If I’ve gone a bit silent since arriving in the UK its for two reasons: first, we have been getting to grips with Lauren’s schooling, and second, I came down with a stinking cold which is still lingering. There was little energy left after mornings of conjugating French verbs and trying to follow the very structured but somewhat confusing CNED system.
For those who aren’t aware, while I was happy to go total hippy and freely homeschool as much or as little as we felt like, figuring a year travelling around the world with our eyes open would provide as good an education as the classroom, Lauren wanted to stick with the French curriculum, to ensure she didn’t miss a year, and because she genuinely likes schoolwork.
The French system have this amazing possibility to fully homeschool with the exact same curriculum as kids in France, called the CNED. They send out the workbooks and these are supplemented by online resources and interactive worksheets, and every few weeks an evaluation in each discipline is uploaded or sent for marking. Teachers then correct the work and send detailed feedback.
The books and materials (all 7kg and that’s just for term one!) had been delivered to our UK address, meaning we were starting almost a month behind. Lauren has always had excellent grades at the French school in Maputo, both in French and in Maths and what she rather disparagingly calls ‘the other stuff’ (moral and civil education, music, and the wonderfully French “discovering the world”). She is a disciplined and enthusiastic student, so I didn’t envisage too many problems.
It did, however, take us a while to get into the swing of things, but just over a week in and I think we are starting to find our rhythm. It takes about 4 hours of intense schooling a day, and one of the things I quickly learned is that you can’t actually do 4 hours of intense schooling at once. While I had fond images of us having days off then ‘doubling up’ the next day, the reality is there is only so much either of us can take at any one time.
Another adjustment has been to the level of French language and in particular vocabulary required. Of course, while the curriculum is the same, it was different having the lovely Sylvain up front explaining things clearly in multiple ways, and I am guessing some allowance was made for the fact that many of the children were not francophone. Certainly, some of the texts and poetry she is expected to read now have some very complex vocabulary which would I imagine stretch some French kids let alone an anglophone child only exposed to French at school. Still, we have embraced this as an opportunity for both of us to improve our vocabulary, and spend the first few minutes of each day testing each other on the words we have learned so far. French for larch tree, water spout or upholsterer anyone?!
I also had this idea that my job was simply to provide her with the time and encouragement to do the work, rather than actually be heavily involved in the teaching. This may be because that’s exactly what the school told me when I met with them to discuss this crazy idea of schooling on the road in a language not my own. ‘Oh no, its fine you don’t speak French as a first language (Gallic shrug) you just have to make sure she is motivée and has time to do the work’… hmm. Not so much. The parents are not given any answer sheets, so we figure it out together. At times its quite fun.
Yesterday was a good homeschooling kind of day. We are in London and it was absolutely glorious weather – mild and sunny. We had to go to Victoria mid morning for passport renewals, so we got up early, did 2 hours of French and Maths, did what we needed to do in Victoria, then decided to walk from there across to parliament square, as Lauren wanted to see Big Ben. We wandered through the backstreets of Chelsea, came across a park where we spent a happy half hour playing catch the leaves (I won! She’s faster but I’m bigger. She did get the odd elbow in the face, but that’s life right?! It gets ridiculously competitive to say all you are doing is catching leaves falling off the trees….).
Anyway, that counted as PE.
Then we meandered off to parliament, and came across a monument to the abolition of slavery, which led to a discussion about that.
We messed about kicking leaves and talked about how some trees shed leaves and some don’t and trying out all our new french tree vocabulary. Then we saw a statue of Winston Churchill, so we discussed him a bit. Plus en route we discussed the existence of two houses of parliament…. and agreed that neither of us knew why conkers are called conkers, so filed it away on the ever-expanding ‘to google one day’ list.
We saw the anti Brexit campaigners, and I said something about Brexit being a big mess. We were just passing the police outside parliament at the time and Lauren told me to be quiet ‘in case Teresa May hears’ which led to a discussion about freedom of speech in a democratic country and the generally pathetic state of British politics…..
Then it was home for another couple of hours of French and maths, plus the different states of water at different temperatures.
In the evening we met up with our friend Alicia from Mozambique – and we were so busy catching up I forgot to get a photo, so those who know her will just have to take my word for it that she’s looking great and we had a lovely evening. The funniest bit of the whole evening was when Lauren announced, after returning from the loos, that she had filled in and signed the ‘questionnaire’ on the back of the door to say that the loos had indeed been cleaned. I think she thought it was a bit like a visitors book….