Two and one half months in France— we have made it so far!! There have been a lot of high points like trying new delicious foods and going for walks, runs and bike rides and finding that they do indeed sell most of the things we like and getting some new to us cars, and visiting cool places. But most of this time has been spent getting settled and doing the mundane but important tasks of filling out papers for the government so we can stay here, getting a bank account, getting insurance for various things, figuring out utilities (the trash is really stupid— there is no place to dump trash yourself and we have trashcans for a family of 5 not 10 — our friend took a bunch to throw in a dumpster near his house until we get a bigger trashcan), getting the kids set up in school, figuring out where to buy what when (most places close for lunch between noon and 2 pm) and learning French.
There have certainly been some times of frustration, I think the biggest frustration is not being able to communicate— the language barrier is very, very real. But there are a lot of people who do speak English so that is helpful. And we have had some serious help by some really nice people who have translated for us. People are good! We decided to put the kids in school here for the express purpose that they learn French. That seems to be the easiest and best way for them to learn the language, plus they can make friends and really be a part of the culture here. Fortunately, the teachers and the schools have been really, really nice. Being American, we are quite the novelty, especially in our tiny town. It is interesting because a lot of the stores will be playing American music in the background, most of the T-shirts I’ve seen are in English and people wear clothing and jewelry with English sayings. So much modern Western culture comes from American movies and music, and they really do like Americans, generally. They start learning English in elementary school, so it’s funny because they are almost sorry that they don’t speak better English and sort of apologize to me for not speaking English, but really I tell them I need to learn French!! But other than the language, I don’t think we are very different, and I have already met and am getting to know some very nice people.
This is taken from the front of the school, it’s right in the center of town across from the cathedral- I will have to post more of the details of school in another post:
The elementary school has been especially good. I pick the boys up for a 2 hour lunch break in the middle, so it hardly seems like they are gone much at all, and I think that has helped them with the transition and changes living here. They are having a great time, and their teachers are helping them with the language and learning. I think they will be speaking well fairly quickly. The youngest has had a hard time going to the preschool class, but he only has to go in the morning and then I don’t take him back after lunch. It was hard to go at first, but he always came back happy, and he didn’t protest much at all on Friday. I think with his personality, the structure and learning to listen to a teacher is really good for him, and he’ll learn French too!
The middle school has been a bit more of an adjustment, because it is farther and lunch isn’t quite as long, it doesn’t make sense for me to go pick the boys up. Plus the food served is organic, local and I’m sure better by far than anything I have ever cooked. It is cooked fresh each day by a resident chef. I do think it makes a big difference for the kids. A couple hours of classes before lunch, then a really good meal and a break and then a couple more hours of classes. Even so, they are gone from 8 am – 5 pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. They have a few hours of gym classes and a few hours of study periods and then they have English class which is of course easy and math which is also easy for them. So it is not hard all of the time, and they seem to be making friends. And most importantly, they are happy and relaxed when they come home. The other nice thing is that all the schools get out early on Wednesdays, they come home just before lunch and then don’t have to go back. Also, about every 6-8 weeks during the school year, the kids have 2 weeks off, so we are looking forward to traveling during those times.
The high school has been a lot more complicated and the girls haven’t started yet. They are more like mini colleges where the kids have to have certain grades and pick their specialty before entering. So the girls have been waiting to take some type of entrance exam, but it looks like they will finally get to take that test this coming week and will hopefully be entering the lycée the folowing week! But I have been very proud of both of them these past couple weeks. They have been really good about keeping up on their studies and personal goals and on working on French. They have been independently motivated, and I am so glad that they are taking the initiative to learn and study on their own with just a few suggestions and requirements from me. That is what I had hoped for from homeschooling all along and I think it worked for them— yay!! It has been good for them to have experienced public school in the states and now they will get to experience French school, plus they have the homeschool/independent school experience, they can get the benefit from each experience and not be labeled by any of them.
(A view of the river we have been enjoying this summer and fall):
So that’s where we are right now. I’m sure there will be more to report in the upcoming weeks. It has been really good to be here in a new environment. France is a beautiful country with a beautiful language and really nice people. There are things that are weird too, and maybe they are a little too laid back in some things, but it just makes me appreciate the States in those respects more. I am looking forward to the next few months and learning French!!