10 Things I’ve Learnt since becoming a School Parent

As Cameron’s first year at school comes to an end (still can’t get over the fact I’ll have a child in year one in a couple of months!), I’m a little ashamed by the fact that even though Cameron settled into school fairly quickly, I still don’t feel very with it when it comes to being a school child parent. Here are the 10 things I’ve learnt in the first year… 

1. Home Learning is Harder for the Parent than the Child

Cameron’s school sets home learning on a Friday, to be in by the following Tuesday morning. It wasn’t until last week I actually realised this as I have spent the last school year remembering about home learning on a Monday morning and panicking to get it done by school drop off an hour later. 

Cameron has commented a couple of times that it can’t be home learning if he’s doing it in the car *hangs head in shame*. Next year I will be better at sitting down with him over the weekend to properly work on his home learning 

2. The Star of the Day Bear is Satan in Disguise 

I’m sure that schools come up with this bear to torture parents rather than as a treat for the children. If you don’t have a school aged child and aren’t familiar with what it is, it is basically a bear or other stuffed animal, which is usually dressed in a miniature school uniform and given out at the end of the day to the child who has behaved the best, or done something extra good. 

The bear inevitably becomes dirty, smelly and something you would rather your child wasn’t cuddling to sleep at night, having spent time in many other households and picking up countless germs… 

The other downside of the bloody bear is that you have to document your time with the bear, and are encouraged to photograph these things and include them in the book. Cameron rarely does anything half interesting with the bear, his entry usually involves watching a film, eating dinner and going to bed… I also don’t have the ability to print photos at home, so this has been accompanied by a picture drawn by Cameron. It’s hard not to compare to other children’s entries. Our entries are no doubt the most boring of the book. 

I have lost count of how many times Cameron has already come home with this bear this year. It’s getting less of a treat, more of a curse and I hear there’s a Year 1 version to look forward to in September… 

3. School Gate Cliques are Very Real

This is something hard to avoid. As a working mum I’ve not really had the time to socialise with other parents. When Cameron first started school last September I rarely even got to do the drop off or pick up due to my long hours and relied on my mum and a childminder. 

Even now, working part time hours, the times I do work mean I’m rushing in the morning for drop off in order to get across town to the hotel I work at for 9am. 

I do the school pick up 4 times a week and this is usually where I notice the cliques. I don’t actually know more than two people at the school gate, and being shy by nature, I don’t always approach the people I do know. I’m often stood on my own and notice the little groups of mums (dads rarely seem to be a part of them). 

It’s not just in person, there is a Facebook group dedicated to the reception parents and things can be close knit on there as well. A post recently involving the end of year present for the teacher actually turned nasty when one mum didn’t take part… It seems that if you don’t become a part of it right away, you are forever shunned. 

Luckily I don’t feel the need to be bestest buddies with the other mums, but it does make for lonely children’s parties, stood on the sidelines not being a part of the little chummy groups. 

4. Children’s Birthday Parties Suck 
This brings me onto the dreaded birthday parties of school age children. Ok, so call me a grinch, but this year, Cameron won’t be having a big birthday party and inviting his whole entire class (even the children he hates, as otherwise they would feel left out). Instead, I will be spending my hard earned cash on treating him and 3 of his actual school friends. They will go to the cinema, have some snacks there, have a pizza dinner back home, have their very first sleepover (yes, four 5 and 6 year old boys at once when I’m heavily pregnant, I am mad) and then enjoy Cameron’s birthday tea the following day with his close family. 

The whole thing will come to roughly the same amount as the alternative (a noisy, crowded party for 30 children at a soft play or village hall, catering for everyone with plenty of cocktail sausages, ham sandwiches and iced cakes, which I would then find smushed together uneaten on plates at the end of the party)… 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the children love these parties, and yes, maybe even some parents love them too. But I don’t love them. I also don’t particularly love Cameron being invited to them as it means spending my Saturday or Sunday stood around awkwardly not speaking to anyone whilst Cameron runs around at top speed without needing me there, being forced to say goodbye to the birthday child, who inevitably they don’t even really know or like. 

At least I’ve got the gift buying down to a fine art already. I simply buy a DVD, and think if the child already has it, the parent can pass it onto the next child who celebrates a birthday…. 

5. Show and Tell is Not as Fun as it Sounds 
‘This week we would like your child to bring in something starting with a letter ‘e’ that means something to them, can relate to the topic of the month, and must be no larger than their hand’… Show and Tell is similar to home learning in the fact that I remember it on a Monday evening or Tuesday morning and suddenly have to locate something that is relevant. 

The worst ones have been those that involve actually making something, the best? The times it’s read – This week is free choice *inward sigh as Cameron merrily takes in his paw patrol action figures for the third time.. 

6. Dates for Your Diary will Defeat You 

As if it wasn’t stressful enough trying to be a parent and managing to get your child into school on time, we then have to remember all of the extra things – dress up days and non-uniform days (bizarrely called mufti here, never quite got the hang of it), school trips, performances at the school, picnic lunches, cake sales… The list goes on (and the cost is ever increasing) 

7. Uniform is Expensive 

I had been warned of this but didn’t get it. At the start of last year I was lucky enough to have Cameron’s Nan offer to buy the majority of Cameron’s uniform for him. I still bought some of it, but found it really rather reasonable in price. 

What I didn’t factor in, however, was just how often Cameron would come home with a dirty jumper and/or trousers. We have two jumpers, two pairs of trousers and three white polo shirts. We needed more. Next year I will have to stock up, because yes, kids grow. So his uniform probably won’t last him much longer. 

Cameron wore out his first pair of school shoes back in May. The second pair are already scuffed. He wants flashing ones for year one apparently *sigh*… 

Then there’s the ‘summer’ uniform. I haven’t actually bought Cameron school shorts. I feel a bit bad. But I just don’t see the point, especially when this summer is turning out to be a total washout. 

8. The School are Always One Step Ahead 

It seems that just as I’ve finally gotten the school run down to an art, I’m able to get to work in the nick of time and actually feel on top of things, the school then goes and laughs in my face and changes things. 

At the beginning of this week they brought in a change to the drop off point for reception children to the main school gate, rather than the nice secluded reception entrance (which, by the way, we still have to use for pick up). 

The children are meant to be preparing for year one by doing this, but what it actually means is that Cameron has become clingy, and the extra crowds at this gate mean that I’m struggling not to be late to work. I am not a fan. 

9. Free School Lunches are Great for Parents but Kids aren’t Always a Fan 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that Cameron is eligible for school lunches. It’s saved me a lot of money since he began school. It’s a bit harder to encourage Cameron that it’s a good idea though, especially when some of his friends opt for a packed lunch… 

Cameron is a bit of a fussy eater, and insists he hates the food they eat at lunch. He says he doesn’t eat anything, but I’m sure he is exaggerating as somebody would have picked up on it and let me know by now. 

The school lunch menu is pretty good and I always sit down with him to choose his options for each term. 

10. School Emails can feel like Spam

I feel like I’m constantly sent emails from the school. I did also download a handy app but was getting bombarded by notifications for that as well so deleted it. If it isn’t the school office themselves, it’s the Parents Association. 

I wouldn’t mind so much but the spelling, grammar and general writing mistakes are awful, often resulting in a follow up apology email. And more often than not with the PA emails, everyone has been copied in rather than them using BCC, so it’s an annoying data protection issue. 

So yeah, here’s to Cameron’s second year of school, I can’t wait…. 

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