It's been a month now and we're all getting back to the school rhythm. I say "we" because it has been a transition for Remi and me as well. Our bubbly first grader comes home with three little notebooks on average, one of which has her homework assignment glued inside each day.
They've recently been saying on French tv that it is actually forbidden to give written homework to young children. That doesn't stop her teacher or the thousands of others in this country from doing it though. Granted, for Juliette's age they are short exercises like writing the word "chat" two times. In cursive, mind you! But for a playful kid that age, sitting still long enough to do it properly is a real feat.
Last year when I learned they'd be learning to write in cursive in kindergarten (totally skipping lowercase letters, it seems), I started preparing my virtual soapbox to stand on. It just seemed ridiculous that they insisted on teaching kids to do loops and connecting letters when they are still struggling to hold a pencil properly. But when I asked other French people, they saw no probem with it. It's important for reading, they all insisted. Never mind that most books are written in print, not cursive, but whatever.
So far, so good though. After some shaky first weeks when she rushed through her work, we seem to be instilling a bit of patience in her for the writing and we've been helping her to sound the syllables out. As her teacher said, each child will get there, but at his or her own pace.
It is still strange to find myself in the role of taskmaster for homework. I remember when I arrived in France and lived with a host family where there was an 11-year old boy. The father seemed so stern and sometimes downright mean about the homework. Maybe it was the French attitude, or just this father. But these last few weeks I found myself getting frustrated with Juliette when she wouldn't settle down to look over her words with me. Maybe my own perfectionist school tendencies were taking over. Or, like Remi, I feared the school system might not be effective enough.
But I'm trying to take the advice in the title of this post. Let kids be kids. Big homework and more important assignments will come later. Now is still play-time and about having fun. She still loves swinging in the park and with our Indian summer, we're trying to get in some playground time after school. Besides, with a headstrong girl like mine, the more I push, the more she'll push back. So we're all learning to walk that tightrope of firmness and flexibility.
Whoever said it got easier when they started school? Not me!