Monday, September 15, 2008

School Update: 2 Weeks into the Year

This is a long post about the first 2 weeks of school!


We are still adjusting to the unique French school schedule. The kids' schedule is:

M, T, Th, F - 8:30 to 11:30 AM AND 1:30 to 4:30 PM

We pick them up for lunch, and there is enough time to eat a hot, healthy lunch and still play! Wednesdays are completely off school, so those are exploration days.


Max’s class is CP (cours preparatoire), which is similar to Kindergarten in the US. This is the 6-year old class.

Max’s teacher, Mme. Seguy, had her “Back to School Night” this week. Wow. That’s all I could say: Wow! This event lasted 45 minutes, and Mike and I were 100% focused. That was HARD. I would pick up a word every now and then and think, "Okay - I've got the gist of this!" I'd be so happy that I figured something out that I would loose the rest of the sentence - then I'd be completely lost again.

When we got home, I told the kids that I was incredibly proud of them for the hard work they do in school listening to their teachers and friends speak French for 3 hours straight. They got a cookie, too.

Max’s day is much like a Kindergarten day in the US; however, he is already learning cursive here! His “Reading with Dagobert” book, which is how they learn to read here, has printing and cursive for all the text. The first page is:

La Rentree (The Return)

Je vais a l’ecole. (I go to school.)

His math book is far below his skill level, so we know he will excel in math here. He could complete the entire CP math book in a matter of days. We’re glad that there is a scholastic subject that he can ace – so he can focus on French.

Max’s nickname at school: American Boy. If you haven’t heard the song, please check it out!


Josey’s class is CM1. This is the 9-year old class.

Josey’s teacher, Mme. Evelyne Denaes, caught us after school on Thursday. She was concerned about Josey. To paraphrase: They had a math lesson Thursday morning, and Josey wasn’t able to follow along due to the language barrier. Apparently, they were talking through number places (thousands, millions, trillions, etc.). Josey does not know those words in French yet, so she couldn’t follow along. (And, by the way, it is very difficult to hear and understand numbers in French! There is no 70, 80, or 90. To translate, 70 = 60, 10 (soixante dix); 80 = 4 20s (quatre- vingts); and 90 = 4 20s, 10 (quatre-vingts dix). Completely non-trivial to learn!). So, Josey spent 20 minutes looking bored.

The teacher explained that she translates as much as she can, but she doesn’t always have time. We assured her that we appreciate any translation she can do, and we are working on all the homework diligently. Then Mme. Denaes said that she wanted to make sure that Josey wasn’t discouraged or unhappy. Quite the opposite! Although she can’t follow along yet, Josey is loving school.

This week, we worked together to conjugate the 2 most common French verbs: etre (to be) and avoir (to have). Of course conjugation is done naturally when you learn a language, so it was difficult to explain the concept to Josey & Max. They got it! However, the memorization of the words is proving to be a challenge for Josey, as we expected.

If you’ve never learned a foreign language, let me give you a brief glimpse of conjugating the verb etre – and this is only in the present tense (there are about a million tenses in French!):

I am = je suis

You are (informal) = tu es

He/She is = il/elle est

You are (formal) = vous etes

We are = nous sommes

They are = ils/elles sont

You have to know the pronoun, the conjugated verb, and whether you are speaking informally (to a friend or child, for example) or formally (to an elder or someone you don’t know well). It also changes depending on whether “they” is a group of males or mixed gender (ils) or all females (elles). Whew. It’s tough!

Friends (Des Amis)

Of course, at this age, friends have a lot to do with the kids’ happiness level in regards to school. Josey has had friends since the very first morning, and they all play together at every recess. That makes Josey very, very happy!

On the way to school last week, one girl, Emma, waited to walk in with Josey – holding her hand! How cute is that?

Max was not so happy the first few days, although he wouldn’t admit it. His sadness was due to the fact that he didn’t have any friends yet. However, Josey made it her mission to include him at recess time. She’s so awesome!

Max was included in the games, and he has a new friend, too – Noah. Apparently, Max and Noah sit next to each other in class, and Noah talks to Max all the time! Max, on the other hand, is still mute in class. He’s beginning to understand some of what is said, but he’s not interested in trying to speak yet. Soon, we hope.

As soon as Max and Noah paired up, Max was significantly happier!

Dado and I made a new friend, too. Her name is Sandra. She (conveniently) is Noah’s mom! Her daughter, Victoria, is in Josey’s class, and Josey & Victoria play together every recess. As it turns out, Sandra loves, loves, loves America, and she wants to learn “American” English.

We have started family play dates. The kids play while the grown ups trade language lessons: we speak in French, and Sandra speaks in English. We correct each other, so everyone learns! It is wonderful!!

Yesterday, they hosted the first play date. She made a pizza, and she had "French products" for snacks: fois gras, cheeses, wines, baguettes (bien sur), and special cookies for the kids. We were there about 2.5 hours, and it was great. I have to admit, we were exhausted by the time we left. It's difficult to speak and listen in French for that long - but very rewarding, too. And . . . I like fois gras!


Guess what? Mike and I may teach the English lessons in Max’s class. His teacher speaks French and Spanish – no English. So, we volunteered for the task. We’re awaiting a call from the District Supervisor (well, the French equivalent thereof) for details. However, Max’s teacher announced during Back To School Night that we are teaching that content! We understood that. We’re excited!

We wanted to volunteer to work in the classroom, much like in the US. However, in France, you have to have formal permission from the District Supervisor. When we speak to him about English, we hope to get permission. It would be great to learn some French with the kids at school.

Another tidbit: They lock the doors at school 5 minutes after the bell rings. If you are tardy – you miss school!

Love to all!

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