A ‘Starting School Letter’

As I write this, its 5pm and you’ve just taken yourself to bed saying you need to nap (totally not a normal occurrence). I say “taken yourself”, but you were in a state my lovely one, crying, throwing yourself around, and just so obviously, so tired. 

I’ve just gone in and checked on you, and sure enough, you’re tucked in bed, your favourite audiobook is playing, your dummy in, and you’re fast asleep. Though I should be working on other posts right now, or probably with Sonny who is hanging out downstairs, I wanted to grab this time to write a short note to you.

Aged 4 years and 4 months, in a week or so it’s your first day starting school. I’m feeling all the feels – obviously. This morning whilst pottering in our normal way, I felt overcome with a sudden feeling of sadness. Sadness that our open ended weekdays together will be no more; that I wont be able to wake up and decide to take you both fruit picking. Or to empty libraries and cafes. Or that we won’t even be able to pay your great grandma a random Thursday morning visit. (I mean, obviously we can do all these things on the weekend or after school but ya know.) Those long open ended days when it’s just you and me (and Sonny) will be no more.

And yet, I’m also overcome with a strong feeling that this is 100% absolutely right for you. In the last week or so you’re actually going through probably one of your most tricky phases I’ve known from you. Your moods are variable, your emotions unsteady, your mind and body obviously frustrated, and often simply exhausted – and exhausting to cope with. Sometimes you struggle to get your words out, other times you’re getting cross and losing your little temper. And whereas normally, I would be able to count on you on behaving well wherever we went, and for us just generally having lovely long days all together, recently I’ve found it hard to discipline you, despite all the talking we do. Basically, your behaviour has just been a little well, all over the place and you’re quite hard work. You want to do everything, read everything, have your own way with everything. And so a lot of ‘this’ is tiredness, I know it. But why, now, just before you start school and should be your most ‘grown up’ ?

Maybe you’re bored. Maybe you’ve had enough Zero Plans Days. Maybe you need more space and play and stimulation to just get some of that energy out. Maybe you’re anxious about the start of school (we’re all talking about school starting, but you don’t have any idea really what school is). And despite being a little apprehensive about your teacher visit next week (please don’t be too moody with the teacher!), I’m almost certain that you’re ready. And you know what, my work load is growing. I’m already struggling to balance looking after both you and Sonny and getting my writing and editing done. The timing is absolutely right. For both of us. Just promise me you’ll still help me take in the milk in the mornings?

All this a long winded way of saying two things really: Firstly, I’m a little confused as to what’s causing this change in behaviour and am wondering if any other mums of pre-Reception kids are experiencing the same? And secondly, to wish you good luck and to tell you that I love you. I’ll miss you but you’re going to be amazing and you’re so ready for this. We both are.

Right – better go and wake you. Fingers crossed you’re not too grumpy… Wish me luck!

Emma xx

P.S Ultimate Zero Plans Day Playlist and What It’s Really Like to Go from One Kid to Two


  1. September 15, 2019 / 4:22 pm

    My eldest would be starting Reception this month, if we weren’t home educating, and she is showing the exact same behaviours. She’s volatile, argumentative and so very very unfocused (which is unlike her). I think it’s fairly normal for children of this age and why so many people say they’re ready for school. For us, I think it’s been worsened by my own mental health, and the fact that so many of her friends have moved away in preparation for school.I’m hoping it’s a shortish phase and that my high energy, but generally reasonable girl makes a return soon.

  2. Vicky
    September 15, 2019 / 7:32 am

    Thanks for sharing this Emma, this I really relevant for me right now and my daughter who has just started school. The last few weeks have been lovely but also challenging with out of character behaviour. I was greatful for her to be starting school, not that I won’t miss her, but she definitely needs that bit if independence and stimulation. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

  3. Zoe
    September 5, 2018 / 7:50 pm

    As a Promary School Teacher I can say it’s pretty normal for a child to appear unsettled before starting school for all the possible reasons you give! A little anxiety about the unknown is to be expected as well as general ‘readiness’ for a little more independence. Not that you don’t foster it, for I’m sure you do. But a child finds another level of independence in a reception class where that adult to child ratio is much greater. Boundaries will be made clear to the children early on, which will give a sense of safety and ‘order’ to things which children often like. As a parent myself I can definitely say that sometimes it’s easier to manage the behaviour of 30 children than just my own 1! I can reassure you that his reception teacher will welcome him, nurture him and have a room ready of interesting and stimulating activities as well as a comforting, safe and cosy book corner or home corner. We understand that the first day is daunting and are ready to deal calmly and sensitively with a little or a lot of grumpiness! There may be tears but I can assure you before you’ve even got to the school gate he will be lovingly encouraged to join in an activity/read a story/meet a new friend and a smile will be creeping in! The exciting journey of learning awaits x

    • Elizabeth
      October 3, 2018 / 7:32 am

      Hello! I just wanted to ask you, as a primary school teacher, what you think parents should be looking for / asking at any upcoming open days at schools? My little boy starts next year so I’m applying this October and have some school visits in the next few weeks. Thanks!

    • Emma Ross
      October 9, 2018 / 12:47 pm

      this is so so helpful, so thank you. p.s so sorry for the terribly slow reply xxx

    • Vicky
      September 15, 2019 / 7:19 am

      What a lovely message, you sounds like a wonderful teacher.

  4. Nicole
    September 5, 2018 / 9:25 am

    My daughter starts school next week and she has been ‘tricky’ for the past few weeks. I think finishing nursery, which she LOVED, a period of limbo with holidays away, time spent with grandparents so my husband and I can work and school approaching is all taking it’s toll. I have taken a few days off this week and next to focus just on her with our youngest at her childminder as usual and it seems to be helping. Not doing anything major, just cafe trips and the cinema (her pick) but giving her control of the day a bit more than usual and being able to talk to her without breaking off to stop her sister from jumping off of something etc.
    I know she’ll be fine once she’s settled in and this reaction is just her usual acting out when unsettled so trying to maintain boundaries but give her the one on one time too.

    • Emma Ross
      October 9, 2018 / 12:47 pm

      totally to all of this. how is she doing now? p.s so sorry for the terribly slow reply xxx

  5. Jo
    September 3, 2018 / 5:37 pm

    My daughter starts reception next week and has been telling us how excited she is. But last week she started to realise she won’t be seeing many of her preschool friends again, and she started to tell us her worries about school. She wanted to sleep in our bed last night which is very unusual. And has started playing ‘schools’ with her teddies (she does a register and asks them what they will be having for lunch – it’s very cute!). I think they have a lot on their minds and are feeling a little insecure. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they will all settle in well and enjoy their new worlds.

  6. September 1, 2018 / 7:56 pm

    This is totally my 4 years and 8 months old boy, and I’d say he’s been like this for s good few months. As you say, arguementative, volatile, trying to ne in charge and angry when he can’t be. I thought it was tiredness from nursery (at the state school he’s starting in a week and a half) but he’s been on/off like it during holidays too.
    Friends who read books on these types of things, say that boys between 4-5 years get a massive surge of testosterone (the biggest they’ll get until they’re 14 and turn into smelly, moody teenagers for a few years, eek!) that sends them a bit crazy for a bit, so I’m kinda hoping it’s that and I’m trying my best not to quash his natural urges, while also trying to teach him not to be a total… you know what.
    I’m finding it’s so hard to parent boys in this current climate of ‘strong girls’ and ‘girls can do anything’ which is great and amazing but… where does that leave the boys? Your take on this would be super interesting if you’d ever write a post on it.
    Anyway good luck with the start of school x x

    • Danielle
      September 2, 2018 / 2:02 am

      Hi Sarah I have boys and have just finished reading “raising boys” by Stephen Biddulph. I highly recommend it as he touches on the whole “where do boys stand in this current climate of strong girls etc ‘ .. it’s really helped me x

  7. Jackie
    September 1, 2018 / 7:22 pm

    I could have written this post myself. My son is a little younger than yours at 3 and a half – he’s starting the nursery class (just mornings) next week after being home with me his entire life and his behaviour lately has been erratic at best these past couple of weeks. I feel sad that our last weeks at home together have been fraught with tantrums and so many cries of “but I want to do everything I want” from him. I’m hanging in there though and hopeful that it’s just a developmental phase and him being ready for school. Nice to know I’m not alone!! 🙂

  8. Vic Carberry
    September 1, 2018 / 7:11 pm

    This is really interesting Emma because my eldest daughter (who finished Reception this summer and is about to go into Year 1) has also struggled over the past couple of weeks. She’s usually a very even tempered child, easy to reason with etc but lately she has become frustrated and emotional and quite stroppy with me! After 6 weeks off with me and her toddler sister she’s absolutely ready to return to school. I think you’re right about the different type of stimulation that a school environment provides. Your son is clearly so bright and ready! I hope it gets off to a great start for you both X

  9. Bek
    September 1, 2018 / 4:23 pm

    Yep! My eldest starts reception next week & the past few weeks have been REALLY difficult with him. Same behaviour as you’ve described. Quick to get cross, constant frustration & just really hard work. I’m hoping it’s a sign that he is ready for school & needs that extra stimulation. I have to say it’s made me feel quite sad that these last few weeks before he goes off into the big wide world of school have been somewhat fraught! Definitely torn between not wanting to let him go & asking if he can live there ?

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