Unfortunately, for privacy reasons, I won’t be able to disclose the exact school we enrolled DJ in. However, I’ll discuss the process we went through and general things to look out for when choosing a school for your kid(s)
I started looking for schools before DJ was even born. I was in my final trimester then. It was a mixture of excitement and my obsessive need to plan ahead. I had a general area in mind, which brings me to the question. What exactly should I look out for when choosing a school?
I needed a place that wasn’t too far from my house and also very close to my parent’s house and in laws just in case I couldn’t pick him up (for eg when I’m in school). This one was just 20 minutes away from my house, 15 minutes from my parents-in-law’s and 5 minutes from my parent’s.
This is huge for me. I needed a really clean environment for him. I knew he would pick up germs or viral infections from other kids anyway but a dirty environment would just make matters worse.
It was important to me that his class wasn’t overcrowded with inadequate staff. His class has about 8 kids with 2 teachers which is perfect so they can attend to each child properly.
With regards to fees, it’s always a good idea to go to the school directly to enquire about their fees. There is A LOT of misinformation out there regarding particular schools and exactly how much they charge. With DJ’s school, I was told they were extremely expensive (which is relative) and even charged in dollars. I found out they didn’t and it turned out to be much more reasonable than I had expected. Kobby has a rule that, he will not live paycheque to paycheque in the name of sending a child to a particular school. So if he doesn’t have at least a year or two’s fees ready, we can’t send the child there. Life happens, and the last thing you want, is to withdraw your child from a school because you were living way beyond your means.
Now this is a major problem in Ghana. We have come to accept very poor sub-standard customer service because that’s all we’ve ever known. I went to 5 different schools but choosing his school was an easy decision mainly because of this. Their staff was professional and friendly and stood out from the rest. Right from the security to the front desk, they were all warm and welcoming. The front desk staff, quickly attended to me and answered all my questions. The security man as well as the front desk ladies, knew the kids names and said bye to each of them with a smile as they were picked up. They also call all the parents “Mummy and Daddy” lol.
I remember the day I went there, I was asked
“Mummy, how old is your child please?”
I laughed and pointed at my belly.
“He’s still in here.”
We all burst into laughter and I told them, I just wanted to have all the information so we could budget properly. They asked me to bring him in at 6 months.
“6months?! That’s too early for me. I would like to bring him in at 2 years.”
“Mummy, usually the 6 month olds are moved to the next class, so unless a kid drops out, it’s almost impossible to guarantee a spot. 16 months is also the oldest we can admit please.”
We had two options. We could either pay his fees to save his spot till we were ready for him to start school or hope a spot opens up when he’s ready. I decided to do the latter because I wasn’t in any hurry.
Fast forward about a year later, DJ was almost one and I was pregnant again in my final trimester with Drew. I went back to find out if I could bring DJ in, in January when he was 14 months. I was exhausted and I needed him in school badly! I couldn’t imagine having to cope with both of them at home once the baby was born. My too-known self that was hyping that I couldn’t take my child in at 6 months, now understood the parents who did.
Fortunately, a spot had opened up so I was told I could bring him in. I literally couldn’t wait. In true mom fashion, the day was drawing near and I was getting anxious about sending him “off into the world”. The mom guilt was starting.
“Is he even old enough to start school”
“What if he gets sick?”
“What if he needs me?”
January came and it was time for school. I laid out his outfit the night before.
I had read all the school documents I was given with the full list of items he needed. Mainly, they required a box of diapers, packs of wipes, tissue, bib, body wash, lotion, washcloth, towel, hair cream, comb (all these to clean him up before pickup). All these items (except the washcloth and towel which has to be changed daily) would be kept in his locker throughout the term and then we would be alerted once they are finished. I was also asked to pack a change of clothes in his backpack. I got his lovely Skip Hop backpack, lunch bag , water bottle, plate, bowl and cutlery set from @littlehipkids on Instagram. I quickly realized I didn’t need the lunch bag and others for school because they provide breakfast, lunch and snacks. The entire menu for the month is emailed to all parents and was pleased to see that they have lots of fruits for snack
I dressed him, put on his backpack and took lots of pictures. I couldn’t believe my baby was starting school!
Kobby and I decided we would both go with him to school on the first day. We took Drew along but dropped him off with my mother. We arrived at the school and a lady at the reception assisted us find his class and introduced us to his teacher. After handing over all the items for his locker, I pulled out my phone and proceeded to brief her on all the things she should look out for and just general tidbits I felt she needed to know about his upkeep. I could see Kobby dropping his head in his palm from the corner of my eye and probably wondering when I even had the time to put down that list. It was amusing but I didn’t care. After all, I was just about to hand my child over to a total stranger who knew nothing about him so I may have been doing the “most” but can you blame me?
After patiently listening to me go on and on, it was finally time to leave him behind. He seemed slightly confused by his new environment, probably wondering who the other kids were. We had to dash out before he turned around and noticed we were gone. I told the front desk lady to call me if they had any issues. Kobby dropped me off at my parent’s and I decided to spend the rest of the day there just in case I had to rush back to the school. I was such a mess. I couldn’t focus on anything. I kept glancing at my phone thinking I would get a call and started to worry when I wasn’t getting that call.
“Should I just swing by and make sure everything is okay?”
“No, I don’t want to be that one crazy mother who can’t seem to let go”
“I’m sure everything is under control. Or is it??”
“Lord! Why are they not calling me??!!”
I kept going back and forth in my thoughts, distracting myself with taking care of Drew and then occasionally looking at the clock counting down to pick up time. I set off 30 minutes to time. I got to the carpark and I was the first car there. I waited in the car for 20 minutes and then walked in. I got to the class at exactly 3pm. I stood behind the door and watched him through the glass. He looked fine till he turned around and saw me. He burst into tears, crying all the way to the door. It was so sad. One of the teachers opened the door and I immediately lifted him up to comfort him. I impatiently asked the teachers how he did and I was told he cried a lot that day and had a hard time adjusting (which was normal) but he ate all his food. That was a shocker because he refused to eat regular food at home. Watching the other kids eat, must’ve done the trick. He also napped without his pacifier which was good news.
I was given a daily report, which indicated, how many times his diaper was changed and the time it was changed, what he ate and the time he ate, the duration of his nap, the amount of water he drunk, his disposition, the activities they did that day and whether or not he participated, etc. It was pretty thorough.
The days and weeks that followed were tough. He cried every single day when he was dropped off and picked up. I had even decided not to drop him off anymore because it was heartbreaking. Then strangely after about 2-3 weeks, he adjusted. He would wave or even dance when he arrives. He would smile at his teachers and his new friends. All the kids in his class would hug him when he arrives and it was so cute to watch. Nowadays, he actually looks forward to school; trying to put on his own socks or shoes, wearing his backpack around the house etc.
The Not So Good Side
For a child who had never fallen sick, he got sick a lot when he started school. He came down with a cold which took forever to go, he had a cough, he had a rash around his eyes and then allergies. The worst part is, once he gets a cold or cough, poor Drew also gets it so I try to separate them when I detect it early. Hospital visits have reduced significantly but we are still fighting allergies.
The Good side
His eating has significantly improved. He eats regular meals now even though he’s quite picky but it’s not as bad as before.
I was able to successfully wean him off the pacifier once I realized he didn’t need it to sleep in school. It took 4 days (cold turkey) but after crying and not being rewarded with one( trust me I had to try my hardest not to give in) he finally got the message and slept.
He’s growing up and adjusting nicely.
There’s been a lot of ups and downs but ultimately, I’m glad he started school when he did and I’ve gotten that crying phase out of the way. I’ll definitely do same with Drew!