Thursday, January 17, 2013
dear parents of school children
I want to share with you all my worldly wisdom, upon entering our third year of having a child attending school. You should know, I am also a teacher, having been responsible for enrolling hundreds of Preschool and Kindergarten children. Even with that background, nothing prepared me for being on the other side of the fence.
Parents, please know that your child entering school is filled with opportunity. Opportunity for your little one to branch out, expand his social sphere. Your child's teacher will henceforth be the oracle of all knowledge. You know nothing. The skills that your child will learn will astound you. And by 'skills', I mean a whole new raft of swear words and armpit farting. Don't be sad, new parents (especially in front of them, it freaks them out and makes it more difficult for the teacher to peel them away from you), be happy in the knowledge that you have prepared your child well. And you now may be able to enjoy a cuppa whilst it is still hot.
You might feel sad, or happy. This may be your first, or final child heading to big school. Whatever you are feeling, make sure the kid knows you feel they will be safe, and their experience will be happy. If you don't feel sure about that, lie. Or get in touch with your school to talk it through. Hopefully you have already been attending orientation sessions. While you have stifled yawns through PowerPoint presentations about Best Start Assessment, little Frannie has been making a paddle-pop-stick schoolhouse that you can now never throw away. So the environment, and some of the people, should be familiar. I can't really give you advice about how to work through the emotional side of starting school. I can, however, tell you some practical secrets that may help...
1. A 100% attendance award isn't a good thing. If your child is unwell, please let them stay home to get better, and avoid spreading the love.
2. Kids don't like fancy lunches. Keep it simple, familiar, and quick-to-eat. Yoghurt, hommus dip with vegetable fingers, cous-cous salad with roasted heirloom vegetables: all lovely, nutritious foods that will ensure your child gets zero time playing and negotiating the subtle intricacies of schoolyard social politics. And don't bother with wasteful zip-lock bags or wrapping food; buy a couple of those sandwich boxes, and a smaller version for cut up fruit and a snack. We used throw-away wrapping once last year, on an excursion.
3. Be prepared for loss and damage to property. I know that stainless steel eco drink bottle you spent a fortune getting personalised is really awesome, but it will also be the first thing he loses. Just get the cheap ones. And buy back-ups in January, because when stuff gets lost/broken/painted/cut up in June, there is not as much school stock in the shops. I just bought two pairs of school shoes- a pair that fits now, and the next size up, because I learned the hard way. And don't get sucked into buying the full, expensive suite of uniforms. At most public schools, the plain, department store shirts and shorts are fine.
4. Put strategies in place to make your life easier. Because even if you are having a busy/ difficult day, the kid still needs to get to school on time. Buy brown paper bags and have some change hanging around in case you need to order lunch. I keep tortilla wraps in the pantry at all times- those babies have a shelf life of a thousand years, keep well in a large zip-lock bag once open, and never come home uneaten. I also buy Vegemite scrolls or cheese and bacon rolls when on special to keep in the freezer to throw in on 'special' days. Whilst using pre-packaged foods doesn't really fit with our family goals for ethical and healthy eating, I've learned it's better to be prepared to give yourself a break, than to find yourself needing one in a hurry. Set up responsibilities straight away. Your child is at big school now, making new friends, learning every day. She is capable of carrying her own bag, and taking out her lunch containers when she comes home.
5. Your child is going to get nits. And worms. And maybe scabies. Shake it off, and deal with it. You might as well stock up on worming tablets (we all get wormed on the first day of every school holidays) and white conditioner and a nit comb now. You can learn more about treating nits safely here.
So I hope this helps, parents. And remember, the school day is incredibly short, so don't get too excited thinking you are going to get anything done before pickup. Good luck!