What’s school in Italy like? Some teacher-friends asked so here’s some thoughts…

“Ian is a geeenyooos (genus)” big grin “But schools in Italy are like… um what’s the word…” hand gestures showing straight lines “yes, like the army. Teachers want students to sit quietly and obey.” still ginning but nervously “Today I had a whole lesson planned for Ian and Charlie but he just stood up and put his arms out and spun around and they didn’t do any work” – Ian’s tutor Valentina

So what’s school like in Italy. Well it’s different and the same. It goes from 8:30 until 1ish (start and end times fluctuate slightly even within the same town) Monday through Sunday. There don’t appear to be districts as much as “collections of schools”. So the principal of Max’s school is also principal of an elementary school across the street and a preschool next door, while Charlie and Ian’s school goes from ages 3-10 and is all in one building. Tristan is in a private Catholic school (with awesome nuns) and costs a whopping 130 euros ($135) a month.

Because class gets out at 1 the kids only have about 15m of snack time during the day. Charlie and Ian spend the ENTIRE time in one classroom, and other teachers shuffle in. Snack time is the ONLY time kids can socialize and apparently there’s lots of old-school lecturing and worksheets.  They get PE one day a week and get to leave the classroom then. Max gets to leave for Spanish class also because his Spanish teacher uses a projector in their technology lab… but in both cases different teachers cycle in. I’m not sure but it looks like they run a very tight ship and teachers get one period on, and one period off so they are there at the switch… this is just speculation though.

Its seems about 80% of the teachers will speak *some* english, although only 20% are good at it. Ian just got a new English teacher and said that she doesn’t seem to actually know much english, not like the one they had earlier in the year or his tutor.

We bought $250 worth of books for max, they probably weigh 30lbs total, but he doesn’t have to bring them all in every day. Workbooks with standardized curriculum. I’m not sure if it’s national or if each school picks their own, but Max’s books are for the full 3 years in his building (we couldn’t just buy the ones for this year unfortunately). Our kids are exempt from tests (good thing too).

Picasso – basically color by numbers.

We’ve heard they get a lot of homework, but they haven’t seamed to have gotten any. Charlie says her class has only gotten a tiny amount (10m of math worksheet (plus 30m of translation) and an art assignment that REALLY pissed her off.

They where shown a picture and then had to color it in and match the colors. Basically a color by numbers. She’s in 3rd grade (she’s in 4th grade in the US but they put her in 2nd grade here, so she’s only one grade ahead of Ian… and they actually switched Max to be back one grade so he’ in 5th grade again, which is start of middle school).

We have a private tutor for Charlie who’s with her in the classroom whenever she’s in the classroom and she’s doing a couple of days of homeschool a week. Ian has a tutor two days a week outside of the classroom. Max has had a tutor one day and we’re looking at doing it 2 days a week going forward after school.

Charlie is really harping hard on “Why do I have to go to school? Why do I have to learn at all and work at homeschool?” I’m honestly a little torn about it and wonder what Catha and other think about this.

I do see her shyness as being a problem. If she doesn’t make friends in Italy she’s not going to have a good year. She does have some friends, but the lack of Italian is challenging. Some of them speak English but as Christine pointed out it’s not fun to be the one who doesn’t know anything all the time, so in some ways their English is a little bit of a hindrance also for Charlie’s psyche.

Charlie really connects with people socially but it’s been a challenge for her, and I don’t want this year to be a year that sets her back, esp. if she gets back into Hilltown because she will then just stick with her same half a dozen friends for the next 5 years, which *is* better than if we home-schooled her and she was COMPLETELY introverted, but I still think we’d be doing her a great disservice as parents if we let her do that and it will really hurt her in the long term (which is why I’ve been nervous about homeschooling our kids in general).

Ian has had the opposite side of the social problems.

Ian’s the sort of kid that if you don’t challenge him as a teacher, he will REALLY challenge you – Erik

We’ve set up a “thumbs up, thumbs down” situation at pickup. If he gets a thumbs up, he gets his consumption screen time and if not he doesn’t. I don’t like taking consequences outside of the classroom because most of our best teachers haven’t wanted it because it undermines them, but in this case it’s the right thing to do.

Did I mention Max 

He’s just loving the entire experience. He thinks it’s so funny and fun, and he spent an hour yesterday at a restaurant with an iPhone looking up useful phrases and writing them down. He hasn’t gotten much homework even though it was promised that all the kids would have a lot and it would be hard… but he’s also not sure if he’s missing any homework. He’s excited that once you learn one language the next one will be easier, so he’s thinking of taking Spanish next year in the states…

If any educators (or parents) have any other questions let me know… this is fascinating to me and I’m more excited than ever to be more involved in education when I return to the states.