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How to survive Year 7

(This is only a fun take on my experience as mum to a chatty but bright, sporty boy. And we haven't actually got to the end of year 7 yet; anything could happen.)

1. Ask your child if they want long- or short-sleeved shirts to wear under their blazer. I didn't for one moment think that short-sleeved shirts could even be worn under a blazer, but they can. In fact, no one (NO ONE EVER) wears long-sleeved shirts under a blazer. Well silly me for not asking, then having to buy another set of shirts a few weeks in. At least I've got some "spare" now though.

2. Buy more than two PE t shirts. How, as a mum to a sporty boy, did I think that (a) two would be enough considering he has over two lessons a week plus after-school clubs and does "perspire" lots, or (b) I'd be able to wash them quickly enough? Four is enough.

3. Only embarrass them in front of their existing friends, because they know you; don't embarrass them in front of their new friends because they'll think you're a weirdo. Don't invite them round for tea. You'll get a SMH moment. Don't speak to them if you pick them up. Don't ask them any questions. Just don't.

4. Let them decide when, and where, is best to do their homework. If like me, you arranged for him to attend a homework club after school once a week in their library, you'll think you have this sorted. But then they change over the summer in between years 6 and 7 and suddenly, homework club is "too primary". Let them decide that doing their online science homework whilst Fortnite is updating/glitching/they're DCing (google it) is acceptable. Hey, my son hasn't received a single homework DT (detention) yet. He must know what he's doing! But that expensive desk is a great receptacle for cereal bowls.

5. Get with it on the lingo front. Obvs it will differ from school to school, but generally DT is a detention, which is also a B3 for us. B1s and B2s just turn into B3s at some point in the lesson. Don't go all ape on them for getting a B2 thinking it's a DT. It's not, it is just a formal warning. And totally nothing to worry about, mum, people get them all the time.

6. Leave your offers to study their chosen language with them, or help them with maths or anything else. This is not only embarrassing but totally unnecessary. They can cope without us. Until their geography homework is due in and they can't remember what a biome is (nor can I, but I refer him to his dad), or his Spanish vocab test is that day and you have to drive him to school whilst testing him on parts of the body. (I'm amazed that my knowledge around acids and alkalies, and pH values has remained - the boy didn't even know what litmus paper was! And it's a good job I speak Spanish.) 

7. Let them choose what they want to eat. This may be anything from spag bol to a tuna baguette, two ice lollies to two iced buns (all of those examples were real lunches eaten by my son - the last two to our horror). Accept that the veg in the spag bol is acceptable as it's in school, and anything you try to make at home like they make in school will fall woefully short and will be wasted.

8. Pay or provide their ingredients for food tech, but don't expect to share any of the food. We had a four-day-old squashed-in-bag carrot cake bun, which to be fair, did taste quite nice. If anything cooked tastes good, it will disappear en route home.

9. Realise that you no longer know the inside leg measurements of every parent in the school. You don't have phone numbers stored for them from the birthday parties in Year R. (I still have most of their numbers stored as "child's name's mum".) These new parents could be anyone. You just don't know them anymore.

10. Keep your eyes on the ball - don't get distracted by work or anything outside of their schooling. The minute you do, they'll be in DT after DT, or being put on progress reports as their efforts decrease. I'm exaggerating, but start hard and you can ease off later. Don't, under any circumstances, show them your own school reports, where in your head you were an excellent student (bottom of top set, so more cool than clever) but in actual fact, you seem to have achieved D4s for everything, with comments such as "We hope you will focus your efforts/stop talking and achieve your potential" appearing in every report. By the way, bribery seems to work perfectly to us. We just owe him an expensive pair of trainers in July.

11. Make friends with their tutor - they are your gateway into the school. Like befriending the receptionist in juniors so they didn't moan (too much) when you didn't send in the class trip payment, or forgot to rebook their football club and missed the deadline. It's not so easy at secondary. We have regular email contact with the boy's tutor and this has been extremely helpful. And if you're not happy with any reports etc, do stick your neck out and investigate. When the deputy head phones you having researched your child's test data and changes his end of year targets, you'll know it's worth while. The teachers do like dealing with parents who get involved. (I tell myself this, and not that I'm one of those parents on that list they have in the staff room.)

12. Unless you've got younger children to ferry/fuss over/organise, you'll find yourself with some spare time. If, like me, you don't know what to do with it (because you've expertly over the last seven years fitted your working and home life around pick-up times), you may find yourself bored or asleep on the sofa by 5pm. As your child will need you less and less, you'll need to find new hobbies. Try to reconnect with mum friends on your own, rather than just meeting them at the park with the kids. A gossipy walk to a nearby cafe solves all the problems of the week, and keeps you sane, as I've found out nearly at the end of the school year.

13. Celebrate the teenager they're about to become. I do mean this in a positive way, not just moaning about the time spent on Fortnite, wet towels and clothes draped everywhere, and disappearing cereal and milk supplies. Recognise the fact that they're learning to organise themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. Relish the little squeeze they give you, in lieu of the kisses in the old days, as they jump out of the car in front of their mates. Enjoy when they're feeling slightly under the weather so you can get all the snuggles you want. Understand and accept they know their own minds (when appropriate!). I have a feeling that everything is going to change...

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