Saturday, September 4, 2010

La Rentrée

The French take school very, very seriously, and "la rentrée" means "back to school time" or even "back to work time," for those who take July and/or August vacations. That includes most French people; some companies even still close in July or August.

"La rentrée scolaire", and Benjamin's first day of Kindergarten (called "grande section de maternelle" here, or "grande section" for short) was Thursday. He was so excited to go back to school; he had been asking all summer when school was going to start again. Here he is showing off his slippers before he heads inside.
Ha! See how prepared we were this year? Last year we had no idea they needed slippers for school. This year we let him choose his brand-new Spiderman slippers before school even started!

Of course, Benjamin only went mornings last year, so we didn't realize that now he will need a snack every afternoon, and some kind of bag to keep his slippers and snack in. And then, does he bring that bag home every day? Leave it there and carry his snack in to put it in his bag? When does swimming rotation start? This school thing is fraught with mysteries. The parents' meeting is on Monday evening, but do we dare ask these pressing questions at the parents' meeting, and pass for ignorant first-timers? Perhaps some of the 3-year-olds' parents will ask instead.

And rumor has it the first strike is planned for Tuesday! Ah yes, it wouldn't be school in France without strikes.

This year there are ten or more 3-year-old preschoolers ("petite section") in the school; last year there was only one; and a "typical" class size is 5-6. This has caused all sorts of organizational upheaval for the school; things like enlarging the parking lot (such as it is) and preparing an additional room to be the nap room for the little ones.

Add to that our having told Benjamin he could speak English at school if the teacher asked him... he took a little more license with that authorization than we intended... and the first day he saw the little kids go off for their nap, he had some kind of mini-breakdown, telling his teacher - in English - he didn't want to go to sleep. Well, "sleep" in English sounds like the French word "slip," or "underwear," so the teacher was very confused as to why Benjamin was going on and on about his underwear. They did finally figure it out, but I guess we'll have to go back to the "we speak French at school" rule!

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