Ahhhh, the last year of primary school: that triumphant year when your child has reached the pinnacle of primary school achievement and playground supremacy; that inconceivable year that seemed so distant as you watched your kindergartener grapple with their pencil grip; that pie in the sky milestone you hanker for each time you get tired of primary school politics and want out.
As a mum with one child in primary school and one child in high school, I can tell you—your last year as a primary school parent is pretty significant. Not just because it's the prelude to your child's next chapter in their education, but also because it marks the end of one part of your story as their parent. Because when your child finishes primary school, a number of things come to an end for you, too:
1. Being a classroom helper
Sign up to that 10am yoga lesson because you are no longer required in the classroom for reading groups or art assistance. In fact, you won't even know where your child's classroom is. Your child will be delighted that you don't know where to find them at school because then there is no chance that you can pop your head through the classroom door, dangling their forgotten lunch box or jumper.
2. Merit certificates
There will be no more certificates to dutifully paste on the fridge or in the family album. You won't know if your child has 'diligently completed all tasks this week' or 'been a good friend to her peers'. It's all a mystery from now on.
3. Notes from school
There is a dramatic decrease in the amount of paperwork you deal with. Hallelujah! While some notes do come home, mostly the expectation is that the students…wait for it…take responsibility for things…themselves! With any luck your child's high school will prefer to communicate with you electronically—great news for you and the environment!
4. Consistent start and finish times
While school starts and finishes at the same time every day, your child's program can change each term as sports practice sessions or photography club or group assignments are timetabled before or after school. Flexibility and an alarm clock will help you stay on top of where your child is supposed to be and when.
5. One teacher
Get your roller skates on when it's time for parent-teacher interviews because you'll be racing from one classroom to the next for each five minute appointment you're allocated with your child's teachers. The great news here is that you have lots of different educators with their own teaching style entering your child's life. Hopefully there will be at least one teacher they really connect with.
6. Baking birthday cakes for school
On their birthday morning, you'll probably shove five dollars for the canteen into their hand, instead of the 29 dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free cupcakes you usually bake as a sweet treat for all their classmates at recess. But do keep a bag of balloons and streamers on hand because when it's their friend's birthday, there is some bizarre locker decorating ritual that absolutely must happen and will make you a frequent visitor to the party aisle in the grocery store.
7. Spectating at sports day
You can stow away your picnic blanket and fold-up chair until the weekend because parents aren't really seen on the sidelines of the high school sports carnival. Save your claps and cheers for the big inter-school meets—that's where your lungs will be most welcome!
8. Being in the vicinity of the school
After primary school something will happen to your appearance and manner that somehow makes you a complete embarrassment to your child. Your child may assert that you should not set foot in the same block as the school. Oddly, you are still permitted to drop everything you are doing at 3pm so you can pick them up after school … just meet them down the street. And don't get out of the car. Or talk to anyone.
9. Knowing a lot of other parents
Taking note of the point above, it's definitely more difficult to meet other parents. If your child joins a team, then sports on Saturday mornings or debating on Friday nights is a good way to meet other parents. It might take a while before you don't feel like a stranger, but it's not a bad process to go through, because you'll empathises with your child who is also having to meet new people and get to know them.
10. Meeting their friends
At primary school, the play date is still king, and friends from school are in and out of your home and you get to know them pretty well. At high school, the kids start to do activities on their own, like meeting at the shops or going to the movies. Plus, at the end of the school day, the kids scatter to their homes which may no longer be local to the school. Slowly, as your child forms friendships and parties begin, you'll meet their new friends. Just don't expect it to happen too soon.
The transition to secondary school brings so many social and emotional changes for the students, but also for the parents. It marks the time of a child's increasing independence and separation from mum and dad. Some parents will eagerly await the changes and others will miss the strong connection to that part of their child's life. So if you're in the latter group, bake that cake, cheer loudly on sports day and relish the moments. They'll be gone before you know it.