Life in France September 2016 - February 2017
During our travels through France in the summer of 2016 we all decided we wanted to take our foot of the gas and settle down for a while. The kids really wanted to try going to school in France and had shown great interest in learning the language, so it was an easy decision!
Everybody was really excited to settle down and stay in one place for a longer period of time. Whilst we had all loved every moment of our travels, we were all a little travel weary and we each had different reasons for wanting to be in one place. The kids wanted to make some friends that they didn’t need to catch up with on ‘Skype' and that they could actually play with. Clair was fed up with the constant packing and living out of bags and was also beginning to feel that we weren’t appreciating each new location with as much excitement and enthusiasm as we had done when we first started visiting places. Dan wanted to take some time to work on some personal projects, but traveling and planning takes a lot of time and so now, he’d be able to devote more time to it.
It was time for the kids to start school. Of course they had been to schools in other countries for short periods, but this time they were going to go for a whole school year. Sophia and the twins had already been to their primary school in the previous May (see previous post), so they knew what to expect and couldn’t wait to see the friends that they had made already, but for Kaitlyn, she was old enough to start College - the French for middle school, which is situated about 40 minutes drive away in the medieval town of Sarlat La Caneda. She was to start in Year 6eme, but at least she wouldn’t be the only new kid as everyone would be starting their ‘big school’ adventure at the same time. Kaitlyn, although a little apprehensive, took the bull by the horns and was amazingly brave on her first day, especially since she didn’t speak a word of French. As her parents we are so proud of how Kaitlyn handled her first few weeks in her knew school - I’m not sure that I could have done it.
She made friends really easily despite her language difficulties and has found the teachers to be wonderfully helpful and patient towards her. She came home full of excitement and grew up so much over the first few weeks. She loved being treated like a grown up, having responsibilities and hanging out with kids her own age. On the first day, as they were shown to their classroom, a little girl was walking by her side. They gestured that they should sit together and to this day, they have been best friends ever since.
She did however, have one quite negative experience that could have really discouraged her, if she would have let it. As I said, all teachers had been very supportive, but with one exception. One teacher started shouting at Kaitlyn’s friend for her helping her and then continued by shouting at Kaitlyn (in french, which her fellow students translated for her) and basically told her that he couldn’t teach her because she didn’t speak the language, what was she thinking by coming to a class and not speaking the language? And that he wouldn’t have the time to go out of his way help her. Of course, she was upset and her fellow students were appalled by his behaviour. Even though we homeschooled for such a long time, we have utmost respect for teachers that want to teach and motivate people to learn and improve themselves. It’s sad to see teachers behave this way who obviously have no passion for their jobs and teaching.
We talked about it as a family and Kaitlyn decided to prove herself to the teacher and do her best for herself as she had enjoyed the subject on our travels. I’m proud to say that she is doing really well in all of her subjects, and also well in the subject with the unhelpful teacher, managing to prove him wrong and seemingly gaining his respect!
Our kids are extremely happy in their new schools and have managed well academically and socially (that proves that criticism wrong) despite the language, which is improving every day. It does bother us that the French education system is still quite rote based and old fashioned, but as I say, the kids love it and the purpose for our stay in France, is for the language and quality of life.
The ‘holiday’ was exactly what we needed and it was such a treat to drive to a different country rather than have the usual hassles of airports and car hire!
Come February the weather had started getting a bit warmer and I am sitting outside in the garden as I type this, hoping that this gorgeous weather isn’t a one off. The kids have now been at school for half a school year and doing so well with their french. They are not fluent yet, but they can get by in the playground.
Dan and Clair are taking french lessons, but still can’t get by in the playground.
We have made some fantastic new friends of varying nationalities and are starting to get a social life again. It is half term next week and we will go to Portugal for 10 days, so we’ll keep you updated on that on our return.