So... It's been a while since I last wrote. I spent vacation in Normandy, visiting the debarkment beach, the American cemitary Deauville, Honfleur, and a few other really cool places. The debarkment beach and the cemitary were... amazing to see. There's so much history there, and it's so beautiful. On the way back, we stopped at Versailles, which is also really pretty. Here's a link to my pictures from the trip: http://hs.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2006771&l=48f0d&id=1241970410.
I also spent a Saturday in Paris (we left at 3:30 in the morning and stayed in Paris until 3:30 the next morning) with a bunch of other AFS people. We walked all around the city and saw the Eiffel tower at night, all lit up, and l'Arc de Triomphe, along with a bunch of other smaller sites.
Now, about the schools here. They start with the years of CP, which is like our elementary school. They take all of the same classes as we do in the US plus (believe it or not) English. My 6-year-old host sister has learned a bunch of songs in English and their French equivilants, and I'm often a bit taken aback to hear the English version of "Frère Jaques" being sung in the next room! They have the same teacher all day.
Kids start "College", which consitst of 6ème through 3ème, - our middle school - when they're about the age of our 6th graders. They continue with all of their old subjects and add one more language. In the private school here in Annonay, the choices for the second foreign language are Spanish and German. At this point, they start to have different teachers. They stay with the same group of studentsin the same room, and the teachers move around.
The equivilant of our high school - Lycée - starts in 2nde. It is only 3 years long. In 2nde, students start to think about what they want to do with their lives, and add more classes onto their schedules - they can choose from a few different classes, including Art Plastiques, Italian, and Latin. In 1ère, they choose which "track" they want to be in - L (literature), S (science), or ES (economic and social sciences). They will stay on this track during 1ère and Terminale years, and will take different standardised tests, depending on which track they're on. On the literature track, for example, a student has 6 hours of French class each week, at least 3 1/2 hours of English, and 5 hours of History, but only 2 hours of math and 1 1/2 of sciences. On the other hand, a student on the science track has fewer hours of history and French, but many more hours of math and science. In addition, every student chooses a "speciality" - English, math, and Art are 3 of the most common choices. They then take at least 2 hours every week focusing on this subject. At the end of 1ère, every student takes the French portion of the BAC, the standardised test that every Lycée student in France takes. Of course, this test is harder for the students in L than the students in S and ES, as they have spent more time working on the subject. Students in L also take the math and science portions of the BAC. During Terminale year, students in L don't have any math or science in their schedules, but concentrate more on literature, history, and languages. At the end of the year, every student takes the portions of the BAC that they have not already taken. The scores on these tests determine what they will be able to do after Lycée. Some people even repeat either 1ère or Terminale year in order to try to get a better grade on the BAC.
One major difference that I've noticed is the grades. All grades are out of 20. The thing that was the most surprising to me, though, is that most students are moderately happy with a 10. In the US, if I have a grade out of 20, I'm moderately happy with a 16. Here, getting a 16 is really good, and almost all of the students would be extremely happy with a 16 or above.
That's all for now. I hope you enjoy the pictures and have a great Thanksgiving!!