In April, the daycare director asked us if Nathan would be coming back after the summer break. I thought this was an odd question. "Bien sur, he is coming back. He is only 2 1/2!"
That is when the nice daycare director informed me that children in France began school, not after they turn three years old, but in the year they turn three. Which means 2012 for my little guy (I'm still in shock that I have an almost 3 year old).
Of course that sent me into a complete panic because I had no clue where to begin to find a school. Word on the street (or rather the French people in my office) told me that you usually had to sign up at least a year in advance and usually in your neighborhood. Awesome. I saw another disaster looming like the one we had to find a daycare.
When you are an expat in a foreign country, choosing a school becomes an even bigger pain. This notion of "good district / bad district"; "public school" ; "private school"; "bilingual school" take on an entirely new meaning.
Since my company is pretty big in this tiny little city. They have their own international bilingual school for the children of expats. It is a private school and like most private schools the list is a mile long. Since there aren't too many bilingual choices around here many French parents send their kids there too.
Then came the decision about whether that school was really the best for Nathan or not. I mean, he is pretty bilingual already. We speak English exclusively at home and he speaks French exclusively at the daycare - would it really be so bad to have him in a French public school.
Ultimately we interviewed (or rather were interviewed) several ecoles maternelle. There were so many decisions to make.
Would he stay in the cafeteria for lunch or would someone have to pick him up for the 2hr break?
What would we do on Wednesdays (when all French schools are closed).
What about the before/after school programs since Cornel and I both work.
Would he be potty trained, because schools do not change diapers.
Would we even be able to get on a waiting list.
Could we send him in January instead of September when he's a little bit older. (Schools here do 1/2 terms).
We weighed all the options and put our names on several lists. Finally we decided that our company's international school was the best choice for Nathan. It doesn't hurt that many of his "friends" from daycare will also be going there, and as an added bonus it is right across the street from our offices.
The best part? He got accepted for the "re-entree" (re-entry) in September.
My kid in preschool. How did this happen?