French school supplies have just taken me on a trip back in time!
This week, Junior and his friends returned to school. C’est la rentrée, as the French say.
The other night, I watched an interesting TV segment on la Rentrée, or going back to school season, (one of many similar segments last week.) This one was about French school supplies, and la pointe Bic, the famous BIC ballpoint pen introduced in 1945. A pop culture icon. An international success.
|“Elle court, elle court, la pointe Bic.”
“It runs, it runs, the Bic ball point pen”
Then nostalgia hit, and I remembered the mixture of dread and excitement I used to feel as a young child on the first day of school, my cartable (French school bag,) filled with new school supplies, carefully selected at the local store with my mother a few days earlier.
When purchasing French school supplies, parents look for deals like any other parents around the world. But my countrymen still love visiting specialty stores. They may cost more, but they offer better quality. I wonder how many little Parisian school children bought their supplies at neighborhood stores this month.
|“The Narrow Door” bookstore, somewhere in Paris|
|Gaubert stationery store|
I am certain the ubiquitous Monoprix chain got a lot of business. It is not quite as affordable as the gigantic hypermarkets found in the suburbs, but it is convenient. It so happens I spent some time taking a few discreet snapshots at a Monoprix this summer, as I was looking for shelter during a rain storm. It was early July, but school supplies were already lined up nicely in a corner of the store. I was the only one there, or so it seemed.
|If you have one of these in your ‘hood while staying in Paris,
you are in luck!
I was happy to see that my favorite brand, Clairefontaine, still rules the coop. While American students use lined paper, French school children learn to write on paper adorned with the traditional carreau Séyès, named after the Parisian bookstore/stationery store owner who invented it during la Belle Epoque.
|The red margin is reserved for “le Maître” or “la Maîtresse” (the school teacher)|
Kindergartners get to use a simplified version, but they still learn the importance of penmanship and write in beautiful cursive.
As I made my way along the Monoprix aisle, I bumped into some old friends. First, le cahier de Solfège, used in music class.
Le papier Canson: How many art assignments and special projects did I complete with this strong, quality paper? The folder has not changed one bit. My poor profs de dessin! (art teachers.) May they be thanked for their patience. I did not have a single artistic bone in my body and never really graduated past stick figures.
Pens. Ah, pens! I was so happy to see French school children still write with fountain pens. And what would we all have done without these wonderful effaceur d’encre (ink erasers?)
|Stylos et stylos à plume (pens and fountain pens,)
Like their American counterparts, French students love to show signs of individuality, or pay tribute to their heroes. As always, I saw many messages and logos written in (poor) English, and photos of international pop stars. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found the following:
|I can’t imagine a better school buddy than Idefix, Obelix’s little dog!|
|“My little black dress…” for the budding fashionista|
|A notebook quoting Simone de Beauvoir is certain to make an impression…|
Yes, school is still a big deal in France, and that is a good thing. Children learn early on the importance of reading and learning. During my Monoprix adventure, I spotted a few young customers, and most of them had congregated by the book section of the store.
|“Nursery school: What is it for?”|
|Jeune lecteur… Young reader…|
I was so proud of these two: They walked right past summer toys (well, it was raining that day, remember?) and headed straight for the book section.
|If I had just woken up in the store, I would have guessed immediately I was in Paris,
or at least somewhere in France, just by looking at their clothes…
Like I said, it was only early July, and there would be more time later to open those summer workbooks, purchase school supplies and new clothes, and eventually show up in front of the big gates of “la Communale” (public school) with their parents, on the first day of school. For now, most Parisian children, like other children around the world, were busy having fun, and enjoying their summer break. As they should.
|Colonie de vacances (summer camp)
|Trottinette (scooter) escapade on the Left Bank…|
To learn more about the French school system, and its founding principles, read Il était une fois, l’école, (once upon a time, school,) a story I wrote some time ago.
To experience la rentrée (the first day of school,) through the eyes of an American expat parent, visit this excellent post by my friend an American Mom in Bordeaux, C’est la rentrée. I’d say it complements this story quite nicely, wouldn’t you?