Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wrapping It All Up

The end of the school year is rapidly coming to a close here in Belgium and as such, the procession of projects, art work and papers are making their way home by the armful. While I feel as though I'm being inundated with paper that we must keep ("because it is all important work"), the process has been enlightening and has provided me with insight as to what Sidney has been doing all year. Because up until this point, with the exception of a few rare glimpses, I've been pretty much in the dark.

I've loved our experience with Sidney's Belgian pre-school. While many things are different and what I call quirkier than what I would expect from an American school, he has been happy, has made friends and has been fortunate to have strict but loving teachers. And most importantly, after a year and a half of attending, he professes to love school and is sad that the year is winding down. Communication between the school and parents has been virtually nonexistent, however, so I've struggled to figure out exactly what Sidney is learning or doing on a daily basis. (Despite seeing his teacher twice a day communication is essentially limited to notices that are put into his communication notebook. If we have concerns we are encouraged to raise them but rarely are issues actually brought to us as parents. Its a much different approach than the American over involved, over communication approach and I've adjusted for the most part. It appears that this is just the Belgian way). But, with the avalanche of papers coming home I'm getting a fuller picture of what Sidney has been doing all year and I must say, I'm quite impressed.

There is something to be said for receiving an entire year's worth of school work at one time. I can clearly mark Sidney's progress from September through June, watching his handwriting go from shaking and quite undecipherable to clear and confident. The same goes for his artwork; paintings and drawings from the spring are clearly identifiable. But what has impressed me the most is what he has clearly learned. His lessons are entirely in French, leaving me to wonder how much he is able to read and write. After perusing the pile of papers, my answer is that yes, Sidney can read and write in French at an ability clearly beyond mine. But it is the way he has learned that I'm most in awe about since it is a world away from the Dick, Jane, Sally (Spot and Puff) characters I learned with. Last fall the focus was on the outdoors with the class taking a field trip to some Belgian caves. The lesson clearly extended beyond the day at the caves since Sidney brought home intricate work where he labeled the components of caves as well as trees, leaves, mushrooms and plants. All of this was done in French of course and as we reviewed his work he reiterated what I was looking at by reading each label in perfectly accented French. Fall gave way to winter with the Christmas and Carnival holidays being diagramed. Spring brought snails and tadpoles as well as a several month unit on Vincent Van Gogh and Mons 2015. Each lesson included art work, writing exercises in both printed and cursive script, word searches and crossword puzzles and activities testing spacial and hand-eye coordination. All in all, its quite impressive. Back in September I never would have thought that my son would be able to correctly diagram the anatomy of a snail, discuss the lifecycle of an egg, and correct me when I confuse stalagmites with stalactites.

So now my little boy in on the verge of entering first grade (in a bi-lingual French-English program this time). Sidney has visited his new school, met the principal and asked the all important question of where he will eat his snack and lunch. (He also asked, in French, how much of his day would be spent speaking French and how much would be spent speaking English). But first we have six short weeks of summer vacation. It will include French camp, a three country family road trip and time to simply hang out and enjoy living at a slower pace. We can't wait.

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