It only takes one day to go from being a preschooler, encapsulated in the warmth and motherly love and over-protectiveness with a dash of ‘I like to let him be as independent as he can’, to a fully fledged feels-like-he’s-flown-the-nest, properly independent, prefers to get on the bus than have me collect him outside school little boy. Just one day.
My son attended a childminder for a year, creche for 2 years full time with one year part time in between. I thought he was well-ready for school. And he was. And is. In so many ways.
Being a special needs assistant in a primary school, I’m well-used to the ways of school life and thought I was well-prepared for my little man to become part of that world. And I was. In some ways.
But in lots of ways the dawning of 29th August 2013 and the beginning of his school career hit both him and me a lot harder than I thought it would. Not in a bad way. Just in a this is a huge step in his life kind of way.
Things that were a big adjustment:
– Kids in school have to be so much more independent than at creche or playschool. No matter which way you look at it, preschool teachers and staff tend to have more time and less children to deal with than a primary school teacher.
– In school a certain curriculum has to be followed. It is non-negotiable. You can’t change it just because your little Emma or Cian has had a bad night, or has a cold. So the day has a lot more structure than they are used to. Even within the junior infant day which does have an hour of structured play, it’s that word again structure. Something that is wonderful for children, but can take getting used to.
– Time keeping – This is an issue for us, we are 11.5Km from the school and for a child that hates to get dressed and have breakfast, if there is even an inkling of us being in a hurry he will drag his heels even more. So it is difficult to get the routine going every morning. I have instilled in him that he has to be in before the school bell. And so do I and that I will get in trouble too if I am late for my bell. (We are in different schools). He already knows that the principal talks to someone if they are late rather than his teacher, so I’m hoping that’s enough of a scare tactic to get him in on time. At the moment we are on day 3 of giving him a star for getting dressed himself in the morning so here’s hoping it’ll continue.
– It’s semi-permanent – in most cases you’re going to be dropping your kid at the same gate for 8 years and then another 5 or 6 for secondary school. So from now on your little girl or boy can’t be whisked off for a day if you’ve an unexpected day off and school calendars must be checked when arranging holidays and days out etc.
-Siblings – my boy’s younger brother was a little lost for a week or two going into creche on his own or even going in a different car to his brother. It was a bit of an encouragement towards independence for him too. Not a bad thing, but definitely a change.
Things that can make it easier:
– Remember that coming in at night, nightmares, ‘clingy-ness’, tiredness, tantrums etc. are all fairly normal for this stage in a child’s life. If this hasn’t happened for months but has started around the beginning of school you know why.
– Make friends with other parents of children of the same age, that way you can discuss and be relieved it’s not just your child finding it difficult/easy/tiring etc. Luckily I know quite a few parents of other 5 year olds so this proved invaluable.
– Talk to your child about everything, even the mundane things in school life, for example we have a discussion every day about whether or not he could go out at break-time due to the weather.
– Lots of family time and one on one time with your child at the weekends.
– Leaflets like this one – Going to Big School – Making the Transition from Early Education to Primary Education. I think I picked this up in the creche, it contains lots of handy tips. You can download it from Early Childhood Education here.
In a few short weeks my son seems to have settled in well. I am overjoyed with all the new songs and sayings he is coming out with. When I asked just now if he promised he would turn out the light when I call up to him in a few minutes, he replied with a real cool ‘ yeah, pinky promise’.