We have been procrastinating and holding back sending Mal to school for the longest time. Education in france for children of Malcolm’s age is optional and free in a state-run public french school, what they called a École Maternelle. The school that a child will be allocated is more or less determined by the Mairie, similar to Town Council, and is based on the proximity to home. Enrolling a child in your ‘dream’ school can be a bureaucratic nightmare as it takes weeks for the Mairie to get back and again weeks later before you get to meet up with the principal of the school. This meeting will be the first time to visit the school. If you don’t like the school, tough, You probably need to cook up some diplomatic reasons and wait for another few more weeks or maybe months to see the next school. Getting a ‘perfect’ school can be a long enduring process or a case of striking the lottery.
A month after we reached, we were finally given an appointment with the school, a few blocks from where we stay. We visited the school, talked to the principal, met up with his teachers and viewed his classroom. It was definitely not one of those school that I will be dying to put my child in mainly because I had the feeling that the teachers and principal weren’t very passionate about children. It was bothering me enough that I started having dreams about sending him to school. I told Daddy that I am not going to send Mal to a place that I am not comfortable with, and delude myself that everything is going to be fine. I was heard but the plan remains, Mal may join the school in mid May.
The last 2 months at home, we have been following a rather fluid schedule. Mal could wake up at 9.30, play his lego for close to an hour before we had breakfast! What we do each day is largely dependent on Mal’s mood. We do writing, reading, painting, colouring and simply hearing him says ‘mummy, let’s do …’ makes my day as it is an assurance that he enjoys what he is doing. Mal loves being at home but I wasn’t sure whether what I had done was adequate for him.
As mid May approached, Daddy remained positive about sending Mal to school, not so much to learn his ABCs and 123s but to learn the rules of the playground. After much discussion and mental adjustment on my part, we finally decided to put him in school for 3 hours every morning.
School started formally for Mal this week. Day 1 and 2 was a struggle. He cried and protested but we stood firm and apparently, according to the teacher he would calm down after we left. By 3rd day, he woke up, ate his breakfast, brushed his teeth, changed his clothes, kissed me goodbye and left for school with Daddy happily without tears. It was a marked improvement.
At home, he rambled on about his playground stories, about what he played, the boy who pushed him, the girl who followed him everywhere, the ones who were reprimanded by the teacher, the craft he did. We realised that at his age, going to school in France means playing and more playing. There was no writing or homework like what he used to have in Singapore and he was quick to tell us that he prefers the school here!
Yesterday, at the playground near our place, we noted that he seems more confident at the playground. He played and kicked ball with other kids and even approached a little girl to ask for permission to ride her roller scooter.
It was only for a few days, but so far the experience has been positive and I hope it will remain so for our remaining stay here.
With this, a brand new chapter of his childhood begins.0