Regardless of how enjoyable and happily a woman lives in the cocoon of motherhood, sooner or later her baby caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly ready to start school. The same baby that she gave birth to not that long ago…
We were having dinner with friends. Our very first meeting at the nursery of the wee one was a smiley wink of the faith. Eve was seated on the floor wiping the blood from her daughter’s nose with extraordinary tranquility. One of the teachers was muttering a mixture of excuses and detailed explanations of how Sara had stumbled and fallen. Eve cut her some slack interrupting the flow of unnecessary excuses, and asked politely not to see her child with blood stains again. Then, smiling she added, “at least clean her before I show up.”
I was so impressed by her reaction and equanimity that I stopped for a moment. To acknowledge my thoughts and meet her. Sometimes you see parts of yourself in strangers as in a mirror and you want to stop them for a little longer to look again and delve into their soul. We started chatting. And in time, we became friends.
We were having a loud and enjoyable dinner “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” style. As we sipped slowly from the well chilled prosecco, we directed the conversation towards our children and the elite schools in the city. I consider the topic quite interesting though I cannot get into specifics as my wee one is still wee. And there, in-between the sips of prosecco and Eve’s peculiar look “why do you talk about this as if Mia is not going to school next August” style, I hit the fast train. Next August?!?!!?!?! One is able to cope with certain phenomena and events in life with ease, for others – they need psychological preparation and positive attitude. That night I needed more prosecco.
EARLY DEVELOPMENT OF CHILDREN IN SCOTLAND
I, myself, am a graduate of the English educational system, but I received my secondary education in Bulgaria. At the age of 7, I was solemnly standing in the front yard of the school with a bouquet of flowers staring at Ms. Tsvetanova – my first and most beloved teacher. At 7! Mia is just 3 and the pre-school teachers are already actively preparing her for solving mathematical, logical and other school problems. She is regularly bringing homeworks and parents are encouraged to use the following online tools to further develop the children’s skills and reinforce the lessons learned at the pre-school:
Funbrain JR enhances the development of mathematical skills and literacy through games, stories and free printable materials.
Starfall has a wide variety of games and activities aimed at helping with early reading. In addition, the site offers linguistic and mathematical activities.
Boowakwala focuses on games that stimulate early development such as jigsaws, mazes, shape games and more.
Top marks offers multiple math games for children between 3-11 years old.
GB Education has great pattern games for pre-school children (3-5 years).
CHOOSING THE APPROPRIATE SCHOOL
A week after the dinner in question, I started digging about relevant information for schools in Edinburgh. In Scotland, children go to school in the year they turn 5. In my wee one’s case it means she will be only 4 years and 8 months on her first day at school. As it turns out, one of the main challenges is not enrolling the child to a school, it is enrolling them in a school of our choosing. This stems from the fact that state school places are subject to catchment areas. You can easily check which schools your children are eligible to by simly entering your post code in the Council website. It is very possible, however, that none of the schools displayed are within your short list of elite schools. In this case, you can do one of the following three:
- You can complete a non-catchment placing request form in December preceding the school admission year. A Council Committee then examines your application and decides on an order of priority starting with pupils who have siblings at the requested school, pupils who are residents in the Council area and, finally, pupils who are not residents in the Council area and who do not have siblings at the requested school. There is, however, a high probability that your application will be denied if all places are already occupied.
- Move to the cathcment area of your most preferred school.
- Enroll the child in a private (independent) school. In Edinburgh, there are many such schools housed in old Harry Potter castles with Versailles-style gardens without any exaggeration. You can either enroll your child in day care or boarding, as well as choose between single-sex or co-education. Applications are usually made in the autumn of the year prior to admission and many schools hold their open days during the autumn term. You can even arrange a personal appointment with the Head / Admission Department. Most independent schools have entrance tests and interviews. For P1 the majority of schools invite the entrants to spend most of a school day with them assessing their mathematical, literacy, logical, writing, painting, storytelling, etc. skills in an informal way. The atmosphere is pleasant and unobtrusive in order not to create unnecessary tension in children. Fees are not negligible, but there are opportunities for scholarships for gifted children.
In choosing a school, whether state-owned or independent, you can go one step further and, depending on your child’s interests, enroll it in tailored education such as dance and sports, music, religious, boarding, Montessori (for arts) and more.
No matter how exciting it all sounds, sometimes I wonder which approach to schooling is better. The one that allows children more time to enjoy their childhood, hence step into school life at the age of 7, or the other in which they take the lead role in their life from infants. Occasionally, I consider the second system a bit rough as it throws kids into real life too soon, loads them with a number of responsibilities, and puts them in a situation in which they are forced to grow prematurely… I’m curious to read your thoughts on this.