By CHLOE FEDIO - Cherie Le Blanc is moving to Delaware -and splitting up her family in the process -so her 9-year-old son, Justin (far right), who is struggling in French school, can receive an English education. Alex, 11, (far left) is staying in Chambly, while Laura, 8, will also move to Delaware.Photograph by : Marie-France Coallier, The GazetteMONTREAL - Cherie Le Blanc used to work with special needs English students on the South Shore, so when she noticed her 9-year-old son was struggling in French, she came up with a simple solution : Have him transferred to an English school so she could help him with his homework.
But when the government said no, she and her husband made a tearful decision to split up their family of seven to give Justin a chance to excel in school south of the border.
Le Blanc, who was born in Delaware, married a francophone Quebecer. Under Quebec’s French Language Charter, her children are not eligible for English public education in this province because neither parent was educated in English in Canada.
"I don’t want to waste another year of his education," Le Blanc said of Justin. "He doesn’t have very much self-esteem when it comes to school work. He doesn’t look forward to going to school in the morning -he’s really sad -and I need to change that for him. I need to make it better."
Next week, Le Blanc is moving to Delaware with Justin and her 8-year-old daughter Laura. le Blanc’s husband, Daniel, son Alex, 11, and two 17-year-old foster children are staying behind in Chambly.
The children have dual citizenship and can attend public school in the U.S., but Alex excels in French and will finish his schooling in Quebec.
The Quebec government denied a request to send Justin to English school despite a psychological and educational report that concluded he is "strongly at risk" of developing dyslexia and that his "performance was relatively better in English than in French."
Dyslexia is a learning disability that can weaken the ability to read, write and spell despite normal or above-average intelligence.
The report was based on a set of language tests, including a French reading-comprehension exam on which Justin scored 6 out of 49.
"I didn’t always get everything right (in French)," Justin said from the kitchen of his Chambly home.
"I understand more in English." Flipping through government letters and education reports, Le Blanc said she and her husband decided to split up the family to give Justin the English education he needs to succeed. But when she caught the eye of 11-year-old Alex across the room, she quickly clarified.
"I don’t mean ’splitting up,’ as in ’Mommy and Daddy are splitting up,’ " she told him.
"I saw a look of fear."
Le Blanc said the decision to move came with "lots of tears."
"If he doesn’t pass Grade 4 and he doesn’t pass Grade 5 and he doesn’t pass Grade 6, there is absolutely no chance that child has the skills and resources needed to go to high school and to be successful. He will not be able to go to college. I’m not ready to look at my 9-year-old and say, ’Well, that’s all you have.’ "
Le Blanc’s husband, a lawyer, appealed the government’s July decision on humanitarian grounds. After a year of living as a long-distance family, they plan to reapply for the right to have Justin attend English school.
"If they do say no, I absolutely might have to put him in private school," Cherie said. "But we can’t afford it. The bottom line is, we cannot afford it."
Cherie met her future husband while on Easter vacation in Florida when she was 15 years old. The couple were married in Delaware in 1995 and moved to the South Shore to raise a family in 1996.
"The reason I came here was so we could give our family both languages," she said.
"In the States we could only give them one language, and I thought it was important that our children had both languages and had the opportunity to go to school in both.
"But that’s not the way it is now."