A French Perspective in New York...
Join me as I search New York for everything that reminds me of Paris but of course is still New York. Follow me as I figure out what it means to be Paris in New York.
8.45am...I am running on the pavement of the Upper East Side hoping to stop a cab. Rush hour, no luck!
9.00am...Here I am in front of the door of Le Petit Paradis, On time but all sweaty. I open the door and enter a colorful and welcoming room filled with young "red-sweatered" kids.
Few are seated at the little painted tables, doing some activities. Counting sticks, working on letters, painting, pouring beans with spoons, learning how to lace a shoe...All in silence and calm. When they finish, they take the tray with the material and put in back on the shelves. They can pick another tray to work on the next activity.
Some others are playing on the floor with blocks, reading a book on a bench, pressing an orange for a snack (fresh squeezed orange juice for everyone and only organic food !), playing at the mini-kitchen or dressing up in costumes.
While I am watching them, a little boy named Raphael comes to me pulling a beaded necklace he just did. "Oh, you are walking your dog !", I tell him. From that moment, he is not going to let me go anywhere without him. Full of imagination, very attaching, he makes me laugh and forget about my rush of the morning.
Le Petit Paradis is a good mixture between Montessori and Bank Street. Kids from 2.9 months to 5 years old are mixed together, everyone learning from each other Hand-Eye Coordination, Respect for material, Focus on an activity. But at the same time there is a big space for imagination and creativity through pretend play, music and movement or art. Both philosophies encouraging community living.
Everyone seat on the floor around the two teachers. It is Circle Time. One teacher is American (former teacher at Trinity School) and the other one French Canadian (former librarian). They switch from French to English and kids have to do the same. Most of them come from a bilingual family but some are from English speaking parents or with parents coming from a foreign country with no French at home. I heard a 5 years old girl speaking French after only two months at the preschool. Both of her parents are Americans, none of them speak French ! "They are like a sponge at that age" explained to me Christina Houri, the founder of Le Petit Paradis. She herself grew up around 7 languages and attended the Lycee Francais de New York in High school. " At the beginning, they absorb. Then, they mix the two languages and eventually one day, they just separate both and are able to switch from one language to another !"
10.30am...Kids and teachers are dancing on French music. They talked about the date, letters and words, and they learned about the Ocean and recycling.
Time to get dress to go to the local playground and time for me to leave...Bye bye, cute little red-coat children !
For your information, few spots are still available in the afternoon in January for the rest of the year.