of the negativity I had feared. All of the other families had at least one French native as a part of the parental mix.
Talking to some of the parents, it was really clear that even for a native speaker, there can still be many bumps in the road when trying to raise your child to speak a minority language in a majority language country.
After the introductions we sang loads of Comptines (nursery rhymes). I surprised myself by knowing far more of the words than I would have previously given myself credit for. It seems that the never ending stream of CD's and books are paying off...
Following the nursery rhyme session the babies all played together with toys whilst their parents chatted and sipped coffee. The older children all participated in an adult led activity - making masks. It looked great fun.
Before attending the playgroup, the question Papa and I had been asking ourselves was just how much Poppette would get out of it attending at her current age. Well, I don't think that the benefits of group play and seeing different faces and scenery can be underestimated, but she may not get any real language benefit for a few months yet.
Poppette herself voted with her feet.... or more accurately, her eyelids which were firmly shut as soon as the nursery rhymes had finished and remained so for the next hour and a half until the playgroup session ended...
That said, I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time in an environment where both children and adults were chattering away in French and am really pleased to say that I was fully accepted into the fold. It really does seem that my fears that people think we are odd for speaking French to our English daughter is more of a figment of my imagination than a reality and that actually people think that it’s really something quite admirable.