The Way I See It: Taking that giant step into school

Columnist Michele Blais reminisces about her school days as students around the North Okanagan get ready to start learning.

My neighbour is starting school and will begin kindergarten this year. She is very excited. She is bright, friendly and curious and I am certain will do very well in school.

I can remember starting school.

I was a farm kid and our school did not have kindergarten back in the day.  I went to a one-room school house for most of my first year until the big school – four classrooms, gym, library, offices – was completed. The kids were bussed to our school, and then the different pairs of grades went to another one-room school house.

When my youngest was in Grade 3 and they were doing pioneer days, he suggested I come to his class for show and tell, since I was a living pioneer having gone to a one-room school.  Complete with desks that were joined, and boy and girl separate entrances.

My memory bank sees it as a great time. I was the fourth child in our family, the teacher knew all about me from my brothers. They described me as loud and sassy. Of course I was a quiet child in school, leaving the voice and sassiness for my brothers.

Mrs. Leitch led many of our classes outside, either under the big tree for reading or for art time, where we would visit the farm next door to look at the animals. Our phys. ed classes were also always held outside.

The new big school was on a large acreage complete with a pond and a forest bordering it. These were both incorporated into our lessons, looking for frogs, birds, and insects in the pond, skating on it in the winter, and going into the woods for nature walks. No school would allow those today as being seen as too much risk.

But as I reminisce about the old days, there is much to appreciate about today.  Schools have developed curriculum to keep students really interested and to provide a variety of courses that reflect the world past the classroom.

There is state-of-the-art equipment in some schools, theatres, computer labs, gyms, science labs, and teachers with all kinds of amazing skills and enthusiasm they bring to their work.

They also spend more time on social issues and responsibilities.

More and more we look to the school for behavioral lessons, anti-bullying programs, communication skills, sex education, and on and on. In many ways it makes such great sense as the students are there, they are in a laboratory to test the new skills every day of what works and doesn’t.  However, teachers are still working on the academic goals as a priority.

Teachers carry a big load and we need to remember that. It is a big responsibility and when kids get great teachers they connect with, who are able to create that wonderful environment of holistic learning, it is magical.

That’s what I hope for my young friend that her school experience is magical. It won’t be everyday, but there will be many days and moments when the “ah ha” light within switches on.

When the lads started school life, it  became very different. Our small world of home life and activities expanded significantly. It was slow at first and then sometimes seemed all consuming.

Organizing lunches the night before and creating ones that  would be eaten as well as finding regular time and a special place for homework was challenging.

Then there were the school meetings.

Parents and teachers are partners in your child’s education; volunteering in the classroom benefits your child and you as you can observe what goes on, who their friends are, and where they may need support.

Getting to know their friends is equally important by organizing play dates, meeting their parents,  and staying connected.

The parent circle is also very important. It is important for advice, support and for your kids to know you care and want to know who they are with.

I met some wonderful people through my children’s playmates who were friends for years.

I miss talking to the lads every day about what was going on in school, sharing their work, discussing their challenges in and out of the classroom, being a presence as much as I could, despite life’s demands.

The night time routine was such a loving way to connect, same as meal times, or driving in the car.

The extra projects, sports, music, theatre, all of them can be such a great way for your child to learn so many skills and also have fun.

The interest in their school and activities, all of it continues into adulthood. Only now I don’t read night time stories, I read texts.

What happens with us as parents is school is the beginning of the separation from us, we start to lose our place as the expert. Mrs. Eng will become the expert, and then it will be Scott D. or some other student who knows all.  We have to share our children with the world in a bigger way.

So when you see the tears on the first day and the longer than normal hugs, understand the parents are just having a tough time letting go, seeing their little ones setting off into the world, knowing life will never be the same.

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Michele Blais is a longtime columnist who has worked with families and children in the Vernon area for the past 27 years.