School Report

We’re over a month into the new school year and I thought you might like some more fun facts, reported by my kids, about their experience at French school. You can find our last report here.

– Sometimes Ben Blair and I think we have a good handle on things. But then we realize we have no idea what’s going on. Today, when we picked them up from school, Betty, Oscar and Olive reported that it was field day and apparently they were supposed to go to school in sport pants and bring water bottles. We had no idea! And I swear, we have been reading the notes. Hah!

– Olive plays marbles during recess (so old school!). She said it’s pretty competitive. The kids bring pencil cases full of marbles. I like taking pictures of the marbles. : )

– Ralph said the kids at school think he is an expert rapper. But he said really, he just knows the lyrics to an Eminem song.

– All five are coming along with their French and understand lots of what’s said at school. Last year, we didn’t have them do homework, but this year they do. Sometimes that means a several-hour-long session at the computer with Google translate.

– When kids are finished with lunch, they wait for everyone else at your table to finish too.

– Maude is taking Latin this year. Ralph is taking Spanish. They like taking these classes because they’re at the same starting point as their classmates and they get good scores. They said it’s strange to feel like the best in some classes and the worst in others.

– In middle school, the boys always greet each other with a handshake. Each boy goes and shakes every other boy’s hand. They also shake hands when they say goodbye. The girls say hello and goodbye with a kiss on each cheek.

– Kids younger than middle school greet and say goodbye with one cheek kiss.

– We mentioned the track suits on a previous report, but during warm weather, the boys wear short shorts during gym. (We’re still used to the US look of long sport shorts.)

– The backpack of choice is Eastpak.

– The biggest sport is soccer. Badminton, handball and ping-pong are also a big deal.

– The students all stand when an adult walks into the classroom.

– Many of the high school kids smoke and the adults don’t seem too stressed out about it. They’re not allowed to on campus, but as soon as they walk past the campus fence, students feel free to light up and don’t feel compelled to hide it.

– Our kids are used to school lunch here. They said they’re curious about what they’ll think of school lunch when they return to the States.

– Sort of school related: The kids are getting lots of invitations to birthday parties. The parties are simple and sweet. Not a lot of fuss.

Overall, everyone is doing great and staying enthusiastic about school. We’re super proud of them!

43 thoughts on “School Report”

  1. I remember we use to have to stand when an adult came in the room. I love the handshake thing and the wait until everyone is finished with their meal thing. Why did these things fade away here I wonder?
    What a wonderful experience your children are having. Just wonderful!

  2. Yay! Good for them! I think of them often and this wonderful life experience they are having. I was an exchange student in high school and know that just experiencing daily life in another country, never mind the friends, food, and tourist-type things, is just priceless.

  3. So interesting. I love how they wait for others to finish eating at their lunch table – Very respectful. Though I’m sure it can be tough at times, your children sound like they are having an amazing experience. I would love to hear more about the birthday parties. Simple and sweet is best in my opinion.

  4. Just wondering what is the school like in USA in comparison to the French that you have just written today. :-)

    I’m based here in UK. As the one you have described for French school are very similar to us in UK, apart from the greeting & cigarettes.

  5. When I lived in Germany (goodness, that was more than 10 years ago) all the smoking was one of the worst things about the place – it felt like eveyone, except me, smoked.

    I do like reading about their experiences. I guess that in many ways their experiences sound closer to my childhood than what my kids are experiencing here in America.

  6. Thanks for sharing, sounds like they’re thriving! I dream about giving my own children an opportunity like this! My cousin and her husband relocated to Barcelona with their children this year and they just started second grade. They’re learning two languages…Spanish and Catalan. I’m living vicariously through all of you! Enjoy your weekend!

  7. Love these updates. It sounds like it’s been a great experience for your kids Would love to hear more about their birthday parties, as well.

  8. Thank you thank you thank you (merci!) for posting this! It is so fascinating to me!!! Good luck to your kids. I am sure this is an experience that they will never forget and that will be a highlight of their development.

  9. Sandra Gonzales

    How does French instruction differ for let’s say a universal subject like math?
    Very curious because I LOVE math and I don’t understand why children in the U.S. are on a decline with their math skills.

  10. When I went to school in Berlin when I was 13/14, birthday parties were the same way. We’d go to someone’s house, have sweets and maybe tea, and sit around the dining table and talk. Everything was beautiful, but just because everyday things were made beautifully. I wish I could take some of that to the States. My husband and I are batting around the notion of moving to Berlin, actually, but I’d need more consistent freelance work coming out of the U.S. and he’d need better German!

  11. It all sounds so civilized! The little things they have in place to show respect for one another could make a difference in our schools here, don’t you think?

  12. such a fascinating read! I’m just delighted to learn all the ways others school. I’m adding a few of your notes to my recent post about manners and kids. What interesting timing that I would find your remarks just moments after I posted my thoughts.

    best of luck to all your little ones as they fleurish in all things French!

    – d.

    post script: don’t forget, be awesome.

  13. I love how socially gracious they are. What a lovely experience. I would love to hear more about the birthday parties. Please do a post about french birthday parties. I love simple parties, but I still want it to feel special.

  14. Thanks for sharing! It’s so interesting to learn about the customs of other cultures – and it would be great to incorporate some into our (American) lives!

  15. Gosh, it all sounds so wonderfully civilized and calm. I love all the physical touching between the kids — my son is in 1st grade, and still wanted to hug his friends good-bye after play dates, but they all sort of shove him off — and the mom’s would back them up: “we’re too old for hugging now,” etc. Well remember,…they’re only 5 and 6! And what would happen if he actually tried to kiss anyone? Kind of sad, how we need to demonstrate how “macho” our boys are, when they’re still so young and naturally affectionate.

  16. I think learning French is the best thing for your kids. We are a bilingual family (English and Dutch) living in Italy. Our kids use 4 languages on a daily basis (English, Dutch, Italian and French). They tend to mix them up a little but overall it has become such a normal thing for them that they don’t even notice it. They’ll all be fluent before you know it…

  17. These posts are incredible. Thank you for sharing them! And I’m in agreement with many others, simple birthday parties have their own magic, and keep the relationships central to the day rather than all the fluff.

    In New Zealand, school is different from both the U.S. and France (and the other countries desribed)…but more like the U.S. than Europe, it seems.

  18. As a retired teacher, I appreciate your reporting and the matter-of-fact-way you handle the school situation of your kids. I find it most refreshing. This allows each of them to own their own pieces of their school and at the same time, feel the love and support of their caring parents. Keep sharing as we all feel a little like we are there too.

  19. It seems like it’s much more formal in France than here in the US. I like it. I really appreciate the manners that are taught over seas and wish we’d get back to the basics here in the US.

  20. Dearest G,
    So glad to hear that the kids have found their groove. Admittedly, when you embarked on this adventure, I was sceptical – knowing how to most non-French, the French school system may appear rigidly traditional and unforgiving. Well done to you all! I am most happiest that you guys have picked up on the positives rather than get mired in the negatives. As in life, pros and cons exist in everything.

    To the earlier poster who asked about maths – from our experience, the French place a heavy emphasis on mental arithmetic – so from age 7 and even up to now for my son who is 10, they are drilled to do mental maths quickly. The idea is that once they have a solid fluent base, they will have the confidence and facility to handle the more complex math operations.
    The French have a heavy cultural bias towards maths and the science subjects. The cream of graduates who land the best jobs often come from the leading engineering schools like Ecole Polytechnic. So much so that at high school, kids are often pushed to select the science stream for their baccalaureat bec. the bias is that the “smart” kids do “terminal S”. The downside is that it’s not a great system if your kids are not academic.

  21. What a great experience you have given your children! Awesome.
    I wish my children could not do homework for a year I am so jealous LOL. Seriously homework is killing me over here and is seriously making me out as the evil parent. sigh.
    Have a great weekend.

  22. LOVE these updates. It shows how similar but different school experiences in different countries can be. As far as school lunches go I read {in my local newspaper in the US} that the French schools don’t allow children to bring food from home, they must eat school lunches or leave campus and go home for lunch. The article also said that ketchup is going to be limited in French school lunches to once a week. It’s considered a disgustingly UN-French condiment. LOL

    So what do your children think of the school lunches?

  23. How I love to read about your children at a French school, learning to speak French, and learning such Good Manners! What brave, cool kids!!! How I wish I could have done that with our daughter, but then, there’s always the grandson…!

  24. I love how the kids greet each other in school there. It sounds so darling and grown up at the same time!

    How wonderful that your kiddos are learning French, and some of them are adding a third language to the mix! I hope to introduce a second language to my kiddo while she is young. Knowing a second language is such a gift!


  25. I love these posts! I haven’t enrolled my little expat in school yet (although, in Germany, at only 18 months she’s been old enough for a couple of months), but I look forward to buying her first Schultüte (first day of school gift) next year!

  26. I would love to hear more about the low fuss birthdays. Stateside, birthday parties seem over the top and to no benefit of the birthday kids. If you have any introverts in the family (I do!) they are overwhelming! Thanks for sharing!

  27. I was just in Ireland last month and we were walking down the street and it must have been near the time local schools were dismissed because hundreds of kids in uniforms were just hanging out in the business district. I saw some kids who were probably in the age range of 13, maybe 14, smoking and just hanging out in front of a store. No effort to hide it at all. I think that was the most shocking aspect. If I had seen them down an alley or something, I would have thought they were being sneaky, but this was just another day for them. It totally threw me for a loop.

    Now granted, I would say that this was a little group of kids, most others weren’t hanging around smoking, so I’m not saying all teenagers in Ireland do this, but it didn’t seem like it was as scandalous as it would be here in the States.

  28. Love the Ralph is an expert rapper via eminem.

    Sounds like French kids have much better manners than many US kids. And I’m all for low fuss birthday parties. (She says after throwing quite the bash for her now 5 year old. Seems my low fuss side is in conflict with my crafty-partygirl side.)

  29. I don’t always get to comment, but as a teacher I LOVE reading about the kids’ school experiences. It’s so interesting!

  30. It sounds terribly similar to some of the schools I’ve been to here in Australia. And on a side note, I’m always gaping at the party photos I see online – so terribly elaborate and potentially expensive. I have so many lovely memories of my childhood birthday parties, and I wouldn’t change them for the world, but they were essentially very simple, low-key parties.

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