At the Embellie School, near Grand Bourgtheroulde, the child is an actor in his learning process

Education is individualized: the adult takes care of one child at a time, while the others do activities independently.
Education is individualized: the adult takes care of one child at a time, while the others do activities independently. (©Le Courrier de l’Eure / MC)

Just like at home, when parents drop off their children at L’Embellie school, they take off their shoes. Pupils spend the day in slippers in this school in Saint-Léger-du-Gennetey: a large house with an intimate atmosphere. When they arrive, the students put their lunch in the collective fridge, where each child has their own compartment.

Individualized learning

The school opened in September 2021 and now has eighteen pupils: eight in kindergarten and ten in primary education. Here education is tailor-made for each child. There is hardly a collective lesson, the teachers spend time with each child individually, while the others do activities, usually all different.

The day we visit the school is the Friday before the school holidays. Although it is a private school with no contract, the establishment follows the rhythm of the National Education regarding holidays. In the large collective room, at the entrance, a group of children together with Mathilde, their teacher, prepare a chocolate fondant, while their classmates upstairs make and decorate eggs for Easter. Between 8:30 and 9:00 am, parents parade to drop off their children, such as Adèle Lefort-Tixier, mother of Marcel, 3, in kindergarten, and Faustine, 10, in CM2.

“The school adapts to the children, not the other way around. †

Adele Lefort-TixierMother of Marcel, 3 years old, and Faustine, 10 years old

Every day, the family travels from Saint-Pierre-des-Fleurs, 25 minutes away, to take the kids to school. An establishment that the mother has long dreamed of for her children. “I was waiting for a school like this near us. It is the ideal school’, she explains with conviction. The opening of L’Embellie was a breath of fresh air for her. Her daughter, Faustine, previously attended public school until CE2, before attending a year of school at home. “She was very bored at school. She kept up, but the pace wasn’t her,” says Adèle. Faustine later explains: “You always had to go fast! †

For the mother, the individualistic aspect of teaching allows each child to learn at their own pace. “It is the school that adapts to the children, not the other way around. Since September, Adèle has the impression that her daughter has “never progressed so fast”. What he also liked is the freedom the children have at school, especially in terms of movement. “They don’t sit in a chair all day. Children have to move. †

On this eve of the school holidays, it is a cooking workshop with the teacher, Mathilde Lemonnier.
On this eve of the school holidays, it is a cooking workshop with the teacher, Mathilde Lemonnier. (©Le Courrier de l’Eure / MC)

Everyone at their own pace

At l’Embellie, each child takes a mat and sits down where they want to practice their individual activity, often in the form of a game. In a room on the ground floor, Noémie Nogues takes care of the eight kindergartens. The teacher proposes to each child an activity that suits his level, which he can then practice independently. One plays with animal figures, the other with Russian dolls. “There is a practical living space for toddlers, motor skills and memory activities…”, explains Noémie.

“Some children learn best by manipulating objects, others by playing, others with the abstract…”

Mathilde Lemonnier Embellishment Teacher

It was she who founded the school after becoming a Montessori educator. “Every activity brings skills, I adapt to their rhythm. » After each activity, the child puts away his mat and his game himself, also learns to leave his place clean. While the educator is busy with one child, the others get to work, under the guidance of Margot, the teaching assistant. “She’s the one who manages the atmosphere,” says Noémie.

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Small workforce

Upstairs Mathilde Lemonnier takes care of the elderly, she has ten. A former National Education teacher, she fully embraced Noémie Nogués’ project and decided to leave her position as a deputy at several schools in the academy to join the team. “I have always been interested in alternative pedagogy. I’ve made sure to give more responsibilities to the kids before, but with 30 per class, it’s more complicated,” she says.

The small size of his class gives him great freedom. Every day Mathilde takes time with each child for the “ritual”, it is when we look back on what we have seen the day before. The other students are then independent. Mathilde’s class consists of several levels, each one practices a different activity, like in kindergarten. “We work a lot by playing.” Her teaching, the teacher describes as “multiple”, inspired not only by Montessori pedagogy. “Some children learn best by manipulating objects, others by playing, others with the abstract…”

The school is a large house in Saint-Léger-du-Gennetey.
The school is a large house in Saint-Léger-du-Gennetey. (©Le Courrier de l’Eure / MC)

Control of the Academic Inspectorate

If the school is not required to follow the program established by the National Education, it must ensure that the students acquire the foundation of knowledge, skills and culture established by the government from CP to 3and† In this way, just like at a public school, teachers monitor the progress of their students and their level. The Academic Inspectorate must also check whether the basis has been acquired from the first year of operation of the school. The check also makes it possible to verify whether the school “takes care of public order, health and social prevention and protection of children and young people, and the diplomas of the teaching team”. The school has not been inspected for the time being. “We’re just waiting for that!” underlines the director, Valérie Gourliau.

Like the majority of the staff (only the two teachers are paid), she is a volunteer and has chosen to devote her time to this project, “an ideal come to life”. After 25 years as a teacher in National Education, she is now a trainer and volunteer director. “We take the time for this,” she explains. The establishment benefits from the help of many volunteers who can intervene with the children. For example, a mother gives workshops in English, a father takes care of sports. Every parent should be able to devote 4 hours of their time per month to school “on paper”. “It is important that the parents are involved, the link between them and the school is very strong. †

Almost €300 per month

A whole philosophy that, however, has a price for families: between 270 and 324 € per month and per child. “It’s a real choice,” Faustine and Marcel’s mother says. We work a little more to pay for this school for our children. Because the school has no contract, it receives no state aid and works mainly on school fees and donations from the parents. This is also the reason why it is not able to take care of children with disabilities in good conditions. “We have two autistic children, but we can’t take any more due to lack of AESH. †

“We are preparing the children for the future. Here’s a framework, they have freedom, but they don’t do everything they want. †

Valerie Gourliau Director of the alternative school l’Embellie

In an environment so far removed from traditional schools, the question of the aftermath for these children arises. It is Faustine who finds out first: next year she will go to the public school in her area. Her mother is not worried: “She will have the level, that’s for sure. And she has seen so many changes in recent years that she will be able to adapt. Anyway, college shock is the same! The director is also reassuring. “We are preparing the children for the future. Here’s a framework, they have freedom, but they don’t do everything they want. †

The school is hosting an open house on Saturday, April 30 from 9.30am to 12.30pm 923, route de la gare in Saint-Léger-du-Gennetey.

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