Starting school – fear of the unknown

All around Britain, parents are feeling anxious, including parents reading this right now. In a few short days, their kids will be starting school. Maybe they will do part-time, maybe they will do full-time. But either way, 4 year olds will wave goodbye to their worried parents and enter a classroom for the first time.

It’s a scary time. Having been through it three times myself, I can totally relate to that (and you just know I will be feeling just as anxious when my younger two start secondary school). There aren’t so many unknowns second and third time around, but it is no easier letting your younger children start school than when your eldest starts.

It is fear of the unknown. Will they manage to read and write? Will they make friends? Will they like their teacher? Will their teacher like them? Will they eat at lunchtime? Will they manage to go to the toilet OK? Will they manage to get changed for PE?

No wonder parents are worried. For some it is the first time that their children have been away for the day and out of their control.

It is a big change, not just for the child, but for the whole family. There’s the school uniforms and shoes, the packed lunches, getting out of the house on time, the school run, the other mums on the playground, the homework (yes, that DOES start in Reception!) and the endless letters to fill in. There’s the school holidays and the childcare issues.

Does school make life easier? No. Especially not for working parents. You think nursery is a pain in the bum? Wait until they’re only out of the house 9am until 3pm, 39 weeks a year. And you only have four weeks’ leave a year!

But does school make life worse? No.

It’s just different. Not better, not worse, just different.

Starting school, Reception, School, Primary school, Starting school - fear of the unknown

Your child will learn so much, not just the curriculum stuff, but about socialising and meeting people and independence. You may think you child isn’t ready, but he or she isn’t alone, because the other children in the class may not be ready either.

Reception teachers are totally aware of this. They understand young children and what they need. They listen to them and they care. Yes, they will assess them. But guess what? They always did. How can they tell what reading book a child should be on without assessing them? The assessment is for the individual child to help their learning.

Are you worried they won’t play any more? They do. Much of their learning is still through play – the reading, writing and maths is in small, manageable chunks.

Of course you’re going to worry, of course life will never be quite the same again, but your children are growing up. Life wasn’t the same again when they started to crawl, then started to walk.

Having been through it three times, as well as being a school governor and having spent some time in Reception classrooms, I know that school is a big change.


And don’t forget the positives – more time with your other children or even more time for yourself. I can hear you saying ‘I don’t want time to myself, I just want my child!’ Of course you do, but you will still have them before and after school and in the school holidays. And think about that haircut you’ve been desperate for and that exercise you promised yourself you’d take up. You can do that now. And your children are still at home more than they are at school.

And by Christmas, it will be hard to remember life before your child was at school. In a good way.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Thanks for this. I think it’s what I needed to hear.
    My youngest is starting part-time nursery next week. Whilst I’m looking forward to time to myself, I’m nervous for her.
    When the eldest started school it was OK, because I still had one at home. But now it’s different. I am however, looking forward to hearing about all the learning she’s doing and the friends she’s making – and I’ll hold onto that (and the opportunity to get my haircut!).

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  2. What a lovely post – it is almost like you were looking at my split ends. We have a gradual in take here, thank goodness, makes life easier for all of us

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  3. I find that last statement really hard to read and believe, and I know that you mean it to sound positive but I just feel sad. Thank you for writing this, I know you want to reassure and you have done this because I know we’re all in the same boat. I know he’ll have fun, it’s just lunchtimes that I worry about.

    Thank you for caring enough to write this.

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  4. Such a lovely post!
    I cried my eyes out when my girls started school…But they love it and can’t wait to get back next week…..
    I’m on the countdown to my eldest starting high school next year! The whole fear will start again! Dreading it! x

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  5. Thank you Sarah. Really. I got all teary just reading it! I feel so completely out of my depth with this stuff and Bean is taking it all in his stride. It’s going to be such a huge change for us, but I’m starting to see now that it’ll be a good change. Thank you so much for writing this dude x

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  6. We started back yesterday. My youngest of 3 started school last year and I think it got harder each time one of them started! Plus my eldest started high school and I think that was harder than his first day at school. They all love I now and really looked forward to yesterday which went really well.

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  7. Scary, but exciting! My boy starts pre-school in January. I think the thing I am most worried about is whether I’m doing the right thing starting him on 5 mornings straight off. But my mother in law who is a nursery teacher by profession said it was better to jump right in rather than confusing them by changing the number of days they do. *gulp* We will see!

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  8. Thank you very much, everyone. And apologies to anyone I made cry! It is a scary time for everyone, but it will really be fine.
    Kim and Kizzy – I hated the starting secondary school thing, my eldest started last year. I’ve got another two years until my younger son starts secondary. Thank goodness.

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  9. Such a lovely post. I’ve got a couple of years before Milin goes off to school, but I want to bookmark this so I come back to it and read it then! x

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  10. You are right, it is just different. I wasn’t sad when any of mine started school. Of course, I will miss them and I was worried sick about how they’d get on, but I wasn’t sad. It’s an exciting step for them and as you say, it’s just different x

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