October 24, 2013
When we first arrived in Paris, I couldn’t wait to enroll my kids in French public school. They were still very young — just three and five — so starting them in our local maternelle seemed like a no brainer.
Language immersion was guaranteed, the school was just a stone’s throw from our apartment and, best of all, it was free! Plus, who knew what kind of students they would prove to be? Only time would tell. Within a week of our arrival, my two little Americans began their French education.
Turns out, it was an education for me, too. One that led us to make some very different choices and enroll our petits Parisiens in private schools this Fall. Here are a few lessons from my family’s journey in French schooling. Continue Reading »
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June 11, 2013
When we decided to move to Paris, I knew parenting here would be different. Not only would the moms (and les petits enfants) be better dressed, they’d enjoy luxuries not known to their American counterparts like guaranteed, paid maternity leave and high quality, state-subsidized childcare.
The impact of these family benefits cannot be overstated. And yet, I was still surprised to discover just how different parenting is here on issues big and small.
Some of the differences shocked me (and not in a good way). There’s an iron-fist disciplinary style that makes little ones quake in their parents’ presence and a culture of yelling that left me drop-jawed. The word “non” (shunned, albeit somewhat absurdly, by some American friends) is central to French parenting. Many smoke openly in front of kids and don’t shy away from spanking to discourage unwanted behavior. Continue Reading »
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December 20, 2012
Ahh, Christmas in Paris. The twinkling lights, fabulous holiday shopping, vin chaud and cozy nights by the fire. Isn’t it romantic? Sure, unless you have kids, in which case, copious lists for Santa, too many unscheduled hours and sugar overload can lead to a merry meltdown, turning even the cheeriest maman into the Grinch. That’s why I’m filling our family calendar with lots of happy holiday diversions. Here’s what we’ll be up to this most wonderful time of the year.
Festive holiday windows. Parisians are accustomed to lust-worthy window shopping; faire du lèche-vitrine (literally “window licking”) is a time-honored activity here. Continue Reading »
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April 17, 2012
When we decided to move to France, one of the biggest decisions was where to send our kids to school. International bilingual? (Too expensive.) Private Catholic? (Too Catholic.) American Montessori? (Too American.) Public French school? (Perhaps too…French?)
We opted for total immersion in our neighborhood maternelle, the French equivalent of preschool + K. And so our adventure in French schools began. What we’ve found has been a cultural education in itself, surprising, occasionally maddening and enlightening all at once.
School is free. For Americans and Brits accustomed to shelling out thousands for private education, this was a most welcome change. No more paying $800 per month for our three-year-old to attend morning preschool. No more monthly kindergarten fee (even at the local public school). School was free! It was hard to imagine.
The Napoleonic dream. The French system is indeed rigid, disciplinarian and devoted to the teaching method envisioned by Napoleon. Kids are not so much taught as trained – to absorb information by memorization and dictation with an eye toward shaping little French citizens. Where was the individuality? Creative problem solving? These were American constructs with no place in a system with only two answers: right or wrong. Hmm.
Le Menu de la Semaine The state-sponsored lunch service (“la cantine“) surprised and delighted us with its weekly menus rivaling a Michelin-starred restaurant. A sample daily menu, including four courses, might include:
Salade de pomme de terre/tomates
Escalope de poulet à la crème
Duo carottes / salsifis
Yaourt aromatisé Poire
Pain / fromage Jus de pomme
At least one day per week is strictly bio (organic). And no menu is complete without the daily “suggestion du soir,” the recommended dinner selection to prepare at home to complement that day’s dejeuner. The scene at the cantine is something to behold: Groups of preschoolers sit at small round tables, their place settings complete with porcelain plates, bowls and glasses. They spend no less than 45 minutes a day a table. Just like the States, non? Continue Reading »
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July 18, 2011
Little Girl in Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens (Ktylerconk)
I’ve always thought of Paris as the ultimate adult playground. But Paris for the under-four-foot set? I wasn’t so sure.
That’s why discovering kid-friendly Paris (yes, it exists!) has been such a happy surprise. When the kids tire of museums and medieval churches (dubiously labeled “kid-friendly” by many a travel guide) put the Luxemburg Gardens on your family game plan. Even if much of the grass is interdit, there’s more than enough here to tire out your little travelers leaving papa et maman to enjoy an evening à deux.
Continue Reading »
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