Friday, 15 June 2012


Change is good, right?

Last Saturday, I attended Suzanne's CP orientation which was also my inititaion into the French school system.

So far, school has been pre-school. But next year,'s literacy bootcamp. CP - classe préparatoire - is the the first year of REAL school in France. The kids go in kids, but come out FRENCH kids. No, seriously, you should see the list of school supplies my 6 year old needs : a cartable (not a back pack, no wheels), specific color notebooks, 3 color highlighters, pencils, pens, pencil sharpener...what happened to the communal pencil sharpener and the lucky kid who got to sharpen ALL the class pencils?

I learned that my daughter will have recess twice during the day - 15 minutes each time! - and that she'll have an intense swimming course at some point during the year where they will go 4 times during the week for a month.

From next year on, the kids no longer call their teachers' by their first name. Suzanne will be in Madame B's class, who seems to be the more gentler of the 2 CP teachers. But, she is seperated from all her good friends which I'm sad for her about...

So what can an American mother say about her half-French child's scolarization? I'm totally and utterly terrified! There, I said it. The part that I find reassuring is that I called the public bilingual school in Lille and spoke to the director. I explained our situation and she said, "oh, no problem. You live in Lille and your daughter's bilingual so call me in the first semestre de CE1." I figure if it's a bilingual section full of bilingual enfants it must be a little kinder and gentler than a pure French school environment, right?

Then I had to figure out what CE1 was (for the record, it's CP, CE1, CE2, CM1, CM2....). I guess it'll be a learning curve for everyone!

In the meantime, I'll be spending 2 months in the US with my kids this summer. I mentioned this to Madame B during orientation and she didn't seemed fazed about the bilingualism at all which is also a relief.

And I haven't even started talking about Max starting school next year! Oy vey!

So in the immortal words of Sam Cooke, change is gonna come...


Melissa said...

Man, do I feel you on this one. Cut-off dates and birthdays mean my daughter still has two more years before starting first grade, but even that I'm not sure of. Despite having lived in this country for ten years and "passing" in everyday life, I am still freaked right out at the thought of dealing with the school system. Mainly because I didn't go through it myself, so I'm sure there's going to be something (a lot of things) I just don't know about and nobody tells me about until I do them wrong. Ugh. Good luck to you and Suzanne both!

Reb said...

You hit the nail on the head. We "pass" in our adopted country until it comes to actually putting our kids into the institutions that we ourselves know nothing about because we didn't experience it ourselves! It's all really frightening...but good...I hope?! Good luck to you too!

Anonymous said...

We've still got a year before CM1, and I guess they'll only go for half days at first, but I'm absolutely terrified of sending my twins to school. I feel like they'll be reformated and become French (instead of the little Americans they seem to be so far) and they won't be mine anymore. I know this is an unhealthy way to look at it... Starting school in any country would be a major change but I bet I wouldn't feel this way if they were starting preschool in the US.
Thanks for sharing your adventures. I really enjoy reading about them -- your experiences are often very familiar -- and I hope Suzanne has a wonderful time in "real" school.

Anonymous said...

Hi Reb,

It's Rachael, formerly of Lille. Suzanne's going to the bilingual public school there? That is so cool! I had looked high and low all over France for a good system for our kids -- (we didn't have any reason to be in Lille other than we liked the city and the folks, work was elsewhere and most of my continuous French network is Parisian) -- and we figured out where to go, sold the house, bought a house and then I read about the public school in Lille in the Metro newspaper last May. I was kind of beside myself but it has all worked out for us.

M is finishing his first year of CP in a French public school with an English section. He's quite French (especially since he's not at all French), asking me in a park in Dublin, "Mummy, can I walk on the grass?", but he's also happy to be part of an international community and not be the only oddball in the class. There are loads of oddballs! He is reading very well in both French and English. He still picks up English books on his own most of the time but tonight he was reading his French dictionary from Martine Aubry (Suzanne'll get one at the kermesse, I imagine). He's a conformist so he's having a great time. I shudder to think what will happen with his brother, but it couldn't be worse than this year in the moyenne section!

And if CP, CE1 and all that are confusing, wait til you have friends with kids and college and lycee -- o la la!

Right, I've rambled enough. Good luck with the orientation!

Bisous, bon courage, and enjoy Jersey!

Reb said...

Thanks Rachael. I'm glad you and your family are doing well! And it's reassuring to know that CP hasn't been too traumatic an experience for your son. I love the idea of S being in a class full of oddball international kids. Sorry MS wasn't great, but maybe he just needs to be frenchified a little more? cringe.

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