Schools in FrancePosted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France
We went to Paris last week to look at schools and housing. I have a lot to cover, so I will split up our experiences in three posts: schools, housing and food. (Technically, we weren’t there to scout food spots, but no recounting of a trip to Paris is complete without an detailed explanation of the food. It would be like going to a magic show and not reporting back at all the pedophiles in the audience.) This post is about our search for schools.
We decided to avoid the French public school system. I did a little research on the system there and found the following: students in the French public school system are berated in a manner consistent with being a fraternity pledge during hell week. You are scolded for incorrect answers. You are scolded for poor handwriting. You are scolded for not appreciating the scolding you just got and if you mention any war that the French came out on the losing side of, the teacher will call you an imbecile and throw the eraser at your head. Considering the French military’s record is something like 5-28, (they’ll always have the Crimean War!) we’ll tell Malcolm that it’s best to just avoid such topics. We decided to spare Malcolm the dominatrix approach to education and opted to only look at private schools during our trip.
There are some private schools in France that are have contracts with the government to teach the French curriculum but supplement with immersive French instruction and hugs throughout various parts of the day. This French-lite approach appealed to us for its rigor and for the speed at which Malcolm would pick up the language. Malcolm, who, for his entire educational career, has gone to a grade-free, homework-free, non-competitive environment for his schooling, spoke up during the school tours of these places and announced his desire for homework and grades, a development which sure surprised the school reps giving us the tour. Who asks for homework?! Interestingly, each of these schools insisted on interviewing Malcolm by himself, quizzing him on his math and writing skills and ensuring that he wouldn’t try to burn the place down the minute he was separated from his parents. Having your kid tested like this is a bit unsettling, but at some point your kid is going to have to go it alone and this seemed like as good a time as any. I was sure, though, to take away his matches before leaving him alone. While these schools were some of the most prestigious in Paris, we ultimately felt that this approach was too focused on the system and not on the child. There were going to be subjects like math where Malcolm was going to be far ahead of the curve and subjects like “writing in complete sentences” and “wiping your butt” that he was going to be hopelessly lost in. We wanted something a little more flexible.
We toured a small Montessori school that we originally thought would be perfect for him. With so much change going on in his life, we thought that a classroom that looked like what he was used to would cut down on the stress of the move. After touring the school, we found that he would have been assigned to a classroom of 18 kids split between three grades. If you are doing the math, that’s six kids his age. Six kids who understand the trials and tribulations of being an eight-year-old. (Five kids to make fun of the weird kid with, assuming he’s not the one.) Considering we are moving to a brand new place, six kids is an awfully small peer group. What if the kids aren’t into sports, and therefore completely useless to our son? What if they don’t like Harry Potter and run around their respectively houses screaming things like “Petronum” or “Emporium Maxwell” with a chopstick in their hand? What if the other kids like going to magic shows? No, such a small school was too risky. We needed something bigger.
In the end, we had to decide between our two finalists. School A was a lot like a French school but with a more student-centric approach, which we liked. School B was a lot identified itself as an IB school. (In case you find yourselves interviewing schools in a foreign country, we found that it is totally NOT acceptable to giggle because you think the IB stands for irritable bowels. Evidently, IB stands for International Baccalaureate. Who knew?) Anyway, the IB school was a truly international school, with over 60 countries represented in the student body. We were also impressed with the technology in the classroom at the IB school, it had smartboards in the classroom and the promotional videos for the school showed the kids manipulating spreadsheets on the smartboards. Very cool! Malcolm liked school B because it had the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series in the library and a school
soccer football team. (We decided his input was essentially irrelevant until he could come up with criteria that didn’t make him seem like he was a complete dufus.)
The choice ultimately came down to whether we wanted Malcolm to have a more French experience while living abroad or simply an international one. After some discussion, we came to the conclusion that most of what we wanted to get out of this trip was living in a large international city. He probably won’t use his French when we come home, but it sure would be cool if he had friends from around the globe to keep in touch with. Besides, learning about the Crimean war for weeks on end just isn’t very exciting. We decided on the IB school, and submitted our application late last week. Now our fingers are crossed that Malcolm gets in and Malcolm’s fingers are crossed that nobody checks out any of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books until we get there. Dufus.