There aren’t many things as specific to your culture and as related to your home country as school. We spend many, many years at school. These are formative years which shape us and our future, years during which we forge unforgettable memories and meet people who often become our best friends.
At least that’s how I see it and the issue is so important to me that I was rather anxious about the fact that Inés was about to start school in a system which is completely different to the ones both Philippe and myself were used to. Inés started school aged almost 5 (while I was 4 and Philippe 3). In the Swiss canton where we live children only go to school in the morning (from 8.00 to 11.30 on Monday, Thursday and Friday – there’s no school on Wednesday – and from 8.00 to 11.30 and 13.30 to 15.00 on Tuesday). During the first two years socialization is the main educational objective (even though Inés had already been socializing at the crèche over the last four years and we would have preferred she started learning to read and write).
With all this information, you may understand why I wasn’t completely reassured about Swiss schools (or perhaps you can’t, depending on your own personal experience with school). So I was pretty stressed when I walked Inés to school on her first day.
As is often the case when we stress about something unknown, our fears are totally unfounded. On the first school day we were allowed to visit the premises and I discovered a beautiful, bright classroom which had separate spaces for the each activity in the purest Montessori style, with everything Ines would need during the year (pencils, notebooks…). It was a real melting pot with kids from many countries (who would have expected that in such a tiny Swiss village?) and the sweetest of teachers, Letitia.
Inés is happy to go to school and has been from day one. She’s learning plenty of things despite shorter school hours and the fact that learning to read and write is not the main objective. Most importantly, she’s a happy girl with plenty of time to play and just be a kid.
One of the activities which impressed her most during her first months at school was the visit of Milie, a puppet cat who came from “cat school” to spend a few weeks in Inés’ class. Milie spent one day in each kid’s home and the day she spent with us was very exciting for Inés. We took her on walks in the region, she took a bath with Inés and Théo, we dried her cat’s hair, we made her lots of coffee (she loves it and always brings an Italian coffee machine with her) and we put her to bed in a dolls’ bed next to Inés’. I must say I was impressed how seriously Inés looked after Millie.
I was so intrigued about the activity that I asked lovely Leticia about its pedagogical objectives and this is what she kindly answered me:
- To help create links between school and home.
- To contribute to easing the atmosphere in the classroom (the puppet is always doing naughty things and saying out loud things the kids would otherwise feel shy to express).
- To help shy kids to open up at the beginning of the school year as the puppet acts as a communication intermediary. Many kids confide in the puppet who serves as a link between the adult and the kid.
Milie went back to cats’ school where she belongs but took with her an album full of pictures, drawings and other activities she did with everyone. Here are some of the pictures we took of her (dressed by Envie de Fraise).