10 Things I Wasn’t Expecting When My Kid Started School

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This post is also featured on The Motherish.

My five year old started kindergarten this year.

In a lot of ways it felt like I was the one starting school again: getting lost on the way to the office, wondering what the heck a COLA is, having no idea who any of the teachers were, being ordered out-of-bounds by someone who was clearly a stickler for the rules. It was all rather bewildering.

We’re half-way through the year now, so I’ve been reflecting on the transition. As a novice school-mum there’s a whole bunch of things I wasn’t expecting.

1. The school wants your money. All the time.

Public education is meant to be free, right? Wrong. The school will have a hand in your back pocket and firmly on your wallet for most of the year.

The school calendar is peppered with events that require your cold-hard cash: excursions, incursions, charitable donations, sports carnivals, school photos and Mother’s Day stalls are just the tip of the iceberg. Throw in the purchase of hats, uniforms and everything your kid loses (see point 7), and it’s gonna cost you.

2. They also want your time. A lot.

I feel for schools. They are under-funded and under-resourced and need to rely on the goodwill of a small pool of available parents to volunteer their time.

There are working bees, P&C committees, Mother’s Day stalls, reading support, athletics carnivals and more. You will be invited to cross country events, market days, costume parades and special assemblies where Little Johnny gets his first merit award. As a working parent it can be tough to fit in.

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3. You will need an executive PA to manage your calendar.

The number of events you need to remember when your kid starts school is crazy, and it’s impossible to keep track of everything without outsourcing large chunks of your brain to calendars, daily planners and digital reminders.

There is always something happening, and I am absolutely convinced that school was never this complicated when I was a kid. I certainly don’t remember my mother needing half a Kikki K store at home to keep it all straight.

4. Your world shrinks to a six-hour window between 9am and 3pm.

OMG! This is GREAT! My kid is going to be at school EVERY DAY!

THIS is what FREEDOM looks like! HALLELUJAH!

Errr, no.

Midway through your giddy celebrations you’ll realise that half the day has already disappeared and you need to get back before they ship your kid off to OOSH. As you dash through the school gates just before the bell rings you’ll deeply lament the loss of long daycare.

5. It always storms at school pick-up.

You can set your watch by it.

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6. Your kid will have tantrums. Lots of them.

Even the most energetic kids get totally wiped in that first year of school. The demands placed on their little brains and bodies are enough to completely obliterate them, and the fallout invariably involves a regular series of volcanic outbursts. Mostly over nothing. It’s like having an over-sized two year old.

7. Your kid loses something. Every day.

If “Losing Things” was part of the curriculum my son would be averaging an A+. Every day he loses school bags, library books, lunch boxes, hats, jumpers, money, wallets, school readers, sandwiches, drink bottles and even himself.

Yes. He has managed to lose himself. Twice.

It feels awful when your child fails to appear at the designated pick-up point with his classmates at the end of the day. It is even more awful to wait helplessly in the office while a search party of teachers is dispatched to find him.

Your kid will lose everything. And you will lose your mind. 

8. Important notes never make it home.

School notes always end up in a variety of inconvenient places:

1) Scrunched at the bottom of their school bag, sopping wet from an open drink bottle and covered in mashed banana.

2) Scrunched at the bottom of some other kid’s school bag.

3) Stashed in one of the 15 unused school bag pockets you empty maybe once a year.

4) Swallowed by the “school-note abyss”, a cosmic wormhole that devours school notes like they were dead stars.

The details aren’t important. Just know that you will never get them.

9. You excitedly count down to the start of school holidays. HURRAH! Your kids start fighting within the first five minutes. BOO! You wearily start counting down to the END of school holidays.

Self-explanatory, really.

10. You burst with pride as your kid walks through the gates.

It’s the end of Term 2 and I still love watching my son walk through the gates. I’m the least sentimental person in the entire world, but the sight of my little guy striding into school never fails to inspire the soppy, heart-swelling pride I never thought myself capable of. For all the perils and pitfalls, we’ve both loved every second of it.

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90 thoughts on “10 Things I Wasn’t Expecting When My Kid Started School

    • LOL. Covered outdoor learning area. I still have no idea what “learning” takes place there, and why it needs such a fancy name. Probably the proud brainchild of some lifelong public servant in the education department. And thank you x

  1. Oh that’s what COLA is, aha!!

    My eldest is still 18 months off starting school and I’m already dreading it – not just because of the expense and the losing things and the shitty hours, but because it means my little baby is really not a little baby anymore! Waaaa!!

    • I KNOW!!! Wind back the clock already! It is so amazing to watch them blossom though. There is so many new things for them to learn and adjust to, and you can kind of reflect on the kick-ass parenting you’ve done. LOL.

  2. HaHa – YES to all of it and I no longer have to do any of it! My boys started kindy around 1995 or 1996 – geesh I can’t remember – and my daughter finished Yr 12 in 2012, so that around 16-17 years of being a school mum. I do miss some parts of it but love not juggling it all more. We can holiday outside of school holidays now when accommodation costs are not sky high! A whole new life is opening up …. 🙂

    • You had me at holiday!!! It’s been a really nice transition from baby/toddler to school kid. Those years sometimes feel like they drag on a bit after a while. I’m still in the honeymoon period, so I love helping him with homework and readers. I’m such a nerd. LOL.

  3. Yes to all of that. I currently find myself helping out on the fund raising to replace the COLA that blew off in a storm last year (don’t ever put your hand up for that is my harry hindsight advice!). Thank you for explaining what COLA actually stands for as I didn’t know (and thought as we are 4 years into school I probably should be now so beyond the point of asking someone!). Without fail it will rain right on 3pm and there is great upset about missed parties because the invitation went the same way as the school notes!

  4. The ‘school note abyss’ works for homework too. And you should probably inform teachers about this because they never believed me when I was at school.

    Also, thank you for giving me another helpful nudge in the childless direction, just in case I was slipping!

  5. Yes!! Agreed on all points. Yeah, what’s with all the money grabbing from schools? I still don’t really know what Moosie/jucie day is, just that it costs me $1 every Wednesday. And look out for the end-of-year teachers’ present expectations, bet there’s weird competition among the parents!

  6. My eldest starts next year. I’ve had a little glimpse of this world with kinder this year, but it’s going to be really real next year, isn’t it? (Snorted aloud at the bag pockets. They’ll be so handy! Somewhere for everything! SNORT.)

  7. Headlice and worms are two joys I don’t like. We are a paperless school so all correspondence is via email – fab idea as no lost notes. I help at P&C and in classrooms because I’m nosy, it’s a win-win for all I suppose! xx

    • Oh god I would love a paperless system like that. I’m actually really surprised they don’t have one. Surely sending out a bulk email would save on so much admin with printing and distributing notes that disappear anyway? And touch-wood, we’ve still yet to deal with headlice!

  8. haha Im going to be so sad when my bub starts school 😦 luckily its 4 years away, but I doubt anything will change by then though! I married a teacher, so I can already relate to those first two! School always wants his time and money! Stupid underfunded public schools 😦

  9. Haha I remember it storming at 3pm in primary school all summer. At my first school the principal would get the students to wait under cover and call out the family name as the cars pulled up so the kids would stay dry even if he was wet.

  10. Back at the classroom to find a jumper AGAIN and the relief teacher, 20-something Mr Langford cheerfully says, “Oh don’t worry, I still need my Mum to find my lost things for me”. That’s not helping Mr Langford! I was pinning my hopes on them growing out of this one day.

  11. Bahahahahahaha! Nailed it! Omg, the shortening of your day?? Kills me. It means I have to be like, productive and stuff. Which I am not. And as I sit here about to collect my child, I see very dark clouds rolling above. WTF is with that? We’ve lost a skirt so far (yes! A skirt! She wasn’t pantsless though, I promise), and I’ve got conspiracy theories about other mums nicking it because god damn it was a good skirt, which was customised with elastic button thingers to fit my lanky lass. IT WAS HOT PROPERTY AND I WANT IT BACK, BITCHES.

  12. Yes to everything except losing things, we haven’t done that yet. But then again we are only half way through the year. This first year is a huge learning curve! And by the time I get home from drop off and leave again to get through traffic for pick up it’s 9 to 2, only 5 hours to get everything done including volunteering at the school, finding a damn orange shirt for athletics, a spare white sock for puppet making, paying for the disco next week, finding some way to make homework fun, preparing afternoon tea, oh yeah and work and housework and the all important me time everyone thinks you get. Oh now you have me started!

    • Yep, it’s funny you say that because I was going to make that window exactly as you said, but I deleted because I expected some pedant to roll in and tell me I had 6 hours instead of 5. But no, you are exactly right!

  13. I used to teach primary school and kindy aged kids, it’s so funny to see how the land lies on the other side of the fence. As for the losing things, it’s like a rite of passage. Schoolland is like a massive vortex in which anything and everything can go missing!

    • Yeah, I was rather validated when I bumped into his teacher one afternoon as we were looking for something after the bell yet again, and she smirked and said he was the worst one in the class for losing things. You think!? How about you teach him how to use his brain. LOL

    • Yep. I was starting to feel a bit defective about that, but the more I speak to other mums the more I hear the same. That time seems to evaporate! And thank you – am pleasantly surprised to be there!

  14. Oh the money thing yes! It’s never ending! And just when you think it has, some mother will decide to organise an all expenses paid trip to a spa for the teacher, and ask you to donate to that too! It’s insane!
    I also can’t believe how short the school day is. My youngest is in preschool so she only goes two and half days, and the amount of stuff I try to cram into those 15 hours is craziness! I actually run around my house doing jobs.

    • I love hearing that. The cramming in. I think people think that we laze around with large swathes of time doing nothing, when the reality is so much more like what you have described. “Cram” describes it perfectly.

  15. You’ve nailed it. All mine are in high school this year. Last year we had three girls at three different schools, the paperwork alone was a nightmare. This year just the two schools. It’s never ending, especially the money side of things.

    • Oh jesus, I can only imagine! I have just the one in school and it’s been a bit of a culture shock. I do love it, though. Give me all this over a drooling newborn any day.

  16. When kids don’t bring notes back to school the teachers blame the irresponsible parents… just so you know.

    Jokes.

    I had kids. I was always the parent who had to facs a permission note ten minutes before they left for an excursion when my kid was probs bawling his eyes out thinking he was going to miss out 🙂

  17. We’re revisiting prep this year with our son after a 6 year gap (our daughter is in Year 6). The homework is what gets me – so much more serious and far less play based than it was previously. The notes drive me crazy too, but they mostly make it home as there is a folder and a diary that they get deposited in. It’s when they get home and get mixed with dance notes and other crap! We do get newsletter emails and text messages about important things though.

  18. We are back with Prep again for our son after a six year break (our daughter is in Year 6). The thing that gets me is how much homework they get – so much more than previously. And the notes – most of ours make it home in the folder or get added to the diary plus there is an email newsletter and text messages for important info. When the notes arrive home though they seem to mix in a stray collection of school and dance notes and we still miss things.

    • Yes! I forgot about the homework! He’s only in his first year but he has so much online and offline homework to do, and is meant to write and do a speech in class on set topics each week. The kid can barely write his own name!

    • Oh god, and the LUNCHES. I forgot that one too. Urgh. That’s been a big adjustment because the long daycare/preschool he went to made all their food. I really liked that!

  19. Agree 100% and I hate to be the bearer of bad news but most of that never changes. My year 5 and 6 daughters still lose everything endlessly. Miss 10 left her lunchbox at inter school sport (offsite) and the next week asked if it was turned in to the netball courts lost and found. Um they do not have a lost and found. So where the hell is her full lunch box lmao.
    Actually number 2 has a light at the end of that tunnel. Most of us start shirking onsite duties from about year 4 unless people are desperate. It seems to coincide with most mothers starting back at work or increasing hours or kids in both primary and high school lol.

    • Oh nooooooo! I think you are right though. My three year old is way more meticulous than his older brother, so it’s definitely a personality thing and we’re in it for the long haul I think. Bahahahhahhaa!

  20. Miss T is full time pre-primary this year – her teacher is a stickler for organisation so we have notes on the whiteboard outside class every day plus an email sent to parents every Friday with action points and reminders for the following week. I feel like I’m more involved in Miss T’s news projects than she is. The staff at Officeworks know me due to my weekly trips for supplies and photo prints! She loves school so I’m happy with that. Now just to get Mr TT there and I’ll have so much more “free time” – ha! And you are dead right about the dodgy weather – always at school pick up time!

  21. I nodded so hard at this list I neatly cramped my neck. All of this is so true. What’s the go with “free” education? My biggest issue is I never have the right change for whatever is being charged on any given day. Who has real money in their wallet these days, anyway???

  22. Ah my little girl will start prep next year and I can not wait to see her walk through the gates in her uniform, especially seeing it’s the same school I went to and my dad too 🙂 I am getting nervous though, worrying about the shorter days for me and how she will be extra tired and cranky. Oh God, these next six months will fly. Eek. I don’t know if I’m ready. Meanwhile, love that meme. Cracked me up!!

  23. It is years before I have to go through this thank goodness! But, considering the amount of soppy, heart-swelling pride I already get – I’ll probably be a basket case by the time it comes around.

  24. I keep reading about these mums starting school this year and it sounds EXHAUSTING. The school lunches, the pick ups and drop offs, the whole juggle every. single. day. It sounds like more work than keeping them home! But how super cute to watch them become important, independent, real little people. Awwww!

    • Yes, yes and yes! And juggling multiple pick-ups with daycare as well thrown into the mix too, so I always seem to be running around somewhere. School is great though – I can’t wait until my youngest starts as well as I’m sure that will make things a lot easier.

  25. Tick. Tick. Tick.

    Except the losing stuff thing. As a general rule, I think kids DO lose things a lot, and yet, I have a Grade 2 kid and a Prep and I believe all belongings are still accounted for. I am knocking furiously on wood as I type.

    • They sound like keepers! I’m starting to think it’s just that my 5 year old has a unique talent for this and that it’s not a general starting school thing. Lucky me. LOL.

  26. Yes to all of this! Also one thing I don’t understand is the freaking out about how much lunch their kid is eating. I just want to tell them to calm their farm. Dyllan has been counting down to the school holidays since the first day of school. He loves school but he loves his Wii more. The little darling even faked being sick so he could stay home and play it.

    • HAHAHAHHAHAHAHA!! Thankfully mine is still very much in the honeymoon period of wanting to go to school on the weekends. I’m wondering how long that is going to last…

  27. I’m not sure how I will handle judgey mums. My friends who have older kids in schools tell me some dreadful stories about some parents behaviour. YIKES!
    I’m not looking forward to school uniforms either. That’s something for a Canadian Aussie to wrap their head around.

    • I had heard the same and was fully expecting the whole school mum clique to be really intimidating, but it’s not really a thing at our school. I have handed out my blog business card to quite a few mums with zero response. LOL. Ummm, OK. You think I’m a jerk. I get it.

  28. The thing that hit me at the six-month mark was “I’m going to be making school lunches for the rest of my life”. Oh the pain!!! Then I became a teacher, so even when my kids are done I’ll still be making lunch for me, at school!

    We skipped some of your stuff – independent school (cheap end) where the fees cover EVERYTHING except VCE textbooks. No uniform. Very few fundraisers. Tuck shop only one day a week. Can you say freedom? So much simpler than our few years in the state education system.

    And…to top it off, Our Wonderful School has just set themselves up using the ‘Skoolbag’ app so all the notices are available electronically. Hallelujah!

    We are at the far end of the school years now, and our kids don’t fight for the first week of holidays anymore…not since the last one got past Year 3. Now they cherish sleeping in, going slow and doing not much. It all gets better. Except the school lunch thing. That never ends.

  29. This is great – I agree with every one! What IS it with those 3pm storms? Seriously! I have two kids at school and a 3rd to start next year, so you’d think I’d be all cool and experienced, but many of the things on your list still surprise me on a regular basis! Roll on school holidays (I think…)

    • Mate, he is just SCATTERS. He will wander off to go to the toilet and get lost. Or wander off to find something he has lost and get lost, while his class are making their way to the pick up point. He has a special talent for this shit, I swear.

  30. Dude, I’m a Kindy teacher and I spent MONTHS wondering what the firetruck a COLA was! If you can’t find any of the important notes, they’re probably littered at the back of my classroom. And why, for the love of Home Readers, does it ALWAYS rain at home time?!

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