L'École Française du Maine (EFDM or French School of Maine) is a bilingual co-education Pre-K through 6th grade, private school in Freeport, Maine. L'École Française du Maine is located 15 minutes north of Portland, Maine’s largest city. It is the only French immersion school north of Boston. All academic subjects are taught in French by native speakers of the language, and the Preschool through Grade 6 programs follow the directives of both the Ministere de L’Education Nationale and the educational guidelines set by the State of Maine.
The Pre-K, or the Maternelle program, consists of three sections: a Petite Section (3 years old), a Moyenne Section (4 years old) and Kindergarten (5 years old) section. The Pre-K, Elementary and Middle School levels, are all housed in a renovated historic building situated in the heart of the South Freeport fishing village.
With approximately 75 students from various countries, this diverse school attracts students from both French backgrounds and families that are native English speakers who want to provide a bilingual education for their children.
Mandarin was formerly taught as a second language.
L'École Française du Maine was founded by Elizabeth and Willy LeBihan in May 2002. It is a non-profit organization providing a bilingual education for children from preschool through middle school. Recognizing the numbers of Franco-American citizens concentrated in this area, the founders hoped to create a French learning experience for the children of people who grew up with French-speaking parents and grandparents, thereby passing that cultural heritage to the younger, English-speaking generations.
Originally located in Winthrop, Maine, the school relocated to Freeport in the fall of 2004 to accommodate the high demand for bilingual education. The rigorous academic program contributes to the renaissance of the French language in Maine, and to the development of students into ambassadors of acceptance and independence. The Middle School was added on in 2008.
The school offers a unique approach to bilingual and multi-cultural education, through immersion in the French language. L’Ecole Française du Maine is a candidate member for accreditation with the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of the Young Children), the French Ministry of Education and the Maine Department of Education. The School is affiliated with MLF (Mission laïque française) and AEFE (Agence pour l'enseignement français à l'étranger). French curriculum and the Maine Learning Results are combined to allow students to transition into any school.
L’Ecole Française du Maine is among one of the few schools in the U.S. that offers a bilingual experience. Decades of studies of bilingual programs show that the bilingual education not only teaches another language but improves cognitive, linguistic, creative, and other abilities in a developing child’s brain.
Suzuki violin, cello, guitar and piano lessons are offered as well as a chorus. Every year, the students record a CD of French songs as well as a performance on DVD (a culmination of the year’s activities).
Students of L’Ecole Française du Maine compete in track and field against students of the International School of Boston and the French-American School of Rhode Island. There are also soccer, swimming and ski programs.
For parents who work longer hours, there is an after-school program at L’Ecole Française du Maine.
Willy LeBihan, Founder and Director, was born near Paris, France, but spent most of his childhood in Brittany. He grew up in the countryside of Quimper, a medieval city, that fosters much of the Celtic culture of Brittany. Willy studied geology at French and Irish universities and majored in Structural Geology. He is a published geologist who has researched mountain building processes through fieldwork in the French-Italian Alps. He taught Geology at Unity College and was a Teaching Assistant at the University of Maine. Willy LeBihan lives in South Freeport with his wife, Elizabeth Choate LeBihan, and their three children, Elise, Colin, and Zoé, who are students of the school. Willy is a certified teacher with 20 years experience in education. For four years, Willy served as President of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) Maine Chapter and served on the Board of FLAME, the Foreign Language Association of Maine. He taught at public and private high schools in Maine. Willy organized the "Grand Concours" National French Contest in 2002 and 2003 for the state of Maine. Willy is a recipient of the National Defense Medal from the French Marines and in 2009, he was awarded the prestigious Chevalier des Palmes Académiques, a Knighthood Order of Chivalry of France to academics and educators. The order was originally created by Napoleon. Mr. LeBihan structures the organization of L’Ecole Française du Maine, its campus, the curriculum and its assessment, teacher and staff recruitment, accreditation, special events, and much more.
Elizabeth LeBihan earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Maine at Farmington, with a concentration in Visual and Performing Arts. She completed her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education/Child Development through the University of Phoenix. Elizabeth studied modern dance and choreography and was a member of the modern dance company, The UMF Dancers, for four years. She also attended University College Galway, Ireland as an exchange student, where she reconnected with her family there and met her husband, Willy, a graduate student at the time. She is a certified teacher with 18 years of experience in education. Before founding L’Ecole Française du Maine, Elizabeth taught self-contained classrooms at the elementary and middle school levels and French classes privately and in after-school programs throughout Central Maine. During her first year as a classroom teacher, Elizabeth received a national teaching award, being named as "One of the Nation's 100 Best First-Year Teachers." She was Maine's only recipient. In 2009, she was awarded the Chevalier des Palmes Académiques. Elizabeth is fluent in French and has raised her children to be bilingual.