It’s hard to believe we’ve just celebrated two years of living in Paris. We’ve all really grown and changed — both as a family and individuals — especially the kids, who were just three and five when we landed and began our adventure. Here they are at the airport when we left Boston. Little did they know about the new world they were about to discover.
As I’ve watched them adapt to life in Paris, I’ve been struck many times by the resilience of children and how much we adults could learn from their example. As I’ve written about before, neither Cole or Adele spoke French when we arrived so learning the language was perhaps their first and greatest challenge. And yet they managed to make it look easy. Unlike adults, they seemed to learn French almost by osmosis, absorbing the new words and sounds alongside new words in English. They never had a moment of explicit instruction, just loads of play and total immersion. In fact, learning to speak was almost a Darwinian matter of survival. Unless they adapted to this foreign tongue, they would remain outside the experiences of their peers and unable to partake of the joys they saw around them. It wasn’t always easy, but I have never regretted the choice to put them directly into French school.
Now, as you may have heard, there are changes on the horizon in the French schools. For more than a century, French schools have followed an unusual four-day week with no classes held on Wednesdays. Initially, this was structured as a compromise with the Catholic church (that had, until then, directed French education) and was designed to allow for religious studies on Wednesday. Needless to say, this model has become outmoded and the new government of President Francois Hollande is committed to making some (and in my view, much-needed) reforms.
But like any sweeping (or even sometimes modest) proposed social changes in France, these have met with strong resistance. There have been two teachers’ strikes that have shut down the schools and manifestations that have drawn thousands of teachers and parents. Petitions have been circulated; meetings have been held.
The International Herald Tribune did a great story that spells out all the details. As for how I feel, I’m mixed. I agree that kids should attend school five days a week. It’s better for their rhythm of learning and I’d prefer five shorter days to the current four really long days. But there’s something pretty great about having a day “off” with the kids in the middle of the week. Their day is busy with classes and activities and it gives me some quality time with them like what we used to have when they were toddlers. I am aware, however, that this system is quite burdensome for many parents and is simply not sustainable. What do you think? If your kids are in French schools, do you support the proposed changes?
And so we’ll see what the future holds. As I’m often reminded, in life there is only one constant: change. And speaking of changes, they’re still in the works for my blog. In the meantime, thanks for sticking with me and for visiting my little corner of Paris. A bientot.