Kids can surprise you. Even little kids can do so much more than you think possible. This morning we visited the Pompidou Centre with my husband. Because he was with us, we brought the stroller. Petra wanted to be pushed everywhere. If she got out for a bit to run around, as soon as we moved off, she had to be pushed to the next stop, however short. The old ‘But you’re a big 4 year old girl now’ didn’t wash. But when my husband left for work, and just the three of us explored Paris, wow, she walked and walked. This was not without protest. This was not without calls for water on a hot day, and later ice-cream, but the complaints were totally manageable, not those off-the-richter-scale ones! She wanted to explore too and the new three-day old 4 year old maturity kicked in. She seemed to understand that because of my back, she had to travel on foot, without the stroller and with me unable to carry her even a meter.
Kids are also surprisingly resilient when the occasion calls for it. I found it very hard to navigate the Paris Metro for the first time (which I found incredibly humiliating being a Londoner born and raised, although it did give me a new appreciation for all those annoying foreigners who over the years asked if they were on the right platforms. Appreciating other people’s suffering, rather than being irritated by it, trying to have a sense of what a situation must be like for them, is a huge step in the right direction of maturity). I couldn’t find a ticket office underground. We went down this tunnel, that tunnel, tunnel after tunnel and eventually got lucky. Then we found it hard to work out how to get the 3 of us through the gate with one ticket (since kids travel free under 10). Kids don’t like this kind of uncertainty in their parents. They like their parents to know what they’re doing at all times! But they bore with me and were surprisingly patient, even when we found ourselves on the wrong platform and had to ask!
Travelling with children can surprise you in a different way too; they can get the best out of other people. The French, particularly the Parisians, are not famed for their warmth and good manners. On our arrival from the airport, my husband was actually spat at. He was not the target, but whilst sitting in the passenger seat of the taxi, he got between the driver and a woman he nearly knocked over. They had a stand up row that was so obviously racist and sexist that I was so pleased my children didn’t understand a word. When the woman tried to spit across my husband at the taxi driver, it unfortunately hit my slightly shocked and mute husband full in the face. ‘Welcome to Paris’ my husband and I laughed to each other whilst the driver (but not the woman) apologized. And the next day he again nearly got between two other extremely irate Parisians! So in this respect we’ve seen Parisians reverting to type but with regards to how people have reacted to us, they seem charmed by the kids’ attempts at ‘Bonjour, Merci, Pardon, S’il Vous Plait and Au Revoir’ (Hello, Thank You, Excuse Me, Please and Goodbye). Although I’ve always got the impression from French friends that English good manners are considered somewhat silly, I’ve found that on the contrary, hardworking waiting staff are even charmed with my adult ‘Bonjour Madame/Monsieur’ and attempts at ordering politely in French. This is really lovely. But I think everyone is softened to us adults by the fact of our having children in tow, and reasonably well-behaved, friendly children too.
A great preparation for Paris was reading a story that I bought on the internet for $8 called ‘A Paris Mystery Story: The Mystery at the Eiffel Tower’ which is a Carole Marsh Mystery. She’s written a few of them in different locations and we’ll certainly buy more for anywhere else we travel, if she’s written them. They are very cheap, downloadable, pdf stories that I bought on the Curr Click website. It was perfect! It’s a mystery story with kids exploring Paris. Edward has referred to it a few times since we’ve been here, “That’s where the kids found the Van Gogh self-portrait clue”, and little in-jokes “Let’s have creeps” which he finds hysterically funny in the way only a 7 year old can when he remembers the little boy’s mispronunciation of ‘Crepes’ (French pancakes). And being a pdf, I could reread a passage with him before we left the apartment this afternoon. If it had been a book, I would have had to leave it behind with all the rest of the Paris books we enjoyed over the last few months, in the interests of not breaking my husband’s back with excess luggage! I highly recommend these stories even if you can’t take your kids to see the actual places. You could look them all up on Google images or any other books you might have and make a fun lapbook or collage or something. I might do this with the one about Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania when we get home. As fascinating as I know Romania is and as happy as it would make my dear Romanian friend to visit her home country, it’s not the next place on our travel wish list! I think Rome and Cairo probably are with our present interest in ancient history.
It will be fascinating to see in the next few weeks what the children remember of our Parisian sojourn, let alone what they recollect in years to come. Will it be something obvious, like how wonderful it was to see the Eiffel Tower in real life? Will it be something really odd like the rollerblading race that whizzed past us for a few minutes, and really captivated them, on a our long walk to the Musee D’Orsay (only to find the queue so long we didn’t see any of the things we’d so looked forward to). Or will it be, if they take after their mother, the exquisite ice-cream we had today, sitting in the sun, overlooking the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. It was so great that Edward could watch the Disney movie, loosely based on the Victor Hugo novel, on the Emirates flight on the way over!
I am taking as many photos as I can for posterity because it’s so lovely looking back at those geeky small kids being tourist photos! They can get away with all those cheesy shots with ‘thumbs up’ signs and pull-a-face-like-a-gargoyle way better than adults can but they’re still cheesy and so funny when you’re older! The great thing about homeschooling is that we can take our time recollecting our visit on our return; getting out the books we learned from before the trip and learning from them all over again but with a different perspective – the perspective of having been here, having seen it, and having different views and impressions – hopefully all still good but more fully informed, wider in perspective. I just hope the children’s stamina keeps surprising me and that the ice-cream is as good the next time!
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IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLINGMIDDLEEAST, welcome! I highly recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. The fastest way to access this is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!
Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this is an adventure into homeschooling that is not yet 3 months old and the journey has been a rollercoaster – philosophically and emotionally, catalogued daily for the first couple of months. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience you share with me, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you!