There are numerous choices when it comes to choosing a school for your child in Paris. Deciding where to send your children to school depends on a variety of factors ranging from age to language ability to how long you plan to stay in Paris.
Some foreigners chose to send their children directly to the French public school system, which has an excellent reputation. It is free, open to everyone, and thus, somewhat crowded. It’s best to visit your local school to see the conditions for your neighborhood. Others prefer bilingual, international options that may follow the child’s home country curriculum more closely and give him/her exposure to other foreign residents.
If you have the luxury of time, try to visit the schools that seem appropriate for your child; if not, even a phone call can be helpful when making such an important decision from far away. Keep in mind, most of these private schools have limited space and may fill up early.
The Association of American Wives of Europeans publishes a guidebook that offers extensive information on schools with English-language programs, as well as lots of additional, practical education information. You can purchase it online at http://www.aaweparis.org, or call 01.40.70.11.80.
If you dreamed of home-schooling your child, perhaps now is the time to make the leap. In December 1998, home schooling ‘instruction dans la famille’ became legal and since then a number of associations were created to support parent educators. In order to home school your child, you must:
- make a declaration at the school inspectorate ‘inspectuer d’académie or rectorat’ at least 15 days before fall classes
- send a certified letter to your mairie at least 15 days before fall classes begin
- you will receive notice from the school inspectorate that they received your declaration and they in turn will provide you with a declaration stating that you may home school your child for the school year in question
There are different methods for home schooling, such as Montessori or correspondence classes. Regardless of the method, the child must acquire the following knowledge and reach a level of education that can be compared with that of children in school:
- Good command of written and spoken French
- French literature
- Principles of mathematics
- One foreign language
- Basics of science and technology
- Basics of history and geography of France, Europe and the rest of the world
- Artistic education
National exams can be taken by registering at the rectorat.
Further information online is available from the government education website http://www.education.gouv.fr or http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/particuliers/F23429.xhtml(both in French).
Children First is an association which provides home schooling support: Les Enfants d’Abord (Children First) http://www.lesenfantsdabord.org. There is an English version of the site.
The School Year
Schools in France stagger their vacations somewhat so that it eases the holiday crowds. In Paris, most schools have the same days off, although it can vary and you should make sure your institution. Below is a summary of the school year, but the dates change annually. You can verify exact dates by visiting http://www.education.gouv.fr, look under the Outils title at the bottom right of the introduction page and click on le calendrier scolaire.
- La Rentree, School starts at the beginning of September
- Vacances de la Toussaint, a 10-day break around All Saints Day, usually in late October-early November
- Vacances de Noel, Christmas break, usually the 2 weeks containing Christmas and New Year’s Day
- Vacances d’hiver, A two-week winter break usually in mid-late February
- Vacances de printemps, A two-week spring break usually in mid-late April
- Vacances d’ete, School ends for the summer usually end of June or very beginning of July.
Leisure Time and Vacation
Public schools are usually closed on Wednesday, so it is a popular day for extra-curricular activities and for fun field trips. It is important to know that French life revolves around the vacances scolaires and Paris empties considerably during these periods. Travel is more expensive and accommodation throughout France and Europe becomes difficult to find if you have not planned in advance. Schools are usually flexible about absences in the nursery, or maternelle, sections so it will not necessarily affect you if you choose not to follow the crowds. Remember to make alternative arrangements for childcare if you do stay in Paris during the vacances. Once students enter the elementary (ecoles primares) schools, it is unadvisable to remove your child from school for vacation