I was going to write an update after week one, but I’ve held off a little longer to see how things played out.
I’ve learned through experience about exposing kids to big change. It can be a rollercoaster and things may seem good or bad initially but that can turn pretty quickly in the small world of a 6 or 8 year old boy.
Day 1 at the boys new French school was a mixed bag for me and the boys.
On the way to school, we got the questions we’d been preparing them for but they had never asked. So, we ran through the arsenal of tactics that we had been discussing over the holidays:
Q: “What if no one likes me?”
A: You boys are really lucky because you’re in the same class, so you will have each other.
Q: “What if there is a bully?”
A: You stand up for each other: ” Don’t do that to my brother” or say (loudly) “Stop that, I don’t like it!”. Just look after each other.
Q: “What if no-one understands me?” (Highly likely considering they don’t speak French!)
A: We know that already, so its really important that you listen hard and use sign language and pointing if you need to say something.
We arrived at school and immediately a little French boy who speaks English came up to us and introduced himself. Phew (huge sigh of relief) someone will understand them. The teacher approaches and we try our best to have a conversation in Franglais. Her English is at the same level as my French but luckily Johnny is a bit more advanced than me so he could carry the conversation! We were saved eventually by the little boy’s dad who also speaks English. He gave us the lay of the land and then very kindly invited us to their home for a bbq that weekend. Great start!
As we were speaking and the boys were being shown into their classroom, our 1 year old Lily started vomiting milk, banana and porridge all over herself and the pram! Arrrggghhhhh! Really, in front of all these new people, now?!
That cut our lingering, emotional goodbye short (not a bad thing) and with a quick “sorry kids but we have to go, see you at lunch time!” we were off. They’ll be fine – we reassured ourselves as we abandoned our kids before the bell had gone.
The first day was mixed as the little French boy who spoke English had been mean to Carlos and was hitting him. I gave the kid the benefit of the doubt knowing that my boys were probably super sensitive with all this change and may have misinterpreted friendly play as rough play.
Day 2: Started with me having a kind word with the English speaking boy and telling him how grateful I would be if he could help the boys out and be nice.
The boys were at school all day today so I wouldn’t see them until 4pm.
At school pick up, my 8 year old Mackai came over to me, cuddled in tight and started crying. This set off alarm bells as it usually takes a lot to make Mackai cry in this vulnerable way. He said the English speaking boy had been kicking and hitting him. Mackai said Carlos has stood up for him and told the teacher – but my mama bear instincts still kicked in. Thankfully I had my French friend with me who spoke to the teacher about the incident while I very kindly (but way more sternly) had another word with the English speaking French kid. (Sidenote: We haven’t had anymore problems with this kid and the boys have all become friends.)
Day 3: Only a half day today, both boys came home happy – no issues to report!
During the following 2 weeks I witnessed Carlos having a basic conversation in French with the teacher (that blew my mind!!) and the teacher told me that the kids are starting to speak some French with their friends. Mackai tells me a new French word every day on the walk home from school and tries to use French at home sometimes (& often he speaks English with a French accent!). I love looking through their books and smiling proudly at the all of their French writing.
They also have a Tutor who comes to the school twice a week and gives them extra French tuition – this service is paid for by the local council, which I think is fantastic.
They have just spent 2 days in a regional park exploring nature, going on hikes and enjoying the fresh Autumn weather. This region in France offers a fantastic outdoors lifestyle for the kids and they’re much happier out in the fresh air.
So next week will be the end of the first month in their French school.
The boys seem settled, we went to the bbq with the lovely French/English family and I’ve been invited out to drinks with two mothers from the school. I’ve also been encouraged to help at the school fundraising fete which is coming up. Of course I don’t want to do it because my French is terrible and it worries me that I won’t be able to understand anything. But bugger it, if my kids can man up every day, then I can handle a school fete!
The boys are enjoying every day and I am always relieved when I pick them up to have them excited and happy to be at school. They haven’t brought home any homework yet which I am a bit suspect about as they have plenty of books in their bags each day but conveniently they tell me they couldn’t understand the teacher!!!
They have survived 3 weeks of canteen (lunch at school) where they need to catch a bus to another school. So far they have tried different types of beef, salmon and different cheeses. This is huge for me as there is no way they would’ve tried these things at home. Although Mackai is convinced that French beef is very different from other types of beef and thats why he will eat it!
We have registered them both in a rugby club as another way to immerse and spend more time talking French with other kids their own ages.
School in France is everything I’d hoped it would be, I know there will still be some more frustrations ahead but every week that goes by is another week of learning and absorbing all things French.
My highs so far:
Watching Carlos interact in French with his teacher.
Having them both stick up for each other in the playground.
Every time they say that they’ve made a new friend.
My lows so far:
Dealing with some mild niggles on days 1 & 2.
First Rugby training session (which smashed my mamma heart into smithereens). It was week 2 into school, they were both tired, they couldn’t understand the directions and so kept making mistakes. Carlos (being only 6) also had to deal with the other kids in his team pointing at him and talking about him. It is heartbreaking to watch your kid standing alone, not fitting in but trying to look brave.
That first session ended in tears for both of them and neither wanting to play anymore. But we persevered and now they still can’t understand anything but they’re not the new kid anymore either.
So very proud of these two brave brothers who are learning that life is better when they stick together!
Jaimee Sarah oxo