My baby starts school in September – what am I going to do?

My baby boy is no longer a baby. He’s a strapping 3ft, four year old. And he starts full time school in September. Sigh. And if that wasn’t hard enough, for the past few months I’ve been fending off varying versions of the following questions:

What are you going to do when he starts school?

So are you going back to work inĀ September?

Just think of all that free time. What will you do?

People mean well I’m sure, but it’s starting to get tiresome. For a start no, no I’m not going ‘back’ to work. Primarily because I have no work to go back to. I have no career to pick up. I fell into every job I ever had. Some jobs I ended up loving, some I hated, but most I just felt ambivalent about. Also looking ‘back’ doesn’t feel a very positive thing to do. Moving forward is where it’s at surely? So no, I won’t be going ‘back’, to anything.

I have some ideas of what I might do when he’s in school full time. And I’m hoping that won’t be too long coming. But nothing is certain with Oscar. I have no idea how he’s going to react, to settle. His Autism makes life supremely unpredictable at the best of times, so who knows how he’ll react to something as monumental as starting school. My guess is that all my energy, at least for the first term, is going to be spent on transitioning him and supporting him with what ever he needs to get the best out of his school career.

But people are right, eventually he will (fingers crossed) be settled and my day time will be less constricted by him. So what could I do? What do other SAHMs of school age children do round our way?

The gym

I look around me and for those who don’t go out to work (or who work part time) in my town it would seem the place to be is the gym. Or at least I assume it is. The amount of mamas rocking the kind of gym wear I wouldn’t even wear in the gym let alone on the streets tells me that my fellow SAHMama with school age children spend at least some of their time working out. It’s definitely an option I guess. We have a local leisure centre. Maybe I would find a new tribe to hang out with there?

Have another baby

Another option seems to have a baby. So many of Oscar’s preschool chums who are starting school in September have pregnant mothers or new siblings. I mean it’s a pretty drastic way to amuse yourself while your older child is at school (šŸ˜œ) but it’s not for me. Done at one, that’s me, so no new baby for me.

Drink coffee

OK, so I spend most of my mornings in the various coffee shops of Haslemere, so I can’t really talk, but hey I’m alone, working. I see the mamas, often without children getting to enjoy a cuppa or two. I could quite happily keep doing that! Only problem with that is that I have no one to drink coffee with. All my friends work, or are in the gym, or popping out babies (see above). I wrote a post in 2013 about how hard it was to make friends when you’re an adult and you don’t work. But I thought I’d done it. Got over the embarrassment and let my little one break the ice for me. Only here I am, three years down the line and seriously having to consider how to find new friends. Again. Without the help of a cute little blue eyed bundle!

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OK, so these are definitely some of the options I see around, but what about options that are a bit more specific to me? Cos I can’t see me joining the spandex wearing, latte drinking, baby machines just yet šŸ˜‰

Blogging

Of course. I mean I’ve managed to do three years so far, all in either nap time or two hour nursery slots, soĀ imagine how much better it could be with more time. I could actually have a schedule and plan posts. I know right!! Also I’ve had to turn down all sorts of blogging opportunities as I’ve had no one to look after Oscar. I’m really hoping I can start accepting more opportunities and growing what I can offer. And who knows, actually start to make some money! Shock horror!

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Decorating

There are various rooms in the house that need attention, particularly the bathroom (and the kitchen is a whole other post!) But if I’m going to make a go of my blog then the thing I really need is an office. We have no spare room, or even a spare nook in our house, however we do have a large shed sort of thing at the bottom of the garden (we rather grandly call it the Summer House!) that, cleaned out and tarted up, could make a lovely office/writing space. We’d need to get electricity down there and some form of WiFi or network, but it’s definitely something to think about and could be a great project!

Learn to Drive

As I’ve mentioned before I am taking driving lessons at the moment. Well I was. It’s on hiatus at the moment, partly due to finances, partly due to not really gelling with my instructor. But the plan is totally to keep going and when Oscar is at school it’ll be easier to arrange my lessons and not have to race (not literally) back for him.

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Volunteer

There are all sorts of organisations round here that need assistanceĀ and as someone who worked in Volunteer Recruitment and Support back in the old days, maybe I should jump to the other side of the fence and practice what I preached all those years ago.Ā It’s widely acknowledgedĀ that volunteering is not only great for the community but also for the volunteers themselves, with studies showing altruism leading to the ‘helper’s high’.Ā And who doesn’t want to help their community and feel good about it while they do?

Get a job

Of course there is always the option to get a part time job, probably locally due to drop off and pick up times. I’m not happy to put Oscar into childcare either end of the school day (even at school) yet, and to be honest I have no idea if any one would even be able to take him! So a job would need to fit 100% around him and that’s asking a lot. And makes me think I should try harder with this writing malarkey!

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Yes, there are plenty of options for things I could be doing when Oscar starts school. For one we’ve decided to stop having a cleaner so I’m going to have to start cleaning the bathroom again at some stage (boohoo). But to be honest, right now, I want to enjoy my time with him. In a few months he’ll be uniformed up and off into the big world, forging his own unique path, whatever that may be.

So stop asking me what I’m going to be doing in the future. I just want to concentrate on what we’re doing today.

School Update

So yeah I guess I should update about Oscar’s school situation! It’s been a while. But for the longest time it was so up in the air. To be honest it’s not exactly ‘firmly on the ground’ now, but it’s got one foot on the floor and that’s good enough for me at the moment!

So if you remember it was agreed a while ago that Oscar should have an EHCP (an Educational Health Care Plan, the document that replaced the old Statement of Education) due to his diagnosis of Autism. We were thrilled by this decision, as this (legally binding) document sets out the support that he will need, to get the best from his education. Super! It also gives us as parents some heft when it comes to deciding which school he should go to. Fabulous, but this is a huge responsibility. And stressful. I mean what if we get it wrong?

Anyway, that aside, to enable us to try and make the right decision we looked at some specialist schools and some mainstream schools. We knew the ones we liked, the ones we loved and the ones we couldn’t stand. And we passed that info onto the local authority. Some of which was ignored. I think that was the hardest thing. Having to rely on people who weren’t doing what we expected them to do. Several times I was given details of organisations to go to for ‘advice’, when all I really needed was for someone to just do their job properly.

Eventually we were offered the specialist school we (for a myriad of reasons) couldn’t stand. And despite some efforts on their part, the LA just couldn’t get him a place at the specialist school we really liked. And do you know what? That actually helped clarify our minds, more than they had been for a while. Our Plan A had always been to send him to our first choice of mainstream school, one just out of our catchment, but one we felt could give him everything we wanted. And when we got offered a place there, I cried. Being able to put the specialist school question to bed (for now, everything is always ‘for now’ with children!) actually felt so good. I took that as a sign that, for now, this is the right thing to do.

So now we know where he’s going! Woohoo! We have discussed his EHCP with the school and they are totally on board with it all. There is one issue we are jointly going back to the LA to try and amend, and as this involves money it won’t be the easiest argument (because it will be an argument), but I feel like someone’s got my back now, like I’m no longer shouting into the ether. And that’s fantastic.

And when people ask where he’s going I can finally reply, straight up and positively. And that feels the best. I think because we’ve had to faff around for so long over getting his place confirmed that actually I don’t feel as upset about him starting big school as maybe I would have done had it been straightforward.

Now, if I could just get over how sad the thought of buying him black shoes makes me šŸ˜­

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The Application – applying for schools from an SEN perspective

Last Friday was, if you have children starting school in the UK this September, the deadline for getting your school application in. Did you get yours in? I did, just! I applied to three (I could have applied to four but there wasn’t a fourth I particularly wanted) local schools, online, same as everyone else. Only my application wasn’t the same as everyone else’s.

I have written before about schooling for those children with an SEND diagnosis and the weight of responsibility I felt to ‘get it right’. And I still do to some extent. I visited mainstream schools and a specialist unit. I saw what was on offer locally. And not once did I look at an Ofsted report. Call me crazy, but Oscar’s needs are going to be just that little different and what grades he’ll get an English and Maths, at least to begin with, don’t bother me in the slightest. I need a school, that’s going to, minimum, understand him and include him. How good the facilities are, or what grades other pupils are getting really aren’t that interesting to me.

So yeah I visited a bunch of schools. I didn’t get a bad impression from any of them other than the specialist unit. Call it a mothers hunch, but the woman running the unit was so uninterested in the children and more interested in herself that I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. The school is so oversubscribed that she didn’t need to ask me my son’s name or anything about him. She would fill her places whether we chose to go there or not, twenty times over. It just gave rise to an impression of complete ambivalence to the children and that made me want to cry.

Anyway back to the application process. We received a letter to confirm Oscar would be considered for an Educational Health Care Plan (the system that has replaced the old ‘Statement’), back in November and he’s had extra Educational Psychology and Speech and Language reports done to that effect, but we have still yet to hear whether he has one or not yet. It’ll be discussed at a forum some time this month is all I’ve been told. Which is great, but not particularly helpful for the application process, the deadline for which was 15th January. It means I had to apply like all other parents, but then fashion some form of evidence to back up that the ECHP was (possibly) in the pipe line. The reason for needing to do this at all is that having an EHCP would put him in a different place in the admittance list (even though where in the list seems to vary from school to school). As we live in a really weird corner of three counties and various catchment areas, we have applied to two schools we are technically out of catchment for. However, if the county take into account his SEN, this might not matter.

Do you see? I’m living in a world of “ifs” and “buts” right now. But (hahaha see what I did there), what is done is done. The application is in, the evidence written, the EHCP decision in the hands of someone else. So we wait. Same as every parent. And hope we’ve made the right decision, hope we get the place we would like, hope the forum agrees to support him in the way I believe he needs.

Not worry. Hope.

Not to mention the fact that this all means my baby will be starting school in September. School! Arrrggghhhhh!

No let’s not think about that at all. Let’s just go back to focussing on the process. Yes. That’s much less frightening! ?