Ever dreamed of moving your young family to the South of France but thought it might be out of your financial sites ? Think again. You could save up to 1,200 euros per month by enrolling your child in the local Maternelle.
It’s something the French take for granted: gratuitous education from the age of two and a half, so long as your child is “propre” or nappy-free. All children living here, no matter what nationality, have the right to this benefit and it’s a huge bonus to any family wanting to try out living in France temporarily. Of course if the language is an obstacle the experience could be less seemless, but for children between the ages of two and five, a foreign language is acquired effortlessly, by immersion. Proud, giddy parents go back to their country of origin, often with a newly bilingual child who speaks French like a native: accent free, sometimes after only a few months.
It has been my experience, over the years living here in Cotignac, to observe families from Canada, the US, Britain, and Australia – come with their children on a Provencale adventure for three months, six months, or a year; their jobs allowing them to work via the internet, enjoying the surprising benefit of free child-care for their children. Back in their home countries working parents would have to sign up their two to five year-olds in pre-school or child-care costing anywhere from 30 euros to 75 euros per day (including lunch) while here in France, the average cost of a public Maternelle (school for 2.5 – 6 year olds) starting at 8:20am and ending at 4:20pm (four times a week with Wednesdays off) is the simple cost of their cantine lunch (2.90 euros in Cotignac, up to a euro more in larger towns). And your child is not obliged to dine at school. You can pick your kids up for lunch at the end of the morning and bring them back at 1:30pm to continue the rest of their day if you prefer to stick to an even tighter budget or a special diet. But rest assured, balance and nutrition for childrens’ meals is a very important part of the French culture and menus are posted weekly for parents to check. Meals are always served as three courses and have a salad or crudités starter, meat or fish with rice, pasta, or polenta as a main, and a light dessert like yoghurt with fruit or biscuit to finish.
There are annual membership fees for local associations, parent committees, and groups that benefit the school children in extra-curricular activities but none is mandatory. The benefits of living in a small village like Cotignac is that so many parents (particularly stay/work-at-home mothers) here volunteer their time and energy to making the associations work, the schools safely run (by accompanying teachers on local trips with the children), and entertaining the children with events like festivals, Bingo games, bouncy castles, carnival parades, sports days, parties, and so on by fund-raising. Throughout the year the parents committee (the AAPE) puts on bake sales, bingo, and even a summer pasta party, to raise funds in order to continue paying for and updating school equipment, kids sorties (out of region trips, cinema, zoos, museums, etc), and prizes for events.
The free child-care often allows for a single parent income to be sufficient in raising a family, helping stay-at-home mothers or fathers live happier, stress-free lives where picking up their child at the end of the school day becomes a pleasure rather than a chore. Living expenses in the Var are also considerably lower than in the more touristy areas like the Cote d’Azur where property is on average, twice as expensive and groceries can cost more due to higher business rents.
So join us in the South of France, even if just for a few months. You’ll love the sunshine and the fresh air and you and your kids will be speaking français before you know it!
NB: If you are seriously considering a temporary move to France, let us know and we’ll get you in touch with potential home owners willing to rent their houses for up to a year or more.