As you would well know, this year brought a lot of changes for our family, with our youngest going to Family Day Care two days a week, and the older four going to/back to school. We have Josiah at one school, in a support class, and the older three at the local public school around the corner.
While anxiety ruled in the weeks leading up to school starting, the transition has been reasonably smooth. All four of my “schoolies” are enjoying school in their own way. Josiah is collected by mini bus in the mornings, which then gives us about ten mins notice before it’s time to leave to walk Zoe, Reuben and Rhiannon to school. Even if the morning is bad, leaving for school gives everyone some time and space to reset, so that a whole day doesn’t become contaminated by the morning’s conflict.
While Zoe and Reuben have been to school before, Rhiannon and Josiah (being in Kindergarten this year) haven’t, however they have all settled into the routine at school. Last time I sent children to school, I think I had unrealistic expectations about what changes it would bring, whereas this time around I feel I had expectations grounded more firmly in reality. I still don’t get as much done in a day as I had hoped but I am learning how much I can realistically expect to achieve in a day.
Zoe has found some nice friends and has settled in well to her class. Her teacher is amazed and impressed by her depth and breadth of knowledge and she is keeping pace with the class, even in the areas where I felt she was weaker. Reuben struggled a little at the start but quickly found his feet and has enjoyed participating in fitness and sport, particularly in playing PSSA (representative) Newcombeball and will be attending the District Cross Country in May. Rhiannon keeps asking to have friends around to play and has joined the Junior Dance group. Her reading, which was my main concern for her, has taken off (first in the holidays and more since she has started school).
Sending the children to school doesn’t change the challenges we face with their physical and mental health as well as behavioural and discipline issues. It does mean, however, that we are not constantly dealing with these behaviours and we all get a break – me from having to police poor behaviour and them from being constantly corrected, and they get a break from each other. I have also realised that a lot of the stress from last year was due to the frequency with which we were in the car. Short car trips are still stressful but they only happen a few times a week now instead of a few times a day.
Ultimately, sending our children to school has not changed our “We Learn 4 Fun” lifestyle. Zoe is still a voracious reader, and Reuben is a keen reader when he finds the right book. Rhiannon is learning to read and will read most of the signs we pass and labels on objects. We still have long discussions with our children – seeing a small fleet of vintage cars turns into a discussion of Historic Vehicles regstrations, trucks blocking roads (by attempting to pass under bridges they are too tall for or up a local steep, windy road with a length limit, to the pressure put on truck drivers to deliver loads in often unreasonable timeframes, but how that does not negate personal responsibility. All in one conversation.
We still learn for fun by going to the Easter show – where we look at exhibits and watch competitions, we don’t go on rides and spend very little time with showbags and other retail outlets. We see movies and go to museums and participate in fun runs together. We go on bushwalks, have people around for dinner and volunteer at parkrun.
I’ve learnt that I quite enjoy helping with homework. I get less battles about the work but we still get to share the learning experience. I’ve found a little time recently to read some of the books that Zoe is interested in and I’m hoping Reuben will lend me his new book he got for his birthday.
I think sending our children to school has been a positive experience for all of us. I don’t regret homeschooling in the past, it was just time to move on. Home educating wasn’t working for us anymore and public school is.