The Motherhood Diaries: Turning Worry About Education into Productive Thinking

The Motherhood Diaries: Turning Worry About Education into Productive Thinking

Advice from coach Joanne Archibald for expat parents looking to adapt to and embrace their new lifestyles.

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© Mojpe/Pixabuy

From the moment one becomes a parent (and I mean, from the second we know that sperm has successfully met egg), at least 10% of one’s brainpower at any given time is taken up with worrying about one’s offspring. Health, happiness, brain development, achievement of key milestones, eating habits, socialization… and, the biggie: education.

I say “the biggie” because that’s the thing I worry about most. Indeed, I’d say 10% is actually a conservative estimate. But who can blame me? Education is the key to a child’s future. Living as an expat in Paris compounds the problem as we are usually dealing with a school system we did not experience first-hand, and doing so in a language that – no matter how well we master French – isn’t our langue maternelle.

© Alexas fotos/Pixabuy

Confession time

A while back, I had a period of strange and obsessive worry about my daughter’s education, mainly brought on by the acute realization of my lack of knowledge about how the school system works here. A lack of information makes me anxious. So, I took action. I called the school board and found out which catchment area we’re in for lycée, collège, primaire and maternelle. We discussed dérogations, when to apply for schools, the LOT! At one point, though, faced with my barrage of questions, the lovely lady on the phone stopped mid-sentence and asked la question qui fâche:

“Madame, just how many children do you have, and what are their ages?” My red-faced reply: “Well, erm, I actually just have the one daughter, and she’s, ahem, 10 months old”.

Yes, readers, I was that crazy lady asking for university application forms for a child who couldn’t actually walk yet.

© Alexas fotos/Pixabuy

Which language to speak?

Now, in my defence, in Paris, you basically have to register for a place at the crèche as you’re leaving the gynecologist’s office having confirmed your pregnancy. And even then, they’ll ask you why you didn’t think to send a post-coital email to pre-reserve your spot. So it’s not that odd to worry about the deadline to register for nursery school. And at least now I know the when, where, what, how and why – information is power!

Of course, on top of the classic questions about education that all parents consider, expat parents have to take into account the language(s) elements of their children’s upbringing. Whatever the configuration of languages in the household, there are always choices to be made about language priorities: Who will speak which language to the children, what will the family language will be?…My husband is French, I am British, and we live in France. I have spent hours agonizing over whether my speaking English to our daughter will be “enough”; yet more time weighing up the relative merits of international sections, bilingual schools, and supplementary private tuition; and even longer researching extra-curricular activities that take place in English.

© Oui/123RF

The Positive Approach to Education

I know I’m not the only one out there with these worries swirling around her brain, so if you’re identifying with any of the above, take heart. It’s totally normal (hey, we weren’t using that 10% anyway, right?). But instead of undirected and anxiety-inducing worry, why not try to channel your concerns by asking yourself the right questions? Powerful coaching questions that, instead of just causing more confusion, will help you identify what’s best for your children and your family as a whole. Here are some starters that should help you get to the bottom of what’s right for you:

  • What do we want our children to take away from their schooling, overall?
  • What values do we want our children to learn at school?
  • What natural talents are our children displaying and how do we want to support those?
  • What difficulties are my children experiencing and how do I want to support them?
  • What did I enjoy/not enjoy in my own education? What would I like to reproduce?
  • How much support are we as parents willing and able to offer our children with homework?
  • How much do we as parents want to be involved in the life of the school?
  • What level of bilingualism do we aspire to for our children, and to what end?
  • What will bilingualism do for our children, and what will our children’s bilingualism do for our family as a whole?
  • How much work are we as parents willing and able to put into our goal of bilingualism?
  • What are we willing to sacrifice for this goal? What are we not willing to sacrifice?
  • What other values are important to us in our children’s upbringing and education?
  • What values and objectives do we have for our family’s lifestyle generally?
  • How do our other values fit in with our educational and bilingual goals for our children?

It’s normal and right to think about your child’s future. But it’s better to ponder the matter in a way that is productive, constructive and empowering.

JOIN INSPIRELLE’S SPEED COACHING EVENT MARCH 7TH

Meet Joanne Archibald and 9 other coaches in person

INSPIRELLE is hosting its first Speed Coaching and Networking event to give our online community the opportunity to meet with some of Paris’ amazing English-speaking, experienced coaches.

When: March 7th, 7 pm to 10pm
Where: Reid Hall, 4 rue Chevreuse, 75006 Paris
Price: 20 euros at door, 15 euros for subscribers, 10 euros for under 25
Hors d’oeuvres included

Joanne Archibald
Joanne Archibald is a personal and business coach and writer. She is also a wife, mother, yogi, feminist, patchworker, bookworm, Francophile, life-lover, and day seizer. She left the UK for France intending to stay just seven months and it’s now been 14 years... Joanne is committed to making the world a happier place, one person at a time, helping every client work towards living life with purpose and on purpose. For face-to-face, Skype or telephone coaching sessions in French or English, contact joanne@joannearchibald.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @joarchibald and Facebook, or read more on her website joannearchibald.com.

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