This has been a difficult inspection to write about. Mostly because I don’t like thinking about it. For the first time, in the school year 2018-2019, I had two children going through a French homeschool inspection.
My oldest was in her 3rd year of school and doing fairly well. My second daughter was just starting her first year. And she was struggling.
Struggling to stay focused. Fighting with me when she didn’t like something. Stalking off in a huff when she got frustrated. And really fighting with everything French.
I really didn’t know what to expect with her first inspection.
When we received word that our inspection was to be on December 20, I was slightly relieved. I wanted it to be over with quickly. The year before we had been forced to wait until nearly April.
However, it also made me angry. We were being inspected literally 2 days before the official Christmas vacation.
So with the stress of once again having strangers coming into our home just days before the holidays, we missed almost all the fun activities we usually did.
I usually preferred to stop our Ambleside schedule at the beginning of December to give the kids time to relax during the festivities. We would still do little lessons but they were all Christmas themed.
Unfortunately, with the inspection taking place when it did, I felt forced to continue our work.
The week of the inspection, I received a phone call requesting that our appointment be pushed back a half-hour. Since we had already cleared our schedule for this, I agreed. But I made it clear that they would need to finish in an hour because of our evening activities.
It was actually nice to be able to give them a restriction for a change.
The inspector and conseiller pedagogique were the same two people we had the previous year for my oldest’s French homeschool inspection, so I felt like we would be okay. There were already aware that we did a bilingual education. And that we worked first in English and added French as our second language.
I also made sure to let them know that my second daughter was extremely shy. And had not yet started her lessons in French reading because we were still finishing up our English reading lessons.
But what really started to get me is that, once again, they did not respect the written order of things. Instead of waiting until after my interview with the conseiller was over to question the girls, the inspector instead started handing out worksheets and asking questions. All while my attention was diverted towards the other person.
I tried the best I could to stay tuned into them. But it was difficult to maintain a conversation while watching out for not just one but two children. Luckily, there was only one inspector for both of them. It made it easier for me to keep an eye out.
I should not have let them get away with this yet again. But with our time restriction of only one hour for two kids, I didn’t push it.
Much to my regret. Now, they were under the impression that this could continue for each and every inspection to follow. It would be doubly difficult to rein them in.
However, the biggest red flag was to follow the actual French homeschool inspection.
At the end of the interview, they proceeded to ask me about my other children. Seeing as how neither of them would be 6 years old at the beginning of the next school year, I didn’t see how it was any of their concern.
We were, of course, aware of the potential law changing the mandatory age of instruction to age 3. President Macron had made a big deal of announcing it on TV a few months earlier.
But seeing as how the law had only been deposed at the assembly two days prior to our appointment, we were not very concerned. Especially considering they had been attempting this law for a couple of years already and it had never passed the assembly.
Not to mention the time it takes to pass a law that is heavily opposed, as we knew this law to be. Not just by homeschoolers but also by the school system itself. The staff of public preschools and kindergartens were all mobilized against it. It just didn’t seem possible.
But when these two inspectors started questioning us about our younger children, I have to admit that I started to sweat. They admitted that they had been in training already to learn how to conduct inspections for this new group of students. And were letting us know how it would probably go down the next year for us, having to include two more children.
The law was just deposed two days prior to our French homeschool inspection. It still had to go through discussion (where people were allowed to speak their opposition), pass by vote, be sent to the senate, go through another discussion, pass by another vote, go through a joint session to discuss any changes or oppositions, and pass a third vote before it could even be considered legal.
And the opposition was coming from everywhere. No one but the actual people who wrote the law seemed for it.
And these guys were telling us what was going happen next year for us as though it was already a fact. Clearly, the government was planning to push this through. No matter what.
I started to take the possibility of homeschool inspections for all four of my children seriously. They obviously did.
What drove this point home was when we received our official approval to continue homeschooling in the mail a few weeks later.
The previous forms had simply stated their approval and gave a few pointers to where they recommended I follow certain “methods.” These could only be recommendations because the law only stated that our children achieve the requirements of the “socle commun” or common core at the age of 16. As long as that happened it didn’t matter how or when we broached certain subjects.
But this new form was detailed. They broke down each section of the “socle commun” and how well our children achieved the requirements of their cycle. It was clear they were setting up for something.
Changes in the New Law
And we found out later what that was exactly. Under the new law, they are allowed to monitor progress according to the different cycles (see my post, Simple Guide to the French School System for more information).
Now by law, they still can’t technically deny us our right to homeschool if our child proves they are progressing toward the socle commun. But this new way of inspecting could open the door for them to project their own “fear of our failure” with arbitrary judgments and education speak.
And being allowed to document progression based on their cycles would give them more ammunition against us should we ever be denied the right to continue. Especially considering that there is no mention in the official reports about our actual methods.
They simply state that we follow the Charlotte Mason method which relies heavily on “living books.” No mention of how we progress in math, when we introduce grammar, dictation, Latin, etc. Nothing to explain that testing is not in the traditional manner but that we require narration instead.
(I’m explaining Charlotte Mason simplistically, I know but stay with me.) Should we ever have to fight them for our legal right to continue, everything in the report is skewed in their favor.
I don’t mean to sound pessimistic or create fear. On the contrary, I think it is important to know how and in what way they may attack. Knowing where they are setting you up for potential failure can help you create your own protections against their attacks.
For me, this means writing blog posts about our experiences. I have a written record of my side of the story. For you, it could mean creating a journal of your own French homeschool inspection.
Finding a way to record the events either from your perspective or even just in general could be helpful in any future fights. And since they seem to want to make this a fight, we need to be ready.