Posted tagged ‘first day at secondary school’

In praise of missing things… like Year 6

July 16, 2012

A fish-eye view of the school we’ll miss. Can you spot the boat and tree house in the playground? pic by Martin Woolley.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is not about lost socks. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

Lola, 14, came home early from school this week. It was raining again. What could we do that didn’t involve Facebook? I found the lovely carved cedar box that is kept locked with the most ingenious device (a sort of key). She’d never been inside this family treasure box before and was amazed to see hundreds of tiny envelopes with old-fashioned stamps from all around the world.

Inside are letters and receipts kept by my grandfather George Baird when he was stationed in Hong Kong back in 1937. He seems to have had friends and family corresponding from Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya and Scotland. Many are from soldiers just like him, writing about the countries they are stationed in – often critically, but they were clearly developing a fascinating world view. Nigeria for instance was producing ground nuts, palm oil and tin – and “we are doing pretty well from it”.

Most of the letters are written in such hard-to-read ink scribbles, so different to emails. But together Lola and I could read aloud and unpick most of the words. Time just flew as we found out that naughty William (whoever he was) was at last at boarding school (“god willing he’ll stay there”); that it’s risky going home to a cold house with scarlet fever and that my grandfather’s mother’s house had just suffered from the “ceiling falling in”. The builder was apparently on his way. Good thing too as this was December even though “the roses and gentians are still flowering”.

My Grandmother’s writing was always tough to read, even when she was in her 20s. She sent one from the steamer when it stopped to refuel at a steaming hot Port Said – there’s even a stamp covered in pyramids. She was going to join her husband in Hong Kong.

Didn’t she miss the kids?
I’ve always puzzled about this trip because it meant leaving her two children, Diana, 6, and Angus (who was so little at the time, 2 years perhaps) behind with their Granny for a year. The implication was that their mum didn’t mind at all, and it was all stiff upper lip and no family affection. But this letter shows this is not true. It is full of longing from Catherine, who hopes to soon see her husband and the horribleness of leaving the children behind. She called it “dreadful”.

In contrast my little hiccup about saying goodbye to the primary school Nell has enjoyed for the past seven years is nothing. It’s really just a change of routine.

Other parents keep saying to me, oh it’s your last summer fair, your last concert, your last term, and now your last week. And that’s right. It’s all that. But I think seeing my grandparents’ letters has helped put it all in perspective. Nell, 11, is moving on to a secondary school; she’s still going to be living in the same home with me.

Moving on
Missing her old school will simply be a chance to relive happy memories of a fantastic primary school experience. Thanks to everyone who has had a hand in that. And good luck to all of you whose children are moving on whether from nursery to reception, into middle or secondary school, or sixth form, or a gap year, or university… Or something different entirely.

Over to you
What are the things you’ll enjoy missing most about your child moving on? (For me it’s going to be the walk to school through a park, with the dog, utterly lovely).

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How was the first day, for you?

September 6, 2011

Nell racing crabs during the summer - but that doesn't make her too small to go into Year 6.

After three months travelling and homeschooling my two girls have to go back to school. That’s the plan anyway. Today Nell, 10, held my hand and whispered her fear so her sister wouldn’t hear it. “Mummy I feel too small to be Year 6.”

It’s a wobble I remember Lola, now 13, having too. Her anxiety was spun out of orbit when her lovely teacher Nicola Denton, now the head of a Brent primary, reassured her that she will always be herself. “You don’t have to feel you are a Year 6, you are just you.”

How much more frightening to be going into nursery for the first time, or Reception, Year 1 or the dreaded Year 7 at secondary school. But it’s not really. The schools are genius at making their students welcome – the fears are hugely generated by us mums (and dads).

How will they cope?
Of course we think our little kids are too small to be turned into pack animals, made to study from 9am-3pm, etc. We’ll be thinking that at their weddings probably too. It may even be why so many of us – around the world – still try and cook up a favourite meal for Little Jasmine (now a pensioner)… That sounds so old fashioned, let’s try, we’ll be thinking that when we see them on TV as graduates and long-established members of the working world speaking out as human rights lawyers or running a geothermal company.

I saw the pix on Facebook… Don’t worry, those little kids (even the big ones) who come back from big school after the first day everyone’s dreaded can still be called your baby.

Normally in Homemade Kids, my book on thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children, which you can pick up off Amazon, or order at your local library, I share loads of ideas to make parenting a bit easier and nicer too for the child. But today it’s time to treat yourself.

However that big day went, you – and maybe you and your partner – should offer a celebratory toast. With butter, with wine or a nice cuppa, whatever works for you. You’ve done a great job, now it’s time to share your child with a bigger world and there’s a pretty darn good chance that they will benefit hugely from it (in the long run), as indeed so will you.

Start an achievements book
Meanwhile at Mayhem Corner we’re still waiting for the new term to start – it’s tomorrow. So tonight my kids need to feel special. I’m planning to serve up pizza and have prepared them each an A4 certificate listing all the countries they’ve travelled to this summer, and all the incredible things they’ve done or learnt. It’ll hopefully get placed in their achievements book – an A4 plastic-leaved folder full of swimming certificates, school merit awards and info that shows they’ve worked at something, and done well at it.

This tip came from an experienced mum of older teenagers who said having an achievements book, even if it just had a date when the tot learnt to ride a bike or swim a few metres, made all the difference to the mental state of a teenager ready to believe that they couldn’t do anything. It’s also why I always give the kids I teach riding (it’s a once a week treat for me too, teaching riding) a certificate stating all the things they are good at (even if it is just smiling or turning up), and a nice pic of a favourite pony.

Your turn now
So if you are a parent, don’t forget to congratulate yourself. The first day has passed, bravo. And if you are ever in a teaching role see what magic you can work on your PC so your students know that you know they are doing well, and learning. All the hard work is worth it.

One final thought – no one ever puts the age they were when they learnt to read on their c/v. Surely you didn’t? So if your child is slow don’t worry, unless you know there is a reasonable need to do so.

Enjoy this new stage: September is a turning point for so many of us.


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