Fishponds Mum: Summer time and school beckons

July 01 2019

With Claire Stewart-Hall

THERE is something so hopeful about the summer. I have memories of walking back from my own last day of school, listening to Madonna’s Holiday and strutting into the fun of unstructured days, relaxed routines and long evenings just hanging about.

For a summer-born three-year-old, this time of year marks the end of a big chapter and the beginning of another; nursery and pre-school come to a close and the much-discussed school begins…

As well as uniforms, new class mates, new buildings – new everything – there is the big transition of rules and culture and ways of being in new spaces. It has made my child clingy and sad, disrupted and anxious, as we all wax lyrical about ‘school’, and she is not entirely sure what this school business actually is. Just a place she went to a couple of
times where there was no-one she knew. Our school had African Land Snails, so it’s called the Snail School, as that is her most familiar reference.

For a summer-born child, there seems even more pressure to catch up with those almost a year further developed in months. I remember her being five months old - and what a difference one more month made to sitting up independently; or how she finally walked after cruising with just one more month’s practice…the gaps and expectations get shorter and shorter as she gets older.

She’s not even four yet, and here we are, preparing her for school. She’s walking into an institution which hopefully will remember her age and I can feel myself already refraining ‘she’s a summer-born baby’ when people judge her height and vocabulary and quickly form expectations around it.

The same happens in secondary school: there are some children six foot tall by the age of 12 and expected to behave better than the rest, like adults even, due to their height. Of course, they are 12-year-old boys…and rightly behave as such.

When I talk to other parents of pre-schoolers, they too notice their child feeling differently during these periods of transition, with regressions and throwbacks to earlier years. Here’s hoping we can champion all those teachers who are trying really hard to understand the feelings of a child in transition. A friend said her child screamed every day until Christmas when they started school – I’m putting that out of my mind. Even the thought of going to school every day. I’m secretly hoping that my child will love learning and school as much as I did.

Institutionalisation begins early in this country, absorbed in such subtle ways, such as uniforms, uniform times, expectations, ‘the rules’.

It’s great that there are so many options in Bristol to educate your child, including home schooling or the ever-popular forest school, should you want a blend of approaches. There are lots of groups of parents pooling resources and supporting each other to offer their child more time to develop at their own pace and play, simply play, to learn. Not to be overlooked, I say, but to be fully explored.

Whatever you have chosen for your child, here's hoping this is a summer of fun. If you have a story, get in touch at clairestewarthall@gmail.com.