It’s that time of year again where parents start preparing their little ones to go back to school. It’s a time full of mixed emotions as you don’t want summer time to end but getting back into a routine and the schedules of school is needed again too. As I prepare my eldest to start Year One, I reflect back on how much has changed since I went back to school.
I remember the week before school, each year, so clearly from a very young age. Mostly because we start school about 6/7 years old rather than 4/5 years old, memories are stronger at that age. As an American, I have already experienced so many differences in going back to school for my son than it was for me going back to school. For me, the week before school, each year, was a very important week because that’s when you find out who your teacher was for the year. I grew up in a small town with only one school so each grade had three teachers for three different classes. When the list was posted on the school bulletin you could bet we were all riding our bikes down to see which teacher we got and which one of our friends were in our class.
We never had school uniforms either so back to school shopping was a huge deal. Families would save up for those back to school outfits and school supplies all summer. For weeks, you would see all the latest trends on tv commercials and make your list of what you wanted to have stocked up when you started school again. That first day was always so nerve racking because you didn’t know if anyone would like your new outfits, if your friends would be wearing the same style or have something even better on. My mom used to make it extra special for us to do our school shopping with her and I always got to pick one friend to come with us too. I was allowed three whole new outfits, one pair of new shoes, and a few accessories for my back to school wardrobe. If I wanted anything else, I had to have saved with my allowance for it. I remember one year about 5 grade (age 11) I had saved up quite a bit of money from my allowance just to get these new shoes for school that everyone was raving about. I didn’t care if ever got new clothes that year, everyone was going to start school with a pair of these and so I had to too. Looking back they were hideous and I wished we had had school uniforms. I really do.
Our back to school preparations included getting the latest lunch box and thermos cup to match. We stocked the cupboards with lunch snacks and mini Tupperware to fill with fruits, vegetables, and yogurts. I remember when I got to an age that I thought those character lunch boxes were for babies (mostly because my older brothers teased me) and I started taking sack lunches in those brown paper bags instead. It was like a big milestone in school when you started bringing in brown sack lunches and juice boxes instead of your sesame street lunch box and thermos. The type of lunch you brought with you seems to be an age thing as it progressed than onto hot lunches which were provided by the school in the cafeteria in junior high. We were too cool to carry brown sacks or character boxes anymore as young teenagers. Entering into high school, where every single person can drive by 16 years old, we would leave campus everyday for lunch and would meet up at various restaurants, stores and cafes in town with our friends for lunch. Spending far too much time socializing than eating, on most days though.
We used to walk miles to school each day without our parents. My older siblings and I met up with some neighborhood friends and would walked together both morning and afternoon. We were latch key kids as my mother worked full time. We would have an afternoon snack and play outside in the yard until she was home from work and would call us in when dinner was ready.
The biggest thing a student thinks about while parents do most of the preparations for back to school is what circle of friends will you be in this year. You wondered this because you may not have seen some friends all summer. We have three full months of summer vacation and that can be a long time if friends are away on holidays or with other parts of their family the entire time. It’s like the very first day of school, every year, all over again. I will never forget that feeling each time of trying to figure out where I belong and where my friendships still were to further grow. You usually stuck by the friend that you played the most with the summer before school started.
It seems so different now with my son returning back to school. I can’t pin point if it’s a decade thing or if it’s a cultural thing, possibly a bit of both that makes it seem so foreign to me. Already his back to school memories will be so very different than my own.
Right away, he knows who his teacher will be and the teaching assistants for each year he is in primary school from the moment he starts to year six. Obviously unless someone leaves or changes jobs. He has met most of his teachers of his future and they already are a big part of his life in his small school.
I remember the first day he put on his school uniform and I realized how little he still seemed. Up until that point I felt he was looking so grown up and mature. I don’t know if it’s because we start school much later in life or if it was the uniform. He just didn’t look old enough to be going off to school. Maybe I wasn’t emotionally ready for him to be gone five days a week yet. I have to say though, he put that school uniform on and he was so proud of it. He was proud of what school he got into and the colors he would be strutting around for the next seven years of his life. He was excited that he had a p.e. kit and excited to have the choice between pants or shorts to wear. I honestly, love the shorts on him all year round if it wasn’t so cold out and I think he would too. He pulls that backpack up on his back and you can tell he is ready to return to school. He loves everything there is about going back to school.
It was a huge thing for me to wrap my head around applying for schools and sitting waiting at midnight while my computer refreshed to find out where he would attend. I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t got where we really wanted him to be going. Having never experienced that myself it felt very foreign to me. But my son didn’t care he was happy and his uniform I think gave him a new bag of confidence. He really thought he was ruling the world with it on and he still does each and every day he wears it. I have never had to fight for him to put it on like my parents did for me to get dressed in the morning because I couldn’t’ decide what to wear.
I loved there was no lunch protocol to follow like there was when I was going to school. My son got free hot meals each day like everyone else in the class. It was a no brainer that if they all had it and less work for me, it was a winning decision. There is no worrying about which latest character is the most popular for his lunch box or whether he is too old for lunch boxes and needs a brown paper sack lunch and so forth. The decade of pack lunches has either turn to fancy bento lunches for the older kids or most now just take the hot meals with their friends in the cafeteria.
I take my son to school each morning and pick him up each afternoon, it’s a luxury of working from home that I will never take for granted. Sometimes if I have to work away for the day, Daddy or Granny will step in or he will attend after school club. There never was after school club options for us. While we were riding our bikes or walking to school, kids are now on scooters cruising ahead of their parents. If our school was closer I am sure my son would be begging to use his scooter every morning. The modern way to transport ones self if you are of a certain age.
With a shorter summer vacation I think it’s easier to stick with the same group of friends each year in my son’s school especially as there are only 20 kids in his class. They still all remember each other after six weeks holiday, the bonds are still there to grow further. There is no huge gap of time to change things too much for them like there was when I was in school.
It’s great to look back and see decades of school preparations moving forward and changing over the years and over cultures too. But one thing is for sure, I have enjoyed every minute of becoming a school mom. Having grown up in the USA and raising my kids in the UK you can definitely see so many differences in getting ready for back to school.
Come see history of school wear back to 1920’s to present and be taken back to your own school days memories. It definitely has changed so much through out the years. It’s been emotional and amazing watching my first born start school and begin his education journey now. #MySchoolYears
*In collaboration with M&S *