Muddling through

Lil L' with her Schultüte filled with toys and sweets

Lil L’ with her Schultüte filled with toys and sweets

Lil’ L has started school on Monday, Petite Pea has settled well into her nursery routine, and I just finished my first cup of truly hot coffee and toast in a very long time. I’d love to say I am enjoying my newly found me-time, but I am struggling.

Eating paint on the first day of nursery. Off to a good start then

Eating paint on the first day of nursery. Off to a good start then

Sending my 4yo to school (no matter if French école maternelle or English primary school) and seeing her in any kind of classroom setting feels fundamentally wrong. My continental European heart and soul scream at the thought of her learning to read and write instead of jumping in muddy puddles, collecting leaves and counting bugs.

Struggling our way past the daily commuters that spill out of the tube station and into our way, it feels as if we have become part of them – part of the daily grind, part of putting up with the stress that comes with living in London, part of living for the weekend. Is this what I want?


  1. Daniela says

    Didn’t you plan to wait for another year until you send her to school?

    4 seems to be way too young to sit tight and learn how to spell. No matter how playful it will be taught – it’s still school. I’d rather see kids inventing plays, painting and running around until they are 6 or 7.
    Well, maybe that’s just my German way of thinking…
    Hope you’ll all settle in well and Lil’L will make loads of new friends.

  2. My kids have just started their new schools year and I’m amazed how tiny some of the children looking starting at 4. The US was a year later and even then they seemed young. I agree, I think more time to play would be no bad thing – already we’re into the reams of homework and activities, and they’re only 6 and 8.

  3. School is tough. I look at my 7 year old and she tells me how “hard” school is right now. Making them do math that she can barely understand (I think she’s too busy chatting away to listen 😉 )

    We have Waldorf schools, Montessori schools, and “outdoor/nature” schools. These all provide the same education but in a completely different way, taking children outside, playing with them – teaching them math without a textbook, paper or a calculator!

    I often think about putting my daughter into these schools but am worried that I’m not hippy enough for it, and the price to pay for these alternative schooling methods are almost the same as a prestigious private school.

  4. Oh it’s so hard. 4! And I was moaning because my older one was 5 1/2. Some schools in Germany now start at 5 years too, in spite of evidence that starting at 6 or 7 is actually better. However, at least they also get to play a lot at school, it’s much more varied what they do here than what I did in Germany in first year when I was almost 7.

  5. The UK does take it all a bit seriously at that age doesn’t it? I mean, they all end up at the same place.

  6. Oh sweetie, it must be hard especially if you didn’t grow up in that system too. It makes sense to wait until they are older and the stats all support that when it comes to higher education/success. I have to say my 3 1/2 year old is loving full time Preschool though-he’s coming on leaps and bounds and I noticed this in part time summer school too so I’m happy for now…great baby is in a nursery. I’m going to look at some too to see about the odd half day.

  7. My firstborn was in a preschool with a bit too much structure early on for my taste. He used to say ‘where are the trucks? where are the cars?” (toy ones)- but it was so close to our house:).

    My second born just finished up 3 years of a play-based preschool (full-day until 3:30) since I work from home. Night and day. They made mud pies. They had 2-3 hours every single day outside. The curriculum centered around what they were interested in at the moment. It was a magical place.

    He just started Kindergarten in the ‘big’ school with his 2nd grade brother. Our local public elementary school with a ‘science/math focus’. There is hardly anytime for recess. I have the same thoughts you do. 5 is too young for this! I dream of running away as well—though if I dig deep I am a city girl by heart.

    I am right outside of Washington, DC, btw. Stress-central with hypercompetitive parents.

  8. I agree. It is too early. We live in the UK, my husband is English, but I’m Swedish and used to the schoolstart at 7…but the tricky thing here in the UK is the extremely expensive childcare which means early school start also means a bit of financial relief. In Sweden most of my friends (and myself) went back to work when the kids were around 1,5, but nursery just costs around £100-120/month for full time nursery in Sweden. They had 7 years of being outside jumping in puddles and playing, but now being back in the UK our youngest one will start school when he is 4,5..and I don’t like that idea…A mix of both countries would be my dream scenario, but we’ll see. Take care xx

  9. aw, thats such a tough question 🙁 but you are wise and seem to be one that follows your heart so i have no doubt you’ll find a way to make everyone happy!

  10. Don’t worry. In pure French style, I started school at 2. Yes, 2. And it was a proper nursery, with a primary school attached to it. I don’t think I am traumatised. I actually had a lot of fun playing with other kids.

  11. I’m with MuMuGB. I was packed off to SCHOOL – not nursery, proper big school – at 3. THREE! No, I was not a child prodigy (well of course i was, but I don’t like to brag…) but I was the third child and my mother had had ENOUGH and under the Irish system you had to be 4 by Jan 1st to be accepted into school. I’m a December baby, so off I went. My only memory of the first day is that I vomited into my new leather satchel, but apart from that everything was fine…
    (Taking a leaf from my mother’s tree of life, I have enquired about the Baby entering the kids’ school but apparently 11 months is too young. WTF?? I can only assume (hope) that the Singapore model is going to be more developed…)

  12. It’s hard to have me time when your used to having children around us all day.
    Mine seemed to love school and have been going since they were 3 1/2 years old.
    Nursery helps them prepare for schooling and I personally think if they are enjoying it why not send them early.

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