On her first year of school… and moving on…

The first Year

I haven’t said much here about Caris’ first year of playschool, for no other reason than not particularly having much time (or inspiration) to blog at all. But now that the year is done and dusted, I feel the need to reflect on what was an incredible year.

On the one hand, I was more relaxed about sending her to school for the first time than I was when Alex was little, as I had been-there-done-that before. But on the other, I was nervous as hell, because Caris doesn’t really take to new people that easily, in fact she used to even be reluctant to stay with her own grandparents!

So at two and a half, we packed her little butterfly bag and sent her to school.

butterfly bag

So let’s start at the beginning.

Her first day was an absolute disaster. I didn’t like her teacher. (It is customary at her playschool to spend the first day with them.) I do not say this lightly, as clearly one day is not enough to get to know someone. But I am pretty good at reading people, and I did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling. She was aloof and disinterested in my child, and considering that Caris started two weeks after the rest of the class as she was new, the teacher should have theoretically been able to give her a bit more one-on-one attention, which she did not do. I did not like the way the teacher handled disciplining a boy in the class that was having a meltdown and in general she just made me feel uncomfortable. Nobody even bothered to show my kid where the loo was, I had to take her. (She was newly potty trained and I was mortified at the thought of her having an accident.) And then about ten minutes after play-time, one of the kids in her class was brought in by the gardener bawling her eyes out, as she had been left outside; the teacher hadn’t even checked that everyone was back. I was not exactly filled with confidence that she would be the nurturing, caring teacher I had hoped for.

Needless to say, Caris spent the entire morning sitting on my lap, despite all my efforts to get her to mingle. I was devastated as Alex had been at the same playschool and his first day (and year) was amazing. (Albeit with a different teacher.) Another little girl had started on the same day, and I could see that her mom was feeling uncomfortable too, and I even assured her that it was a lovely school and that the class was clearly just experiencing teething problems that day.

I left the school with a heavy heart, and by the next morning I had decided she was not going back to school. I then requested a meeting with the principal and explained why my daughter had not returned, and what my issues with the teacher were. After pretty much refusing to take my child back to her allocated teacher, despite their “give it another chance, she really is an excellent teacher” pep-talk (and threatening to take both my kids out of the school), they agreed to move her to another class. And no, I am not normally a high-maintenance mom. (Incidentally, I met the other new mom in the parking lot the next morning and she was sitting in her car crying because she had left her daughter there that morning. As we got chatting, she had all the same issues as me, and wanted to take her daughter out of the school. Later I learned that she had taken her child to another school. I felt like I had dodged a bullet!)

So on the Thursday, we had a redo of the first day of school. Day one with her new teacher was amazing. I had intended to spend the day with her again, but within ten minutes, Teacher Tina had taken her outside to see the bunnies and I could go. I felt comfortable the minute I had walked into her class, and immediately knew that this was the teacher for my Caris! Little did I know that she would end up being the most amazing teacher I have ever met. (And also confirmed my belief that a child’s schooling experience is 100% related to the teachers they encounter along the way.) My little girlie blossomed and grew so much in Tina’s class over the course of the year.(Daphne, the assistant teacher, and Irini, the Greek teacher were absolutely fantastic too.)

Tina not only looked after and taught our little people, but she loved them and nurtured them as if they were her own. And as parents, she became our friend. Each Friday, she shared photos of our little ones in the class whatsapp group, allowing us glimpses into the daily activities of our little ones.We all became very attached to Teacher Tina.

One of my favourite images from the Teddy-bear picnic day:

CarisTeddyI could not have asked for a better start to my baby’s school career. At the end of year group ring, Tina’s palpable emotions let us all know how special our little ones had been to her too. And I know that all the other moms in the class felt the way I did too, we were all very emotionally charged as we said our goodbyes on the last day of school.

As a parting thank-you, I wrote Tina the following note that conveyed how much she had meant to us during the year. I can only hope the remainder of Caris’ school career is filled with other such amazing teachers.


Moving on…

The end of playschool has left a heavy burden in my heart. Change is never easy, and the transition has been very hard on Caris. And me. The pre-school is so much bigger, and more hectic, and being separated from her original class and Tina has been very stressful. (Luckily she is in the same class as her friend Ciana, who is walking with her in the photo above!) She has pretty much broken my heart every day at drop-off, by clinging to me and crying inconsolably, and refusing to go to her new teacher. (Something she has never done before.) I know in my head that it will get better (and already she is less reluctant) but that doesn’t stop my heart from aching. I miss the days of dropping her with Tina, easily. I have some solace in the fact that the other little ones are also struggling to adjust, and it is completely normal for her to be experiencing some anxiety.

So hence we start the next chapter of Caris’s school career.

I can only hope that it will be even half as happy and wonderful as her first…

caris first day of grade 000





This time last year…

This time last year, I was having a mild panic attack, because I was one of those moms who hadn’t put her child on a school waiting list in utero. I had a three-month old new baby, and an about to turn three-year old, who was rapidly succumbing to boredom at granny’s house, and had his nose out of joint big time with the birth of his little sister.  Having canvassed a few of the local play / pre-schools in the area, I realised my rather large faux-pas, at having not paid a school deposit the day I fell pregnant.

So ever the optimist, I filled in forms and hoped that someone would have a space for him by 2013, if I was lucky, never mind the back-end of 2011 or January 2012! The school I was most keen on (who had said that there was no way they could help me that year) gave me a call out of the blue about a week after filling in the paperwork, and said that they had a space for him to start in September 2011 if I was still keen.  Seemingly someone had left with short notice, and he could start immediately.

Deposits were paid quicker than you can say “Playschool costs HOW MUCH!?!” and my little guy was set to start school.

{A photo of Alex’s first-ever ring time sitting next to Emily. Look at how much hair he has!}

He was put in the older of the two playschool classes, where the children all celebrated their birthdays six months to a year before him, so he really was the baby in the class, with some of the kids turning four years old a few weeks after he turned three. I spent the first day of school with him, and was horrified at some of his class mates jumping off of play equipment higher than my waist, and watching the eagerness in Alex’s eyes to follow suit. I was imagining a phone call within his first week at school to say that he had broken an arm or leg while trying to imitate his new friends.

He was so shy, and so little, and it broke my heart to leave him there alone on his second day. (But luckily he took a liking to Emily, the teacher’s assistant, and she helped him settle in!) Before long, he was fitting in just perfectly, had made some friends, and was happy and eager to go to school. Once he started, I felt hugely guilty that I had kept him home for so long, and was worried that I had done him a disservice by waiting till three to send him to school. And keeping him home, was entirely my doing, not wanting to let my baby go out into the big wide world. But I soon realised that he was not at all behind his classmates, and in some cases he was ahead of even the much older children. (Having had one-on-one time with Granny and Grandpa for almost three years, he knew a lot of stuff already!) The only real problem was that he was painfully shy, and this was in part his personality, and partly because he was not exposed to that many kids of his own age. (Even though we had play-groups and some activities such as Kindermusik and swimming, it’s not quite the same as a school setting).

A few weeks after starting school, he turned three, and celebrated his birthday with his new friends.

{Blowing out candles with Elli}

A year later, deep in the throes of grade 000, he loves school. He has made a few close friends and looks forward to seeing his teachers and classmates every day. According to his teacher, Christine, he loves to participate, and is nowhere near as shy as the boy I witnessed on his first day, and at his first parents’ day some 11 months earlier. He has fitted in brilliantly and is a popular and well-liked boy. He has made beautiful art-works, “baked” some delicious creations, played to his heart’s content, and has even been on two outings (to Drake’s farm and the Joburg zoo). And he has learnt SO MUCH! He comes home every day with some new bit of knowledge, and will tell us “Do you know…” followed by the little titbit that he has learnt.

He is at a Greek school, even though we are not Greek, but I am told by his Greek teacher, Matoula, that he is one of the stars in the class. At home, we often hear him singing his Greek songs and pointing out certain things or counting out aloud (to thirty!) in Greek!  (It still amazes me what little sponges pre-schoolers are. When he first started playschool, and was exposed to this second language, I am sure that he was super confused, but now it’s as if he’s been learning it all his life.)

A year later, I am impressed by how much he has learnt, and how he has blossomed since starting school. Some days when I fetch him, and we drive past the play-school building on the way out, Alex says to me, “There’s Elli’s class, and Caris is going to be in Elli’s class when she is a big girl!” (And this time around, I can’t wait for my little girl to start school!)