So school places have been dished out. The chances are you are either as smug as hell that you got your first choice or scared as anything that your child will never learn a thing at the hell hole the council has put your precious little Johnny in. We were in the latter camp 4 years ago. My friends had jokingly named the school "Sunnyside nursery" and swore to home-school if their children got there. I had visions of big man's arms being pulled off by some horrible child and no Buzz Lightyear to come to the rescue.
Fast forward 4 years and it was the only school we put down on little man's form.
Anyway I digress. Starting school is a minefield. If it is your first time round you haven't a clue. I ordered a jumper for me rather than big man! So here is my guide on what you really need to know.
1. School Uniform. If you are at a school that allows you to have a mix of branded and non branded school uniform, then do just that. It doesn't mean you are poor if you have bought your uniform from the supermarket. No, in my book it means you are sensible. Whilst it is lovely to have a couple of branded tops for a first day photo, for example, that is all you need. Trust me you will be in tears when little Johnny has finished his first week at school and every branded top is covered in a combination of and not limited to; dry wipe marker, grass, mud, and grease. I have no idea what reception kids do in their day but I do wonder if they are working in the local mechanics at lunchtime. Honestly, I have no idea where all the oil stains come from.
2. Labels. You are a good Mum. You love your kids so much. The best way of showing this is by spending your evenings, 2 months before school starts, by sewing on name tags. No. Just no. What on earth was I thinking buying 100 sew in labels? My husband should have directed me to a doctor after the 20th "Oh bugger!" when I had pricked my own finger. I mean the school even gave me a sharpie in my welcome pack. It was a sign. The easiest way to label clothes? Actually no it isn't. As ultra lazy Mum (aka Smart Mum) I now buy stick on labels. And I am so smug in my smartness (aka the laziest Mum ever) I only print the surname. It doesn't matter if clothes are passed down or if your kids get the wrong water bottle. BOOM! #winningatparenting!
I should point out that labeling is very important as reception seems to be some kind of clothes swap when they aren't at the mechanics. It is also perfectly acceptable for little Johnny to come home wearing clothes back to front and shoes on the wrong feet - especially is they all belong to him.
3. Lunch. Do whatever is easiest. Personally I find that is the free school meals to all infant school children.
4. Learning. Do not compare your children to others. Full Stop. I spent far too long worrying about whether big man was at the right reading level. If they have reading books, read with them. If they don't, don't worry. Schools do things differently. Do not panic about government standards. My son failed his phonics test because his reading was too good. Oh the irony! Do not compare with friends at other schools. Treat your child as an individual and help them along the way without turning them off education before they have started.
Whatever you do, DO NOT BUY a set of Biff Chip and Kipper from the Book People. No matter how much of a bargain it is. You will hate those kids by the end of reception and will have another couple of years of their ridiculous and boring adventures. (I was never allowed to end a story at junior school with " and they woke up and it was all a dream" so why are Biff and Chip allowed too?)
5. Water Bottles. There are some lovely metal water bottles for under £10. Kids drop them ALL the time. They won't stand up after a week. Don't say I haven't warned you.
6. Coats. You want to economise. Who doesn't? Don't buy coats with inner fleeces that can be removed depending on how cold it is. And definitely don't be really smug and order them in the sales for years to come too. These coats are a great idea. In theory. I am sure they would be great for adults. Give them to a child and they will forever be in a tangled mess. Unable to get their arm in the right hole as it is tangled inside the coat. Just buy a winter and a summer coat.
7. Birthday Parties. Don't stress over them. (This is more a point for myself to remember than to share!) The fact of the matter is that at any given time, if your child is asked to pick their best 12 friends, it will change EVERY time you ask them. Some kids are popular. Some kids get invited because their Mums are friends with the Birthday child's parents. Most parties have some kind of number constraint. If your child is invited then that is lovely, If they aren't then it doesn't mean they have no friends. If they are happy at school, then don't worry about if they have or haven't been to Birthday parties.
8. School plays/assemblies. Oh God, Where do I start? From the beginning I suppose? For big man's first harvest assembly I was really excited to go. It was at 1pm. We are lucky to have a community centre nearby. I thought I would get there at 12.30, grab a coffee and go up. I was lucky to get a seat at 12.15 after a Mum's staus update at midday had caused me to think I had got the time wrong. I can't believe I now even think there should be a ticketing system for school plays! It is mayhem. People get their partners to queue when they are dropping their children off. It is sad that the people who have the stars of the show are sat at the back and can barely see. If you don't have any younger siblings with you then it is often easier to stand at the back.
9. School competitions. Let your child enter. It is not a parent competition. However, if you are on the PTA, I reckon an additional parent competition with entry fee might be a good money spinner on occasions. Often judges will pick a child that has put in effort. OK middle man's scary rabbit hats have failed to win any prizes yet, but his "fake bearded Santa" for the Christmas Fayre won him a book token.
10. Last but not least, your child will be fine. Infact, like it or not, your child will thrive without you. They will find out who they are and what they want to do. They will often not do anything at school when you ask, and then you will later find out that they can maypole dance. Let your child choose their friends, their hobbies and have a say in their life. They will be fine whatever school they go to. Every school has A grade students. Some just find it easier than others. Just realx and let your little Johnny fly. I bet he soars higher than you would imagine.