Early Childhood   La Maternelle

La Maternelle is the Early Childhood program of L’Ecole Française du Maine. Instruction occurs completely in French, and the curriculum follows the model of the world-renowned Ecoles Maternelles of France. Because we believe each child’s blossoming happens by developing his/her strengths and creativity, La Maternelle combines song, play, art, and movement with structured learning in the classroom. Through activities that challenge and captivate young children, we instill a life-long desire to learn and create.

La Maternelle uses a play-based approach to focus on five distinct areas:

  • Acquiring Language and Discovering Writing
  • Becoming a Student
  • Moving and Communicating with One’s Body
  • Discovering the World
  • Perceiving, Feeling, Imagining, and Creating

Most students enter our program speaking only English. To give these children a strong start in the French language, our Maternelle classes are taught entirely in French, allowing them to take full advantage of their natural ability to develop language effortlessly and naturally at a young age. We are also constantly amazed at how quickly French-speaking children learn English by learning and playing alongside their English-speaking friends. We don’t teach French; we teach in French! 

    Curriculum Guide

    French Immersion

    At L’Ecole Française du Maine, we don’t teach French – we teach IN French! Our Early Childhood Program immerses our youngest learners in the French language and culture, and they build their French language skills in this natural context. Language immersion, especially at a young age, capitalizes on a child’s natural ability to learn a language. In early childhood, children are developing their language skills every minute of the day. The more vocabulary they are exposed to, the more they can learn. Immersion in another language provides just that- an environment that is constantly filled with rich new vocabulary to stimulate brain and language development. Comprehension comes first and then speaking. The children quickly pick up frequently used French words and phrases and soon begin inserting these into their English speaking. For example, “I need to go to the toilette to laver les mains,” or “I am putting away my cahier.” By the end of Moyenne Section, they respond to their teachers primarily in French and form complete sentences and converse with increasing ease by the end of Kindergarten.

    Hands-on Learning

    In Early Childhood, learning is all hands-on! Using manipulatives and a variety of materials, the children develop mathematical skills and concepts. They sort, order, align, build, take apart, and put together. They fold, cut, dip, dabble, draw, and more- and every lesson, no matter what it is, always has a secondary lesson plan of language development. Each math, science, or gross motor activity presents an opportunity to build vocabulary and conceptual thinking. Children learn best by doing and experiencing with all of their senses engaged. For example, grouping manipulatives by number, size, or color teaches several lessons simultaneously. Children learn the concept of one-to-one correspondence and how to differentiate items by their characteristics. They are developing fine motor skills by handling and placing the objects as they practice the vocabulary of colors, values, attributes, and more. Best of all, hands-on learning is fun!

    “Play is the work of the child”

    Maria Montessori

    The Early Childhood Program centers on the belief that children learn through play. In La Maternlle, children have lots of free play opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom. The classroom provides a variety of learning centers from which the children can choose. These include a block and building area, a dramatic play kitchen area, multicultural dolls, an art center, a library reading area, and a train table. Montessori-inspired activities proposed on trays invite the children to play and learn independently. These hands-on activities are rotated and changed frequently to reflect the current classroom themes. Play is healthy and keeps children active. Through play, children learn and develop cognitive skills, like math and problem solving, as they make pretend in a grocery store. They practice social skills interacting with their classmates. They increase their vocabulary as they explore new toys and situations. They learn literacy skills by identifying sight words that label the classroom toys and materials and pretend to order a restaurant. Block play develops physical and mathematical skills as children construct and balance blocks in towers. Outdoor play takes place in all seasons, offering children endless opportunities to grow strong and healthy bodies. Whether sledding in the snow, gathering leaves and acorns for pretend currency, or building a fort, children use industry and creativity as they interact with nature. Children practice and reinforce their learning in multiple areas during play and, at l’école, children learn and play- en français!

    Music Arts and Suzuki

    At its inception, the school’s vision centered upon the relationship between music education and the immersion process of learning a second language. They are partners in full education. In our Cycle 1/ Maternelle Program, Music Education is comprised of 2 offerings: The Suzuki Method and Music Together

    Our Suzuki Music Program follows Dr. Suzuki’s Mother Tongue approach – listen and learn, just as the children are doing in language immersion. We’re happy to collaborate with the Maine Suzuki Association to offer our students private, on-site Suzuki lessons in piano, guitar, violin, and cello. Parent involvement is required for private lessons. Most children begin taking lessons in Grande Section/Kindergarten, although starting sooner is also possible.

    L’Ecole Française du Maine is proud to offer the area’s only Music Together In-School Program in our Early Childhood Program through Kindergarten. The children look forward to this fun and engaging activity each week with great anticipation. Music Together program models are designed to support children in achieving basic music competence—the ability to “speak” music’s language. The pleasure of singing, dancing, moving, and playing instruments with others engages children and can lead them to full participation in school and family music-making at home. Also, Music Together activities support children’s development in the following domains:

    • Music Learning and Development
    • Language Development and Emergent Literacy
    • Social and Emotional Development
    • Cognition and General Knowledge
    • Physical and Motor Development
    • Approaches to Learning 
      For more information about this highly acclaimed approach to teaching children the joy of music, visit: https://www.musictogether.com/schools

    Physical Education

    L’Ecole Française du Maine incorporates the benefits of our natural setting into the fabric of our students’ education. The playground and the outdoor campus are as much a part of the learning environment as indoor classrooms. We put a high value on the play experience and the multiple benefits of daily exercise. We recognize that the socialization of recess and shared activity teach important life lessons about respecting and supporting one another. Throughout the school year, the children in our Early Childhood Program enjoy daily lessons that promote their gross motor development. These activities also give us yet another opportunity to develop their language skills. As children learn kinesthetically and develop healthy bodies, they also are developing their minds. Physical activities also teach cooperation and social skills such as taking turns. The children enrich their vocabulary as they follow the directions to complete an obstacle course, for example. We call this “motricité” and it is a part of the daily program of “La Maternelle”.  Additionally, we offer yoga classes and a YMCA swim program in Early Childhood. Best of all, the surrounding nearby nature preserves and seashores provide opportunities for impromptu explorations.

    Visual Arts

    Our school views the arts as a fundamental part of cultural and language education. Integrated with the curriculum, visual arts projects and techniques are discovered in concert with what is typically seen as academic subjects.

    In La Maternelle, playful hands-on exploration through the visual arts is emphasized. Concepts of colors, black and white, three-dimensional creations, lines, forms, textures, and a wide range of media are explored each year with specific educational goals for the progression of their skills. We encourage free creativity without strict guidance, giving children the opportunity for their own discoveries in the context of art.