How many parents out there fret over their children’s stimulus during the numerous French vacation breaks? Parisian mother, Cecile Birgand Ayasse is no exception. A working mother of four children, her household is no different than the expat families in Paris scrambling to organize schedules and find activities every six weeks during the school breaks. Finding ideal workshops where her children could “learn and dream” was an aspiration for Cecile.
So much so, after the birth of her fourth child, the journalist took a break to create “Apprends et Reve” or “Learn and Dream.” Listening to her own children’s needs and desires, Cecile organizes the best original children’s workshops in town for kids from 3-4, 4-7, 7-12 and 12-15 years old.
Your child has a voice? Would the budding singer like to take lessons from “The Voice” coach himself? Or is there a burning desire to produce a film in English? Perhaps dance up a storm learning Flamenco, hip hop, and modern jazz from “Learn and Dream’s” cast of reputable choreographers? If so, “Learn and Dream” is the place to go!
BONUS: INSPIRELLE readers who sign up below for a holiday workshop at a discounted price will also benefit from a free yearlong membership to Apprends et Rêve.
INSPIRELLE caught up with Cecile Birgand Ayasse, who is promoting her Christmas workshops for families staying in Paris over the holidays!
Cecile, why did a full-time working mother of four like yourself decide she needed to create her own children’s workshops in Paris?
The decision to create “Learn and Dream” stemmed from a need. While I was still working in a communication agency, I realized that my children at home could not enjoy all the artistic, creative, cultural or even sporting events offered throughout Paris. How can a nanny possibly cross Paris by subway or bus with one, two or three children of different ages for a one or two-hour workshop in a museum? Too complicated. And my husband and I, we were so, SO tired after work that we also had trouble taking them out.
I was frustrated. During the holidays, my children were circling around the house or the park and that was it. I could not find any programs or workshops that could offer stimulation in roughly the time slots corresponding to those of school or those which offer children a creative, cultural, sporting, playful, sensory discovery that would bring them to a museum, or allow them to travel without going too far, which would inspire them to dream …
Also, when I had to stop working after the birth of my fourth child, I did not hesitate about what I would do next. It was evident. But as a mother of four children, my workshops would be guided by two priorities: that they would be affordable and be conducted by only recognized and passionate professionals. The idea flourished when I talked with a Flamenco professor in a dance class during a holiday break who shared her knowledge of other possible unique classes. This person was a real wealth of resources.
Expats living in Paris are befuddled, to say the very least, about the organization needed to occupy their children during the French school breaks every six weeks and in many cases, Wednesdays off in the middle of the week. What advice do you have for them?
Send your children to « Apprends et Rêve » to learn and dream!
Is it true you were once an expat living in the States and going to school there?
When I was 16 years old, I decided it was time to discover the famous United States of which we spoke so much but, in fact, knew so little about. Coming from a very small village in Vendée (west of France), my decision was considered audacious. So I asked my parents to allow me to leave as an exchange student with YFU in America for a year. I landed in California and as you can imagine, the jet lag was enormous. I had to adapt quickly to my new family, to school and, of course, to the English language, which I spoke very badly.
I was enrolled in my senior year of high school and had the pleasure of experiencing typical high school life such as the Prom Ball, the Prom trip, and so on. And I was lucky enough to receive my high school diploma! An extraordinary moment.
I have to admit that it was sometimes difficult because I was so young, but this year changed my life, my vision of others and my understanding of “foreign” cultures. I would not be who I am today without this experience. And now I speak English!
Do your four children influence your ideas for workshops? What are their favorites?
Of course, my children are a source of inspiration. But I must admit that I myself remain a “big kid,” so I offer workshops that make me dream and vibrate. I create classes that interest children like mine. My eldest son became addicted to Hip Hop. He likes the fact that it requires both rhythm and muscularity. The second appreciates the “Cinema in English”, to be able to play while learning. The third is a fan of musicals who dreams of becoming an actress and a singer. As for the youngest, she has a preference for everything related to dance, such as Modern, Street Jazz Dance and Hip Hop. The four together can put on a real show!
As if your hands aren’t full enough working as a full-time journalist and taking care of a family with four children. What inspires you to do this?
Love. I love each of these children and teens as if they were a little bit mine and when I see them flourish, beam with happiness and pleasure in their shining eyes, I think I am in the right place.
As for me, when I was younger, I found it very difficult to find my place in what I consider a somewhat narrow French educational system that promotes learning rather than reflection.
I want to be able to offer my children and those of others an alternative, an alternative that will allow them to gain self-confidence and develop their own originality.
If in a few years some of them come back to me to say that “Learn and Dream” inspired them and even, why not, changed their lives by allowing them to dare, I would have done a good job.
If you could create a dream workshop for adults, what would that be?
Tough question! Allow me to propose two dream workshops.
The first would mix yoga, singing and self-defense. It would be a workshop to release and express one’s feelings and then learn to master them; a workshop that does as much good to the soul as to the body.
The second one would be more playful and cultural: a visit to a place emblematic of the French savoir-faire or know-how (luxury, fashion, culture), followed by a dinner hosted by a passionate expert (gemologist, director, cook, dancer, watchmaker). This would be an evening of learning, enjoyment, and an opportunity to meet the unexpected and the unlikely. Everything that I love!