Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting Schooled

So, we've read a ton about the French and their bureaucratic ways; red tape galore and no deviations or exceptions to their regulations and rules. We learned today that we will probably be no exception to this norm. We went to the mairie, or town hall,to register the girls for public school. Last winter, when we declined their acceptance to the private bilingual school, we knew this decision was based firmly in our desire for Raelyn & Nola to have an authentic cultural and lingual experience. Naturally, we thought the public school could best provide this experience. And it will, if we can actually manage to get them enrolled. Enter red tape. Our desire to have the girls repeat the grades they just completed (3rd & 5th) so that their experience would not be marred by undue struggling in school (due to what we've heard about the French curriculum being more advanced than the U.S.) and to have Raelyn return to the U.S. and start fresh as a 6th-grader next year seems a natural demarcation to us, one that we put a lot of thought into to make sure she'll have the right fit both here and back home. We even had to come up with a term to describe this "fit" because Raelyn was having a hard time relating to the notion of being held back. Soren created the term "appropriately inserted" which, we believe, has a differnt connotation than "held back" does. Raelyn agrees (our brainwashing worked in other words). In addition, we want the girls attending the same school for comfort and ease both for us and for them. Just like in the U.S., 6th grade is the start of middle school or, college, as it is referred to here. Anyway, the girls are both young for their grades (by U.S. standards) and again, our thought process seems so logical to us, so well-suited to their needs and we really have become invested in making this happen. Not so fast, say the French. They must be enrolled in 4th & 6th grade here based on their dates of birth. Even if they had just completed 2nd & 4th grades in the U.S., their dates of birth places them in 4th & 6th grades here. But that's not the only glitch. The elementary school in our neighborhood or premiere as it is referred to here, is filled to capacity. It also does not provide the adaptation classes that we had thought all public schools provide for non-French speaking students. So where will Nola attend premiere? And will Raelyn attend premiere or college, and where? That will depend upon the result of our phone call to the inspecteur who, we were told, is the person with whom to speak to that will let us know if there can be an exception to the space issue as well as the grade issue. However, the inspecteur is on vacation until August 30 as are most residents of Paris. School begins September 2nd. Must. Remember. To. Take. Deep. Breath. Now. My need to know what to expect and how to plan is being challenged right away. I asked for this life challenge didn't I? What was I thinking? Oh yea, personal growth or some sort of BS like that which in this very moment, I have concluded, is overrated.


  1. Let the fun begin! I'm sure it will all work out. The big bummer is waiting for the guy to get back and lay out your case to. Hang in there - the road will smooth out as you get settled in.

  2. Just realize that in France, and especially in Paris, they are not as "forgiving" with catering to children of other nationalities and languages as we are in California with our "No child left behind" laws. They have so many different cultures. Have you seen the movie "Entre les Murs" (The Class)? It is about a public school on the outskirts of Paris and the challenges they have with a diverse population.