Friday, June 18, 2010

The South Freeport school adds a prestigious accreditation from France's Ministry of Education

The Portland Press Herald
Friday, June 18, 2010

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

(Click here to watch video)

FREEPORT - Tara and William Magaw moved to Maine so their children could attend L'Ecole Francaise du Maine.Gretchen and John Baker's children travel 90 miles from Hartland, near Skowhegan, to attend the French School of Maine.

Both couples saw something special in the 70-student school, in the pastoral village of South Freeport.

So, too, did the Ministry of Education in France.

On Thursday, the French consul general came from Boston to deliver an accreditation certificate recognizing the school as a bastion of French language, culture and education.

"It means the school meets our educational standards, both academic and administrative," Christophe Guilhou said before presenting the certificate to Willy LeBihan, a founder and director of the eight-year-old school.

"For the French government, this (accreditation program) is important because these students will know the French language and culture and they will share it," Guilhou said. "They will have a special link with France that has the potential to influence their careers and their relationships throughout their lives."

The French School of Maine is the third school in New England to be certified by the French government, after the International School of Boston and the French-American School of Rhode Island in Providence.

It's one of 40 accredited French schools in the United States that serve about 13,000 students and adhere to the French National Curriculum, which promotes bilingual and multicultural studies. The French School of Maine also bases its curriculum on the standards of Maine Learning Results.

Guilhou presented the accreditation certificate at South Freeport Church during the school's annual graduation and awards ceremony, which included student singers and musicians performing French songs. Four students graduated from Grade 7: Anna Bilodeau of Monmouth, Anna MacLean of Camden and Elise LeBihan of Freeport, and another who did not want to be identified.

To become accredited, the school produced a 100-page education plan, and French education officials observed classes in action. The review took nearly three years.

"It has been a long, hard process and it's really nice to have our work validated and recognized," said Beth LeBihan, a founder and director of the school.

LeBihan said accreditation will help the school recruit teachers from France because it's now considered part of the French school system. When teachers take sabbaticals to work in Maine, they will continue to advance up the pay scale and contribute to their pension plans in France.

In addition, students who have at least one parent who is a French citizen can apply for scholarships from the French government, LeBihan said. The French School of Maine has about 15 students who have French citizenship ties, and receive about $100,000 in scholarships. The school's annual tuition ranges from $9,000 for preschool programs to $11,000 for grades 1 through 7.

Tara and William Magaw moved to Portland three years ago after visiting the French School of Maine. They had lived abroad for several years and wanted to send their children to an international school.

Now, 4-year-old Kale Magaw is in the preschool program and 15-month-old Madison Magaw is waiting in the wings. William Magaw commutes daily on the Downeaster train to his job at State Street Bank in Boston, where he oversees employees in several countries, including 20 people in China.

Given their global experiences, the Magaws said they're glad that the French School of Maine also teaches Mandarin Chinese.

"With the world changing the way it is, it's important to be able to learn about and adapt to other cultures," Tara Magaw said.

For Gretchen and John Baker, a family physician in Newport, the French School of Maine offered small classes and a full-time gifted-and-talented program for their children, Breac, 11, and Maille, 7.

"The bilingual component is an add-on," Gretchen Baker said. "What we have here is excellence in education."

Baker and her kids have learned to make the best of the 180-mile, three-hour round trip each day. While on the road, the kids do homework on custom-built desks, practice guitar or watch DVDs. They stop along the way for hockey or lacrosse games in Gardiner, dance lessons in Augusta or Scout meetings in Hartland.

The kids' grandfather, Darrell Neal, assumes driving duties a few days each week. While they are in school, Baker or Neal naps in the minivan, runs errands in the Portland area or visits the local library. Their days start around 6 a.m. and end around 7:30 p.m.

"The drive is the only hard thing my kids do," Baker said. "And they both love to go to school."

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

Graduation Commencement Speaker: Norman Beaupre

photo by Nick Cowenhoven

Norman Beaupré was born in Southern Maine and grew up speaking French in Biddeford, Maine. He did his undergraduate studies at St. Francis College in Biddeford Pool and then moved on to Brown University for graduate work and received his Ph.D. in French literature in 1974.

In 2000, he became Professor Emeritus after 30 years of teaching Francophone and World Literature at the University of New England. Traveling extensively, he spent two sabbaticals in Europe where he got the inspiration for several of his books.

Beaupré writes in French and in English. His first book, L'Enclume et le Couteau - the Life and Works of Adelard Coté, was published in 1982 by the National Materials Development Center in Bedford, N.H and is now out of print.

Last summer, La Souillonne, Deusse, was released by Llumina Press. It is a sequel to his very well received 2006 book, La Souillonne, monologue sur scène. La Souillonne was performed in Paris in October 2007 with a Maine actress, Marie Cormier. Then it was on to Dijon and Angers.

In 2009, Beaupre released Voix Francophones de Chez Nous, a collection of tales and stories in French with several contributors who each wrote their tales and the English translation of his very popular earlier work, La Souillonne.

To receive timely announcements relating to Beaupré and other Franco-American writers, join the Franco-American Connection mailing list or subscribe to the Franco-American Connection blog.

L'École française du Maine homologuée par l'AEFE

Les enfants de l'école élémentaire de l'École Française du Maine devant les portes de l'établissement, à South Freeport.

Jonas Cuénin - 16 juin 2010

L'École Française du Maine reçoit aujourd'hui l'homologation par l'agence pour l'enseignement du français à l'étranger (AEFE) en présence du consul général de France, Christophe Guilhou. Une reconnaissance de 3 ans de travail.

L'École française du Maine, basée à South Freeport, sera officiellement reconnue ce jeudi l'Éducation nationale. Par l'annonce du consul général de France Christophe Guilhou, elle deviendra la 40e école aux États-Unis homologuée par la France. « C'est la suite d'un processus de trois ans », explique Willy Le Bihan, directeur de la structure indépendante qu'il a fondée il y a 8 ans.

Évaluée pendant cette période par l'inspecteur de l'Éducation nationale pour l'Amérique du Nord, Georges Alzina, l'École française du Maine a dû remplir un certain nombre de critères pour obtenir la reconnaissance de la France. « On doit être une école à la française, explique Willy Le Bihan. Avec un conseil d'école dans lequel se réunissent équipe pédagogique et parents. Ce qui est propre au système français. Avec un projet d'école sur 3 ans approuvé par l'inspecteur et qui dévoile plusieurs axes précis pour améliorer l'enseignement. Et surtout avec des professeurs français qui ont passé leur diplôme en France (ndlr, CAPES). C'est l'histoire de la poule et de l'œuf. »

Avant cette décision, l'École française du Maine bénéficiait d'un statut provisoire dit « d'habilités ». Pour le directeur, l'homologation a alors une « valeur très importante et juste ». « Je pense que c'est une décision pédagogique mais aussi diplomatique car la France reconnaît l'importance de la culture française dans l'État du Maine, ajoute Willy Le Bihan. Par le biais de notre école, nous allons la renforcer. »

Toutefois, seuls les 1er (maternelle et grande section) et 2e cycles (CP au CE2) seront reconnus. Pour le 3e (CM1 et CM2), il faudra encore attendre. « Nous n'avons pas fait la demande pour ces classes car, dans le souci d'avoir un dossier solide, nous pensions que les 2 premiers cycles étaient plus forts », répond le directeur de l'école, dans laquelle une année scolaire coûte entre 8 000 et 11 000$.

L'AEFE, une organisation interministérielle qui observe l'enseignement du français à l'étranger

Créée en 1990, l'agence pour l'enseignement du français à l'étranger (AEFE), structure placée sous la tutelle du ministère des Affaires étrangères et européennes, est chargée du suivi et de l'animation d'un réseau de 243 établissements à programme français (77 en gestion directe et 166 conventionnés) répartis dans près de 130 pays à travers le monde.

L'organisation doit assurer la continuité du service public d'éducation pour les enfants français (47 % de l'effectif total de ces écoles), de contribuer à la diffusion de la langue et de la culture françaises auprès des élèves étrangers et de participer au renforcement des relations entre les systèmes éducatifs français et étrangers. Une autre de ses missions est de veiller à la maîtrise de l'évolution des frais de scolarité pratiqués dans les établissements dont elle a la charge.

Infos pratiques :

École française du Maine

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Maine French School Poised to Win Rare Accreditation from France

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network
06/16/2010 Reported By: Tom Porter

Click here to listen.

Less than two miles from Route 1 in downtown Freeport is a little piece of France. The French School of Maine, or L'Ecole Française du Maine, is the state's only French immersion school, where children from pre-school to grade seven are taught in French from day one. Tomorrow's a big day for the school -- and not just because it's graduation. The 'Ecole' is to receive full accreditation from the French government -- an honor only given to two other schools in New England.
That's according to director Beth Lebihan, a native Mainer who co-founded the school with her French husband Willy, both of whom are experienced educators. "This is our eighth operating year of the school. We originally opened the school in Winthrop, where we had 12 students, and five years ago we moved down to the Freeport area, and we have now 70 students enrolled."

As the description suggests, children learn to speak French like a native by being immersed in the language and culture of France.

Beth Lebihan: Everything is French. People think it's just a school where they learn French, that's not right. They're learning math, and science and history. They're learning it all, they're just learning it all in French. French is the language of instruction.

Tom Porter: So as soon as they walk through those doors in the morning, no more English.

BL: Exactly, and we try to make it culturally as authentic as we can. We bring all of the materials from France, all of the books, even the paper -- in France the paper has lines both vertically and horizontally -- and so we have all the paper, the 'stiloplumes,' everything as if they were a student in France. When sit down at their table, or when they enter the classroom, it's like walking into France."

This group of kindergarten and first grade children are unknowingly sharpening their French-speaking skills with a game of 20 questions. First grader Alexis Eckert, says speaking French is now easy.

Alexis Eckert: We were playing a game where we have to find out what a person brought to show people.

Tom Porter: How do you find that out?

AE: You guess -- in French.

TP: Is that difficult for you to do?

AE: Not really.

Valerie LeGenti -- originally from Brittany in France -- is outside supervising a kindergardeners' sack race. She's one of seven native French speakers on the faculty and teaches the school's younger children. The first few months, she says, can be confusing for new arrivals, as their young brains struggle to make sense of two different languages.

Valerie LeGenti: Especially at the beginning of the year and then they get used to it, and then they catch it, and now it's the end of the year and we only speak French.

Tom Porter: So you're probably the teacher that's teaching them when they make that click in their head and they go from being confused to being bi-lingual. How does that feel?

VL: It feels amazing. Sometimes we see just in one week they click. They can begin to speak to us in French, and they were speaking to us in English one week before. It's amazing, They are sponge!

"Developmentally, children in the pre-school age are picking up an average of 200 words a day," says school director Beth Lebihan. Lebihan says the earlier a child is exposed to another language the better. Indeed, the French School of Maine takes kids as young as a two -- as long as they're potty-trained.

"Their little minds are hearing words and sorting through them and trying then to place them and figure out what they mean and try them out. So that's really what they're doing just naturally and they're not interested in sorting out what language it's supposed to be, they're little sponges and it really works quite magically."

"I didn't understand that well, but after a couple of months I really enjoyed because I had new friends and stuff," says fourth-grader Eva Then, who is coming to the end of her second year at the school.

Eva Then: I would understand French like a couple of months later, and then I was able to speak and not be able to have to not know the words that well.

TP: And now if you want to suddenly just start talking in French you can do it without thinking about it?

ET: Yeah I guess.

All the programs taught by the school, follow French ministry of education directives. After a rigorous three-year inspection process, the French government is poised to recognize this commitment by awarding the school full academic accreditation -- something only given to 46 other schools in all of the U.S. and Canada.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

TD Charitable Foundation Grant

We are thrilled to share the wonderful news that L'Ecole Française du Maine has just received a grant for $4,500 for our playground project.
This brings us closer to our goal of raising $50,000 dollars to build a new playground for our school and community. Special thanks go to Christelle Belleville for helping us present the grant proposal to TD Charitable Foundation; her participation made all the difference! Merci!

If your family is interested in contributing to this project, donations of any amount are greatly appreciated and are fully tax-deductible. Please make checks payable to L'Ecole Française du Maine/ - Playground fund. Together we can make this dream come true.

Have a great summer!


Les Franco Americains: The French School wins accreditation

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Maine's French immersion primary school in Freeport recently received its full academic accreditation from the French government.

Willy Le Bihan, Director and Founder of L'Ecole Française (The French School) said the process for accreditation by Agence pour l'Enseignement du Français à l'Etranger took three years to complete.

"The accreditation process was rigorous," said Le Bihan. A two-week site visit by the Minister of French Education, conducted during this past school year, was required.

"Our immersion program supports Maine's Franco-American heritage," said Le Bihan. "We provide great opportunities for children to receive quality education while growing up to be bilingual in French and English," he said.

Helping to retain French as a language spoken in the homes of Franco-American families is one of the cultural goals of L'Ecole du Française.

"Some students speak French with their Franco-American grandparents in the home," said Le Bihan. This is particularly interesting because the grandparents grew up speaking French while their children, who are the students' parents, are often not fluent in the language. As a matter of fact, some students' parents are in a position of asking their children to translate conversations between them and the grandparents.

An official presentation of the academic accreditation will be made Thursday by Christophe Guilhou, Consul General of France in Boston, during the school's graduation ceremony in Freeport.

L'Ecole du Française joins the International School of Boston in Cambridge and the French-American School in Providence, R.I., as accredited French immersion schools in New England. With the addition from Maine, 40 French immersion schools are located throughout the United States, accredited by the French government's Ministry of Education.

With the accreditation, L'Ecole du Française is in the position of attracting more French teachers from France to teach at the Freeport campus. Teachers who are French nationals can receive three-year sabbaticals from their positions in France while on the faculty of L'Ecole du Française or other accredited schools. Their positions in France will be protected during the sabbaticals.

A three-year plan required for accreditation included two goals. One is to improve French language proficiency in speaking, reading and writing. The second is to educate the students about Maine's Franco-American history.

Students recently created a play covering Maine's 400 years of French history, beginning with Samuel de Champlain and his role in the founding of the St. Croix Island settlement in the St. Croix River, up until modern times. Student also interview Franco-Americans to learn more about the French presence in Maine.

All academic subjects at L'Ecole du Française are taught in French by native speakers of the language. Curriculum follows the directives of both the French Ministère de L'Education Nationale and the educational guidelines set by the state of Maine. Additionally, the L'Ecole anticipates receiving accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, it is hoped next year.

Seventy students attending L'Ecole in preschool through seventh grades are from the Portland, Camden and Lewiston areas. About 40 percent are from French European families. Graduates are accepted in schools throughout Maine and the U.S.

"Our curriculum is very strong. Our students do well on all the standardized tests," said Le Bihan.

"Clearly, the French government sees the accreditation as a long-term investment in Maine's French immersion education. This is a diplomatic recognition for Maine's French culture" said Le Bihan.

Information about L'Ecole can be found at

Juliana L'Heureux can be contacted at:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Suzuki concert of May 18: violin

On Tuesday May 18, 2010, the music students of L'Ecole Française du Maine performed for an audience of parents and friends. We enjoyed their wonderful performances on the violin, piano, guitar, mandolin and cello. Bravo to all the children!

Please click on the video above to watch an extract of Elise's violin performance. She was accompanied by Leah Neuchiller, piano teacher, and prepared this piece, La Folia by Corelli, with violin teacher Yasmin Craig Vitalius.

Suzuki concert of May 18: guitar

Guitar teacher Nathan Kolosko introduced Romain et Marine, who had prepared a very special duo.

Suzuki concert of May 18: piano

Maille-Mac played 'Over the Rainbow' by Arlen with her teacher, Leah Neuchiller.

Help finish the Cote family's new home!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

International week

Special Thanks to the Yilmaz Family who prepared some traditional dishes from Turkey on Monday.
Mary-Lou cooked the rest of the week, and as usual- everything was delicious!

Menu May 24 to May 28, 2010:

Beef Kofte
Fried Potatoes
Chic Pea Bean Stew
Rice Pudding

Schwaebische Maultaschen
German potato salad
Pumpernickel bread
Black forest cake

California roll
Beef teriyaki

Bean and tuna salad
Veal saltimbocca

Cream of mushroom soup
Chicken fricassee
Chocolate mousse

Friday, June 4, 2010

Concert in the park

Saturday, May 22, from 4 - 7 p.m. marked the kick-off event for L'Ecole Française du Maine's fundraising efforts to build a new community playground. The Picnic in the Park Concert featured the singing Sewall Family and the "Always One Band" who performed for the school and neighborhood community. Special thanks to school parent, Dan Sasse, for suggesting this wonderful band for our enjoyment!

Hamburgers, hot dogs, and baked goods were served. Valerie and Laura made crepes and a good time was had by all. One of the highlights included students dancing and singing with the band. Another highlight was the delicious and beautifully decorated cupcakes and baked goods Caryn Bickerstaff and Jessica Freedman provided by their newly formed company "CJ Sweets". Proceeds were donated for the playground renovation.

Many thanks go to all who supported the event by volunteering to help out with set-up, grilling and the other countless tasks, and to our sponsor, Fournier's Leadership Karate Centers, for donating the "fundraising thermometer" displayed on the school wall. The event raised awareness in the Freeport Community, and that was the first step in reaching our fundraising goal of raising $50,000 for a new playground in the South Freeport Community. Through this event and with thanks to your effort, interest and support, we have already begun to see thermometer rise!! Finally, we want to extend a very special "Merci beaucoup" to Tara Magaw for all of the time and care she put forth in organizing this wonderful and fun event!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Field trip to Wolfe's Neck farm for the 5/6/7 grade class

Photos by Warren Miskell

Geology field trip to Winslow Park for the 7th graders

Photos by Warren Miskell

Suzuki guitar graduations

Congratulations to Chloe (Book 2), Colin (Book 2) and Maille-Mac (Book 1) 
for such an accomplishment. Nathan Kolosko 's Guitar Studio had an amazing year
 with steady progress.

It is not too late to register for NESI (New-England Suzuki Institute) where 
Nathan will be leading numerous workshop from June 27th to July 3rd, 2010
The New England Suzuki Institute at Saint Joseph’s College, on Sebago Lake in Standish, is open to students of violin, viola, cello, piano and guitar and their parents who work with a Suzuki teacher and study the Suzuki repertoire. Traditional students of piano and guitar are also welcome, and traditionally trained teens may participate in the Young Artist Program. Daily offerings include the core curriculum, enrichment classes, recitals, parent classes and recreation. In addition, we offer two opportunities for Teacher Education: ‘Every Child Can!© An Introduction to Suzuki Education’ and Violin Teacher Training Unit 3. NESI is committed to offering a comprehensive and quality curriculum for all ages in an atmosphere of individual attention.

Erika and Katie at L'Ecole Française du Maine

Erika and I have been working at L’Ecole Française du Maine for a little over three weeks. Here is what they have to say about the experience:

It has been quite the experience. The children have taught me more than what I expected. I have learned to laugh at myself when I am with the kids, and I hope they have learned something from me in return. They have accepted two brand new strangers with open arms, which to me shows strong character that each and every one of them possesses. - Katie

My time here at L’Ecole Française has been eye opening. The children never cease to amaze me with their abilities. Through my interactions with the kids, my understanding of French has improved. I have learned more from them than I thought was possible. The students and teachers have been accepting and helpful in my attempt to learn French. I am grateful that I was given the chance to come to L’Ecole Française, and I look forward to coming back to visit. - Erika

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Photo Warren Miskell

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”


Ambassador of France to the United States Mr. Pierre Vimont
, Beth and Willy
, Mr. Maurice Gervais, President of the French American Chamber of Commerce in Boston

Consul General of France in Boston Mr. Christophe Guilhou
, Ambassador of France to the United States Mr. Pierre Vimont
, Beth and Willy
, Mr. Maurice Gervais, President of the French American Chamber of Commerce in Boston

Honorary Consul of France in Maine Mr. Severin Beliveau
, Beth and Mrs. Cynthia Beliveau

Every year, the FACCNE hosts the Business Award Dinner to honor a company who has demonstrated an exemplary contribution to the French-American business relationship. This year, the FACCNE honored the Chairman, President and CEO of Charles River, Mr. James C. Foster.

There was several notable guests at this dinner, such as the French Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Pierre Vimont. Also present was the Consul General, Mr. Christophe Guilhou and the president of the FACCNE, Mr. Maurice Gervais, along with the Secretary for Housing and Economic Development for the State of Massachussetts, Mr. Gregory Bialecki.

This formal event was attended by 200 guests, including CEOs and senior-level executives representing French, American and other nationalities. Other confirmed sponsors for this year's gala included Air France, Arnold, Natixis Global Asset Management, Idenix, Dassault Systemes, Essilor, and Vacovec Mayotte & Singer.

Putting a Precocious Palate to Work

Please use the following link to view an article in the New York Times about Pascaline LePeltier, wine director at Rouge Tomate in New York:
Pascaline is a friend of Elodie Le Nezet-Soule and we hope to invite her in Freeport next year for a wine tasting.