A couple of days ago, I was one of three parents asked to go and speak to the parents of our school’s reception class for 2011. The post below contains the outlines of my talk.
Of course, some of this information will not be applicable to your school, but most schools run similar evenings.I’m hoping that most parents with a child due to start school in September will find something useful here but if you have any other suggestions about what was helpful for your child, please feel free to reply with them.
I was asked to talk about how DD3 settled into reception but we also have two older daughters who survived Reception, went through the rest of the First School and made it safely to the Junior School. So I’m going to briefly mention their experiences too, just to show how different 3 children, 3 girls, from the same family can be.
I know some of you parents of boys will be thinking, ah- she’s got girls, what she says won’t be relevant to me. I promise you some of it will be; some of it won’t but you are not going to know which bit is which until this time next year. So read on anyhow.
My children had been at nursery for 2 days a week from the age of 2, but had not attended any of the feeder nurseries for our school. I really don’t think they suffered because of this. My eldest started school knowing the name of one other girl , and DD2 had another girl from her nursery in her class. This could have been an advantage but her friend left the country, and therefore the school, 2 terms in. DD2 was upset, but by that time she had made other friends and this softened the blow.
My first daughter was very sensible for her age and I wasn’t too worried about her behaviour at school. But I still had the usual concerns when your first child starts school:
- will they make friends?
- will they cope with the school routine?
- will they eat their lunch?
- will they get too tired?
But with her, all of them were unfounded.
She found a nice group of friends and had lots of playdates. She seemed to find the routine and rules agreeable. Her lunchbox came home empty of food, and she was sometimes quieter after school but didn’t need an afternoon nap like some of the children did.
She was the model reception child. Her behaviour at home was a tale for another day. I was lulled into a false sense of security.
My second daughter is very different from my first but I considered myself a seasoned school mummy and decided I had nothing to worry about this time around.
My eldest was a December baby, my second was a July one and it’s tempting to blame the difference in their behaviours on their respective ages. I don’t think it helped that my second was quite immature socially and found school very tiring. But they also have very different personalities as well.
Where DD1 liked to do what she was told, DD2 took a command as a challenge. DD1 wouldn’t dream of making a fuss at school where as if DD2 didn’t get her own way she’d have complete toddler-type tantrum- screaming, throwing things, hitting, crying- the works. She was disruptive in the classroom and often bluntly refused to do what she was asked. I spent a lot of time talking to her teacher after school and my heart used to sink when Miss H caught my eye and beckoned me over.
Both DD2 and I spent time in the Head’s office as a result of her less than ideal behaviour. This wasn’t meant to be scary or as a punishment, but it was part of us working together to help Zoe learn how she was supposed to behave at school. As a rule, what happened at school stayed at school and we didn’t punish her at home for her behaviour during the day. It was hard though.
We had a rough couple of terms and I often thought wistfully about the year before, where all I had to worried about was DD1′s lunchbox and her making friends.
But gradually, after a lot of hard work on everyone’s part, DD2′s behaviour improved and by the end of reception she was actually co operating with the teacher and having far fewer tantrums. A whole week went by when I wasn’t called to talk to the teacher after school, then 2 weeks, and I began to relax when I did the school run. Then we had a bad couple of days, which turned out to be just a blip. Finally a month went by without me being called aside by the teacher. Hooray!
I’ll mention another problem DD2 had as well, because it does happen from time to time. Now and again she put off going to the toilet for too long and she would wet herself. It’s never pleasant for anyone, but the teachers and the welfare room are used to dealing with it and a big deal was never made. You are simply presented with a child dressed in different clothes on the way home, and some extra washing; they don’t make a big deal about it.
Because of my experience with DD2, I was a little worried about how our youngest daughter would deal with reception. She’s a January baby and quite willing to please when she feels like it but with a definite touch of the dramatic at home when she thinks it’s called for. She was known for her stubbornness as well as her regular appearances in the accident book at nursery. It really could have gone either way.
She did know a little girl from her nursery but they were put in different classes. She ended up in a class with some children from a toddler group she used to attend , so she was familiar with a couple of them and they have gone on to become proper friends.
It’s been a relatively quiet year for DD3’s first year in school. She’s enjoyed reception and there have been no significant upsets.
I was a little tense for the first month, but after the children went full time, there was a parents evening. We got some time to talk to her teacher who reassured us that there were no real problems and our daughter was settling in well. And it’s been smooth sailing since.
I don’t think that DD3 settling in well is necessarily down to us as parents but we had learnt a few things from the older girls’ experiences.
You don’t have to teach your children to read or write before they start school. None of mine could read, although they could recognise their names- that is quite helpful, I think. All of them are in the top reading groups for their classes, so it’s done them no harm. We read a lot of books to them, we still do, but didn’t bother starting a reading scheme or anything. If they want to read the odd word, then let them but don’t coach them. Let them learn with the rest of their class.
I did try and teach DD1 to write her name before she started and made a complete mess of it. I taught her to print her name and they learn to write from reception at our school, so she had to unlearn it again when she started school. My advice is to leave it to the teachers, they know what they are doing.
Teach them to dress and undress themselves, which way their clothes go on, how to do up buttons, put socks on. That kind of thing. IF they have problems with buttons, get them uniform or coats with zips. The teachers will help as much as possible but when there are 30 children in a class, it’s appreciated if as many as possible can do it themselves.
Teach them how to go to toilet by themselves and how to clean themselves up afterwards. Teachers don’t like being asked to wipe bottoms.
Teach them how to open their lunchboxes, unwrap their sandwiches etc. If they are having packed lunches, make sure you buy a lunch box they can actually open. And foil is easier than clingfilm for a child to unwrap – I’ve learnt this by experience. It’s good if they know how to use a spoon and knife and fork and some idea of basic manners, if they get school dinners.
Don’t bother booking them in for any after school activities for the first term , they will be tired and won’t get the best out of them. See what they are like after that first term.
And try not to worry. The teachers will know what they are doing, they are very experienced and have seen it all before. They can cope with anything your child might throw at them-literally.
Finally my youngest daughter has a few things she wants to tell you if you have a child starting reception this year.
‘The teachers are very kind. School is fun. Sometimes you get to choose what to do and other times you don’t but it’s all very good. You get to play on the laptops and do colouring. You learn to read and do maths and you get lots of friends and can play with them. The toilets are friendly as well.
We will be year one and look after the little ones next year. Their mummies and daddies don’t need to worry.’