Good bye and Thank you Scuola Materna. You have been good to us. Thank you for 6 years of the same amazing teachers. You have not only prepared my girls for the next chapter in their lives but have taught me as well. You have taken a shy, new mom and foreigner and turned her into an extrovert, experienced mom who is more of a local than foreigner. You gave me confidence and some great mom friends. I will miss you but I won’t miss having to wash a smock, or blankets, sheets and pillows!! Because now…
THIS. IS. THE. YEAR… that all 3 girls are in the same school. I have a 4th, 2nd, & 1st grader. It’s an exciting time in our house. We’ve been counting down the days until the first day of school, well Carlotta has. As we began to get ready, the first thing to take a hit was our wallets. We’ve dropped hundreds of euros just in preparation for this.
No.. I am not exaggerating. They each have trolley backpacks which costs about 80€ each for the “good” brand. Every parent has their preference. Valentina’s first year we got a off brand trolley backpack that was 40€. By Christmas, it already had holes and we tossed it in the garbage at the end of the school year. For 2nd grade, we upgraded to a name brand but still wasn’t as sturdy. She used it for 2 years and it’s now in our basement because that too, has holes in it, however it’s still ok to use. It will serve as a backup. She now has another name brand backpack but not a trolley. We’ve told her that will have to last until she finishes middle school!!
A lot of kids do use the same back all 5 years of Elementary school so this is not an odd request. Depending on the brand, you can remove the bag from it’s shell to wiped down and clean. Making it easier to upkeep. Plus some even have a 2 year manufacturer warranty!
Another must have item is an astuccio, or pencil case. This is another costly item however, it is worth it as almost everything you need is already inside. Pencils, pens, markers, and ruler are standard so no need to buy more unless you have a specific need for erasable pens or specific colors. Unlike a lot of schools back home, ours requires that everything be labeled with the kids name. And I do mean EEEEVVEERYYYTTHHIINNGGGGGGGG!!!!
Markers, pencils and personal hygiene items all have to be personalised. However there are some things that are for class use like a ream of copy paper which is for the teacher but still must be labeled with the kids name. That’s mostly so the teacher knows who brought what.
Our school has block scheduling for the First day of school which is nice because if you have more than one kid, it give you a chance to go to class with each of them. For example, 4th & 5th graders enter at 8.20. Parents accompany them to class to drop off school supplies, sign their diary and other necessary forms, and receive any important info that must be known ASAP. (a general meeting is usually held the same week or the following week) Next, 2nd & 3rd graders enter at 9.30 and it’s the same process. 1st graders enter at 10.30 where they get to meet the teachers and new classmates. This usually takes a while because the teachers are generally more thorough especially for parents who are experiencing Elementary school for the first time. By the time I left Carlotta, it was almost 12noon and all the kids get out at 12.30. After that first day, all kids do half days for the first week. 1st graders do 2 weeks of half day while everyone else starts full time, the second week of school.
One thing that I love is that books for Elementary school students are provided by the state. Not like back in the day when the teacher had a stack of used books that you used then turned back in at the end of the year. These are yours to keep forever. The only cost to you is 1€ per book to cover them. It’s a small price to pay now because in Middle school, it all changes. I have witnessed the parents of Middle Schoolers having a small heart attack when they pick up books from the Cartoleria. 300€ is the average price for books!! I’m not sure how many of those will be used in the following years but I am not looking forward to that price tag. For now, I’m happy to pay the 50€ we’ve spent so far just on book covers.
Lastly, this year we decided to sign up for Pasto domestico. That means my girls bring lunch from home. This is a hot topic this year. The last 3 years, the law here in Torino has been to allow parents to send kids to school with lunch. Before then, they either ate school lunch or went home to eat. Not everyone can be home to feed their kids so this new change was much needed and welcomed.
However, teachers and principals began to notice that children were only eating pizza or sandwiches on a daily basis which is obviously not healthy. So now, the Supreme court ruled that it’s no longer a right to take a packed lunch to school. As you can imagine, it did not go over well. You can read the about the story here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49190625.
This announcement came just days before August vacations started so I put my order on hold. I had been looking for lunch bags, thermos’s containers for months and I didn’t want to spend money if come September, they discontinued Pasto domestico. So we waited and a temporary decision had been made, the FRIDAY before they were to start full time meaning we had to put in our Amazon order that night and just our luck, it would take 1-2 weeks for us to receive it. So off to the mall to spend MORE money on crappy containers and ugly lunch bags while we wait for the good ones.
2 weeks after school started, a meeting was held for the parents regarding the lunch situation. It was such a chaotic meeting but the gist of it is, in order for us to have this privilege, we parents are having to pay to have someone to clean the tables and watch/help the kids during lunch. Oh… did I mention how the kids who take lunch are not allowed to sit with their classmates?!? Yeah, they sit at a completely different table. The courts, teachers and principals all claim that lunch is a social and leaning environment, yet they isolate those who take lunch. It’s honestly such a hot mess that if I think about it, it makes me mad. However, I have to look at the obvious benefits of having kids in the Italian school system. Their privacy and safety is top priority. They will get a better education and will have more opportunities to visit other cities and countries. Being bilingual or even multilingual will be easier to learn/maintain with the right amount of help. (having close friends/family who speak French and Spanish which are the extra languages in our house)
So while the school system is most definitely broken and needs major improvements, I will focus on the good and to what I can to make these years enjoyable.
This post is part 4 in a series of Back to School posts I have been doing. If you’d like to check out the past posts, click below.