French Immersion Schools in Oregon (& Our Probable Choice)

I've been reading books on homeschooling since my firstborn was nine months old. I attended private schools as a child, and taught in public schools as a teacher, but homeschooling holds such diverse educational possibilities that it was always my first choice for my children. Nonetheless, I recently re-examined that choice when I realized how much fluency my daughter could gain by spending time in an environment where French is required (rather than continuing to reply to me in English).  Living outside Portland, Oregon, we're blessed to have a surprising amount of Francophone school options:

  L'Information scolaire by Robert Doisneau, 1956

L'Information scolaire by Robert Doisneau, 1956

  Les tabliers de la rue de Rivoli by Robert Doisneau, 1978

Les tabliers de la rue de Rivoli by Robert Doisneau, 1978

  Le Monde's Logo

Le Monde's Logo

Le Monde is a French Immersion Public Charter School established in 2012 through the intensive efforts of motivated parents and educators. The school currently only offers instruction through 2nd grade but will eventually expand through 8th grade. As a (free!) public immersion school, enrollment is so coveted that out-of-district students are extremely unlikely to make it off the waiting list. Quel dommage pour nous!

L'Etoile French Immersion School, also only a few years old, is literally a star among Portland's immersion options. Established in 2011 after the Portland French School closed, l'Etoile offers small class sizes but a growing enrollment, from pre-school through fourth grade as of this fall. They are proudly accredited by the French government's Ministry of Education and the Association of French Schools in North America. (Their website is beautifully designed and reflects their purposeful approach!) 

* April 2016 update: l'Etoile now offers enrollment through fifth grade.

International Leadership Academy (ILA) is located in Lake Oswego, established and staffed partially by educators seeking employment after the Portland French School folded a few years ago (similarly to L'Etoile). The main curriculum is in French but also includes some Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. They offer programs for three-year-olds through 5th grade.

  The FAIS logo

The FAIS logo

French American International School (FAIS) has been the predominant French immersion option in Portland for many years, partially owing to its long history here (established in 1979), French accreditation, large enrollment (550 students in preschool through 8th grade), and impressive budget. Tuition is well into the five-figure range, but need-based financial aid is available. The middle school offers German, Spanish, Chinese, and ELL courses.

Other notable French options:

Atlas Immersion Academy is a French immersion child care and preschool with low child/teacher ratios and frequent field trips to nearby Gabriel Park. They also offer twice-monthly parents' night out babysitting, informal family potlucks, and a parent book club. What a lovely way to start the preschool years!

Culture Club is a after school partial-immersion program focusing on French, Spanish, and occasionally Mandarin for ages 5-9. They bring their program to schools but can also be hired to instruct a self-organized home group of similarly-aged children.

If you live in Eugene, Oregon, you're probably already aware of Charlemagne, a public French immersion school serving elementary students. I've heard great things about it and have been impressed by the French skills of students who attend there.


Le Cadran scolaire by Robert Doisneau, 1956

Yet we live more than forty-five minutes from all of these options, so I'm disappointed that none of the schools offer part-time or half-day kindergarten (though admittedly, full-time is best for immersion). It's difficult to imagine a five-year-old who can handle the emotional demands of a full day of school when you add in more than an hour of daily commuting. We'd consider moving closer to Portland, but my husband adores his job in Sandy, a small community twenty-eight miles in the opposite direction.

This week I'll attend the open house events at FAIS and L'Etoile. Most likely, though, we'll stick with the plan to homeschool in French. A friend pointed me to an online French curriculum academy (merci, Alison!), and we can still aim for fluency through summer camps, Francophone friendships, and extended travel. My daughter is speaking more French thanks to the language actions I took this year. I'll soon be searching for a Francophone babysitter (wouldn't an au pair be a fantastic situation?!).

What costs do you feel are worth paying to educate your child in another language? Did you have an immersion school experience? What educational choices are you making for (or with) your children?