Here in France, just about everyone sends their children to preschool as of age 3. It is free and run by the national education system.
As my daughter finishes her first year in the school system, I’ve been reflecting on how different the experience is compared with my experience in the U.S. school system, which starts with Kindergarten at age 5.
The most interesting/surprising things about French preschool?
Field trips. Lots of them. I’ve lost count. Courageous (or naïve?) teachers and parents leading about two dozen 3-4 year olds through the streets and subway to museums, movies and activity centers. There have been a few minor injuries along the way, but thankfully no lost children.
Little beds. When I first brought my daughter to school, I was shocked to see a room full of little bunk beds! Each bed has a child’s name on it. This is where our little darlings nap! They have little pillows and blankets too. And of course, they bring their favorite stuffed animals to school to cuddle. I remember those mushy plastic mats that were our naptime “beds” when I was a kid…
The school "dormitory"
Lunch. OK, we’re not talking sloppy joe’s here. We are talking appetizer, main course, cheese and dessert. I’m not kidding you. And elaborate things: chicken with mustard sauce, fish with a lemon butter sauce, aged cheeses, chocolate mousse. Many of the ingredients are organic and cooks prepare the food on site. Oh, and my daughter won’t touch a thing. But that’s another story…
Lesson Plan. When I first thought about P. attending preschool, I thought she would be doing a lot of arts and crafts, but didn’t realize to what extent she would be learning. The teacher teaches the students the days of the week, the alphabet, numbers, how to write their names and much more. Volunteers help out, introducing the children to foreign language for example. (The other day, P. says to me “Sing Happy Birthday in Spanish.” I say “Umm, I don’t know how… Do you?” P. sings “compleanos feliz.” I widen my eyes in amazement…)
Report Cards. All this learning isn’t for nothing. As I recently found out, the teacher prepares a very detailed report card for each student! She assesses each child’s ability to discover the world around him/her, imagine, create, interact with others etc. P. received a majority of “A’s” meaning the skill is acquired and a few “EAs” meaning the skill is almost achieved. Whew!
The report card!
This post is part of the Paris in July blogging event. I’m delighted to be co-hosting this year! Please check out the blogs of Karen at “A Wondering Life” and Tamara at “Thyme for Tea," creators of the event, for links to all participating posts.