the school series : the mamas talk………

cherished moments with che, captured by tim 
 
This week is the last of the school holidays and come Monday I’ll be a school mum. The transition has been on my mind for the past year but it was only yesterday, as I immersed myself in housework, that I realised……this is the beginning of a twenty year journey. And it’s true; for the next two decades I will wash uniforms, pack lunches and demand a kiss and a cuddle before my children close the door behind them.
Come 2014 I may be able to write a post about Kindergarten – how to prepare and what to expect. In five years time I’m sure I’ll have enough inspiration and experience to compile a book. But for now I’m happy to bring you the stories of other mamas; those who have experienced the enormity of school life – the wonder, the routine and the exhaustion.

Ruth (aka Gourmet Girlfriend) is a mama to five boys and this year she’ll have two in high-school,  two in primary and one in pre-school. When I asked her to share some advice she replied with a passionate email about slowing down, taking time and walking with your children.
“I call the first year of school ‘the year of tears’. It’s not uncommon to see regressions in behaviour as they learn to navigate the emotional and social roads of school. Be forgiving, they really are so very little!
 
Years ago, at a talk about raising boys, I listened to a man who truly believed in the importance of an ongoing conversation with your growing children. He said that maintaining an open and trusting conversation is the key to a healthy and enduring parent/child relationship. Most children, as they grow, will shy away from a face-to-face conversation and so he advised us to ‘walk with our children’. It’s about being side-by-side – equal. Whilst walking to and from school is a rarity my advice is to really make the time to walk with your children. The conversations and stories that naturally spill from your child are special and you will be able to listen, unhurried. I never ask questions that can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Some things I might ask:
  • Tell me something that happened in the playground that was really great.
  • Tell me something that was hard or upsetting about today.
  • Did you do anything for the very first time today?
  • What was your favourite thing about today?

One of the most treasured times of my day is when we all come together in the afternoon to talk, joke or to simply just sit. We set the table, enjoy a snack and a special drink and we make time to value each other, to value family. 

 
I hope my children will always come back to my table and share their lives with me, long after they have grown and left home.”
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Last year Jay sent her first-born, Poe, off to school. She wholeheartedly believes in the importance of a gentle and quiet rhythm around school times.
“Five days in a row is a long time to be doing anything so to be navigating social situations, learning new and exciting things and paying attention to a teacher is positively exhausting. There really is so much going on at school and I found that Poe really craved (and loved!) the downtime of home. Having this space also gave him the freedom to discuss any issues he may have been having, often after ‘acting out’ first. 
 
After the first few weeks and perhaps even the first term it’s not uncommon for your child to be grumpy and unreasonable. I found that Poe needed extra understanding, patience and nurturing from Scott and I. In retrospect it really is so amazing to see how your little one grows and develops throughout the year. It’s just so beautiful and so much fun.”
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Kate has three girls and this year her youngest, Pepper, starts school. The mere thought of Pepper in a blue checkered dress and black shoes is enough to have Kate short of breath and teary. Here’s her sound advice:
1. New schoolies use the words ‘everybody else’ often. Everybody else has packets of chips and store-bought cookies in their lunchbox. Everybody else is allowed to wear their swimmers under their school clothes. Everybody else does ballet and has playdates after school. Everybody else………
 
2. New schoolies will tell you stories that will make you so proud. They will grow up so much – academically, socially, physically –  between the time you drop them off and the time you pick them up.
 
3. New schoolies sometimes find their brand new world a bit difficult to interpret. I’ve always found it super helpful to volunteer in the classroom, to deliver extra bits of lunch at playtime and to go along to scheduled parent/teacher interviews.
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I’m so grateful for Nikki’s advice. Instead of talking about the school child, she told me about what it’s like for the school mum. She highly recommends reading Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism for Mothers of School Children and counts it as an invaluable source for the first year.
” I was unprepared for how overwhelmed I felt when finding my place with the other mums. I felt like I was back in high-school with the cool group, the arty group, the sporty group and so on. There I was, almost 40-years-old, and feeling like an awkward school girl! Halfway through the year I confessed to the other mums how I was feeling and it turns out I wasn’t alone. And so, as I tell my children, the best way to make friends is to be one. At the end of the year I organised a morning tea to celebrate our first year, and it was wonderful.
 
Even though school life can easily become busy, it’s more important than ever for mamas to maintain a practice for themselves – yoga, swimming, walking – something active to increase energy and create mental clarity. I also believe in pacing yourself, going slow. Don’t feel pressured to say yes to every extra curricular activity and social event. Becoming part of a school community can lead to a busy life but it is possible to find balance and avoid total exhaustion for the whole family.”
 
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Finally, I want to send you over to Rachael. She is an absolutely brilliant writer and her post “Fly, Little Chickie” is, in my opinion, one of her best. Take your tissues……
the school series:
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Showing 34 comments
  • Briseidy
    Reply

    wow! I've never thought about all this before, my baby boy is just 6 months old so I still have lots of time to read and prepare for school, but oh my! 20 years! sounds like a lifetime!

    thank you for sharing all this…beautiful!
    and best of lucks in this new phase for your lovely family 🙂

  • amermaidmmv
    Reply

    wonderful write up! with one in secondary, and two in elementary I can fully agree with the advises given

  • Anna @ green tea n toast
    Reply

    I'm reading these posts with such interest Jodi. We'll wave our first born off to school this coming September (he will only just turn four in July – the UK system is so different), and I can't quite believe it just yet. I'm sure I'll visit and revisit all of your posts again as the time gets nearer. I hope Che's (and your) journey through the first few weeks of this new phase go perfectly, I'm sure they will. x

  • G
    Reply

    all the best for this journey.. and then after the two decades you might farewell them from the family home – that is a step I remember taking (as the first born and first child to leave the family home) … emotional, difficult, but ultimately, a positive step. I get tears in my eyes remembering saying goodbye that day, a young 18 year old in a new city.. will be thinking of you xxxx

  • Ruby Hoppen
    Reply

    I am so interested in schooling and reading about parenting a school-aged child. I have no idea what path I will choose for our family yet. I look forward to reading more and hearing what other parents have gone through before me. I remember school being a fun and challenging place (and a little scary at times) I'm sure Che will take it in his stride xxx

  • Milina
    Reply

    Positive, sound and very reassuring advice. Dealing with the tangible changes has been something we have been working on. But the mental and emotional transitions are so much harder. I've not known where to start. This has been a very good place, so thanks to each of you lovely ladies

  • Indigomumma
    Reply

    Jodi, Thank you for this series. Even as a homeschooling Mumma, there is so much wisdom for me here amongst the words and the stories you are sharing. It's always nice to have gentle reminders of the small things that really aren't so small after all – and their importance. "Take a walk with DD and *listen* to her" is going on our afternoon rhythm plan today and each afternoon going forward. All Blessings for the journey yourself and the family are embarking on in the days to come.

  • aluminiumgirl
    Reply

    Thank you for posting these thoughts. They are really important to read and consider.

    I found the prospect of Kindergarten so daunting that I have decided to send my girl at the latest possible time. She could start this week at 4y8m but I will send her next year at 5y8m and I feel so confident in that decision. Extending her childhood, nurturing her in our values, slow days and all that. I know that not everyone gets that choice to start a bit later but I'm very glad I have this time with her.

    • Jodi
      Reply

      I wholeheartedly understand your decision. If I had a child of the same age I would hold them back as well. There is such a massive difference between 4 & 5….this year you will see her awareness expand and her imagination grow…she will be so ready next year. And so will you x

    • aluminiumgirl
      Reply

      Thank you x

  • natalie thistlewood-cox
    Reply

    Thank you for some great inspiration Jodi 🙂 Good luck over the next few months, my oldest started school in september. I always make sure I have a piece of home made cake or bread for when he gets home so we can sit and chat about the day we have had. I am blogging at nataliejtc.blogspot.co.uk xx

  • Claire @ Scissors Paper Rock
    Reply

    As my first born heads off to Prep this year, I LOVED this post Jodi.
    THANK YOU to the Mummas who contributed their outlook and experiences.
    Especially, Gourmet Girlfriend who has really given me some awesome food for thought.
    Claire xx
    http://blog.scissorspaperrockdesigns.com.au/

  • Suzie Williams
    Reply

    Good luck Jodi and good luck Che – starting school is a milestone in so many ways. My boys are Year 1 and Year 3 in the UK (5 and nearly 8) and it really is a massive learning curve for all of us – we moved house a year ago and so had to contend with starting over at a new school and breaking into the cliques (oh yes, the cool / the sporty / the stay-at-home groups exist all over) was the biggest thing for me to get my head around. I think the key to it all – as some have already said – is to make time each day to talk to your little man about his experiences, but to let it come from him. He'll probably not say much to start with (mine still shrug when I ask them how their days were) but rest assured, that more than likely means he's having a whale of a time!
    Suzie x http://suziewilliamsphotography.tumblr.com

  • hakea
    Reply

    That 'walking with' and taking time is so very important.

    If you are able to walk home from school, then do so. We are a five minute walk home from school and it frequently takes up to thirty. The boys like to connect with their friends after school. they play a little handball. I catch up with other parents. The boys like to run around the school oval enjoying the space to themselves, we sometimes play ball. We walk home slowly. The boys can talk about their day, or not. I'm frequently carrying their school bags as they run back and forth playing games on the fottpath. We interact with other people in the neighbourhood. And when we finally get home we have afternoon tea together to connect at a deeper level, before the boys go off for more frenzied play or to do homework.

    I'm not fond of the 'big kid' talk that parents give their children going off to school. Five is not big. It is so very little. I wrote a blog post about going to school at http://handsheartsminds.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/getting-ready-for-school/.

    Best Wishes

  • Modern Day Mummying
    Reply

    Jodi I'm enjoying these posts. My daughter will be starting school next year and even though I am a teacher myself and perhaps I sometimes think that I should know what goes on – I am a mother first and can't predict how my daughter will transition. I really like Ruth's words and advice of slowing down and taking time to walk and talk. I really want my daughter to feel comfortable talking to me. I wish Che all the best and your too Jodi… I hope his first experience is a happy and memorable one 🙂

    Sophie xo

  • Nikki Fisher
    Reply

    Thank you Jodi for asking me to be part of this valuable series, very honoured to be among such wise and thoughtful mamas. I love too that we have each shared such different thoughts and experiences. I will have extra butterflies in my tummy this year as school returns when I think of all you blogging mamas with little ones starting out! Sunglasses and tissues are a must. Best wishes to you and yours ladies xx

  • little bubalishka
    Reply

    Yikes, this post made a sport a little tear! My eldest will be at kindy (or preschool for NSW)3 days a week and she is super excited. The reality of the beginning of her schooling years is setting in for me! I absolutely love how Ruth does an afternoon tea with her boys each afternoon and I would love to do the same. To take the time to stop, debrief, connect and share. xx

  • Amber {we stood together}
    Reply

    Thank you so much for dedicating so much time (and posts) to this huge transition for us Mamas. I really like the specific questions/de-breif ideas for post-school chats. The standard "how was your day at school?" is often too broad for children to answer….so they usually just give a one word answer, which helps no one!
    My firstborn starts Pre-school this year (3 days per week). I am excited and so glad that he is "ready" but I also feel a lot of the same feelings as you. THIS is it. He is now in the school system and there is no turning back. Gosh that sounds so dramatic! But thinking about the clear move between the years he has been at home with me vs. the years ahead does stop me in my tracks.

    Jodi, Che is so lucky to have you as his mother. You are such a conscious and thoughtful parent and although you are admitting this transition isn't going to be easy for you, you are devoting time to prepare and work through your feeling.

    Wishing Che a wonderful year ahead. xx

  • Mother Down Under
    Reply

    Toddler C is a few years away from starting school but already every night before bed I tell him about the best moment of my day and I tell him about a moment when I felt proud.
    And I ask him the same.
    He doesn't have the words to respond to me yet and although I know he doesn't entirely understand what I am saying, I still love the little routine and I am looking forward to continuing this tradition in some form…sharing and connecting.

  • Ann
    Reply

    Though I can't relate to this school series right now, I do appreciate knowing I can come back here when my daughter is of age : )

  • summerplayshouse.com
    Reply

    I've never read anything like these school posts. I just love them, especially this one! I am a mother to a five month old baby girl but before she was born, I was a preschool teacher for over ten years. Now, I'm in this new role as Mama and I never even thought to think this way about school. I'm loving all the advice and stories and I'm storing it all for when it comes time for my own to go to school. Thank you!

  • Rachael @Mogantosh
    Reply

    Oh, I was enjoying reading through all these and then pop! there I am at the bottom! Thanks for including me in your list Jodes. I'm like, totes flattered. I too really remember that moment of realising how many, many years of being a 'school mum' lay ahead. Best wishes for this week. xx

    • Jodi
      Reply

      How could I not include your brilliance? x

  • jay
    Reply

    I too feel so honoured to be part of this very special and important post, I loved reading the wise and heartfelt words, so great to refresh and remind.

  • My Bearded Pigeon
    Reply

    I agree with all of the above! And ESP what Kate said volunteering at the school if you can was great I got o knw all the kids in the class, at least there names and I loved knowing who Marlo was talking about. I found 5 day was. Long time too- I missed her- it seemed the weeks would fly past. I Lao put a chart up so we knew what was on ech day, music, library etc this helped remind me what o ask about too.

  • Emma
    Reply

    wnderfull pics…xo emma

  • Preeti Dubey
    Reply

    Such wonderful piece of advices! Totally loved this post. My 3 and half year will be starting his kindergarten in April, though I was not ready to start his school so soon ( was thinking to start by next year) but age criteria would have mad it difficult net year! My fingers crossed how will he transform into a grown up and how will I perform as a schooling mother, to walk with him Side by side, always. Thanks for shaing !

  • élise*
    Reply

    love love love!!!

  • Cat from Raspberry Rainbow
    Reply

    Our first born started school for the fist time last year (after 3 different kindergartens in 2 years in 2 different countries!) She handled so much change amazingly, but she is still a child, and we had some very tough lessons to learn as parents in the first 6 months. What I leant is that we need to teach our children about emotions and how different people and other families are. Lots of talking about this, there is no right or wrong, just lots of differences and that feeling emotional or emotions is NOT bad.
    Enjoy watching your little boy thrive, they are so ready for school, it is magical to behold!

  • Jennifer Wilson
    Reply

    Hi Jodi and Moms…what do you think about pulling kids out of school once they're in? I was all set to go back to work full-time after my second maternity leave but then I got laid off just a week before my planned-return. It takes over a year to secure daycare spots so we forged ahead with their entry (age 1 and 3) into full-time daycare while I figured out my "what next." It's been a a few months and I am slowly building the foundation of a freelance writing career from home. I've only been using the daycare 3 days/week. I want to pull my girls out of school all together but worry that it would be confusing for them and that I'd have no time to work.

  • flyingjen
    Reply

    Thank you for the post. Although we aren't quite school aged yet, we are looking at pre-schools for the kid to start either this July or next July. So many things to learn for this mama about school and getting her ready for pre-school.

  • Reply

    Thank you, thank you! I loved this. Even though my little lady is just about to start 3 year old kinder (not quite big school), it's still a huge adjustment for me. I needed to read this. x

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