Sunday, February 20, 2011

Homeschool fantasies

One of the things I like so much about our little foray into French living, is how easy it is to pretend we're home schoolers. (I'm a long time homeschooling wannabe.)

Despite the longer hours in French schools-- school here is only four times a week--  they have three recesses, and lunch is 90 minutes long. Those that stay and eat at the cantine get treated to a four- course meal made from mostly fresh ingredients. Others go home for lunch.

Esther and Isla stay at the cantine two days per week, and come home two days. Did I mention there is a four day school week in France?

As much as I enjoy the two full days without them, and knowing their palates are being stimulated like only the French can stimulate a palate-- I'm not talking about French kissing, here--I like that they come home for lunch.

The walk to and from school is pleasant, and sociable. There are often swans to watch. We get to reconnect and they get to decompress. They both often do artwork and Essie even did some knitting Friday after lunch. I love that she has the chance, and the desire, to do that. She needs the alone time. The quiet time.

Wednesday, the day off, is activity day. Isla has ballet and Esther has riding in the morning and a two-hour art class in the afternoon. But even without these scheduled activities, the mind-expanding opportunities are all around us. 

Life in Europe is a history, geography, geology, anthropology and sociology text book all in one. It is impossible to go anywhere in France, or Europe for that matter, and not bang head first into something educational, enlightening and historically significant.

Even it it's just the men we see, without fail, peeing in public each and every time we leave the house. That and the people driving with a dash board filled with baguettes, or riding their bikes with the baguette under their arm. Either way, the baguette is present. As present as the copious dog poop.

Just being here, breathing the air, drinking-- or not daring to drink-- the water, riding up, and skiing down the formidable alps, looking into, or licking, Patisserie windows, Boulangerie windows,butcher windows, boutique windows, watching Luthiers (violin makers) at work, driving down mountain passes, through deep tunnels, over borders and through passport checkpoints.  Or driving past clifftop castles. And visiting lakeside castles.

Like the Chateau de Chillon, on the edge of the Lake of Geneva, where we lurked about in the dungeon, listening to the waves lap against the sides of the castle and watching the sunlight, reflected off the water, dance on the stone pillars. Pillars to which prisoners were once shackled.

Oh to have unlimited funds and a heart even wilder, and more daring than my own.

I'm tempted, sometimes, to just throw caution to the wind, start a new blog, called "Debt be damned" or something like that, grab my Visa card, the girls,  and a few changes of clothing, buy a Eurail ticket, and pass Go on a European art, history and culture tour.

Could you imagine?

First stop would be Florence to see Esther's favorite all time painting, The Birth of Venus, by Boticelli.

Then, perhaps, we could go up to Amsterdam to the Rembrandt and Van Gogh museums. Then to Berlin to the Holocaust museum, then to Monet's Gardens in Giverny--we've done the Louvre-- and Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern.

 The Lindt chocolate factory outside Zurich.... Yum, then over to Kitzbuhel to schuss down the Hahnenkamm...


The options are dizzying. It's good to dream. 

It's good to dream.


Anna said...

wonderful. even the 'reality' part of the piece is so dream-like.

Joy said...

Now *I* want to go to school in France. What a lovely experience your children are getting. :)

Anonymous said...


It's a VERY nice dream! I love the pictures!

I used to home school. Though I wish that I was a die hard home schooler like some other mom bloggers that I read(And wish that was a lot more like), aahhem, not mentioning any names, I'm not. It's a lot of work and you don't get a break from being mom and teacher. I did it when my older kids were little, but stopped when I felt like I was in over my head. Besides, I don't think that I'm patient enough.

I DO wish that I could take my kids on an adventure like the one you describe, though. What fun! And the Lindt chocolate factory? I'm there! I LOVE those things. The round ones in the red wrapper are my favorite. We put them in the kid's stockings every year.

As a side note, I love the video that you posted of your girls laughing! I love it when my kids laugh without restraint like that, too. I have one that sounds like the laugh is just bubbling out, and another that sounds like a chipmunk..... I could go on..... It was also interesting to see them and hear them. We read about them and even feel like we know your family, but have never met you. I've often wondered if it's like that for you, too. When you read comments from the same people for these past four (or so) years, do you feel like you know them in a way?

Betsy said...

"I've often wondered if it's like that for you, too. When you read comments from the same people for these past four (or so) years, do you feel like you know them in a way?"

It is like that for me. And I do feel as if I know some of my readers, like you, even though I know I really don't. But I sure do appreciate the online connection, and the consistency that lets me know my blogposts are being read and digested.

And I so know that I would fail miserably as a homeschooling mom. I might have mentioned that in this post, but I didn't want to "spoil the dream." I'm impatient, irritable and a loner by nature. How is that for some mom credentials. :)

C. said...

Oh man are you making me homesick. I LOVED every minute of walking my son to and from school four times a week four days a week through our little Swiss village and the extra time we had together. Other expat moms complained but I valued it and adored our Wednesdays off. Now in Australia, he's gone all day 5 days a week and we're both having to adjust. Your ski and ski lunch pictures and your wander through the Chateau Chillon (we lived 45 minutes away from it) have all made me terribly nostalgic. PROFITEZ Betsy, and soak up every wonderful moment!

C. said...

Oh and BTW, the Caillier chocolate factory just outside Gruyeres is worth making a journey too...much free all you can eat chocolate. Best followed by fondue or raclette in nearly Gruyere and a wander through their castle and charming streets. Just saying...

cecile said...

Betsy, once again I read your blog and then I feel nostalgic. I miss exactly all that: the baguette (oui !), the castles, most of all the Alps, and not at all the pissing guys ;-) or worse, the exhibitionists ? Did you see some of them ? It's crazy, but there were always at least one guy like that outside of school, and then college. Disgusting, and sad also. Thank you for the pictures, I miss the mountains so much !

kellyb1980 said...

Your pictures are beautiful! The narrative, too!

Anonymous said...


I think that though we don't know all of the nitty-gritty of each others' lives (But we do know a BIT of the nitty-gritty!)and personalities, we do know each other in another way. Over time I think that we've learned each others' values, where we stand on certain issues,and basic personality and parenting styles. This goes for many of the Mom's out there that have shared so much and so honestly all of these years. It's a bit like hanging out with friends without leaving where we all live. Although, I wouldn't mind leaving where I live to hang out with a group of friends. If only we all had the money and time.

If I wasn't so worried about someone strange getting personal information about me I'd give you my FaceBook info and you could at least go peruse my profile pictures. It's nice for us because we get to put a face to the names in your family.

My husband was looking at the pictures of the farm house last night. I had to go back through your posts to find it in various stages of repair. He was really impressed with Ian's work and with the house itself. He loves the history of places and the various things they go through throughout time. We were also marveling at the castles and quaint look of the place. We decided that it may not be Vermont, but we'd rather be stuck where you are than here! How IS the farmhouse coming? I'm looking forward to a post with lots of pictures when it gets finished. I picture you having a little party when it happens!

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that I also tend to be irritable, especially in the morning, and am a loner, too. I really mean that. I don't have any friends except for a few acquaintances. My sister and I are very close but live to far away to see each other very often. It's not that I couldn't make friends, it's that I don't feel like I have enough time to devote to someone because my family is my main concern and that's who I spend my time with. And I guess that, well, I'm just a loner! So, I wasn't a good home schooler because part of doing that is getting together with other home school parents and doing group activities. Besides that, I had trouble sticking to the curriculum. I'm just not a conformist and it irked me to have to stick to any strict guidelines. Maybe that translates to being lazy...... Maybe a bit of both.

Anonymous said...

That was from KiminAZ!

Emma said...

That was a really nice post, I love reading about the interesting things you and your family are experiencing. Like KiminAZ said before, there is a feeling of 'knowing' you, even though we've never met. Sometimes I'll hear something about France, or moving overseas and I'll think to myself "I wonder how Betsy and her girls are doing?" Thanks for sharing with us, it's nice to be an armchair traveller through your days.

Megan said...

"It's good to dream"- You're living the dream, baby! Piece by piece you and your family are collecting so many beautiful experiences while you are over here.

I love this post on living in Europe! Color me inspired- tomorrow I think I'll take the kids to the 'Orsay or maybe the Musee Rodin. Spring is on her way and I feel like I'm finally waking up after a long, cold, wet and dark winter. Like a bear or something.

Betsy said...

Megan: We love both Orsay and Rodin. Rodin especially. I sure hope spring is coming. The gray on gray on gray is just about killing me. And I'm a winter person. Paris is indeed amazing, it and the mountains, are the only antidote to winter ennui.

Betsy said...

KiminAZ: The farmhouse is indeed coming along. It gets more amazing, and daunting, every day. I will take and post more pics soon. The whole fact of it not being ours in the end is confusing to me, especially since Ian's sister is always insisting we live in it for a while. But we don't really see the point at this point. And we miss our real home, a place to truly call home. But yes, France is not at all a bad place to be "stuck" in. Vermont will always be there.

mooserbeans said...

Such beautiful pictures. We have had plenty of snow this year, but I feel like we've had none since everytime it has snowed, someone has been sick or another crisis has prevented us from enjoying it. This is the first year that I am looking forward to spring and not mourning the passing of winter:) Of course, our spring here will not be as lovely as your spring in an enchanted forest.