Just over six weeks ago Rufus started Year 1. Reception had been a bit hit and miss with him. Some things he had loved, learning to write, starting to read and his wonderful teachers, Miss Groves and Miss Prosper. However he really struggled with anxiety throughout the whole year. He was anxious about social situations, anxious about choosing the right things to do and generally staying out of trouble. He was a ball of nervous energy for most of the year and convincing him to go to school each morning became increasingly difficult.
As you can imagine, when Year 1 loomed ever closer I too became anxious about how he would find the new, more structured and formal approach to learning. It would generally be more demanding and have potentially more opportunities for stress and upset.
For the first couple of weeks the only thing that Rufus seemed to really be struggling with was the playground. At his school the Year 1 playground is far bigger than the Reception area, there are older kids there too and he seemed unable to find like minded kids to play with. Now Rufus has always struggled to bend to the will of others when it comes to playing – something we’ve long worked on with him – so his new stress in the playground was not unexpected. However, what we weren’t hearing about was complaints regarding his new classroom schedule.
After the teething problems of the first few weeks were resolved (thanks in no small part to him finding a friend in the year above – and me organising a play date with said boy) Rufus really started to settle in and you know what? He loved school. For the first time he would say ‘I’ve had a great day today.’ He stopped complaining about getting into uniform, he looked forward to Monday morning and now that the half term holiday has arrived, he’s actually a little disappointed to not be going to school for five days.
I’ve also started to hear about his days. Not just the perfunctory, ‘it was great and I had jacket potato for lunch’ but actual details. He tells me about the maths he has been learning, he’s loving number bonds. He tells me about the handwriting he’s been practising, and he even shows it to me. He asks to read the book that comes home in his book bag each week and even keeps his patience when struggling with certain words. In fact the only negative comment he’s made is that he thinks drawing and painting is a ‘waste of time’ – his words, not mine.
So what have I learned about my son? I’ve learned that he is a child that, unlike many of his peers, loves structure. He thrives on the order and certainty of a fixed timetable. He finds the rules of raising your hand to speak and taking turns comforting. Generally, rules work for him – they ease his anxiety and leave room for him to enjoy the process of learning. I can honestly say that it has been a complete joy to see my son become enthusiastic about learning and it certainly eases my anxieties about sending him away from the home he finds so comforting. It just goes to show that even a stay at home parent who spends hardly any time away from their child can still be surprised by them.