AIBU to be completely terrified of primary school?

(43 Posts)
strictlylurking Fri 13-Nov-15 11:05:29

I am not from the UK, but I live here now. I have a DS and am currently pregnant with child #2.

DS started nursery in September and while the nursery is lovely and all the workers are kind and quite laid back and DS seems to be having a wonderful time, I feel like I am not doing a very good job of it. For example, this week had a theme (you know superheroes, pirates, ninjas, fairies, that type of thing) as they are supporting Children in Need and so I got a letter saying that I could enter a contest (£1 for a strip of 10) to win a fancy cake and that I could pay £1 for DS to be dressed like a character from the theme on a certain day.

Well, I didn't really understand the contest was a raffle and the strip of 10 things was 10 tickets (I guess that would have been obvious to everyone else?) and I didn't understand that I was supposed to dress DS up in themed fashion and then pay the £1 (I thought they meant that I would pay them to dress him up) and so he turned up in his normal clothes and looked a bit forlorn at all the other children in their fancy dress and it just sort of felt like the most recent incident in a string of incidents where I just didn't really understand what was going on and my DS was the worse for it.

I am starting to despair at the idea of DS going to school next year because I feel like I am still going to have no idea what's going on and DS will be much more aware that he's the only kid not dressed wearing a Spiderman/Iron Man/Batman costume (although at least I know that one now) or I will find myself in a situation where I'm supposed to bring a cake to school (I seem to see a lot on mumsnet about cakes and school) and everyone else will have brought fairy cakes or Rice Krispie things and I will be the only mug there with a damn sweaty lemon drizzle. And everyone is going to think I'm either an idiot or a terrible mother because I don't know anything about primary school.

Which brings me to my point: I don't know anything about what school is like in this country, so what do I need to know about having a kid in primary school? Or better yet, what do you wish you had known before that no one told you/you didn't realize? Please help me not be "that mum"!

Nataleejah Fri 13-Nov-15 11:09:39

Try to get to know other families in your area.

WorraLiberty Fri 13-Nov-15 11:12:33

Just ask the other parents

Roughly 45% of the parents at my local primary are from other countries, so if they don't understand any letters, they ask other parents or the school staff.

SuckingEggs Fri 13-Nov-15 11:12:41

I didn't have a clue, either (having lived here all my life)!

Don't worry; a good school will keep you well informed. Keep a calendar. Write stuff down immediately as it is so easy to forget all the stuff they do, and if you do occasionally slip up, no one will freak out, not if the school is halfway decent.

Join the PTA as well - you will make friends and have a better handle on how the school works. smile

AnnaMarlowe Fri 13-Nov-15 11:13:43

Make friends with another Parent, who has older children and knows the ropes. Explain your problem and then you can check your understanding with them.

I Often check things out with other parents and I'm a native! smile

Enjolrass Fri 13-Nov-15 11:13:46

School changed so much between me going and dd going.

My advice would be to speak to the teachers and tell them your are struggling to understand the letters. I am sure they will be more than happy to clarify things.

Is it a language barrier thing? Or are the letters unclear?

If it's a language thing, can your dh read the letters and explain?

Generally non uniform days and dress up days, require you to dress them up and donate to charity.

Bun sale days are different everywhere. Not all parents donate, some take homemade cakes, some (me included) buy a cake or buns.

Some don't take anything at all.

Your first going to school is a massive learning experience for us parents. Ds starred reception this year and it's been so much less stressful than when dd started.

You will get there, it's just so new. By the time he starts full time you will be a pro at it wink

RebootYourEngine Fri 13-Nov-15 11:18:25

My ds is in his last year of primary and i still get it wrong sometimes. I am british too. My ds had a non uniform day today and i completely forgot, i had given him the donation money only yesterday. Thankfully he remembered to wear normal clothes.

It is all part of being a normal parent. Dont be so hard on youself.

LauraChant Fri 13-Nov-15 11:18:29

Our primary school has a newsletter which comes every week so they keep everyone informed that way, it is put up in the window of the school and also accessible online. Also letters come home in the children's bookbags. And the office is very friendly, so if you didn't understand something they would be fine with you giving them a ring and asking.

Also there is a Facebook group for parents, set up by parents, which can be helpful and people are always asking questions "What on earth do they mean, come in bright colours?" etc. It is a bit unintentionally cliquey perhaps because people tend to only add other parents that they know - I think it started out as a group of friends and grew - but there may be something similar for you. If not, I find being friends with other mums and dads on FB or having their mobile numbers helps for last minute questions like "Are they supposed to have a jumper and a coat for forest school today?"

This is just our school but I thought it might help to know how it works in one place!

MiscellaneousAssortment Fri 13-Nov-15 11:19:04

Firstly, don't worry you aren't the only one - native it not, the ways of primary school are often baffling and frankly odd!

The whole 'give money for the privilege of dressing your child up' is a bit of a classic fund raiser device, so now you've got that in the bag! Personally it annoys me that I have to pay to make an extra effort that I can't decide not to do as then DS will be the only child not joining in... So 'pester power' at its most effective! But, grit teeth and think of the good cause...

rudolphistheboss Fri 13-Nov-15 11:19:16

Is your ds at nursery at the school where he will go into reception? Have you tried having a word with one of the nursery teachers? Or talking to the other mums? There is no shame in not understanding. In my experience the mums in the playground all chat about all the school things, next time something comes up, could you just ask? Just casually drop it into conversation like 'so, these tickets? What do I do with them?'

People either know (and in my experience they like to share their knowledge) or they don't and you can be reassured you're not the only one and you can find out together.

Thurlow Fri 13-Nov-15 11:20:02

I don't think anyone just knows - primary school was certainly not like that when I went!

Keep an eye on his book bag for letters, and if you're in any doubt about what it means then post it on here grin

MildVirago Fri 13-Nov-15 11:24:05

I hear you, OP. Also not from here, with a pre-schooler, a FT job, don't do pick-ups and drop-offs and have limited time to understand the intricacies of dressing up days and cake sales.--Actually, I also have limited patience with that stuff.-- But the 'school culture' is totally different in my home country, and it all seems much more involved and angst-ridden here, so I feel completely mentally under-equipped.

HumphreyCobblers Fri 13-Nov-15 11:33:32

I felt like this when my dc started school and I am a primary school teacher. It was different in the school I taught in! It is stressy doing it all to begin with. You will find your feet and it won't be so worrying. I ALWAYS ask if I am not sure of something now.

myotherusernameisbetter Fri 13-Nov-15 11:33:49

Lots of good advice above, also your son will soon be old enough to understand himself what is meant to be happening and explain it to you - please don't be worried and stressed about it smile

Also it would be good to give feed back to the nursery about the misunderstandings so that they can try to make their communications clearer for other people.

Mundelfall Fri 13-Nov-15 11:34:18

Possibly off topic but make sure you apply for a reception place for next year (applications have to be due in by Dec/Jan, depending where you are). If you ds is at the school nursery he will not automatically be given a place in the reception class.

I was also baffled by primary schools here and in particular the amount of donations expected on a weekly basis (craft material, costumes, money, cakes, more money, raffle items, and some more cash). I went on strike at one point because I simply didn't have the spare money.

Witchend Fri 13-Nov-15 11:34:24

Find a parent with an older child and ask. No one minds telling you-they've all been in that position.

When dd1 arrived at school and would receive notes like "jam jar tombola, be prepared!" or "Open afternoon at 1:30" I'd go and ask someone with a dc in year 2 who would explain that you'd be given a jam jar to fill up with little things and return the following week for the Christmas fair tombola, or that you could go into school with your dc for open afternoon and your dc could show you round the school.

When dd2 started I had five or six parents who used to apologise for using me as the encyclopaedia... those parents are now being used (on dc#3) as one by others. It goes round.

Pedestriana Fri 13-Nov-15 11:39:13

Pretty much what everyone has said here - join the parents/teachers association, talk to other parents, make a note of any and every thing school related on a calendar/in your diary/both, join any facebook groups.

I'm new to primary school parenting too, and so far have just about avoided slipping up - though I did forget that as of Monday they were meant to take a winter coat to school (regardless of how cold it was), or they'd not be allowed to play outside.

Daisydukes79 Fri 13-Nov-15 11:39:57

About halfway through my daughters reception year, I started a Facebook group for the parents in her class. They have all really embraced it and it's used for notifying about events, asking questions and the usual 'has anyone seen x's jumper?' Posts. Lots of people ask questions about what to do for school events, etc and I think it reassures everyone that we are all in the same boat. I'm friendly with one of the other mums who is originally from India and she loves it as she struggles a little understanding some of the newsletters etc from school.
Perhaps when your child starts, you could organise something like this, perhaps with one of the other parents you are more familiar with? It could be helpful x

ThisisMrsNicolaHicklin Fri 13-Nov-15 11:42:19

I was born and went to school in the UK but primary school has my mind boggled. I'm not sure if its the passage of time or the fact that DS goes to a huge city school and I went to a tiny village one but since he started in the summer I've often had no clue at all as to what's going on. Its getting easier, though and I find the newsletter/Twitter/Facebook/playground grapevine very useful. Also DS drops cryptic hints and surreal clues so I have a bit of an inkling when something is coming off - I'm just off to find out why he was twittering on about a tea towel this morning smile
Don't worry too much, we all feel like this.

wigglesrock Fri 13-Nov-15 11:47:04

Honest to God - he'll be grand - ask another parent if you see them before or after school what they're doing. My kids primary school is great at sending notes, there's a Friday note that goes out at the end of the week with bits and pieces and any additional info is stuck into their homework book at the start of the week.

I was completely clueless when my eldest started primary school - she was the first out of my family/friends kids to start school - I hadn't been in a primary school in 30 years before that. I did miss things - I didn't realise parents went to sports days - they didn't when I was at school. She's now in her last year and my third had just started primary school and parents have asked me stuff - in my kids primary other parents are happy enough to share tips and what stuff to avoid grin. There's stuff my youngest has said to me that they need to bring in/do - even now I've asked the teacher or another parent to clarify if they need this or that - the answer is usually the complete opposite of what dd3 has informed me "must be done"!

RatOnnaStick Fri 13-Nov-15 11:55:21

Well I failed today by giving DS the pound to donate to children in need but not being clever enough to work out how to 'Pudsey-fy using accessories only' when there was nothing non-frilly around to just buy (keyring, badge, socks etc).

Silly me didn't think of just sticking spots on his polo shirt like other in-the-know mums of boys did.

It isn't immediately obvious even to those of us on our first schoolchild. Don't worry.

TurnWifiOn Fri 13-Nov-15 12:02:25

I dropped my little one to nursery today and didn't realise that Children in Need day meant that they did fancy dress, I am from the UK. Don't beat yourself up, it will get easier and as others said try to get friendly with other local families,

Ha, I just realised I didn't know to pay the £, see OP its not just you!

Shakey15000 Fri 13-Nov-15 12:12:30

As a previous poster said, a Facebook group is a great idea. I created one for DS's year and it's fantastic for asking questions, confirming things quickly in an informal way.

Janek Fri 13-Nov-15 12:21:01

On another not - you have applied for his primary school place, haven't you?!?

gamerchick Fri 13-Nov-15 12:24:40

Well if you get stuck you could always ask here OP. One if us will know.

Man I'm on my third kid through primary and I had to ring the school up this morning over this comic relief thing because the letter contradicted itself so I had no clue what they wanted.

Honestly don't worry about it.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now