So our little Monkey is about 4 3/4 and has been at school for about 5 months now. He has changed and grown up so so much in those 5 months that I thought I would write a little update about how he is getting along, and the ups and downs we have with our little school boy. Starting with some real positives, his learning is simply amazing. He is like a little sponge soaking up everything that they are teaching him.
His reading is amazing to listen to as he just reads so many words now, and sounds out and blends any he doesn’t know. It is wonderful sitting next to him reading his school book and he’s so proud of himself too. With a bit of encouragement (as he can be a bit shy) he has read his books to other family members too and they are all equally proud of him. We get him to read his book 5/6 times a week and can get a new book to read once he has read it twice. We tend to do this because after reading a book a couple of times he is more likely to try to read it from memory rather than looking at the words, so gets it wrong more often the more he reads it. The school recommends reading a minimum of twice a week but it has just become part of our routine now that he reads a story after dinner so he reads a few little books a week (pink band level) and this seems to be working well for him.
His writing is so good now too. It has been a bit harder for me to get him to practice writing at home, as quite often my suggestions to do it are met with a cheerful “no thank you” and if I push him he just gets grumpy and it’s not the right atmosphere for it then! Having said that he wrote the names in all 60 of his christmas cards to classmates and I think that all that practice definitely helped. I now try to get him to write things for a purpose. For example if we have been building something, and playing with something I try to get him to write a sentence about it. One day he came home from school so excited about what they had learned about ice that day and, as I normally struggle to get much out of him about what happens at school (“I can’t bermember,” “I just did lots of things”), I decided to capitalise on it and he wrote a sentence about ice and water. We’ve done similar writing a couple of times now and he is getting a tiny bit more enthusiastic about it.
I have been so impressed with the way he has been learning reading and writing with his phonics at school. Last week I went for a stay and play session at the school which was so much fun. It’s hard to know really what is going on behind the school gates every day so it was lovely to see it for myself. There’s obviously a lot of play and most of the time that is what they were up to, but there were also sessions on phonics and maths. I loved the games they used as part of the phonics lessons and the kids did so much writing it was lovely to see and made it quite apparent why his progress has been so fast!
I remember a couple of years ago, talking to a friend about whether to send her summer born 4yr old to foundation stage at school, because they don’t legally have to start until age 5. I remember at the time thinking the foundation is a good segway between nursery and school because they are at school but mainly still playing. I now actually think that it is really important kids don’t miss out on the foundation year, because of how much I have seen them all learning. Monkey is a May baby so technically could have started later, but I’m glad he didn’t. We always felt he was ready and now know we were right. I fear that any child starting at age 5 straight into year 1 may be really quite behind. I definitely don’t think Monkey’s progress in reading and writing would be anywhere near what it is, if his learning were down to me. I definitely don’t have the skills or knowledge that his teachers do in this area!
I also got to see a maths session at the school and that was so lovely. Again I have been impressed as they have been learning about counting in two’s recently and when I was there they were working out “3 lots of 2″ and how the x sign means the same as “lots of.” Basically they are learning the 2 times table already, and the kids were lapping it up. Just lovely to watch. Monkey has always loved numbers so he kept turning around grinning and giving me the thumbs up during that session!
Monkey has loved drawing for a while, and his drawings lately are just getting so good and so imaginative that I had to share a few here. He has a particular love of drawing instructions, like this one of instructions for how to build a house, but I just think all of is drawings are brilliant. Proud mummy moment!
On the whole, Monkey has been pretty happy at school. He comes bounding out of school so happy every day and like I say, he loves to learn. He has always been quite a shy and sensitive soul though. he has started off pretty well in terms of friends, there seems to be a fair amount of children he plays with at different times and on the whole he has been quite happy. He quite often tells me he played with so and so and so and so on the playground and they played superheroes or police or something. Recently though, he has had a bit of an upset with his closest friend, F. F’s mum and I are really close friends so we see quite a lot of each other and had even got into a bit of a rhythm of walking to school together. I think because F and Monkey are such good friends that they began to have a bit of a power struggle and F said some things that upset Monkey. Nothing major, but things like “I’m not sure if you will be able to come to my party, I’ll have to see if there’s room” and “that bell on your bike is a baby bell.” You know, 4yr old stuff but it did bother Monkey a bit.
Speaking to other mums and the teachers and it seems to be happening amongst a lot of the kids at the moment. They got really friendly with one or two children and then the power play started. It’s what kids do as they are learning about other people and friendships etc. as well as all the academic stuff, so it’s natural they will say things to provoke a reaction, or have their feelings hurt by another kid. Having watched some of the “secret life of…” programmes, I’ve seen it and I guess am not that surprised by it… but the reality was still pretty hard. F’s mum was horrified at what he was saying to Monkey and I’ve been torn between hating seeing my little boy hurt in any way… and knowing that he has got to learn to deal with it, because it is all part of life. Sometimes people say things either intending to hurt you, or not thinking about whether it may hurt you.
It was a tricky few days and Monkey didn’t want to walk with F to school anymore, and said “F makes me sad” which broke my heart a little. I think that extra bit of space has helped and they seem back on good terms again now. I know the teachers have been talking to the children about not saying things that are mean or exclusive too so hopefully that is helping all round! I’m sure there will be many more times where things like this happen over the years though!
This tricky patch coincided with us really taking a backwards step and Monkey being tearful saying goodbye in the mornings. Back in September we expected to go through this phase but never did, he was so happy and excited to be going to school that he didn’t cry at all. Then a few days in to the new term in January and he started crying. Possibly brought about by the slight change of routine they have introduced, where on a Monday and Friday morning they have to sit on the carpet and get ready for assembly, rather than having a play to start off the day as they did before. It could also have been the spat with his friend but even after talking about these things and trying to resolve the issue, it didn’t seem to be getting any better. He was so happy coming out of school every day, and was happy even when dropping him off, right until the very second we said goodbye, when his face would crumple and the sobbing would start.
It was such a depressing start to the day to leave him so unhappy, especially when we couldn’t figure out the reason. After randomly finding one of hubs’ old sets of lego in the loft that Monkey hadn’t seen before, we decided to try a new tack. Because it was feeling like the crying had become a bit of a habit, rather than because he was really upset about something, we decided to give a little incentive to stop the tears. One week without tears and he could have the lego we found. Right from the first day of this bargain being struck, the tears stopped. He left with a big grin on his face. His teacher also noticed and praised him for it so he told her “my mummy says I can have new lego if I don’t cry every day.” I have to admit to being nervous about her reaction to this but she seemed equally pleased that it was working. If there had actually been something bothering him, I doubt the promise of lego would have stopped the tears. Even now, after he has the lego, we still haven’t had any more tears. So, phew to that!
One definite downside to school is the tiredness it brings for our little Monkey. He can be quite crotchety at times and he really is, just, tired. He gets really tearful sometimes, and often about the most irrational of things. He had a meltdown about putting his shoes away one afternoon, and a full on meltdown over the weekend about blowing his nose because he insisted that he couldn’t do it. This morning was particularly frustrating as he started to cry about his name. Yes, his name. At school, when there is a word that can’t be sounded out phonetically, it is called a “tricky word”. Such as “go” for example, it isn’t guh oh, goh, it’s go, and that is a “tricky word.” Monkey’s name is a “tricky word” too and this morning we had sobbing because “I don’t want my name to be a tricky word.” There is just no reasoning with him when he is in that mood so I just decided to change the subject and move on! Daft Monkey!
He also uses tiredness as an excuse though, especially when it comes to eating dinners. He is so slow at eating and often sits there and says “I’m too tired to eat.” We, of course, point out that eating food gives you energy, and stops you being tired…. but he refuses to accept that fact!
So, negatives aside, he is doing so well at school. He’s such a happy chap and on the whole, such a good boy. He loves the PRIDE code that they have at school and loves to recite the words it stands for “polite, respectful, independent, do your best and everyone matters.” He gets quite irritated that is little sister doesn’t yet follow these rules too lol.
Monkey’s learning and growing doesn’t stop at school. He loves to learn basically constantly. I got a couple of new books recently that he loves, one is an atlas and another is a book about the human body which has lots of flaps you lift to look at. It’s a great book and he said yesterday “I was just imagining if like in the book, we had flaps that you open and see inside our bodies.” Bless him. He loves baking with one or the other of us and a LOT of time is spent playing lego when he is at home, and some of his creations are brilliant. We went on a nature hunt at the weekend which was great fun, and he’s just getting so grown up.
As a result, we have also been asking him to help out a little more. Just simple stuff, he makes his bed in the morning, lays the table at dinner and puts his clothes in the laundry basket at the end of the day. So far he is doing really well with those and most importantly is happy to do them.
Feeling very proud of our boy after writing all of this down :).
It’s been an interesting month for our little siblings the month. It’s the month that their relationship experienced a big change, with Monkey starting school full time. After a wonderful summer where they spent almost every day together this has been a huge change and I have noticed the difference in their relationship.
We’ve also all been ill quite a bit since Monkey started school and that hasn’t helped as what time they have had together hasnt been as fun for them. They just don’t seem quite so close at the moment though. There’s a lot more bickering and Monkey especially is more possessive over his toys and doesn’t want to play with his sister as much.
It’s not a big deal and they do still love each and have fun together biu their relationship has definitely shifted a little. I thought LM may miss Monkey with him being at school but although she is glad to see him at the end end of the day, if anything she is more excited about the friends we meet at the playground.
The after school, before dinner, time can be tricky for us. Monkey can be tired and basically wants to watch the TV or do some drawing, whereas having usually had a nap, LM can be full of beans and wanting to do something. So it can be a difficult time to manage both of their wants and LM definitely gets jealous when I try and spend a bit of time with Monkey or do any of his phonics homework with him. Which irritates me as she has had me all day and I feel for Monkey as he wants some attention too.
I guess it is still early days with school and we are all still adjusting. Their relationship is growing and changing all the time and as ever I look forward to seeing how it changes over the months and years to come. They are still a pair of cuties.
Did your siblings’ relationship change when the eldest started school?
So Monkey started school last week and there are big changes in store for him and for all of us. He did so well and is loving school. I am getting used to the school run but I have never looked forward to the whole playground mums thing. The social etiquette, the cliques and just figuring out how to navigate it all makes me very nervous.
I’m not the most socially confident person. I wouldn’t call it shyness really, more a social awkwardness. In certain situations I can hide it. I can make small talk, I can strike up a bit of a conversation with another parent at play area or baby group. I can be polite and friendly. But in a bigger group I find that much much harder. And taking it beyond politeness and small talk and I really falter. It’s one of the reasons I don’t feel I’ve connected with many bloggers and why you won’t find me at a blogging event. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m terrified I will say something stupid. That people will sort of “see through me” and put simply, won’t like me. So in general I keep people at a certain distance.
I’ve always been a little like this but it has gotten worse over recent years, in part due to the disintegration of my friendship with the girls I at one time considered my closest friends. The breakdown of any relationship can leave scars and this one definitely did. I’m not going to go into all the why’s and wherefores. I know I wasn’t blameless but I also know it wasn’t entirely my fault. It was a disintegration that happened over the course of a few stressful years, in the run up to my wedding, immediately after it, all throughout my difficult pregnancy with Monkey and through those hard first months with him.
Whenever we arranged to meet up I would be anxious in the days beforehand and generally have a sleepless night the night before, imagining all that could go wrong, what I would say that would provoke that response. The meet up itself would never be quite as bad as I feared but there would be barbs and thinly veiled insults that I would then relive for days wondering what I could have said or done differently. Wishing I had the guts to give as good as I got. These were my closest friends. Nuts eh? It just wasn’t healthy and eventually I walked away.
The trouble is that they were so ready and willing to see the worst in me. To believe the worst. It made me question myself, to question if I really was this awful person they seemed to believe me to be. These were some of my oldest friends, surely they knew me better than that? Or was I really, actually like that?
Thankfully they weren’t my only friends and I grew much closer to some of my other friends who had kids around the same time. Friends who couldn’t understand what was going on and who dubbed the others my “frenemies.” Friends who thankfully like me the way I am and don’t make me second guess myself all the time.
It’s all about 4 years ago now and I have moved on, I’m no longer terrified of running into them or seeing them somewhere. But it has affected me a lot. I struggle to let anyone in and am constantly worried about saying the wrong thing to a friend and the same thing happening again. One of my newest close mummy friends went a bit funny with me recently and I over analysed everything and thought I had ruined another friendship. Faced with those feelings I do one of 2 things, I try and over compensate for what I think I have done wrong… Or I back off completely to try and maintain a bit of pride and sort of not show I care. It turned out my friend’s dad was ill and she was very worried about him. I of course supported her and kicked myself for assuming the worst and assuming it was about me. But that’s what I do.
During those few days (which were also in the run up to Monkey starting school) I had a dream where I was talking about it to my brothers and they laughed in my face and said “yeah but that’s what you’re like isn’t it? You always say the wrong thing!” and it was horrible. I felt so rubbish and I don’t think they do actually think that about me but subconsciously I clearly do. It’s so annoying and self-defeating and self-centred to always make things about me and to assume it is always my fault and I try really hard to break the cycle but it isn’t easy.
I was supposed to meet up with a very lovely blogger recently and we couldn’t make it unfortunately due to various reasons and I have to admit that much as I wanted to meet up and get to know her, part of me was relieved. I was so worried she wouldn’t like me or that I would say something stupid and we wouldn’t get on.
The school run means challenges like this daily and I guess just reminds me of my anxieties. There are 60 kids in Monkey’s intake and though they are split into 2 classes, they are all sharing the same huge foundation stage area. So that’s 60 sets of parents I will see twice a day, every school day, for the next year, and beyond. As I said I can do the smile and small talk (even though doing so makes me feel horribly uncomfortable)… But not beyond that. I know some of the mums of Monkey’s preschool friends, but not many. Even there I struggled to have the confidence to talk to any of the groups of mums who already knew each other and it’s even worse now. There are so many opportunities for me to make a complete idiot of myself!
Ive umm-ed and ah-ed about whether to actually post this post as it feels quite self indulgent and wasnt really the post I intended to write when I started out. I don’t think I had realised how my apprehension of the school run and the social etiquette of the playground had brought back all my feelings of inadequacy to the extent that it has. Maybe I needed to write this as some sort of cathartic experience and then move on. I was chatting to a lovely mum when I dropped Monkey off earlier and nthing terrible happened… I don’t have to be best friends with these people immediately, if ever so the lesson to me is to stop wrrying so much!
Does the school run make you nervous? Are you a social butterfly of the playground?
So this week saw a big change in our little household. A change we have been preparing for for a long time, yet still seemed to creep on us. Monkey started school! It’s just mornings this week, and afternoons next week before going full time the week after that. Doesn’t he look so grown up though?
After a few tears on arrival at all of his settling in sessions in July, we fully expected the same to happen in the first couple of weeks. We had done our best to enthuse about school and to focus on all the great things he would do, and though we knew he would love it when he was there, we really thought there would be some initial tears.
So we were hugely surprised when the time came and he gave us each a big kiss and a cuddle, smiled and said “see you later!” before getting stuck straight in to playing with connex. Hugely surprised and obviously hugely proud too. Our boy! He had said on the walk to school “I won’t cry, I cried before because I didn’t have my uniform, but now I do. So I won’t need to cry!” I don’t care what his reasons were but the fact remained there were no tears and by all accounts he loved every minute.
It’s notoriously difficult to get out of kids what they have gotten up to at school, and having experienced this at preschool too, we try to ask a number of questions through the rest of the day to prompt him (what song did you sing? Do you read any stories? Did you do any drawings? Etc.). Not like an inquisition just as part of conversations through the rest of the day. So it was we discovered he had sung a song and had an apple for his snack (or a couple of bites at least haha). We also knew he had played with the water wall outside as he came out in a different top to the one he went in wearing!
The drop off on day 2 went just as well and that day he was due to stay for lunch. I’m obviously nervous about how much he would eat but his teacher had said they encourage them to eat a good amount of their mains before letting them turn their plate round to eat their pudding. He was very enthusiastic when he came out about his meatballs and pasta and carrots bless him so I think that went pretty well.
On the 3rd day he read a book about a diver, built a pirate ship out of a plank and wheels “and everything else” outside. He ate a banana for his snack (only teeny bites apparently but still better than we can get him to do) and he also got a badge for his “house team” and his team is yellow. He adores his badge and is so proud to wear it everyday haha.
Unfortunately that night at bedtime as he was running in to LM’s bedroom to say goodnight to her, he tripped and fell face first on the floor. There was blood everywhere and he went into school the next day with such a swollen lip that I had to tell his teacher. I managed to get Monkey to tell me later that she had asked him and found out he had told her what had happened. Then he did a drawing of a hospital and a Dr’s note. He then announced at dinner that night that the drawing was in his pocket. On inspection of his trousers (which had been swapped for shorts as soon as we got home as it was a hot day) I found a very screwed up piece of paper that was indeed his drawing.
It was a hospital with a person in a window who was “daddy when the Dr bandaged his knee but he’s all better now though he can walk now he can’t run but he can walk.” Love his verbal diarrhoea descriptions of things.
That afternoon playing on our neighbour’s trampoline Monkey’s friend landed on his head and his sunglasses cut his cheek. Thankfully it didn’t look too bad the next day as starting to worry the school will think we are harming him or something!
Friday morning we thankfully got him into school before the rain started and by all accounts he had a lovely time. He apparently played outside in his splashsuit twice and sang a new version of humpty dumpy which he loves and thinks is hilarious.
The afternoon school run was pretty miserable with the rain but I think I will just have to get used to those! Next week is going to be a bit odd as he is just going for a couple of hours every afternoon, but then the week after it will be full time. I’m so so proud of our boy though, he has handled it all so so well. I’m proud of us too as obviously we did just the right amount of preparation for it with him to give our boy, who can be very nervous of change, the confidence to go in happily. We have a schoolboy, seems a bit hard to believe really.
As for how I coped.. well I was more emotional than I thought I would be for the first couple of days, which I wondered whether was because I was so geared up for tears from Monkey that I didn’t know what to do when he was fine! I was so proud but it was also a bit of an anti-climax. I’m not much of a crier, or that good at showing my emotions at times and I was just so so focussed on making sure Monkey was fine. So when he was fine and didn’t actually need my help or reassurance I just felt a bit odd! So I had a few snappy irritable days and feeling like I wanted to cry over absolutely nothing… then eventually talked through how I felt with hubs and a couple of friends and as often happens with me, felt like a huge weight had lifted and I have been alright since really. I need to learn not to bottle things up I really do! Enough about me though as this is Mnkey’s adventure and we are so so proud of how he has taken it all in his stride!
How did your little one settle in to the first week of school?
I can’t quite believe it but our little Monkey starts school in just a couple of weeks time. He did well at his settling in sessions in July, bar a few tears when we dropped him off and I have no doubt he is ready for it…. But am I? In all honesty for so long I was so focused on whether or not he was ready that I didn’t even think about how I felt about it! I’m still not really sure how I feel so instead I am trying to concentrate on making sure everything is ready.
There is so much to buy, the list from school felt a bit endless, and expensive when I started adding it all up! So let’s just say I was pleased when Ocean Finance got in touch and offered £50 to help finance the back to school purchases as part of their “Get Set for September” scheme. Here’s what I managed to get with my £50.
7 pairs of socks
1 polo shirt with the school logo
1 sweatshirt with the school logo
1 pair of black trousers
1 all in one splash suit (they have a huge outdoor area for the foundation stage at Monkey’s school so a splashsuit and wellies are part of the uniform!)
Unfortunately £50 doesn’t buy everything you need but it definitely helped and I think we are almost all set for bits. We have some hand me down white polo shirts and I have bought a few bits with the school logo and a few cheaper bits without as it isn’t compulsory. We have his book bag, his splash suit and his socks. I just need shoes and wellies now but am waiting a bit longer for those. Monkey’s feet haven’t grown for about a year (he’s already a size 10) and I am convinced they will grow as soon as I buy his shoes haha.
We were recommended some stick in labels from the lovely Jocelyn at The Reading Residence and hubs and I sat and labelled everything the other night. I am so glad you don’t have to use iron on ones or even worse sew in ones as sticking them in was so quick and easy, especially with hubs’ help! Hope they do the job and last ok! Here is out gorgeous boy trying on a few of his bits in readiness, don’t you just love his little poses? Haha bless him
So we are just about set I think… And just in time really as the summer seems to be going so fast all of a sudden. I am trying to make the most of having him home with me as I know it will be very quiet without him come September… Which is only just round the corner now!
Are you all ready for the kids to go to back to school in September? Do you find it expensive?
Disclosure: I received £50 in return for writing this post however all thoughts and opinions are my own.