Returning to school, routine and constant adjustment
First published 1st May 2012
So this morning my girls all returned back to school after 2 weeks of Spring break and I have to say, I was happy to send them off this morning. This month in France is a bit disjointed as far as regular routine of school as there are many (and I mean MANY) National French Holidays. Beginning tomorrow – May 1st – it’s Labor Day, May 8 is Victory Day, May 17-18 is Ascension and May 27 is Pentecost. The long and short of it is this results in 3 and sometimes 2 days of school a week. We always have Wednesdays off, so all of these holidays come out of one of the other 4 days of school. I’m not looking forward to this month for that reason.
Routines are good
My children, like most children do best on a routine. I’m not one of those parents who have kept a super strict routine, but knowing what’s coming next on a regular basis is helpful to each one of my children. I know they do best and are less stressed when they feel like they are in a routine. It’s another reason why as much as vacation is fun, full of excitement of new experiences and quality family time, it’s also evident that the lack of routine affects my childrens’ behaviors.
Moving to France has been a big stress to all my children in different ways. As a parent it’s interesting to reflect from time to time how each of them are dealing with this gigantic move – and I can see it the affect in certain moments. I realize that in many ways we asked our children to make a huge change in their lives. I remember moving as an almost 7 year old from Cincinnati, Ohio to Rochester, NY. I remember being excited to meet new friends and also like it was an adventure. We moved in the late summer and started school a few weeks later. I still remember just being excited to go to school. I also knew my grandparents lived in Cincinnati so we went back to visit 3-4 times a year.
I understand that moving my girls at ages 4, 7 & 10 years old (when we arrived) was similar but VERY different. We not only moved far away but also changed languages, countries, culture and unlike my move as a child, it will be a while before we go back to see our old friends. The other thing I’ve noticed for my girls is that because my girls were in daycare from 6 months of age on – they have developed some very strong friendships. My oldest daughter is still good friends with a girl who she started daycare with at 6 months old. They have never attended the same elementary school – but it’s that initial bond as first friends that seems to count for so much. They still consider themselves best friends and invite each other to their birthday parties, even though in reality they see each other only about 6-8 times a year. I never had those kind of friendships. My oldest friends come from elementary and junior high school. (That’s not due to my move, as much as in my generation – preschool was only 2-3 mornings a week and kindergarten was half day – friendships started forming later.) For all of those reasons (and many more) I know this move has been a huge adjustment.
Language learning challenges
The process of learning a new language has been the biggest change I think for my girls. I know I spoke in another post about the progress of each of my girls – and progress is the key word – everyday it changes.
We have chosen (more sub-consciously) to continue to speak English in our home. It’s our language of origin and habit, first language for 4 out of 5 of us – and for my husband and I -it’s our relationship language. That has provided a comfort level for my girls – a safe haven. Even though in theory, my husband should speak more French to them – that’s a slow process when so much of our life already has been in English.
When we have French family and friends over, we change to French. My children seem to make this change more and more unconsciously (it’s a work in progress) – but again it’s interesting to see English is still their comfort zone. By preference at this point, they want to speak English, get together with other English speaking kids etc.
Back to school
So on Monday morning when I sent my girls off to school (after 2 weeks of being home) – it was definitely a difficult morning. Our vacation had been primarily spent together or with my brother and sister-in-law who were visiting. (Most of my girls’ French friends had gone away) – so English was even more comfortable.
My oldest daughter, the social one was excited to see her friends. She had picked out her clothes the night before and was up and going on time. My younger two – that was a different story. My youngest was tired, sluggish – happy to go to school but expressing her frustration by saying she missed her old school, her old friends, her old teachers. She’s my go-with-the-flow kid… but still lets us know her feelings.
My middle daughter, my sensitive one struggled. It was hard to get her up, even though she had picked her clothes out he night before, she was just slow to get dressed. She has a stomach ache, she didn’t feel good. Everything about the morning was frustrating to her. We had several ‘melt downs’. As a mother who knew this was more about anxiety than illness, I tried to get her excited about seeing her friends again. Reassured her that she was prepared for school – she has completed all of her homework over vacation, she had been reading regularly. For her it’s often about confidence and feeling prepared. None of this seemed to help this morning, she still struggled. Through tears she ate her breakfast – constantly stating she didn’t want to go to school. She didn’t like any of her shoes… was 10 steps behind us getting to the bus stop. It was hard as a parent to watch her struggle like this, but knew she needed to go to school. I half expected a phone call today stating she wasn’t feeling well.
When I met the bus at 5 pm and she jumped down the stairs with a smile on her face and gave me a big hug… it made it all worth it. She apparently had an excellent day!! She even said her teacher praised her for her work and focus on school work today. I have to say, as happy as I am that she had a great day….I don’t look forward to the next 2 days off and starting over again on Thursday.
I’m sure there are others out there who have gone through the same thing… would love to hear about any tricks or strategies.
Republished with kind permission from Jennifer via American Mom in Bordeaux – Blending Cultures: French May Holidays and School Routine.