Tag Archives: school uniform

The Beginner’s Guide to Primary School Part 2

This is the second instalment in the Mothering Fright’s Beginner’s Guide to Primary School. For those of you who read Part 1, my heartfelt and somewhat surprised thanks that you have returned to imbibe Part 2. For those of you who have come straight to Part 2, fear not, you can start here and work backwards, which is not a bad strategy for many things, apart from doing the Conga. For everyone, a quick reminder: there is nothing of actual use in this Guide. So sue me.

Uniform

However much uniform you purchase, it will be one item too few. There is much collateral damage involving uniform in that first year of primary school, much of which will leave you staring in disbelief and wondering what sort of supernatural trickery was involved to have inflicted that mark / rip / strange sticky substance in a place on that item of clothing that barely sees daylight. A school jumper, not removed for the entire school day, is taken off at home to reveal a strange orange stain on the shirt underneath that definitely was not there that morning. Velcro straps on shoes are hideously clagged with a mysterious red fibre even though the classroom carpet is blue. And the school jumper… well, this is the front line in the war against pretty much everything a 5 year old can throw at it and it seems any activity or event can prove it’s downfall:

  • A classroom painting activity. Either aprons are for wimps, or my son puts his on back to front. Actually, that is pretty damn likely.
  • Baked bean eating. While do kids insist on loving a foodstuff so bloody small and slippery and covered in juice? Jumpers come home looking like a knitted ice rink for snails, with crusty silvery-orange trails criss-crossing the front.
  • Other kids. Another child’s inability to carry a loaded paintbrush to the sink without tripping over their imaginary friend means a globby smudge of dried-on paint on some part of the jumper on a regular basis.
  • The common cold. Mucus, meet sleeve. Sleeve, meet mucus. Need I say more?
  • My son has the utterly infuriating habit of chewing on the sleeve of his jumpers. A perfectly serviceable jumper suddenly looks like the dog’s been snacking on it, forcing me to darn it. And darning was something I was pretty much hoping to avoid in my life time, given that I do not live in sodding Victorian times.
  • Paint aside, there are still many ways to trash a jumper whilst in the pursuit of artistic expression. Why not glue some glittery shapes onto it? Or stick a few mini poms poms on the elbow? Or simply wipe your PVA-sodden fingers across your chest. All of which have the common denominator of glue, or as I now refer to it, the evil albino mucus that drips from the wizened nostrils of Beelzebub. I know, catchy, right?

jumper_dirty

And as a tragic caveat to uniform, let us turn our attention to the much abused and neglected PE kit. Lovingly laundered and folded a week before term starts, it is then squeezed and pummelled into a drawstring bag that seems to have been designed to hold something the size and shape of a tennis ball. By the time the trainers and plimsolls are inserted on top by means of a greased shoe horn, you wonder why you ever bloody bothered. It instantly looks like it’s been festering in a small damp bag for seven weeks. Seven weeks later at the end of term, after it has actually been festering in a small damp bag, you have to don a full chemical suit just to extract it and throw it hurriedly into the washing machine using extra-long stainless steel prongs.

But don’t expect your child’s PE kit to come home at the end of term. Good god no. The first time I emptied E’s PE bag, I pulled out a tee shirt and shorts belonging to Daisy, a girl at least 3 sizes smaller than my son. I briefly wondered just how many weeks my son had been attempting to run around in a kit that would have practically cut off his circulation and bent him double, but I decided the best policy was not to ask. (This approach will stand you in very good stead to survive primary school generally, I find).

Your child will rarely grow out of shoes. Long before that, one shoe will have succumbed to a mysterious but fatal incident that sees you rushing into the nearest Clarks at 4pm, desperately scanning the sale racks. A Velcro strap will have ‘fallen off’, a hole will suddenly appear in the side of the shoe the circumference of which looks suspiciously similar to that of your child’s forefinger, or it will simply go missing in action, usually in the 40 minutes between getting changed for PE and returning to the classroom.

Learning to read

You will be given books to ‘read’ with your child that have no words. This will slightly fuck with your mind.

You will then be given books to read with your child that have three, three letter words per page, the utter banality of which will fuck with your mind some more.

You will think your child will never, ever learn to read. When he looks long and hard at the word ‘car’ and confidently reads it as ‘acrobat’ you will sob quietly inside.

Your child will be using the phonics system of learning to read. Mine used Jolly phonics, a name so wildly inaccurate it made me grind my teeth into calcified nubs. First come the ridiculous songs and actions. Then the torturous experience of watching a 5-year-old sound out a word so inaccurately you can’t even begin to find something to say that isn’t the word ‘twat’. And let’s not forget the dawning realisation of both you and your child that almost every other word in the English language seems not to conform to the rules of phonics. Couple that with the interminably slow progress of reading a sentence and the utter vacuum of expression a child reads with at this stage, and you start to think you are sitting next to Stephen Hawking when his batteries are running low.

In short, it’s a mind fuck.

acrobat_spelling_card

The Reading Journal

It looks innocuous enough. A slim book in which you write comments and observations about reading with your child at home. It is also where the teachers write their comments, so there is added pressure that there is an outside chance that the teacher may read what you have written. You will become expert in writing bollocks comments about the hideous last 20 minutes of your life where you had to threaten your child with no TV for the next three months if he didn’t sit down and read to you. You will also develop a complex code of comments whereby ‘he really tried hard to blend his words today’ really means ‘the little fucker threw the book at my head when I tried to tell him that the word mat wasn’t in fact pronounced poo bum’, and where ‘he seems a little disengaged with his reading today’ means ‘I suggested we read together and he lay down on the floor and made a funny monotonous groaning sound for three minutes’. Oh no, wait. That could have been me, actually.

You had PE today, didn’t you?

Whilst you will never really know what your child gets up to on any given day in school (see What they did that day from Part 1) you will pretty much always be able to deduce when they have had PE. Why?

  • They’re wearing their shoes on the wrong feet.
  • Their shirt buttons are buttoned up incorrectly, and one side of the shirt hangs a good ten inches lower than the other. It’s a look.
  • They’re wearing someone else’s school jumper.
  • They tell you they missed play time as they were still attempting to button up their shirt.

The clean plate sticker

Your child may well be most excited in those early days of school by being a recipient of a sticker from a lunch time helper, awarded for eating all of their dinner. Although as it turns out, you can also get this sticker by the surreptitious scraping of your left overs onto your neighbour’s plate whilst they are momentarily distracted by a carrot slice in their ear.

Parent as pack donkey

You will become a handy coat rack and crap carrier twice a day. As your child barrels out of the classroom, you will be buried under a tsunami of coat, jumper, book bag, three crumpled pieces of A4 paper (that you are told in no uncertain terms are not to be folded), a sticky sweet wrapper as it was someone’s birthday, an injury form, water bottle and a ridiculously over-sized book as your child couldn’t possibly go to the library and choose something that would fit in their bag. As the tips of your fingers start to turn white and your shoulders begin to throb, said child is then incredulous that you haven’t bought a snack with you as they skip alongside you, swinging their empty arms with gay abandon.

Tune in next week for the last thrilling instalment of The Beginner’s Guide to Primary School. It’s where you’ll find out how to deal with Dressing Up Day without stabbing someone and what happens when you wear Crocs to a playdate. Or is it that how to wear Crocs to Dressing up Day and what happened when I stabbed someone at a play date? Oh well, I am sure it will all become clear when I actually write the bloody thing.

MouseMoo

The Beginner’s Guide to Primary School Part 1

Some may still consider me a novice primary school parent, what with my son shortly to be only going into Year 3. However, in those three short years, I have learned much of the mysterious ways of the primary school. So as my youngest now embarks on the good ship Primary, I think it is time I spread my anti-wisdom around a bit for all those parents out there who will also be untying the mooring lines from their offspring and pushing them off into the uncharted territory of school, to watch them bob around aimlessly whilst they learn to work their rudders. At which point I shall gracefully swim away from this boating metaphor, as I really do not know what the fuck I am talking about.

Uniform purchase

At some point between July and September, the purchase of uniform will take place. All hail the cut-price supermarket clothes, is all I can say. The local uniform shop where we are obliged to buy the branded items is a sphincter-clenchingly irritating dichotomy of being last decorated in 1973 whilst its young customer assistants are bang up to date with their studied aloofness and inability to spot a customer in need from five paces.

Two years ago, I left the purchase of non-branded items to the middle of the summer holiday. Oh, how I didn’t laugh when I sailed up the Asda escalator to be confronted by a scene from the Apocalypse, only involving slightly more easy-iron shirts in inappropriate sizes. The only thing left hanging on the uniform rails was my will to live. An odd pair of grey shorts lay forlorn on the floor, four sizes too large, whilst half a pack of socks swung at an odd angle from a hanger that once gripped a navy skirt. I managed to find an assistant to enquire if they were expecting more in, and she gave me a smile of such pity that a little part of me died inside. So now, as soon as I see the summer holiday looming, it’s a family trip to the supermarket for us, then I don’t feed them for six weeks to stunt their growth and it’s job done.

I’ll name that jumper in one (Sharpie pen)

Labelling your child’s uniform. Simple, right? Wrong. There is a hierarchy of labelling methods that correlates precisely to how shit you are as a parent.

At the top of the parenting tree smugly sways the sewn-in labels. Oh, look at me, with my groovy coloured font and my neat little stitches. There are mums (and I wish not to be sexist, but I have never yet met a dad who would dream of entertaining such ludicrousy) who spend days before school starts hunched over a mountain of uniform, meticulously sewing a label into each shirt, skirt and sock, every stitch a pledge of love and devotion for their beautiful, well turned-out offspring.

Below this on the tree there are the iron-in name badges. You can still show off with a funky font and a range of colours, but this practical naming solution means you never have to try to thread the end of a piece of cotton into an opening smaller than an ant’s arsehole, or jab a needle under your thumb nail, a pain so hideous it makes you spontaneously invent a new swear word as the ones currently at your disposal are just not up to the job. But let’s not forget, this is not a solution for the lazy. After all, it means that you have to iron your child’s uniform at least once.

And then, at the bottom of the tree, slouched with legs open and a fag on the go, is the Sharpie pen. The naming implement of parents too lazy to get the ironing board out, or too those too unprepared to have ordered iron-in name labels two weeks previously.  Unless your child’s name is Ed Law or Sue Po, however, there may well be a space issue, so you end up writing tiny letters with a fat-nibbed writing implement that look fine and dandy for the first 12 micro-seconds, then as the ink bleeds across the label, you realise you have just basically redacted the washing instructions. On the upside, however, it is one of the few naming solutions that can be executed with child in situ. Child’s arms aloft, you can pull the shirt label toward a nearby table and Sharpie it to your heart’s content, or turn the waistband of trousers inside out and quickly scribble the name in the three seconds your child will stand still for. You can’t do that with a bloody iron. No really, don’t.

Just to clarify, I have never, ever, used a Sharpie pen to label my child’s uniform. *kicks two Sharpie pens under sofa and walks away nonchalantly, whistling*

fuck_sewing_sharpie

Years

The way the years are titled at primary school is a complete mystery. I know I was educated in an era when throwing a blackboard rubber at a pupil was an acceptable way of a teacher commanding attention, and in fact, in an era when there was actually such as thing as a blackboard rubber, but really, it didn’t used to be this complicated.

Now, the first year at primary is not called Year 1. Good God no. I mean, that would be ridiculous. In our school this first year is called Reception. Unless you write it down, when it becomes YrF. Which I think stands for Foundation. But could possibly stand for Fuckwit.

I could sort of understand this approach a few years ago, when reception was a gentle introduction to learning, the metaphorical atrium where children gathered to slowly acclimatise to this new phase of their life and where the curriculum consisted largely of colouring in and singing songs. However, with the introduction of the new curriculum in 2014 this is no longer the case. So concerned was the Department for Education that we were rearing a nation of dullards that the new curriculum dictates that by the spring term of reception the kids are expected to be calculating simultaneous equations and spotting subordinate clauses at around the same time as they master a knife and fork. Give or take.

So kids have to have been in school a whole year before they are in Year 1, at which point it finally becomes a lot simpler, and you count the years up to 6. Although don’t forget, when they get to year 3 they stop being Key Stage 1 and commence Key Stage 2. Which in old money, converts back to infants and primary. Although taking into account deflation, the increased value of sterling and the accelerated curriculum, probably actually equates to senior school and university.

So. We’re all clear on that then, yes?

The Teacher’s home visit

The home visit from your child’s teacher is one of the most high-pressure, high-stakes situations you will endure. You will spend the preceding three hours wiping every bogey from the kitchen chairs, picking up those tiny bits of Lego that you have pretended not to notice in the corner of the room for the previous five weeks and checking the cleaned toilet for fresh skid marks at least once every ten minutes. You will agonise over refreshment choice and ponder snack options. Biscuits: too sugary? Fruit: too messy? Homemade gingerbread men: too full of a 4-year old’s bogeys and bacteria?

You will sit in one room with the teacher, answering benign questions about your child, what they like and dislike, what nursery they have been to, and so on, whilst in the other room the teaching assistant gets down to the real interrogation with your child. You silently pray to the God of Keeping your Trap Shut that he doesn’t say anything too incriminating, doesn’t mention the time that you nearly shut his head in the car boot, and doesn’t repeat a heinous swear word that he may or may not have heard you say when you stubbed your toe on a bloody scooter that had been discarded in the middle of the kitchen floor.

As they leave they give you a smile that possibly means ‘your child is a retard and a horror’ and you smile back, a rictus grin that definitely means ‘I need a large glass of wine now’.

 wie_gingerbreadman

What they did that day

Get used to knowing nothing about what happens to your child every day. Along with sticking their laminated name by their peg and learning where to put their book bag on their first day at school, every reception child swears a ninja vow of silence. Henceforth, conversations about what they have been doing that day will run somewhere along these lines:

“So, what was your best part of today?”

“Lunch.”

“What did you have?”

“Can’t remember.”

“So apart from lunch, what else did you do that you enjoyed?”

“Playtime.”

“Lovely. Did you do anything in the classroom that was good?”

“Yes.”

“Ooh, what was that then?”

“We played.”

“That sounds good. What did you play?”
“Can’t remember.”

“Who did you play with?”

“My friends.”

“How nice. Which friends?”

“Can’t remember.”

 

The Beginner’s Guide to Primary School Part 2 will be published next week. I know. It’s edge-of-your-seat stuff.

 


Mumzilla