Welcome to my first foray into the world of blogging. I hope it will be something that develops and improves with my writing style. It is my experiences of foreign cultures, many similar to my own and some completely alien as I live an expat life and throw in the odd journey or two along the way.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

10 Weeks in - Opinion so Far?

I wrote this weeks ago but it is still worth publishing to bring you up to date with what we've been up to.

Well we've been here 10 weeks. The boys have spent 8 of those at school. Many of you may be wondering how it's going and how the boys are coping with this new life. I will endeavour to be honest - as various articles on-line and in magazines that I have read recently have glossed over the reality of moving somewhere new and the difficulties of integration for children as well as adults. This is perhaps because the articles were written over a year into the new life and like all things painful the human body has the ability to forget the bad bits! Perhaps if you too, have had experience of this, you could give some advice and help to me and any others who are also on this rollercoaster ride.

We had got into a routine by the end of January: school drop off at 840am, pick up for lunch at 1145am, drop them back off at 130pm and pick up at end of school at 430pm. Then it is time for a quick snack before homework. Homework is given by my youngest's teacher for him but the eldest ( in CM1 - the second last class of primary school in France) gets nothing. Initially he thought this was good until he realised that I had found books to help him with learning French. Hachette and Nathan both publish books for each academic year covering all subjects and include answers. So he does work that I have set. The youngest's school work includes the sounds of letters and the various ways they can be formed, spelling, reading and learning poetry. I also give him extra work from the books. As you can imagine evenings can be fretful - explaining the homework, translating it and trying to cook tea. Tuesdays are a bit different. It is the night for the eldest's football and the other's basketball. Both at the same time but in different villages! Luckily the neighbour across the road takes his son to football too so I only have to do the pick up after the basketball has finished! But as we are not home before 815pm, they need food before they leave at 6pm. Wednesday is school-free but we still try to do some work.

Then February interrupted the routine with bad weather and the 2 week holiday. Despite doing work during the holidays it was always going to be difficult to go back to school. We've had tears from both over the last week. It is really hard to try to console your little ones whilst you know that they are going into an environment every day where they understand little and can communicate even less. It does make you question why? A move is hard enough but we chose to put a new language into the mix. To this add the doubts over the education system. Our youngest has a super teacher she's in her 30's, she gives me updates on his progress and stresses how well he is doing and how fast he is picking up the french. This allows me to help bolster his confidence when he is upset about not understanding what is happening in class.

Unfortunately the exact opposite can be said about our eldest's teacher. He is old-school, has a strong local dialect and gives no feeedback whatsoever. The impact on our eldest was seen the other night when he dissolved into tears saying how he hated school because he can't understand what's going on, what the teacher is trying to teach or ask him to do. I think he is also affected by not getting any homework - it is emphasising how incapable he is. It then came out just how old-school the teacher is - he shouts a lot. Not necessarily just at those who are misbehaving. I learnt that our eldest had been shouted at numerous times for dropping a pencil on a desk, for trying to shut the classroom door that refused to stay shut and for accidently kicking the football at playtime too high so that it went over the metal fence and into the garden next door!  The boys have also been upset by the roughness of the other children. They shout lots, push and shove in the queue and don't necessarily do what the teachers are asking them to do. All of this is very alien to them as well as to me for our last school was calm, all children were polite and quiet in the corridors, they listened to the teachers when they asked for silence. This has had an impact on my two - they are much noisier at home. Partly because of the noise levels at school and also because they are not as active because the playground is only about 20m by 10m.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts! Maybe something I've written about has sparked memories of similar experiences? Maybe you too have travelled off the beaten track? Send your comments for others to share!