Monday, 17 March 2014

.. take my son to the Orthophonist

Half an hour he spends.  Just once a week, all in French but what a difference it is making.

Two of my boys we placed straight into the french schooling system on arrival.  At the time I thought nothing of it.  They were 7 and 9 therefore time enough to acquire the language  before having to sit any formal examinations.  Yes it would be tough initially, their french consisted of merci, bonjour, counting from 1 to 10 and having spent many holidays here they could order some baguettes if pushed so no chance of starving.  It has been a success.  A year and a half later they both speak French and despite a reluctance to complete homework tasks are pretty much on parr with their french class mates academically.

Socially we mix with expats.  This was not our intention but our older boys attend an International School and because both husband and I do not speak french it has evolved this way.  In time this will change, our expat friends will move on, we will not and as our French improves we will be able to integrate into the local community.

Is that relevant to this post, possibly yes? the heading, where am I going here.  Well parents complain that the french system is too rigid, to geared around achievement, possibly it is.  However they seem to live under the illusion that this is all so different in the U.K.  There they say is an individual approach, special needs budgets geared towards ensuring those atypically academic children meet their full potential.

Well I say bollocks! My eldest had dyslexia, it was ignored.  Why? because he is so damn bright he managed to read in spite of it.  If you are ticking the boxes the British system doesn't care if you are reaching your full potential or not.  Where is the problem then you might think? Well the problem is when you find yourself in  secondary school, in english, history any wordy subject amongst your academic peers but due to the support you never got you are no longer one of them.  Your grammar, your spelling it just isn't up to the challenge and you lose confidence in your own ability.  A downward spiral ensues, why learn, why do your homework, why not be the clown of the class, put up a front, tactics all of them because the system failed you despite having a parent who constantly raised the issue and asked for help.

My third son also has dyslexia and dysgraphia like his brother.  Like his brother support was not forthcoming in the U.K despite my constantly alerting teachers to a problem with his reading at home.  In school he was rarely listened to, good grief no, where was the need the boy could read, a job for his parents, better spend time on those who could not or whose parents would not.  Not until his last year there, when reading tests were administered by a professional, moi, as opposed to a volunteer reading coach and it transpired that he was in the bottom third percentile for reading did he finally bet some extra support. Too little, too late and probably because being a teacher myself I had raised his head above the parapet.  Too many have I seen in my capacity as a parent volunteer and as a teacher going un-noticed or sacrificed to a policy of special needs budgets being spent on a vain attempt to get every child, no matter how academically capable, hitting a level 2 or level 4, a deemed average level. Children should be encouraged to achieve to the best of their ability, not some government politician's arbitrary idea of what everyone should be capable of.

.. And so we move to France and within months the school requests he be tested for dyslexia, recognized despite his limited french and in conjunction with information from his knowledgable parent.  Tested he finally is at a reasonable cost which is all refunded. In the U.k it is expensive so unless the school does it only parents with spare cash can contemplate it.  Not something one does with a limited budget and if one is not confident with one's own diagnosis and certainly not an option for many on low incomes.

.... And he has dyslexia, he has dysgraphia and he now has funded weekly sessions with a lovely Orthophonist ( speech therapist) and finally he is starting to read willingly, those nightly battles and tears of frustration both him and I, a thing of the past.

As an aside also despite the so called rigidity of this system, children sitting in rows facing the teacher, silent rooms passed whilst walking through corridors, programs followed with crossed T's to dotted i's,  they love school and they are excited by what they learn.

Their brothers on the other hand supposedly in the 'fun' , ' child centered'  international system well that's another story....


  1. My first time here. That was a very interesting post. I did not realize that you would like French schools better than English. When my daughters were growing up I thought about sending them to France to live with my parents so they could learn French. Well, the French system said that coming from the US they would have to do 2 years of remedial. Then I tried Canada, and there it was 1 year of remedial. I shudder to think what it is now since education in the US has fallen some more. My youngest daughter had a speech problem and I had to send her to a speech therapist but of course I had to pay for the whole thing – schools did not, healthcare did not.

    I see you have moved to France from England. Have you talked with French people who may have moved to England – just like you but in reverse? I am just curious to know if this goes both ways – I mean if there are areas in the countryside in England where many French people have bought houses like English people in France? Isn’t it a bit hard to live in France without speaking the language? I mean in the Isère, it’s not like Paris I would think.

    1. Hi Vagabonde, it is interesting what you say about having yoir children study in different countries. If my older boys were in the French system they would be a year ahead because in Britian the school year runs from September to August, here in France it is January to December. They are Septmber, November born so in Britian they were the olderst in their year group but bere they would have been amongst the youngest. Sometimes it is little differences like that that make a difference. My 10 year old thinks that the maths is behind here compared to Britian. I am not so sure I think they teach it in a less complicated way. Education seems to be going down ecerywhere not just America, maybe it is just the way we percieve it as adults or the priorities change. I am trying to be open- minded about it.
      We are currently near Lyon where there are some English speakers but not knowing the language is very hard and something peopléshouldnconsider very carefully when moving to another country and you are right it will probably become even more of an issue when we move to a remote village in Isère.

      I don't think many French move to villages in Britian, even in towns outside London I believe it is rare. I certainly never encountered any that had done this. It would be interesting to find out from any that had moved and what they experienced.

      Health care here is excellent, my youngest has also been referred to a speech therapist like yours it is for his speech, he doesn't have dyslexia but he is having problems with some of the french pronounciation, in English he has a slight lisp which I have never really bothered about. If they think he needs therapy we will have any payments refunded.

      Thank you for visiting and leaving such an interesting comment.