Wednesday, September 06, 2006

L'école maternelle

Chose promise, chose dûe.

I don't really know if it's just glorified preschool or what. They all seem to think it's wonderful and so important to the development of kids. But I have my suspicions.

Homogeneity is so incredibly important here and I think the whole real school/preschool is really about getting them young. That sounds terrible and it's actually much more benign than that. Put simply, kids who do well in school here are kids who fit into the mold. Artistic, creative, and original thinkers CAN thrive, but the outlets for those qualities are not found at school. So if they get used to it starting at 3, the hope (I think) is that the fitting part will be easier.

I think it's also about l'égalité des chances. Like many, they haven't figured out that same doesn't mean equeal, but that's a whole other debate. Anyway, an institutionalized preschool, they say, helps to wipe out the differences between kids that may exist due to socioeconomic circumstances.

And mostly, I think it's about childcare solutions for families where both parents work. Although even in those families where there is a parent at home, all are anxious that their children start maternelle on schedule so they won't 'miss' anything.

Boy2's day goes something like this. At 8:30 Husband takes the boys to school. Boy2's class is large, 30 children, who are divided into 3 groups of 10, with one or two adults managing each group. The greeting activities are done together, then one group goes to the motricity room for physical play (balls, mats, etc.), another group goes to the art area (painting, drawing, etc) and another group stays in the classroom for music or storytelling or schoolish stuff. Then they all break at 10 for 20 minutes in the schoolyard for outside play with balls, bikes, and trees. Then they return inside and switch activities until Mama time at 11:30.

Days I work, he will eat at the cafeteria and I will pick him up at 1:15.

Amongst his classmates (gosh it's weird to call 3 year olds classmates), there are 16 who stay all day every day (although not wednesdays, as there is no school in pre or elementary), from 8:30 until 4:30. Amongst those 16, there are a few who arrive at 8 and don't leave until 6. That's a long-ass day.

By the way, I have a pounding headache and it's way too hot here again.


beth said...

You last sentence reminded me of something in a previous post. You mentioned that you were looking at a 3 story house - is it air conditioned? If not, how will you deal with the heat of a 3rd floor?
ps - I sm conflicted with the pre school thing too.

Nicole said...

There are basically no air-conditioned homes here. Probably for a lot of reasons, mostly practical ones. Most houses are so old here that to put in a central air system would be nearly impossible. A few people have little units for offices or whatever and a few shops have some now too, but it's just not the thing here. The heat doesn't last long, stone homes are cooler than wood ones, and energy prices here are very high.

Lorraine said...

Is the l'ecole maternelle Montessori or is there a national curriculum or what?

Sorry your head hurts.

Nicole said...

Lorraine - It's a national thing. And the private schools that are under contract (and therefor partially funded by)with the government follow the same program. A few truly private school (as is not under contract) like Montessori do exist, but are incredibly expensive. There aren't any here in Laval, or even in Nantes. Most are in Paris for the international and rich crowd.

charlie said...

I have no idea why I think this, Nicole, but: I find a conflict between the promulgated levelling of the person, as exampled by the pre-schooling, and France's international, more sophisticated image as a producer of singular artistic people and vibrant culture. I am drawn to the latter, but not the former. Perhaps I have the images wrong or perhaps the images themselves are just that - images only.

Why anybody likes hot weather is beyond me. I sympathise.

christi said...

8-6? that's ridiculous. so parents spend two-ish waking hours with their children? what exactly are they promoting?

beth said...

I agree with Christi. I understand that often both parents have to work outside the home, but those are really long hours!

Sarah said...

By the way, another American blogger in France is also chronicling her child's adventures in the ecole maternelle at