03 September 2011

La rentrée

The excitement is building, in our apartment as well as around Aix, as la rentrée is nearly upon us. That's 'back to school' in American parlance. The school supply aisles at Carrefour and Monoprix are picked through by now (Carrefour is like Fred Meyer, and Monoprix is rather like a smaller Macy's, only with a grocery store). Our French neighbor in the States warned us about visiting Carrefour this weekend; we had to do some shopping last night anyway, and we were amused by the sign that said the store would be open on Sunday as an exception (but we were not amused by the long lines...).

Earlier this week, Saku went through his school supplies and practiced writing his address with a fountain pen, and Jori figured out how to use his calculator once he realized that annuler means to cancel. I mentioned the school supply list in my first post from Aix, worrying about it a bit. I then realized after translating it, I could make a go of it. We realized we needed help when we got to the paper and notebooks, so I enlisted the help of my local friend's daughter who's a few years older, to help us get the correct paper and other essentials we didn't know about, like fountain pens and a planner. The photo shows the supplies purchased for one boy. The full cost was easily several hundred dollars (for two students). We still have the school lunch to pay for, and I'm not sure what else.  While I can't compare the cost adequately to U.S. public middle school/junior high school, I feel like we have just put in a fair amount of money to attend public school. Aside from our extra costs associated with coming here in May for a week to take the entrance exams, I wonder how French families manage?

I poked around a bit on the national education sites, since the boys' school, Collège Mignet, is a French public school. (In fact, it was previously a high school, Lycèe Mignet, and Cezanne was its most famous student!). Anyway, French families can apply for financial assistance for public school, and it looks like it is much more broadly available to families and more broadly used. In a way, I think it's like a tax credit, only in the form of cash vouchers. I'm going to investigate this further as I am curious.*

What will la rentree look like for us? We know that Monday will be the first day of school for the 6th graders, all of whom will be new to the school. The kids attend from 9-5, and then Tuesday and Wednesday are introductory days for the upper grades (these are 5th, 4th and 3rd grades; in France, the classes are labeled in descending order so that 1st grade is our 12th grade). So, our boys attend one day, get their schedules and their books, find their way around the school, and try out the school lunch (the menus are impressive from last spring), and then they have two days off. School begins in earnest on Thursday, 8 September, for everyone. We'll surely have more to share after that.

Happy Labor Day, U.S. friends!  (Some of you have started school already.)

*A year later, Aug. 2012: There is indeed an allowance for families with incomes below a certain level: http://www.connexionfrance.com/Allocation-rentree-scolaire-Hollande-payment-14007-view-article.html

No comments: