Tuesday, September 6, 2011

La Rentrée!


In France "La Rentrée" is the expression for back-to-school, and has kind of spilled over into back-to-work, back-to-gym-class, etc too, because everything starts over in September. And here, officially, the rentrée was yesterday all over France.

It was a long-awaited day for my kids, because they'd known for a few years that we'd be moving "someday" and someday finally arrived... This is their new school in Fontainebleau, and I am glad that we waited to find just the right école for them.

Across the country the school structure is nationalized, so everyone has the same grade levels in each of their schools. Elementary school is called primaire, and it's first through fifth grade, middle school or junior high is called collège and it's sixth through ninth grade, and high school is called lycée and it's tenth through twelfth grade. So Ellie is in Léonard De Vinci Primaire and Alex is in the Collège Internationale; they're in fourth and sixth grade, respectively.

The key bonus about the new school is that there's a private section for English speakers (and one for German speakers). Children must be native or near native speakers to enter the section and are tested (normally both written and oral) for admission. They'll have English lessons here at their normal level with other English speakers who are either also bilingual or who have just arrived and will learn French in special classes. Both of my kids will have English, literature and geography/history classes in English, and the rest in French.

Ellie's class has 26 children and 14 are in the Anglophone section. There are also about seven who are French speakers and five children who speak German. She was pleased that she moves classes "like in collége" and has a variety of teachers. They split off for their language classes, so she will meet even more English speakers in those classes.

Alex's class has 30 students and is pretty much your standard fare French middle school or junior high; he switches classes and teachers throughout the day. One exception is that he will also be able to take German this year. (Russian or Portuguese were choices too.) I've already cracked open his Buch so I can start relearning along with him... Hilfe! Hilfe!

The only bad part about the new school is that it's not free. The Anglophone Section is a private section within the public school and there is an association that pays the salaries of the English teachers. There was a similar school in downtown Orléans for English speakers, tuition-free... Alas, that's not where my husband's job is anymore, but now he has a shorter commute, so he can be home to help with that French (and German) homework. ;-)

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