I’m in a state of shock.

Ruadhri has just set off for his last week of school. After this he has a week of revision at home, followed by six days of Baccalauréat exams, and then he’s finished at lycée altogether. From September he’ll be a science undergraduate at Limoges University. So, for the first time since September 1996 when our eldest son Benjamin started his Junior Infants year at Innishannon National School, there’ll be no young Daggs in school anymore.

You’ll forgive me if I feel a bit old this morning!

Ruadhri’s first school was a Gaelic-speaking Montessori that was part of the Gaelscoil in Bandon. The teacher was Máirín, who was a whirl of energy and enthusiasm. She loved parents and families to be involved, and so I visited twice with my chickens, Princess Layla and Lady Egg, and Caiti played her guitar for the children.

***Pic: rorschickenvisit

Then Rors moved countries and his French school career began in the Grande Section of École Maternelle at Bussière St Georges. He was the first of the three to take that giant step. (They began at Collège a few days later.) That first year he didn’t say a great deal but was quietly absorbing French like a sponge and learning to appreciate a four-course school lunch. Whereas I’d always struggled to get him to eat anything other than sausages, yogurt, strawberries and chocolate buttons, he partook with great gusto of everything placed in front of him by the school cook Paulette, from radishes with butter to beetroot salad, to casseroles, stews and hotpots, to éclairs and flans and dainty cheese portions.

That first year we cycled him to school, resorting to the car only if the weather was too awful. The next year, when he began École Primaire, with his first two years of the five being at the little school in Nouzerines, we continued with the cycling. It was only with the move to St Marien school for the final three years of the Primary period that he had to take the bus. And thus began the ordeal of long school days. The bus collected him from our gate at about eight o’clock. He then meandered along country lanes until arriving at school for nine. The reverse happened in the evening but a little quicker, since the route planners at the local Mairie went for a first-on-in-the-morning then first-off-in-the-evening policy, thank goodness.

Sadly, when Rors moved up to secondary school at Boussac Collège, we got different crew of bus route organisers who weren’t so empathetic and took the easy option of just using the morning collection rota in reverse for the return run. So for the next four years Rors was first on in the morning and last off in the evening. This meant he left home at 7.37 in the morning for a half past eight start, and didn’t return till a few minutes before six o’clock in the evening after finishing at five. True, there was a half day on Wednesday, but I think it’s true to say the poor boy was permanently exhausted. We would pick him up or run him in when we could, to give him a bit more precious time at home.

***pic: rors lycee first day

Schooldays are too long here. There are Wednesdays off – the whole day for Maternelle and Primary students, and the afternoon for Secondary students. However, generally they are ridiculously lengthy. At lycée Rors is doing a daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Insane! He leaves home at 6.45 a.m. on Mondays, and gets back at 7 p.m. on Fridays. There are the first few tentative signs of a move towards a later start for teenage lycéens, since studies have shown that the sleep patterns of this age group are different from those of other sectors of the population. They physically need to lie in and aren’t at their best in the early mornings. The poor things are put through torture at lycée! The photo above is of Rors on his first day at lycée, just about to be abandoned by us and facing his first ever night away from home.

But the end is in sight. I dare say there will be some early lectures for Rors in the future, but at least he’ll be living close by in a University residence. It won’t take him long to work out just how late he can get up and still be at class on time!

So no more Sunday night packing of the case for a week at lycée. No more prodding a reluctant and grumpy teen out of bed at some horribly early hour. No more last-minute printing out of projects on a Monday morning, thank goodness! No more notes to sign. No more parent-teacher meetings or Conseil de Classe meetings to attend.

School’s out forever.

***pic: rorsmontessori