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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Life in France as a Teacher: Part 1

I know I have mentioned my freebie site in several posts.  My goal was to start a freebie site that was organized by subject, because I know that I can always tweak something from another grade.  So, as I started putting together the website, I started going through various blogs and TpT stores looking for teachers with incredible products or vast knowledge that could be used to share great ideas.  What I never thought about was the relationships I might build with these wonderful teachers as we began to collaborate and get to know each other.

As the freebie site progressed in its development and teachers began signing up to contribute, we all sort of built an 'alliance'.  We learn together, we create together, we make suggestions to each other, and we support each other.  Friendships are being born, even though we span across the continents (North America, Europe, and Australia).  It is miraculous.  It is awesome.  It fulfills a need that all teachers have, but may not even be able to achieve due to everyday things that might get in the way due to our fast paced school days.

One night, several weeks ago, one of the teachers, Yvonne, and I were discussing education in our Facebook room and I noticed that she had this realllly long name under her name that I did not know how to pronounce, much less, recognize!  It was then that I learned that, at least for the moment, she and her family live in France!  I was so excited.  I began asking a kajillion questions about France and the educational system there.  I love hearing about the lives of U.S. citizens that live in other countries.  It is a life that I cannot even begin to imagine.  So, we decided that she would do a guest post for me and tell us some really interesting information about living in France.  Without further ado, here it is!

As I walk to school every day to take my children to school and to work part-time as a teacher, I always am constantly reminded just how different the school system is in France compared to the United States.

The days and hours of school - School starts at 8:45 promptly every day of the week, except weekends and Wednesdays. Yes, that is correct, there is no school on Wednesday in France.  School is in session from 8:45 to 11:45 and then again from 1:30 to 4:30.   Many schools have 2 hour lunches, but ours only has lunch for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Don't be late, or the gates will be locked and you'll have to buzz for the director of the school to let you in. 

Lunch - So, what do French kids do for lunch?  They have 2 options:  1.  They go home for lunch.  Their parents come up to the school and pick them up and then bring them back for the afternoon session.  2.  They can stay and eat at the cantine.  The cantine is like a cafeteria.  There are differences though.  You have to pay (about 5 dollars a day) for your students to eat there and have recess afterwards because they hire other people to watch the kids. The teachers are on lunch break, so others come and supervise the children.  Another difference is the children all sit at the table and then a lady comes and serves them their food.  They have a 4 course meal!  The food varies from day to day, but it is very nutritional and lunch is always served with a mini-baguette!  A lunch might consist of:  a salad, fish with a cream sauce, risotto, peas and carrots, some type of cheese and then dessert.

Vacation - This is the best part of being a teacher in France.  There is a 2 week vacation every 4 to 5 weeks of school.

Start and end of school year - The school year starts around the 2nd Monday of September.  It ends during the first week of July.  There is a 'graduation test' for each grade that is given at the end of May. Then you will know if your child will go to the next grade.  Many times after this test is passed, parents will pull their children out of school and go on vacation during the last few weeks of school.  Last year, with every day that was closer to the last day of school, there were fewer and fewer kids in school.  My daughter's class normally had 26 kids in it.  The last day of school there were only 6.

Age children start school - Children normally start school at 3 years of age in France and it's free!  It is not a day care, they have curriculum and the children are learning most of the day.  Parents can chose to have their students in 1/2 day school or full day for children who are 3 or 4 years old.  And it is not mandatory for these ages either, but almost everyone takes advantage of it.  

Private vs. Public schools - There are private (usually Catholic) and public schools in France.  The private schools have fees that parents have to pay, but they are not that expensive at all.  For 2 children it only costs about 25 dollars a month.  My students went to both a public and private school since we have been living in France and there are not many differences between the two.  You might be wondering why private schools are so cheap in France.  It is because the federal government pays for the private school teachers' salaries as long as the school adhere to the national standards of education.

Those are just a few of the differences of the school system in France, there are many many more!  If you'd like to know more about a child's life in France, check out:

It's filled with activities and facts about life in France.  Also, stop by my website:  mixminder.


Yvonne Crawford graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Linguistics.  She also has two Master's degrees in Sociology and in Education.  She has taught both at the high school level and at the elementary level in Texas, Hungary, Slovakia, and in France.  She has also home-schooled her own children for 3 years.  She is currently working part-time in an elementary school in France.  Her plans are to continue to teach and to create curriculum for elementary level students.  Please visit her site mixminder for free worksheets and activities.


  1. Very interesting! I wish school began at 3 years here.


  2. It was something new to read me about activities in this article. Good source ,I appreciate your work.

  3. Wow, that was a great read! I was really excited to find out more about Yvonne's experience in France. The typical lunch served at school is very different, isn't it!?

    Would you mind if I shared your post on my blog, so other FSL teachers can refer to it?

    Teaching FSL

  4. How interesting! I'm so glad to have stumbled upon this. I have wanted to ask you about schools in France but I always seem to be in a hurry! Thanks for sharing Yvonne!

  5. Hello !
    I'm a french teacher. There is something wrong : We begin the school the 2nd of september and we have holidays after 6,7 or 8 weeks of school. In the french country, the childs can begin school at 2 years old.
    Thaank you for your article and sorry for my bad english.

  6. Wow great interesting!I seriously like the activity. I would request people to read the article as it can be very helpful to them.


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