The letter had been in French.
Ma’am and Sir,
After examining the application for admission, I can inform you that your child DD is admitted to attend Hogwarts School of Magic for the coming school year, for the S3 class in the English Section. However, the admission will become effective after successful testing.
I pray that you accept this expression of my highest consideration,
Her name means “the door”- rather fitting for an admissions officer, don’t you think? The other letter had been equally formal, but had conveyed that Hogwarts had an exceptionally large group going into his grade this year, so there would not be space for DS. If space were to become available, we could expect to be contacted. DS was disappointed, of course, but we assured him that we would look into other local schools of witchcraft that might serve his particular talents. Perhaps Beauxbatons still has space for this coming year?
But, first to the more pressing issue.
DD can be variable on tests. Her standardized test were always a marvel because they would typically look like this:
Computation 99 percentile Reading Comp. 25 percentile
Algebra 99 percentile Literary Resp. 99 percentile
The following year it would look like this:
Computation 20 percentile Reading Comp. 99 percentile
Algebra 99 percentile Literary Resp. 99 percentile
We were completely perplexed until we realized that she would simply Stop Taking The Test if she got either A) stressed or B) bored. She might fill in answers, but she would not really care what they were. We had the same experience with specialized testing for her. They were able to establish that her innate magical skills are strong, but, they have no clue just how strong. She would only show what she could do up until a point. Then she would get bored or stressed and literally just stop. So, we have a minimum MQ (Magical Quotient), but nothing more concrete than that.
I truly had no idea how she might respond to an unknown examination that she actually cared about. She could rise to the occasion, or balk and panic. I decided we had better start getting her used to the idea. But, I wasn’t sure how much time we would have to prep.
Parental Procedural and Informational Meeting
Last week we attended an informational meeting for “the families of students who have been admitted”. We weren’t sure whether kids were expected, but as we had nowhere to keep them, we went ahead and brought them along. There were a handful of new students in the audience but that was definitely the exception, and there seemed to be no younger siblings present. As usual, we stood out.
The meeting itself was relatively dry and procedural. If you have sat through school meetings about lunch bells and forms, you have some idea- only this one was conducted in three languages! Luckily, everyone seemed to have a good sense of humor, and the crowd was professional and bright.
What sort of info did we receive? Well, here are some of the more interesting highlights:
Magic schools do not necessarily follow the same process as the other schools in their areas. So, much time was spent explaining to the multi-national audience what the process for their children would be as they worked their way through. They start as ‘S1s’ and work their way up through ‘S7’. Each year the work gets more intense and by DD’s age they are expected to take one of their core classes (Geography) in their primary foreign language. The following year, two of the classes are in a second language. As of DD’s year they can also opt to take Latin- either in addition to or as a replacement for Music and Art. As in the books, the final years are punctuated with both written and oral exams- and examiners with their tests are brought in from Brussels for this purpose.
Also of interest, French schools do not allow students to bring a sack lunch. Typically there is a 2 hour break during the midday for students to go home and eat. For students not going home, the school provides a cafeteria (“canteen”) and activities. At Hogwarts, there is only a one hour break for lunch. And, since families come from all over the world, some cultures expect to be able to pack lunches for their children. To accommodate this, the parents club has arranged for students to be allowed to bring box lunches and provides supervision for those students eating lunch from home. They call this the Lunch Box. But, there are apparently strict guidelines for food safety that must be followed and parents must volunteer to supervise 2ce a month if their students participate in the program. It is all so complicated by American standards.
As mentioned, all of this information was provided in three languages- French, German and English. So, they did not get into too many details, but, we did come away thinking that the whole thing sounded darned interesting, very Hogwarts-like and definitely an amazing opportunity for DD (and eventually, cross fingers, DS as well).
By the end of the meeting there had been no mention of the test- and, more troubling, our Parent Packet of Forms was not present. We stopped the Administrator (a French gentleman with decent English and very good German) to inquire. He knew exactly who we were, but was surprised to find us in Europe already. I had assumed the examination was a normal part of their process, but, apparently not. We are just special. Because we were American and, it came out later, because of our homeschooling status, they wanted to make sure that DD was truly at the level that we said she was. He said that it would be best for them if they could arrange for testing sooner rather than later. He explained it would be fairly informal with DD talking with one of their teachers and taking an test with her. And he told us he would make arrangements when he got back from the long weekend on Wednesday.
What I didn’t realize was that he meant he would make arrangements for the test to take place That Day. Wednesday morning around 11:30 I happened to glance at my junk folder. I am not sure what possessed me to do so, though perhaps magic was at work because in it was a letter from the school asking us to be there at 2:30! We had spent some time brushing up Algebra and History with DD over the weekend, but I wasn’t at all sure she was comfortable enough to take an exam that day. She looked at me evenly and shrugged as if I should have known. She assured me “today” was fine, and asked to use my computer to look up some information on Thutmose to refresh her memory. Ok, well that seemed like a fine start. I wrote the school and told them we would be there at the prescribed time and set off to make sure DD had a good lunch.
We arrived at Hogwarts 1/2 hour early and sat in the car. DD was a little frantic, but not alarmingly so. DS was a little sullen (he was still disappointed), but I managed to largely keep everyone distracted enough to coast through the wait. We sang a little and the kids discussed characters in a game. At 2:30 we walked on over and found the Administrator alone in his office. He offered his hand and DS and I shook, but DD shied away. He gave her an odd look, then rather perfunctorily whisked her off to the teacher with whom she would be meeting. We had expected a somewhat smoother transition and DD looked a little lightning-struck. I began to worry.
The Administrator returned and took DS and me into his office. He reiterated that they did not have room for DS at the moment and suggested Beauxbraton and Durstag as potential options. Then he set us out in the courtyard and went back to his work.
About 1/2 hour later a small, prim, but passingly friendly English woman came out and hailed me. She said that DD was in her room taking a test on The Hobbit that she had recently given her S2 class. She figured it would take another 15 minutes and apologized for the wait. I asked if DD was as nervous as I thought she might be and the English Teacher indicated that they had gotten off to a rocky start when she had asked DD to write in pen instead of pencil (she had gotten whisked away without her full assortment of writing implements). Apparently in Europe pencils are for young kids and drawing while pens are for older kids and professionals. I could see how that culturally embedded landmine might have set DD off to a poor start. But, the English Teacher told me that they had gotten her settled down and she thought DD was doing fine now. She went back to her room and DS and I settled back to watching a bird-dropping beetle go about its business and a black and white jay-like bird sneakily watching us from the rooftop. We decided it must be scoping us out.
A few minutes later the Administrator came out to “see how they were doing”. He headed toward the classroom, where I noted DD and English Teacher huddled over her paper. I was having a hard time reading body language. DD didn’t look pleased, but she didn’t look distraught either. The Teacher had her patient face on, and the Administrator looked vaguely amused. Hmmm…..
Finally they beckoned to me. I entered the room to find DD passionately explaining that Bilbo had been able to get close to Smaug not only because of the Ring, but because the dragon was asleep- also, the Ring would corrupt you, not just turn you invisible. English Teacher tried to soothe her- instinctively reaching out and touching her back. DD balked visibly. She does not like to be touched- especially when she is stressed. Oh dear. Also, I could see the score at the top of the paper. 16/20. 75% seemed borderline to me. I did not think this was going well. By now I had asked DD to get up and move to a place where she wouldn’t feel cornered. She was standing a few feet back, trying with marginal success to keep herself within the acceptable range of behavior. I reaffirmed that she was extremely nervous, and the Administrator offered to let her leave the room. She declined, preferring to stay and learn her fate up front.
Luckily, English Teacher had been here before. She started right off by saying that DD’s score was extremely high (really? Ok, well good.) and that she thought that given DD’s aptitude and age that she ought to be in S4, not S3. There was no question at all that she was capable and acceptable academically by the standards of the school. She constantly deferred to The Administrator, but he seemed to take her assessment without question. She also asked DD point blank how her teachers praise her in school and what they do instead of touching her. Ok then. Big points for English Teacher from me! She continued, guiding the conversation to where I could admit DD’s gifted status. The teacher carefully phrased it in terms of DD having special needs. She and The Administrator began to make plans for how to help DD integrate into the school. The Administrator welcomed us. We were in!
In the end it was decided that they would admit DD into S3 and then look toward perhaps boosting her up 1-2 months in after she had had a chance to settle. The problem with S4 is that 2 classes would be taught in German, and that may be a bit much for DD right off the bat. The last thing DD will need entering school again is More Stress.
Once we left, DD decompressed for a bit. She vented her frustrations, but acknowledged that she will need to learn how to cope and express herself better in order to adjust to a school setting, again- even one as specialized as Hogwarts. She acknowledged that English Teacher seemed willing to work with her, even though she didn’t like the instructor’s approach off the bat. We discussed cultural differences, and we decided to spend the summer working as much as we could on adjusting to the new setting.
She also told me that before they had started the test, DD had been introduced to some students with whom she had chatted. She was pleasantly impressed by their friendliness and really liked showing off her drawings to them. She seemed hopeful that she might be able to escape some of the social stigma of her past. And we touched on the idea that much of how things go from here will depend on how she conducts herself going forward. Very little will have to do with the past.
So, I guess, Here We Go Again! Let’s hope that Third Time is the charm for the Schooling of DD! School starts September 5 in France (our anniversary), so we need to get everything as settled as possible by then. We are still looking into both German and French options for DS. German schools get out later and start back up a little later, as well. They also have different daily/weekly schedules and different holidays through the year, so juggling could be tricky.
Currently I am leaning toward the French International Section schools, which teach 3/4 of the time in French, but 1/4 of the time in English and have a staff trained in teaching kids who come from non-French backgrounds. David heard word that there might be something similar on the German side in Offenburg, and he liked that possibility, but we have yet to track it down if it does exist. There is also a private school in France that we are looking at that does a bit more of their day in English. But, yeah, “private” in this case does mean we would need to pay- not as much as in the US, but still quite a lot for our current income level. Definitely need to look at these options carefully.
Still, one kid off to Hogwarts definitely seems like a good thing. Now to help her get ready for the challenges ahead!