Saturday, May 26, 2007

A bilingual school?

School was the next big worry. French or English? But even that was not so simple. The French Lycee (12,000$ per child) or the Bilingual French-English(3,000$) one? A British school or local American public school? After several emails and web searches we decided to go for the Bilingual school, but they only had space for Nina and we must wait for April 1st, when parents were asked if they would return for the next school year.

At the end of March a place did come up for Marc and we smartly paid the deposit. The French classes were limited to only nine children. The Ecole Franço-Americane de Chicago or EFAC was a private institution linked to The Abraham Lincoln Elementary public school.Marc and Nina would have a split curriculum and do an extra hour of French every morning (starting at 8am), and French studies while their American class did French and other subjects, like sport or art. It promised bilingualism and biculturalism and seemed like the perfect school for us. Marc and Nina would get a feel for real American life and yet still keep their hard-won academic French. I would find a local pre-school for Gabriel, and his French immersion would have to wait.

The school was situated in a surburb close to Downtown, called Lincoln Park, which we found out was a rather posh gentrified area, favoured by ‘eclectic and educated young families who eschew bland suburbia and enjoy lively city living, with a zoo, beach and ample green space within walking distance…’ or so the guidebook told us. There were an awful lot of cafes, Starbucks and clothes shops in Lincoln Park. So I knew we wouldn’t have the perfectly manicured lawns and nosy neighbours of ‘Desperate Housewives’, that I was currently watching in a vague aim to find out how I would fit in with American stay-at-home moms….in fact we probably wouldn't have any kind of garden, it sounded more like Chelsea or Notting Hill in London.

Using the GoogleEarth software we took a sneak peek at the school buildings and scrolled across to the zoo, lake and beach. This was the first time we could actually show the children what their new neighbourhood would look like, without moving an inch! We knew that we would have to live in the school’s catchment area, so we could imagine living in one of the tall townhouses nearby and walking to school each day. Maybe we could live without a car? It would be nice to walk around on a fresh spring day or an autumn days when the leaves changed colours...Our new life finally began to look like reality...

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