Friday, September 09, 2011

Off to School

Time has done its one-way linear trick of making 5 years pass since I started this blog. I now have a daughter old enough to go to school in Britain. This will probably bring about a whole new set of posts about how things are different. But it's a question as to whether things are different because of location or different because of the passage of time.

For example, when I was little, I walked by myself to and from school. As did everyone I know. Now no one here does this, certainly not for the first several years. They have some sort of adult escort with them until they are at least 8 or so. Possibly longer, depending on paranoia concern of the parent or the route the child needs to take to school. But this is no different to how it is in Canada either. I know my friends and relatives do the same for their children too.

Escorting your children to and from school is quite an interesting one for me already. Having walked the short path from our house to the school, I always felt that it would be relatively early when I would allow my daughter to walk to school on her own. However, that was before I saw how busy it is with cars at school drop-off time. The road we walk that goes past the school has no sidewalk on the part we take and there are loads of people driving past at that time. My daughter is sensible, but I don't know about the drivers. Late for school, late for work, kids fighting in the back, etc etc. One week has already made me postpone my plans for her walking herself by at least a year or two.

The other BIG difference for me is the uniform. When I went to school, you just wore your everyday clothes. But here, it's a uniform. There is a list of clothes that I had to buy over the summer and I spent around £130 on everything, and this wasn't buying the most expensive items either. One summer dress, part of the summer uniform which she can wear until the half-term break in October. After that it's the winter uniform which is either a grey skirt and blouse or grey pinafore (aka jumper dress in AmEng) and blouse. So a skirt and 2 pinafores. Plus then green tights and white socks, as necessary. Then also, they have to have specific clothes for gym class (aka PE). This is a bit silly to me, as for the amount kids sweat at this age, I really don't see a point of trying to get thirty 4/5 year old children changed out of uniforms, into gym clothes and back into uniform. I suppose it might save wear and tear on the uniform and be slightly less restrictive, but it seems like a big bother for little benefit. For this I had to get a shirt with the school crest on it and also shorts and "plimsoles". Plimsoles were a bit of a mystery to me. They were a word I was familiar enough from reading English books to know that they were a shoe, but I wasn't very sure what kind of shoe it was. In the end I had to ask another woman in the store who was school clothes shopping to help me know exactly what they were. And then there was the conundrum of whether they had to be black, or whether white was acceptable. And if white was acceptable, if the ones with the daisy embellishment on it that L. had fallen in love with would also pass muster.

This all was both amusing me by confusing me but also stressing me out slightly. You want to make sure your child fits in and feels accepted at the start of their school path. The last thing I wanted to do was to get the wrong thing and have my daughter upset because it wasn't the same as everyone else's or for the teacher to comment on it and me have to go and rush to buy the right thing. Not having at least the slight familiarity of how things work with a uniform and what the standards are, I had to use my common sense and place a few emergency calls to friends with little ones also starting to ask for advice. Fortunately my friends were quite helpful and in the end, my common sense got tired of me anguishing over a pair of £4 sneakers and said if they really wanted things to be so strict, they would have made the uniform list more detailed. So white plimsoles/sneakers with daisies is what I bought. And a crested cardigan. And crested fleece jacket. And 2 pairs of black shoes. And a water bottle. And I still have to buy the book bag. And the gym bag. And all the labels to put on all this kit so that there's a reasonable chance we'll finish the year with the same amount of stuff as we started.

This first week she went to school for half-days. Next week they will stay for lunch and then come home. The week after, it will be full-time, all-day. It's now the end of the first week and she's tired. She enjoyed it and both of us were excited on her first day, probably me even more than her. It's a bit sad, to see the end of this beginning. But we are long way from the beginning of the end; there is far more good to come.