Alternative bilingual schooling options

We recently blogged on the more mainstream private and semi private options available here in the Cote d'Azur. This article considers the less conventional option but increasingly popular Montessori system.

Alternative Curriculums French / Bilingual

There has been a strong growth in less traditional curriculums such as the Montessori approaches. Getting back to basics , ridding our environment of plastic , understanding the world we live in has to be applauded.

I have been lucky enough to participate on many Montessori learning workshops particularly in the 0-3 and 3-6 year cycles as I wanted to better educate myself on the methods.

I have to say I really enjoyed the courses and implemented several of the practical life techniques at home and was pleased to see some of the equipment available in our French primary school! Read more on Montessori training and methods HERE

Sadly personal circumstances prevented me on doing the 6-12 year cycle which would have been very useful at home mais que sera ..If you haven’t seen it do check out the kit for explaining pythagoras theorem which blew me away and the techniques for the world maps puzzles are great– they should be in every school!

Other Kidoo team members also completed Montessori training so we have been able to include some of our favourite elements into our own International Playgroup , purchased some equipment for maths and practical life skills.

Interestingly, after a lot of discussion and observation, the team at KidooLand decided that the Early Years Foundation skills (as followed by the majority of UK toddler centres ) offered in English and French better prepared our clients' children for a mainstream classroom. The EYFS activites lent themsleves better to learning languages and developing the early language skills.

So we major in EYFS and minor in Montessori practical life skills and it has to be said we love the world of makebelieve fantasy and imagination which can be lacking in some 3-6 year Montessori programmes!

There are many pluses to home schooling , Montessori and Steiner ..

- working and playing at the child’s speed and rhythm

- creating a non competitive positive environment

- nurturing those with special needs thus making for a happier child.

I personally have recommended toddlers and maternelle age children go to some of the following schools because it was a better fit for them, in my humble opinion, than a tradtional mainstream French option where sadly a square peg doesn't fit in a round hole.

They are particulatly good at helping outer spectrum, those with learning difficulties, and children whose learning approach is not suited to the traditional approaches.

Montessori options:

- Terre Enfantine is a lovely family feel school in Antibes which we will be reviewing and sharing with you later in the year - up to 11 years .. Budget 3,900-5,700 €/annum

- Jardin des soleils in Grasse up to 6 years has a lovely reputation.

- Colibris is a newly established school that recently moved to Sophia Antipolis and now goes up to 12 years old. Budget 5,460 -8,160 €/annum

- Les Pouces Vertes Mouans Sartoux has been in the sector for a long time - goes up to 15 years old. Budget 7, 050€/annum

- Interestingly EBICA used to run Montessori activites but I can't find any mention on that on its website now.

I do know one Montessori schooled mum , a firm advocate of Montessori, who's child also went to Montessori . Despite being a firm advocate of Montessori her child has left the prgramme and entered an International mainstream in primary. I don't think this was down to a bad experience, in fact my understanding was quite the opposite it was a great school but her extensive knowledge of education and of course personal circumstances made them move.

Fortunately for them, the transfer went well and academically she is doing very well apparently .

Not so for many children according to a former head of a large International private school here in the Riviera who told me an application for transfer to her school from an alternative school nearly always meant a bumpy ride.

As you may have noted, none of these Montessori schools go up to Bac so I’m not clear on where children go to finish their education if they decide they want to ..Yes I know Montessori is typically not about worksheets, tests and exams but I am guessing that many of these children will go on to take some formal exams and consider Further Education which has entry requirements ..

Afterall, while employment criteria in the UK is more flexible a good degree goes a long way and even a sales assistant has minimum entry maths and english GCSE requirements not to mention France's deep attachment to exam results .... 25 years into his IT career my husband is being asked to give details on his O Levels!!

We would love to hear from you ..Do you know where do past students go upon leaving their school and how was integration into mainstream?

Having not taken many (any?!) exams, how do they fare when taking the Bac, GCSEs or A Levels and degrees?

In conclusion, I am a believer in many of the Montessori approaches. I think that all parents should go on a training course early on so they can bring this enlightening approach into their homes. I am also an advocat of learning through play which is very much our motto at work.

I didn't however put either of my children into an alternative school. Partly because there were less options when they were younger but more importantly I could not find out definitive answers to my questions post 15 years old....

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