Classe de mer

Dear Son,


The big news lately, is that you are going on a “classe de mer”.


A classe de mer falls under the category of “classes découvertes”, that are a big part of the French education system, apparently, even from a very young age. There are vacation centers all over France called “colonie de vacances”, where children are sent during school holidays. They are on the sea, up in the mountains, in old castles, on farms, and have different themes like the sea, a week of horseback riding, or skiing.


These colonie des vacances are then used for classe vertes during school terms. They are well secured and made especially for children ages 4 to adolescent. The center where you are going is right on the sea, in Brittany. It’s in a small village. The center has an outdoors area, a cantine for the children, and classrooms, since the classes vertes are not vacation, they are proper school, meant to complement school lessons. Each room has a toilet and sleeps 4 to 6, with bunk beds. The law states that only children over the age of 6 can sleep on the top bunk, so that eliminates you.


There is a full time nurse at the center, and various “animateurs” that lead activities such a sailing, which is for older classes so you won’t be doing that. You and your class will be exploring the tide pools, looking for mussels and little crabs and sea urchins. You will also visit a nearby aquarium.


You will take a TGV in a few days from Gare Montparnasse to Bretagne and then a bus to the center. And you are staying for four nights.


This blows my mind. I still have such mixed feelings about it. The first time I heard you’d be doing this, was way back in September on Parent’s night. The teacher explained to us that she had done this last year with her Grande Section class, and she was applying to do it again, although she didn’t think she would be chosen again since only one maternelle class in all of our town has the funding to go.


But it turns out she was chosen again. She explained that many teachers didn’t request to go because they had families and couldn’t leave for a week at a time, and it’s not yet the case for her.


These classes are not at all required for teachers. These Education Nationale teachers do these classes, because they want to. They don’t get paid extra for it. They do it because they want to offer their students enriching experiences. This blows my mind.


And so, that’s how I find myself, letting you go.


At first when I heard about it, I was like, no way. I remembered myself at kindergarten. I was barely going to school a few mornings a week. No way was I going to let you go away for four days with your school.


But then, we had several meetings about it. We had a meeting at the town hall where the animateurs were sent in for the day to meet the parents, and then went home that night. We saw photos of the center, met the director, heard about all the things that the classes would be doing.


And so, even though I’m still very unsure, I decided that if you were going to go, these were the conditions to do it. I have 110 percent confidence in your teacher. She is someone who got into her bathing suit every week during the winter to get in the pool with you all. She is truly passionate and exceptional.


And I also thought, the thing is that we have chosen the French public education system for our children’s education, and that maybe means going along with it, even if it seems very different from what I’m used to.


You were very hesitant for long time, but now, you are looking forward to going. You said for months that you didn’t want to go. But then you told me the things you were worried about:


-you were worried about crabs crawling into your rain boots


-you were worried that you’d be forced to pick up a big crab if you didn’t want to


-you were worried about night time


We talked to the maitresse about the first two. She was able to reassure you that you didn’t have to touch anything you didn’t want to, and that the crabs were far more afraid of you than you are of them.


But we’re all still worried about night time.


I’m trying not to project, but I was someone who hated spending the night at friends house. My parents always had to come get me in the middle of the night. Much like you, we didn’t have nearby grandparents so I never had the opportunity to sleep away from my parents. This is the same with you, in fact, this will be the first time you are sleeping away from both of us.


This really has the potential to go terribly wrong. Especially as I still remember the feeling of missing my parents at night. It could go terribly wrong, or it could just be difficult but doable. Impossible to say, but I guess we have decided to find out.


If it does go wrong, I hope it is not too terribly traumatizing for you.


We packed your suitcase a few days ago. We were given a list of what to pack. A windbreaker/rain jacket, rubber wellies, towels, toiletries, tennis shoes, hats and sunscreen. Also a lovey, but they said not to send THE lovey in case it gets lost. We are supposed to label absolutely everything. Apparently it’s going to be gorgeous weather this week, so you are really lucky about that, as Brittany is known for its rain.


We gave the suitcase yesterday because they send it ahead of you, so that you don’t have to carry it with you, which is smart. We are sending you with a backpack with a picnic lunch for the train, along with a photo of us. I wrote you a letter this week and sent it along , according the maitresse’s instructions, so that you would have it when you got there.


I got you a book about a classe de mer a few weeks ago. The maitresse asked me if she could borrow it to read to the whole class.


This also has the potential to be a wonderful enriching experience with you, but it will be hard, very hard. I did want to blog about this before the trip itself, so that I can then blog about it afterwards, and how it all went.


Maybe this is also more of the separation, that is so terribly hard. Many French people say that their children came back from classe vertes a bit more independent. But I hope you won’t be too independent when you come back. You are still my baby boy.


One thought on “Classe de mer

  1. Pingback: Autumn 2015 recap | Letters to my ̶s̶o̶n̶ children

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