FOR parents moving to France the biggest worry is how their offspring are going to cope. What are French schools like, how does the system operate, will they settle, what options do I have?
The list is endless and the older they get the more complex and difficult the subject becomes.
Last year my daughter and her two children moved to France. We had worries about how the children would settle, although we were told many times that children adapt very easily; more easily than adults!
So for a mini series about education in France and the options available I decided to ask a mini expert, my granddaughter, on how she feels about living in France and about school here.
My name is Abigail and I moved to France last year with maman and my little brother James, we live with mamie and papie.
When I came here I went to Maternelle with James but now I go to école Primiare Jean Moulin I am in CP and I think my school in France is better than my school in England. I like learning French, it is hard but fun.
My teacher is very kind and helps me when I have problems and my friends help me to learn when we play games at break time. We are learning English now and my teacher asks me if the children say it properly so we help each other.
My helper is called Joelle (Abigail has a helper who takes her to work separately three times a week). We do writing and reading and sometimes we play games to help me learn things and I go on the computer.
We do PE but it isn't like PE in England. Today we were rabbits and ran around the hall, someone had a soft ball and when the teacher shouted STOP, we stood still and the person with the ball had to hit a rabbit. The person who was hit was out of the game and someone else got the ball.
We go on outings to spectacles, to the library and soon we are going horse riding. We should have gone skiing today but there was no snow so it was cancelled; we were all very sad. At Mardi Gras we could dress up and I was Cendrillon (Cinderella) and James was Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates des Caraibes. Maternelle came to my school and we all had fun and games together.
I go on the school bus with my brother James who is four, he is in Maternelle. James speaks a lot of French too and they play outside on the trotinettes, bicyclettes and toboggan. They do some work too but I don't think James knows that and they get juice and a snack.
Lots of our friends go on the bus too as it goes to all the villages to collect them. James's best friend is Lucas mine are Mégane, Anne-Marie and Lucie. I like not wearing a school uniform and wearing my own clothes to school and we can take a drink and a snack to school for break time if we want to.
We get homework every day, reading, writing, maths and we go to the library to chose a book to take home and read. My school bag is very heavy and lots of us have a bag we pull along on wheels like you have for holidays.
We go to school every day except Wednesday but have to go Saturday morning, I get very tired but we do fun things too.
I like living here as there are lots of fields and I can see cows from my garden. Me and James walk to Anne-Marie's house, she has a pony, a goat and a pig, maman says they are miniature and they eat from my hand which tickles.
We go for long walks and we went for a walk and found animal prints which maman and her friend said were Sanglier (wild boar) they have big teeth at the front like an elephant and they are dangerous but we didn't see any. Then we saw prints from deer, we see them lots of times when we go out and they run across the road they are really sweet.
We live really near a swimming pool and maman is teaching me to swim but we like going to another pool which has big toboggans which go round and round really fast and a wave machine.
We go to fairs and see big tractor things which James likes and animals with babies, they were really sweet. We go to the park and see our friends and James likes to go to the canal and watch the boats go through the écluse (a lock). He thinks its really cool watching the gates open and the water go in and go out.
Abigail obviously enjoys her new life, friends make a great difference, she hopes her story will help other children.
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Contrary to the received wisdom that "children adapt better" I would pass on a severe warning to anyone thinking of moving to France with children over the age of seven. We have been here seven months and nearly had to return to the UK because Bordeaux International School turned out to be a complete turkey. My daughter is 14 and it was really very late for her to switch into the French system. Having a French-speaking mother, she had an above average level of French for a Brit of her age and to her credit seems to be surviving...However we have already seen several families have to give in and either send their kids back to boarding school in the UK or pack up and go back entirely. And the amount of emotional grief caused by these situations (whether boarding, moving back or watching kids struggle in a French school month after month)is unbelievable....
Posted by: Colin Smith | 05 March 2008 at 10:40
I believe that if you are thinking of moving to France permenantly you should think very hard about childrens'welfare. Over the age of about seven they will have firm friendships, perhaps belongs to clubs where they have close ties as well as other family members. Taking them away from this whether it is in the UK or abroad will cause some disruption. If it is to a country with a new language and different attitudes to education it can be a major shock.
My granddaughter as you can tell has made the move very happily. She missed family and friends at the begining but now has new friends and is coping very well with the language. Her language skills are down to help given by the school free of charge and home encouragement.
We have friends who made the move with older children who made the transition very well with their children. Their sons were 5, 7 and 9 when they came and all are going through the French education system successfully. They have now been here 8 years.
Posted by: Coral | 06 March 2008 at 00:02
Thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I are planning to move to France sometime next year, and we have 4 kids ages 7,5,3, & 2. We have discussed a number of different options, and you have given me some peace about French schools. The schools sound like they were when I was a kid in the U.S. I will be excited to see how things are when we get there and how they adjust.
Posted by: Gina Witcher | 06 March 2008 at 03:23
Who supervises the children in the playground?
What happens if their teacher is away?
What is junior high school called?
What is Senior high school called?
Posted by: Catherine | 12 November 2009 at 04:13