Monday 19th March 2018

Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

For this week’s prompt I am having a trip down a long, winding memory lane of kids (and teachers!) starting school from this retired teacher, deputy principal, principal, mother and grandmother! There are more than a few stories let me tell you but I shall add the few.

For those readers who have just had a child start school, daycare or pre-school this is my annual letter for you…to send to the teacher.

Me as the School Starter.

Back in 1954 I started school after the September holidays. I was 4 years and 9 months. Yes, there were 3 terms for a long, long time in NSW schools. We lived in the same street as the school so I certainly knew where it was. Mum took me on Day 1 and I looked around me at the kids that were crying. “Why” I thought. Anyway, once we got into the classroom I was in love. Up the back was a white full-size rocking horse. I so wanted a ride. I do not remember if I got one, but I do remember liking school a lot and this was fun.

Off to Gwynneville PS. Our Tunic was Brown (I think!)

Our Daughter as a School Starter.

When your parents are both teachers and they are appointed to a very isolated school in NSW with Dad as the (teaching) principal and Mum as the teacher and it’s time to go to school this is what you do. There is no uniform, so you dress in your fave outfit, add a cool bag because you LOVE Abba…and off you trot across the space between home and school called The Playground. You know this place so well but right now there are around 20 different kids you haven’t yet met but eventually you join in their games, called your parents “Sir” like the other kids do and thrive on the independent learning in a small school.

Born in August and turning 5 that year, MIss K was able to start ‘school’ in February as we had a pre-school class too.

The school is on the right of this pic. The tractor is picking up kids from the local Aboriginal community to bring them to school in Term 1 1976 when we had major floods.

Our Son as a School Starter.

In complete contrast to his sister’s enrolment at her parents’ school, he was enrolled to start at the local (now we were in Sydney) large primary school. Having already been to the orientations and pre-school the previous year he was used to the ‘leaving his parents thing’. On the day he began, I was at my school where I was an Assistant Principal but wanted to be part of his start, so I returned to his (soon-to-be) school, met his Dad holding his hand, and down to the classroom we went. Without a backward glance, his nametag already on after Orientation the year before, he entered the classroom, the teacher said “goodbye” to us. That was it. Anti-climactic but at least I was there.

Student Starts School With Entourage.

As the Deputy Principal in a large Western Sydney school it was my role to meet each new starter (not everyone came to Orientation the year before) and their parent(s) to ensure all the relevant details about the child were current and to ask if there were any questions, and welcome the child and family to the school. I allowed around 10 minutes per child and it usually went well.

On one memorable occasion more than the parents entered my office with the child. I saw siblings and I guessed grandparents giving this one small person an overwhelming sense of “woah”. I could see this and asked the family to please stop the photography of me and the filming of the child being enrolled. They did.

But it set a precedent for me as I certainly understood the reason to mark the occasion but with the stressors placed upon a young child beginning school it was enough. No more photos or filming as enrolment took place. Far more important for the child and family to feel welcomed and at ease with this NEW event.


Underage Child Found To Have Started School.

At the above-mentioned school before I became the Deputy Principal there had been some lapses in viewing and noting the various documents that needed sighting before a child can start school. There is a requirement that a child cannot start school in NSW Public Schools IF they have not turned 5 after 31 July.

So in the year of my appointment to the school here’s how we (the Kindergarten teachers and I) found we had an underage child at school. One little girl seemed, according to her observant K teacher not able to do some of the gross motor activities which included how to walk upstairs (the school was two-storey) and she had little language and seemed “young”. I made a phone call some weeks into the term to the contact number and her mum answered. I asked outright what the child’s birthday was and the age worked out to be that she was 3. She would not be 4 until later in the year. I explained kindly but firmly that she would have to come and get her child now and that she could start the next year. The mother said sheepishly when she came to pick her up “I hoped you wouldn’t notice her and I didn’t want to find more childcare where I have to pay”. Sad but true.

We had much tightened arrangements for enrolment from then and that little girl did come back the following year and started school successfully.

Today’s School Starters.

For the past few years, the Australian government requires all students to undergo an initial assessment upon enrolling at the school where they will enter… Kindergarten, Prep, Year One (we still have different names for the first year of formal schooling in Australia. Sigh).

In NSW Public Schools it is called Best Start. It is a snapshot on one day of the enrolling student’s capabilities/readiness/knowledge/skills PRIOR to starting formal education. This is a good thing! The students’ baseline is a measurement that is used by the schools and the parents in terms of ‘where is my child at’ and lends itself to support if required or extension or that the child’s progress will grow accordingly in the first year of school.

When ‘Best Start’ happens is up to each school but more and more a child is given a Best Start Assessment in the week before he or she starts school. In fact I have seen this occur for three of my younger grandchildren. Best Start is done with a K teacher (usually) and parents may or may not observe but probably will wait elsewhere for the 40 minutes or so for the assessment. Then the child starts school on a date and at a specific time within the next week. This little one was pleased as punch to have her new school shoes when she came to see us. I sure hope she enjoys wearing them for 5 days a week from Monday 5 February.


Handwriting help.

An added bonus to this post. This is an example of the first handwriting children will see and copy in NSW schools. It is NSW Foundation Style. This is the early years’ printing. I used to do this handout when speaking to parents’ groups at pre-schools so they could ‘practise’ themselves. Children learn that capital letters are for names and so on. That is why all capitals is discouraged in early writing.

I wrote this 3 years ago and the message still stands!

What Do You Remember About Starting School?


Joining here with Alicia for Open Slather.

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Next Week is the optional prompt’: 7/52.  “Who’s a Worrier? 12/2/18.



Easter. #LifeThisWeek 15/52. 2017.52.

Easter. #LifeThisWeek 15/52. 2017.52.

Easter has always meant this to me:

  • a 4 or 5 day break from school when it was not part of the NSW School Holidays
  • a time to re-group after a busy first term
  • traditions of meatless Good Friday and me making a ‘fish dish’ for my family who loved it
  • eating maybe one hot cross bun (toasted) with butter on Good Friday. Not a great fan of H.C.B.
  • deciding whether to give out chocolate Easter eggs to kids and grandkids and usually coming up with the answer ‘yes’
  • not over-doing the chocolate egg thing as kids/adults get soooo many that they’re often still hanging around till Christmas
  • Easter Hat Parades. At School. Organising them and/or ensuring hats were made for kids/grandkids.
  • traffic on the roads leading out of Sydney so avoiding driving on major roads for that very reason
  • pleasant weather – sunny and warm days
  • family get-together at some stage if people were still at home
  • a visit to the Royal Easter Show in Sydney

Now that we are living away from family and they have their own traditions we do not catch up. We prefer not to drive on the dreaded M1 (motorway between us and Sydney) because of the traffic AND the more frequent accidents which cause delays and more.

So we will be having an Easter that is not really different to the way we live each day of the week and you know what…that is FINE by us!

A few times we held Easter Egg hunts at our place and the one we remember most was when eggs were hidden throughout our garden. All the grandkids from youngest to eldest had the most wonderful time finding them and checking back with their Papa to ensure they had collected the number allocated and then they got a bigger stash. It was to keep it fair as the eldest were in their late teens and the others were toddlers/pre-schoolers.

One place I always visited alone or with kids/grandkids was the Royal Easter Show in Sydney. From the time I was a girl and my family would come up from Wollongong for the day, I loved it. It was the atmosphere, the fun, the colour and the spectacles in the ring with the animals and the parades. As a teen I went with my then ag student boyfriend and we had members’ tickets which was awesome. Over the years at the old Showground at Moore Park I’d drive in with our then kids early on the first Sunday of the show to get a good park. We would walk around for quite sometime and catch up with the animal exhibitions, the pavilions, the games and then sit ringside for events and the woodchopping.

The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW moved the Show to Homebush and whilst it was not quite the same, they did benefit from the organisation of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and transport was included in a Show Ticket.

I went each year taking the bus from near our Glenwood House. I sometimes took grandkids and other times went by myself. I loved checking out what interested me. The last time I visited the Royal Easter Show was in 2014 when I took Miss 4 and Master 6. We had a ball! Such great memories made.

So what does Easter mean for you?


Joining two blogging friends who have link-ups on Mondays here: Alicia for Open Slather and Kell for Mummy Mondays. Happy Easter!

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What Works Best For You? 2017.26.

What Works Best For You? 2017.26.

Everyone has some ideas for that work best for them.

In terms of being a school parent and being organised for what school terms bring I wondered what works best for you!

This is the Morning Routine version of what worked for me. Back in the 1980s and 90s.

I was a school parent well before the internet and daily access to schools and newsletters and the like. However, I always had a fridge calendar and a space for notes there too. I kept our family calendar updated with school and extra curricular items such as sport and group events listed.

I added meeting days where I would be late home, necessitating other arrangements for school pick up and when there were to be meetings at the kids’ schools such as ‘meet the teacher.’

I would love to have readers share.

My list that worked best for me included:

  • I made sure I was up before the kids…just for my sanity…and I could get in some breakfast too before waking the darlings.
  • kids did not get dressed until they ate their breakfast and there were limited choices: cereal and toast.
  • TV never went on in the mornings. Ever. It was hard enough getting kids to stay on track. At least there were no electronic devices back then.
  • school clothes (including mine, because I was a teacher going off to school too!) ready the night before and laid out, with socks & shoes so there were no delays in finding said items!
  • checking of the weather report the night before (and the morning) so that we were prepared for rain/heat whatever Australia’s changing weather systems had on offer.
  • school bags emptied the night before (or on the weekend, the Friday for preference!) so that filling was easy in the mornings. Actually not fully emptied. I was the person who made her kids always have a folded up raincoat lying in the bottom of the school bag.
  • lunches were made in advance and in my case, kids and mine were made in batches and frozen.Boring same ingredients and sometimes not eaten but they were ready to pop into lunch boxes.
  • a snack self-selection area in the pantry with a guide for how many and from which group to add to lunchbox.
  • frozen water bottles grabbed from the freezer and wrapped in a towel – it helped with insulation and a cooling thing on the very hot days anyway.

  • library bag at the ready if it was library day.
  • school hat either next to the bag OR kept in the car as the kids would be dropped off from the car.
  • homework folders/books ready to be returned on the day as requested by the teacher.
  • notes signed, money added (if needed) and put in a plastic zip bag because for sure, these items get messed up in kids’ bags.
  • everyone in the car, buckled up allowing for the school drop offs and for me to be at school on time!

So, I used to look forward to getting to school….for the break and a coffee after all that above..and then up to my classroom to be ready for teaching everyone else’s kids!

What works for you in the mornings before school?

Do tell me in the comments!


Joining new school mum, Kylie Purtell here with my other blogging friends for I Blog On Tuesdays.



School’s Nearly IN! 2017.10.

School’s Nearly IN! 2017.10.

Yes indeed, it nearly is for those living in Australia.

Here’s what it’s like for the three groups who might relate to this post!


OH. It’s only 2 weeks (or less in some states or more in others) and I will be back at school. This means I am scouring the stationery shops for all the specials. Because I know the school can only give me some supplies and I know how much I go through the stickers, the whiteboard markers, the pencils, the tissues, the glue sticks, the paper….I won’t go on. I am glad I have taken a break from thinking about school (well, it felt like I did over Christmas and New Year) but now, even though I am not “at school” every day, I will be going in when it’s open to set up the classroom and check out the plans for the year BEFORE we start officially. SIGH.


OH. Thank GOODNESS it’s only 2 weeks to go and those kids will be starting (or back at) school. It’s costing me a fortune to keep them entertained and fed. And will they help around the house? Not much despite notes on the fridge and all the hints. I am pleased though when someone offers to have play date/kiddie swap but it’s always hard combining child care/work responsibilities and more. Mind you, I recall saying about a MONTH ago (only a month??) that I could not wait for these school holidays. Now, I am meeting up with parents from the school at local stationery shops and we are all getting ‘bill shock’ at the checkout. Sigh. Do they really need those glue sticks, folders, USBs, tissues and a NEW device? The school list says yes. And this is a public school too. SIGH.


OH. From the calendar on the fridge it seems like we HAVE to go back to school soon. Mind you, my little sister/brother is looking forward to starting school. Ha! Not sure why. Anyway, I guess the one good thing about going back to school is friends and the playground. As long as it’s not 40 degrees when we have to stay inside. Oh, the bad thing about going back is shoes. And socks. So hot in Australia for going back to school. When I saw how much stuff I have to take back to school it was fun but also a bit worrying. Will I really be doing that much work this year? SIGH.

So how are things in your household right now?

It’s nearly time for school to be in!


P.S. The graphic in the post was my initial logo for my business/blog which in 2012-2014 I called Ready.Set.School. for parents and kids and I had another called Ready.Set.Teach. for teachers and those training to teach. I no longer have the business nor the blogs but they were both part of my professional life (after working in education) then.

Joining with the many who blog on Tuesdays over here who link up with Kylie Purtell. Do you blog on Tuesdays?


Fourth Term Means This. 366/292.

Fourth Term Means This. 366/292.

Those of you who have had kids at school for a while will identify with some of the things on this list. Some of you I know are in your first year of having a child at school and the list may help. Or not!

It is offered with no advice other than



  • The weather will be hot or  cold, rainy and all that in between because it’s FOURTH term
  • The child who left home with jumper or jacket or both will have taken them off and even though they are labelled, will not bring them home.
  • You will ask why. The child will say I left it in my room. It will not be there. It will be somewhere.
  • Muttering under your breath, you pop into the classroom, greet tired teacher with ‘have you seen J’s jacket?’
  • You will be told, nicely I hope, ‘it could be in the lost property bin near the office if it’s not here.’ It is in none of these places. It IS FOURTH term you know.
  • YOU think “I am so not buying another jacket so my child will have to learn from this. Other parents advise: ‘just take an unlabelled one from lost property, you can see that the box is overflowing. It is so ‘not like you’ but it’s FOURTH term and you are not buying a new one.
  • Your child wakes up and says “I’m not going to school today, we are only watching DVDs”. Of course….that’s what happens in the last weeks of  FOURTH term!
  • You send you child to school and later that day, when asking how the day was. “It was cool, we got to watch DVDs all day.”
  • Providing lunch and snacks each day for your child is over-rated, yeah?
  • So, because  it’s FOURTH term…so it’s a case of “who’d like a canteen order today?” and hope that you can scrounge enough cash for more than one day a week because…so over it.

What’s your Fourth Term advice for parents?

What are some examples you could add to this list?

By the way, how IS Fourth Term going?



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Joining Kylie Purtell and bloggers over here for I Blog On Tuesdays.



Reader Asks About Learning Issues. 366/131.

Reader Asks About Learning Issues. 366/131.

A few weeks back I asked readers who comment to leave me some ideas for future posts on Tuesdays when I write about education and schooling.

This week I am responding to the first of the questions.

Thanks for asking these!

I’d like to know about how teachers determine if a child has a learning issue and may require further help.

Essentially it would be by observation of a child, and over time within the classroom. Teachers are trained to look for and listen for children who may be experiencing learning issues. These differ from diagnosed learning difficulties or disabilities which are often made before a child starts school and via professional assessments. However, let’s take a child who starts school and presents well in terms of socialisation and is mature in the management of himself or herself at school.

This child may not be able to ‘keep up’ with some of the age-appropriate tasks in say, reading or in mathematics. One thing I would hope a teacher might observe is the physical first. Can the child hear normally? Does the child see well? Can the child manipulate writing implements? Is the child able to walk, run and jump?  Where a teacher may have concerns, it is always hoped that he/she will quietly mention this in a confidential chat and start from there.

There are always different ways children can ‘present’ as having learning issues and often they can be classed as ‘behavioural.’ That doesn’t mean ‘bad behaviour’ but it might include things such as cannot get organised to start work, often asks the teacher more questions when the class have started their activities or it could be something like ‘never finishes work.’

What to do? The teacher, after checking through the child’s records such as enrolment form (where you, the parent, have completed, in all likelihood, about 20 pages of info!) then chats to one of his/her grade supervisors and makes a plan to see if there are some issues needed to be addressed via chatting with you, the parent, then making a referral to the in-school learning support team. These things take time and they are the beginning.

It is always hoped that with co-operation between school and home the best interests of the child are considered sensitively and the best outcomes are planned for.

Please take the time, whenever you can, to make your observations of your child and learning. You may notice that with homework he/she cannot even begin to understand the processes. Do not make this a battle if it continues. Please chat, confidentially, with the teacher when you can.

Of course, if you know that your family and home circumstances have changed in recent times, as they can via parents’ separation, death of a close family member, losing a pet, moving house and so on, let the school know. It is quite astounding that this does not happen as much as it should and these matters, dealt with confidentially, may be impacting your child’s ability to learn.

I wish all families well.

I know that NAPLAN starts today all over Australia. I also know that families may or may not be allowing their children to participate if they suspect it would so more harm than good if learning disabilities or issues are present. Parents know best!



Thank you for your question. Next week and for two weeks on I have more questions to answer about schooling.

I’m also happy to respond to new ones over the next months.


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Joining Jess at Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays.

I’m adding this post to With Some Grace for Flog Your Blog Friday because I know Grace has many readers with school-aged kids.


Kids’ Photography. 366/106.

Kids’ Photography. 366/106.

It’s school holidays here and we’ve had some young visitors come and stay. I’ve always encouraged our grandkids to have a go with photography by offering them my very sturdy auto Fuji camera. Since last year this has been a hit with the kids. I like their creative approaches and they see the world differently to me (of course!). One recently introduced rule is ‘not up people’s noses’ and another is ‘not over the fence into other people’s yards.’

Here’s a selection from kids aged 2 to 8.







Do you encourage kids to take photographs?

Are you surprised by their views too?


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Joining photography friends here at their link ups:

Trish: My Little Drummer Boys

Sue: Image-In-Ing.

Jen: Pierced Wonderings.


How Are The School Kids Going? 366/75.

How Are The School Kids Going? 366/75.

In schools around Australia Term One has well and truly begun.

In fact for some schools the holidays are looming!

Yep! End of Term One …for some.

For others, still a while to go.

Yet, on the upside is an Easter Break of at least 4 days next week.


How are the school kids going?

I’d love to hear from you about how things are, and especially from ‘first time’ school parents. Let me know in the comments!

I’m asking a range of questions and if some appeal, please respond. If you want to be a high achiever and you have the time…all questions answered would be excellent!

I hope to use some of your comments to guide me for future posts on Tuesdays!

  1. Have you been to the parent-teacher information evening/afternoon?
  2. How did it help you to better understand what is ahead for your child in 2016?
  3. How many times have you been called the teacher’s name at home?
  4. What kind of routine are you finding a challenge each day?
  5. What do you think of the school year for your child so far?
  6. Is your child generally ‘happy to go off to school’ each day?
  7. Has the transition from home to school been hard/ok/excellent/something else?
  8. Have there been any surprises for you, as a school parent, this year?
  9. What would you do the same for the beginning of this year at school for your child?
  10. Is there anything you would change?

Thank you!


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Joining Jess at Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays.