My mind has been filled with anxieties about Joel starting school. These started last summer and then they gradually worked up into this massive black cloud by this summer. It felt like I was losing him, like I was already grieving over our shared experiences as they were happening. Will this be the last time we throw stones in the river together? The last time he wants to go and watch trains? Will he stop saying "I love you"? It was all made worse by hearing other parents wishing the time away "I can't wait until September" or telling me how great it was that their kids were so tired that they were eating tea at 4 and then in bed by half past. I couldn't imagine anything worse, we want to still spend time with our son. One parent was even saying how odd mothers were who were sad about their kids going to school. The worst though was people telling me "You will want another one when he goes to school" as though I would want to replace him, shift that love and loss onto another.
It all sounds very over dramatic when I see it written down and of course it wasn't the last time we threw stones together, or did lots of other fun stuff. We put a plan in place. We decided to flexi-school. Half the week at school and half the week at home school. Most people don't realise that this option exists. Whilst the law here states all children must be in full time education by the time they are five, this doesn't mean full time at school. It is also a parents legal right to ask a school to consider a flexi school arrangement, but its up to the head teacher to decide.
The school he was initially offered a place at didn't want to enter into such an agreement, which is a common response. Schools don't always know how to accommodate the idea into their classrooms and systems or how to record the absence without it affecting their grading and Ofsted reports. It shows this wasn't the right school for us.
We successfully negotiated a flexi-school place with a much smaller school and have never looked back on our decision. The school has just twenty pupils with mixed ages across the two classrooms. It is idyllic with open views of the fells across the school play ground and a forest school down the lane. They go caving, climbing and have amazing free after school activities (though he's pretty tired by then so that's not for us yet) Joel loves it and can't wait to get there on his school days. On those three days I work and on the other days we do fun, interesting and exciting stuff together or with my mum. We still have our weekends too. Its fab!
I finally feel like I can breathe again.