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A New Focus

Well, we just dropped the bomb. At least, that is how it feels. We finally decided to take DS #1 out of French Immersion, and we just told him. And, surprisingly, he was more reluctant to switch streams than I had thought he would be...

It was not a decision we took lightly. In fact, I resisted... and resisted. Maybe too much. Given that he is quite comfortable speaking French to his teachers and brother, I convinced myself it wasn't the issue. And, to be fair, it isn't. But the extra layer of another language is adding to his stress, and, as he is scoring for both inattentive ADD and anxiety, we need to do what we can to give him the best academic experience possible. This move will enable him to focus on learning to read in one language, better enable him to "fill in the gaps" when his inattention causes him to miss part of a conversation, give him more confidence that he IS understanding and that he CAN do it, be one less thing to worry about when he is hitting a 4 or 5 on his worry scale.

In making our decision, we spoke with his paediatrician, the principal, his grade three teacher and the guidance counsellor. The guidance counsellor had some great ideas as to how to approach the conversation with him (putting the onus for the decision on ourselves and our abilities, not to focus on him which could cause stress re: not being able to do it). She also had some first-hand experience to share as she also took one of her children out of French Immersion a couple of years ago, and for the same concerns we are currently facing. The principal offered the insight that like all of us, children have their strengths and weaknesses - taking them out of FI is not a reflection of their academic abilities, just an awareness that their strengths may lie elsewhere. In fact, she also had first-hand experience with the same decision: she took her children out of FI when they were in primary and they are now in their teens and are straight A students, scoring tops in the province for some of their subject areas! His teacher felt that next year, when he starts core French in the English stream, it might actually become a strength and boost his confidence: even now, she says he is one of the best in the class when it comes to making the effort to speak in French and thinks he will be quite strong in the core program as it focuses on oral French.

They all indicated they knew it was a hard decision, and that while they hate to loose a child out of the program, they all said they had yet to meet a parent who had taken their child out of FI and regretted it - that it often proves itself within days or weeks to have been a positive decision for the child and their development, academically, socially and from a self-confidence perspective. So, I really did come around to thinking it would be in his best interests or the time being, and hope he will be one of those cases his home room teacher mentioned - the ones where it is a pleasure to see a child thrive in the English stream after having witnessed their struggle in French.

Today, wanting to give him a couple of days to absorb it, and knowing he will be going back to a new class next week, we sat him down and told him our decision. He said he is afraid English won't be as much fun, and that he likes French and speaking French! I told him I thought that was wonderful and I was very proud of him for wanting to stay with it, that I knew he enjoyed it and I knew he could do it, but that this would be less stressful on him overall. We explained to him that it doesn't mean the end of French - it is an opportunity to focus on English for a while. He can still speak French when he wants, and continue to read in French (at his own pace and without the pressure associated with learning in it - the teacher and Special Ed. resource have both expressed concern that he can sound out/pronounce/speak well, but the comprehension is not there). And, having tried both French and English streams, he can make his own, informed decision once he hits junior high as to which stream he would like to pursue.

As for being afraid English won't be as much fun - we have it on very good authority that the English teachers at the school are fantastic! And we pointed out that he will have double the friends - he'll still know his current classmates but will get to meet and get to know a whole class full of new friends! Some of the faces in English will even be familiar - he is not the first to switch streams and won't be the last. In fact, one of his good friends switched earlier in the year.

At first, he was adamant he would not switch, that he would stay in French. But we continued to explain our decision to him as the guidance counsellor recommended. He became extremely quiet and pensive. I felt so bad - I thought both he and I were going to cry! I made some hot chocolate, and after a while he picked up the TV remote. He found a new Sonic show his father PVR'ed and is now watching it with his brother. In fact, things seem pretty much back to normal....the mood is like any other Sunday afternoon! Only time will tell, but right now, I am hopeful the second half of grade three will be a much more positive experience for him than the first.

I'll let you know how it goes!

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