Maternelle - how was it for you?

My eldest two girls started Maternelle earlier this month, one into Moyenne Section and the other into Petite Section.

The first two weeks both girls cried all the way to Maternelle, morning and lunchtime but by the end of Week 2 only the younger one was crying. Having tried different tactics to calm them both, bribery of a packet of bon bons on Friday after a full week without crying worked on the eldest, but not on the small one.

After another week of tears, the eldest decided to calm her younger sister by trying to convince her that 'she was not going to school but was just going out', this then evolved into ' we're going to see a man about a dog' and so for a week every morning we were asked if we were off to see a man about a dog?

Soon the efforts of the eldest wore thin and our petite one decided to protest all the way to school by sitting down at certain key points along the journey. She also wailed 'I don't want to go to schooooooooooool' for a full ten minutes and so I became well known by all the other mums who gave me a knowing smile and acknowledged my suffering.

As ours is a small village school the classes are mixed for some sessions which means the girls get to see lots of each other. This has posed one or two problems through as separating them has been difficult for the teachers. At siesta time, the little one is supposed to stay in a little bed in her classroom and have an afternoon nap, as soon as the teacher turned her back she sneaked off into the classroom of her sister and cuddled up next to her during quiet time. Obviously she was caught and sent back...which brought on a temper tantrum. 'Elle a un grand Caractere' has been said quite a few times now and we've been told 'elle est capricieuse'. Lovely. How embarrassing.

At playtimes they get told off because they both want to play on the bicycles together but it is supposed to be Petite in the morning Moyenne in the afternoon. There is a whole new set of rules to learn and they don't like it. Very funny to us though as they come back telling all sorts of tales.

Like the story one day that the teacher wouldn't let them eat their gouter (afternoon snack), after half an hour explanation on how mean the teacher was I truly believed this story, that was until I looked in the bags and found their boxes empty. Where is your gouter? I asked. 'Oh we ate it' they replied in unison. Nice try girls but you are still going to school tomorrow. Lesson learnt for me - don't always believe what they say about the teachers!

We've also had the 'I've got tummy ache I can't go to school', I've got a poorly leg I can't walk to school' and 'I'm too tired I think I'll just go upstairs for a siesta' - which of course she did and I duly got her up to go back to school much to her disgust (normally they NEVER volunteer for siesta!)

As for their language, they are doing great, they can now sing two little songs in French, they talk to each other in French and Franglais...but the interesting thing is that the kids at school have made up what the teachers refer to as 'faux anglais'. They want to communicate with the girls but can't so they've just made up their own version of English. Very funny. It just shows how quick and accepting of languages children are. Their teacher (who doesn't speak English but is keen) has been asking for English books and she's been encouraging the girls to share songs and stories in English with the class which I am really pleased about as they girls are thrilled to be able to speak their own language for a short while. I think this inclusion has really helped them settle.

I went to the first parents evening and that was interesting. I stood out like a spare thumb, dressed in Summery pink jeans and a vest top (well it was 31 degrees) everyone else had their autumn clothes on...grey, black and woolly. I had a look at the girls school work which was interesting to see and had a good chat with the teacher who said they were both doing well and starting to speak a little in class.

After school I fell into the nagging parent trap 'What did you do today?' which not surprisingly met with replies of 'nothing it was boring, we didn't do ANYTHING'. Fair enough. After a week I realised I should just shut up and leave them to it. Now they tell me what is happening spontaneously and in their own time. Another lesson learnt for me.

One other point I've observed is that yesterday we were counting and the petite went into French, I asked her to count in English and she refused. Ca commence!

So now Week 4 and for 2 days I have had no tears, no wailing and no protests. Today they both happily walked into school hand in hand. Today I walked away from school quietly and with a huge smile on my face. Well done girls!

There are 12 in Izzy's class Petite Section and 11 in Jasmine's Moyenne Section I think. They do mix together for some activities but still quite a small class size really.

Lorraine, I will also take to heart that we should never insist on them speaking a certain language ... The paraphrasing part is already practised in our household, since we have 4 languages going on. Maternal language, paternal language, shared language - and French, since this is were we live. Am impressed about how much our oldest at 2½ can speak and understand already, but while he seems to understand French, he doesn't utter a word. Hopefully it will come next year when he begins Maternelle.

Suzanne - glad to hear that they ended up liking it, your girls. How many other students are there in the class?

Thanks Lorraine, I will bear in mind your experience because I sense we do have a little Rebel in our Petite one. Good idea about paraphrasing back in English, I like that idea. We do watch tv in English and they have loads of books which they love so I will quietly continue our English at home and try not to insist they speak one language or the other. Just let them get on with it I guess.

Fascinating story, thanks for sharing that! my children were already bilingual when they started "maternelle", it went ok for the 1st two, but not for our 3rd one - granted he was a bit young as born on Boxing Day so he started maternelle when he was barely 2 and a 1/2. He took one look at the class on the 1st day, and headed out the door and onto the street. The teacher found him on the sidewalk preparing to walk home...he got used to school, but never really enjoyed it during the Maternelle period (he's 13 now and doing much better). Probably if he was our 1st, we would have taken him out and waited an additional year.

I'd like to share with you my experience of speaking both languages - my children also would (and still do, they're all teenagers now) spontaneously talk about their school activities in French. Not surprising, since they're doing it all in French. I have learned to never insist that they speak that it doesn't become a source of rebellion that could lead to them refusing to speak English. If they speak to me in French, i simply listen and paraprhase back to them what they said, in English. There were a few years where they didn't want to speak English in front of the school, etc. But they learned eventually that it was in fact pretty "cool" to speak English fluently, so they always continued to speak (and read and watch internet/tv/videos etc) in English.