I don’t think that it should be “normal”…

Last week, I was chatting to my son’s teacher, about how he was doing at school, generally. The conversation, and what she had to say about him sounded great. He’s doing well, managing to achieve all the goals set for him, as a child in a reception class, excelling in some areas and managing to keep up with his peers in others. He’s quiet, but getting more chatty as the term progresses, has a small circle of friends, prefers playing with the girls who seem more sensitive to his sensory issues, than the boys, likes one on one activities but is learning to cope in a group, loves physical activities, as well as more focused, academic things. He’s well behaved, listens well, and generally seems happy.

Boy school trip

When I mentioned that at home, we struggle with his behaviour and that frankly, sometimes I wonder if she has a different child in class, to the one I am dealing with at home, she told me it was totally normal, and that lots of children struggle at this age, with being in school all day, then coming home and acting out.

I spoke to the lady who is currently working with him, in some therapy sessions that he attends to help him with his sensory issues, and she also said that is was normal, in fact for a child like him, who is trying to adjust to the normal world around him, whilst learning to cope with his sensory issues, it is probably even more of a reaction. He spends all day at school, dealing with routine, activities, lots of his peers, noise, and a lot of things to process, then comes home, to familiar, quieter, and a different routine and because he feels relaxed and I am his safety net, he lets it all go, and I (we) bear the brunt of his behaviour, because he is just trying to handle it all.

He comes home from school and basically, from entering the house, until he goes to bed, it’s a battle. We have tantrums over what snack he wants, what he wants to do, he picks fights with his sister, he gets angry and will try and throw toys and by the time dinner is over and he is getting ready for bed, I am relieved, because frankly, he is not nice to be around and I know it is  not his fault. I know he is tired, and is trying to process everything, I try to keep things calm, have snacks he likes, get dinner on the table as soon as possible, have activities he might want to do, or just allow him to collapse on the sofa and watch TV, but basically, our house is not a fun place to be, from 3:30pm until bedtime. Let’s not even talk about the playdates that aren’t happening because he simply wouldn’t cope, and neither would I…

So, I am being told it is normal. I guess, for children this age, it is. What I don’t like is that it shouldn’t be normal. I don’t think a child of 5, or sometimes not even 5 (knowing that there are children in my son’s class who are not 5 yet) are having to process so much, and spend so much time “coping” that when they get home they are pretty much wrecked. I don’t see him all day, when I collect him at school I am looking forward to spending time with him, but it’s hard to enjoy that time when he is so tired, miserable and doesn’t actually know what to do with himself.

I remember this also with his sister, and it did get a bit easier, although she is also tired and pretty grumpy when she gets home from school, so I know it will pass. I feel we don’t have any choice, with the education system as it is. I am grateful we have a free and mostly pretty good system, that we can access, and that we have such a good relationship with our school and it’s teachers, but I do think what we expect of our children is too much, too young. I know a lot of it is play and it’s all structured around them, but at 5, should our children have to learn to cope. Other countries in Europe seem to have more relaxed systems, children starting older, yet managing to achieve education targets and turning out to be normal members of society. I am not convinced that school in the UK is not seen as a form of day-care, that we have no choice but to enrol our kids. I know teachers work hard, I know it’s a damn hard job, but do we honestly think that it’s good for children so young? I am becoming less and less convinced as I watch my son have yet another tantrum because he is so tired after a long day at school and he can’t control his emotions for one minute longer.

Home-schooling isn’t an option for us right now, although, to be honest, it is something I am considering even more seriously.

Do you think too much is expected of our children, at too young an age? How is your little one coping with school and then coming home? I can’t be alone feeling like this, I sure…?

Posted in Family Life and Parenting and tagged child development, parenting, school, Sensory Processng Disorder.


  1. Hello. That sounds so flipping hard on you all. My son is also in reception and has just turned 5. He doesn’t have any sensory processing problems and he is usually knackered and in a foul foul mood when he comes home. Especially by Friday. I too look forward to bedtime and on the days I’m in work and I only have an hour with my kids before bed and even those days I still sometimes wish that hour away. Then feel so guilty about it. It sucks. I’m also surprised at what’s expected of them at such a young age. I’m sure I didn’t learn to read at 4!

  2. I echo what Jess says above. My five year old is in reception, my three year old is in pre-school. They don’t have any sensory issues – but some days they are grumpy and tired and fight with each other, and have tantrums. It can be hard sometimes to know what to do. Like you, I worry it is too much too soon, but I’m not sure what to do about it. I am looking forward to half term so they can relax a bit.

  3. So much is different for kids – continual assessment to see if the teachers are performing or not …

    My kids are shattered too – a bit older than yours, but school is too much about times tables and not enough playing IMHO!

  4. I agree, it’s too much to expect of someone so young. As adults, we have coping mechanisms – we blast the music on the way home from work as a way to relieve the stress of the day. Or we plunk ourselves down on the couch and zone out for 15 minutes straight. But our kids aren’t old enough or experienced enough to be able to do that for themselves. For my kids, I implemented the “no homework after school” rule, lol! When they get home, they grab a snack (usually cookies fresh from the oven) and go to their rooms, or flake out in front of the tv, or colour, or whatever. And I let them. I don’t make them start their homework right away. I unpack their bags for them, and I let them just go and relax and unwind. They need that time. By dinner time an hour later, everyone has a second wind and is ready to share about their day and then tackle chores and homework, and any evening activities we’ve got scheduled.

  5. I think you’re absolutely right about school being seen as daycare. In this country childcare is so expensive and maternity rights / returning to work so difficult that mums are forced to put kids into day care far too early. We’ve decided that I will stay at home as long as possible but this has come at great sacrifice. My girl is 2 and we have to wait a whole year before we get any assistance with childcare. People can’t wait more than three-five years to get back into work (and that’s with one child!). If kids are to go to school later than five, then cost of living has to reduce so that families can afford to live on one income.

  6. This is also concerning me. I’m not sure what sensory issues your son has but I totally understand that it makes things more difficult for him. My little girl will only have been four a couple of months when she starts school. She has slight eyesight issues, but I think these are under control now. But she is nearly three and still sleeps all afternoon – and she needs it. I can’t see her not needing this in just over a year’s time when she starts school. I could home school, but I actually think she will enjoy going to school so I’m reluctant to home school. I don’t really know what to do for the best either. Thanks for your honest post, it is interesting to hear your experiences. I hope things calm down for your little one as he gets used to the long days.xx

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