After helping Phoebie cope with her first week in primary school, husBenKoh and I spent week 2 of January 2017 helping Breyen to settle in at his new school.
Last year, Breyen was enrolled in a playgroup and while he had fun there, it has always been in our plans to move him to the kindergarten that Phoebie attended. We know how good this kindergarten is and we know Breyen will grow even more there.
I cannot be thankful enough that the school had scheduled for pre-nursery (also known as nursery 1 in some schools) children to start one week later than all the other levels. Because of this arrangement, we were able to concentrate on helping one child settle at a time.
Even though Breyen is not new to attending school and had always wanted to run in and join his Sister whenever we fetched her from the kindergarten, it was different when he realised he was the one who would be attending school there. At the same time, children his age have a tendency to forget certain things quite quickly. Breyen had been away from school life during our family vacation and seemed to have forgotten that he liked going to school.
It seemed though, that he knew that wearing his new white shoes meant he was going to school and had to be away from Mummy. He refused to wear the shoes until I told him that he could go to the playground for a while. After the short visit to the playground, Breyen headed to his new school to start his new journey.
One of the things I really love about the kindergarten Breyen is now attending is how the Principal herself will always be there for everything. I am not going to show some of the photos for the sake of the privacy of the school. So I will describe what we experienced instead.
Upon arrival at the school, we were told that parents are encouraged to stay with the pre-nursery children for the first three days of school. This is to help to ease the children into the new environment.
“Also, parents,” said the Principal, “You have taught your children well. Do not talk to strangers. At this point, we are the strangers and your children will not want to talk to us. So when you stay with them and explore the environment with them, they will feel more secure about this place, and they can get to know us with your help.”
With that said, I was prepared to dedicate the next three days to be with Breyen throughout his two hours of class.
The children had a taste of what school assembly is like at the school, greeting Teachers and singing songs, while holding their parents’ hands or clinging on like koalas.
Parents were allowed into the classroom to see what the children would do on a daily basis. Again, the Principal had special instructions for the parents.
“For the first three days,” she said, “If the children want to sit on your lap, let them. We will slowly move from sitting on your lap, to sitting on the floor in front of you, and when your child is ready, you can stand further away from them.”
Of course, three days was a really short time for some children to progress that way, but I know what the Principal was trying to say was to allow the children to get comfortable in the new environment progressively instead of forcing them to be on their own right away.
Alas, Breyen fell asleep halfway through his first day of school! He was not used to the new routine and was exhausted from having woke up super early in the morning with his sister. I knew then that I had to do other things to help him adjust.
Other than having Breyen fall asleep, the first three days of Kindergarten went pretty smoothly for Breyen. I knew it was because I was still allowed in the classroom with him. The real test would be on day four when I could no longer attend school with him and he had to be there for three hours.
True enough, when I dropped Breyen off on day four, he tried with all his might to cling onto me like a koala, refusing to let go. I knew I had to make my goodbyes short and sweet, so when I saw that the Principal was ready to carry Breyen away, I kissed him and left.
I would like to think that because Breyen had the first three days to explore the new environment with me, he calmed down fairly quickly. By lunch, he was more settled and I received an update from one of his Teachers.
There he was, enjoying lunch in his new classroom. I knew he enjoyed himself because he ate not one, not two but three bowls of rice. I laughed when the teacher told me how much he ate. Being willing to eat was definitely a good sign.
Even though he had no issues travelling there, his mood changed when he realised once again that Mummy would not be going in with him. Once again, he cried, screamed and kicked as one of his teachers took him from my arms. I reminded him that I would be back, just like the day before, and left the school hall.
The teacher knew that I was lingering outside the hall, waiting to see if Breyen could calm down, so she came out to assure me that the Principal was then carrying Breyen along the class corridors and that he had calmed down. As I watched from outside the school hall, I could see Breyen re-enter the hall with his Principal carrying him. He had stopped crying completely and was looking around as the school carried on with its regular Friday assembly programme.
As they left the hall to go back to class, I left the school and headed for lunch.
I know that the separation part when I drop Breyen off at school every day is going to take him some time to get used to, but I am thankful that the school allowed parents to go into the new environment with the young pre-nursery children.
Letting go of children as they start attending school is part of parenthood, and as much as we want to protect our children from all kinds of negative emotions, letting them go is part of helping them to learn and letting them grow.
The first two weeks of January 2017 have been punctuated with many mixed emotions, but I know that by letting my children go as they enter their new schools, I am growing with them.
Now, onward to the rest of the year as they grow.