I will be writing quite a few posts about school in France in this blog, as much as a reference for me as to help others curious about what happens at schools in this country.
Having spent the last three years at the village creche, Super PG started pre-school, or “maternelle”, as it is called in France, on September 1, 2015. After attending a parents meeting not long ago and hearing about what the children do at the school we are nothing but impressed.
For this first academic year the focus is on “language” and they do all kinds of activities throughout the day (I shall write about these in more detail later on) that will help these little people learn how to communicate as best they can.
About pre-school or “maternelle”
The “école maternelle” or pre-school accommodates three to six year olds and in Super PG’s class there are 27 children. It isn’t mandatory for children to go to school until they are six here, but many parents choose to send their children to “maternelle” for the three years prior to primary school (“école élémentaire”).
After a few wobbles in weeks two and three – mainly I think due to the big boys hogging the bikes and riding too fast on them during the “récré” (break time) – Super PG is now happy to say goodbye in the morning without any tears and run off to his friends.
We noticed in a school document (of which there are many) the other day that there is now a rule where the older children are only allowed on the bikes for half the break. I’m not sure if this had anything to do with Super PG’s experience – after the third week of school he was no longer mentioning this as a problem, before this he was telling us every day that he was scared of them – but now the smaller children are given the bikes for the second half, so any stress relating to this situation has thankfully disappeared.
As the “maternelle” is next door to the creche, Super PG has been able to start school with at least ten of his friends. This has helped the transition enormously. Even the teacher said that where she usually sings alone during singing sessions for the first couple of months, this year most of the kids are singing with her, because they’ve been so used to it at the creche. She also says that they have a wonderful rapport and play with each other in a way that her class don’t usually do until January. It’s because of this that she lets them play a little longer in the mornings after they arrive.
The day at this “maternelle” starts at 8.35am when the gates open and school starts at 8.45am. They have lunch at 12pm – either in the canteen or at home (and for some, school finishes at this time unless you opt for them to stay) – and then after lunch they have a sleep. One large classroom has been made into a dormitory full of little beds, it is just so adorable. After their sleep they eat what has been packed for them (by the parents) in their snack box, and then it is 3.45pm and time to go home.
The full-day version is Super PG’s routine on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, but on Wednesdays he finishes at 12pm, all the kids do, and he has lunch at home with me.
School dinners in France
Having knowledge of what Super PG ate at the creche made signing him up for school dinners at the canteen very easy as they use the same food supplier.
Of course, over the past year or so we’ve had the usual meal-time struggles at home that you have with a toddler, but since he was physically able to sit at a table, Super PG has done so every lunchtime both at creche and at home, and now it’s the same at school.
It has really helped to support us in our mission of eating together for every meal possible, having fun meal times (not always, haha) and talking about the day over dinner. As a family this is very important to us.
Super PF also now sits with us at the table too, and has been since she was four-and-a-half months old. Actually eating with us, at the same height and at the same time was bizarrely the only thing that stopped her crying through every single meal time. As she was breastfeeding so often during the early months, pretty much every meal time was disrupted by screaming and ended up with me breastfeeding her while we were eating our dinner. Needless to say entertaining friends was not really possible during this rather chaotic period.
Now, however, she’s eating solid food like a champion and relative peace has returned to our dinner table, which is a big relief.
Sample lunch menus in French pre-school
Each day the kids at our “maternelle” have a four-course meal, which looks something like this:
- Couscous agneau (lamb couscous)
- Fromage (cheese)
- Velouté Fruix (fruity yoghurt)
- Cruidités (sliced raw vegetables)
- Fraisinat de porc aux pommes de terres (pork and potato dish)
- Raisin ou nectarine (grapes or nectarine)
- Tarte paysanne (quiche)
- Rôti de dinde (roast turkey)
- Haricots verts sautés (green beans)
- Mousse au chocolat (chocolate mousse)
- Blanquette de poisson (fish stew)
- Cœur de blé (it is this product, like pre-cooked and pre-prepared wheat berries)
- Compote (cooked fruit, such as apple, chilled and served often in puree form)
Knowing that Super PG eats so well during the week – and that he behaves really well while he does so – makes it a lot less stressful if we have a difficult dinner at home where he’s stroppy and decides he doesn’t want to eat much. We know he will have eaten his way through a four-course meal at lunch time, at least!
All parents of toddlers know that they save the “good stuff” for their parents in the evenings!
What is your child’s experience of school dinners?
I’ve never put kids through school before, in the UK (where I went to school) or France, or anywhere else for that matter, so I am really curious to find out how this lunch menu compares.
Does your child eat food like this at their school canteen every lunch time?
Please leave a comment and share your experience if you can – it’s going to make for some interesting reading.
Thanks a million for stopping by.