I watch the young couple from our front window propping up their toddler. It looks as though it’s taken hours for them to get outdoors, they’re equipped to scale a mountain but they look so happy. He has a ‘real’ camera and is patiently waiting for the baby to look in his direction. Her first pair of sunglasses are pulled out of his rucksack and the three figures move off to continue their sunday walk. That was us at one point I think, including the bandana and plastic sunglasses.
Fast forward 14 years and ours is not as happy a scene. The teen had hidden bad school results which means that our Sunday sits under another black cloud despite the good weather. This isn’t a one-off sadly, it’s happened at least twice a year for the last six years.
We chose the french system for our daughter as it doesn’t change in that wherever you are in the world, children are studying the same curriculum at the same time making changing schools/country relatively easy depending on your child’s personality.
As a four year old in Germany however, I chose a german kindergarten which had a tree house and tree climbing equipment, children of mixed ages played together so that the older learn to look after the younger and the young learn from the older group. No reading or writing, just the essentials of social bonding and learning to hold a pencil and most importantly, play. When the weather was hot, I would find her sitting in the paddling pool in the shade. None of this though prepared her or us for the french system at 6 which in their eyes was too late.
“What a disadvantage for your daughter to have English as a mother tongue” was my first clue that all was not well. I laughed but when I realised that it wasn’t a joke, I replied that whatever the mother tongue, it’s never a disadvantage. I now realise that what she should have said is that the french education system is difficult for those who are not french native speakers and I would heartily agree with her now. Children start school at 3 either knowing already how to read and write or well on their way because parents know that they will have to catch up fast with the rest otherwise. I wasn’t aware of this and we’ve been at a disadvantage ever since.
H is 100% french and wasn’t allowed to bring anything less than 18/20 home. When he did get 17, his parents wanted to know why he hadn’t got a better mark so this, disappointment which is putting it mildly, comes as a huge deception and I think he suspects my family gene pool is responsible for the defective DNA. He could be right.
The girl is 15 and a lot of time and effort is going into how to avoid spot breakouts, make-up tutorials, how to cover up aforementioned spots, looking thin whilst continuing to eat junk, the right hair products and fitting in at school. If any of these subjects were on the curriculum then anything less than 18 and I would be asking why she hadn’t done better.
I’m trying to retrain my default thinking into being optimistic until faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary but it’s a struggle. “How is T coping with these catastrophic marks?” the teacher asks. “She’s holding up OK” I say “but I’m not doing too well”.