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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A new era - The first week of school

Next week marks the beginning of a new era for Blake, venturing off into the big wide world of school for the first time. He's ridiculously excited to be joining the bigger minions in the 'big school boy' category, & I hope just as ready. As for me, as excited as I show for him, on the inside a small part of me is aching, dreading letting go that little bit more. 

With having prepared {nearly} four little people for their debut into school life, I thought I would share a few tips that have worked in our house & helped make the transition easier - for both of us.


Lunchboxes & drink bottles

With shelves & online stores bursting with a wide variety of lunchboxes & drink bottles, the choice can be overwhelming. From plain old school style lunchboxes to lunchboxes consisting of several separate compartments, lunchboxes filled with little containers, along with a range of insulated lunch bags - all ranging from five dollars to fifty dollars.  Confusing much?
We've tried all of the above over the years & the best advice is to choose one that will be simple & easy for your child to open & close. Remember to check any smaller containers as well. What looks the most appealing may not be the most practical. Once you get home, let them practice using their new lunchbox & drink bottle. Also name anything & everything - especially if your choice includes smaller containers. {Remember to stick a label on the lids too!}

The first Good-Bye

Oh it's an emotional one. 
Regardless of how you are feeling, show enthusiasm & confidence in your child on that first {& subsequent} morning. It's likely they will be looking to you for cues on how to respond to this new experience & if you're showing hesitation they will pick up & mimic this. Hold it together until you're out of the classroom. Then put on your over sized sunnies & pull out the Kleenex, keeping the tissues close by...all day. Especially if you're tear ducts are like mine & prone to leaking for the smallest of reasons.
As for when to finally say good bye & leave the classroom, watch their teacher for cues. Usually I've found teachers like the parents to say their final good bye's within five to ten minutes of the bell. As much as I might like to prolong that final moment, sometimes hanging around too long can cause tears {from both of us}. If the bell has gone, your child is all unpacked, settled & waiting for their school day to start, be ready to say good bye. Then do it & leave. 
Lastly aim to be a few extra minutes early. This is not a morning you'll want your child to feel rushed or add any extra pressure on to. There's plenty of time in the future to arrive just as the bell is ringing over the coming months & years.


Routines

Even though Blake is familiar with the morning & afternoon school runs, we have been talking about what he needs to do in the morning to get ready & what will happen once we get to his classroom. Not in great detail - covering getting dressed into his school uniform, making sure he packs his hat & can put on his own shoes. Once at school he'll need to unpack his school bag - putting his lunchbox away, drink bottle on his table, his hat into his named tray & then lastly putting his bag in his allocated space. Knowing what is likely to happen on the school mornings eases the change of routine, helping the unfamiliar to feel more familiar.
We also make sure he knows where the toilet is, what to do if he feels lost or scared, who to ask for help & where he can go to find help. With older siblings at the same school we have also talked about not wandering around the school yard to look for them in case he gets lost & to stay with his class for recess & lunch {at least for the first week}.

After school

In that first month of school commencing, we always keep our after school activities & errands to a minimum. Ideally we head straight home from school, with a snack ready & waiting for them - muffins, a fruit platter with a small bowl yogurt, dip with crackers & vegetable sticks. Get into the habit of unpacking bags from that first day -  encouraging them to pack & unpack their own bags. It fosters a great sense of independence as well as setting strong habits that you'll be grateful for in a couple of years down the track. Consider bringing dinner time forward a little earlier than usual. The first month of starting school has always been a big shock to our minions little bodies & often I would find them flaked out on the couch before dinner was ready. 

Communicate

Never be afraid to talk to your child's teacher, about anything. Whether it's about something that's happening in your lives at home - trivial or important, positive or not so positive. Knowing what is going on in their little students lives is helpful. Address any concerns relating to your child early, if something isn't working well or your child is having trouble adjusting let their teacher know so you can work together to help your child. Same goes for any positive feedback, teachers love to hear good news!


Hopefully some of these help you, or inspire other ideas to ease the transition into beginning school for the first time. Over the coming weeks your ears will probably fall off with all their tales about their new school adventures, who they played with, which lessons they had, when they cried after falling over on the pavement. That's another heart wrencher, the first time they hurt themselves & it wasn't you who cleaned up the scrape & wiped away the tears.


It's a new chapter that brings a lot of changes, but the best part is watching your child learn, seeing them form & grow new friendships, watching their self confidence soar with their new independence & skills.

Now we just have two more to go. 
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