Putting your child through school in France might sound like a headache for any foreign parent, but it's honestly not that bad, says Aussie mum Bree Barclay, whose blog can be viewed here.
Here are 14 tips to make life easier.
1. First and foremost, be nice to the door lady — she knows everything and can keep an eye on your daughter if you’re running late and don’t have time to take her out of the pram and wait for her to meander up the stairs, down the stairs, sit in the book corner and refuse to leave etc.
2. Source an ally – find a friendly parent who speaks your language so you can double-check things you may not understand. I found an absolute gem who even accompanied me to the parent-teacher interviews to translate, which was an extremely kind gesture and a huge help to me.
3. Don’t be disappointed if the teacher fails to gush about your child’s every achievement. They generally seem better at letting you know if something is wrong. Red lines and upside down smiley-faces are not uncommon on incorrect work.
4. Attend as many school functions as you can such as fêtes, cake sales and excursions (not possible for everyone I know).
5. Familiarise yourself with the weekly timetable – our school has a different pick-up time every day which requires some forward planning.
6. Read the school menu. If everything else is failing at least you know your child is being fed extremely well.
Children at a school in northern France's Caen. Photo: AFP
7. Be prepared to come to enjoy the routine of school. Equally, be prepared for a barrage of school holidays where you suddenly find yourself reprising the role of chief entertainer (or find other arrangements if you’re working).
8. Embrace the Doudou. Australians tend to frown upon 4-year-olds cruising around with dummies and raggedy comforters in public. Not so in France – it’s simply a tool to help your child settle themselves and be you know, comforted.
9. Be prepared for France’s near obsession with your child’s independence. This is wonderful and a bit snaggy on the heart strings at the same time. On one hand, they teach children clever tricks to put on their own coats and gloves. On the other, parents are invited NOT to linger in the classroom.
10. Discipline is a thing and French teachers are unafraid to dish it out. Don’t be surprised to see your child sitting in a corner as punishment for disobedience or disruptive behaviour.
11. Ensure your child has a substantial breakfast. Morning tea does not exist in France and the kids don’t eat until lunchtime.
12. Try to be on time! It will keep you in everyone’s good books and reduce stress for you and your child. If anyone has any tips for me on this I’m all ears (yours sincerely, Perpetually Late).
13. Try try try. Make it clear that you are trying with language and the French way of doing things. If staff/parents get a sense that you have no interest, you will be left in the dark about what is going on with your child and the school.
14. Finally – make sure your child has a good wash daily. French schools may be super at developing your child’s independence but they do not account for the bottom-wiping capabilities of many 3 and 4-year-olds.
By Bree Barclay, an Australian mother of two who has lived in Paris for a year. To read the rest of her 23 tips for expat parents you can visit the site Mama Loves Paris blog, where is story first appeared.