Family life

French immersion: My difficult decision

Our editor-in-chief shares her French immersion dilemma.

By Karine Ewart
French immersion: My difficult decision

Photo: iStockphoto

In my 11 years as a parent, deciding whether or not to take my son Theo out of French immersion was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. With our four kids, Jay and I have had many challenges, plenty of surprises, and even a few medical emergencies, but these were all things we needed to react to; French immersion was the first time we had to make a life-altering choice for one of our children.

We’d enrolled all four kids in the French stream at the same public school that Jay and I had attended. Jay was in the French stream; I was in English. I truly believe not everyone has the aptitude for a second language — myself included. But we all deserve the opportunities it can lead to.

So when Theo’s grade one teacher flagged that he was really struggling, despite his weekly reading tutor sessions, we began to investigate if the French stream was helping or hindering, and whether he may have larger learning delays. (Central Auditory Processing Disorder was the ultimate diagnosis. More on this another time.)

Meanwhile, we needed to help Theo. His twin brother was in French; his two other siblings were, too. And what many people don’t want to say — I’ve witnessed it as a student and as a parent — is that there are perceived social stigmas associated with English vs. French streams at public schools. Would we be taking an advantage away from him?

In the end, we switched Theo into English mid-year, and I still question whether we made the right decision.

This article was originally published on Jun 05, 2013

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