Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are raised in France

Independent children are free and happy parents. That's what the French think. And they do not limit the variety of choices of their children in the adult world, with its rules, privileges and, of course, food

On Children's Day, Around the World tells how the school system works in France.

Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are brought up in France

Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are brought up in France

Veronica Vieille-Mese

Born in 1976 in Samara. In 1998 she graduated from the Samara State Aerospace University named after M.V. S.P. Korolev with a degree in “referent-translator from French”. Then she received a law degree at Samara State University.

In 2011, she headed the advertising department of the Muz-TV channel in Samara. In 2013, she met her future husband, Dominic Vieille-Mese. After the wedding in 2015, she moved to France with her eight-year-old daughter Alice. Now the Vieille-Mese family lives in the town of La Ville-du-Bois near Paris. In France, Veronica opened a travel agency Rendezvous Paris. Twelve-year-old Alice studies at the Collège Louise Weiss in Nozé (in 2019. — Note by

“At the first meeting with the director of the elementary school, I was in a state of mild panic,” recalls Veronica. third grade in the Russian education system.

In Samara, she did not have time to finish the second grade, and she did not speak French at all. I was eager to accompany her in the lessons, to translate everything that the teacher says. But the director, Madame Pla-Thomas, hugged me by the shoulders and escorted me out of the office with the words: “Madame, you are not the first and not the last foreigner who sends her child to our school. In two months, your daughter will speak French better than her native language.”

Fish Day

Veronica did not immediately believe the promises of Madame Pla-Thomas, especially since she met her in a clown costume: on April 1, France celebrates the analogue of April Fool's Day – the holiday Poisson d`avril (translated from French. “April fish”).

< p>– After the first day of school, my daughter left the school with tears in her eyes and said that she did not understand anything at all. I rushed to call my husband, shouting that I had to urgently ask for a place in a Russian school for Alice. My husband reassured me in approximately the same manner as the director: they say, calm down, dear, and leave the child alone,” recalls Veronika. everything is fine. The teacher appointed Alice a “guardian angel” – a girl who will help her in everything. Funny coincidence: Alice's new girlfriend's name was Ange, which means “angel” in French.

Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are raised in France

After a couple of months, Alice became the best student in the class. Nevertheless, Veronika did not manage to leave the usual anxiety of a Russian mother in the past.

“My next culture shock was school meals. At home, Alice did not eat at school. Here, the daughter announced that she would have lunch with friends in the cantina, the school cafeteria. Looking at the menu, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was like a gourmet restaurant menu: fresh-caught sardines, mustard farm beef, tomatoes with bulgur and herbs de Provence, camembert, duck breast with orange sauce, and even foie gras. Education in France is free, and school meals cost 7.5 euros per day. Some do not pay anything, such as large families or single mothers.

The City Hall determines the monetary coefficient for the nutrition of each child, based on the income of the parents, the number of children in the family, and some other factors. At the same time, each family can track in a special application for a phone or computer not only the progress of a child at school, but also the daily menu, the calorie content of dishes, and even the place of origin of a particular fruit.

Under French law, at least 30 percent of food for the school must come from local farms or organic farms. In addition, the Ministry of Education has decreed that students must eat at least five types of fruits or vegetables per day in any form.

– If the child eats the whole meal, he is given a special badge. Anyone who scores five badges a week earns a reward for the whole class and a souvenir for himself, – says Veronika. – Of course, they encourage not only those who eat well, but also those who study well. In her second year, Alice earned a “creative day” for the entire class for her academic excellence. It's the kind of day when kids bring snacks and drinks to school and do whatever they want.

Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are brought up in France

– Once, while visiting my husband's relatives, I saw a nine-month-old baby absorbing Camembert. The father, with obvious pride, put the pieces to his son and said: “Oh, you are my little gourmet.” In French restaurants, the children's menu differs little from the main one, for example, there will be the same bouillabaisse fish soup, only the portion size is smaller. Over time, I realized that in France, children from infancy are treated almost the same as adults. And it's not only about gastronomic education.

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Freedom, equality, nurseries

You can't call French mothers hens —almost all children go to kindergarten. Even before the birth of a child, expectant mothers register on the website PMI — Protection maternelle et infantile (Department of Maternal and Child Protection) and select a nanny. And in the state nursery, where children are admitted from two years old, they are enrolled at the stage of pregnancy planning.

Official parental leave in France is only 16 weeks: six before childbirth and ten after. Parents try to arrange a child in a nursery, even if the young mother does not go to work. French women prefer to have free time for themselves and for their husbands. A rare mother breastfeeds a child for a long time.

– Among my French acquaintances there is not a single mother who would sit at home with her child. Being just a housewife is not accepted here. All French women value their independence very much, including financial independence, and being tied to a house and a child is like death for them. Even in very wealthy families, wives do not want to mess around and either work or lead an active social life, such as doing charity work. Gradually, I became involved in this style of parenting and took up a career. Received a certificate of guide and wine taster. Now I run a travel agency,  – says Veronica.

Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are brought up in France

Spouses working as equals and at home do everything together. There is no division of household duties into women's and men's.

– When we got married, Dominic was the director of a chain of menswear boutiques. However, it was not a problem for him to cook dinner or clean the house. At the same time, Dominique found time to study with my daughter: a joint trip with Alice to Versailles on bicycles is their little tradition.

In single-parent families, the state takes on the role of partner-assistant. For single mothers, the mayor's office pays a subsidy – 115.64 euros per month per child until they reach the age of 20. There is also additional financial assistance for school allowances, babysitting services are compensated. If necessary, the mayor's office can pay for housing for a single mother. In addition, the baby is provided with diapers, clothes, diapers and formulas for feeding.

French companies give working parents an extra day off to interact with their children on Wednesday, which is traditionally considered hobby day. On Wednesday, many schools and kindergartens often do not work. On this day, parents take their children to different sections, circles, master classes, or just do something with their children.

Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are brought up in France

Education of the senses

– In Samara, I could only afford to pay for my daughter's music school. Other mugs were too expensive,” says Veronika. In France, she has a wide range of activities in her free time. The state takes on part of the costs of paying for circles, and you can visit a new one every day, trying everything you want. For tennis, we pay only 180 euros for six months. Classes are held once a week.

In addition, we can use the court at any time by prior reservation. Music, choir and solfeggio are taught as part of the general education program, there is no need to pay separately for a music school, as in Russia. And you can choose to study on different instruments. Alice, for example, plays the piano and also accompanies her cellist friend.

Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are brought up in France

With a huge selection of free circles and additional activities, children are not loaded with them. French parents believe that it is much more important to introduce children to the world around them, to different tastes of food and to give them time for independent play. At the playground, mothers often stand aside and communicate with each other while their children themselves play and explore the world through tactile, gustatory and visual sensations. School education is built on the same principle. History, biology, geography and other sciences are taught using real examples.

– History lessons can be held in castles, biology classes – in the form of a three-day trip to the farm, after which each child receives a certificate that he has completed, for example, a course in horse care. A technology lesson was once held in a vineyard where schoolchildren were taught how to harvest and showed them the processes of fermentation and fermentation. When I first accompanied Alice's class on an outing to the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte (Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte), I was amazed that no one chatted or played around during the excursion.

Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are raised in France

The history of the former owner of the castle, Nicolas Fouquet, who was in charge of Louis XIV's finances, the children listened to very carefully, making notes in notebooks. Before the start of the lesson in the castle, the guide gave them programs with charades, questions and crosswords on the topic. The one who answered without errors received a small present at the end. Instead of the usual art history lesson in the classroom, the students were taken to the Orangerie Museum in Paris. They were told not only about the life and work of artists, but also taught to “read” paintings. Together with the teacher, the children tried to understand what the artist wanted to say with his work, and then each wrote water lilies based on Monet's painting.

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Creative order

The French, both at the state and private levels, care about the comprehensive development of future citizens. Almost every store has a studio where they hold master classes for children for a nominal fee.

– In the Leonardo art supply store, I paid only five euros for a three-hour lesson. My daughter made fairy wings and a brocade skirt. She spent a lot of materials. I glued only feathers and rhinestones for a hundred euros. I was very worried and at the end of the lesson I asked the teacher if I needed to pay extra for the materials used. To which they answered: no one counts how much glue and beads children will spend, because the development of their imagination is much more important.

Freedom, equality, nursery: how children are brought up in France

Freedom of expression is encouraged in all manifestations. And when it comes to punishing academic failure or bad behavior, parents are pretty lenient. For faults, they can limit the time spent on the phone, or deprive them of sweets, nothing more.

– Alice has two best friends – Jade and Raphael. Parents allow them and gatherings until late in the evening, and overnight stays at each other's homes. The girls visit the Mikado Center for Teenagers together, where various interesting events are held on weekends, from master classes in making pancakes to evening discos. Independent living is good for girls. At the age of 12, they are able to cook their own dinner, clean their room, do their laundry.

At first, Alice was helped a little by her French grandmother, but gradually her daughter learned to cope with everything herself – she gets to the neighboring city to study at the college by bus with her friends. I remember how after the move I tried to control Alice's every step, to surround her with special care in order to somehow smooth out the stress due to the new language environment and environment. But my husband quickly weaned me from this. He constantly reminded me to give her more freedom, let her choose her own clothes and even extra classes at school. Her husband immediately gave her a separate room in the house, where she can do whatever she wants. Every French child knows that he has a personal territory, the boundaries of which the parents do not violate. At the same time, children, in turn, do not claim the time and territory of their parents, leaving them the opportunity to be alone.


Material published in Vokrug Sveta No. 9, September 2019

Daria Karelina


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