Welcome to the playground initiation!
Thinking back my insides felt as though Igglepiggle was dancing around with a scissors…
The first day of primary school is a huge milestone for both parent and little one. You are swept into a sea of pint sized people in oversized backpacks and uniforms that will never look that smart again. Ever. It is solo time. Who is going to have a massive meltdown, you or them?
Picking a school.
Of course the school experience starts with picking a school, you may put all your faith in OFSTED, wringing your hands and rereading there report over and over, crossing at the schools graded any less than good. You may sit, attentive and alert listening to mums talk in coffee shops or the supermarket about what wonderful teachers little jimmy has. You may go Steiner, or Private, you may pick your own primary school which still has the same teacher who you swear has not aged a day. You may be really bloody impressive and pick a primary school that is a feeder school into a fantastic secondary school…if so you are an organised parenting machine my friend. I can only say go with your gut, have a look around, ask questions.
I won the bad mother award. I moved cities in May and missed allocations. My son’s school place was left to mercy of the primary school gods. I was saved from too much obsessing and was happy he liked the colour of the uniform.
My undergrad degree is in education, I have a MA in Social work. I unwisely thought I would know exactly what to do when my son starts school. I was mistaken.
Simplest advice…Prepare them. School tester visits are important, do it together…whilst the library may be shiny, focus on little things i.e. where the toilet is, where drinks go and the peg where their coat lives. At home they know this automatically. We did a practise walk to the school. They will pick up on your feelings. The first week I gave him a gummy sweet for entering the classroom happy. Don’t focus on them not crying. If they are nervous take a trusted teddy friend. I showed my son a picture of my first day of school and my feelings. Read:
- Starting School by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
- Topsy and Tim Start School by Jean and Gareth Adamson
- Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School by Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds
Buy shoes a couple of weeks before term starts so they don’t grow out of them but wear them a few times so they do not rub your child’s heels off. Clarks are great for measuring and comfort but I do I gave up and started buying cheaper BHS shoes after 3 Clarks pairs were ruined by mud and scuffing in a months. Avoid zips and buckles. Velcro all the way.
Reception children don’t need pencils, pencil case, protractor etc. They will just eat them… Get a sturdy drinks bottle. Expect things to be lost in the first few weeks. Buy spare! Make sre they can go to the toilet and wash their own hands and practise using cutlery.
Ironing. It’s a whimsical dream. If you have the time or inclination to do it you should receive parenting kudos. You will give up after week 1. Don’t buy iron on labels they fall off also after week 1…get a fabric pen. All the uniform does not have to have the badge buy a couple of plain polo t-shirts..they will get through a thousand… Buy uniform a size bigger as your child will seemingly outgrow everything in a month or to. Practise getting the uniform on a few weeks before hand make it fun, treats and do it dancing to music…this will make mornings and PE lessons easier for them.
Prepare yourself. Hope to god you get a teacher that is generous with stickers. You will enjoy having a school age child. They need this, they will enjoy it but it is ok if you pine for the child sized empty space at home, the warm toast and laundry smell.
Teachers do home visits now…that freaked the pants off me?! Don’t spent the night before in a frenzy to clean your cooker. I was in a panic, should I ask about the reading levels, term topics?! I wanted to know how they encouraged children to make friends and what a school day looks like so I could talk it through with my son. I also told the teacher I hoped she wasn’t a psychopath… You don’t have to look like you know everything! Voice your concerns, my son was dressed up as superman when they came. Children don’t have to already be a genius at statistical maths. If another parent tells you there 4 year old can do they alphabet backwards and speak 3 languages….tell them your kid eats play dough. It might be a good idea if younger siblings play with nanny when teacher visits if possible. Don’t leave cartoons on, your child is much more interested in danger mouse than introductions.
The night before… get yourself sorted. Know where you drop kids the next day. Parking becomes a minivan nightmare with cussing and gesticulating parent and lollypop ladies. Walk if you can, or park in the next street. Give them breakfast in their pj’s…the first day after successful and painstaking self-dressing…my son smeared porridge across his lovely red jumper. FFS.
Other mums were amazing, they saw my blank face and gently guided me through. I told my little man, ‘I love you all the time and I will pick you up at three’, then gave him a hug kiss and a kiss for his pocket. Don’t get upset in front of them. Wait till you are round the corner to have a sob. I thought staying longer would help as my son cried, it made it worse. Give them a big smile, guide them to the TA who will cuddle and fuss them. Well I passed him to the TA kicking and screaming…but apparently he was fine after 5 minutes.
I was excited, nervous, I was not emotionally prepared. Eager to drop him off I expected peace at last. Instead I sat in the car outside the school gates on the phone to my grandmother hyperventilating. The second day I went home and shaved my legs.
School is a positive step.
Don’t be surprised if your little one becomes more clingy, argumentative, lethargic, excitable or prone to tantrums for a while. They will be exhausted afterwards so have snacks and a drink in the car when you collect them. I always ask my son to tell me one nice thing about his day.
The second day he said he had no friends, it makes me tear up now. I wanted to march in and scream ‘play with my son’, which of course would have been frightening and totally inappropriate. Instead we talked about how he could ask them to play, or if they liked cars etc? Help them be confident, there will be ups and downs.