Our French Life, Our School Life

What If?

noodle cake

So, it’s my son’s 14th birthday today! His first birthday living in a different country. Who would have thought? I remember saying to him in Year 2, walking to school, one day we might live in France. In fact, I remember saying it to his teachers (who were glazing over no doubt) and still being there in Y5 and then Y6 in primary. Then onto secondary Y7, Y8…

I always said to Mr Normandy “we have to move before he’s 10″ that was always my cut off  point for the move. How did that pan out for me?!  It’s never a good time, I suppose for any of your children, if you have more than one. If it’s a right time on paper for one it’s the wrong time for the other one(s). Then Brexit happened – not just that (see about me) – but it forced my hand. Now or never. I didn’t want to have “what if’s”

Trouble is when you do make the move the “what if’s” get reversed. Say what? Well, you wonder “what if” you had stayed in the UK. There’s always that doubt in your mind, especially if something not quite jazz hands happens.

Take my youngest for example, on paper, he is at the perfect age to move to another country. He is 7 years old and goes by the name of Buddy although this is not his real name. My daughter called him that when she was 4 years old and it stuck. I’m sure people think it’s his real name. He’s now getting called Buddy Boo Boo. I digress.

So, on Monday I got a message from the school to say Buddy had been sick and although he felt a bit better I should come and get him. By the way, he has been sick before and because he was better they said no need to come. This is so different to the UK – they normally go into lock down and you’re not allowed back in for about 48 hours. Ok, maybe exaggerating on the lock down front but there’s no way your child is staying in school if it’s puked up and then feels better.

Anyhow, I didn’t get this message until 2 hours later. Why? Because my French mobile is a cheap ‘wilko sunny’ phone (like who are they even?!) and takes forever to do anything. It’s always kicking around but I just forget about it and it runs out of battery etc. When we were renovating I always made sure it was switched on as I’d often get messages regarding deliveries etc.  I need to make sure I have it switched on at all times.

So, I quickly phoned the school and asked if he was at the college – the coach picks them up and takes them to the college (secondary) less than a mile for their lunch. Yes he’s on coach number 2. This is a tiny secondary by the way. There are 18 in my daughter’s class and 36 in her entire year. My son has 27 in his entire year group and there’s a head of year! When I arrived, my daughter is sitting with him and we leave to go home.

He was much better and rather chuffed that he has a half day on a Monday. It transpires that he threw up on his book whilst being taught French. The reason being is that he didn’t know the words for “I’m going to throw up” and being a good boy he didn’t want to run off whilst the teacher was talking.  I have explained to him, that I’m sure she’d much rather you run off, than throw up on her book for her to clear up.

Later on he tells me that he can’t speak French and gets anxious about having to explain things.  For instance, he likes to go to school early (initially it was to play marbles with his friends) now he likes to be there early so that he doesn’t have to walk in when there are lots of children looking at him. He will get very stressed if he doesn’t have his joggers on for sport – one day we forgot so he was in jeans. The stress is coming from the fact that he can’t say “I’m wearing jeans because I forgot my joggers”. So for him, he has to get everything right.

He wouldn’t be doing this if he was in the UK or would he? That’s the thing I don’t know and I’ll never know if he would have had a tendency to be anxious anyway.  I think probably – my eldest used to get stressed if he thought he’d forgotten something and was as timid as a mouse. He could barely look at teachers let alone explain himself. It’s only now he can just about answer someone back – he still struggles but knows he has to make an effort otherwise it can come across as rude. I admit I used to do a lot of my son’s talking for him as I couldn’t stand the thought of him getting upset.

He’s happy to go to school that’s the main thing and he does have friends. He has been invited to a party but again, he doesn’t want to go because of his lack of spoken French. He is doing really well in written work and can understand, however, this is normal. I found a great link albeit for children learning English and it’s spot on https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/helping-your-child/how-young-children-learn-english-another-language. Getting the gist of what is being said, understanding, pointing and using expression. He is doing all these things. In fact, I am too!

The thing is when you’re writing or in class you have time to process that information but when you have to think quickly and on your feet this is much harder. This is the last piece of the puzzle. Buddy has been in French school 8 months minus the holidays probably 4 months. It will come and he has our support. I will give him phrases to learn and he’s been using duolingo more. He does say words to his friends and often speaks franglais at home i.e “je suis going out” “ou est the biscuits”. He loves speaking it at home – he just needs to feel more confident at school.

Nevertheless, it’s not nice to see your little one getting anxious as it must be quite stressful not being able to express yourself properly at that age. There will always be wobbles along the way, if it’s not one child it’ll be the turn of another. I remember talking to someone about the move before we left. My major concern was that the kids should be happy and how I would be unhappy if that were not the case. They said of course you do and whilst you don’t want adversity for your kids it’s actually not a bad thing. We will all face adversity in some form or another in our life so children do need to have some.

The “what if’s” are natural but not altogether helpful.  I shall let you know how Buddy Boo Boo gets on in the coming months.

I hope you enjoy looking at the cake as much as we liked eating it!




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