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.
But does school make life worse? No.
It’s just different. Not better, not worse, just different.
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.
BUT IT’S OK. HONEST.
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.