5 things I got completely wrong about starting school

When my first child started school two years ago, everyone said it would be a big change. I didn’t exactly disbelieve them, but really, I thought, how big could it possibly be?

Unsurprisingly, I got it completely wrong.

1. School is just the next step after crèche, right?

What I thought:

She’s been in crèche for a couple of years now, so school will be similar – yes, it’s a teacher instead of a minder, there are more kids in the class, but ultimately, school is just an extension of the childcare we’re used to.

The reality:

School was completely different to crèche. Yes, the teacher was incredible – I cried saying goodbye to her at the end of the year. But she had twenty-something kids to teach, and (understandably) didn’t have time to sit each one on her knee for hugs and chats throughout the day as the crèche minders had done. There also wasn’t a whole lot of time for one-to-one “how did she get on today?” exchanges, and no diary to tell me what she’d done all day. So I relied on my child to let me know. And every day it went something like this:

Me: So, what did you do today?

C: I can’t remember. Can I have a sandwich?

Office Mum : pencils
(image: pixabay.com)

2. Homework will be easy for the first few years

What I thought:

For junior and senior infants, homework will probably include some reading and counting. We won’t have to worry about the Tuiseal Ginideach or long division for a few years, so it’ll be a quick and easy process each afternoon.

The reality:

Yes, it was just reading and counting, but oh my god was it difficult. Not in itself, but convincing my daughter to sit down and concentrate.

This describes a typical homework attempt:

Me: Could you write “cat”

C: Do I have to? I think I feel like writing dog. I think my teacher said we should write dog. And she knows more than you.

Me: The first word on the list is “cat”. Please write “cat” (eventually, she does)

Me (reading from the word list): Can you write “dog”?

C: See mum, I told you dog was what I was supposed to write. You didn’t listen. Now I have to rub out “cat”.

Me: No! Please, please don’t rub it out. Leave cat there and write dog on the next line.

C: OK mum, there’s no need to sound cross. Wow, look at this blue pencil, it’s such a lovely colour isn’t it (puts pencil in hair and walks off to other room to show her little brother)

I blame homework for every strand of grey hair in my head. The ones the kids insist on pointing out. Every. Single. One.

Homework office mum

3. Packed Lunches – how hard could they be?

What I thought:

People say coming up with ideas for lunches is kind of a pain, but I’ll do some research online, find some healthy, interesting ideas, and give my child a great variety of nourishing, fun lunches. I might even try bento boxes, just as soon as I figure out what they are.

The reality:

I had great intentions but limited imagination when it came to school lunches. And my child is a fussy eater. So she has cheese sandwiches. Every single day. And I still don’t know what bento boxes are.

office mum: sushi
image: Pixabay.com

4. Teachers are just regular people

What I thought:

The teacher is younger than me. I’m a grown-up now, so I’m not afraid of teachers any more. We are equals.

The reality:

I was in complete awe of the teacher, she was absolutely amazing. I called her Miss, just like my daughter did. I was eager to please and keen to get everything right. I was mortified when the teacher pulled me aside to say I’d forgotten to send in a drink for my daughter, and resolved that I’d never let her down again – the teacher I mean. I am not a grown-up. I am six again.

teacher Office Mum

5. Wearing a uniform is a laundry-life-saver

What I thought:

Having a school-uniform means no morning time dramas over what to wear. It means less laundry. It means I will buy fewer clothes and save loads of money. I will take the family away for a weekend with all the extra money.

The reality:

Morning dramas over what to wear were replaced by morning dramas over socks being too scratchy or a skirt being too loose or the very existence of tracksuit day. The laundry pile was as high as ever, because my insistence that she change out of her uniform meant normal clothes were worn as often as ever. And for the same reason, I saved no money – she needed just as many clothes as before. Except now I had to buy a uniform too. We’re still waiting for the weekend away.

Laundry Office Mum
No laundry, sure thing..

Anyway, two years later, I’ve figured it out and know a lot more about how school works. This year, I’ll have two children there for the first time. I’m sure having two school-runs at different times, and two sets of uniforms to keep clean, and two lunches to make won’t be at all different or difficult. And the homework. Oh yes, I can’t wait for the homework. I think I’m going to need to dye my hair.


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13 thoughts on “5 things I got completely wrong about starting school”

  1. Very accurate post! I also wonder why my little boy didnt eat ANYTHING from his lunchbox, so matter what variation I gave him, he kept saying he didnt have time..!! So day 2 into Senior Infants and the usual examination of the lunch box continues..
    good luck

    1. My daughter is the same! Never finishes and always says there’s not enough time. I’ve heard the same from other mums of girls in her class, so perhaps they really do only get a very short break. Having said that, my middle-child start junior infants yesterday, and only has “mini-break” so far but demolished everything I sent in 🙂

  2. All so true. I rightly messed up the homework this year. On one occasion I decided the answer required fractions. The child hadn’t learned fractions. I wrote over her answers with my fractions. The homework came home with red pen all over it and basically a note correcting me although it didnt actually say that. MORTO. I apologised to the child profusely.

    Homework is a mare though. I hate it with a passion.
    The Clothesline recently posted…There She Goes…………My Profile

    1. Ha! Nice of the teacher to be so diplomatic 🙂 I’m amazed at home often the basic “admin” of the homework confuses me – trying to work out which page they’re supposed to do or what to do with a list of words – read them or write them or spell them? Actually, it’s quite likely that there’s often an accompanying note which has failed to make it home.

  3. Spot on about everything really… My eldest started junior infants last year ( and he has special needs so it makes it quite hard sometimes!). The homework was a torture. For both of us. Once, there was Irish homework, the instructions were in Irish and my child couldn’t tell me what he was supposed to do. There were drawings on a sheet, and I think he had to say the word and colour it. But even if he said the word, how could I know if it was the right one? I had to go on Google translate and check. But there was no pronunciation, so I couldn’t even know if he said it right. I just gave up. Thank God he never had any more Irish homework.
    Nearly Irish recently posted…The passport adventure…My Profile

    1. That must a nightmare for you Anne with the Irish homework! That’s quite tough going at junior infants stage to have instructions in Irish – hopefully it was a one-off… But yes, homework is tough

  4. Hi, can I have some advice about whether to start a boy at 4 n half or 5 n half to junior infants. He is Feb born. Your post is great about starting school, so I would really like some input in this regard. Thanks

    1. Hi Sarah, I think it’s such a personal decision, so much of it is down to the individual child, but I do think older is better. In my son’s class, February is the cusp month – there’s one child who turned 6 in Feb, and one who turned 5. It seems to be changing year by year – a few years ago, February boys were starting at 4.5 but now more and more are 5.5 – anecdotally at least. My own little guy is a December baby and he has found junior infants very tough (just finished JI this June). He’s one of the youngest in the class, and has found it difficult. Unless your little guy is particularly mature/ ready, I’d strongly consider waiting. Good luck!

      1. Thanks a mil. After a lot of agonising days and nights in decision making, he is doing his second year of ecce.. hope this decision proves to be right. Thankyou for your advice.

        1. One thing that struck me afterwards, reading your reply here – I’ve heard a number of people wishing they’d held off and not sent their children until a year later, but so far I’ve never met someone who wishes they’d sent them a year earlier. I think it will prove to be the right decision!

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