A new school year

Wow, a whole month has gone by since “la rentrée”. I can hardly believe it!
Things have been going quite well this year to everyone’s relief around here. If you’ve been following along, you may recall my struggle to find an adequate school we could afford, and, later on, having issues with the school Sprout 1 actually ended up attending. Well, we’ve finally found our school, and what a difference!

He’s attending a public school with a child-centred pedagogy and an active learning approach. It’s wonderful (albeit suffering from what most public schools suffer – older buildings and such) and Sprout 1 has been going in (and coming out) with a smile from day one. Only exception was a day when I was running a bit late (2min maybe) and he thought I was leaving him for the afternoon and without a lunch. Poor thing – cue mama guilt!

It’s been wonderful to be able to walk to school (he goes on his balance bike) instead of having to drive. And the peace of mind knowing he’s in respecting hands.

So what went wrong last year? Hard to pinpoint the main reason really. The teacher was definitely part of the problem, as she seemed to have absolutely no love for what she was doing. But I think it was more than that. He was too young in my opinion. 32 months is too soon to start nursery school, or preschool, or whatever you want to call it, especially in the format his former teacher was doing it, i.e. sit down, be quiet and do as told. It made me very sad, especially since we had so “carefully” picked his school (from the available to us possibilities) which was supposed to be project based, very environmentally focused, etc. I cannot stress how much more important it is to meet the teachers than the school director (Duh!!!). We came to learn the hard way that no matter how committed a school director is to this or that, ultimately it’s up to the teachers. Sure, they were working on projects… but it was really sad to see how little work the children themselves actually did on those projects. Sprout 1 would come home with something “he” made in school and proceed to inform us madame did this and that and all he did was add some dots or glue some stickers. Ugh. I even once saw her holding the kids hands, one by one, sticking an inked stamp in their little fists and pressing it to the paper. Never a good sign. I feel this has actually put him off to doing many art projects since. Sigh… When he would cry, the staff would just say stop crying and you are not beautiful when you cry, stop making a fuss. Broke my heart. Funny thing is, most parents thought this was ok and that it was actually a very good school with a caring teacher. Cultural difference maybe? Just goes to show not everyone is looking for the same things in a school.

Well, I’m glad to report this school is totally different. I am so happy about it, but most importantly, Sprout 1 is happy and looks forward to go to school each day. He gets to be a 3,5 old little boy, not just someone who has to be formatted into an obedient child whose creativity and personality is not respected.

Another issue other than age and bad luck with teachers that I’m sure played a big part was the language factor. Sprout 1 spoke English and Portuguese, but didn’t speak any French. It must be quite scary to be in a strange, uncaring place and not be able to communicate! Oh, my heart hurts just thinking about what he was put through… Poor thing. I did try really hard to get him acquainted with French, taking him to Les Maisons Vertes (which were great, by the way) story times in French, etc., but the big issue with being an English speaker in Brussels is that everyone is so keen to switch over to English once they realise it’s your mother tongue. It’s really very kind of people, but not so useful when you actually want to practice one of the country’s languages!!! I’m wondering what we can do about that for Sprout 2, although I’m sure his brother and friends will be some help in that department!

And on another note, see that backpack in the picture? It’s still the one I made him last year. I gave him the choice to get a new one and even let him pick from these really cool ones, but despite all it’s faults, he wanted the mama made one. Makes this mama’s heart sing. He did choose this lunchbox though, even though he isn’t staying for lunch yet.

How has the new school year started for you? Anyone else think 2,5 is too young to start preschool? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

8 thoughts on “A new school year

  1. Thanks for the tips about picking a school! I’ve been wondering what I should consider as I’m starting to visit schools for my little one. I think 2.5 years old is really young to start a disciplined school environment. I hope that ‘school’ for that age is more like a continuation of day care and a gentle start to education.

  2. My daughter is not-quite-two and just recently started going to a pre-pre-school. It’s play-based structured with no formal curriculum, so in a way, it’s kind of like daycare. I blogged about it actually: http://forthejourney.net/2012/09/first-week-of-pre-pre-school. Anyway, at this stage, I think it’s good for her to get a break from me (and vice-versa) and for her to learn to negotiate interactions with her peers. So far, she really loves it. Next year, she’ll be old enough for a preschool with more structure, but I’m not sure yet how much more she needs.

  3. Hi Sandra!
    I’m very glad I fall on your blog,because finally I can share with someone the same agonies and issues! I am greek and my spouse is french speaking Belgian-Greek.My son is going to be 3 next February and he started school on September,in a school in our neighbourhood in Woluwe-S-P and I have never taken any kind of a feedback from the teachers all this time.I don’t know what he is doing at school and when I make questions, answers are either Yes or No ! I would very much like to know what is the school you finally found and you are satisfied with.I also don’t have for the time being the possibility to pay for a private school and I would really like to know is there any good french speaking school in Brussels,which offer knowledge, and cultivates confidence in self, responsinility,free critical thinking…etc?
    Thank you very much for sharing!

  4. That is one beautiful backpack, and so nice for him to take a little piece of mummy with him to school each day 🙂 I’m so glad you’ve found the right school for him now.

  5. Dallas, So glad you’ve found something that works for you 🙂 I had a look at your blog. I remember you moving, but didn’t remember you went to San Francisco! Beautiful!

  6. Hi Angie. Sorry to hear about your experience! It can be so heartbreaking… Sprout 1 is going to a Freinet school. Still not perfect, but oh soooo much better. Whereabouts Brussels are you? Send me an email if you’d like to discuss this further. bxlsprout (at) gmail (dot) com

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