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The rookie school Mum

The rookie school Mum

Well, it’s been almost four weeks of Ella being at school, and myself being a rookie school Mum and I pleased to report we are still here and smiling. I tell you though, whilst I have been a teacher for 15 years, nothing prepares you for the roller coaster of juggling drop offs, pick ups, work and family life. We have done ‘double drop offs’ before, however there is a new level of stress when ‘school hours’ are thrown into the mix. Like all families, we have done everything we can to try to make the transition smooth, both for Ella and ourselves. Luckily, the best part of all has been the wonderful school and community that we have been welcomed into.

Both working in a school, and being a school Mum has given me a whole new perspective on how hard families work, to make it all work. Our saving grace has been the amazing support of our Mums and family. Honestly, I don’t know how we would do it without them! Me and Dan have had to be flexible with our work commitments as much as we can. Our timetable is a finely tuned piece of art, with drop offs and pick ups changing each day. I live my life by my calendar, and have even invested on installing a cork board / white board in our pantry, just so I can make sure that we keep on top of notes, dates, reminders and parties.school mum

That gets me onto another point. Information. My friend (who is also a fellow rookie school Mum) recently told me that she has never been and felt so informed in all of her life. As a teacher, I know and understand the frenetic stream of information that is constantly being shared with our community. School events, learning news, canteen, fundraisers, school photos…it goes on and on. It’s important that everyone knows what is going on, and often goes out to the community in various forms. Email, newsletter, sms, Facebook! However when you are on the other side of it, it can be cray cray! In a good way that is, but I’ve learned that when an email or newsletter comes out…the best thing you can do is get your calendar out then and there and make sure you take note, and send your hubby a calendar notification!

As a rookie school Mum, I’ve learned that your super power needs to be ‘organisation’. The night before means laying out their uniform, packing their lunch box – but not with everything as to keep some things fresh. Making sure that you have a routine. Check the school bag. Sign the notes. Check your emails each day, because there is sure to be a change of date somewhere. I’m yet to slip up…but I’m just waiting with bated breath!

Ella has been great so far. Seeing her smile has helped easy my worry! She’s met some gorgeous kids and made lots of friends. That said, mornings when I drop her off are still hard. For some reason, it is always the Mums who cop the tears. It’s not that she doesn’t like school, she just doesn’t want me to leave. Talk about pulling at my heart strings. If there is one piece of my ‘teaching’ advice I’ve been good at listening to is knowing how important it is to just leave. Give her to someone she feels safe with, and leave. Whilst my heart might be aching for her, I know it’s kinder for her own resilience. That and the fact that when I pick her up at 3.30 I see her smiling…I know she is ok.

Personally, it’s been wonderful to be supported by a fabulous group of parents who have been so welcoming. Coming into a school community can be daunting for anyone, and I’ve been so lucky to have had such lovely people share their happy experiences with me at the school and reassuring me when I’ve been worried about something.  There is something about school Mums and Dads sticking together, and pepping each other up when you are feeling down. It’s like an unspoken language that we all just ‘get’.

So as we find ourselves almost half way through term 1, I hope you are all feeling ok. It’s hard at times, but its also so exciting seeing our kids finding themselves belonging to a beautiful community.

To our Ella, on the night before you start school.

To our Ella, on the night before you start school.

To our dearest Ella

As much as I want to hold your hand, tightly in mine and keep you young forever, tomorrow I will let it go as you start your biggest adventure yet. Tomorrow we will kiss you and send you off as your start school.

I swear it was only yesterday that we brought you home, that we wrapped you lovingly in your cot, that we rocked you to sleep. I swear it was only yesterday that you spoke your first words (Dadda of course). When you took your first steps, when you slept through the night, when you met your brother for the first time. I swear it was only yesterday, but yet, here we are. A big girl, grown up before our eyes.

There are so many things that I hope and dream for you. So much that I could say. So much that I want you to know.

As a teacher

I hope that you continue your love of learning.

That your spark and curiosity flourish.

I hope learn for school to be a wonderful place

That your teacher will nurture you and guide you

That you see yourself as someone who can take risks

I hope that you learn to listen, and be listened to

I hope that your creative mind gets bigger and bigger

I hope that you feel proud of your achievements

I hope that you learn through your mistakes

That you know that not everyone is perfect

That mistakes are ok, more than ok!

That you are ‘smart’ in lots of ways

I hope you explore the world in all it’s glory

That you find your talents

That you learn to appreciate others

That you learn about yourself

 

As your Mother

I hope that you are happy

That you feel safe and secure

That you make beautiful friends whom you will cherish your whole life (like me)

That you experience success, and learn from failure

That you see yourself as important

I hope that you experience the joy of being part of something glorious

That you laugh, that you smile, that you grow

That you use your voice to make things happen

I hope you know how wonderful you are, and

How wonderful others can be

start school

Our darling Ella, tomorrow is the biggest day of your life yet.

I started this blog to remember the big milestones in our family, and tomorrow is one we will never forget!

You are so ready

Oh’ the places you’ll go sweet girl!

We love you.

Love Mum & Dad

xx00

Starting school essentials: for kids and their parents

Starting school essentials: for kids and their parents

Every year for as long as I can remember, the phrase ‘back to school’ has meant the setting up of classrooms, getting everything ready for the children I was going to teach, and the teachers I was helping to guide. This year, it not only means heading back to school for me, it means starting school for my Ella. I truly can’t believe it. It not only means getting her ready for school, but getting myself ready to be a school Mum. Far out! I’ve put together some of my ‘starting school’ essentials, some from my experience as a teacher, and some via the wise words of many school Mums before me. Advice and recommendations from those who’ve learned….

  1. Lunch Box Options

If ever there was a debate that brought out strong opinions from Mum and Dads far and wide, this is truly it. What I’ve discovered from many is the love for Bento Boxes. The Yum Box to be exact. You see, Ella is definitely a sandwich girl, but she is also (like me), somewhat of a bird. She eats lots of small things. The attraction of having less plastic wrapping was also something that I wanted to try, especially given that we teach our children about their roles in being responsible for our planet!

So I turned to Yvette from Little Bento Box – the perfect place to answer all of my Bento Questions. I didn’t quite realise the huge variety of options! According to Yvette, you need only answer two questions:  Are they a sandwich person or are they a nibbler? That way you’ll know how many compartments you need in your lunchbox!

We’ve chosen the Panino Yum Box as it has three compartments with one large enough for a sandwich. I have firstly been taken by the amazing quality, the sturdiness and fantastic features of the Panini. The beautiful illustrations on the inside make it somewhat of an experience in using it. I’ve been told by many friends that they have had their for years, and they really do last the distance. Coming in a range of colours, your little one can certainly make their lunch box, their own! Ella has chosen a bright pink Yum Box, and cannot wait to take it to school! Best of all, it is leak proof. Meaning that what ever I include, it will never leak into her bag!

We’ve also chosen a few other smaller snack boxes so that she can nibble on other things at play lunch. The Bento Two in Flamingo is perfect size for either your child’s first lunch box or for children who don’t have big appetites.  Its compact size makes it easy to pack when you are on the move. The removable divider allows you to add extra variety separating dry foods within the leakproof compartments.

Similarly, the Bento Large Freezable is a fantastic option if you want to send your little one to school with a little more to eat! I love that you can freeze it, in case there are things you want to make before hand!

2. Insulated Lunch Bags

In the 80s we went to school with a standard plastic lunch box. No matter the weather, the heat, we would eat the food, but sometimes it had melted or worst of all…gone off! These days, there are a variety of amazing insulated lunch bags that you can pair with your child’s lunch box to ensure that their food stays cool just at the right temperature. If you use a Yum Box, you also need to ensure that you choose an insulated bag that can hold both it, and other smaller ones and fruit such as bananas. We’ve chosen the Neoprene Animal Bag in the Unicorn design. It keeps your child’s lunch cold, zips up easily, has a nifty carry handle and is large enough to fit a few things!

 

3. Drink Bottle

Oh the endless options! Given Ella’s love for Disney, we’ve chosen the Disney Flip Top in the Minnie Design.   Made from Stainless Steel and BPA Free Plastic.

4. Sandwich stamps, cutters and picks

Such gorgeous way to bring a smile to your child’s face. Little Bento box have an extensive range of beautiful stamps : animals and words. If you have a plain eater like me, then they may just get them biting a few different options! You can also find a huge variety of animal and letter food picks. Again, to make your child’s lunch something extra special every now and then. There are also divine little letter and animal picks, and super cute soy sauce containers for sushi!

  1. Little Lunch Notes

My friends over at Sprout and Sparrow have created what can only be described as the sweetest addition to any lunch box. Notes sent with love. Notes for birthdays, notes for the first day of school, notes just…because. Notes you can write on yourself, to make your child feel as though you are giving them a warm cuddle when they open their lunch each day. Such a simple, beautiful thought. As a teacher I think this is a wonderful gesture to promote love between parent and child. AS a Mum…well…I just love it. NOTE!!! All Happy Ella After readers get an EXCLUSIVE 10% discount with the code ELLA10! To purchase head to their site here: https://www.sproutandsparrow.com.au/products/little-lunch-notes

6. Little Wuppy

A new school, teacher or classroom can cause anxiety for some children. They may feel overwhelmed, a little apprehensive, and may even suffer separation anxiety. Possibly one of the most beautiful and needed ideas is ‘Little Wuppy’. Designed by Linda a former primary school teacher from Melbourne, she created ‘little wuppy’ – a sausage dog worry puppy designed as an aid to help ease children’s worries.The special feature of the little wuppy® worry puppy is its heart. Children are encouraged to send their worries to the worry puppy by placing its heart against their own. And the heart on the worry catcher key ring ‘catches’ all their worries, so they don’t need to worry any more. As a sufferer of anxiety and panic attacks, she want to help empower children to manage their worries and seek comfort in times of need.

Children can hang one key ring on their pencil case, and one on their bag, so they can ‘catch’ all their worries while in the classroom.
They can also pop one in their pocket, or run their fingers across the wooden etching for tactile comfort.

They currently have a ‘back to school’ pack on offer which includes:

  • ONE little wuppy worry puppy
  • an adoption certificate
  • an information card (including welcome note, diagram and note to adults)
  • TWO little wuppy worry catcher key rings
  • a calico carry bag

7. Magic Words Resources

As a teacher, one of the best resources that you can use at the beginning of school is getting to know the Magic Words.  Magic Words are the most common words in English and are the most important words in learning to read. Magic 100 Words make up half of all the words in reading. Created by Marcella Reiter, she is an experienced Classroom Teacher, Education Consultant and Psychologist.

Magic Words began on the kitchen table when Marcella was playing games to teach her three young children how to read. Marcella researched and found the most important words in learning to read.  Using an old set of QANTAS (Australia’s National Airline) Playing Cards with the words stuck on the face, she began inventing fun and exciting ways to engage her children in playing card games with these 100 most important words. The aim was to play for short periods of time, often, so that the children would be able to remember the words automatically. They began calling these words the “Magic Words” because they were in every book, magazine and newspaper and just “magically” appeared in everything they read!

Starting with the Golden Words, there are dozens of activities you can to to improve your child’s recognition of these commonly used words. This product is NOT phonics based (ie. teaching specific sounds for various letters), however you can apply phonics awareness to help your child recognise these words in their reading.  You can purchase their products here: https://www.m100w.com.au/

I’ll be LIVE on my Instagram Stories TODAY at 10am AEDST talking about these awesome products, and answering any STARTING SCHOOL questions you may have. You may be a new Mum, or even a Mum whose had children at school for ages…and can help me! Hoping the above helps guide you in the right direction. One week to go!!!

 

The Do’s and Dont’s of being a school parent

The Do’s and Dont’s of being a school parent

In the coming weeks, children and their parents everywhere across Australia will be visiting their new schools in preparation for Prep Transition. Whether you live in a state that knows the first year of school as Prep, Kinder, Foundation or Year 1, we will all be in the same boat. Chances are, your child is feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness about heading off to Big School. For some parents, this won’t be a new experience, having had other children previously head off to begin their school adventure. If you are anything like me, and experiencing this for the first time, you are probably (no definitely) feeling many things: nervousness, happiness, and just generally freaking out. On Thursday our Ella has her first Prep Transition morning at her new school. I honestly cannot believe that this time has come. What I do know however, is that for many years, I’ve been dishing out advice to parents (like myself) who have a little one starting school. Advice on how to get both their child, and themselves prepped for prep. Literally, in a few weeks time, I will be running a prep transition session as a teaching leader, and the next day will see myself thrown amongst it all, as a parent. I bet that I won’t be able to remember a word of my own advice. Advice like Stay calm, stay positive, don’t stay too long, don’t cry…in front of them! Eeek.

I’m a little worried that I’m simply not going to be able to listen to my own advice. Not on those first mornings anyway. There IS however, a great deal of advice that I can give to parents about how to both be a great ‘school parent’ in the long run, once things calm down. I can in the same breath, also give advice on what NOT to do. In the coming weeks, parents will be given  a lot of advice on how to prepare their child for these early days of school. What they don’t always get, is advice on how to help themselves, both in the beginning and throughout their child’s schooling years.

Sometimes, we need help to save us from ourselves. Sometimes, we need help to jolt us back to reality. I know many people who have said that things will be ‘so much easier’ once their child starts school. As both a Teacher and a Mother, I know that this could not be further from the truth. Primary school is, and will continue to be, both an amazing journey, but it is also an all consuming one. All I can say is get set to be amazed, bamboozled, tried and tested. There are things you probably know, and there ate things that you won’t. In the end, your child will be at Primary School for seven years, and there are some tips I can give, as a teacher that will help you to enjoy your time and solve problems that will come up along the way. So without further adue…..

Do’s

  1. Do get involved in your child’s learning: W e are all crazy busy in this parenting game. Everyone can give time differently and be involved in various ways. Whether it be volunteering at school or reading with your child at night. Get involved.
  2. Do speak up if something is wrong :  I always get asked whether or not they should speak up if they believe something is wrong with their child, or if they are feeling as though something isn’t right. My answer would be if it effects your child, then yes. Teachers always do their best to look out for your child, but sometimes things do slip through the cracks, because, well…they are human. Sometimes they may not know and finding out may actually help them, help your child. However always do it in a reasonable and calm way. Before you say something however, refer to the next point.
  3. Do check with a trusted other if you are worried about something: As stated above you should always, always have a trusted other who can put your worry through the ‘reasonable’ test. Is it something that your should speak up about, or is it something that you should just let go. Sometimes, we can catastrophise things and it’s always good to get someone to hear you out first before you address it.
  4. Do read the communication that comes home from school: I often hear that ‘things will get easier once my child starts school’. Hmmm….not the case when it comes to information. You WILL receive loads of information from your child’s school on a daily basis. Whether it is via email, newsletter, paper letters or via an App that your school may use, its super important to read about what is going on. Mark in important dates in your diary. You don’t want to be making Book Week costumes at the last minute.
  5. Do expect that your child will stuff up at some stage: This one can be really confronting for parents.  It’s normal for kids to stuff up. It’s normal for kids to make poor choices. Expect that they WILL at some stage do the wrong thing. It does not mean that they have a black mark against their name. It just means that they need to learn from it.
  6. Do expect your child to get tired and cranky: especially in Prep. In those first few weeks, kids work out that they actually have to keep going back….EVERY DAY. They probably will crack it at night, and be more emotional. This means that after school time is super important to calm down and relax. Do expect that it WILL calm down eventually. Starting school is one of the biggest changes both your child and your family will experience, and once you get in a rhythm, everything will be ok~
  7. Do give your child’s teacher positive feedback: It’s unfortunate, but often as humans, we only speak up when something makes us annoyed or angry. What I can say is that just like children, teachers love receiving positive feedback from parents. When your child is feeling safe, supported and happy. When they achieve something. No matter how big or small, as a teacher, receiving positive feedback from parents can help make their day, week, year.
  8. Do be positive about mathematics: Research tells us that children really are impacted by their parents, in in particular Mothers’ perception of Maths. I’m sure that you’ve heard people say ‘I hated maths’ or ‘I wasn’t good at Maths’. My biggest advice is FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. Be positive about maths – even if you hate it. Your child will develop their self perception about maths by the end of grade 1 and will carry it with them FOREVER! SO…..BE POSITIVE!
  9. Do regular spot checks of your computer’s browsing history: If you don’t know how to do a search on your computer’s browser history then I suggest learn how to. This will be your best friend. Be big brother, and particularly for your big kids, check where they have been online. Do this regularly!
  10. Do get your child to prepare themselves for their day: It may shock you but I have witness parents actually carrying their prep child into school. The beginning of prep is all about independence and resilience. Get your child to prepare themselves. Unpack and pack their bag, get their clothes ready. Get them involved so that they can feel good about school and not be reliant on you for everything!
Tired and cranky. Something you should prepare yourself for, once school starts!

Almost as important as what to do, is knowing what NOT TO DO.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t worry if you cannot be at everything. Life. It’s crazy busy. You will be overwhelmed with the amount of events, expos, information nights etc that will appear in your calendar. Prioritise. If you can’t make it, send someone else. Chances are, most schools use apps that allow you to see what has been happening in your child’s classroom. So if can make it, great, but if you can’t…make sure your child knows and then follow up by talking to them about what happened that day.
  2. Don’t be a keyboard warrior. Your annoyed about something and its 10.53pm at night. Sending an angry email won’t help anyone. Make an appointment and talk about it face to face. It’s always better. Trust me.
  3. Don’t approach another child if you have a problem with them. These days Child Safe standards are in place to ensure that each and every child is safe and supported. If you have a problem with another child, DO NOT take it upon yourselves to approach them. Your school should have a communication / grievance policy that you need to follow. I’m not joking. Never, ever approach another child if you are angry. Always, always speak to the school about it in a calm and reasonable manner.
  4. Don’t ignore important information and dates. When you know about a date, put it in your diary / calendar as an alert. Dates sneak up on you at the last minute.
  5. Don’t carry your child into school. As stated above. Build independence and resilience by encouraging them to do things on their own.
  6. Don’t ask “how was your day’ or ‘what did you learn today’.  How was school? GOOD. What did you learn? Nothing. If you ask a broad question, you will get a broad answer. Asking specifics like ‘what did you learn in maths today’, or ‘did you do something you were proud of’ or ‘what was something you found difficult?’. Often using routines like ‘what was the peak and the pit’ can help kids to share their thoughts and feelings. It will also give you a better insight into school, rather than just hearing ‘good.
  7. Don’t expect your child to be great at everything. The world needs artists, musicians, scientists, vets, builders. Your child may excel at sport, but find maths difficult. They may love reading, but hate science. It’s been said time and time again, but every child is different. The purpose school is to help each and every child discover their gifts and talents, and to use them to make a difference to themselves, to others and the world.
  8. Don’t praise your child for being clever. This is a big one. Research shows that if we praise IG, or how ‘clever’ we are, children are more likely to play it safe, and stick to tasks that they are good at, and know that they will do well in. If we praise ‘effort’, children will feel good about having stretched themselves, for trying something new. Growth Mindset is a theory that focusses on helping children to learn to grow, do better, be better. Developing ‘grit’ or the ability to persist at tasks for a long time is key in helping kids to be resilient and learn to improve themselves. It’s a really big thing for a parent, but learning not to say ‘you’re so clever’ is really important. It actually makes a lot of sense. Praising your child for trying helps them to know that making mistakes is ok, and it’s actually important for learning. This is my biggest tip as a parent!
  9. Don’t ask your child to do things. This is not what it sounds. If you want your child to do something by asking them ie. ‘can you please sit down’, you are actually giving them an option to say no. Some children will follow your directions, but others will not. If you rephrase it as a statement ie. ‘you need to sit down thank you’, you are still being polite, but you are expecting them to follow you. There is no option. Those three little words ‘you need to’ will change your life. It’s about assumed compliance. You are assuming and expecting that your child will listen to you. It’s a routine that we use at our school, and it really works.
  10. Don’t put your child’s dreams down. If your child wants to be a dancer, nurture it. If your child wants to be a builder, encourage it. If you didn’t get to achieve your dreams, don’t put that on your children. Let your child learn to love life and what they are good at. Nurture their dreams. Sir Ken Robinson (aka, the Education God) shares a lovely TED talk which we use with our new parents each year. He talks of a man who told him that when he was young, he wanted to be a fireman. Every child wanted to be a fireman at 4 years old. As he grew, he dream never wavered. However as he progressed through school, many adults said that his ‘talent was wasted’ on that profession. A teacher in particular told him that he should strive for greater heights. Years later he became a fireman. One night he attended an accident and saved a man’s life. That man was his teacher who had told him that being a Fireman was beneath him. He shared how his teacher had eaten his words and had not thought much higher of his profession and his dream. He had after all, saved his life and the life of his wife. Each and every child, as they progress through school will have dreams. Some will stay and some will change. As Sir Ken says in this video below. We should tread softly on the carpet of our children’ dreams. Even if they are at odds with what we want. You can see it below…

So there you have it. My top ten do’s and don’ts in being a school parent. Enjoy the ride, but remember to pull your head in and try to keep calm. Or as best you can!

From a Mother who is a teacher to another….