Back to School

By Keri Fickling

I’m writing this week’s blog about going back to school but part of me feels like it should be entitled starting school as with like so many other things recently it will be different, it won’t be the same as when the children left, all those weeks ago….. can you believe home schooling began 20 weeks ago. How many of you like me started out with great intentions of Joe Wicks work out every morning followed by X,Y,Z activities set by the school and then by the end of the first week you’d burned out trying to do everything and work from home! The anticipation and anxiety of what home schooling meant feels a long way away and yet here we are again facing a similarly anxious time getting the kids ready to go back to ‘real’ school.

As parents sending your children to school for the first time is always a testing period, for many it’s the first time they really spend any time outside the family unit and this month every family in Scotland will be re-living those feelings and trying to figure out a way of tackling the new ‘norm’ for school. My little girl only stated Primary one last year so that memory of her first day is still quite fresh in my mind, what sticks with me is that I was far more nervous than she was, we have the obligatory leaving the house photographs and then one as she heads away to join her line, with barely a glance back as she skipped away with her new class mates. I was lucky she was ready, happy and the school had completed a really good transition program prior to the holidays. I am fully expecting for this year to be much more tricky for us both, she has seen far less of her friends than usual, there has been no formal school environment for longer than she was in school so I expect it will take some adjustment. Whilst I am keen to share with her that it is ok to be nervous about what’s ahead and to ask questions, I don’t really want to pass on any anxiety I have to her unnecessarily, I think the best ways we can do this as parents is to gather all the information from our relevant schools, be sure about the approach they are taking and use the opportunity to ask questions to clarify any uncertainty. This way we can then provide our children with the answers to anything worrying them…. Although in all honesty Matilda’s biggest concern when she’s going to school is always ‘What’s for lunch?’

I think following lockdown we probably fall into two camps; those who can’t wait for the kids to go back and those who are enjoying the time at home and are a little more reserved or anxious about the return. Either way I think we all share the same worries ahead of this new school year;

First….. The new school uniform shop? For me the school holidays seem to have come to an end so fast and I felt like I was a bit last minute (this weekend) getting new shirts and pinafores, and is it me or did lockdown make all of our children grow like weeds? I optimistically got Matilda to try on last year’s uniform, I mean surely it wasn’t that long ago? Who was I kidding of course none of it fitted! However I was able to donate the stuff that was too small to my local School bank so I would encourage you to seek out the same as there are so many struggling more than usual and these often small charities do such great work kitting out so many children. Our local one has a drop off point in the local supermarket. So Keep your eyes peeled. If you do feel like you are struggling yourself then please do contact them, any contact you make is totally confidential and they really can help with everything, so please do reach out, your school will also know of local charities providing these services.

Next problem, What else do they need to take with them? I know many schools local to me are saying no school bags or additional things to be taken into school, but still there are many questions, does each child need their own water bottle? Do we send them with a personal hand sanitiser? Do they need a face mask? Whoever thought these things would be trumping a new pencil case on the school shop? I would encourage you all to seek guidance from your child’s school on these questions but I believe most primary’s will not be enforcing social distancing and face masks, some secondary schools however may choose to do so in part.

I think the biggest worry for most of us as parents though is probably….. Did we do enough in home school?? And I think the best answer to this is YES!!! – You did exactly what you could and what worked for your family. There will always be families who did much more than you, there will be families who did less than you but you did what was right for you and your children and that is what matters. Teachers are used to teaching classes of mixed abilities, they are great at identifying what a child needs and they will continue to do that, yes it might take longer for some than others but don’t be disheartened, encourage and support. Don’t forget to seek the backing and guidance from the teachers too they will also be prepared for a varied return among the children.

I thought about how I could best help you all with any pre-school anxieties you may have and decided that the best way would be to have some top tips to help ease you back into school life;

  1. Get ready the night before – I have vivid memories of this from my childhood, Sunday night after dinner would always be get ready for school and often in my latter school years the cramming of the homework I’d not done all weekend….(not a recommendation). I think this is especially a good one if you need to send a pack lunch in with your child, this way you are not trying to make breakfast and lunches at the same time.

  2. If you can afford to buy 5 sets of uniform then you can lay one set of clean uniform out for each day and not have to worry if you don’t have chance in the week to do a wash load. If you want to take to extreme, in your Sunday prep, lay out each day’s uniform including pants and socks, so that the children can just go to the pile and everything they need is there.

  3. This could be a big one…..sleep patterns and daytime routine; it is so easy in the holidays to slip into later nights, lazy, later mornings so come next week when everyone has to be organised and out the door before 9am might come as a bit of a shock to the system. If this is you and your family consider bringing those times earlier this week so it’s not such a shock or perhaps organise a family day out where you do all need to be out the house by 9am to see how you manage.

  4. On your walk or drive to and from school use the chance to ask about the day, what do they think they will be doing, what are they looking forward to and what they did, but don’t be to disheartened if they say nothing or I can’t remember, keep asking and there will be days they have lots to say and days where all they can tell you about is what they had for lunch!

  5. For the more nervous child a really sweet thing my friend used to do was draw a small heart on the inside of her child’s wrist and said if you feel worried you can rub the heart and know Mummy is always thinking about you. You could also draw one on your own wrist to match.

I am sure there are load more ideas and tricks to make life easier, so I would like to encourage you all to share them, comment on the blog or social media post you see it on and give your top tip to reducing the stress of going to school, this way we can help each other get ready for that first day. But before I sign off for this blog, I would like to wish you all and your children a happy and fun filled first day at school.

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