Whether you are a first time school mum or an old hand at sending your little people off come the end of the summer, the first year of school is an important one. In the run up to that first day in September and usually for a few weeks afterwards you find yourself constantly wondering; are they okay? are they making friends? are they enjoying themselves? And plenty more besides.
George at Asda recently asked myself and some other bloggers to look back on our school days and compare them with school in the present day. From first days to homework, there is so much to think about when your little ones start at school and it can be a little intimidating if you are discovering it all for the first time.
Eli has just finished his first year at school and it has been a very different experience than when Meg had her first year. Meg was (and still is) a social butterfly; confident in a large group and was more than ready for school. I literally couldn’t wait for her first day in Reception as I knew she was more than ready.
Eli on the other hand was much more confident in his own company and that led us (and his nursery teachers) to wonder how he would fare at school, whether he would form any friendships or just stick to his own company. By direct contrast, I spent weeks in the run up and weeks after he had started worrying over whether he was actually getting on okay or whether he was miserable. Of course he has surprised us all and took to school like a duck to water but I can fully identify with any other parents who have these same concerns!
I am, of course, by no means an expert but I did want to briefly share some things I have learned from sending two children off for their first year in Reception.
When Eli was starting nursery I remember having to attend an interview where I was asked a whole bunch of questions about what he could and couldn’t do…and I found myself leaving feeling like my child must be so far behind everyone else’s! In truth, there are some things that it is worth practicing at home, such as putting on coats and shoes, doing up buttons etc but these are not things to stress about. There are usually plenty of people around to help a little one who can’t quite get that top shirt button fastened or consistently puts their shoes on the wrong feet.
Make it a big deal
We like to mark the first day of term with a special breakfast and lots of excitement. This can be great if you have children who are a little nervous too as you can run over the things they are going to get to do, all the fun they will have etc.
We also like to take a photo of Meg and Eli on the first day of term, holding a board which says what they want to be when they grow up. This is a tradition I started on Meg’s first day and I am hoping to be able to collate all the answers into a little book when they go into their last year of school.
Give yourself plenty of time on that first day too so that you aren’t stressed and rushing. You want it to be an exciting but calm first morning.
…and I mean everything. Our children attend a very small village school and you would still be surprised at the number of children who have the same shoes/water bottles/lunch boxes etc. Make sure uniform is properly labelled too and don’t worry if you misplace items in the first few weeks. Three years in and I have lost count of the number of times the school’s caretaker has come to find me to say he’s discovered Meg’s cardigan somewhere outside and hung it on her peg!
Don’t be afraid to chat
We have always found that the teachers are more than willing to chat to you about how your child is getting on; just make sure you choose your time wisely. First thing in a morning is not great as teachers are trying to get children in and settled so if you do have any concerns then grab them at the end of the day or call the school and make an appointment. It’s a two-way street and communication between parents and teachers is so important. Even now I know I can write Eli’s teacher a note and she will take the time to respond.
Everyone’s in the same boat
It can feel a little bit like starting school again yourself when you head onto that playground for the first time but remember that everyone there feels exactly the same way. Smile, make eye contact and try to strike up a conversation or two. I’ve found instigating play dates after a few weeks has always worked really well.
Even if you don’t think you’ll shed a tear on the first day, I can almost guarantee that once you see your little one heading into school alongside the bigger children, it will make you feel emotional!
Have you got any tips for first time school mums? I’d love to hear them.