Back to school? Five lessons for getting your children ready for the new term

Gemma White on blowing the budget on uniforms, pencil case pitfalls and paying the school fees, again

Parents have plenty of work to do to get their children ready. Photo: Deleece Cook / Unsplash
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There’s something in the air — and I’m not talking about the sandstorms. It smells of freedom and no more small voices relentlessly demanding snacks.

It is the looming return of school, a date I have had marked on my calendar with a large red circle since they broke up in June.

Back to school falls on my birthday, Monday, August 29, and I tell my children they don’t need to buy me anything, because them going back through those gates is the greatest gift they could give me.

With the new term starting soon, here are the five stages all parents will recognise on their journey to ushering the children out the door.

Emails from the school start arriving

The start of the new term will see your inbox start filling up with school-related emails. Photo: Brian Tromp / Unsplash

During term time, I receive on average about 400 emails a day from the school, so it’s always nice to give my inbox a break during the summer holidays.

One of the biggest indicators that it’s time to go back is when the messages start coming in again.

There will be the ones about new teachers, the warnings to book your uniform appointment, the pre-term surveys, the parent workshops and the school-branded credit card offers (5 per cent off fees if you use it).

There are also the reminders about paying the fees, the gentle reminders about paying the fees, and the final reminders about will you please just pay the fees already!

The ‘which class is your child in?’ frenzy

Emails about which class your child has been put in start arriving around now.

These will result in your phone lighting up with messages from parents in group chats you thought you’d left three years ago, asking which teacher your child has. Celebratory emojis will follow as friends are reunited.

There is also the parent who still hasn’t received their email and starts to feel not only a little anxious (have they forgotten my child?), but also a little left out.

The new uniform shop

You'll spend way more time and money than you'd budgeted on school uniform shopping. Photo: Rhii Photography

Remember the bun fight that used to be the school uniform warehouses in Al Quoz? Uniform shops in the final days of the holidays can still get a little Mad Max-ish, but these days you need to make an appointment.

Without fail, I arrive there thinking I only need to get a couple of pairs of shorts and whichever top they need this year.

An hour later, I have spent the GDP of a small developing nation on ties, caps, backpacks, book bags, jumpers, PE kits, socks, PE bags, swimming trunks, swimming caps, hair scrunchies, shoes, belts and fleeces.

The mystery of the empty pencil cases

It's guaranteed your child's once-full pencil case will now contain only a broken rubber and a blunt sharpener. Photo: Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Peering into the pencil cases from last term is like opening the microwave after hearing your food make an explosive “pop” inside. To be done with trepidation.

In my mind, I think my children will by and large still have everything I bought last year: scissors, glue, colouring pencils, pens, sharpener. In reality, there will be a half-broken pencil, a rubber with another child’s name on it and some play dough that’s gone hard.

This requires stocking up on items that will end up in their friend’s pencil case by the end of the first week.

The return of the routine

While some parents mourn the end of the holidays as time they will no longer be spending together, I for one welcome the new term with a haka-like victory dance I perform on the doorstep as I wave goodbye, because it means the return of the routine.

Gone are the requests for snacks every 45 minutes, the “I’m bored” face plants onto the sofa and the endless amount of plumbing the depths of my brain for suggestions of things to do, which don’t involve watching TV or iPads.

Because with term time, comes the beautiful structure of the packed lunches, the charged iPads, the first-day photos, the new friends they’ll make, and, most importantly, the being out of the house for eight hours each day so I can finally get my work done in peace.

Oh, and get round to paying the school fees, of course.

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Updated: August 19, 2022, 6:02 PM