The Super Whites The ordinary life of a Super Mum

The Super Whites
School readiness.

Wow, way to go wordpress, I just typed out an awesome blog post and you ate it. Dammit. Now I have to try and remember all the brilliant things I said.

November in Australia means school orientation for children starting their first year of primary school the following year. For those who don’t know, schools here have four school terms, starting in January and ending in December with the big Summer school holiday during the hottest months at the end of the year. In New South Wales the school age cut off is the end of July and children can start school the year they turn five or six while there are other schools that have different schedules but are as prestigious such as the British International School at that excel with their study program. There has been a recent trend among some parents to hold their children back so most children starting school will be turning six in their first year.

Ron and I had the option to send Amy to primary school this year and looking back now I am so glad it was a decision we shelved. I think the only reason we actually considered it was because of my own schooling experience, I started primary school in the UK in the September when I was 4 and 3 months and I finished high school aged 17 and 4 months. Many parents now justify holding their children back by using the reasoning that they don’t want their child to be 17 in their final year of school when all their friends are 18 and have their drivers licence and can go to bars. This argument didn’t hold water with me, I was a perfectly normal first year Uni student who spent a fair amount of time in bars even though I was only 17, my concerns with starting Amy at school early were more to do with whether she was ready then, not how she would cope at the end of her schooling.

We made the absolute right decision not to send Amy at the beginning of this year. She has had a wonderful year at preschool in the older class, she has a great group of like minded friends who she has formed close friendships with, some of whom are going to the same primary school next year. Amy is caring and considerate, she loves to make craft of all kinds and our dining room table is always covered with her elaborate creations, paintings and drawings. Amy loves to write and can copy comfortably from anything I write for her and she can also listen to me spell out words and copy those down. She has made wonderful birthday cards for all her friends this year, making sure to choose their favourite colours and drawing things she knows they love! Amy still loves to read with me and has started to sight recognise words and letters while reading. We have held off on making that break through to actual reading and I can’t wait for her to discover the joy of reading next year when she starts at school, I hope at home we can nurture that so she can take the same pleasure in reading that I have always done!

School orientation can be a time of stress for some children, everyone is talking about it and asking them about big school and it can be quite overwhelming. Amy is the kind of child who needs enough advanced warning to process her thoughts but not too much time that her over active imagination makes her feel anxious. We have been talking casually about school orientation for a few months now, throwing talk about big school into everyday conversations to make it more ordinary. Amy has a lot of friends who have older siblings at the school we have chosen to send her to and this has helped familiarise her with the school so that instead of being intimidating, the prospect of going to visit her new school was quite exciting.

Ron was away in New Zealand for the day of Amy’s first school orientation but I had my Mum there with me to help with Stella and to help me. I admit to feeling very emotional and quite choked up when we first walked through the school gates and I felt very proud of Amy as she held my hand tightly and walked bravely to her classroom. The teachers whisked the children away without a backward glance and the parents were ushered into the new school hall for a talk from some of the teachers. I have been super impressed with the school orientation program, the information has been comprehensive and the teachers have been available and communicative. The whole experience has been such a positive one for us and Ron and I feel so confident that we have made the right choice in schools despite it not being the closest one to our house. On the final day of orientation the Kindy teachers brought in the Kindergarten Class of 2012 (sob!) and they did a magical performance of “I’m a starfish, I’m a clam” up on the school stage, incredible and very emotional! After three school orientation sessions we were given a fantastic folder containing all the information we might need for school next year including the date and time of Amy’s assessment the week school starts and the time she starts on the first day. I think they stagger them starting to prevent the school yard from flooding with the tears of overwhelmed parents!

The whole process has created excitement and anticipation for Amy and she is really looking forward to next year. She wants to wear her school hat everywhere and can often be found carrying around her school backpack with her hat on playing “big schools” with Stella. The orientation process has also been a good one for me and I found myself able to dress Amy in her new uniform for the final session without having to choke back sobs, in fact I even felt a little proud of how mature and gorgeous she is! We are going to make the most of these next few months, calling them the Summer of Fun and we plan to enjoy the flexibility as much as possible before the routine of school starts at the end of January.

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