French school holidays

It seems as though Super PG has only just started at school and unbelievably it’s the holidays already. It isn’t half term, which was my first assumption (as this is what it would be called in the UK), but these “vacances scolaires” run from Monday 17 October until Friday 30 October, 2015, and are known as the “Vacances d’Automne” (autumn holidays) or even the “Vacances de la Toussaint”.

French school holidays in autumn, unlike the Christmas and Easter vacations, fall on the same weeks for all school children in France. Exact dates of all the French school holidays can be found here.

Toussaint means “all the saints” and so it translates as All Saints’ Day. A Catholic tradition, the 1 November is a public holiday and an important day for French families where they honour and commemorate those who have passed away.

A necessary tangent

Every year, around this time in France, you’ll start to see beautiful chrysanthemums on sale all over the place. Before I understood about Toussaint I have been known to buy said chrysanthemums as gifts for friends, or to put around the house, as they looked so glorious and colourful.

Please note that this is a TOTAL faux pas. These flowers are only meant to be put on loved-one’s graves and are not for anything else! Just saying.

Chrysanthemums for Toussaint on 1 November
Chrysanthemums for Toussaint on 1 November [Photo: Flickr/Diariocritico de Venezuela]
How to amuse the kids during French school holidays

As both Super H and I work, we had to figure out what to do with Super PG for these two weeks. It is the first time we’ve really had this issue arise because the creche only ever closes in August, for a short while at Christmas, when we’re usually off anyway, and on public holidays.

We decided to investigate the “Accueils de Loisirs” option, as our local one runs on the same site as the school and many of Super PG’s friends already go before and after school. The full name for this organisation is Accueil de Loisirs Sans Hébergement (ALSH). A government-run scheme, it organises “loisirs éducatifs” (educational leisure activities) for three to ten year olds before and after school hours and during holidays.

We signed him up as the initiative seems fantastic, both in terms of the activities offered and what it costs. Payment per family is tiered depending on what you earn and is subsidised by the CAF (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales), the government body responsible for family benefits, as part of an €850 million package that started in 2013 and runs until 2017.

A half-day costs anywhere between €3.50 and €6.50; lunch (which is a four-course meal, similar to those described in previous posts) costs €3.50 (no matter what salary category you fall in to); and a whole day with lunch is priced between €8.40 and €11.40, and snacks are included.

The kids do all sorts of activities together at the ALSH
The kids do all sorts of activities together at the ALSH [Photo: Bigstock/style-photographs]
French school holidays – Accueil de Loisirs Sans Hébergement (ALSH) schedule

The ALSH team are extremely flexible in terms of hours, but do run to a basic schedule, which goes like this:

Rappel Accueil du Matin – 7h30 à 9h00

Morning drop off and registration.

Accueil du Midi, avant repas – 11h30 à 12h00

Drop off for those kids coming for lunch and the afternoon and pick up for kids coming in the morning and not staying for lunch.

Accueil du Midi, aprés repas – 13h15 à 14h00

The time they register kids for the afternoon sessions. Little ones like Super PG who are staying all day usually go to sleep somewhere between 13h30 or 14h until 15h30, just like they do at school.

Accueil du Soir – 17h00 à 18h30

Evening pick up times – although I collect Super PG at 16h so it’s the same as school hours.

French school holidays – holiday activity timetable

When you register with the ALSH they provide you with a link to a website that tells you in advance what the kids will be doing in the mornings and afternoons.

Here is an example of the timetable provided:

Activities planned by our local ALSH during the school holidays
Screengrab of activities planned by our local ALSH during the school holidays

As you can see the activities are colour coded, so red is sports, brown is cooking, yellow means a hands-on crafty session, orange is outdoors, green is quiet play and blue are cultural and arty activities.

I was really interested to see Halloween mentioned. Usually Halloween in France passes by without so much as a trick or treater (round our way anyway), so actually I’m excited to think we can carve out and decorate pumpkins this year all together and Super PG might understand what it’s all about a little more.

Super PG loves the bikes best at school
Super PG loves the bikes best at school

The final thing we needed to check – and the most important of all – is that Super PG is actually going to like spending time there. The only potential traumatic issue I could think of is that the school doesn’t share bikes with the ALSH and riding around on the two-seater bike with his friends is the thing that Super PG likes doing the most. He mentions it most days, which is something, when you consider getting information out of him about what he did during the day is like getting blood out of a stone.

Although he likes to tell us that he rode the two-seater bike, he usually prefers to tell us what he didn’t do.

Our conversations after school often go something like this:

Me (while giving him a big hug and a kiss): “Hello beautiful boy, what did you do today?”

Super PG: “Going-ah on da bikes.” (I went on the bikes.)

Me: “That sounds like fun. Did you have a fun day?”

Super PG: “Ouai!”

Me: Can you remember what other things you did today?”

Super PG: “Pas drawing.” (No drawing.)

Me: “Pas drawing? No drawing, oh no!”

Super PG: “Pas painting.” (No painting.)

Me: “Oh that’s a shame. How about singing? Tu as chanté aujourd’hui? (Did you sing today?)

Super PG (volume gradually increasing and ending a bit shouty): “Pas singing tooo-DAYY!” (No singing today.)

*Tries to spin around to make himself dizzy, laughing as he falls over.*

Me: Did you have a nice lunch?”

*Silence*

Super PG (randomly): “Mummy, muu-mmy, c’est pas dark outside.” (Mummy, it isn’t dark outside.)

Me: “No, it’s not dark. Soooo, who did you ride the bikes with today then?”

*mutters a name or two*

Me (overly enthusiastic, so happy to get a good answer): “Wow, fantastic, you love riding the bikes don’t you?”

Super PG: “Ouai, moi love going-ah on da bikes.” (Yep, I love going on the bikes.)

The two-seater bike is Super PG's fave
The two-seater bike is Super PG’s fave

During breakfast yesterday he had been a little anxious about starting something new, even though Super H and I had explained all about it and told him that his friends would be there.

“Peur,” (scared) he said, refusing his bread and butter (breakfast choice of the moment).

However, at 9am, when we arrived at the ALSH, he dropped his bag and couldn’t get his coat off quick enough as he ran over to his friends who were in the middle of building something around a table.

At that moment I ceased to exist. Not. Even. A. Kiss. Goodbye.

When I picked him up at 4pm I asked him he had a good day.

“Oui mama,” he grinned.

Then he looked at me with a sad face: “Mais pas going-ah on da bikes.” (But I didn’t go on the bikes.)

I guess at least he will look forward to going back to school!

Thanks for reading.

WSM x

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