Our family in global transition: French preschool

Have you heard about the #Write31Days challenge?

The idea is to go deeper into one topic each day for a whole month. It took me until today, October 3, to join the challenge. Honestly, because I wasn’t sure I would find time to write every day. Also, because I really can’t write with kids swarming around me. It’s only thanks to school that I have a free hour per day to get a baby to nap, to do laundry, admin stuff and sort the chaos left behind in the leaving for school wake. If I am lucky, I have about one half hour window left to write before lunch pick up. So, on the days I can find time, I’m going to jot down some rough and ready, unpolished thoughts about my topic: 31 Days of our family in global transition.

I chose this topic because we uprooted our family of five this past June from Denver, Colorado to a little mountain village in France. As you can imagine, transition is the lens through which I see a lot of motherhood these days. I hope my topic doesn’t sound too much like navel-gazing. This will double up as my journal since I probably won’t have time to write in both places.

Well, this morning marks one full month of two of our kids ages 4 and 2 being in the local, public preschool. Today, our family’s rhythms revolve around school hours and school holidays, like the rest of the world. It’s sorta crushed my world-schooling pipe-dreams but on the whole, the change has been largely positive for us. I love getting up with purpose: getting this ship sailing, somewhere faaaaar far away from me for a few hours. In the mornings, the kids don’t have time to spin their wheels and squabble. They just have to chow down a massive breakfast as they aren’t fed any snacks for about five hours. And magically they arrive at the parking lot fed and with no stains on their clothes by 8am. Ha. Ha.

There has been plenty of adjusting to the rhythms, but most of all, the challenge is adjusting to the French schooling approach. As they arrive home, the kids do feel a bit more aggressive until we have established that hey, hey, ‘we treat each other with kindness in this home’. It’s not just the kids fighting for a piece of territory in the school. To us, the parent-teacher meeting felt more like a riot, unraveling until exasperated parents just left the room. It’s in those moments I feel the most different culturally. For better or for worse, we parent differently, we argue differently, our home functions differently.

As far as adjusting goes, part of me wonders if I am just hyper-sensitive as an Adult Third Culture kid coming back “home”. Perhaps I know too much about the French schooling system and how it can be pretty tough if you don’t fit in quickly. Another part of me thinks it’s so healthy for the kids to grow a thicker skin and it’s good not to be in an over-affirming environment. Maybe I am just making too big of a deal out of this whole thing. But wow, could they not just yell a tiny bit less into those little impressionable faces?

One of our kids is just thriving like it’s nobody’s business. But then, I see what they do in a class of 29 others and I wonder if that child is actually just bored in a French monolingual class. I wonder if the teachers have enough foresight to diversify curriculum and let them learn by playing.

The other child of ours leans on the much more independent side of the spectrum, totally uninterested in performing. While we know to love and value the spunk, there are all these questions in the private garden of my heart about this child, wondering how this will all pan out in a system that demands you fit the mold. This child “said two words in class the other day!” I was told. It spoke volumes about how the chatterbox doesn’t quite feel comfortable, and may in fact be a little more lost than the sibling. Will they find their way?

Regardless, the kids do have each other and we rejoice hearing they run into each others arms at the récré (recess). They hold hands and even trip together on the playground. They help each other up and ask if the other is okay. THIS is one of the thrills of having two kids so close in age.

There are legitimate questions about our schooling choice, and then mostly, there are all the neat things about this small town French school life. I am coming up for air for the first time in the past four and a half years of motherhood. And I am able to take some more professional work on. The teaching team seems very passionate. The kids are in split grade classes, so the littles are learning from the bigs and the bigger kids care for the younger ones. As for my daughter, she will be cooking close to 40 recipes over the course of the year. At age 2, she got to go horse-riding the other day and will go to the theater next to watch a classical play. She goes on four field-trips just to see a landscape in each season and note the changes. A famous guitarist comes to play for the kids. An artist presents the history of art and teaches them to appreciate artwork. My son goes on walks around the village learning about how to watch out for cars and bikes. I arrived at pick up one day to see them walking back to the classrooms chanting: “3 kilomètres à pied, ça u-se, ça u-se! 3 kilomètres à pied, ça use les souliers!” He gets home and sings classic nursery songs all day long. It’s so fun to watch.

If that last paragraph got you jealous, read the first part again. I can tell you there is no perfect world. And the grass always always seems greener on the other side.


This post was part of the #Write31Days challenge, on the topic: Our family in global transition.
You can read the other posts written this month, by clicking on the links below!

1 – French Preschool
2 – Making friends in a new land
3 – ‘Yes’ people in a ‘No’ culture
4 – How language affects transition
5 – Not all French people are foodies
6 – The apple juice party
7 – I’m the third-born
8 – French-Mex ridiculous
9 – Busted by the Swiss police
10 – Educational field trip
11 – Visitors: the good and the bad
12 – Christmas in October
13 – A good place to get sick
14 – C’est les vacances!
15 – Playdate anguish
16 – The five year plan
17 – The Q&A edition!
18 – Holidays are for world-schooling
19 – The Granny I want to be.


20 thoughts on “Our family in global transition: French preschool

  1. Hey, thanks to linking to our worldschooling post! Sounds like your family is happy and that is all that matters. Different folks, different strokes, but can I say that all those things in the last paragraph can happen without school? I’ve got to say it, it’s my job, sorry! Some days I wish I had some time to myself too, but after 12 years of having children and never being without at least one of them with me. OK, I may have gone to the shops without them a few times, I’d miss the pesky little critters! We are also extremely happy, our way, and I think the kids would revolt if I tried to send them to school. And a post a day is a tall order, a typical post of mine takes about 10 hours ugggg! Good luck with your challenge and your new life.

    1. Thanks for your wonderful post on Worldschooling, and thanks for stopping by! You’re absolutely right that all this can happen without school, which is why it is such a tension for me as I have never been a day without kids at home with me. In fact, they were thirsty to learn what they wanted to learn instead of plodding along in the group. But it involved me running on fumes, towards the end just unbearable to be around.. and they were very lonely in these first months here. Not to say we wouldn’t pull them out if we fail to see goodness in it. I still have baby at home so we shop together. He doesn’t put mysterious things into the shopping cart yet though, so I’m okay with that! 🙂 Yeah, the one post a day is a huge challenge. My posts are normally hours and hours to write as well. You can tell these are far less polished, but it’s a fantastic writing and processing exercise to watch the clock and try to hopefully keep things interesting for readers gracious enough to come back!

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