In this post, I described my first inspection with the educational department after beginning homeschooling in 2016 with my oldest daughter. I also explained a little about the legality of homeschooling in France. And I included a synopsis of the elements of a yearly inspection.
The Second Inspection
Since this decree was put into place between my two inspections, I was able to see a change in how these inspections take place.
First of all, we did not have our inspection for the second year until the month of March. This gave us plenty of time to be well-established in our routine and be well on our way to completing our work for the year.
Secondly, we had a different inspector and a different educational adviser. And they arrived with apparently no information on the previous year’s inspection.
Like the mayor’s office visit, I led them directly up the staircase to our schoolroom on the first floor. I had shut all the doors between the entrance and that room to discourage prying eyes.
I knew this would be different from the moment they stepped into the room. Now, remember, this inspection is to happen in 3 steps.
And at no time is the child to be separated from the parent. This is as much for the safety of the child as for the inspector. Part of the paperwork filled out when a child is registered for school is to allow the school and it’s personnel temporary guardianship while in their care. This way the parent may leave their child at school without it being considered abandonment. And the school can make temporary decisions about the welfare of the child when the parent is not present. Homeschoolers never sign this paperwork. Therefore, leaving a child alone with an inspector (even in their own home) can be considered abandonment. And it opens the inspector up to a lawsuit should something happen to the child while in his care.
However, many inspectors, including mine, attempt to separate the child from the parent immediately upon entering the home or place of inspection.
The inspector asked me if there was a place he could take Vada to ask her some questions while I discussed our work with the educational adviser.
I firmly replied that we did our schoolwork in the schoolroom and that was where we would stay.
So they took their places, the inspector sitting beside Vada at her desk and the adviser sitting beside me at the other desk. But here is where it really differed from the previous year. Instead of politely waiting while I described our methods, answered questions and showed our work to the adviser, the instructor proceeded to ask questions of Vada. He was constantly barraging her with exercises while I was otherwise occupied with my questions. I tried my best to protect Vada from this intrusion by repeatedly interrupting to explain we had not learned that lesson yet or that this was not how we learned. But he didn’t really get the hint. He continued the assault.
Luckily for us, Vada is a smart little girl. And I had prepared her as best as I could. Against my better judgment, we had begun working a bit on French grammar. Now, in the Charlotte Mason method, grammar is not to be broached until the 4th year when the child has a better grasp of the written language through reading and copywork. But I had decided to start basic grammar in French to try to fend off any potential difficulties with inspections. Not doing English grammar didn’t matter because they could really care less about how we did our English studies.
Because of this, she was able to answer correctly most questions.
Now came my favorite part. The inspector shared with me his results of the interrogation. And the adviser shared with me her recommendations for the future.
It was immediately obvious neither one understood the Charlotte Mason method or listened to a word I had said. Their suggestions were both contradictory and unnecessary.
For example, they both seemed rather fixated on the idea that I create and display a large historical timeline on my wall. This despite my showing them the Book of Centuries we had recently started. I proceeded to explain that she could see much more easily how everything was connected with the Book of Centuries. And this was one of the basic tenets of the Mason method: to be able to see connections in everything. They repeated that she could see the connections in the frise chronologique (timeline). And I repeated that we were happy with the BOC and would stick with this as I could see Vada having a better understanding in this manner. This vicious circle continued for at least 15 minutes until I finally gave in and told them I would look into it.
To this day frise chronologique is something we joke about in the family when we talk about someone’s stubbornness blinding them to reality or to learning.
Another problem was that Vada could not recite her addition tables. Again, they showed their lack of interest in learning a new way of looking at things.
I had specifically explained that I wanted her to understand how addition worked by doing it over and over in different ways. I didn’t feel that she would have a better grasp of something just because it was memorized. And even though she did all her calculations for word problems in her head, and got them correct, she was actually incorrect because it took her too long to reason out the answer that a simple memorized equation could do more quickly.
Again, we went in circles as I explained that I wanted her to have a strong base built on knowledge and not memorized facts and they wanted the pony tricks of a traditional school. And again, I had to stop this farce by saying I’d look into.
This second inspection made it clear that the education department was truly uninterested in any other method or program than their own. No matter how poorly most students performed in this state-mandated program.
They also showed that these inspections were not truly meant to be a simple verification of instruction. It seemed more like a trial where I was forced to defend myself constantly. Where they were just looking for problems that only they could solve thus proving their system superior.
They came into my home with preconceived notions of what education should look like. And if my method was different, only mine could be improved upon. Regardless of what the results actually showed.
And if my kid wasn’t so clearly speaking and reading better in two languages than most kids her age can do in one, then I think we may have had a harder time of it. And we may still.
There is a current law in discussion to make the mandatory starting age of instruction drop to 3 years old instead of 6. And if this passes, I will have my first inspection in a year for a 3-year-old. If they can find fault with an obviously well-known method of education such as Charlotte Mason, what are they going to do when I present a 3-year-old who has no formal teaching whatsoever?
All I can say is that the future for homeschooling in France is looking very dim indeed.