KidooLand –The past ... the present .. the future
We need to roll back to 2001/2, I was on maternity leave with our first baby Louis. I had a really great management role in IT for a huge multinational.
All my university education and reading while pregnant told me I needed to be there as much as possible for that baby. Maternity leave was only 6 months paid + 3 months non paid in the UK at the time .
During my leave, while the baby slept I set up an Au Pair agency so that we could welcome our own French Au Pair to help me in my return to work and get Louis’ ear used to French sounds.
I then approached my very understanding boss and said I’d love to come back but only 2 days in the office and 1 day at home with Au Pair support.
I was so lucky that he and the company supported me and installed an ISDN line.
Louis went to creche for 2 days a week. It was a great work-subsidised creche with great communication with the parents . Despite an amazing environment, he just wanted to be at home with me and our Au Pair.
14 months later when we had our 2nd baby, Daisy, we decided that I should prepare to pause my time in the I.T. world to spend time at home with both of them. We continued hosting French Au Pairs through my agency that I continued to run and I joined lots of mum and baby clubs and toddler activities which were experiencing a boom in Sussex at that time.
We then as a family decided to relocate to France. I won’t lie there was culture shock.
We had read the books but the internet was in its most basic form in France then. Most people didn’t have email addresses (they still had Minitel !!)
The difference in what was available for 0-3 years in the UK and France was dramatic.
Other than the PMI and a swimming class, there was virtually nothing for a parent to do with their child before they started school.
Where was the French equivalent of Tumbletots, the Gymboree, The Monkey Music, The Little Dippers, the Indoor playcentres that we had attended in the UK?
I personally was at a turning point.
Do I get my career back on track and take an I.T. Cadre position in Sophia Antipolis?
Speaking with friends who had gone back to work in France however, Part time was not the same as the UK , they only had the Wednesday off!! In addition, children were dropped off early, picked up late.
Every piece of research I had read, told me this was not a great solution for the 0-5 years.
Working for a company did not seem like the best option so I researched setting up my own.
In 2006, Fun City , Royal Kids, Circus Party did not exist.
I spent months researching the laws and possibilities of opening an indoor playcentre and got to the point of speaking with suppliers and discussing funding.
However things in our family’s childcare were not going as hoped.
Louis was 4 and his teacher was insisting I speak to him at home in French even though his linguistic ability in English was advanced and he was keeping up in French class. In fact I knew that as we were immersed in French life, maintainting the English was going to become the challenge.
As a graduate of linguistics and ex teacher of languages in French schools, I knew this advice was wrong and that the teacher had no interest or understanding of bilingualism.
I didn't blame her, there was still a misunderstanding of bilingualism at the time and she didn't have the time to think individually about the child's needs.
Due to large class sizes, the system overbearing and strict for someone so little. It had to be strict to control the students but it was heartbreaking to see.
I also had to think about my working year. Did I really want to put him into the Wednesday and holiday programmes with young animateur who seemed to shout a lot?
His future CP teacher was going to be a mum I knew outside the school gates, who would never speak to me in English and yet was going to be teaching them English.
Daisy was a 2 year old toddler attending 2 half days of daycare . Compared to our private UK creche experience, I didn’t feel we were welcomed.
The team just didn’t seem happy in their roles, I never got feedback on what she did when with them, staff absences were high and prolonged .
She was more of a tick in and out than in a place that was focused on nurturing her at a key development time.
Yes it was cheap, but at what cost?
All the reading I was doing at home showed me that this was basically cheap babysitting rather than focused on Early Years Foundation skills. I didn’t blame them, the funding obviously wasn’t there to create the right kind of educational setting that the 0-3 years needed.
Huge questions were forming in my head.
I couldn’t change the public system but I could set up my own nurturing environment for my own children.
I realised that the day to day running an indoor play centre would not help my family and so started the business plan for our own training centre that would become KidooLand.
I researched what was available locally for parents. Educationally there was very little for the 0-3 years .. a few international mum and baby groups and a lovely little baby dance school that closed in 2007.
KidooLand allowed me to setup a linguistic programme that would ensure my children became 100% bilingual. Using my UK experience of EYFS, we set it up to be a nurturing, caring and educational environment where the team loved working with each other, laughed, had fun planning great activities. The focus was on the child and helping them be their best selves.
It also allowed me to drop my children off at school and pick them up without using the garderies and I could bring them to work on Wednesdays and the holidays.
I got to know all the local schools of note, which schools seemed good, which ones were not. I was able to research the bilingual programmes like Sartoux, CIV and Fenelon at a time when many parents had never heard of them.
As an educator, I knew how important it was to visualise the stepping stones to success. To educate and nurture our children so that as many doors were open to them as possible.
To provide them with options and choices so they could live happy and fulfilling lives.
Indeed our youngest went to the Sartoux Primary school International Section then onto César in Roquefort before attending the CIV for lycee.
Our oldest had the choice between the CIV and Fenelon systems and chose to go to Fenelon for college
By the end of their school life I was in the fairly unique position of having first-hand comparable experience of several school systems; the good the bad and the ugly.
THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY
While we have tried to celebrate much of the good, sadly there is a lot of bad and ugly in the mainstream public system. It has been an insightful journey.
I’ve seen through friends how dyslexia, dyscalculia and ADHD are handled. Or not.
Class size increase from a manageable 22 to an unimaginable 33.
How this preposterous class size kills class creativity and interaction. I know understand why so many French parents can write English but can't speak it with confidence.
Teachers are frustrated, bored and high school literally becomes what I call “death by powerpoint”
In this day and age, getting students to copy down a tired and boring text, when it could be emailed is beyond comprehension. They love to learn from Youtube and tiktok , powerpoint does not compare.
We need to look to how they want to learn and incorporate this into the classrooms.
There are so many tools available for teachers to make class interactive and enjoyable but lack of funding, increased class size and low moral create the perfect storm.
Mainstream education is stuck in the 1900’s for the most part.
The hours are far too long and the children are not being prepared for the fast paced world they will enter post bac.
I've also observed lack of classroom resources and even basic needs like toilet paper and soap.
The bilingual and french systems have put too much pressure on our children, function in an environment of critisism and negativity and too many high school students are withdrawing, are depressed and we have seen locally most tragically several cases of suicide.
IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE THIS WAY
It doesn't need to be this way. There is a different way to teach and learn.
We have been doing just that for 16 years. Time and again we hear parents tell us "my child prefers his English school to his regular school" .
As KidooLand is my own company I have more freedom to set the programmes and select the teachers.
I have spent time learning in Finland, the UK, Ireland looking at how they teach and have plans to study more in 2023.
I bring back to KidooLand here in France, some of the better ideas and make fundamental change locally.
It’s nearly 16 years since I first opened the doors.
We have welcomed nearly 7,500 of your children through our doors.
I have seen and heard a lot and am a continual learner with each year proving to be better in terms of overall quality than the last.
Even during the pandemic we learnt how to deliver fun lessons online which the majority of parents celebrated.
Many of your past students have gone onto amazing success in their own educational paths and we are proud to have been a little part of that journey.
We hope that our child focussed and fun approach to learning has had an impact.
UPDATE ON OUR CHILDRENS' JOURNIES
For us personally, our children left their schools with the Bac (Option International) with various mentions :-) :-)
They were accepted into great universities in the U.K.
Both children have a growth mentality, a resilient nature and a positive solutions-based mindset. Their entrepreneurial spirit comes from KidooLand which led to their international studies in their bilingual schools here in France and then onto the U.K.
Louis (now age 21) studied International Business with Psychology in Sussex during the pandemic. He set up his own small business and graduated in 2022. He is now travelling the world post covid .
He’s currently working for a multinational in Sydney Australia, skateboarding and surfing, hiking and experiencing a vibrant culture and community.
Daisy (now age 18) was thrilled to be accepted in beautiful University of Bath where she is reading Psychology and Education and hopes to also go study different global educational solutions before coming back to France. As it stands today, she wants to have an impact on education policy and its reform. She is part of the Bath French society, the HandBall team and enjoying English culture and community life.
So we are proud and happy parents. They are the pilots of their lived but lets be honest, this was not soley down to chance and luck.
It was a planned pathway. We build options into our plans, so they would have choices.
KidooLand has been the essential compliment to home and school life.
We worked really hard on their Emotional Quotient (EQ)as well as their Intellectual Quotient (IQ).
We have worked on building their self confidence and resilience and autonomy through many activities and workshops within KidooLand, at home and in school. Where we saw gaps in what was happening in school, we made sure there were opportunities in KidooLand to explore that.
I know that you have such dreams for your child too.
To travel and have international careers.
To have confidence in oneself and ones path in life.
To be happy.
I can tell you that I believe it is possible for all our children.
My gift to you for 2023 is that you too can benefit from everything that KidooLand offered my own children.
In the last 3 years we have expanded and grown our programmes.
Activities that had been on pause, are back open.
We are revisiting activities and workshops that we know children love.
The added benefit for you is that now 16 years on you have a tried and tested programme.
- Essential Early years groups for 0-3 years.
- Beginner programmes for 3-5 years,
- Accelerated programmes for 6-10 years.
- Teenage programmes that work on confidence and mindset.
The essential building blocks are there and yet each year we look to see how we can tweak and improve.
2023 and forward
I am at a very interesting cross roads personally.
So much extra free time now my children are on their own pathway but still young and invigorated enough to want to put back into community and drive educational reform forward.
2023 will bring even more Finland experiences, technology, and environment focussed workshops within the KidooLand walls.
No-one else in the Alpes Maritimes is doing what we do or has the experience and flexibility to be able to take the direction we can.
As it was for me, KidooLand continues to be an essential tool in your child’s educational development.
We have a strategy and the solid structure, to expand out into the Var and closer to Monaco.
We are looking to work with educational practitioners and other complimentary small businesses.
The next 15 years will be very interesting in Education and I look forward to sharing more of this with you directly.
Thank you to all of those who have been part of my journey to this point. I look forward to meeting all of those who will be part of my journey to the next point.
From my family and my team to yours, I wish you health, peace and happiness (and above all health ) in 2023.