A Father Without a Family: Selecting a School
Despite the differences I share with my ex-wife, we have found a way to make schooling a success for parents that are no longer together.
Communicate, communicate, and communicate. We still have arguments, we still have disagreements, but we do communicate about our children’s schooling. Put your differences aside so your children can get the most out of their time at school. Be prepared to put your hand in your pocket, schooling is not free.
If you are a separated parent that is preparing for your child to start school, I have a few tips.
- Get to the orientation day, make it happen. If you are in another state/country send someone you trust.
- Make an effort in your appearance, this is a two way street. The school will read into how you present yourself as to what sort of child they could be teaching. Call it what you like, and I know it shouldn’t matter but this is the reality.
- Find at least three things both parents agree on, as must haves. You do not want to get there and be fighting over what each other parent wants.
- Ensure your child is prepared for the visit, talk to them, and make sure you comfort them if they are a little apprehensive. This is a huge deal for allot of kids. I remember feeling quite anxious about starting ‘big school’.
- Evaluate all the costs. Uniforms, books, fee’s, excursions, fete’s, raffles, be prepared to fork out money every week for something. Every couple has their own way, but for us we share all of those costs 50/50. For me, the money I pay in child support is for food, shelter, clothing, and basic healthcare. Anything over and above that is a shared cost
- Engage with other parents, especially ones that already have children attending the school. They will be able to give insights into how it works and what the real story is.
- Prepare a list of questions before you get there.
- What is the schools policy on social media
- Mobile phone usage
- Environmental policy
- Equity, religion
- Before and after school care
- P&C committee
If you are a recently separated couple that have children already attending school here are a few tips;
- Talk to your child; explain to them that both mum and dad want to be a part of their school. Forget being angry with your ex, your child needs you right now.
- Talk to the school, let them know of your situation, you are not alone; they will have means of communicating to both of you. I get my own copy of the school newsletter and school reports, it’s that easy.
- One of you should try to get involved in the P&C, the other parent, in other activities. This way you’re child see’s both parents being actively involved in their schooling. Maybe teach a sports team, or attend working bees. There are many ways to contribute to your children’s school. You just have to make the effort. Remember you get one shot at raising these kids!
- Clearly communicate with the other parent who and when will drop off and collect your children. Do it in person and then follow up in writing. You also need to ensure your child knows who is picking them up, this is part of their safety mechanism. Yes it is important.
I have negotiated with my employer to collect my kids from school at the end of the teaching day. This allows me to talk directly to the teachers every fortnight, my ex then informs me of any other matters I need to know of. If I think I am not being kept up to date I call the school. You must motivate yourself to be engaged, do not put the responsibility onto the primary carer, this is your job as well.
This will take time; don’t expect perfect communications from day one. Be patient and clear about what you need to know.
Lastly, listen intently when you talk to your children about their day at school. Try to keep up with what they are learning, especially the basics like reading, writing, and math. There is no reason that you cannot be doing some of their schoolwork with them when you see them. There are a number of web based education programs that you can use that make it a little more fun.
Shape your activities to suit their age and knowledge; most kids just want to be with you. If they ask you a school question you don’t know the answer to, look it up. There are no excuses with all the technology we have around us.
You may have a broken marriage, that does not mean you are a broken parent.
Tell them you love them every time you see them, you never know….