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How to Prepare For Your First Rentrée in French Elementary Schools (École Maternelle)

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

By Kat Moioli Primary School Kids Group Co-Leader *This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 Message magazine, which is mailed to all members who live in France.

If you are new to the French school system, you may have many questions. Our Primary School Kids Group leader Kat Moioli shares what she learned this year when her son entered CP for the 1st time. Here are her personal tips and tricks :

1.The first challenge was figuring out the items on the school supply list.

In the end, we used the website recommended by the school. That way, you know you have the correct items, and you can look for deals on them later. You can also simply go to a big supermarket or order in a bookstore. Some bookstores will offer a deal if you leave the entire list and buy it all from them. In that case, they take care of finding everything for you, and you just pick up the bag when it is ready. It is usually more expensive but a lot less stressful.

2. Go ahead and buy extra supplies right away : pencils, erasers, glue, etc. The children will go through a lot during the school year, so have a stack at home. Get a few pencil sharpeners. If you find a good deal on pencil cases, they seem to need those in all kinds of situations as well. Also buy double sets of markers, pens (especially black,

blue and red). 3. Label each item your child brings to school: every pen and pencil, item of clothing. You can use a label machine or websites like

Don't let your child take any expensive items to school, and be careful of clothes you really like. They might get ripped or lost.

Small trick for coats : add a keychain to the zipper and the name of your child inside. The keychain will help the kids identify their coat.

4. Finding a schoolbag : be aware that some schools will require a specific shape of bag for the CP. You can get a traditional French "cartable" or a regular backpack but check with the school before you buy one as some schools will refuse a backpack.

Kids will handle their bags quite roughly, so look for a sturdy bag if you want your child to use it for more than one year. 5. The French Ardoise : An ardoise is a cardboard/plastic “whiteboard” used in French schools. When you get one, try to get extra erasers. I could not find them sold separately, and my son seemed to lose them very fast. Also buy extra ardoise markers as these stop working quickly!

Extra tip : buy an extra ardoise to have at home for homework and to practice writing. About the author :

Kat Moioli is the mom of James (6) and the co-leader of the Primary School Group. Born in Stockholm, she has lived in many different places such as Texas, Prague and Berlin. She has been living in Paris since 2011.


The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Message.


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