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Posts Tagged ‘School’

On Monday, my little girl walked into her new classroom without so much as a backward glance. And why not? In front of her was a new world of little people to meet, books to read, pictures to paint. Behind, a mother feeling a little sad, a little envious and a lot of hope.

We all parent in our own ways. When I was pregnant with Little Pearl, it was the attachment parenting literature that resonated the most with me. So when she arrived, she spent most of her daytime hours in a sling and her night time hours in a three sided cot by our bed. If she cried, she was comforted, and she continued breastfeeding well past the one year mark.

Well meaning people (at least, I hope they were well-meaning) assured me that my daughter would grow to be clingy and insecure using such methods; that she would be unable to manage her own emotions, or learn to fall asleep on her own. She would be a late walker from all that time spent in the sling, and she would be having a ‘breastfeed at the school gate’. And yes, under the age of six months, all those things were probably true.

But she’s more or less slept through the night from six months onwards, and she puts herself in ‘time out’ when her emotions get the better of her. She walked on time. She goes to sleep herself, after a little play with her dolls. And if she still has the occasional breastfeed, it’s never been at the school gate.

I write this not to suggest that attachment parenting is for every parent, or that it is the only way to parent, and certainly not to ascribe the miracle that is my daughter to a set of techniques. I write it to dispel the myth that a child raised using attachment parenting philosophies will be insecure and clingy, with a mama complex.

This week, my daughter took her first steps in to a world without a family member. She did it confidently and with great anticipation, without any thought of fear or anxiety. The only fear and anxiety was mine, that we had hit another milestone on the great journey of ‘letting go’ that is parenting. Now she will make friends without my encouraging smile, fall without my ready hand to steady her, and learn new words and skills without my teaching.

Just how it should be.

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Little Pearl goes to school next week.

Most kids don’t begin school (kindergarten) in Australia until they turn four or five, but Little Pearl is going to Canberra Montessori School. Montessori students begin attending school from three years of age, and go into a class that has a mix of students from three to six years old (Cycle 1).

What has struck me is the very gentle transition process. Little Pearl and I have been going to the Parent Toddler Programme for over a year, so she is familiar with the campus. We’ve also gone to the school fairs and ‘discos’, where she has had a blast petting animals, dancing and wide-eyed watching of the big girls going across the monkey bars. And over the last half of this term, each week we’ve attended the Parent Toddler Programme she has also gone across to the ‘big school’ class room for a visit.

At first she was reluctant to stay in the class room and wanted ‘mummy’, and wouldn’t walk down to the classroom without me. After all, this is the first time she has ever been left with someone who was not a family member. Nonetheless, her first impression was positive; I asked her what she saw in the class room, and she said, ‘Girls and boys.’ And when I asked what they were doing, she turned to me with a wondering expression on her face and said, ‘Playing!’

Two weeks before the end of term we did an orientation visit (a one hour visit to the class room after school had finished for the day) where she did some painting and activities with her new teacher, and left them to dry on the rack. Two days later, when we were back at the school for our regular Parent Toddler Programme session, I asked her if she wanted to go back to the classroom to pick up her paintings and maybe do a new one for me. Next thing I know, she’s packed up her work and trotted out the door with the Parent Toddler teacher saying ‘Mummy will be so surprised with my painting!’. She didn’t look back once, and stayed in the Cycle 1 class room without me for forty minutes. The power of familiarising a young child with something new is amazing.

The other thing that makes starting at a Montessori school very different is that their intake of new students is continual throughout the year – instead of all the new students beginning in February at the start of the school year, children begin in the term they turn three. So instead of being one of eight or ten new students in a class, she’s one of just two new students, and the teacher can devote some time to just the two of them. When Little Pearl begins, she will stay for just an hour the first day. Then we’ll gauge her readiness each day until she’s able to stay the full three hours every weekday.

I feel very lucky that we’re able to have such a stress-free transition to daily school. I’m not sure whether it is more stress free for me or for Little Pearl, but I’m grateful nonetheless!

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