Getting Ready for School:
It was a late decision to put our boys into our local French school over the International School in the city, but one we all feel pretty comfortable with. For the last 2 weeks of the summer holidays, I’ve been walking them past the school and talking about where they will play, what time lunch is, guessing who will pick up French the quickest and where they think their new friends will live.
This is my attempt at preparing them for probably the most challenging transition of their wee lives. Kids are so resilient and while it’s normal for them to channel their emotions (good or bad) into their behaviour, so far the boys are taking it all in their stride. We’ve laughed about how they will sit in class for a whole day but won’t understand anything (I’m not laughing internally, I’m anxious as hell) and that they can wear what they want – ‘What Mum, you mean no uniform?!’ I’ve also reassured them that eventually they will know more French than Mummy & Daddy which they find staggering as we are the adults!
School starts tomorrow and while they are now bored of me talking about it, I am getting more nervous for them.
You see, I know the teachers don’t speak English and the boys certainly don’t speak French…
The school is a 5 minute walk from our front door and as we walk, we pass the most beautiful scenery of French homes on the narrow lane up to the school – I am seriously pinching myself that we live here. Opposite the school is a stunning home with views over Grenoble and across the Alps – which are now dusted in snow as we head into Autumn. A further 2 minute walk past the school takes you to the breathtaking Chateau les Clos aux Combes originally built in 1562 . Every time I walk past it I stop dead in my tracks in admiration for it’s historical lines, architecture and surreal backdrop of Vercors Mountain. Inevitably some new feature will catch my eye, every time.
It’s the most magical wee school in a typical French building with shutters, the French flag and the motto of the French Republic: ‘Libertè, Égalite, Fraternité’ displayed on a sign out the front.
I actually went along to the school 3 days before the start of term in the hope of meeting the boys new teachers and finding many (hopeful thinking, I know!) people who spoke English. I took a French friend to translate, thank God, because what we found was a beautiful quintessential village school but no English speakers!
There are only 2 classes in the whole school and 40 students. Each class has roughly 20 students over 3 different year groups – translated this means that the boys will be in the same class as each other as they are only 2 years apart in age – what a massive relief for me. It’s hard enough leaving your kids at the start of a new year, let alone in a new school, let alone in a country where they don’t speak the language! I’ve been worried that my youngest especially might get a bit nervous without his big brother’s confidence to give him extra courage.
I also had a brief, fleeting moment of sympathy for the boys teacher. Once my two feel settled and comfortable in a new place……. well, let’s just say that they are two energetic boys who love adventure and a normal amount of mischief!
The school doesn’t have a canteen to serve a hot lunch so the boys will have to catch a bus to another local school on the days they stay for the whole day. French kids don’t take a packed lunch to school, they either go home between 11.30-1.30 before heading back to school for the afternoon or they stay for canteen (hence the 4 x pick up / drops off’s a day). Not sure how much my kiwi boys will enjoy stinky cheeses and ‘funny’ cold meats for lunch. I’ll find out if they come home starving I suppose!
The start of our real French immersion:
It has always been our dream to live in France with the kids, teach them a new language and experience a culture very different from our New Zealand upbringing. I truly believe that part of establishing a life in a new country means meeting local people. It would be so easy for me to stay safe in the company of the other international families in the city, but I know I would regret it further down the track. We have chosen to live in this beautiful country and feel it would be ignorant not do our best to live inside their culture, language and lifestyle – that is after all why we moved. So bold I will be as I attempt to launch myself on to these unsuspecting people!!
Anyway, their bags are packed, school books / accessories named, clothes for their first day organised……Fingers crossed that the boys enjoy the day and that Mum or Dad doesn’t embarrass them with our primitive French when we arrive at the school.
oxo Jaimee Sarah