We didn’t celebrate Memorial Day, which I guess makes us bad Americans. Which possibly doesn’t surprise you, since we have been known to celebrate July 4th by being the only Americans in a village and not actually doing anything about, not even eating a single solitary potato chip or humming a single patriotic song. (That was the year the kids got to watch a goat going from vocal protest to dinner, every single step of the way. Ilsa, who was 5 at the time, announced, “I’m so glad I’m not a goat!” Which is probably every bit as American, historically speaking, as buying a pre-shaped hamburger patty on a Styrofoam tray at Safeway and cooking it on a gas grill)
We also didn’t take Martin Luther King Day off either, although I did have grand ideas about giving the kids extra homework researching him and writing an essay about him. I relented though, and we just listened to part of his “I Have A Dream” speech, and then did school all day.
We’re not taking the French holidays either. We worked on May 1 (Labour Day) and May 8 (end of WWII day) and we didn’t take the excitingly-named February Vacation (vacances de fevrier) and we didn’t take the two-week Vacances de Printemps either, although we did take the week of Spring Break that the Oregon schools took.
It’s not that I don’t like vacations. I do. I wanted to take some of these days. When the proviseur (principal) of our little school, also known as Dad, also known as the Person to Ask if you have ANY Math Questions, said he really thought we needed to have school on MLK day, I decided to be Very French and went on strike for the day! It didn’t really work though; I still ended up getting up on time and doing school with them. I did wear yoga pants all day though–that has to count for something.
But we didn’t start school till the French were taking their October break–6 weeks late. We’re finishing (except for languages) a couple of weeks early. And we took Thanksgiving off (which is a very American holiday, let me stress), along with several extra days of travel. We have just had to work a lot extra this year to catch up. And since this was a correspondence course, designed to keep the kids in the French system so that they could seamlessly re-enter next fall, we have had external deadlines.
I’ve gotten several comments lately, mostly because I mentioned whipping my children (kidding!) but a couple from people who may have to home school their kids next year for a variety of reasons. I have scared these women, with my tales of incomprehensible Arabic lessons and having to listen to CDs of a Frenchman singing “Oh When the Saints” in a really thick accent, and of how I must now, in the interests of public disclosure, add “Failed Homeschooler“ to my resume. So I wanted to state, for the record, that I don’t think my experience is at all typical.
First of all, you usually don’t have to do 7 or 8 subjects, including teaching a language you do not actually speak yourself. Secondly, you usually don’t have these looming deadlines, threatening you with having wasted an entire year if you don’t meet them.
However, since I have taken up much space griping about CNED, I would like to take a moment to tell you that actually, it’s a pretty great system. The twins have a teacher who reads every word they write and who–this is real dedication–listens to music exams, which usually involved them singing, off key and far too close to the mike, into a tape recorder. When she sent back the corrections of their first exam, she included a paper and photo introducing herself and mentioning hobbies, background, etc. She writes pages of comments, including a section for them and a section for me, their official maitresse. (teacher)
The curriculum itself is well-done, and the books for the twins are well laid out, full colour, relatively entertaining, although they do obviously assume I know the answers to things like some battle where Francois I distinguished himself. (But then, I do have google) The twins have interviewed someone, provided a photograph, and laid out a page of an imaginary children’s magazine; they’ve learned to read poems with lots of expression; they’ve studied human rights issues around the globe, and technically know the countries of the European Union (although I wouldn’t bet on it).
Elliot’s in Junior High (confusingly called college) this year, so he has a different teacher for each subject. His course work is mostly online although he also has good quality text books, including some reproductions of famous works of art that I‘m guessing don‘t show up in a typical American textbook. Really, it’s a great system–especially if you are French yourself, doing things in a timely fashion, and preternaturally organized and calm. It could work!
And we’re nearly done. Only 3 more days of regular school, then we’ll focus on Arabic and Spanish and also on relaxing a bit, after a year of stress, thankful that we’re never ever going to do this again.

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