The three to four year cycle that constitutes the Early Learning Program, referred to as  "Maternelle" in French, plays a key role in the development of children and their successful transition into thriving students. It builds the foundations children will later use during their entire schooling. It inspires them to question, create and explore while allowing them to develop their individual personality. It builds the confidence they need to trust their own power to act and think responsibly. Finally it develops their ability to learn and succeed at school and in life. It all begins here!

LA PETITE ECOLE and Happy Play

La Petite Ecole (LPE) is a full immersion program available every morning of the week on our Sausalito campus, for children 2 and older. It is the gateway to the Early Learning program, focusing on socialization and introducing these very young children to the world of Preschool while giving them an early start on bilingualism. It can be completed by an afternoon daycare program we call Happy Play.


A program tailored to young children

The progressive acquisition of the French and the English languages, as well as development of social and motor skills and cognitive abilities are the focus of these important years. The day is divided between learning, playing and resting as all are important and complementary parts of children development. Throughout the program, students acquire skills at their own pace and teachers will skillfully takes into account the individual needs, progress and challenges of each child while keeping in mind the objectives for the group as a whole.

Evaluations are a time for parents to regularly assess their child's progress with their teacher. They are based on a careful observation and interpretation of what the child says or does during the day. Beyond the results, teachers also strive to emphasize the progress that is made. Parents and teachers get a chance to identify conjointly the child's successes, to keep track of his/her progress and set new goals. Teachers are attentive to what children can do on their own, with the help of an adult or with that of the other children, taking into account differences in age and maturity within the group.

The success of the Early Learning program is rooted in a constructive dialogue between families and our academic teams, based on trust and a regular exchange of information in the interest of the well-being and overall success of the child. Times of exchange are as many opportunities for parents to better understand the way to school operates and the program is implemented.

Learning to say goodbye is an important step in starting school and gaining independence. Establishing a morning ritual of transitioning to the day at school will help your child feel secure and ready for learning.

Our campuses provide environments that stimulate curiosity and meet children's needs while safely fostering opportunities to develop sensory, motor, social and cognitive skills. Teachers determine a schedule adapted to their class that ensures the balance between physical and cognitive activities. Drop off, recess, nap time or bathroom breaks are all opportunities to learn and moments that are conducted safely and aim to empower children.


In our Early learning program, teachers work together sharing resources, tools, practices and materials, presenting children with varied while comprehensive experiences. Situations of problem solving, story telling, playing,... are selected according to the needs of the group and those of each child. Modern technologies will find their rightful place in the classroom, provided that their objective is to support the learning activity. 

Playtime is important in preschool as it feeds all subjects of learning. It allows children to exercise their autonomy; to re-enact reality and explore fiction developing their imagination; to exercise motor skills and to experiment with various social rules and roles. It promotes communication with others and the building of friendships. Teachers make sure to reserve time for free play, observing the group to get to better understand personalities and what children focus on at the moment. Structured play periods with specific learning objectives are also used to support learning.

The Early Learning program inspires children to think and reflect. By suggesting level appropriate problems, asking open-ended questions that require looking for answers and solutions, children are engaged. They recognize overlapping situations, they call on their knowledge, they make the inventory of what is possible, they make choices, they venture. They question. They create. They explore.

However, learning takes time and is rarely linear. Repetition, practice, revisiting concepts in various conditions are necessary to strengthening skills. Learning from the teacher, from peers, self-training or even automation are all used to that purpose and guided by each child's own preferred way of learning. The mental operation of memorization in young children is not voluntary but more so triggered by emotions or repetition. During these early years, children rely heavily on what they see and feel to create memories. From the age of five to six, language becomes a greater ressource in understanding and retaining information.


The class represents a learning community that lays the foundations for building social skills. Diversity and inclusion are a focus of the Early Learning program. Understanding and respecting differences is key and adults ensure that all children are treated equitably under all circumstances.

Group activities are important in the construction of cognitive tools: recognizing, comparing, categorizing, contrasting, constructing images, linking events, using words referring to space, time, and so on. Activities focused on collective problem-solving or decision-making are also useful as they involve argumentation, explanation, questions, interest in what others believe, think and know. 

Areas of learning


Children are naturally interested in the languages they hear. They make spontaneous attempts to reproduce sounds, forms and structures in order to communicate with their surroundings. The teacher will encourage students to speak, by carefully articulating, repeating, proposing a reformulation, at times translating, and constantly correcting to improve vocabulary and sentence structures. S/he will invite students to move progressively beyond the spontaneous spoken word to slowly participate in more organized group conversations. They learn to express an opinion or formulate a question effectively communicating with others in the language of the class. 

The Early Leaning program also familiarizes children with writing and the written language. The teacher will read stories that are increasingly long and complex. Children start to discover the function of writing as a way to share or recall information that triggers one's imagination. They also grasp the relationship between the letters they learn to identify and the sounds they represent, in both languages. From learning to hold and guide a pen to controlling lines and drawing shapes then letters, graphic exercises practice fine motor skills that will naturally lead to practicing cursive writing.

PHYSICAL and artistic ACTIVITies

The practice of physical and artistic activities contributes to the motor, sensory, emotional, intellectual and relational development of children . These activities mobilize, stimulate, enrich the imagination and are the opportunity to experience emotions and new sensations. They allow children to explore their physical abilities, expand and refine their motor skills, improve their balance and experience the pleasure of movement and effort to better know and respect their body.

structured Thinking : ExplorING shapes, sizes and organized suites

Children can intuitively compare and approximate. At school they start to discriminate small quantities. They learn to count and gradually to understand that numbers allow both to express quantities as well as a rank or position in a list. This learning takes time and confrontation with many situations involving pre-numerical and then numerical activities.

The Early learning program invites students who intuitively discern forms (square, triangle ...) and dimensions (length, capacity, mass, area ...)to build knowledge and skills. They are familiarized with plane shapes, objects of space, magnitudes through observation and manipulation. Activities are always supported by language to identify and describe characteristics. Although they remain limited, these activities are a first approach to algebra and geometry.


In the Early Learning program, children will gradually develop awareness of time and space. They acquire temporal references and understand the concept of duration. A daily routine is key : its organization and rituals provide children with the first stable elements of a chronology, allowing they to anticipate or recall. The notion of duration starts around age four when children cannot yet measure time strictly speaking, but can visualize with hourglasses for example.

Experiencing space is related to movement, distances and spatial references developed in the course of school activities to explore, navigate, distinguish between fixed and mobile elements. From the observation of familiar environments (class, school, neighborhood ...)children are led to discover less familiar ones (countryside, city, sea, mountain ...), to learn about human constructions (houses, shops, monuments, roads, bridges ...), countries, cultures... These explorations are opportunities for questioning, producing images, searching for information, learning to respect one's environment and other's cultures and languages.

ExplorING the world : objects and matter

As part of the Early Learning program, children begin to understand what distinguishes the living from the non-living. They learn about and manipulate animals and plants. They discover the cycles of life, identify, name or group animals according to their characteristics (hair, feathers, scales ...), their modes of movement (walking, crawling, flight, swimming ...), their living environments, etc. They learn to identify and name the different parts of the body and are introduced to the importance of a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition (taste week). They develop their sensory skills.

Throughout the program, children discover natural (water, wood, earth, sand, air ...) and made by man materials (paper, cardboard, semolina, fabric, etc.). Activities include to mixing, transforming, heating or cooling while observing their effect and building the related vocabulary. They are playfully introduced to physical phenomena they will study much later such as gravity, the attraction between two poles, the effects of light, etc.).

New technologies are used wisely by the teacher and support other learnings through research or introduction to coding.  

English in the Early Learning Program

The curriculum is designed to foster comfort with English as a means to connect to others, express feelings, needs, and to join group experiences. Introductory math and reading concepts are introduced through songs, games and stories, instilling a joy of learning. Above all, students develop the ability to listen to others, join in routines, interact positively with peers, and develop their natural curiosity.

Through the years, students solidify their language skills and continue to construct the phonological awareness that will prepare them for reading in Gr1. Teachers continuously monitor and support their social and emotional development, while gradually increasing the complexity of activities and concentration time. Language instruction is focused on building listening comprehension skills and fostering more sophisticated oral expression. Basic math, emergent writing and beginning reading concepts are introduced through songs, games, activities and stories. Students are active participants in group learning activities and discussions who can confidently approach new challenges and complete academic tasks independently.




Although some may argue that it is never too late to learn a second language and enjoy the benefits of bilingualism, educators encourage parents to start early, giving their child more time to master the new language.

The right choice for many families

"I live in the city. I go to school in Sausalito!"

A growing number of San Francisco based families make the choice to first enroll in la Petite Ecole, only available in Sausalito. After a year enjoying our sunny and kid-friendly location, most decided to stay. Karen, whose son Tom is now in preschool, explains her family’s choice. 

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LFSF @ Sausalito : bilingual education with a Marin flair

This year, our dynamic admissions team has been meeting with a growing number of families moving to Marin in search of a different lifestyle. The attraction of our open campus, safely tucked away, all on one level, filled with light, offering lots of green and open spaces, increasingly seduces families who, for some, make the choice of this campus, even when residing in the city!

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A day at school

ADM | Looking to apply for a sibling ? Your application deadline is NOV 15

In an admissions season like no other, time is passing by quickly and if you are interested in enrolling a sibling for the 2021-2022 school year, we invite you to apply early and before NOV 15. 

As you are already familiar with the school, the admissions requirements are somewhat tailored to your specific needs. 

Likewise, if you work at LFSF and would like to apply for your child, we encourage you to do so before NOV 15.