Tag Archives: Starting School

Starting school has actually made us happier. Cheers, school.

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It’s the last day before half term, and I’m being entirely serious when I say: now we’re mostly over the big settling-in phase, having school back in our lives is the bizniz.

For H, definitely. He’s happy when he’s learning new things in a structured environment (I noticed that last year with nursery, but even more so now it’s full-time). I know school environments are trickier for some kids than others, but for this one we seem to be lucky: he really thrives. For the first couple of weeks he refused to tell me anything (‘What did you do at school today?’ ‘Hmm, I’ll tell you tomorrow’) but now he chatters the whole way home: facts about bones, about rhyming words, about experiments he’s done with cars and inner tubes. He tends to need a small circle of friends to call his own, and now he has one he’s much more settled and content.

For me too, though. In hindsight I think he was ready to move on to something I couldn’t give him. Honestly, we spent the last few months before September driving each other up the wall. Now I look forward to him coming home all day, and squeeze him to death all evening. He’s enjoying being the older, responsible sibling at the moment, and is nicer and funnier with it. So I’ve got more energy for tantrums and the bedtime routine. I am tired when Tim comes home, always, but not usually emotionally beaten down. And spending one-on-one time with E. bear during the day is just loveliness, from start to finish.

Then there’s the weekend. Do you remember getting through lunch in the dining hall, at school, and knowing you had just one set of lessons left before the weekend? You could smell it, in the whole building, a buzz of excitement and release. Friday. Almost there. I don’t know about you, but when I had babies that was one of the things I missed the most: no more Friday feeling. Now we have it back, because at the weekend we get to spend time with each other, all four of us. It feels like a holiday all over again. SATURDAYZ RULE. I feel like switching on SMTV Live again and doing the Postman Dance.

We spent last Saturday at Cliveden, a rambly old NT property that we haven’t been to for a couple of years (follow that link for hi-larious Tiny Bald Hen photos). There were bright leaves on every surface, a big maze we got thoroughly lost in, and a woodland walk that turned into a gorgeous path by the Thames on the way back. The boys were killing it in their woolly jumpers. We stopped in the tea room for scones and hot chocolate before we left. I genuinely thought that it can’t get much better than this. Jumpers. Scones. All of us together on a Saturday. We’ve got school to thank for that, I think.

PHOTOS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. I brought the camera but forgot to check the almost-dead battery – and it turned out to be the sort of place where not having a proper camera is like a dagger in the heart, so thank goodness for iPhones. Here’s one I got before the big camera packed up.

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In case you are fortunate enough not to be familiar with the Disney Planes universe, the plane T is holding is called El Chupacabra. Obviously perfect for a two-year-old to wrap his tongue around. He’s called El Blah Blah in our house, and I think it’s an improvement.

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May your photos always contain a casual hedge lean for extra sass.

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We’re all smiling because we made it to the centre of the maze before anyone died of starvation. RESULT.

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So help me, I am obsessed with little boys in jumpers. It’s all we’ve got, we mothers of boys. No little dresses to squeal over. It’s got to be jumpers, and I am all over it.

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The first of several hundred steps back up to the house, and between us we can count as high as twenty. It took a while.

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Ah, motherhood. To always be the head upon which they wish to dump their leaves. I’ll take it.

Happy half term, loves!

Five books…to help with starting school

Five books to help with starting school

Thanks to commenter Rachel for this suggestion!

Right, we’re on the countdown now, aren’t we? Two weeks left to buy all of H’s uniform, get his feet measured for shoes, practice writing his name and cry a bit into my pillow at night. We’ve talked a lot about starting school, and he’s been for a practice morning, but we’ve still got a whole avalanche of newness coming towards us.

I think there’s nothing like a picture book to help a preschooler visualise change. It means that when the first day comes, even the new things are a little familiar. Reading about it has helped both of us to get used to – and excited about – the idea. Here are our five best books about starting school.

Lucy and Tom Go to School, by Shirley Hughes

Lucy and Tom

We got this one from the library just the other week. Honestly, is there any better comfort-author than the lovely Hughes? We love the Alfie books, and one of my favourite poem-and-story books of all time is her Out and About. Lucy and Tom Go to School is a brilliant introduction to the change when one sibling is old enough to start school, and the other isn’t. The classroom in the illustrations looks just like the one I remember from my own primary school: peg, ‘home corner’ and all. Gorgeous.

 

Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School, by Ian Whybrow

harry and the dinosaurs

The Harry and the Dinosaurs series is always a favourite here: the illustrations are colourful and fun, the stories tend to have an undercurrent of sly family humour, and of course anything with dinosaurs in it gets an automatic stamp of approval. We enjoyed this one very much: Harry isn’t sure about his first day at school, especially when he has to go into his classroom without the dinosaurs. But then he makes a new friend, the dinosaurs come to the rescue, and everyone has a jolly old time. I’m impressed by Harry’s four-year-old drawing at the end, by the way. In this house we’re lucky if we get semi-coherent scribbles.

 

Charlie and Lola: I am Too Absolutely Small for School, by Lauren Child

Chalie and Lola

In this book, Lola is finally ready to start school – phew, thinks Charlie, a bit less underage childcare for me – but she’s not convinced she’s big enough. As ever, while she raises objection after objection, good old Charlie talks her out of them with wit and patience. And Lola has a marvellous first day. The usual creative illustrations, fabulous wallpaper, and true-to-life toddler speak from Lauren Child. It’s beautifully produced. Can Charlie come and live at my house?

 

Starting School, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Starting schoolIf you really want to get inside a school-aged child’s head, go to the Ahlbergs. Please Mrs Butler – still on my shelf, and just about in one piece! – was one of the first books that showed me poems can be relevant and fun for children. Some of the first poetry I memorised, too. This one is great too, particularly if you have a detail-oriented child who wants to know the specifics of absolutely everything (*raises hand*). It’s quite methodical and not the most dynamic of reads. But it takes in just about everything a child will encounter in that first year, and is invaluable for that. Lovely illustrations too.

 

First Day, by Andrew Daddo

First Day

I have been trying hard to get hold of this one after it was recommended to me, and so I recommend it to you in turn: if you find a second-hand one on Amazon or eBay, snap it up! From what I’ve been able to see, it’s a book about first day nerves written with humour and warmth, and the illustrations are distinctive and beautiful. And apparently there’s a twist at the end. What is it?! I must know. I’ll keep looking.

 

 

 

Happy reading! And hey, good luck to all of us with new starters this September. Our kids will be fine. And with the judicious application of cake and hot chocolate, so will we.

 

September. July.

Desktop

September. July.

Note the worn-through shoes, the yoghurt-stained jumper, the trousers that barely fit, and the general sense of a boy who has grown in every direction, more than I can fathom.

Yesterday H had his new school visit, and today he went back for a final week at nursery. I came home and had a big ole cry. I remember being a little sad and nervous when he started nursery back in September, but mostly it was exciting: he was ready for something new, and so was I.

In the months since then, he’s made friends, learned to hold a pen and write his name, tramped out to Forest School every Friday,  started going to the loo without my intervention, done projects on polar animals and Chinese New Year and fairy tales, dressed up as the Very Hungry Caterpillar, gone out for a day’s school trip on a coach, sung in school assemblies, thrown bean bags in Sports Day, grown ten times more ornery and twelve times more hilarious, and emptied that basket of cars and train tracks every. single. day.

His teachers know him, and love him. Which is not down to any specialness in him, particularly, but in them. I never got over that: the fact that he’s not theirs, and yet they care about him as though he were. It astonishes me. I love them for it, to a kind of embarrassing extent. And I suppose I don’t want to start all over again. While putting on a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, deep down I’m dreading it horribly.

This morning over breakfast, I had to break the news, when he asked, that I was already married to Daddy, so couldn’t marry him when he grew up. He burst into tears and sobbed, ‘I do not ever want to grow up and leave you!’ So I guess there’s something in the water this week.

On the whole, of course, he does want to grow up. Because that means getting bigger, understanding more, becoming a richer and more complex person. And I want that too. This has been a blazing wonder of a year for him, and I think the year to come will be another.

All the same, I am saying to myself what I said to him this morning, as I pulled him onto my lap (where he only just fits) and rubbed his little shaking back.

‘It’s alright. You’ll grow up and leave one day, and it will be a happy thing. But it’s not for a while. Not for a good long while.’

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