Tag Archives: school in france

What’s it like for English speaking children to go to French school?


I’ve been inspired to write this post by a message I received a few days ago from a reader who is planning a move to France in about 18 months.  She has three small children, and is desperate for information from experienced families who have already made the transition.  In this particular family, nobody speaks French for the time being, though they’re very interested in starting to learn before making the move.

While searching school options in France, there are a few options…

For those who have the financial means, the desire to do so, and the possibility of living in or near a large city with lots of expats, there are exclusive international and bilingual schools.  I don’t have any experience with these kinds of establishments, so I can’t really comment as to whether I would send my children there.  I have known American families who have come to France for work, and their companies have paid for schooling for the children.  Everyone I know in this situation seems to have had a positive experience, but the kids didn’t necessarily go back to the States fully bilingual.  I’m assuming that’s because many of their classes were taught in English, most of their friends spoke English, and the parents didn’t learn French to the point where they were speaking it at home with the kids.

A much more economical solution, and the most “natural” in my opinion, is to send your children to French school.  Public or private, this particular option seems like the most frightening, especially for parents, but it is the most efficient way of immersing your family into French culture and learning the language.  Now, it’s true that before moving to France last summer, our children were already bilingual (we’d always made a special effort to speak only in French at home while living in the U.S., and their dad is French).  However, when we got married sixteen years ago, we did spend almost a year living in Béziers.  At that time, my eldest son (who is now almost 23!) was only 7, and he didn’t speak a lick of French when we put him in French school.  He was fully bilingual (using the subjunctive correctly and everything) by January 1.  Enrolling your children in French school is a way to help them integrate, find friends in the community, and it’s also an excellent means by which your family can befriend other families in the area.

Depending on where your’e coming from, French “private” schools (and by that, I mostly mean Catholic schools) are a lot less expensive than you may be expecting.  I’m saying that from an American point of view, but all I can say is that in St. Louis, we were paying almost $800 per MONTH for two children to attend a parochial school (yes, it’s a great school, but come on).  Here in France, the equivalent costs us 114€ per month for two children.

Here’s a question I have for anyone reading this post who may have a response, because I personally don’t know, and I haven’t heard any of my anglophone friends here in France mention it.  Are there FLE (français langue étrangère) resources for non-native speakers in public French schools, like the ESL resources provided in American public schools?  I’ll see if anyone has any knowledge on that topic, and I’ll also ask around here in town to see what kind of response I can find.

I’d be very curious to hear input on this topic.  Feel free to share your opinion:  public, private, bilingual?  Reasons why?

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4th Grade Testing in France / Les évaluations du CM1


 

IMG_4327Elementary school testing in France is a lot more intense than anything I’ve seen in the US. I used to teach in a very competitive high school in St. Louis, and what elementary age children have to prepare for here in France is quite similar to exam prep for quarter, semester, and final exams.

 

Here is a photo of part of my son’s list of what to study for the upcoming “exam week”. He just turned ten, by the way. These aren’t national exams, they’re just the regular exams that children in France always have a week before the next vacation begins. That means they have intense exams about once every two months. In our region, the next school holidays will begin on February 28 and will last until March 17. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but for now, every spare moment is spent getting ready for testing.

 

I’ve noticed that the stress involved in preparing for such an event is not downplayed by either parents or teachers. It’s as if rigorous testing were a right of passage into the harrowing realm of higher education in France.

 

There are ups and downs to every school system, and what I say next may surprise you. I like it. I like the testing. I don’t necessarily like the stress involved, and I don’t think it’s good for the whole class to know who is first in the ranking and who is last. But I do like the testing. I like that the kids are held accountable for remembering what they learned two months ago, and I like that they have to learn to study. However, it must be torture for students who struggle in school. That’s the part that sucks.

 

Children who test poorly, but who are otherwise quite intelligent and creative, visibly have a hard time finding their place in this system. The French school system is not set up to encourage creativity. If you can focus well enough to pay attention in class at least 80% of the time, not talk out of turn, and memorize your lessons, chances are you have a shot at success.  Just forget about ADD / ADHD.

 

We will aim to keep the creativity alive, all the while raising the bar high for success. I feel very fortunate that language isn’t a barrier for our children. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for expat children who attend French school. And what about parents who are still working hard to learn to speak French? It must be quite frightening when the study guide makes it’s way home less than a week before exams begin.

 

In case you cannot see everything on the study guide, here’s the list:

 

Jeudi 13 février:

 

Vocabulaire: Livre de Français: p. 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 118, 119 + Règles de grammaire: R5, R6, R7, R8

 

Calcul Rapide (maths): Critères de Divisibilité. X11, X 1/2, X 1/3, X 2/5 …. pg. 84, 90, 91

 

Opérations: Divisions à un et deux chiffres… pg. 104, 106

 

Vendredi, 14 février:

 

Grammaire: Livre de Français: p. 52 à 59, 94 à 99 + R7 – R11 (règles de grammaire)

 

Géométrie: pg. 68-69, 74-75, 126-127 + R4 & R5

 

Mesures: p. 36-37, 118 (#1 & 2) + R10

 

Lundi 17 février:

 

Conjugaison: Livre de Français p. 104 à 109, 146-147 + R8 à R12

 

Numération: p. 140 à 145 + R11, R12, R14

 

Mardi 18 février:

 

Orthographe: cahier de règles; Bled série 12, 13, 18, 23; orthographe d’usage: riz, pâle, trouver, paysage, aucun, désigner, équipage, joueux, redire, rayon, muet, respecter, horloge, rempili

 

Problèmes: Problèmes de logique; Rédiger la question d’un problème; Problèmes avec des +, -, X, /

 

Jeudi 20 février:

 

Production d’écrits: Le dialogue

 

Poésie: # 5, 6, 7, 8

 

Note: Je n’oublie pas de regarder mes cahiers de classe, mon cahier du soir et mon trieur.

 

Bonnes Révisions!

 

So what do you think? Let me know if you are curious and have any questions about this study guide. This is the kind of thing I would have loved to show to my students back in St. Louis, just to give an idea of how different things are in France.

 

Even though it’s tough, I have to say that we are very fortunate that the school we chose is a very good one, and the kids love their “maîtresse”. We’ve had nothing but pleasant experiences concerning school so far. Everyone at the school has been nothing less than helpful from the very start. I feel that they’ll be well prepared for what’s to come. Just for the record, in CP (first grade) they also have a week of testing coming up, but there is no studying involved. I think the only thing she’ll have to study will be the last four poems they’ve memorized.

 

Coming home for lunch, and living life in a different way


I’ve been meaning to write more, but we’re still figuring out our new life here in France, and all of this marketing, cooking, and eating takes up a lot of time!  For the last week I have been wanting to write about something that is so foreign to most American families, and something that was unknown to us for the 14 years we lived as a family in St. Louis.  It’s something as simple as getting the family together for a main meal lunch, homemade with love, (almost) every single day of the week (except for the occasional lunch out on weekends, of course!).

As I’ve written before, the kids come home for lunch almost every day.  We pick them up from school at 11:45, and return them there at 1:45. We have started having them stay at school for lunch one day a week so that they can socialize with friends, and we can have one whole day just to do what we want… and most of the time that means working without interruption.  However,  yesterday  the kids stayed at school, and we went out for sushi and to see the new Woody Allen movie (in English!).  They enjoyed eating freshly made paëlla and tomme noire cheese for the first time, and we enjoyed a day together.

It’s lovely to share the midday meal as a family, and to hear about what everyone did during the morning hours, but that’s only one part of the pleasure of spending a few hours at home in the middle of the day.  Very often, when we arrive at home with the kids,  after bringing the freshly purchased baguette to the table, they’ll go and lie down on their beds or on the sofa and read a book while we’re finishing up making lunch.  This down time seems to do wonders for them.  By the time we sit down to have lunch, it’s usually about 12:30, and everyone is all smiles.  We’ve usually finished eating by about 1:15, which still leaves them about twenty minutes to play.  That’s what they do, they play.  We don’t have them work on homework to try and get ahead, or multi-task in any way.  They play, and they’re happy.

Now if I were back in the US reading this, wondering if I’d ever be able to move my family to France and make a drastic life change… I would wonder how it’s possible to find time to shop, cook, pick up the kids, and have a two hour family time every day at noon, while still trying to earn a living.  I would assume that the person who had written this was independently wealthy, and didn’t have to work.  Let me assure you that this is not the case with us, not at all.  We happen to be very fortunate to be able to work from home, but it wasn’t always this way.  Until the end of May 2013, we ran the rat race every single day.

It has taken a lot of planning and hard work to get to where we are, and there’s still a lot of hard work involved on a daily basis and we’re having to really focus on working as a team to make it work, but this is a choice that we consciously have made in order to improve our quality of life.  We are living simply, and finding such liberation in the absence of stress.  Well, not a complete absence of stress… I’ve just noticed the time and realized I have to go and pick up the kids for lunch, and I don’t want to be late!  I welcome your comments, reaction, and comments.  À bientôt!