Friday, September 05, 2014

First week of public school in France

Life changed dramatically for us this week. Zari, Dio, and Inga all started full-time public school on Tuesday. I love the school hours (8:30-11:30 am and 1:30-3:45 pm) and the 2-hour lunch break. We live a 2-minute walk away from the school, which is about halfway up a large hill & cliff overlooking Nice. The school playgrounds have breathtaking panoramic views of the city and ocean.

Inga did magnificently the first day. She walked in, sat down at one of the tables, and started playing with toys without giving me another glance. The only crying this week came when a classmate took her shoes :)

One thing we learned is that they give the 3-year-olds naps in the afternoon. Naps = trouble for Inga. If she naps, she will not go to bed at night until 9 or 10 pm (her usual bedtime is 7:30 pm). This means she keeps Zari and Dio up late as well, since all three of them share a room.

I want to talk to her teacher to see if they can give her quiet activities during naptime, because her wakefullness is so disruptive to our family at night. But I also don't know if this would be considered rude or out of place to ask?? I suppose the other option would be to have her go to school only in the mornings. But I like having her go full-day; she gets more French interaction, and it gives me a nice stretch of quiet time in the afternoon while Ivy is napping. I even got to take a nap today--amazing!

When I picked the kids up for lunch the first day, Dio didn't want to leave school. His teacher says he's quiet and is slower to make friends because of the language difference, but otherwise is doing well.

Zari has gone back and forth this past month between being apprehensive and excited. Right before school started, I reminded her that she had been in an accelerated program during kindergarten and first grade. During kindergarden they did both K & 1st grade, and the next year they did 2nd-grade work. She had no idea she was in an accelerated program! As soon as I told her that, all of her fears about school here vanished. "I've already done 2nd grade! It's going to be so easy!"

Zari had a few small meltdown moments this week, which I attribute to adjusting from vacation back to school schedule. She complained that "school in France is not very interesting!" and remarked that "the work is easy peasy--except for it being in French." But mostly she's enjoying herself and keeping busy learning French handwriting. School children start out right away learning a beautiful cursive and don't ever use block letters. Zari loves drawing, so she's more than happy working on her cursive skills.

I hope we can make some (adult) friends among the parents we see at dropoff and pickup. There's a delightful fixture of cultures, languages, and appearances. The overall impression is more bohemian than the average people you see on the streets in Nice. And lots of babies coming along in their carriers and strollers :)


  1. Hi, Rixa,

    Our son only went only half days to the maternelle, for a month, and then to a french/german kindergarten that suited us much better; it is quite usual for children in petite section de maternelle to attend only in the morning, and most teachers are relieved to have less children; and as for skipping naps....well, you can always ask the teacher and the atsem(teacher's assistant). Volunteering for the PTA(or talking to the FCPE or PEEP délégué des parents d'élèves) could help you gain some insight.

    I must confess I agree with Zari about school being boring in France... as the emphasis is more on rote learning and examinations than creativity or socialization at school, but extra-curricular activities abound in places like centres de loisirs, where many children spend their Wednesdays. Our 4,5 yo son loved to go to "éveil musical", and we had a great experience ar our local conservatoire/école de musique, but getting trough the procédure d'inscription was difficult at best.
    Another place I'd recommend for activities with chidren: the libraries. There's always something going on Wednesdays/Saturdays: lecture de contes, animations...

  2. The long lunch break is interesting - not sure if I would like that or not.

    We have had the same battle with naps. Our middle child's preschool (she just started K last week) had a mandatory nap time - which she happily indulged in - and meant she regularly stayed up until 10 or 11 pm. Ack! And all three of our kids share a room. We found the best solution was to require her to have "lights out" while the other two kids were falling asleep (her older brother and younger sister). Then once the others were asleep she could turn on small reading light and read and/or journal (we gave her a blank notebook and colored pencils) for another hour or so.

    Good luck!

  3. How wonderful that your children have this experience! I'm so happy for you that you get to do this for them. :-) Plus, I just love reading about your time over there so please keep me informed! :-)


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