Naomi turns 5 in a matter of weeks, and the Kiwis have this charming tradition of sending kids off to start school right on their 5th birthday. There are school visits once a week for three Tuesdays before The Birthday. Then they dress up in the school uniform and start regular attendance on their birthday, or there abouts.
Naomi is very proud of her uniform, and was excited to wear it to Playcentre to show it off.
Tuesdays are our normal Playcentre days, another charming Kiwi tradition in which we’ve partaken since Milo was a baby. Playcentre is a parent-run preschool with a philosophy that parents are the kids’ best teachers, and kids learn best by self-directed play. A little like Montessori with a messier twist.
I’m not much for pageantry or ritual, but I was quite impressed with how special the send-off was at playcentre. Steph, the coordinator who has been there since Naomi was a new born, gave her a thorough “feel like a big kid” send off. She got to wear the special Maori feather cloak (symbolism a bit lost on me, but special nonetheless), and show everyone through her learning story journal. We all sang happy birthday in English and Maori, and she chose five “fairy claps” from the group. She was presented with a certificate and a Playcentre cup before the admiring eyes of her peers.
A couple of the kids made her playdough cakes with candles. She moved her photo from the “waka” (big Maori canoe) to the school poster. And in the end she exited the building under a tunnel of hands to the tune of a special song. She ate up all the attention, and then didn’t look back. My kids aren’t nostalgic, that’s for sure; they seem to only look forward, towards the future, not behind.
There will be a leaving ceremony at her other preschool as well, the Montessori school where she attends while I work. That one won’t involve a feather cloak, but she’ll still find it memorable.
Naomi’s birthday is during the end-of-term school holidays, so her school visits started three weeks before the end of term. A school visit is 10-12, so we bring Milo at 8:30, then go home for a few minutes, then back to school.
The first school visit morning I wasn’t sure it was actually going to happen. She had started out wonderfully excited to don the new uniform, but I had scolded her for driving her bike too close to a parked car and scraping it with her handle, and when we got home she was cross and uncooperative. I offered to have her help me bake muffins. “I don’t like muffins!” Then would she like to grate carrots? “I don’t like carrots!” We can put one of the muffins in your school lunch. “I’m not going to school!” Ok, I said, feigning indifference, while wondering if I was really willing to let her skip out. Would you like to lick the batter? A nod. Then her sun came back out, all was well, and we traipsed back to school.
Here is the New Entrant classroom at Halswell school. Tuesdays are new kid visit days, so the parents of all the soon-to-be-starting kids are present as well.
Parents hang around for an hour of the visit, “settling in” their children….or, in my case, with a child who is confident and happy to be launched, just staring at the sea of red and wondering which one is mine.
New kids are paired with a buddy in the class room to show them the ropes (and the toilets, more literally). Her buddy is also shares her name, a fact which they both seemed to enjoy.
She’s starting with 12 other new kids, a huge intake for one week. The teachers’ ability to learn faces and names is absolutely incredible. Her teacher is starting back at school the same week she is, having been a New Entrant teacher at Halswell some years ago, then taken a break to be a librarian and a professional actress at the local theatre. She was wearing a pink polka dot dress with a teal ruffle, pink bobble bead earrings, and red lipstick. Her bubbly actress persona is infectious. She’s any little girl’s dream teacher. Heck, I want to go back to kindergarten!
While the kids are adjusting to the classroom, the parents are taken away to the staff room for tea and a talk. The first week the talk had something to do with the reporting system, stuff I should have known having had Milo in the school for years now, but which I only vaguely recalled. Another parent asked me about the weekly sausage sizzle, but I was clueless since we have never purchased it for Milo. I felt more competent during the second week talk, revolving around feeding your kid for school–fruit break, morning tea, and lunch. Apparently little misunderstandings like eating your sandwich for morning tea can be enough to derail some littlies. Oh, and make sure they wear shoes they can do up themselves, and that they can get their own clothes down to toilet themselves. I spent the hour being thankful that my kids are pretty rugged when it comes to transitions. No credit to me, it’s just their confident personalities.
I’ve been trying to plan some fun stuff with Naomi on Thursdays before she starts her 8:30-3:00 school drill. Last week we went to Hagley park with friends; here we are being silly.
Every spring we ride or walk down Harper Ave in Hagley park, under the frilly cherry blossoms. There was the spring when I just had Milo in the jogging stroller, then the next one where I was pregnant with Naomi. Then I pushed a stroller and Milo rode his balance bike, then his pedal bike. Now Naomi’s zooming along on her pedal bike while Milo’s at school. Other years I’ve been desperate for the spring to come, but this spring has been so busy that I almost forgot to make the annual pilgrimage.
Cheeky cheerful Naomi. Tomorrow is her third and final school visit, then the school holidays happen, then–hey presto–she’s a school girl. Two kids at school.