Tuesday 10 January 2012

The first school trip... to go or not to go, that is the question?!

So today, a letter has been sent home from school. It tells me that they would like to take the Reception classes (both of them, so that's 60 children), on a trip to London Zoo. We live just outside the capital, so it's around 45 minutes by bus to drive there.

The first thing that pops into my mind is 'Why on earth would you think THAT was a good idea, teachers?! It's difficult enough going to a zoo with 2 children!'. I know it's been very mild here lately too, but surely it's about to change - is early Feb really the nicest weather to be wandering outside for the day?

The second is 'Should I stay or should I go now', along with accompanying tune.

You see, for Tamsin it would have been an easy decision. I would have gone along because I love to help out, I enjoy helping to look after the other children, and also because I know Tamsin would have loved to have me there. Not only because she was a bit of a mummy's girl anyway, but also because there are some sort of 'brownie' points to be had if your mum is helping out at school. I say I would have done it - I couldn't because they didn't actually do a school trip that far away when Tamsin was in Reception, but also at the time I had a younger Sasha to look after and no way of being 'free' from her (no local family).

Now, however, it's a whole different ball game. Yes, I am a SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mum), so technically I am free (though I'd like to point out I don't twiddle my thumbs all day long). Actually I would love to go along to the zoo and enjoy it all with them. The trouble sadly, is Sasha. Not wanting to sound big headed, but I know I am the person who understands her best in the world, and she knows I am too. Sometimes, therein lies the problem. All children know how to 'play' their parents, and I'm sure a lot of teachers would agree that lots of children are better behaved when their parents aren't around. 

Anyway, I digress. Back to the school trip. The trouble is that Sasha can get very unsettled by anything happening out of routine, and she can be so unpredictable. If she does get upset, then it could lead to a full on meltdown, and she wouldn't walk or go where she needs to with the others. She's also not really great at concentrating on big group teaching sessions, so she'd need someone to be explaining directly to her what is going on, or even to be taking her off to do something individually. 

The possibility or even probability is that Sasha would need to have an assistant/carer stay with her at all times - or at least be available to stay with her if necessary. In one way I feel obliged to offer to be that person, as I do feel guilty that someone else may then miss out on the experience with the other children.

On the other hand, if I am there, then Sasha is more likely to feel like she can do what she wants, as I'll be there to back her up and follow her round. I'd also have to consider whether to drive there separately, in case the time comes when she just wants to go home. The children will be travelling by double decker bus/coach, which could be an issue in itself, as Sasha generally gets very car sick, so I'm not sure a bus would be any better! If I'm not there, I'll just be fretting all day about how it's going.

I know there'll be other mums worried about sending their little ones off on a school trip far away too, especially if they have children who are not so happy at school yet, or who get upset easily, but I also know from helping out in classrooms at other times that these types of children don't tend to stay upset for long; they can be easily comforted or pacified. With Sasha it's just different; the level of upset/distress she can feel is so much more than that. So much more that it overrides any other sense, any ability to listen or to behave consciously.

Maybe the only thing I can do is drive along after the bus, with my mobile phone on stand-by, and slink around the zoo after them, just out of sight, waiting in case 'it' happens.

So what would YOU do?!


  1. I would have a talk with the staff at school... surely they must realize that this type of outing could be challenging for Sasha... what do they have in mind on how to proactively deal with this? I'd encourage them to prepare ahead of the event as much as possible -- for instance, create a social story for Sasha that describes what will happen and read it with her from days before the trip. Ideally, you will get reassurance from the school that they are prepared and will be able to handle all potential situations without you needing to be there.

    How has Sasha done on previous (shorter) trips?

  2. You're right, that sounds reasonable to ask for, thanks! She hasn't really done any other trips yet - well a walk down a bike path to the supermarket and walk a few blocks away to the church.... not quite in the same league! Both times I got the feeling they were saying it went OK but they didn't quite tell me everything... and of course she's not really capable of saying what's gone on...

  3. I don't know I might go to the zoo myself with a book and just let the school that I'm there just in case, as well as preparing them. Then if all goes well, you need never do it again x

  4. Fab idea, I like that one. Day out with a book? Bliss!! I did speak to the school and they reckoned they would be giving her a 1-1 assistant for the day, so maybe all will be well. Thank goodness the school are flexible and have a great attitude, I know I'm lucky.

  5. I don't know how I missed that you posted, I hope this isn't too late! My son went to the zoo last year and I had similar fears. I told them I would go BUT he needed his care-taker there as I would have my other girls with me. I stayed back and made sure he was OK and he knew I was there. He would keep an eye out to make sure I was present but deferred to his support person. It wasn't ideal but it worked.

    Good luck!

  6. Not too late, trip is 1st Feb. I'm still 'humming' and haaarring' to be honest. Think school would rather try it without me, which is probably for the bst, so I'll try and stay away but have my phone in my hand all day!


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