My four year old, Frank, will be heading back to school on the 8th of March with millions of other children that have been learning at home. With one week to go, what do we need to do to prepare?
Well, first off, where is their uniform?! It seems like an age ago I tucked the white polos and school jumpers away in a cupboard somewhere. The P.E kit? No idea. I’m not confident his (brand new) school shoes still fit, so I might need to replace those. There is a book bag knocking around somewhere, as well as a reading log that I have not only misplaced, but haven’t filled in since December. We have been reading, I’m just not organised enough to log it (clearly). So this week I will be frantically finding essential school items, and no doubt I’ll be spending Sunday the 7th with a glass of wine filling in eight weeks worth of reading. Oh, and if your kid has packed lunch, and the lunchbox has been under the stairs since January, you might have to ask Matt Hancock for some PPE (they’ve got loads knocking around apparently).
Next we might want to consider how feral our children have become and whether we can turn that around in a week. I’m sure there’s lots of kids that have kept impeccable manners and dressed appropriately for school every day, but my kid has been in fancy dress for his lessons I’d say…90% of the time. And pajamas. Its difficult enough to get him to engage at age four; if he wants to dress as Star Lord and call our lessons “Superhero School”, I’m on board. However, this might raise a tricky situation come the morning of the 8th, when I explain that he cannot rock up to school in his Batman – Dark Knight costume. Other home school habits I may need to stamp out this week include multiple snack times, allowing him to write on the white board himself, letting various toys “join” the lessons, abandoning tasks halfway through to go for a walk when we get fed up, and eating sandwiches wrong (he deconstructs them and it drives me insane).
And then most importantly, how can I prepare Frank for going back to school emotionally? He’s spoken to a few kids at playgrounds, at every time he does he lights up being in the company of another child. Another child that isn’t his brother, of course. So although I’m sure he will be thrilled to see his classmates, it will also be a big step up from a five minute chat at the swings. The school routine might be a shock. He might be feeling apprehensive and nervous, as well as excited. He has missed his teachers acutely, but how will he cope with seeing them again? Will he miss being home all day? This week I will be trying to get him to talk about his feelings, as well as filling him up as much as I can with pride in what he has accomplished during home learning. I want him to go in and say – look! I can do this now! I will try not to talk in front of him about being behind, losing time, catching up, or how bad home school was. I am fully expecting him to have a bit of a wobble, or possibly a full meltdown, at some point during the first week. And when he does I will try my best to be kind and remember going back to school this way, after nearly three months at home, is going to be a lot for a child to handle. As essential as it is that he goes back, it may well be tough too.
I’ll also be considering this week how I can convey to the school staff how grateful I am, and how much I admire their resilience during this lockdown, and the entire year. I am sure that some of the school staff at Frank’s school might be feeling apprehensive about schools reopening since hardly any of them have been vaccinated yet. But the overwhelming message we’ve had from them, to the kids via video and to the parents via email, is this; we can’t wait to see you all back and we’ve missed you so much. That sums up teachers doesn’t it? They are putting the children first, as they always do, and if I was allowed to I’d give Miss Plumb a hug as I handed Frank over. I hope she’ll settle for a wave at the school gates.