learning independence through school

Helping with independence at school

My view on parenting is that it’s our job to make our children ready to be unleashed on the world on their own. At whatever age that ends up being. Hopefully the time they leave home they’re ready for the basics that life might hit them with.  It seems like an ever changing world. I think children and teens today are having to be prepared for a lot more than we did. 

I had a stay at home mum until we were secondary school age, when she still only really worked during school hours. N has 2 parents who work. One working 7 days a week more hours in a day than 9-5 even in the darkest winters.  The other, myself working slightly reduced hours when I went back after maternity leave. More recently full time with a shorter Friday thanks to compressed hours.

Now children are contending with social media. There’s more awareness of mental health issues starting earlier. A need to properly educate your children in understanding about gender identity and race. And encouraging boys to speak out and support women. With so many more issues that weren’t really visible or talked about 20-30 years ago in normal life.

But one of the things they need to learn is independence. Not straight out, but building up so they don’t struggle to settle, so they’re used to thinking for themselves.

In particular, independence in school is key, and I think the way our school has done it has been brilliant.  

I do think having 2 working parents, and N being an only child has helped. But he also has family and older cousins he (usually) sees regularly to give him confidence in being around lots of other people.  Being on the farm helps as he’s able to have safe space and freedom to do things without us always being there. And I’m not a mumsy mum at all, so I’m bringing him up the way my mum brought us up. Being there and listening, but also expecting him to play his part as he moves through the ages.

With school that follows on from how I’ve done it at home.  Encouraging children to gradually learn and take responsibility for their school day and homework.

learning independence through school

Getting uniform ready

I have to admit that often I get frustrated with N being more laid back and leaving things to me.  I still generally sort out his school clothes the night before, even in year 5. He’ll usually then rejig which size or t-shirt brand he prefers, and gets out his own underwear and socks (mainly because I gave up doing it because he’s so picky about which pants or socks he wears). He’s perfectly capable of doing his own, but he’s very relaxed in the mornings. Getting up around 6 means he’ll head downstairs in pjs and often I’ll be up, dressed, and downstairs before he’s headed back up to get dressed. 

If I didn’t check what trousers he had out, he’d wear the same mucky pair all week. Or would still be putting clean unworn pairs in the wash basket. As he organises what he’s wearing at weekends and on non uniform days, he’s perfectly capable of sorting out his uniform.

PE kit and school folder

N’s good at getting his correct school work ready in his folder, his drink bottle, morning snack if he’s taking one, and will be more aware of me if he needs extra clothes for forest school.  He’ll make sure his bag is packed, his folder has all his work and his pen. It’s probably easier at the moment because the same pack goes back and forth to school, whereas pre-Covid there would probably have been more variation.

His organisation going into school is much better than coming out of school though. We have had to return to school a couple of times when he was younger to pick up school shoes he’d left (pre-Covid, indoor school shoes are generally left at school for the week) he needed for a choir performance that evening. And to get homework books he’s somehow managed to mislay. Usually it’s because something’s happened at school to throw off the routine and autopilot getting everything packed. But it’s quite rare when it happens.

Homework responsibility

Our school have always set homework. Whether a bit of reading in earlier years, then ramping up in key stage 2, they tend to have a clear routine of what type of homework is set on what days. That helps him know what’s coming. So if he’s got something he wants to do on the farm, he knows what time he needs to do his homework, and whether he can fit two bits in on one day leaving another evening free.

They also have homework diaries, so they all write their homework down. Well, they’re meant to. Given our Whatsapp group quite often has queries about what the homework is at the last minute, presumably some take no notice and don’t write anything. 

While remote learning, parents had to be within their vicinity for safeguarding. Tthe teacher was very clear that the children do this work everyday at school, and therefore shouldn’t need parental help. They were expected to have all their correct books and sheets ready at the correct time. Sign in on time. And had specific deadlines to upload their work. Initially I was doing this as it needed to be photographed on my phone, then emailed over to N to upload. But eventually N was just doing it all himself. 

Given they’re in the top class, the school are certainly expecting them to take responsibility for their own work and deadlines. It is all good prep for when he moves up to secondary school in 2 years.

His best skill is listening I think. He remembers what people say really well, so will often be able to tell me exactly what was said even if I miss something in the newsletter. 

Next steps to independence

Working their way up to this level in independence is good. It matches the increased skills that N learns at home, and builds on his confidence in trying things for himself.

The other parts of independence we’ll have to work on over time.  Ideally next school year, I’d have liked him to be able to cycle to school and back again, but the OH thinks it’s too dangerous. Our neighbour lets their daughter who’s a year ahead, so I’m sure N would be responsible enough, and if cyclists are visible enough to motorists, he would be fine. But that going to school alone, might have to wait until secondary school when he catches the bus.

Any things like letting him pop to the shop isn’t going to happen as it’s not safely walkable. Instead, we’ll have to build on that when we’re out and about, letting him go to pay for things on his own, and then gradually going into the shops on his own. I remember my first time going into a shop, choosing things and buying them while my mum stood outside. Scary, but I felt so grown up doing it, and thankfully it was a nice quiet shop without lots of people in to have to stand in a queue with.  It’s definitely a post Covid world experience, so maybe we’ll start thinking about that next year. 

My biggest tip for helping children with independence in school is teaching them to listen well. I swear that Water Babies helped N with listening way back when he was doing baby and toddler swimming. He’s always been a good listener, and it’s definitely his best learning style.

How do your children pick up independence, especially around school?

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