This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Posted February 07, 2014
- a parent
We are very glad that FAM exists in the MSP metro area, allowing our children to continue with an international French education during the time we are living here. It is a very small school (four classes from PS-5/CM2), with the predictable advantages and disadvantages that leads to. There is plenty of thought given to the learning experience, a very good faculty-student ratio (all native-speaking teachers), and great opportunity for meaningful parental involvement. If you have older children, or want a large school with a broad range of facilities, this may not be the right school, but for many families FAM provides an excellent option that combines high-level language learning, a warm sense of community, and a distinctively international outlook. Our children are happy there, and learning very well under the French system. Even beyond the second language, there are real social benefits to becoming familiar with a different culture, as the French one is. We are confident that our children have at FAM a place where they can develop personally in a supportive setting today, while helping to prepare themselves to function effectively in a global context in the years to come.
The French Academy of Minnesota has been a wonderful place for our son to study, grow and actually learn French with native teachers. They are excellent educators, highly competent, develop meaningful relationships with each student, and have a small teacher/student ratio. With our pick of schools, we toured nationwide. This is by far one of the best. Many "immersion" schools are only partly so, and don't employ native speakers. We were often very disappointed. We based our decision to move to MN after touring the school. All faculty and staff work with parents to support specific needs of the students; and the parent inclusion and overall transparency is remarkable. My husband and I had decided that our son's education needed to be bilingual and at a true immersion school in order to get the advantages we want for him. We read and researched how immersion easily improves academic performance, adds to basic intelligence (aiding math and music skills) and makes learning all-around easier for the student. Though Spanish is common, French is much more useful for work and upper education considerations. Having benefitted from being bilingual, we want our son to have the same edge.
My child is in his 6th year at French Academy and loves it. We initially chose this school because is was important that our child speak fluent French. We did not realize at the time the quality of his education. All the teachers are native speakers. Many of them hold masters degrees. They continue to work with our child to help him reach his full potential (even when he may not want to). Because of the small class sizes, the teachers understand each child's personality "quirks". There is a strong sense of community in the school. Our child is already bemoaning the day he will graduate and move on to another school. He wishes this one continued on past 5th grade.
This school is "A French school in Minnesota", as I copy from one of their motto. If people are looking for a French school, this is the one. Either than that, if a family is looking for an excellent private school, this is not a choice. Pros: it is small, great community, good teachers, nice management. Cons: communication has to be improved, few children attending higher grades which leads to combined grades. At the end of the day my main questions are: are my kids happy? are they receiving a good education? Yes and yes. That is what it matters. Best thing to do when there is an issue to face, is to go and talk to the director. At first she may seems firm on her position and views, but she is smart enough to evaluate changes and /or improvement.
I agree with the review below. We are Americans and our child did not speak any french but the teacher worked hard and the difficulty was overcome. We are very happy to be at the French Academy. It is an outstanding value and my special thanks to the director for her vision. The after school programs are helpful for our busy lifestyle. I feel like the director always listens and responds fast to the concerns. The French Academy will teach parents french too, I am going to learn so I can be bilingual like my child! Good education, reasonable tuition, and a gifted director! The only choice.
Our daughter started at French Academy in the middle of her kindergarten year. She knew only a few words in French. The other students in her class were, of course, way ahead, and she had trouble communicating at first. She would end up being physical, and causing trouble. The teacher knew to expect this and handled it expertly. Before long she was speaking well, and getting along much better. She also went through a time of requiring attention for ADD. French Academy's small class sizes are a huge benefit, because the teacher has the time to deal with difficulties that come up. We were kept informed all the time, and effective behavior programs were put in place. The single most helpful attribute is the genuine caring of the teachers and Veronique for each individual student. Our daughter was/is inspired and motivated to do her best, largely because of her great relationship with her teachers. Veronique cares very deeply, for the school, that she started in her basement, and for the students and families. She recently commented that she loves to listen to audiotapes of the children singing, and can pick out individual voices! Sound education, welcoming atmosphere! Wonderful!
We have had three children attend FAM, and we have been very, very happy with the school. The atmosphere is warm and loving, and the academic standards are high across the board. The French that is spoken is impeccable. Two of my children attended Concordia language camp during the summer, and the native French-speaking staff actually thought that both of our children grew up in France. We had the same reaction when we traveled with our children to France. You can imagine how happy this made us as parents (neither of us speak French to any degree). Our two children who have graduated have done very well in middle and high school. The school prepared them well in English, science, and math. Another thing that I like about the school is that the children are taught to be very courteous and well-mannered. You can point out the kids who go to FAM at a birthday party - they are generally the ones who nice to each other and the parents. I wouldn't hesitate recommending this school to any of our friends who are interested in an immersion education!
Our son has attended FAM preschool for a short time (a few months at the end of last year, and this year). I'm writing because it's a shame to have a few reviewers give a negative impression of this school. Our son's primary teacher was new last year and has returned for her 2nd year. We could not be more delighted by her skill in managing the children through engagement, her perfect diction, and her flexibility in adapting the set curriculum to make it work for the young children. We have not observed the associate teacher as long (though in our first meeting we were impressed by her calm competence), but she is a former FAM teacher who returned to Minnesota to take the position at the beginning of this year, which contradicts the idea that it is such a terrible place to work. Yes, the director comes across as rigid and is not the best communicator. People with strong vision are often like this. The newly promoted associate director more than compensates and is doing wonders to improve communications. FAM is good for our whole family, as their expectations for timeliness, consistency and manners begin to shape our days and our child.
I am a former teacher at The French Academy of Minnesota and do not recommend it. The students and parents are outstanding but it is a risky choice. It is a Dickensian work environment, reflected by the chronic teacher turnover. The long-term mismanagement of the school has resulted in increasing instability; you may suddenly find that your child's grade is being combined with one or two others. As a reviewer below pointed out, this school is not accredited by the French Ministry of Education (only the daycare is accredited) nor by the State of Minnesota- I would ask yourself why this is the case. Your child s experience at this school will vary greatly from year to year. There are several better local choices; stable, accredited schools that offer more variety and resources, consistent delivery of curriculum, and a demonstrable commitment to improvement. Your child will develop an excellent level of French at this school but at the opportunity cost of a better overall education.
An immersion education is a long-term commitment. Rather than detail my opinion, I suggest that you thoroughly research this institution and decide if it s right for you. Objective information is hard to come by because this school is not accredited by either the state of Minnesota or Education Nationale (French government). The child care/pre-school, however, is accredited by the French Government and regulated by the MN Department of Human Services. There are nine violations from 2011 on the DHS website, but little other information. This school, like all others, has strengths and weaknesses which can be difficult to discover. My advice to anyone considering this school is to ask detailed questions, and to request unchaperoned meetings with teachers and parents of your choosing before making a decision.