Just Moved · Moving To France · School System · Uncategorized

La Jolie Fille Is Starting Crèche – And How Brexit Almost Ruined It


If you’re thinking about moving to France you might want to learn from our mistakes with regards toddlers and their socialisation/schooling.

With Hindsight We Should Have Taken The Pre-School Place Offered

When we were making our arrangements to move last year we visited La Belle Fille’s school. At that time the directrice had asked us if we had wanted to enroll La Jolie Fille too. They were unusual for a school in that they could take children as young as two. As we were just about to move I thought that it would be better to take her to playgroups as it would give me opportunities to socialise and I felt she was too young to go to what basically was a pre-school. “Give it a few months first, then she’ll be ready I thought.”

This was a mistake. These places went and there were none available later in the year when I changed my mind for the reasons I’m outlining below. So the advice I’d give to anybody is don’t just assume the opportunities are going to be the same in France as they are at home; As With everything else, although at first glance it looks similar, that can be deceiving. France is a different culture and this is reflected in childcare arrangements.

The Early Years System In France

When we arrived it took us a while to get settled and finding our way around in another language, as well as encountering different social norms, I found that I didn’t actually get her to the play groups until the October.

Playgroups, or Associations Rerispontre Échange Parents Enfants, are run by the state. You pay something like €2 a year (yes, for the whole year, not a session). They have keyworkers there to listen and give advise.

When we arrived at one I was late. I expected to see lots of mums, maybe some dads and lots of toddlers; the same experience as at home. It was by that time nearly 3 o’clock and the session started at 2, but there were no other children there. Just me and the two key workers attached to the group. As the time went on two other mothers came and a grand total of three children, however as this was nearly 4 o’clock when they arrived and I had to leave at 4.20 to pick up La Belle, we really didn’t have much time to meet anyone.

Playgroups Aren’t Well Attended

The same group of keyworkers run another group on the Tuesday and Friday. The Friday one I could never find, it still holds a mystical aura for me like Brigadoon from the Gene Kelly film, but we did manage to go to the Tuesday group. Even less children.

One day I plucked up the courage to ask; ” Are there ever any more children who come”. The response wasn’t one I was expecting; “Oh, the Monday group is a lot busier.” Really?

I don’t know what it is in France but, at least here in the provences, no-one seems to use these groups. By the time we moved into our rental out of our friends gîte in December I kind of gave up going as it really wasn’t benefitting the little one.

I said earlier the culture is different and it affects things that are available for children and i often wonder to myself if it’s the strong  family network that’s still prevalent in France that makes playgroups less attended. After all, When you spend your time in extended family, why would you need it?

As I said, I decided I’d see if I could get a place at La Belle’s school, but it was now fully subscribed, I had to fill in an application in the new year. Around mid-January I decided to look for another crèche as I was really worried about La Jolie Fille’s interaction.

Be Prepared For Appointments and Paperwork

The first one I went to I spoke with a receptionist. Nobody seems to speak to you in IMG_9154France without a rendezvous, so one was dutifully made. I went back a few days later and filled in the forms. Their very kind directrice then told me she’d have to look to see if there was a place. I must admit I was left wondering why she didn’t look that up before we arranged the meeting.

When she did contact me there was no place available. So I had to start the process again at another site, further away. As the directrice of this one had been ill for some time I had no ability to have the requisite meeting, and so we waited for her to return.

When we did meet she had a space (yay) so we started to fill in paperwork. I brought somethings with me that I thought would be helpful; my passport, La Jolie’s birth certificate and a bill with our address on it. I didn’t have enough. She asked me for another document, I think it must have been a carte de séjour, but she looked completely flumuxed when I said I didn’t have one. She didn’t have a clue what to do, what to charge me, if I could even go! She found Le Mairie’s office; yes I was a resident, yes I could have access to the crèche. She put the phone down and said “but you have left Europe!” Completely non-plussed. Ahh, I get it, Brexit.

I don’t think she was being delibaretely obstructive, it was probably that she hadn’t dealt with a non-French resident (it was only a small, village crèche and people always tell you the local English people) and as far as she new that’s it, we were out.

I explained that no, we weren’t. Article 50 hadn’t been triggered yet and up until the point of departure we had all of the rights and all of the responsibilities. Also I was an Irish citizen, so we will still be able to remain. She gave me a look, a Gallic shrug with an expression that says “it’s bizarre” and a lit of what documents I needed. Did I have a place? She didn’t know now, she had to contact someone else and get their advice.

I left, uncertain of what was going to happen, but with a time to call. When I did I was offered a temporary place, until the paper work was completed. I went again, loaded down; my passport, Le Marie’s passport, a bill with our address, La Jolie’s birth certificate, La Belle’s certificate, doctor’s details, immunisation records, insurance certificates. I think that’s everything. It took us half an hour to fill in all the forms; it’s France. It is what it is, what’s the point in complaining about a bit of beurocracy?

Be Prepared For Gradual Introductions

Since then La Jolie has been able to go on a temporary basis. It seems the French are very cautious about ensuring a child is suitable for the crèche in question, which I’m impressed by. She’s done a half an hour, then an hour and was about to do two hours today, but a bad cold and slight temperature made us think to perhaps put her off for a couple of days.

She loves it. The first day when I arrived to pick her up she saw me, dropped what was in her hands and waved at the carers; “awah!” They all thought she was so cute.

The next time she was happily playing outside. She did not want to leave; oh dear. I’m so happy that she’s finally getting the interaction she needs.

But, You’ll Be Delighted By The Price!

Perhaps another reason that there aren’t many mothers in playgroups is because crèches are so inexpensive? When the paperwork thing was still not resolved the directrice was worried; I’d have to pay the full amount. She said this with such trepdiation I was concerned. How much was it going to be?!!! €1,93. Yeah, we can afford that.

It’s state subsidised of course. If we had been in the system (we’re still having difficulty with the paperwork for Le Marie’s business to enter the tax system properly),  but if we were we would be paying something like 0,30€ an hour!

Learning French · Preparing The Children · School System

La Belle’s Success!

imageLe Marie and I have spent the last few days, with the help of friends, moving all of our things into our new French home. If the utilities are connected we think we’ll spend our first night in our new home tomorrow – I’m so excited. In the meantime I thought I’d take some time to tell you how La Belle Fille is doing in school.

When we first started to talk about moving out of our friends gite into our new home she was very apprehensive – she seemed to just stop talking French in school! It’s understandable considering she’s just five and her experience of moving has been to a different country.
Gradually, as we’ve talked more and more about the process and I’ve driven her to and from the house to her school to demonstrate its not that far she’s coming to understand that this time not everything will change. She’ll be able to stay close to her friends, in her school, near her grandparents – the world will not shift again!
As she’s realised this her speaking in French has increased once more. The other day she brought home a little note to say she’s spoken 50 French words in one day. Then I spoke with her teacher and had a really pleasant surprise.
I had started to teach La Belle Fille to read when she was about 2 1/2 years old. I used lots of Alphablocks episodes so she could identify how to spell basic cvc (consanant, vowel, consanant) words. However when we started to read together it became obvious that a good number of the most frequently used words are irregularly sounded and this can make it difficult to read a story unless you have a book written with that in mind. However, when you have those kind of book there is the additional problem that the restriction of such words means that there isn’t a real story, so for La Belle they held little interest.
So from the base of phonetics I moved onto the see and say method; remember Peter and Jane books? That’s see and say. It’s the repetition over and over of the most frequently used words so that they’re learnt by site. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, personally I think it’s best to use both as far as they’re  successful and then swap to the other when ea hot loses their utility.
By the time we moved here La Belle had very good reading skills. By that I mean she reads word dense books with intonation, sounding out new words until she has them right. As a result I’d started to teach her to read in French whilst Le Marie continued to read in English. My accent isn’t great, but I’m not too bad at pronunciation and I think that it’s best to do something rather than nothing because it’s not perfect.
This seems to have payed off! When I dropped La Belle off at school the other day Madame La Professeure asked me if she could move her up a reading group – La Belle’s class is composed of two age groups, hers and the year above. So she now reads with the year above!
When I asked Madame if this was just for English she said that no, this was for her reading in French. I was thrilled. I’d noticed more and more that she had started to read to her self in the French, but as she’s tends to hide what she’s doing until she’s confident in it I had been unable to ascertain just where she was.

She’s also started to imitate her French peers – her accent is perfect! “Oh maman, ce n’est pas juste” she’ll declare. I know that by the end of this academic year she’ll be correcting me left, right and centre!

Just Moved · Moving To France · School System · Uncategorized

Parents Meeting


Le Marie and I attended our first parents meeting this week at La Belle’s school. I’ve started to feel as if I’m managing more with the language, but then I go to something like this and I feel deflated again. I’d recently had a meeting with Ruby’s teacher on my own and I’d understood the majority of what was being said. However this time the meeting lasted a lot longer and the pace was a lot faster. It felt like that as soon as I’d worked out what the sentence was that had been said I was trying to understand the next, so the first wasn’t retained. If it hadn’t been for the previous meeting and the slide-show I don’t think I’d have understood anything.

Towards the end as we were gathering to leave, and I was exhausted from concentrating, one of the mothers said how excited she was that La Belle was at the school and all the other mothers joined in – it seems that the opportunity to hear the English accent was a golden one! It was so lovely to be welcomed warmly.

Madame Proffesseure then said how amazed they were that La Belle had been able to count to 23 in French easily despite only arriving here on the 9th August; I was so pleased to see our hard work before coming was paying off.

She also said how La Belle’s presence was enthusing the other children to learn French. She was regularly seen in a corner of the class counting in English amongst other things, helping the others with learning the language.

One thing that I took away from the meeting that all the children need to learn the conjugations of words. So Madame Professeure was encouraging them to say the day, date, weather etc each day, but then continue with (in French) “yesterday was….”, “tomorrow will be…..”. So it seems it’s time to get out the resources I made earlier in the year to start this at home too.

We think we have our internet sorted, we’re just waiting for a new SIM card. So hopefully soon there’ll be more posts and I can actually start contacting people more. Hope you’re Autumn  is beautiful as the one here xxx


Just Moved · Moving To France · School System · Uncategorized

La Belle’s First Day


So, the day finally came. La Belle had her first day at school today. Over the last few days she’s had a love, hate affair with French. Some days she wants to speak it all the time, others she won’t want to know. This has obviously been a reflection of how she is feeling about starting her school at the time.

Last night I got her school clothes together, letting her choose between a set of French clothes I’d bought here and a dress with cats on that I’d bought in England. She chose the cat dress.

Le Marie used our leopard glove puppet to tell her all about his (the leopard’s, not Le Marie’s) first day of school. Leopard had been very worried too, because he spoke only English. But when he’d got there he’d had lost of fun and games with the other leopards and made lots of friends.

As this was going on I was in the kitchen adding labels to all of La Belle’s equipment scolaire. When we’d first enrolled her I’d been given a list of school equip,ent to get for her and it all had to have her name on. I added the name of each item in French too; as La Belle can read in English I thought this would help her learn the French words too. If nothing else it was a way to give her a little sense of control and therefore comfort before she started the next day.

That night she’d had trouble getting to sleep. I went in her room to give her one last cuddle and we spoke about how Ellie Elephant had been nervous on her first day at Peppa Pig’s school, but Peppa had looked after her. “You’ll meet your Peppa, don’t worry” I told her. I also pointed out that she had been watching lots of children’s programmes in French and understood what was happening. She seemed a little more settled.

At breakfast leopard made another appearance to remind La Belle all about how well his first day had gone. I spoke to her about her first day at pre-school in England when she was two. I told her how she’d only been able to count to twenty and had very few words beyond that (she’s a maths wiz) but she’d still made lots of friends.

In the morning as she was washed and dressed and grew increasingly excited I sat her down and read to her the école maternelle book again, which has everything that happens at school so she knows what to expect. I also showed her the little laminated cards of various activities which I’d put in the side pocket of her backpack.

As we set off on the journey La Belle asked for English songs to be played. Oh dear, I thought, that doesn’t sound good.

Then we drove into the cathedral town where her school is. I couldn’t help but think of all the mum’s I knew in England going through the same car journey today. How there day would be similar, how it might be different.

I’d never been at dropping off time before so I hadn’t seen this before; all of a sudden we could see everywhere little children with their backpacks on heading towards the school. La Belle became more and more excited as she pointed them all out. As we got out of the car all her cares had apparently gone and she was eager to get inside.

Now it was my turn to worry. I had to locate her teacher. I’d been sent an email about a week ago telling us where to wait and what the teachers name was. I couldn’t pronounce it. I saw three different teachers and waited anxiously before finally spotting La Belle’s. I manager to be understood and to understood her; was she staying for lunch, the time to pick her up and where, does she stay after school, there’s no telephone number for her (ahhhhh, telephones).

La Belle had gone shy by my side whilst this was going on, but she didn’t looked so shocked now when the teacher greeted her with a kiss (by this time so many adults have greeted her with a kiss she’s getting used to it).

Then more waiting, but La Belle now wanted to happily play. I kept pointing out a little boy is seen registering for the same class. She refused to go and say hello, but started to play near where he was. I stood having a conversation with his father. La Petite Fille was running round like a mad thing with Le Marie holding her by the reigns so he couldn’t join us. I wanted so much for him to be there, make friends. We’re fishes out of water – just come and nod! But of course a 22 month old will not be still for niceties and it’s only my anxiety that’s causing a problem.

La Petite attracted attention wherever she went. The French showing the adoration for children one woman questioned her and ran a commentary on her responses; was she going to the class? Oh no, no! She was going to stay with her mother. Quite right too!

Then announcements came over a loud speaker. I can’t hear what’s being said through those things in English, let alone French. I didn’t even try, but watched the father of La Belle’s classmate to see where I should be going. Then we were off to the classroom. I became worried again. What if we got separated? Le Marie speaks very little French, mine is great. What if we missed instructions? Got seperately from the crowed? I can’t pronounce the teachers name!

As I was trying to follow Le Marie and La Belle and the rest of the group, edging my way through the crowd, when all of a sudden parents who had been waiting behind me managed to get through the gap past me – the French don’t do queuing. “On y vas, Madame” they kept saying. The gap between Le Marie and I became bigger and I became more needlessly worried. I took my opportunity and pushed my way through. “On y vas, Madame” said a man who’d I’d just gone in front of. Had I offended him? Behaved rudely? He seemed jolly and smiling. I’ve worried about it ever since, but I’ve a feeling there was no harm done.

Then into La Belle’s class. All was as it had been in her école maternelle book. She was so excited. She started to play next to the boy whose father I’d spoke to outside. La mattrice went through the same instructions again as outside, we kissed La Belle and then we found ourselves walking outisde.

I hope she’s having fun.

Moving To France · School System

The Visit To L’École Maternelle; Questions You May Want To Ask In French



We went with our daughter on her first visit to l’école maternelle today. There was some trepidation for us and her – as with all families introducing their eldest child to their first ‘big school’.

Although l’école maternelle isn’t a big school in the same way as her going to a primary school in England (this step is a year later in France) it is in the sense that the one we have chosen is on a large site attached to l’école primaire and, additionally, all the grades up until le lycée.

I had tried to prepare her wih this song and also with looking at pictures of the school itself online. If you should need it I also found a short film about an école maternelle here, as well as these episodes of T’Choupi at school.

I had to prepare myself though with lists of questions, as you would with any prospective school visit, but I wanted to ensure that I could ask them in French. At the bottom of the post is a list I came up with – I’m not saying the French is perfect, but it may help you to form a list of questions for yourself.

Be Prepared For Straight Talking

Before I went my mother and I were discussing how to word these questions and she told me to remember how direct the French are, where we would go round the houses. One of the questions is an enquiry about my daughter having a staggered start, but the headmistress (Madame la Directrice) interrupted me. No, the best thing was to just have her there all day – she would get used to the French quicker that way! It just made me smile – her directness.

Be Prepared Too For ‘La Bise’

What also struck me about the interview was her greeting of my daughter. In England we are now so focused on ‘child protection’ issues that there have been discussions about whether it’s ok for an adult to cuddle a child when they’re crying after being hurt. Madame Directrice greeted La Plus Grande Fille with a kiss on the cheek, and left her with one too!

My husband and I commented on how different that was to the UK and we both thought how nice it was.

La Pompier To The Rescue

We conducted the interview in French, so in case you’ll be doing the same I thought I’d share some things that came up – knowing topics in advance sometimes helps me to understand quickly what’s being said.

  • If there is an accident and an injury is sustained the pompiers are called. As a result they ask you to sign a form to give your permission for this.
  • This is only the initial application and the child isn’t accepted until they receive all the forms.
  • As this was a private Catholic school the fees were discussed.
  • Les formateurs scolaires are the items you have to buy for your child when they start school. We were given a list of things to get for her.
  • We were also offered the opportunity of a before and after school club.

The Grand Tour

Madame Directrice also gave us a tour of the school which had lovely bright classrooms, play areas, canteens and a little gymnasium. Our daughter was a lot happier when we left and when we talk of the move now it is a lot more solid in her mind.

Now onto those expressions;
Combien des élevés dans chaque classe? How many children are in a class?
C’est possible pour …….. commence d’abord tous les matinées et puis tous les jours? A présent elle/il va l’école maternelle pour………., mais nous pensons qu’il/elle sera fatigué concentrant dans une nouvelle langue. Is it possible for ……… to start in the mornings at first and then go to a full day? Presently he/she goes to preschool for ………., but we think that he/she will be tired concentrating in a new language all day.

imageNos fils/fille a commencé apprendre français chez nous; est qu’il y a quelque chose je dois faire attention à pour assister il/elle? Our son/daughter has started to learn French in our home, is there something we can particularly do to help him/her?
C’est possible pour il/elle utiliser ‘tu’ a la place de ‘vous’ quand il/elle parle avec les enseignes?
Quel titre donnez vous les enseignes de l’école? It’s possible for him/her to use ‘tu’ instead of ‘vous’ when he/she speaks with the teachers?

……… peut été timide quand il/elle est dans une situation nouvelle. Nous sommes inquiètes que quand elle a beaucoup des personnes qui parle francais autour de il/elle qu’il/elle sera nerveux. Mais il/elle est aussi très sociable et nous espérons qu’il/elle sera heureux ici bientôt. ……….. can be shy when he/she is in a new situation. We are worried that when he/she has lots of people who are speaking French around him/her that he/she will be nervous. But he/she is also very sociable et we hope that he/she will be happy here soon.

Comment voulez-vous assister les enfants qui sont inquiète quand ils commencent? How do you help help children who are anxious when they start?

Est qu’il y a quelqu’un qui peut parler anglaise un peut pour assister il/elle si necessaire? Is there someone who can speak English to help him/her if necessary?

Si nous sommes inquiets c’est possible arranger venir à l’école facilement pour discuter ça? If we have concerns is it possible to arrange to come to the school to discuss it?
Si il/elle ne fait pas progrès dans la langue très vite il/elle restera dans l’école maternelle? If he/she doesn’t make progress in French quickly will he/she stay in the pre-school?

Quel c’est necessaire que nous achetons pour les formateurs scolaire? What school things do we have to buy for schoo?
Nous savons que nous devons avoir les certificats de vaccinations – nous avons demander notre docteur pour un record. We know that we must have certificates of vaccinations – we have asked our doctor for a record.


If you’ve done all this before and would like to add any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you.

Lou Messugo