Finally the incredibly long lasting green of the countryside has succumbed to the burning of the hot sun. Leaves have begun to fall from the plane trees lining the village's streets and the woodlands around are beginning to patchwork browns and yellows. It feels as if summer is mellowing and Autumn is around the corner.

With Autumn comes the start of school and a new adventure for Little L. Navigating a foreign education system is a challenge to me. I want to be informed and informing myself of the differences and nuances between what to expect in the UK and here in France is difficult. It seems I might have to learn as we go along, not something that fills me with much enthusiasm as I wave goodbye to Little L at the school gates for the first time, hoping that it will all be OK  .

It seems opinions are divided about the education system here. Generally people familiar with both highlight the disciplined and perhaps 'old fashioned' approach here in France vs a less rigorously academic but more holistic and individual centred approach in the UK. Some people like the emphasis on good behaivoiur and exacting high standards in French schools as well as the consistency between schools and others are dismayed by the punative approaches with less room for creativity than there purportedly is back home.

Anyone who knows me will know that I am not one for a punitive regime of education and will sing the virtues of imagination, creativity and time in nature to my grave! The phrase 'by rote' sends a shiver of dread down my spine. The idea that if you happen to be good at memorising and repeating information you are therefore a good student is a bit regressive if you ask me... Poor Florent bears the brunt of my very opinionated ideas about education and fears about how bad schooling could affect our children however thankfully we agree on the essentials. He has pragmatically pointed out that twelve hours a week in school will still leave us a lot of time to spend time outside doing whatever we want to do, and, if it's not right, there's no obligation for her to remain in school. ('Maternelle' covers the first three years of schooling which although not compusory nearly all children attend.) We also remembered that we know a lot of teachers who work incredibly hard and I would happily see any one of them teach my children.

I think of all the major challenges of parenthood for me one that has pushed me to grow most of all is when my preconceptions are challenged and I am forced to rexamine what I think I think or think I know. To be able to decide where to compromise or when to reassess my opinion. So we will see. The obscenely heavy bag, the dictation, the uniform handwriting, the hours of homework are all things that come later and who knows what the situation we will be then so I've put aside my sceptisism and am hoping that Maternelle will be the beginning of an exciting time for Little L. She is keen on the idea of school so we have negotiated a part time place and hope that her keenness will be rewarded with fun and friends and play.

Until then, I have renewed energy in making the most of the next few weeks without the restrictions of a school routine. We will try to fit in as many morning hours reading books in bed or preparing the garden as we can. We can take evening trips to the lake to enjoy the last summer swims and not worry about bedtime. Most of all we can watch Little L do as she pleases, play and create as she wants to. It's hard to always relish what we want to, or what we might wish we had done in retrospect but I do want to keep in mind that this time with small children, alive in their own small worlds is so short.

We are collecting blackberries at every opportunity. The taste of a perfectly ripe blackberry takes me back to the farm where I grew up more than anything else. Watching Little I negotiate the spikes on the brambles herself to pluck blackberry after blackberry and place them straight into her mouth reminded me of why we have adventured here. Every outing is inspired by good intentions to make jam but each time our harvest is halved before we are home. I'm sure children shouldn't eat quite so many blackberries.

The ever abused bus has been ferrying a huge amount of horse manure from a pile of it in the woods to our garden. There's litterally tonnes of it and I am so keen on a bargain and even more so for something for free that before we are growing our veg in nothing but, I need to get in some Permaculture research so we get the balance right... The soil is very clay heavy and is baked so hard we are not even attempting to dig it but creating raised beds from a mixture of wood chip and manure.


The house is moving forward slowly. After a day scraping a self levelling compound, read really f##king hard ciment and resin, off some floorboards and making almost no progress I happily swapped back to my childcare duties. Florent would argue that he sacked me after catching me out on the phone and it being evident that I had also spent a lot of time pausing with the scraping to better listen to Woman's Hour Podcasts. Anyway I am relegated back to the domestic sphere with the girls and Jane Garvey. Some rats have moved in so perhaps we should take that as a compliment of kind. Luckily Florent is doing the vast majority of the work so we will get there...


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