the Pregnancy Diaries, Victoria Jelinek

 “Never go to your high school reunion pregnant or they will think that is all you have done since you graduated.” Erma Bombeck

A son is (nearly) born; a Happy Christmas to all our readers

Almost there
my belly
  huge and swollen

Drive for more teachers

The socialist government is making good its pre-election promise to recruit more teachers by launching Ambition Enseigner – a drive to up the numbers by 60,000 over the next five years.

Education Minister Vincent Peillon has also promised to improve teacher training but has not promised to up teachers' wages.

Maths, French and English teachers are the most widely sought after. Anyone interested in applying for a post can find out more here.

furore over "suicide essay"

A collège teacher in the Charente has been suspended after asking troisième students to imagine they planned to commit suicide and asking them to write an essay saying why they wanted to end their lives, describing their self-disgust and the events in their lives which had lead to it.

the Pregnancy Diaries, Victoria Jelinek

I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow. He told me to wear a brown tie.
Rodney Dangerfield

It seems as though I’ve spent this entire pregnancy in doctor’s waiting rooms.
Even so, I’ve had a toothache for about six years and if there’s one pain I can potentially get rid of right now, then I’m going to try.

internet suicides

Much to his delight, Jerome, an excellent but shy pupil in terminale received a message on his Facebook page from Sylvie, one of the most popular girls in the school. She told him that she had been watching him for some time but was scared of approaching him because he was so clever, etc. etc. Their online correspondence went on for several months, Sylvie insisting that it remain secret, eventually becoming quite erotic. Finally, Sylvie persuaded Jerome to strip for her in front of his webcam.

Changes to the bac 2013

Some alterations to the bac happened this June but the real changes take place next year, 2013, affecting students currently in première and terminale
Probably the biggest change is the emphasis on foreign languages across the board with oral language exams for all students. In other words, S and L candidates will no longer be able to get their bac without an oral foreign language exam. In addition,  ES students will have to do a written language test in their second foreign language as well as their first and L students will have a 30 minute oral in both their foreign languages.

the Pregnancy Diaries

The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.” Aristotle

I met the anaesthesiologist in Sallanches hospital. That’s a difficult word for me to say even in English. I read somewhere that there are 13 anaesthesiologists per 100k of the population in France, whereas the US & UK have a 1/3 less.

Q&A: part-time jobs and child benefits

My daughter (18, in terminale) has a part-time waitressing job. She worked for most of half term and wants to continue working one evening a week and weekends to earn extra pocket money. 
Will this affect the child benefits I receive for her?

A: For a student to be considered still dependent on their family, in which case the family continues to receive child benefits, they cannot earn more than a fixed amount.

Offline dangers

It is easy, these days, to become obsessed by online threats to our children but the EU Kids Online Project has come up with a timely reminder that more threats lurk in the offline than online world. 

the Pregnancy Diaries: a father's perspective

of the Six-month Stage
By Kingsley Jones
It’s about now that I realise that I know absolutely nothing about babies, nappies, birth, or how not to kill them in the first few days or weeks.

Q&A: changing your bac pro

Following your article on school refusal, I see the signs in my son. He started a bac pro in September but is unhappy with his choice of subject. Can he change?

A: Cases of changing mid-course are pretty rare but it is possible if his marks are reasonably good and if he wants to change to a similar-ish subject, for example, from business to sales. If he wants to change subject completely, for example, from business to electronics then he would need to repeat his seconde.

The end of homework?

Francois Hollande's government is planning to take the 'home' out of homework, at least for primary school children. It claims that homework is elitist because it favours middle class children who get support from their parents.
However, before pupils jump for joy, the idea is for children to do their homework at school, at the end of the school day.

School refusal: warning signs

Some 150,000 students drop out of school every year and the peak period is around the move from collège to lycée, i.e. in troisième or seconde, when pupils can feel bored, see their marks go down, feel lost and isolated.
Here, we look at the reasons why children drop out  and how to spot the warning signs that your child might be becoming demotivated so you can act before it is too late.

the pregnancy diaries (19)

“Who has fully realized that history is not contained in thick books but lives in our very blood?” Carl Jung

My brother had a pulmonary embolism last week. It’s a blood clot in the lung that can cause sudden death. I’d be so sad if something were to happen to him that I don’t even want to think about that.

Q&A: challenging your marks

Following your post last week on How to get Higher Marks is it possible to challenge a pupil's marks if you feel that a teacher is unfairly marking them down? And how do you go about this?

Primary school changes

Every new President likes to fiddle with the school calendar and Francois Hollande is no exception. He has set his sights on primary schools and plans to make several changes to the school calendar from next year.
Firstly, he wants to increase school attendance from four to four and half days a week while at the same time shortening the school day – as well as the length of the summer holidays.

time to get a 'flu jab

Flu vaccines are now ready and while vulnerable groups are being offered free jabs, the government is urging everyone, including children, to get vaccinated this winter.

Q&A: gap year

My daughter finishes her bac next September and is planning to go on to a French university. However, she would like to take a gap year like her friends back in the UK. Can you do this in France?

How to get higher marks

It’s perhaps not that surprising but marks handed out by collège and lycée teachers can be highly subjective – and now research has proved it.
A child’s reputation, attitude, social background, parents and even their sex can influence how generously or severely they are marked, leading to some pupils being unfairly treated.

the Pregnancy Diaries by Victoria Jelinek

I allow no one to touch me.’ Paul Cezanne

It’s the weirdest thing, but ever since I’ve looked obviously pregnant, people have been touching it, often without asking to first!
This goes hand-in-hand with people of all kinds offering me unsolicited advice about my pregnancy and tales about their own.

Universities that teach in English

Politecnico di Milano

An increasing number of universities around the world are offering undergraduate courses taught in English and indeed some are now doing all their teaching in English which makes them attractive to ambitious students who want to graduate which an extra skill under their belt.
It can also make them attractive to British-born students as, adventure apart, the fees and cost of living can be lower than in the UK–or France.

Q&A: babysitting insurance

My daughter has just been asked to do some babysitting for French friends. Is it true that she needs to take out special insurance to do this? 


Increasing numbers of families in Britain are struggling to feed and clothe their children, according to Save the Children. Parents are often going without themselves in order to ensure their children eat properly and the strain is tearing families apart.

Many British, or other incomer, families in France are struggling to make a living and find themselves in much the same situation.

the Pregnancy Diaries (17) by Victoria Jelinek

‘I found there was only one way to look thin: hang out with fat people.’ Rodney Dangerfield

Given the ‘all clear,’ or ‘tout va bien,’ from my doctor regarding my pregnancy last week, I headed to London to visit friends. While there, I’ve experienced a metamorphosis of my body and in my perspective.

the banks' rentrée offers for students

Whilst it would be lovely to protect our offspring (and, indeed, ourselves) from the evils of banking, until the next generation invents a bank-free society they remain a necessary evil.

So here are the top six rentrée offers for this year's students looking to get their hands on a bank card.

Where's the best place to study?


Student magazine L'Etudiant has surveyed 41 key university towns, accommodating some 8000 students, comparing courses, accommodation, night life, environment, sports facilities, transport , part time job opportunities and the overall cosmopolitan mix of the student population in order to find the places to be a student.

And the winners are: Toulouse, Grenoble and Montpellier.

student accommodation costs

If your kids have started university in France this year you may still be reeling at the cost of student accommodation. Although President Francois Hollande has promised to build  another 8000 student flats by the end of his first term, prices are still steadily rising.

Morality in schools row

As 12 million schoolchildren take their desks, France's new education minister Vincent Peillon has kicked up a storm by calling for 'secular morality' lessons in the classroom.
Despite a frosty reception from teachers and parents' groups, Peillon wants the subject to be introduced from 2013. 
He intends to introduce a secular moral code, he says, to help France's young to learn to 'live together'.

the pregnancy diaries (16) by Victoria Jelinek

 “A tree’s a tree. How many more do you need to look at?” Ronald Reagan

Watched Terrence Malick’s last film The Tree this week. Malick has taken his time with his films, working on this one for decades. He’s "only" made seven films in a 35-year career, but his films Badlands and Days of Heaven are two of the most beautifully filmed movies of all time and this one is gorgeous, too. 
It’s lightly existential…a great film to watch when you’re in the mood to consider your life, your family, and the world you live in without delving too deeply into any of it…

First day at school?

Just a week to go to the rentrée and for hundreds of children this will mark their first day at school.

Even if they have already been to the maternelle, real school is a major milestone (for the children too!)

Read what child experts advise, including child care guru Penelope Leach, in order to make the first day, and weeks, pass smoothly.

the Pregnancy Diaries (15) by Victoria Jelinek

“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight.” Marcus Aurelius

Prompted by my husband’s planting an apple tree in our garden for our lost baby,  Appleseed,  I wrote about this miscarriage in last week’s column. 
While I’m American, and therefore prone to “vomit” my whole life upon the floor to anyone I’ve just met,  I’ve lived in Europe for almost 15 years now and have learned (am learning) to hold myself back more and to think before I speak…so to write about something so personal filled me with ambivalence and trepidation.  
However, the stories told to me by other women as a result of this piece have touched me greatly and confirmed for me that it was right that I wrote about Appleseed.

an affordable (and stress-free) rentrée

Aide à la rentrée grants (allocation de rentrée scolaire) should be hitting your bank accounts tomorrow (20 August) so it is time to hit the supermarkets for the mad rentrée shopping bonanza.
This is an annual trolley-dash event that children find incredibly exciting – can't wait to get home and pack all those new pencils and exercise books into sparkly new cartables – but leaves parents close to tears as they grapple with lists specifying the exact size of lines, margins and squares and how many pages each different exercise book must contain.
However, the good news is that, despite rumours that school equipment prices were set to rise by up to 25% they are in fact staying pretty stable, according to a study of 5,800 hypermarkets by the independent research group GK. 
In addition, the rentrée grant has gone up 25% this year.
But it is still worth shopping around and both Carrefour and Auchan are offering refund the difference price match guarantees this year.
Here are our tips on keeping your rentrée affordable – and stress free!

the rentrée and the left handed child

If you have problems finding rentrée equipment for a left-handed child – such as scissors and pens – check out the Paris based website: under catalogue, then Ciseaux pour gaucher and Le gaucher à l'école.
Tel: tel: 01 60 69 28 73

the Pregnancy Diaries (14) by Victoria Jelinek

Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults, in a child's eyes, is that the child is usually looking upwards, and few faces are at their best when seen from below. George Orwell

Relief I’ve made it 17 weeks
belly rounded and swelling
ten pounds more weight on my body and counting

16 August: UK university clearing

If you applied to UK universities for 2012 (or deferred 2013) entry and your bac results weren't good enough for your first or insurance choice, remember that Clearing starts this Thursday (16 August), following publication of the UK A level results.

Joys of Judo - more than just a sport

What a fantastic Games! And for those suffering from post-Olympic blues, now is the perfect time to consider what activities to take up this rentrée.
And, argues Megan Bright, judo – France’s second most played sport – has given her daughter far more than increased fitness levels.
It all began in the summer of 2004 which was rather wet meaning the children watched a lot of Olympics. Since, having moved to France only twelve months previously, we only had French television at the time (to accelerate French learning) they saw a lot of judo which is incredibly popular in France.

Signs of boredom? Put the children in charge!

If you're run ragged trying to keep everyone entertained and only getting sulks and 'I'm bored' by way of thanks, it's time to turn the tablesLet the children organise the rest of the holidays. Put them in charge!

The advantages are manifold: you won’t be chief nagger as you didn’t set the timetable and it won’t be you saying 'no' to another ice cream. Your children will learn a fistful of life skills and you may be pleasantly surprised by your their maturity. And remember,  just as children are more likely to eat a meal they have prepared themselves, nor will they be able to mooch about with long faces if the day's activities were their idea in the first place. 

the Pregnancy Diaries (13) by Victoria Jelinek

How we apples swim. Jonathan Swift
My husband planted an apple tree in our garden this week in honour of our first pregnancy, a tangle of atoms that we called Appleseed… my column this week is a page from my diary, written in 2009:
It’s not just the little group of cells that’s lost. I’ve had a miscarriage before. I was attached to this child. 

French and British rubbish at languages

French pupils are the worst in Europe at foreign languages – bar the English!
A major study carried out by Cambridge University has found that only 14% of French pupils are good at their first foreign language, English. The only country where language learning is worse is Britain, where only 9% are good at their first foreign language, French.

Secret summer learning

Whether or not they favour the long summer vacation, UK educationalists are nevertheless agreed that a significant amount of backsliding happens over the summer break with many children slipping educationally backwards, particularly in subjects they are already struggling with. 
If this happens during Britain's 6 week holiday, how much more likely is it to affect children in France who are away from their lessons for over two months.
One solution is, of course, holiday tuition, particularly in their weak subjects. But if you feel that inflicting schoolwork over the holidays is too mean – or too expensive – it is very easy to slot stealth learning into the holiday timetable without children being aware of it.

the Justin's House app

The Global BBC iPlayer is launching two new genres dedicated to family viewing on the app, available on iPads, iPhones and iPods. 
The new CBeebies genre gives parents a one-stop shop destination for all programmes for children in kindergarten and pre-school. 
The new Family genre will give older children CBBC favourites like Newsround, Deadly 60, classic shows like Rentaghost and films like The Snow Queen
Both genres launch today on the app across Western Europe.

Molly Innes: Bored is Good!

Each generation marvels at the ability of their children to be bored.
Our parents, apparently,  had nothing but a hoop and a spinning top. We had books and board games, bicycles and Lego, family outings (to a local stately home, usually), wet weeks in Wales and a whole hour of children’s TV.
Today’s, of course, have package tours and kids’ clubs, in-car entertainment, mobile ’phones and media centres in their bedrooms.
And still they’re bored!
Thank goodness for that: boredom is essential to a child’s self-development.

the Pregnancy Diaries (12) by Victoria Jelinek

“Inside every hardened criminal beats the heart of a ten-year old boy.” Bart Simpson

I had yet another ultrasound this week, but this time the foetus actually looks like something I can recognise as human – well, human alien, to be honest, as the head is inordinately big for its little curled body, and its eyes seem large and transparent. 
A friend told me once that there’s a stage in many animals’ pregnancy (and by “animal,” he also meant human) in which the foetuses all look like alike…I believe this now, having looked at pictures of pregnant cows, dogs and cats. 

beware the bargains in your trolley

While the price of your favourite or regular foodstuffs might appear to have gone down, so, very possibly, has the content.

According to the French consumer association 60millions de consommateurs, the weight and quantity of foodstuffs is being reduced as a sneaky way of raising prices without appearing to do so.
For example, some drink containers have shrunk from 75cl to 60cl and while the price appears have gone down by five centimes, if you look at the price per litre it has actually gone up 23%.
Or watch out for breakfast cereals which are offered in larger packet sizes – from 375g to 430g – but where the price per kilo has gone up 17% over the past year.
Even toilet paper is affected: a reader wrote in to 60 millions saying that they had measured a 4mm increase in the width of the cardboard tube, resulting in fewer sheets of paper.
The only way to shop, in other words, is to make sure you compare the per litre and per kilo prices, not prices per item.

the pregnancy diaries (11) Victoria Jelinek

“Seize the moment.  Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.” Erma Bombeck

It turns out that my glucose test for gestational diabetes reflects high sugar levels. 
I’d taken it earlier than most women 'cause I’m over 35 and have a history of diabetes in my family. Between 2-10% of women develop gestational diabetes in pregnancy, making it the most common health problem for expectant mothers.

texting our teens

Anyone else out there who can only get their teens' attention by texting them? Here's a great excerpt from Allison (I Don't Know How She Does It) Pearson's Telegraph column:

Look into my crystal ball. It is England, 2045, and the last voice has been heard in the land. Vocal chords have withered through lack of use. A larynx is on display at the Science Museum to remind visitors of how people used to talk in the days before texting.

Best beaches in France

Since there are rumours that there is to be some summer after all this year, this seems a good moment to take a look at some of the best beaches in France.
Of course we are spoilt for choice with around 2,000 miles of coastline in mainland France and thousands of beaches and hundreds of seaside resorts.

the Pregnancy Diaries - week 10 by Victoria Jelinek

“Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.” Erma Bombeck

I recently went to the two crèches in the valley and signed my impending baby up for care - a crèche is a nursery from three months of age till they walk. There are only ten spots in each. Both tell me that their waiting list goes back to 2008! 
I said that I’d take anything. I then went to the local mairie and got a list of names for all the certified assistantes maternelles, or ‘nounous’, in the valley. 
These are women who are certified to take care of children in their homes from zero-three years old. 

Why learn English (when you already speak it)?

Read our guest post by Sue Aitken of Blackhen Education

To be truly bilingual, a child needs to be able to read, write and speak fluently in both languages. For many, the idea of speaking a second language appeals, but what happens when this second language becomes dominant?