My daughter started school in September. She absolutely loves it, bouncing there every single day (I do not exaggerate, she does literally bounce along the pavement in excitement and anticipation). I had expected that she’d enjoy it and take to being a pupil well, though I’ve been surprised at just how much she likes it, her eagerness to do her homework, and by how quickly she learns and absorbs things. But the thing that I hadn’t really expected and considered in amongst her starting school, were the comparisons.
I’m fortunate, or naive, or perhaps just not too bothered, that the school mums I’ve been thrown together with are rather lovely. I’ve not noticed any super-competitiveness yet, and we’ve been to a fair few workshops and the like together, and we’re there gathering at the gates every day, too. No, it’s just my own awareness that has increased, now that my girl is ‘in the system’ seemingly being assessed and measured all of the time, with levels of expectations placed upon her.
She’s doing well with her reading and writing. I think being surrounded by books from babyhood and seeing me read regularly has made her somewhat eager to master the skill for herself, and she is now a voracious reader. So we read, and we read. She has a fair bit of homework, which she eagerly completes, and then on top of that, we read some more. I’m not pushing her to do so, she is desperate to do so. She wants to read everything that she sees. The other night, as I tucked her into bed, it was the washing instructions on her pillow’s label that caught her attention, and had her determined to read until I turned the light out on her!
With her starting school, I made a deliberate decision not to send her to any out of school activities, too, as school would wear her out, so I was told, but not my girl! So a couple of weeks ago, she started swimming lessons on a Saturday morning, and so far, is really enjoying them. It’s a real pleasure to see. So she goes to school, she completes her homework and she swims. But she has classmates who do far, far more than this. Should she be dancing or going to drama lessons, as she does seem to have a natural talent in these areas? Should she be playing a musical instrument by now, as I’ve no clue whether she’d be good at that? She’s mentioned riding, is that something we should be doing? Or Rainbows one night a week? Honestly, my gut thinks it’s too much. We have our evenings after school filled with playtime and giggles, and then she’s in bed by 7. At the weekend, after swimming now, we have time to have our family adventures, be they scooters in the park, exploring National Trust sites, playgrounds, duck-feeding or just arts and crafts at home. I’m loathe to eat into this time and have her taken away from us any more, but am I doing her a disservice? Is she going to be left behind? She’s a bright, confident child, with a mind like a little sponge, should she be being pushed more? Could she achieve more, and more importantly be very happy doing so? I do not know.
I’ve always been about learning being fun, so as long as she’s enjoying it and developing, that’s enough for me. It still is. I want her to learn in our every day chats, outings and activities, as much as in the classroom. She need not be the best at everything, and anyway, in my eyes, she’s always going to be the best, isn’t she? She’s well-behaved at school, kind to her friends, shares nicely, and has a go at everything that is asked of her. And she is smart, which is a bonus. It’s all I want.
I look at her, my beautiful daughter, and I am so, so proud of her. I do not want to let her down. I didn’t consider that I was, as she’s just a 5 year old, having fun, making friends, enjoying school. I don’t want to be pushy, but what if I’m holding her back?
She doesn’t have these answers, and if she could, she’d want to do every class in the world, as she simply wants to have a go at everything! But it’s up to me to work out what is reasonable, what is the right balance and yes, what can be afforded, both financially and also at the cost of family time together. And at the end of the day, she is just 5. And a happy 5 year old at that. Shouldn’t she be just relaxing and playing when out of school? That’s what my gut tells me, and she seems content, but then the doubt niggles, the comparisons rear their heads, and I start questioning myself all over again…
What do you think?