This is Adrien, one of the school children in Sanilhac. He is also the grandson of our neighbors Patrick and Denise. Adrien and Jack enjoy playing together, especially soccer in our yard. The two of these boys have sometimes acted like siblings, arguing over who won/lost. Adrien’s mother, Carole is a working single mom. Her parents, Patrick and Denise, are the ones who would get Adrien to and from school and Carole usually would not be able to pick up Adrien until 7pm. This is very common in France to have the mamie, grandmother, and/or papi, grandfather, take care of their grandchildren. I will miss seeing Carole, she is a very sweet lady who has always made me feel very welcome and comfortable! Plus, she has a contagious smile!
School ended for AJ, Austin and Tristan the week of June 22nd. The last day of school was not until July 3rd, but at their ages the kids do not stay that last week and a half. Schools stay open because most parents work and it is a form of governmental babysitting. Most working families do not have their vacation until the beginning of July. Most French vacations last anywhere from three weeks to six weeks. So, schools stay open until July 3rd so working parents do not need to find another form of “day care” for their children.
The three boys were happy to be finished with school. They had a day that was dedicated to turning in their books and a conseil de classe (class meeting) when all students get to see their final grades. Overall AJ, Austin and Tristan did a great job this school year! Many teachers commented on how well they integrated and communicated. They will miss their friends they have made here, the delicious school lunches, a few of the teachers, riding the public bus, playing the tennis ball game during class changes, two week vacations every 6-8 weeks… but they will not miss the long days of school!
The last day of school for Jack and Sophie was July 3rd. They had field trips, water game days and just a last few weeks of school filled with so many fun activities. It has been sad for these two cuties to say goodbye to the Sanilhac Sagries school. Jack was very disappointed when he was advanced to the next grade (CP) with his friends and he knew he would not be with them next school year. It is a dilemma for Jack. He enjoys his life here but also wants to return to America. Sophie had mixed emotions too. She was a little melancholy the last few days of school. She is so young to be able to understand what she is feeling, but she is taking all the changes with happiness mixed with a few tears!
Aaron and I are so grateful that our children have had this schooling. Most of them are bilingual as the end of our time in France is approaching. Now onto the next challenge… retaining the language!
This is Sophie’s “report card”. It has pages of all the things she accomplished and the page where her teacher advanced her to the next grade, moyenne section.
Sophie et Maîtresse Sylvaine
Sophie et Elza
Jack, le directeur Gault (principle), et Sophie
When we first moved to our house in Sanilhac and started meeting our neighbors, we were so happy that a cute little 3 year old (turning 4 during the year), Themis, and her 9 year old brother, Thomas, lived next door. Themis and Sophie have become good friends this year. They go to school together and sometimes play together after school. They have enjoyed playing dress up and swimming together. They are cute friends!
About a month and a half ago, Tristan took a countrywide English test. All students in his grade throughout France are required to take an English test. We, and all of Tristan’s class thought it wasn’t fair that Tristan take the test. Tristan’s english teacher insisted that Tristan take the test. I will tell you why… the boys have been studying “British” english this year. The english curriculum in France is based upon what is taught in England, because that is the most common english that would be spoken in this part of the world. Quite frankly, I enjoy the “proper” english over America’s versions of english! The test consisted of sentence structure, vocabulary (which is often different), factual information about education in England, and a few questions of English history. Tristan had to study for this test because there were definitely things about the english language he did not know. Naturally because english is his native language he had the advantage over every student in his school. But, again, the teacher really wanted Tristan to take the test.
It had been announced that the first 5 highest scores in the country would receive prizes, first prize being a laptop. Tristan was a little nervous on test day because he wanted to win that laptop! He came home upset because he knew he had answered one question wrong: “Mr. Pond calls to speak with Tristan (I am inserting his name because he could not remember the name of the person on the test.) Tristan answers the phone and says:”. There were four choices and he did not answer with the correct, “Speaking”. Tristan had never heard that expression before, which I was surprised because that is what I learned from my Dad growing up. I guess I never taught him proper phone etiquette!
Just last week the test results were announced and Tristan came in 5th place in all of France!!! He found out that the four students that placed higher than him were all British students. How funny is that!!!! Hooray for Tristan!!! Because he came in 5th place his prizes were not as glamorous as a laptop, but the trophy and clock sure put a huge smile on his face!!! Way to go Tristan! Everyone at the boys’ school were talking about the student who won 5th place! What a fun memory and souvenir to bring back to America!
Jack and Sophie had a school musical “spectacular” in the Batucada genre. I didn’t know what this was until I did a little research. Batucada is a mix of African and Brazilian samba usually played percussion style. All the children in the Sanilhac school had been practicing their songs and music for months. Jack would always note when it was lundi, monday, because that is when they had music class. Sophie would come home singing a little tune that none of us understood, except for her and Jack! The children were so excited for their performance and were saddened when it got cancelled last friday night. Le spectacle was taking place at the centre ville because in this style of music it is performed while walking. So, the program was for the children to begin at la mairie and work their way through the little village and stop at 2 other places, la place du château and la place du Four, while playing their instruments and singing.
It was raining all day friday. In fact, we had flood warnings again in our area so the children obviously could not perform in those conditions. Jack and Sophie were so sad the fête, party, had been cancelled. They wanted to get their “costumes” on and show off what they had learned!
On monday when they returned to school it was announced that the spectacle would be mardi soir à 18h, tuesday night at 6pm. Hooray!!! Tuesday we woke up to beautiful sunny skies. You could feel the excitement in the air when I took the kids to school. Around 4pm dark clouds rolled in and it started raining!!! Jack and Sophie would look out the window every 5 minutes to see if the rain stopped. It would rain, then stop, then rain, then stop, then sprinkle, then stop… Around 5:45pm the rain stopped and we knew we had to get the kids to la mairie. Sure enough, the whole town was there and all the school children were ready to perform, rain or shine!
When we arrived Jack was trying to locate his instrument that he had made but he could not find it amongst all the others. He was able to grab a tambourine. Each class was dressed in a different colored shirt. Sophie wore white, Jack had green, our neighbor Thomas has blue, our friends Adrian, Rudy, Marie, and Marius had on red shirts. It looked really festive when they were all marching down the streets together. Jack and Sophie got to wear colors around their waist, neck, wrists and Sophie had a purple flower in her hair.
I loved watching Jack and Sophie sing, dance and interact with everyone! I had to pinch myself as I was watching them perform, in the rain at times, surrounded by old stone houses and narrow stone streets. AJ, Austin and Tristan all knew people and/or friends from the village. We feel a part of this community and there definitely were tears as I thought about leaving this beautiful place in just 6 weeks.
Atheism and Sex Education!
No, my children do not have a dress code at their schools, BUT, France has a dress code! This morning I dropped Sophie off at her classroom in a short sleeve shirt, jeans, and her boots with her winter coat hanging on her hook. The sky was blue and the temperature was supposed to reach 58 degrees. It was a beautiful morning and we walked to school with no gloves, hats, or anything because it felt like a spring morning.
All the parents of the children in Sophie’s class hand deliver their child to the classroom door. This morning Sophie made her way into the classroom after navigating around 4 mothers standing in the doorway talking. Just as I was getting ready to turn around, I notice out of the corner of my eye Sophie’s teacher look at Sophie and her shirt and quizzically ask Sophie if she had anything else with her to wear. I proceeded to walk in their direction because I did not want Sophie to be questioned about what she had on. The teacher asked me if she had a cardigan to wear and I said “no, she did not want to wear one”. (This is 100% true because I knew the teachers would ask me why she was in a short sleeve shirt.) I told the teacher she has her coat on her hook for her outside play. This whole interaction was going on while all 4 other moms were glancing at me, with the teacher in the background speaking loudly To say I felt like I was put on the spot is an understatement! After I said Sophie did not have a cardigan, the teacher gave me a disapproved look, rolled her eyes and looked the other direction. All the mothers turned their heads from me to the teacher at the same time. I felt like I was in a scripted sitcom, but no one was laughing at my expense, except for myself! I slowly turned around and walked away a little ticked off.
There are a few things the french are snobs about. Food and clothing. I have been told on so many occasions how my children should be dressing, what shoes my children should be wearing in certain types of weather, what types of food my kids should eat, when we should eat… The list goes on and on in these two areas! The french feel obligated to tell me these things all the time! They feel like their traditions in these two areas are the only way it should be and it is the right way. Today it just struck the wrong chord!
There have been numerous times where I have seen a child/toddler bundled up so heavily (because of the season, yet the temperature doesn’t warrant the clothing) they have rosy cheeks and are crying and then the parents are yelling at them for no good reason. I wonder why!? But, it is none of my business to tell the parents what might be the problem. Sure, if they ask I would gladly make a recommendation.
I could gone on and on with examples of the above scenario, but my venting is complete!
PS. I have to admit that these two things I mention, food and clothing, are also what make France so enjoyable. Their food is delicious and their clothing is so fashionable and chic, yet I just don’t like the “rules” governing these topics, especially when the breaking of these “rules” is directed at my children and my inadequacies. The french are so strict with their “rules” that it makes those of us who don’t abide by their way uncomfortable.
PSS. It’s a love/hate relationship!
We have officially been in France for 6 months! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by and I am not looking forward to the time flying by this next 6 months. I wanted to give a quick 6 month update.
AJ is slowly making progress with the language. He surprises us all the time with little French expressions he will say. Last week he answered the phone and answered the person on the other line without difficulty. My jaw dropped as he was speaking and I think he even surprised himself. We are still encouraging him to try to bless the Sacrament on Sundays. He is the only Priest in the young men organization so it usually falls upon the men in the Ward, but we keep trying. It is very intimidating for him to offer the sacramental prayers in another language. Maybe he will have the courage to do it once before we leave France. AJ is doing a lot of roller blading. He wants to make sure he is ready for hockey season when we return.
Austin is progressing very well! He is practicing his pronunciation daily by reading his scriptures in French out loud. He no longer says school is so boring and just too long because he now understands his teachers and what is going on. Last week, Austin told me how surprised his SVT (Earth Science) teacher was when he raised his hand to answer the question. He is forming some good friendships and I think it is going to be difficult for him to leave, but he has FOOTBALL on the brain, so I think that is his motivation for returning to the States.
Tristan, by far, wins the prize for learning the language! He has a fantastic ear for the language (I think he gets this from Aaron)! It seems to come so naturally for him. It is still a struggle at times because he isn’t 100% fluent, but he gets it and he speaks all the time in French. The other kids are a little more hesitant still. There are times the phone rings and I ask Tristan to answer it because he can understand on the phone better than myself. (For some reason, I am terrible on the phone in French. I have to see the person with whom I am speaking.) Tristan tries so hard to speak and I think that makes the difference. Tristan is doing great at school. His grades are better than most of his French classmates and his teachers all say he is flourishing. This is all a wonderful improvement from that first 6 weeks of tears and anger about being here!
Jack and Sophie are both doing fantastic. I am so glad Aaron has only spoken french to these two cuties. Sophie rambles off in French all the time and Jack doesn’t freely share his language. We have to ask him to speak French. But, his friends and teachers all say he is finally speaking and speaking a lot at school! Hooray!!!
Aaron is trying to improve his fluency. He doesn’t feel his vocabulary is the same as it used to be. So, he is also trying to improve in the language. Then there is me… I am trying! My comprehension is very good but when I have to open my mouth I freeze! My tongue has not been loosed yet. I think I get anxious when I have to open my mouth. I know what I want to say, it just doesn’t always come out right. It is frustrating for me, but at the same time I know I am improving. My reading and accent are getting so much better! I have given up being hard on myself because there were a few months I put so much pressure on myself to speak perfectly, but I can’t speak 100% fluent and I don’t know if I ever will. The good thing is that I feel comfortable in almost all situations. I am not hesitant to go places any more for fear of the language barrier. That is a huge accomplishment for me.
I came upon an interesting article about learning a new language. Some people have an artistic mind and with language it is like a song or dance. One can hear the correct “rhythm” when listening to another language and therefore they repeat what they hear. On the other hand, there are those who have more of a mathematical brain who have to learn the language systematically. One uses a “formula” for the language and, therefore, it is harder to have the language flow or with any fluency. It is interesting to see who fits where with our family. Aaron, Tristan and Sophie are more artistic with the language. It definitely flows off their tongues easier. Austin, Jack and me have a need to formulate the words, sentences, etc. This makes it harder and less natural. AJ, fits a little into both. He is along for the ride and we are happy with what he can take away from this process.
After 6 months, my dreams are becoming reality! I know I may never be fluent, but that is okay. My kids, on the other hand, are doing what Aaron and I have wanted for so many years: to speak a second language! Selfishly, I want to stay another year so we can all retain the language after we return to the States!
Saturday, January 10, 2015 was another sad day because we had to say good-bye to Alexis again for this next semester. This is so hard as a mother to watch your children get older and spread their wings. Alexis is so far away… across two oceans! Again, the train station brought tears! There is something surreal about going to a train station and sending my child off clear across the world! I am grateful at the train station we can watch her board and see her off. It breaks at my heartstrings, but it is also comforting to be with her until the last second! I can’t wait until all 9 of us are together again!
Alexis is such a sweet daughter and daughter of God! I thank the Lord everyday for making me the luckiest mother with her presence in my life! She is so much fun! While here, she had a “wear your converse shoes day”. She wanted all of us to feel like we were connected by our shoes! It is a fun “tie” she has with Jack and Sophie! We miss little things like this, that Alexis does!
Happy Birthday Jack! We can’t believe Jack is already 6! Austin was reflecting yesterday, January 28th, upon Jack’s birth and the last 6 years with him as his little brother. Time does go by so quickly!
Jack invited 3 of his good friends from school to share in his birthday celebration. Mattias, Nathan, and Hector came. I was so excited to have these cute french children in our home and I was more surprised at how well behaved they were. The children were all very mild tempered, even though they were cracking jokes and being silly little boys! They all sat politely around the table, ate their food while engaging in conversation. None of the boys got up from the table until they were told they could. They politely and excitedly watched as Jack opened his presents. Their excitement FOR Jack was incredible! I was very impressed with their manners. I don’t think I have ever experienced this with children in the States. Don’t get me wrong, American children are polite, but they can be more hyper and spoiled. It was a very interesting observation for me. Aaron and I both noticed it and commented on how pleasant it was to have these 4 boys all playing together. The French children were so content with swinging on the swing set, playing a few games, etc. They did not need anything over stimulating, which is what a lot of Americans usually plan and feel obligated to do. It was a very relaxed atmosphere, which was so different from birthday parties in the States. It might be, too, that I have not thrown a 6 year old party in a long time. I am used to the older children that require a little more imagination, planning and execution.
Whatever the case is, it was a wonderful relaxing afternoon for Jack’s birthday! He chose the menu: ham and butter sandwiches on baguette, carrots, pringles, schwepps, pickles, yogurts and finally “death by chocolate” for his dessert of choice. Jack really wanted a power ranger theme but Aaron and I could not find anything party related in the stores here. The closest thing we found was mutant ninja turtles. Jack was thrilled and thought it was all cool. We love that boy!!! He had a smile from ear to ear all day!
I was in heaven as I eavesdropped on Jack playing and talking with his friends in French. I was floored because he doesn’t speak very much French at home and we have been worried that he isn’t speak much at school. BUT, I was shocked listening to him carry on conversations, saying french expressions, just talking like french was his native tongue! I had a prayer of gratitude in my heart for this amazing opportunity our family is having! I felt like I needed to pinch myself to see if it was all real. It was and is exciting for me!
I am including all the photos we took because I want to remember these moments for a long time!!
Nathan, Jack, Hector and Mattias