Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Preparing for school - the Humdrum way

I was texting a mummy friend: "We can't meet up on Mondays from September because I will be at work." It struck me afterwards that the reason I'll be at work is because Elf will be at school! What a dozy mum I am. If I can't even sort out his social life, what hope is there for me?


When we signed up for NCT classes 5 years ago, there was no Getting Your Child Ready For School module. So here it is. And I don't mean a course in hothousing your child so he can precis Shakespearean plots, name all of Henry VIII's wives in order (I still can't) and solve an equatic equation before he leaves preschool.

1. Get your facts right
Elf's last settling in day was picnic-based. Off he set with his new Power Rangers rucksack containing a lovingly made picnic. Not too many chocolate-based items to make me look like a bad mum, but not too many healthy "treats" to make me look the opposite. OK so chocolate sarnie is a no go, ham it is. Banana, squeezy yogurt (organic of course), Organics chewy bar and a tub of chopped up strawbs. Upshot? He came out with his lunchbox still containing a hot ham sarnie and fizzy strawbs - the school had provided the picnic! Lesson learned? Check with the school!

2. Organise your holiday childcare
If you are like our household, you will have approx 10 weeks holiday to cover 13 weeks school holidays. We have started a swap scheme with the nursery parents. Great idea ... in theory. OK Grandma can do that week, then Nana, then Daddy will do that week sharing the days with Mummy...  But oops Nana's on hols then? I'll just rub that out and re-write it. There must be an easier way. I told a friend that I needed a piece of software where you can put in scenarios and move weeks around. Her husband cleverly replied 'There is such a thing." I nearly lamped him when hea said "A calendar"!  Then I made the schoolgirl error of allocating weeks to the swap scheme, without factoring in the time I have to look after their children in order for them to look after mine!

3. Get the uniform sorted out quickly
I particularly have an issue with polo shirts - what is wrong with a shirt? I counted at least one child at the school when I went to pick Elf up from his picnic there who was wearing a shirt, and didn't he look smart. I have compromised - Elf has 3 of each. Then we get onto shorts -v- trousers. How long do they stay in shorts for in the Autumn term? I'd be happy with him in shorts till Christmas! I met a fellow mum also having the same dilemma. We both decided shorts till October! I'll report back if Elf has blue knees by then!

4. Plan your wraparound care
With my new work hours, I will need an after-school club once a week, and breakfast clubs 4 days a week. Provided by the school - check. Booked in - uncheck!
Reminder - set up on first day at school! Another thing I messed up, I forgot to change the amount of my childcare vouchers in time. Going from nursery fees to after-school fees has reduced my expenditure by 80% but I didn't realise I needed to give my payroll 2 months notice, so I will have a massive surfeit to sit in my account. Perhaps I'll be able to book him into a half-term club with this extra money? (Do they take childcare vouchers at that spa down the road I saw that's just opened?)

5. Prepare them for the change
Elf, you know you'll be starting school like a big boy soon?
Yes. (Looking away, uninterested.)
Well you will be at school 5 days a week then, not like now, 3 days at nursery.
Yeah. (Even more uninterested.)
Do you think you will be OK?
Yep (sighs). Can I watch Backyardigans now?

I've come to the conclusion that no matter what I say, he will either get on fine or he won't. And we'll deal with it. And from now on, it will be Teachers says this Mummy, you're wrong. Or New Best Friend says this. I will just have to learn to look pleased and agree politely. This is the beginning of their journey on their own, where mummy isn't always one step behind or sat in the corner of the room watching.

Nope I'll be in that spa that has just opened down the road, trading childcare vouchers with the receptionist for a pedicure!