My name is Jemylia and I’m the French mother of two charming boys in years 9 and 12. I don’t say they’re charming just because they are mine, but because they really are!
We moved to Olomouc from France in summer 2012 after I was headhunted by an energy company and lived there for two years. At that time, our two boys were 4 and 8 and we moved them from French schools in France to a British International School in Olomouc. We decided at such a young age it wasn’t a problem to change languages, even though some of our friends thought it was risky. However, having study at a French school abroad which had 80 nationalities. So, I had friends from all around the world who spoke different languages – German, Spanish, Japanese etc. and some of them didn’t speak French at all but we still managed to communicate between each other. So I know that language is not a barrier to communication and learning at such a young age.
My younger one, Mayiez, started in kindergarten and Ilyes started in year 4. Of course, they only spoke French at this time. But they knew, Mum speaks fluent Arabic, French and English as well as some German and Spanish. Dad speaks French and English, and a bit of German.’ So they knew that many different languages and cultures exist. We’ve always travelled with them and we are a family of mixed cultures so going abroad was set up like a super exciting adventure. For me, it was also like reliving the adventures I had as a child and the discovery of new cultures.
For Ilyes, it was and for the whole first semester it was like seeing without understanding any sounds. For Mayiez in kindergarten, he didn’t care. He was talking to everyone. In French. But he was talking. Then the magic happened after three months of being immersed in the language. All of a sudden, after the Christmas holidays, they both switched to English and started speaking as if they’d know English forever.
I really feel the lesson from this is that you can take young children, say from age 2 or 3 up to 10 or 12 and drop then into another language, culture and place and they will manage because they will just absorb it.
Then, after two years in Olomouc, we moved to Prague because it was more convenient for the several business travel. Both me and my husband, at least in pre-covid times, had to travel a lot for work. He regularly visited to the US and me to Russia and Eastern Europe.
In Prague, we had two options: either to carry on with the British system or switch back again to the French system. We decided to switch them back to the French school so they would have a solid basis in French.
After four years, we felt that an international and multicultural aspect was missing from their education. It was too narrowly focused on French and we felt we had one final opportunity to switch school systems again before they entered a more critical age.
Ilyes, who went into year 10 at PBIS, was very reluctant of course and didn’t understand why we wanted him to change. But we explained we weren’t leaving the country, his friends will still be around, we were just changing the system to open his eyes to something new.
By going back to the British system, and specifically PBIS, I have to say that having seen my kids in two different educational systems, we, today, as parents are convinced this was the best choice. They are now in a system that better fits their way of thinking and has been magical in helping them progress and become more confident.
Within the British system and specifically PBIS, we have had such supportive teachers and staff who really pay attention to the kids, whether it is in terms of teaching or interactions between the kids and staff. We feel like PBIS welcomed us as part of their family and continue to treat us as such. We love PBIS because it’s very community-oriented from top to bottom. I was involved as a mum in the PBIS friends which was a great experience.
This past year, during the pandemic, we are really pleased to be with PBIS. I remember the start of online schooling very well. My husband and I were more than impressed when we saw the announcement at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday 10th of March 2020 that schools would be closed and then received a message from PBIS the same day at 2 p.m. saying, that everything was prepared and online classes would continue with exactly the same schedule from 8 a.m. the next day. And that was great for us. We were all facing so much other stress around the pandemic, but at least our kids’ education was taken care of and our kids were not left floating.
At that moment, it felt as if the whole world was changing around us but school was stable. Of course, things had changed. I’m not physically dropping off my children and stopping for coffee with a friend, but that’s OK. The most important part, education, has been maintained. Everybody at PBIS was focussed, planning and doing things ahead to face it in the best way possible. Yes, there were some teething problems and technical difficulties during the first week, but still, the framework was there.
We are parents who like to give different experiences to our children as we believe there is no wrong or bad experience. The current situation helps them to face a life that is changing and evolving. They definitely prefer to be at school with their friends and seeing their teachers, but they also have learned how to deal with things if they have no choice and that is very important.