The French have an expression I love ...
'Refaire le monde'
Literally, 're-make the world' or
Make the world what you'd like it to be.
It's a popular expression used to describe those moments whiled away in conversation with friends. It evokes images of wonderful dinner parties or lazy afternoons chatting away the hours, of dreams for the future and memories of the past. For the French, ' Refaire le Monde' pretty well stops there: having a lovely conversation that will be stuck on pause until you next see your friends for a good bout of reminiscing about the old days or vaguely pursuing the what ifs...
photo found here
What I've always found peculiar about this phrase is that, inspite of the verb, in real life - it has nothing to do with any action other than the art of talking. 'Doing,' is not a verb for the people in France, it is a verb for the Government.
I came to France expecting a country of revolutionaries brandishing slogans like 'Joie de Vivre.' There is none of that; little joie de vivre, and certainly no revolution. France drowns in its own traditions. While we have scrumptious cheeses, great wine, fabulous villages and 65 million essentially lovely and well meaning individuals - we have a general apathy about the state of the world and our own country, and an inherent distrust (may I go so far as to say dislike) of any sort of change, that I find alarming. This can be found anywhere you may say - Sure! However, in my personal experience, it is particularly entrenched here.
The part that touches me most at the moment is the education system.
My nearly 11 year old will be starting college this September. I left the parents' information evening in tears. Not because my little girl is growing up - but because this system is just so, so SAD.
She will start school at 9am and finish at 5.30pm (with a bit more than an hour's lunchbreak in between), except for Wednesday where they finish at lunchtime so they can go to afterschool activities. Until they are 13/14 yr's old, in order to keep up with lessons, they are expected to do at least an hour's homework each evening, after which it grows to 2hrs per evening. She will have some 'free lessons' which she will spend in a room with god knows how many other kids (we live too far away from school for me to be able to pick her up for that lesson), and in which she will be admonished for whispering or looking out the window, rather than concentrating on the books in front of her.
Can anyone explain to me, realistically when my child will be able to play, imagine, create or discover the pleasure of learning and discovery? Let alone getting to bed at a reasonable hour.
Of course, there are longer school holidays here. Thank goodness for small mercies, with weeks so crammed full of books and lessons - I guess she'll need more holidays. To my mind, more holidays do not make up for a balanced schedule.
Am I whinging? I think so. In fact, I'm distraught. Not only am I saddened and sickened by this education system, that so many people find normal, but I was also brought up not to whinge. ACTION! Which basically means, if you don't like something - do something about it. Armed with my 'positive planks' that's what I set out to do... but it's not enough...
I have just spent a few months finding out all I can about homeschooling my kids (thanks Camilla and Jeanneoli, amongst others). Yet I have also started my own business (after a good deal of struggle with prevailing attitudes) and need, for various reasons, to become financially independent. It seems pretty insurmountable, given my environment, to be able to teach 3 messmonsters full time and become financially independent simultaneously. Could this be the year to try? The French have finally brought out a system by which one can be self employed and only pay social security charges and taxes based on what one earns - rather than in advance (ie BEFORE YOU EARN IT!), like it was last year and those before.
Anyone else out there done it??? Let me know - I'm in need of a bit of encouragement...
Would I move them back to Australia/NZ for school? This very afternoon! I dream of them having drama clubs and sports to choose from and swim carnavals etc etc; various outlets for their energy that can orient them at least into other avenues when their self-esteem is flailing. Everything that the French school system doesn't offer. But there is the small matter of Mr (French) Beaker who forms an important part of the family equation... Moving a French person takes years - unless he is a yachtie! Mine only gets seasick. Faith might be able to move mountains, but she never tried to uproot a French person.
Anytime anyone lifts a finger to change the French education system, the strikes go out in earnest. Nothing, REPEAT NOTHING, must be changed. None of the parents I talk with really like the system, but not enough to want to change it. After all, they went through it and they're alright. Overtly fearful of any form of change, but they're fine, normal, nice people.
So why do I have such a sense of dread?
As I paint my 'positive' in tears today, I wonder how my child is going to pay for having a rebel mother. I was brought up to work hard at my studies and work for what I wanted to achieve. But this is too much. If she does not keep up with those lessons because I think it is too much for her to spend so much time studying after an already over full school day, how will she feel in class? Falling behind is not a fun thing for a tween, a teen, or anyone for that matter. So somewhere in there, I'm even likely to become instrumental in maintaining a system I can't abide by.
Friends say that I will be able to bring my messmonsters a different perspective, because I have a whole other outlook on life. I don't think that, where I come from, my outlook is in fact that different. Or is that the years talking? In any case, it seems like so little with which to confront the mastodon that is the French education system... And then ...
... I chanced on this piece by one of my favourite 'guerillas' earlier on this morning. Keri, famous author some of you may know already, has just finished reading a book on revolutionising the education system. I've just finished editing 100 pages on the same thing (albeit in Africa) for an NGO, and it all just seemed to fall into place.
Guess what I have to do is go straight to point 13 then activate point 8, point 3 being illustrated by the fact that I pinched this list!! Allez - time to make a mess with my paints and inks... I may just be able to bring Point 7 out in a positive light.
Thanks for listening to the rant ... don't know what I'd do if you weren't around...