Moving on up

From ABC’s and 1, 2, 3’s to make-up and five o’clock shadows - an educational journey

With the start of the new school year happening this month and with the Education Feature taking pride of place in the September issue of Four Shires Magazine, we have delved into our archives and found this article that was publishing at this time last year (September 2016).

It is the time of year where parents will be waving their children off at the school gate or onto the bus. Here at the Four Shires, two of us will be seeing our children start their new educational journeys, writes Cathy Black. On the 5th September I will be walking my son to his first ever day in reception class whereas Gail will be seeing her daughter onto the school bus for her new adventure in secondary school. These times are often full of excitement, apprehension and stress, for not only your child, but also for you as a parent.

As you try to hold back the tears and exude an air of calm for your child during the first few weeks of their new step in life, you will, no doubt find yourself worrying about all sorts of things. Did you pack the right PE kit on the right day? Will my child fit in and make friends easily, enjoying their time at school? Or will they get into the wrong crowd and care little about their learning?

The important thing to remember is that you have done your research and made what you believe to be the right decision for your child. You have visited the open days; you have spoken to the perspective teachers and leased with your child about what they feel is best for them (this is particularly prominent for those families with children moving onto secondary school this academic year). You were confident of your choice of school when you registered your options with local authority, for state schools or enrolled your child into your choice of public school.  All of this research will stand you in good stead for the years that will follow.

My son’s opinion changes daily when it comes to starting school; excited about starting one minute, to being in tears, not wanting to go at all the next. This is a perfectly natural response, it is how all children process what is happening to them, no matter whether they are just starting education or moving on to the next stage of it. It is integral that you talk to your child about what worries them about school and also what they are excited about and focus on this. This will mean that your child will not feel alone at any stage and be more inclined to continue talking about the good and the bad once they have been behind the school gates for a while.

If your child is starting in reception this term then you will probably ask them what they did all day with their only response being “We just played”! This was something mentioned at the open evening of the village school that our son will be starting. The teacher was adamant that this was not something to worry about, as learning through play is a core part of the curriculum at this age. If you are particularly worried about what your child is doing all day then remember that you can always talk to the teachers. It is actively encouraged and most will want to work with you as parents to get the best possible educational start for your child. You do not just have to wait for parents evening to approach teachers.

Remember to participate. If your child is asked to bring in work they have done at home or photographs of what they enjoy then make time to find these out to send in. All of this will help their new teacher understand what your child enjoys and more importantly what they struggle and excel in, meaning that they can map a path which best suits their individual needs. Sometimes how a child behaves and responds at school is totally different to how they are at home, both the teacher and yourselves as parents need to know this.

Bigger worries often come when your child reaches secondary school. Your child will now be exposed to new friends, a new teaching style, and potentially harmful experiences. Add to this a new sense of freedom and an influx of hormones and sometimes the result is a not quite so pleasant experience either at school or within the home environment. It is important to not forget that we have all been at this stage before and most of us have made it through the other side relatively unscathed and forging great paths in our careers.

Try as best you can to keep the lines of communication open. You will likely not be involved in school life as much at this stage; you need to trust that your child will come to you if any issues do arise. Remember though if your child is not forthcoming you are still able to chat to teachers regarding any worries you may have. But do give your child some space to breath and grow. We all make the odd mistake but this is how we learn and your child needs to be able to negotiate through life once they have left the security of the learning environment. It is important to guide and not smoother your child whilst they are in secondary school.

Being the parent of school aged children is full of hopes, worries, dreams and unknown territory. If you take every new stage as it comes and keep the lines of communication open, trying to work with your child, whilst keeping their home life stable, you can weather any storm and give them and yourselves the best educational experience possible.

Tips for negotiating through the school years

  • Ask your child about their school day. This can be done at meal times when you are all around the table chatting about the day’s events. This is a better option then singling your child out and putting the whole focus on them. Your child is more likely to be forthcoming with information if everyone is chatting openly about their day.
  • Try to draw on your experiences of school life and share these with your child. If problems do arise during primary or secondary education, try to find an example from your time at school that you can share with your child. This will show them that even though you experienced something similar you still made it through and so can they.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions – if your child is disruptive at school there is usually an underlying reason for this. Maybe they are struggling with a particular subject or are finding particular social situations difficult. Try to get your child to open up about what is worrying them. If this does not work then contact the school to see if they can shed any light on it.