Sunday, September 8, 2013

C'est La Rentree - Back to Routine & Start of the Academic Year - Schools in France

It's Back to School Time!!

It's funny this week - the weather seemed to know that Fall is arriving - nights have gotten cooler, there's a crispness in the air.  Even though the days are still warm, mornings are cool.  We had a beautiful, sunny, hot summer - full of fun, relaxed play, pure enjoyment - went to the beach, went to the river...well, went all around.  I look back at our "stay-cation" summer and realize it was loads of fun!

So now - we shift gears -and start the regular school year.  The girls go back to school, my husband off to work and I...well, the taxi driver service starts again, I have new projects to complete, exercise classes to start and new ventures to explore.

This last week, the girls got eased into school.  On Tuesday, my younger two daughters began - one starting CM1/fourth grade and the other CP/1st grade.  Now for all my American friends and readers.  CP/1st grade, here is the big move to Elementary school. (Kindergarten is still held at the public preschool). The move to "real school", they are no longer so little, it's more serious, there's more work to be done.  Whenever we share that she's entering CP, all the French "oh and ah" over the fact that it's real school - very similar to heading off to Kindergarten.  So she's feeling pretty special, pretty "grown up".

This was our second start to a new school year (even though it's our third year here, we arrived in late October our first year).  We learned the hard way last year, that parents are actually suppose to come with the students on the first day of school. My kids usually ride a school bus each day, and last year we were a bit surprised that they were the only ones on the bus that first day of school!- My middle daughter then came home a bit miffed - that she didn't have her parents there for the first half an hour of school!  All I can say, typical French communication, how would we know this?  Nothing was sent out, no where was it written that this is what one does.  On a normal day, if you drop your child off, you are not allowed passed the first gate into the courtyard.

So this year, we knew better and I had 2 children to take to the elementary school.  The girls were so excited on the first day of school - so happy to reconnect with friends.  The were also anxious to meet their teachers.  Here in France, they don't find out who their teacher is until the first day of school. Class lists and teachers are posted on the walls when you arrive at school.  I have heard of some schools who post these lists outside the day before, but our school waits until the first day.  Our school is relatively small, so there are generally 2 sections of each level - one solid level and one mixed level.  For example there is a CP and a CP/CE1 (Or 1st grade and 1st & 2nd combo).  We had a little heads up, that my youngest was in the CP class, as the mother of her best friend was the teacher of the CP/CE1 and she knew she didn't have her daughter or many of  her daughter's friends.
After the majority of parents arrived, the Director of the school begins to speak and welcomes everyone to a new year and introduces the teaching team.  It was great to be able to put names to faces.  My oldest daughter was thrilled to find herself in class with her good friend and she was placed in a CM1/CM2 (4th/5th grade) combo class.  Coming from my education background, it will be interesting for me to learn this year, exactly how this type of class works here in France.  (What is separated by grades and what is combined..).

My oldest daughter got really lucky this year.  As she is entering 5eme (7th grade), she didn't start until Thursday morning.  (So, we actually ended up with 2 sets of back to school photos!!) She only had a half day -just getting her schedule, books and team section.   She will start fully on Monday with her schedule - and it's pretty full this year - She has the typical classes of 5eme - French, History, Math & Physics/Chemistry, English, Music, & Technology along with an additional language class in Spanish (some students might choose German instead of Spanish).  She also choose to begin Latin. this year.  

So this weekend, we are getting back into routine, getting organized and starting that thing called homework!!  My younger 2 daughters had some assignments this weekend .  Below, I have shared the first homework assignment from CP/1st grade.  (Yes - they learn cursive in 1st grade for all my American readers).

(The translates to - For Monday Sept. 9th - I will know how to recognize the letters of the alphabet and I know who to write the following letters in cursive:  a, c, o, e, i, r, s, u, v.
I know my poetry (memorize) "It's Back to School time".
I write my name 3 times in cursive.
I have the information about the parent meeting signed.
I have thought to bring a bag with my sports clothes (t-shirt, sneakers) as we are going to the gym room on Monday at the stadium.)

All of this sounds simple enough, but my lovely almost 6 year old is definitely adjusting to the concept of homework and writing is not fun for her - It doesn't help that she is left handed!  The French school system & teachers have high expectations about neat, beautifully written work.  It's extremely important to learn to stay in the lines and follow the guides perfectly.  I think this might be a long year when it comes to homework for her!!  

So goodbye relaxing summer evenings, bye warm breezy nights, so long to the ease of vacation.  C'est La Rentree!! 


  1. Excellent post! It did take me back oh... 40 years or so :-) Since I am covering "la Rentrée" on my blog as well tomorrow, do you mind if I mention this story? I think they will complement each other nicely. Bon courage to your girls and to you, Maman. Those first few weeks can be hectic! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    1. Loved your post!! Learned a lot about the French school supplies! Thank you for the link! Merci!

  2. What a wonderful post. I found you through my friend, Veronique (French Girl in Seattle). I am the child of French parents raised in the US. Mom was bilinqual, Papa learned English after we arrived here and quickly made up for lost time. He taught me how to write before I started school, and the American nuns who taught me were not pleased with the way I made my "M"s. I still make them the way Papa taught me.

    Your girls are beautiful.

    1. Thank you for your kind compliments. I think nuns in any country are pretty strict and have "their" ways. Luckily for my oldest, who was taught cursive in the States - she has become a neater writer now, but still has many American forms - and her teachers are not too critical. Mostly critical on neatness. My middle and youngest will be products of learning cursive in France. Very nice hearing from you - Come back and visit anytime.

  3. They look so stylish setting off - I hope homework becomes easier, it seems they will have a lot to do by end of term.

    1. Yes, Homework is steadily increasing....Happy to see they all want to please their teachers. So as long as I can keep them organized and have them start homework soon after returning from school - it's fine - If it's becomes too late...the battles commence! Hope Fall is treating you well in Vegas!


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