This week marks the end of Frank’s first year of school. And the end of my introduction to being a parent of a school-aged child. It wasn’t how I imagined it would be. This is, of course, due to the fact that his first year happened during a devastating pandemic. But we made it through. Here’s some of our best and worst moments.
Home schooling is a definite low point of the year. Attempting to teach at home without notice (and with a toddler running around) is tough, sitting through live video lessons with thirty of them is torture. Those poor teachers soldiered on but it was pure chaos. Frank had his finger up his nose a lot on camera, he got fed up a few times and just closed the laptop mid-lesson, and if I looked away for a moment he would unmute himself and start frantically calling his friend’s names. I thought our home school “adventure” was over once schools re-opened but multiple rounds of self-isolation sent us back to that cycle of learning, despair, and wine (for me). But home school did provide us with a few laughs as well. Frank quite enjoyed having a peek at people’s houses, we had a laugh every time someone froze on video, and I very much enjoyed the moment when his teacher asked the children what the best part of their school day had been and a kid answered – “when I got to go on my ipad during break”.
For me this year was also full of disappointments. With everything going on it sounds trivial, but missing out on so much of his first year has made me feel a bit deflated, however much I know it was necessary. No nativity, no parent’s evening, no sports day, no field trips. I spent the year socially distancing in a mask from the other parents. I didn’t even get to see his classroom. Throughout it all the teachers have been putting the children first; and Frank hasn’t missed out. Not really. He didn’t get to do a nativity play but he got to sing carols with his friends. He didn’t get the annual trip to the beach but the school brought the beach to them, and he said it was “the best school day ever”. He had a sports day, just without us there. Maybe that was better for the kids in some ways (parents can get competitive!) We may lament the things that were different to our expectations this year, but if the kids are on track and are happy, we can accept missing out on a few school milestones.
My favourite part of this school year has been picking Frank up from school every day and seeing a big smile, and knowing he’s had a good day. And despite everything going on he has learnt and progressed; he’s made friends, he’s had adventures in the forest, and science experiments and PE lessons. He learnt to read. He learnt about the story of Christmas, and Holi, and other religious days. Hearing him read to us is pretty incredible – even if your kid learning to read can be as infuriating as it is rewarding.
This year has also intensified my respect for teachers, who have faced incredible challenges and have managed to find new and creative ways to teach, support and nurture. All this whilst worrying for their own safety and that of their families. If the value of teachers was ever in doubt surely this year has shown how remarkable they are, and how much they deserve our support and respect.
I am struggling to come to terms with the fact that tomorrow is his last day of reception, and also devastated that his school polo shirts and school shoes will not survive to go to his brother. I thought you could keep those but they’ve been absolutely trashed. The sign of a good year of play and learning, perhaps. Here’s to summer – someone get the pimms ready.