First day of school

By PD Martin

The past 10 days have been huge for me…a huge life stage for me…well, actually it’s a huge life stage for my daughter! You see, on Monday 6 February Grace started school.

The lead up to this event was pretty intense, and I managed to get myself very stressed about my ‘to-do’ list. Buy the uniform, buy new shoes, get the books, label everything, buy a new lunchbox (lots of research into that one!), hair ties in school colours, buy new drink bottle, etc. And while some of these may seem like ridiculously small things, I wanted everything to be perfect. And anyone who’s got young children will probably relate to the drink bottle dilemma. Do you know how hard it is to get a bottle that children will both drink out of AND that won’t leak? We’ve got a cupboard full of drink bottles/juice cups that cover Grace from the time she was six months old until now. Some leaked despite their marketing claims and others didn’t leak but for whatever reason she didn’t drink enough water (presume it was the mouthpiece/straw).

Anyway, once I had everything bought, labelled and ironed, it was time for her first day, which would be 9am-12.30. We walked up from our house to the school and she had a massive entourage. And, let me tell you, my daughter wears an entourage extremely well. In fact, she kind of expects it now. She’s our only child and my parent’s only grandchild, plus she has a larger-than-life personality that draws many people to her. On her first day, her posse included me, my hubby, my dad, my mum and my mother-in-law (Grace’s first day at school was the main reason my mother-in-law had come to visit from Ireland).

We wandered through the local streets, with Grace just about jumping out of her skin. In fact, there was a substantial amount of time spent actually jumping, with me telling her to take it easy because she’d wear herself out before she even got to school!

Many, many photos were taken (as you can imagine) and my dad bought along a very old piece of paper that had my name on it and I’d traced over the words “I started school today” with a crayon. I don’t remember writing this on my first day of school, but it was fantastic to be able to show Grace and then we got her to do the same thing later on.

So far, Grace is settling into school extremely well. She loves it and is excited to go there in the morning and was most upset on Saturday and Sunday when there was no school! As part of the way they’re easing the kids into the first year, they’ve also got Wednesdays off for the next three weeks. We decided to make the most of these last days and had a family day yesterday. 

I don’t know how the next seven years of her primary school life will go, but I hope she’s always this enthusiastic about school. It sure makes things easier 🙂

I don’t remember my first day at school, even though I’m sure I was incredibly excited. Can you remember your first day at school? Or your kids’ first day?  Looking forward to hearing some of your stories. 

22 thoughts on “First day of school

  1. Sarah W

    Oh! My Last Baby starts kindergarten this Fall, at her sister's school, and we're already deep into lunchbox and backpack discussions (I suspect I may be inadvertently cramping her style, but that's part of the job description, isn't it?).

    I have photos (so, so many photos) of my First Baby going to kindergarten — she seemed so grown-up and confident when I was taking them, but when I look at them now, she looks so small, clutching the straps of her purple backpack with tiny fingers . . .

    I remember things about my own first day of First Grade, or at least waiting for the bus with my mother at the bottom of our long driveway. I was wearing red plaid pants (nothing like dating yourself) and a brown denim jacket with Winnie the Pooh etched onto the brass buttons — and glasses exactly like your Grace is wearing. I had a metal lunchbox, too . . . I think maybe Pooh Bear or Sesame Street? The thermos was red and the peanut butter sandwich was squished. The girl who became my best friend must have been on the same bus, but I didn't know it at the time. My teacher was Miss Gayle and I loved her.

  2. Karen in Ohio

    Aww, what a cutie. I love the uniforms Aussie kids wear. One day at the Sydney Opera House, while waiting for my husband, I watched three separate school groups, with Madeline-like hats and dresses, traverse the many steps.

    Can't recall my own, faraway first day of school, but I remember my daughters', and my grandson's, which was just a year and a half ago. I was lucky enough to be there, and to meet his teachers, last year and this year. Too fun. I'm sure your parents were equally thrilled to be there for Grace.

  3. Zoë Sharp

    How lucky Grace is that she approaches school with such joy. I hated nursery school and didn't much care for what came after, but I made it through to my first year of secondary school and finally quit at the age of 12.

    I remember the relief.

  4. Marina Sofia

    Bless your daughter, she does look very proud! And it's so nice to be made a fuss over, to associate school with something positive (the negatives will come soon enough). My younger child started school last year, he could barely wait to follow his brother through the schoolgates and never glanced back once, while I was a gibbering wreck, in something resembling mourning that my baby had grown up!
    I do remember my own first day at school quite clearly, partly because I was going to school abroad, in a language that I hardly spoke at the time. So I came home bursting with pride that I had managed to understand one full sentence that the teacher had told me that day.
    'Well done, darling,' said my proud parents, 'And what was that sentence?'
    I glowed as I answered: 'She said please sit on your chair and stop running around, Marina!'

  5. Marina Sofia

    Bless your daughter, she does look very proud! And it's so nice to be made a fuss over, to associate school with something positive (the negatives will come soon enough). My younger child started school last year, he could barely wait to follow his brother through the schoolgates and never glanced back once, while I was a gibbering wreck, in something resembling mourning that my baby had grown up!
    I do remember my own first day at school quite clearly, partly because I was going to school abroad, in a language that I hardly spoke at the time. So I came home bursting with pride that I had managed to understand one full sentence that the teacher had told me that day.
    'Well done, darling,' said my proud parents, 'And what was that sentence?'
    I glowed as I answered: 'She said please sit on your chair and stop running around, Marina!'

  6. Debbie

    I'm curious about your school system in contrast to ours (Canada). We have JK & SK (junior and senior kindergarten—ages4-6) which are the first two years of primary school and are not mandatory although most parents enrol their children. It is half days in some school boards, full days in others, and full days part-time in yet others (alternating days). Grade one (age 6) is the beginning of grade 1 and children remain in primary school until they complete grade 8. High school is grades 9-12.We have two systems, paid for by tax payers (property tax): public and Catholic. There are typically no uniforms until grade 9, and then only in the Catholic system. There are of course, private schools, which you have to pay for.
    The school day in all systems, typically runs from roughly 9am-3pm from September to the end of June, with two weeks off for Christmas, one for March break, and maybe 7 professional development days smattered here and there, in addition to the stat. holidays (roughly 5).

  7. lil Gluckstern

    Your Grace is adorable. That spirit will serve her well. Unfortunately, I don't remember my kids' first day at school and I'm not sure it was a big day. they went to preschool with all their friends. We lived in tract housing so there were a lot of kids, and we parents were more teary than the kids who were happy to be together. Mostly, it was just part of life for them. Now high school-that's a totally different story:)

  8. Lisa Alber

    Grace is so cute! Wish I'd had a hat like that on my first day of school!

    I don't remember starting school exactly, but since I'm the oldest, I have vague memories of a rushed, non-celebrational affair. Basically a dump-off–isn't that sad? I imagine my mom was relieved to finally have one kid out of the house for awhile each day. I remember feeling like nursery school was a strange, foreign land (in a church, no less, which didn't mean anything to me)…but I did like fingerpainting and playing the xylophone and walking around on the toddler stilts.

  9. PD Martin

    Nice to know you can relate, Sarah. The backpack is the school one (so at least that was one less decision!) and I was extremely happy with my lunchbox choice: Our school has a 4* environmental rating so they encourage/strongly suggest minimal waste! I can definitely recommend the lunchbox although I think it's an Australian brand.

    And I loved hearing about your first day – especially the fashion. Very cool. And while the clothes may have dated Pooh Bear is still a favourite 🙂 Good luck with your youngest one's first day!


  10. PD Martin

    Karen – yes, the school uniforms are good. And I prefer it to casual/free dress because then they don't have to make any decisions or have their fashion choices compared or criticised by their peers. And we need those wide hats for the Aussie summer. They're compulsory wear in Terms 1 & 4 (our hotter terms). And how wonderful that you were at your grandson's first day – my parents and my mother-in-law WERE over the moon!

    Zoe – you stopped school at 12? Wow! Is that even 'legal'? I'm so lucky (or maybe just a book nerd) but I loved school except for the last two years. And that was because I moved schools and got bullied at the new school. The school part I always liked.


  11. PD Martin

    Marina, yes, my daughter was/is extremely proud. Just so excited to be going to school. And while I hope she'll always feel that way I realise she may not so I'm enjoying it while it lasts. And your first day sounds extremely memorable. Wow, that would be hard starting school in a different language. We do have quite a few people here in Australia who immigrate from Asia or other non-English-speaking places but usually they have some English before starting school.

    Thanks, Lil. I think she's adorable too, but I'm biased. I actually wasn't that teary. I thought I might be but she was so excited and then I was excited so it all went extremely well.


  12. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Phillipa

    At the time, UK law said that you must 'educate' your children. It dodn't specify how you went about that. And I seem to remember it was a year before anybody thought to check 🙂

  13. PD Martin

    Debbie…the Aussie school system. Here goes…

    Firstly, the Aussie school year is from early February – late December. We have four terms (of varying lengths) worked around Easter and other holidays. And we get 2 weeks off between each term. So I think it works out to be a 40-week teaching year.

    Pre-school (we call it kindergarten). They have 3yro kindergarten (3-5 hours per week) and then 4yro kindergarten (15 hours per week). This is the elective one, but most parents do it.

    Then we have primary school, which most kids start when they're 5yro, but legally they just have to be 5yro before 30 April. Nowadays, most parents with kids born in the first four months of the year tend to hold them back and start them when they're 5yro rather than 4yro.

    Our primary school starts with Prep (short for preparatory) and after easing them in for the first five weeks with shorter days and/or days off, by March they're doing full school days of 9am-3.30pm. Preps also have subjects like sport, a language (Japanese at our school), library studies, art and music worked into their timetable. Primary school encompasses Prep and then Grades 1-6. They then move on to secondary, which is years 7-12.

    Like you we have three systems that run side-by-side: state (what you call public), Catholic and private schools.

    Hope that gives you a good idea of our system!

  14. PD Martin

    Lisa, sorry your memories are of a 'rush' but it sounds like you had fun when you got there! First day of school is quite a big deal here, but then again, like I said, Grace is an only child and only grand child on my family's side. Plus she's adopted from Korea and was six years 'in the making' in terms of from the time we first started trying to have children to the time we were able to pick her up. So, yes….she's spoiled and the centre of our universe!

  15. Reine

    Beautiful photo, Phillipa!

    I do remember my first day of school. I sat next to Lawrence Spear, whose mother had to drag him into the classroom. Mrs. Rhody handed out drawing paper and crayons and told us to draw. "Do not copy your neighbor's work." I looked at Lawrence's drawing. He was making beautiful colored tipis. I drew the same. After looking at his gorgeous tipis, bows, arrows, and – of course – spears that's all I could think of and all I wanted to draw.

    After that Mrs. Rhody never believed anything I said. She put me on Bus 1 to go home. I told her I had to go on Bus 3 with Stephen. She did not believe me. "Your tag says Bus 1." I started to cry, but she made me get on Bus 1 with my friend Jeanie Bearse. We played word games all the way to the River Pines, the last stop on School Bus Route 1.

    When we got to the last stop Jeanie said good-bye, and got off the bus where Ronnie Collins was waiting for her. April Gordon got off the bus. Lawn Kiley got off the bus. Robert Dumas got off the bus. Mr. Vocell, the bus driver, said it was time for me to get off the bus. I told him where I lived.

    Mr. Vocell radioed the police. Maureen Ryan's father, the police officer, drove me home in the patrol car. Stephen was waiting on the front lawn with my mother and my English cream retriever, Boston Morane.

    Mrs. Rhody left the school. Mrs. Ferrin became our new teacher. Mrs. Covell, Denise's mother, had to substitute for Mrs. Ferrin– a lot. Mrs. Ferrin believed everything I said. Mrs. Covell believed me too. All the teachers let me draw whatever I wanted from then on.

    Jeanie Bearse married Ronnie Collins. He's called Ron now, and he's a professor. We live thousands of miles apart, but Jeanie and I are still playing word games. We have 6 games of Words With Friends going now, and she's annoyed that I am taking so long to get back to her. So . . . gotta go!

  16. Reine

    Jeanne just reminded me that her name is Jeanne, not Jeanie, and that I should stop calling her by her grammar school nickname now– if I might be so kind, that is. I told her she was just pissed off because I just played a 96 point word on one of those 6 WWFs games we have going. She said I was right, but she got Ron. I told her I'd wanted Lawn. She said, "Piss off."

    Then she said that wasn't really my first day of school anyway, because I'd gone to kindergarten in Lynn. I reminded her that it wasn't really kindergarten, rather it was pre-school, and that I started first grade with her when I was 5, because we didn't have kindergarten there, back then. Then she said that she started first grade when she was four. I told her to piss off. Then we talked about Paul Dumas who still lives in the same house at the end of School Bus Route 1.

  17. PD Martin

    Zoe, a year before anyone thought to check. Guess that's easy, huh?! Too easy. At least your parents didn't force you to keep going. My mum's a teacher and my dad a PhD scientist…no way would I have got away with stopping school! Luckily I enjoyed it.

    Reine, what a lovely account of your first day. I'm so glad the teacher changed! Luckily I haven't experienced it very often, but it's a horrible feeling when you're telling the truth and someone doesn't believe you.

    And it's also wonderful that you're still in contact with your school friends. I am too – I met my best friend in Prep, when she was 5 and I was 4! We weren't best friends until later in life, but it's so wonderful having people around you who you've known for years…almost your entire life time. I can see from your description that you feel that way too!

  18. lil Gluckstern

    What an adventurous first day for you Reine, and your spirit was evident even then. Sorry you go on the wrong bus, but you got to ride in a patrol car.

    PD-your child is a treasure, and it looks like she is getting all the love she needs to see her through life!

  19. Reine

    When I went back east for graduate school, I went to visit one of my old friends for the weekend. Everyone knew I was there, as you might expect. It's a small town. We were sitting in the kitchen when the phone rang. It was Stephen's brother, Robert, calling me from New Hampshire. "Hey, you broke my brother's heart when you moved away! What are you doing here, now?" It had been 25 – 30 years since I had talked to Robert. Then other of the old group got on the phone and chimed in. It was a huge – the best ever – joke!

    Finally I got to talk with Stephen, the same boy I was supposed to ride with on the bus and was waiting on the front lawn with my mother and my Retriever. He said, "I really did think we were meant to be together."

    "Me too."

    "What are you doing back here?"

    "Going to graduate school."

    No, really."

    "Yeah really."

    "You went to college?"


    "Where are you going to graduate school?"


    "Hah! Now I know you're lying!"

  20. Debbie

    I found the language studies interesting. With us, it is French (which is another option that I forgot to mention). Children can be educated in either language *French or English) and there is full French or immersion (50%.

    Hey thanks for that info. I have lots of Aussie Fb friends, so many that if I didn't have a family, I'd seriously consider relocating. Now I'll understand the age and year correlations, which it turns out, are the same. Our Catholic schools run to grade 8 before the children physically change schools to high school (grade 9) but public schools vary, containing either a junior/middle school building that encompasses grade 8 or a primary/junior school which ends at either 5 or6, at which point children attend a middle school until grade 9 in a high school.

    Please, one more question, what funding is provided by the government? (ie. uniforms, or state but not Catholic system etc.)

  21. Gar Haywood


    Grace looks gorgeous. You've done good, Mom.

    As for that "perfect" drinking bottle, you forgot to mention that when you've finally found it, your child promptly finds a way to LOSE it somewhere.


  22. PD Martin

    The one that got away, hey, Reine!

    Debbie, we have some assistance for uniforms and books, but only for low-income families. Otherwise, you're on your own! Having said that, the uniform etc was pretty cheap (not like the costs of private school uniforms) so it's not too bad.

    Gar – of course, the lost drink bottle! Fingers crossed Grace keeps this one for at least the first term 🙂 And thanks re Grace!


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