What’s Next for School Schedules in France?

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photo from the e'tang
Schools about to change for us!
Schools about to change for us!

A hot topic in the Municipal election is School Schedules and Rhythms.

Moving to Capestang from Vancouver has been interesting, that goes without saying. One thing I love is that the school hours leave Wednesdays off for extracurricular activities and they make up for those hours with longer days 9:00-4:35 and homework. Parents have an obligation to aid teachers in the learning as we the parents pick up where they left off during the day.

Wednesdays are our family’s favourite day of the week; giving us an extra evening together, a morning to rest, time for fun and finish homework. Angelina my 8-year-old has gymnastics and piano and Daniel my ten-year-old has BMX racing and guitar. I watch my kids develop in different directions. The school is very academic; they push memory and repetitive learning and we try to balance that type of education with creative activities.

My kids came from a Montessori school where learning is based on divergent thinking; no contribution is wrong and the children are self driven. Most materials are hands on and there are many group projects that tie into nature, current events and the environment. They have a good understanding of how they fit into the world. With interesting field trips and ensembles with musicians and artists, the teachers add to the development of the whole child. Montessori schools but also other alternative learning methods, develop the children’s natural interests and not solely  focus on smart kids but interesting, well-rounded, good and smart kids. School was fun for Angelina and Daniel and often they did not know they were learning. Wednesdays made compromising to the rigorous French system feasible for our family.

Now they want to bring back Wednesday 1/2 days starting next year. Of course this is unreeling.  So lets discuss. This would give working families a break and saves a ½ day on childcare. Excellent for the pocket book but the argument is; what is in it for our children? I don’t like the idea of school being a daycare; they are in school to learn. But more of the same? Um I am not sold on the idea.

The present idea is to use the time for homework and studying. That means no homework after school for our children. They brought this schedule into Canadian public schools yet the children still had projects outside class and assignments unfinished in the classroom made their way home. A sneaky way the teachers came up with to get the work done and without giving actual homework was to start an assignment, and change subjects before they had time to finish. It would then be technically allowed to go home with the child.

Some parents are pushing for extra curricular activities to make up for the activities they miss during those Wednesday morning hours; perhaps-art, language conversation, music and sports. With the schedule change, that would mean later Wednesday evenings and weekends for the children’s special classes. So why not include some of these classes on Wednesdays in school?

I love the idea of our children learning more than just the answers to the questions in class, but develop a balanced student. Creative learning does just that and if the three extra hours could bring more to our children outside of curriculum, our kids would be better for it.

My six years volunteering at the children’s schools and running the Montessori Society back home gives me a different opinion on learning to most people in our village. And that’s ok with me. Not everyone, especially the older generation know or like alternative methods of learning. With so much to learn in the world, especially now with technical stuff changing faster than you can learn it, why not teach kids different ways of learning?

The world our children will grow up in is unknown, and the technology will be outrageously varied. Giving them the tools to create is the future. Through imaginitive thought comes new ideas.

I know my children, and they learn best when it is interesting and fun, not unlike myself. Would I rather read facts from a book or visit a museum where the facts are in context with visual aids. Better yet lets watch a movie on it and let them entertain me while I learn. It is not cheating using all your senses to understand something with technology, it just makes the information stick.

That aside I would love to see the children learn something as wonderful as reading music in class, learn to dance with a dance teacher or put on a play.

The future of Capestang’s students schedules will be interesting to see in the upcoming election. My son is off to Junior High School next year so the new schedule effects only our youngest.


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