1st Day of Primary 1: Three Things Every Parent Learns

Let us begin the school year with a photo of my super nervous son Ayden, during his compulsory daily silent reading while waiting for Assembly to start.


Like the parent of every kid born in 2008, Friday 2 Jan 2015 is the first day of the rest of hell.

No longer will our cherubic cuties be a happy preschooler. Instead, our almost-7-year-old kids are going to Big Boy’s School! (Or Big Girl’s School) With proper school uniform, white shoes and a timetable to follow!

The start of formal schooling also marks the start of mega stress put on parents. Weekly spelling and 听写? God have mercy on us.

Here are 3 things the hubby and I learned on Ayden’s first day of school:

1. Homework begins even BEFORE school starts
And that’s ALSO for the parents. During my son’s Orientation Day in November 2014, we were given a nice folder filled with info about what to expect in Primary School, book list, admin stuff, interesting tips on how we can help our kids learn in everyday life… And a spelling list.

To be exact, 3 spelling lists, of the First 100 High Frequency Words, Second 100 words, and 115 Mathematics Sight Words.





“These are important words for learning to read and spell. Do go through the list with your child and teach him/her to read and spell these words in preparation for Primary One.”

Ohhhhh my gawd…. (In case my son’s teacher reads this by any chance, I’m kidding! I can spell ‘God’!)

Parents, prepare to be sucked into the Cyclone of Spelling (and 听写). It is a nightmare that will repeat weekly, till… Pri 6, probably? Anybody knows? Or does that continue in secondary school?!! Yikes!

2. The school bus operator is the King of the World


Really, parents are at their mercy. If your kid is in Pri 1 and obviously, too young to take public transport on his own, the school bus is probably your default mode of transport.

It’s such an important issue to consider, that before I bought my current home 2 years ago, I actually called the school AND the bus operator to confirm that there is a bus that comes around my area. Indeed there is, phew. And so, we went ahead and bought our home with peace of mind.

But, ahah! That doesn’t mean they can’t mess with your head 2 weeks before school opens!

The school bus operator told us that it costs $130 per month for daily return trips, or $110 just for the morning pick-up (since Ayden is going to after-school care).

No problem, we agreed readily. He confirmed it twice. We met his staff on Orientation Day, who consulted a list and re-confirmed it. We wrote it down on our handy Orientation Day folder. We were told to wait for the bus driver to contact us by mid December.

We waited. Nothing. We checked with other equally anxious parents. Luckily, some have not heard from the drivers either. (Anxiety loves company.) Finally, in the 3rd week of Dec, we made contact!

My son will be picked up at 530am (!!!)

And as a lovely surprise, we will now be charged $170 for one way!

What?? Obviously, we asked about the huge discrepancy. Bus operator said maybe his staff quoted us the wrong fee. We reminded him that he had told us the same thing — twice. “Perhaps there might be misunderstanding sorry,” he jauntily replied via SMS, with no proper remorse or use of punctuation, whatsoever.

Frankly, we would have grudgingly paid their exorbitant $170 fee except we really cannot take the 530am pick-up. This means Ayden must be waiting by the main road at 525am (the bus will not turn into our condo). On top of that, it takes a good 7 minutes for an adult to walk out from my block to the main road.

Which means… Ayden (and I and my helper) will have to be up by 430am. Every. Single. School day.

No thanks, uncle. I will take my son to school, it’s just a 15-min drive. Seriously, we left at 7am on Friday and arrived at 715am.

We didn’t know this then but we were later told that bus operators are not allowed to refuse service to students, apparently. However! They can price their service ridiculously high and set an ungodly pick-up time to discourage you! Worked with me!

So you see, the real King of the World is not Leonardo DiCaprio but the School Bus Operator. So important are they, that their title deserves to be in all caps.

(By the way, anyone else caught the pop culture reference? Or is it embarrassingly old?)

3. Canteen food is expensive!

In the beginning (in 1983, at least), I paid 20 cents for Fishball Noodles Soup. And it was good. If I really wanted to splurge, a plate of Chicken Rice would set me back 40 cents. My daily allowance was 80 cents.

Fast forward to 2015. We gave my son $2, thinking it was a safe bet. I gave him another $2 of ’emergency money’. He bought 2 fishballs and 2 cans of Milo (for recess and during the lunch catered by the afterschool care). It cost a total of $2.60.

He should have stuck to his plain water but the kid was on a high from his retail therapy (first time having his own $$) and decided to splurge on Milo slam shots. Tsk.

When I ordered this Nasi Lemak for my lunch, with an extra side of (not very fresh, quite mushy) fried Sambal fish, I paid… $3. The Nasi Lemak was not lemak rice some more, just plain white rice, and was kid’s meal-sized. It came with 2 slices of cucumber, ikan bilis and a cold fried egg. According to the menu, it costs $1.50, while fish costs $1.20.


Which means the meal would have cost a kid $2.70. I was probably fleeced or charged the unsubsidized price, haha! Still, $2.70 sounds kinda expensive to me, for primary school standards.


Compare this to what I paid for Chup Chye Png (Rice and dishes) at Republic Poly. This meal below, a proper adult’s portion, cost me $2.70.


And it was MUCH tastier too.

Note to self: Must increase pocket money. And make Ayden stop buying cans of Milo. Or pack him a bento from home, in case he gets hungry.

Here’s a pic of Ayden with his ‘buddy’ (on the right), a Pri 2 senior assigned to look after Ayden during recess.


He was v cute but super blur. He lost his way while leading Ayden back to his class, and we found the two of them wandering aimlessly around the canteen, a stick of fishballs in one hand and Milo in the other. Like hungry ghosts. Ahahaha!

Side note: how much pocket money do you guys give your primary school-going kids? Is $2 below market rate? Share your tips please, noob primary school mummy here!

Here’s wishing your kids (and fellow long-suffering parents) a good school year ahead! We can do this.

PS. Oh, and make sure your kid gets a ‘proper’ hair cut — fringe above eyebrows, hair not touching ears etc. Ayden got caught by his teacher for his ‘long hair’. *sheepish laugh

Now that’s a story to tell the grand kids on their first day of school.


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