What’s it really like having a child in primary school?

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I’m writing today’s post for all the parents out there who are anxious as hell about their child starting primary school in September. I was in your shoes last year when I posted about my feelings in-depth here. So today I give you the low down on what it’s really like having a child in primary school.

If you want to read some of my other posts about having a child in school then see my bumper round up post – my child at school.

How I felt before he started school

My son was sensitive and shy and I felt like neither of us were ready for him to start school. I had visions of him crying every day and me having to walk away leaving him in tears and frankly, that would have broken my heart. My tolerance for my kids crying is zero. I just can’t cope with it, each tear is like a cut to my heart. He couldn’t wipe his bum properly, or dress/undress properly. He still needed so much help, my little baby.

Arlo and I have always been firmly attached and intertwined. I loved spending my days with him. Our bond was so tight. I was reluctant and saddened to lose him every day. I was wishing we had enough money for me not to work so I could home school.

What's it really like having a child in primary school?

How it went for us

The good news is it turned out so much better than I expected, or even hoped.

Arlo took to school like a duck to water and to date hasn’t shed a tear over me leaving him. He’s loved going since day one. He’s gutted if he’s sick and has to miss school. Some days he’s disappointed it’s the weekend as he loves to go so much. As parents you’ll know full well that as long as your kids are happy, you are happy, so its bliss. I wrote about how his first couple of weeks went here.

Best friends

Arlo made a bunch of little friends he loves to play with all day. He can’t wait to see them each morning. Especially his best friend, let’s call him Billy Brown. Arlo would tell us all about Billy Brown every day but Mark and I never saw him. He became like a celebrity in our house ‘did you hear what Billy Brown said?’. If Billy Brown did something then Arlo HAD to do it to. Billy Brown wore a cap to school one day and now every day Arlo must wear a cap. Papa Ginge and I thought of Billy Brown like a character in a TV show you never see – like Mile’s wife in Frasier, the woman in Tom and Jerry or the mam in the Big Bang Theory. We wondered if he was an imaginary friend but the teachers assured us he was real and Arlo and he were inseparable. One day I visited and finally saw him, holding hands with Arlo as they walked to the Lego area. So sweet, let them never grow up!

Not only did Arlo love his friends but they loved him back which was a delight to see. Arlo actually seemed cool and popular. Which blew our minds a bit because he’s a bit sensitive, geeky and aloof but the other kids seemed drawn to his nonchalance. Like 4-year-old ‘hard to get’. One morning I took Arlo to school and about 4-5 other little boys shouted his name when he arrived, their faces lighting up with big wide smiles. They were so happy to see him and my heart swelled. This is just what I wanted for him. Arlo was so chill about it, he just shrugged and said ‘alright’. Kids eh?!

What I like about Arlo going to school

  • He’s happy there and loves going
  • He’s learning more
  • They come on so fast in their first term and it’s amazing to watch. It’s like they go from a baby into a proper kid in a blink of an eye.
  • I love the structure it gives to my days. It forces me to get out the house with Lena and get fresh air twice a day. We all have a strong daily routine as a result.
  • It’s good exercise for me. I now spend at least 1.5-2 hours a day walking (usually very briskly as we are always late because I have to ask him to get dressed approximately 9,000 times before he does).
  • It gives me one on one time with Lena. This was so lovely as we hadn’t really had much before Arlo started school. In those first weeks she was high on all the attention, basking in it and lapping it up. It also meant that I didn’t have to abandon him at nap time AND I can now take a cheeky nap with Lena if we’ve had a rough night (so many) which is ah-mazing.
  • I have a bit more time to work on my blog and get stuff done around the house. After 2 kids, just 1 feels like a holiday.
  • School plays in primary school are super cute, especially at Christmas
  • So little has changed since we were at school, its like a trip down memory lane. PE benches – exactly the same man.

What's it really like having a kid in primary school?

What I don’t like about Arlo going to school

  • The school run SUCKS! You can read my epic rant about why here.
  • Hundreds of thousands of pieces of ‘art work’ come home that you are NEVER allowed to throw out. Resulting in you having to stealth throw away some on an evening when they are asleep. This week Arlo brought home an ‘insect hotel’. This was a pop bottle cut in half full of mud and twigs. He won’t let me chuck it away. It’s now a ‘feature’ in our garden. Cheers dude.
  • I hate to say it but if I’m truly honest, I don’t think we are as close and connected as we were. I guess this is a natural part of your kids growing up and taking those steps towards independence and away from you but its bittersweet for sure. I’ve felt that closeness return over the school holidays and I’ll be sad to send him back to school again in September.
  • He does pick up some bad habits from friends at school. You’ll hear phrases like ‘I’m not your best friend anymore’ a lot all of a sudden. We had our very first ‘I hate you’ the other day. A while a go he began hitting himself in the head because ‘Billy Brown’ does it.
  • It’s like getting blood out of a stone trying to find out about his day or what he’s eaten etc. You don’t get much out of the teachers either because pick up and drop off is CARNAGE! Like trying to get a taxi home in the Toon on NYE levels of carnage. No one warns you about that. Brace yourself.
  • You have less influence and input over school than a private nursery. That is, I can’t tell them what to do or structure things to suit him like I could with the nursery. It’s like they know we can’t walk away if we are unhappy.
  • Negotiating food and processes around his allergy was both challenging and frustrating initially
  • When he has a fight with his best friends at school or someone is mean to him/hurts him it breaks my heart. Billy Brown called him ‘ugly Arlo’ the other day and I’m still not over it.
  • There always seems to be something we need to take time off work for. Everything seems to be scheduled in the middle of the damn day. It’s like they don’t expect parents to have jobs.
  • Homework sucks, doing it with him is painful and I don’t agree with him having to do more work once he gets home after being at school all day. He’s 5!
  • It curtails your freedom and spontaneity. For example, to take last-minute holidays or trips in the middle of the week. You have to pay a fee (£120 if you are a couple, £60 for single parents) or take them in school holidays. I had heard people talk about how much more holidays cost in school holidays but I had no idea just how extortionate it was until we looked to book one for the first time. You are talking THOUSANDS of pounds more expensive. Papa Ginge and I could both take a week of unpaid leave each, pay the £120 school fine and it would still be cheaper than the price increase! Ridiculous.
  • However much washing you had before, double it. Whoever thought white t-shirts would be a good choice for school shirts wants shot. In the head.
  • Even in a secular school they get taught that Christianity is real. We are atheists so we are not down with that.
  • If your child isn’t doing so well academically like Arlo – feedback from teachers can really sting

What's it really like having a kid in primary school?

In sum

Looking at this list it seems like there are more negatives than positives but the negatives are less substantial. Fortunately, Arlo is happy there and as long as he is happy, I am happy.

I would also say that the things I was most worried about didn’t really make it on my negatives list. It’s like the Baz Lurhman song says – the things that worry you aren’t generally the things you ought to be worried about! So if you have a kid about to start primary school, try go into it with an open mind.

And now it’s on to the next challenge as his new year one teacher tells me that the transition between reception and year one is the one kids actually struggle with the most. Ugh, give me a break already.

Do you have kids in school? What do you like the most least/about it? Do you have a kid about to start school? What are your worries. Let me know in the comments and I’ll respond.

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8 thoughts on “What’s it really like having a child in primary school?”

  1. Ah what a fab guide – Arlo is such a canny guy and I can really see how he is so popular with others. Do you have the same sort of feelings about Lena starting school or is it different for you?

    For me, it really hurt sending Jack off to school as he was still like my baby!! The others not so much.

    I bet he’s dying to start yr 1 now and reunite with his friends. There’s more work, targets and homework in yr1 so brace yourself!

    • Thank you Sam. It still feels so far away with Lena at the moment so I can’t tell how I’m going to feel. She’s not as shy so I’m hoping I won’t be as emotional but who knows, she’s my last baby so there’s that.

      He’s missing school but he’s very nervous about year one so I think its going to be a transition for him. I’m sreading all that crap tbh. He’s 5. Chill out peeps! There wasn’t this much pressure when we were in primary school. I can’t remember getting home work hardly at all.

  2. Lovely post! My son will be starting in September (this year) and I do worry he’s not ready, but he’s excited and ready and I fought the local system tooth an nail for his place so I know he’s going to an excellent school.


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