The French American Academy, Jersey City, NJ

 

An Interview with Jean-François, Center Director, The French American Academy, Jersey City, NJ

The French American Academy, Jersey City, NJ is located in downtown Jersey City and walking distance from Grove Street Path Station. The French American Academy opened in the former St Mary High School. Their charming 3-story building, offers 30 classrooms with bright light, warm colors and ample space. We were warmly greeted by their faculty and students. A special thank you to their center director, Jean-François, for giving us his time.

When did The French American Academy of Jersey City open it’s doors:

This school is part of a group of schools called the French American Academy founded 10 years ago. The French American Academy first opened three Pre-K classes in September 2007 in Dumont, NJ. The school has grown ever since.

We moved to a bigger campus in New Milford in Bergen County in July 2010 and shortly after  opened a second campus in Morris Plains in Morris County in September 2010. The Jersey City campus opened its doors in 2012.

The French American Academy, Jersey City, NJ

What kind of curriculum do you follow & how is it different from other schools in the area:

The French American Academy of Jersey City is a private bilingual school. We offer an early-start, gradual immersion, dual language (French and English) education to students from Pre-K2 through 4th grade. From Sep 2017, we are expanding to 5th grade.

In Sep 2018 we will open the Middle school in Jersey City with 6th, 7th and 8th grades with French, American & Spanish tracks. We will be accepting students from various international backgrounds and communities.


There is more emphasis on the French language in the early years (Pre-K-Kindergarten) to set up the foundations. From 1st grade, instruction in English gradually increases and by 5th grade children are spending about 60% in French and 40% in English.

Bilingualism is at the core of our curriculum and in some classes like in science, students are taught in both languages with both an American and a French teacher present in the classrooms. It’s a demanding bilingual curriculum with an emphasis on projects and investigation. In our community, we welcome children from families whether these families speak French at home, or English or another language.

Our school is accredited by both, Middle School Association on College and Schools, and the National French Ministry of Education, and is a member of New Jersey Association of Independent School.

The French American Academy, Jersey City, NJWhat is the student/teacher ratio in your school: 
5:1 in Pre-K (the legal requirement is 6:1)
8:1 in Pre-K for three year old (the legal requirement is 10:1)
10:1 in Pre-K for four year old (the legal requirement is 12:1)
12:1 in Kindergarten (the legal requirement is 15:1)
16:1 in First Grade (there is no more legal obligation but the public school ratio is usually 25:1)
18:1 in Second Grade and up (there is no more legal obligation but the public school ratio is usually 25:1)

The French American Academy, Jersey City, NJDo you have early drop off and after care options available:

The French American Academy, Jersey City, NJ school day runs from 8.30am -3.15pm. Before-school-care opens at 7:30am.
After-school-care starts at 3.15pm and ends at 6:30pm.
A bus from Bus4us company brings the students from Weehawken / Hoboken to Jersey City in the morning and take them back in the afternoon.

Do you provide an option for catered lunch:

In Jersey City we partner with Simply Gourmet. You can easily order your child’s lunch online with them or send your child with a lunch box. Their meals are nutritious, delicious, and kid friendly. Our other campuses have their own catering company. We have this planned for Jersey City too in the future.

The French American Academy, Jersey City, NJWhat extracurricular activities do you offer:

Enrichment classes typically run from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Offerings may include:
Art, Sports (Soccer, Tennis and Team Games), Hip-Hop, Music (Guitar and Piano private lessons), Chess, Cooking, Woodworking, Programming
Our Enrichment Program offers every day at least two different classes: one for older children and one for younger children.

Students also enjoy a huge inhouse  gymnasium for physical education or indoor recess.

Do you offer Summer Camp programs:

The French American Academy, Jersey City’s Summer Camp program runs for 8 weeks (end June – mid August)

We also offer mini camps in February and over Spring break.

What would you like to say to our families:

Everyone is welcomein The French American Academy, Jersey City, NJ! We also have Financial Aid budgets for qualifying families.
The French American Academy is a school of excellence and we hope you will give this gift to your child.

Final Camp Riverbend Open House May 6

Choosing a camp for this summer?

Join us at our final spring Open House Saturday May 6, 11 am – 2 pm.  Last day to catch our early bird enrollment discount!  Games, crafts, and cooking for children and parents.  You can meet some of our amazing counselors and tour the camp site. Free!  RSVP required to RSVP@campriverbend.com or 908-580-CAMP.

Camp Riverbend is 30 minutes from downtown Jersey City; daily summer bus service included.

Camp Riverbend “Wild West” Open House Saturday April 8

Choosing a camp for this summer?
Join us at our Open House Saturday April 8, 10 am – 12 noon. We’re rounding up cowpokes and buckaroos to join us for some rootin’-tootin’ “Wild West” games, crafts, and cooking for children and parents. You can meet some of our amazing counselors and tour the camp site. Free! RSVP required to RSVP@campriverbend.com or 908-580-CAMP.
Camp Riverbend is 30 minutes from downtown JC; daily summer bus service included

Camp Riverbend “Alien Invasion” Open House

 

Choosing a summer camp?

Come sample Camp Riverbend’s awesome summer activities this winter at our “Alien Invasion” Open House Saturday February 25, 10 am – 12 noon.  We will have lots of fun Riverbend activities for kids and parents, run by our amazing counselors, including out of this world games, crafts and cooking.  Take a tour of the camp site with our directors.  Free!  RSVP required to RSVP@campriverbend.com or 908-580-CAMP.

Camp Riverbend is 30 minutes from downtown Jersey City; daily summer bus service included

Camp Riverbend Open House, Sunday Jan 22

Choosing a camp for this summer?

Come sample Camp Riverbend’s awesome summer activities this winter at our “Secret Agent Training” session.  We will have lots of fun Riverbend activities for kids and parents, run by our amazing counselors, including  spy games, undercover crafts and secret-ingredient cooking.  Take a tour of the camp site with our directors.  Free!  RSVP required to RSVP@campriverbend.com or 908-580-CAMP.

Camp Riverbend is 30 minutes from downtown JC and Hoboken; daily summer bus service included.camp-riverbend-jan-17-open-house

How to Host a Playdate: 10 Tips

First time hosting a play date? Never fear – it’s easier than you think. Here are a few tips to help your play day go off without a hitch.

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1. Provide snacks. Choose healthy snacks like apple slices or everyone’s favorite goldfish. If you’re not sure about the dietary concerns of your guests, feel free to ask the other parents before they arrive. Send a simple text, “Does Sasha have food allergies?”

2. Put your pets away. Since we’re on the topic of allergies, some parents and even adults have allergies to animals that you may not be aware of. In addition, while your child loves your dog, the other child might have limited experiences with animals, and your dog’s excitement could terrify your guest.

3. Offer your guest a drink as soon as possible. Coffee, tea, water, or soda are good options to start with. You might even offer to have a glass of wine together. Let’s put it this way: if you’re willing t o have a glass of wine in the middle of the day, maybe she is too. It doesn’t hurt to throw it out there. (Hint: If you invite me over, I like red.)

IMG_22284. Prepare your child for the play date. If there are any special toys that your child then not want to share, have your child to put those toys away before the play day begins. Having that conversation ahead of time will help with some of the stress of sharing those coveted toys.

5.  Do not turn on the TV. The kids are there to play. Let them do that.

6. Turn on the music. To that point, sometimes too much silence is off-putting. Put some light music on in the background. Let your home be inviting.

7. Tidy up before your play date. Not during. Again, let the kids play. (Note: If you’re the guest, help clean up before you go. Even if the host says, “Oh you don’t have to do that.” You do. She’s just being nice.)

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8. Be clear about the parking or stoller situation. As we live in a very dense area, sometimes it is difficult to figure out what to do with your car or your stroller. Let your guest know where you typically park, or where you leave your stroller. If you have a parking spot in your garage, maybe you can move your car into the street before she gets there so she can park in your spot.

9. Do not hover over the kids. Spend some time getting to know your guest. Compare bedtime routines and dinner menus. Laugh a little. Friends are everything.

10. Connect. The best part of a play date is spending time with other adults. Learn more about the ways other people run their households. Try to be open and honest with other moms about what works for you and what doesn’t. Be willing to hear advice and offer yours.

Mel Kozakiewicz blogs at www.urdoingitright.com.

Bucket and Bay: Jen Kavlakov & Boris Kavlakov

Bucket and Bay in Jersey City

JCFamilies: Tell me about your business.

Jen: Bucket & Bay has been open a year and a half now. In the very beginning, it started out as my project.

Boris: But it’s hard to do something like this and not have the other person involved to some degree. You just share an idea and then that idea goes somewhere.

Jen: So ultimately Boris became a full-time, hands-on participant.

Boris: But I was always involved.

Jen: He’s always been our website and branding guy.

JCFamilies: What are some of the challenges?

Boris:  Running a business is a lot about prioritization and the list of things you have to do as a single proprietor is crazy, and you never get to do everything. Even the list of flavors that we want to create, we have had some ideas, like Old Fashioned Oatmeal, that have been on the docket since…

Jen: …since before we opened… and i has been “coming soon” for a while!

Bucket and Bay in Jersey CityBoris: And other things too – like we have a program where we provide our neighbors with 100% grass fed milk, fresh from the farm. We have wanted to expand that for a long time, but it wasn’t a priority. It was summer and summer is ice cream season.

Jen: My focus has always been in the kitchen and operational things that customers don’t always see but take a lot time, like organizing the team schedule.

Boris: We don’t have time to discuss everything.

JCFamilies: And you have kids too, right?

Jen: Yes, and that really adds a lot to the time pressures. We have two girls. They’re five and six, kindergarten and first grade. Mornings are whirlwinds of trying to get out of the house on time.

Boris: Morning are crazy, but very often both of us are there.

Jen: Which is extremely helpful.

Boris: We do a lot extracurricular activities, which is a luxury, because it takes time. There are not a lot of jobs that allow you to leave work and take your kids to ice-skating.

Jen: Or to a performance at the school. The last one started at 5:00. There are a lot of families where both parents cannot attend a performance at that hour.

Boris: While there are advantages to being a part of the corporate world, it’s organized and predictable, being a business owner gives us flexibility.

JCFamilies: I love the way it looks in here. It’s warm and inviting.

Boris: Thank you! We wanted our place to be warm and inviting like a Bucket and Bay in Jersey Citycoffee shop, not like a typical ice cream store.

Jen: Most ice cream shops are typical scoop shops – they feel cold – not a place where you want to hang out. And we feel that ice cream is very social in nature, we want people to relax and enjoy it.

Boris: So it feels like a coffee shop, but our core focus is still gelato!  And we do our gelato with passion and completely from scratch. Jen’s interest in ice cream started as a kid.

Jen: I grew up visiting my grandparents. My grandfather had an old wooden ice cream bucket that I’d find sitting in the middle of the garage churning away ice cream  – always vanilla

JCFamilies: What makes your ice cream special?

Boris: We start with the milk. We use the most amazing milk in the world – it’s grass fed milk – 100% grass fed. When cows eat exclusively grass, they produce less milk but it’s richer. That’s why it’s a bit more expensive too. But you can totally feel the difference in the way our gelato tastes.

Jen: And our gelato is not typically Italian, it is more modern American, made from scratch, with inspiration from all around the world. Our flavors are creative but also very elegant, they open up gradually as you eat them, often revealing multiple layers.

JCFamilies: Do you get time as a couple? Do you go on dates?

Jen: We do. But not very often.

Boris: Jen just gave me a present for my birthday. It was a handmade book of “tickets” that I can redeem for things like going out to a movie, a date night…

Jen: We do most things as a family, with the kids – which gives us time to be together and talk. But even when we’re out on dates, we still talk about the gelato and the cafe. We haven’t been able to draw that imaginary line that differentiates “this is for work” and “this is for us.”

JCFamilies: How do you decompress?

Jen: We were supposed to go sailing together. As we used to…

Boris: I teach sailing at the Manhattan Sailing Club, but we did find time to go out together on a boat in 2016.

JCFamilies: Do you watch Netflix?

Boris: We don’t binge watch the series. We watch movies.

Jen: Yeah. We recently watched that one movie – remember?

Boris: Yeah. (He doesn’t.)

Jen: I used to want to watch every single movie that was up for an award.

Boris: Yes… We used to host an Oscar’s party!

Bucket and Bay in Jersey CityJen: But now I enjoy coming to work every day.  People tell you, and it’s true – when you have your own business, it’s 24/7. We’re lucky because our business is a place where I would want to come and hang out

Boris: It does get a bit intense. Marrying someone and being in a business with someone is totally different.

Jen: Communication is key. Only we don’t have the same communication style. While we always have the same end goal in mind, the details and the strategy – which direction we’re coming from – is always very different. It helps to take a step back, and look at the whole picture. It’s something we don’t do nearly enough.

Boris: Last year we were on the beach for vacation, and we had a mini business meeting, thinking about all the different moving parts. We wrote them on a piece of cardboard that we found. We still have it. (Looks for it.)

Jen: Boris doesn’t like lists. I love lists.

Boris: (Finds it!) Tea was part of the plan. And look! It materialized!

JCFamilies: How do the kids fit in?

Boris: The kids have priority. That’s where our movie time went. From homework to extracurricular activities, all these things take time. Growing up with your parents having an ice cream shop – the kids are fully aware of it.

Jen: Sometimes they don’t like the ice cream shop.

Boris: Last year was challenging. We spent even more time at the cafe. Partly because we couldn’t afford to have as much help and we were not as organized – so we’d take turns. The kids knew when it was either mommy night or daddy night.

Jen: The kids requested more family nights. So we have that now.

Bucket and Bay in Jersey City

JCFamilies: Do you have advice for other couples in business together?

Jen: I’d definitely say: Communicate! You’ve got to have thick skin. You’ve got to let things go. Get over the small stuff.

Boris: And establish priorities. The fact that we have agreed that our kids are the top priority, helps us move smoothly through the day. Whatever happens, the kids have to get the attention they deserve.

Christine Goodman: Art House Owner and Jersey City Mom

Christine Goodman Art House Owner Jersey City

I’ve known Christine Goodman since before either of us had kids. It’s been amazing to grow into motherhood with her. Her words are always inspiring.

JCFamilies: Tell us who you are, professionally.

Christine Goodman: I am the founder and executive director of the visual and performing arts center Art House Productions. Now in its 16th year, we present plays, art exhibitions, and a quarterly citywide arts festival – JC Fridays.

Christine Goodman Art House Owner Jersey CityJCF: How did JC Fridays start?

CG: JC Fridays came about after the closing of 111 First Street, an artist enclave in Jersey City. When that building closed, a lot of our arts community felt really beaten down. Art House had a meeting with arts organizers, arts friendly businesses, and other community leaders, to see how we could move the arts forward in Jersey City.

The idea of JC Fridays came out of that meeting. Even to this day, it continues the spirit of the community coming together to support one another around the arts. There was a real need for that. I think that’s why it’s such a successful program.

JCF: How important are the arts to a community?

CG: The arts are an extremely valuable component of any healthy city, particularly in times where people feel like they don’t have a voice. The arts gives people a platform, a meeting place, a community. A vibrant arts scene makes people feel invested in the city and in the communities in which they live.

JCF: What’s a typical workday like for you?

CG: It starts at 6 am – but through no decision of my own.

JCF: Because of the kids?

CG: Yes. Should we talk about a work day, or about my family?

JCF: Both.

CG: So I have my predawn experience with my one year old. That’s how we roll into the rest of the morning. I have two kids. The day starts with them waking up pretty early. My husband and I get them to school, and then I’m at Art House. It’s a 24/7 job. As a founder, an organization like this is a third child. This is my teenager.

JCF: Why did you call it a teenager – what makes it a teenager?

CG: First because it’s 16 years old. But also because it has really has matured. It can stand on its own. It has its own identity. It’s wonderful to see that through all the growing pains, we have created an institution that means a lot to many people.

Christine Goodman Art House Owner Jersey City

JCF: How do you balance your business and your family?

CG: That’s the million-dollar question. It’s evolving. It’s a balancing act. As professional mothers, we continually walk the line of making sure that we’re there for our kids, that they have what they need, and also that we’re taking care of what the businesses needs, which can mean that you are on call at the strangest hours.

There’s no easy answer or a magic pill for running a business and being a mother of two. We have these standards of excellence as professionals and mothers that we can handle everything. The short answer is that it’s really tough. I think the short answer is in continually making sure that your children know that you’re there for them and empowering other people around your business as well.

JCF: How do you do that?

CG: For me, it means making sure that my kids feel comfortable at my business. I don’t run a 9-5. They’re comfortable at Art House. They’re comfortable in the theatre. They have space here that’s their own. They’re welcomed when they walk in the door. At the times when there needs to be a lot of juggling, they can be in the space of my business and feel like they belong.

The other thing is being realistic about my timelines, about what is humanly possible for me to accomplish. I think that the Christine before kids would work all night if she needed to. Christine after kids needs to make sure that the timelines and support systems are in place. Which has been a wonderful change for me.

JCF: Do you ever work at night?

CG: Taking a meeting at 7 pm is tough. It means that there are other people who have to sacrifice in order for that to happen. Even for me to be at the shows that I produce – I’m continually figuring out how to navigate. The natural result is that I’ve had to not hold on so tightly to the idea that I need to do it all myself at Art House. And it’s been great. There’s a beautiful leadership team here that’s really wonderful and rocking it out. It takes a village on both ends.

Christine Goodman Art House Owner Jersey CityJCF: What was it like going from one to two babies?

CG: Having my first child and the incorporation of motherhood into business ownership was overwhelming at first, and then manageable. We found our rhythm and knew that it wouldn’t last forever, but it was working.

But when the second baby came along, the juggling wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t possible. At that point, I needed to make sure that we had a theatre manager and a technical director who could be on site in the evenings and make sure that the shows went smoothly in my absence.

JCF: If you had to do it all again, what would change?

CG: Nothing. Through owning my own business, I was able to bring my kids to work with me for the first 10 months of their lives. I could pursue my love of the arts and keep the business going. It was a wonderful opportunity and for that I am extremely grateful. In an ideal world, I don’t even know how I would change it, because my kids are growing up in the theatre and I think that’s a unique experience for them too.

JCF: What is the best advice that you ever got?

CG: It wasn’t any specific thing. Having the influence of other mothers around me that were making it work, and knowing that it didn’t always have to be perfect, was amazing. Being able to see that we all mess up, and we’re all feeling our way through this – and that it’s possible to raise children who are kind, aware, intelligent human beings while still not always getting it right felt like such a relief. It shifted the focus from being supermom to being a human being and the best mom I could be. That gave me more confidence. It’s nice to know that we all drop the ball, and we all feel like we’re constantly playing catch up, and we forget the diapers, and we try to figure out a last minute dinner, and we forget the paperwork for the school, but at the end of the day, our kids are good people. And that says to me that I’m on the right track.

Mel Kozakiewicz blogs at www.urdoingitright.com.

How To Say, What to Say: Talking to Kids about Race

Back in September, when bombs exploded in trash cans around New York and New Jersey, I called (who else?) my sister. At the time, her city (Charlotte, NC) was reeling from the death of Keith Scott, a black man fatally shot by the Charlotte Police Department. In both of our cities, racial and ethnic differences and presumptions seemed to be on everyone’s minds.

Like moms across the country, my sister and I contemplated what (if anything) to say to our little ones about race, diversity, and the United States of America. We desperately wanted, like generations of mothers who came before us, to raise children who could be kinder and carry less prejudice than the generation before. But how?

I didn’t want to scare or create anxiety in my children by bringing up issues that they couldn’t possibly understand. But at the same time, I didn’t want them to overhear confusing discussions by perfect strangers on the Light Rail. So maybe I should just answer whatever questions they might bring up instead of saying anything preemptively? Would that work? And then I could try to answer them in a way that makes sense to them. You know, like be honest but not traumatizing.

None of this was in the manual.

So I sat down with child and family therapist, Divya Dodhia for some guidance. Long conversation short, there are no easy answers. (You’re welcome.) Most of her advice was preemptive, but not in an event-specific way. Her advice centers around the ways we talk to our kids in general – how we interact with them. Here’s some of the greatest hits:

  • These are the conversations we need to be having. It’s our job to be able to stand up to injustice, in whatever form that takes – whether it’s racism or mental health or whatever the case is.
  • Talk at their level. Use examples from their own lives. When a person is discriminated against, that means the person is being left out. They’re so young, they won’t understand racism, or xenophobia. But they do understand feeling left out. Or bullying. Start there.
  • Begin with very small with very basic concepts of humanity. Start with simple things such as empathy and making good choices. Get them to think about how the other person feels.
  • Use these conversations to encourage and explain empathy. Empathy is so important. Let’s say for example your child hears someone saying this or that about the police. It’s confusing for that child. A conversation with your child is the key to truly understand what they are thinking. Situations that create conflict are not easily resolved all the time. Tell them that not everyone will have the same experiences and that a lot of what people say is based on their own personal experiences.
  • Talk about feelings and the choices that go with them. What can you do with the experiences that you have? Let them bring up the examples. You might ask, “Can you think of a time when you felt ____? Then what happened?”
  • Help your child understand that just because one person thinks one way, not all the people think this same way.
  • Teach simple skills such as sharing and using kind words and even using your manners such as hi, hello, and goodbye. It’s a foundation of you being a human being. You can take it to the next level and talk about what it means to be nice.
  • Instill that good choices lead to good consequences. Even at a young age, they have a right make your own choices, but they also have to deal with the consequences, and those consequences might impact other people. You can do this outside of these larger conversations, and you should. Use examples like ‘If you don’t wake up and brush your teeth, how do you think the rest of the day is going to go for you?”
  • Replace “Don’t do that” or “Don’t say that,” with “How do you think this person is going to feel if you do that?”
  • Remember that behavior is a method of communication. Children have a difficult time articulating feelings, especially when they have negative feelings like guilt, fear, or embarrassment. Learning how to deal with those are the foundations. Anger is normal, but how you display it matters.
  • Give them the language. For example, you might say, “People from different parts of the world will have different foods, different cultures, and look different – that’s called diversity.”
  • Be a positive role model yourself. Model behavior that shows kindness, respect, and acceptance of others.Talk to you children about how they can have a positive impact on their schools and community.
  • Give them the voice to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Ask them questions.
  • Limit their exposure of negative social media.
  • Strengthen their core beliefs of mutual respect, and kindness.
  • Provide experiences where they are exposed to diversity, and help them feel safe, optimistic and motivated that they can make a difference, and they are part of this world.

Divya Dodhia is a child and family therapist.
Mel Kozakiewicz is an editor, writer, and educator.