Phew! Eight weeks ago the two small people said farewell to their teachers and their friends. It was the start of a long school holiday called Les Grande Vacances. This came as something of a shock the first year we were here. It was our first year with a child in school so our first year without wall-to-wall nursery cover, if needed. The second year, we managed quite a bit better, having managed to make preparations ahead of time and having been told all about the Centre de Loisirs. How do working parents manage without a Centre de Loisirs!? This year it was a bit of a mixed bag as we tried to juggle work, downtime, and house-building plans, which took a bit of hit after our soil study came back with less than good news (more on that later.) Then there was the heat (la canicule) which meant we had plenty of days when it made more sense to stay indoors until late, if we ventured out at all. It feels like we didn’t get out much. We certainly didn’t see many of our friends or do many interesting things.
But whatever we did or didn’t do this summer (clue: we watched a lot of films) we’re all, with perhaps the exception of DS, glad that it’s time for school to start. This year is quite a big one of DD as she starts in CP (cours préparatoire), which is her first year of “proper” school. This ritual is marked by the presentation of the parents of a lengthy list of equipment that parents are required to provide. Because all the children have to have this huge list of stuff, they also need huge bags. I always wondered why children here had such massive bags, sometimes resembling hand luggage bags rather than anything I’d have thought of a school bag – and now I know! DD’s list probably isn’t as long this year as it will be next, but still. Here’s what we had to provide.
This translates as:
- An A4 folder (not less than 4cm deep)
- 6 file dividers
- 1 rubber
- 1 pencil sharpener
- 1 packet of felt-tipped pens
- 1 packet of colouring pencils
- 1 slate (wipeable writing board)
- 1 highlighter
- 1 ruler 30cm
- 1 set square
- 2 graphite pencils
- 2 blue rollerball pen
- 1 green rollerball pen
- 2 whiteboard pens
- 2 glue sticks
- 1 school-year diary
- 1 packet of tissues
- 1 t-shirt or other old shirt to use for painting
Written out like that it doesn’t seem so much. With the bag, the total cost was about 40 euros. DD and James went into the shop (we decided on L’Eclerc) and came out about an hour later. An hour! I’m not surprised though: I popped in with a now-awake DS once James and Holly came out (DS needed a new bag since DD had firmly rejected the prospect of a hand-me-down) and it was quite a complicated business. There were easy-access aisles full of boxes with all the gear you needed, but mostly at twice the price (or more) of the same stuff in the usual school and stationery supplies aisle. Given half of the 40 euros we spent was on DD’s new bag (sac a cartable) and we have a tonne of spares that will hopefully last us until we get next year’s list, I’m pretty happy with it.
DS is pretty happy with his new bag, and his cahier (he’s so excited about having his own cahier de liason this year), and the red, green, blue, and black biros I gave him; plus his new snack box and bottle.
For James and I, the excitement of la rentree, which brings with it the prospect of getting a million-and-one of the things we haven’t been able to do for the last eight weeks finally done, has had the edge taken off it by a phone message from the local Mairie’s, picked up yesterday – the Saturday before the first day back. Do we want DS and DD to have lunch at school? Well, yes, of course – just like last year!? But we know from last year that not having responded to this call (we were away, having a no-tech camping trip) means they won’t have been registered for lunch during the first week, so instead of having a nose-to-the-grindstone week, clearing out to-do lists, getting on with projects that have been treading water, we’ll be back and forth to school, haemorrhaging money on diesel, as we return at lunchtime with a picnic to feed them both. Damn. I must set up an automated email to the Mairie requesting their lunch for next year. Why they can’t just ask at the end of the previous year, I have no idea!
Whatever. As of next week, they’ll both be at school “full time” (which means four days a week here.) If I wasn’t so busy I’d be conflicted about DS, who would love to stay at home, having to be there four days, but it is what it is. DS, on the other hand, is soooo excited to be going back, what with the new bag, the pens, etc. She’s excited about learning maths and writing and reading. Hopefully, DD will catch the bug once he gets back and realises he’s no longer the little one and that the big noisy ones have gone. Fingers crossed!