For the last year or so, Tom and I have been very lacklustre when it comes to going through the contents of Betty's book bag.
Tom makes out that the books are of such flimsy dramatic content that he just can't bring himself to read them, even if Betty is begging to find out about Chip and Biff's latest antics; patting dogs, sitting on logs and so on.
Rather embarrassingly, on the rare occasions I have entered a comment into Betty's reading record book, her teacher has felt compelled to give me a gold star for my efforts.
My excuse for the lack of formal reading input is that firstly Betty is only five, and also there is plenty of other school-related stuff to deal with and worry about. Like 7am alarms going off, packed lunches to make, school uniform to wash, shoes to polish, hair to brush (mine and Betty's), forms to fill in and cheques to write out, PE kits to remember, car park scrums to negotiate and so on. And that's just in the morning.
By the time school finishes and we've got through the three hours of dealing with a tired and ratty daughter insisting on treats, providing garbled versions of important school news, not eating her dinner, beating up her sister, or refusing to offer up even an ounce of commentary about what she's actually been up to, I'm in no mood to sit and teach Betty vowel sounds.
How on earth parents are expected to do anything properly educational in later years, in line with the real curriculum on top of all the logistical, practical and emotional demands, is totally beyond me.I think this first year has been worth the effort, but it's a bit hard to judge sometimes. If I look back on what Betty has achieved at the end of her first year of school it's certainly not what I would have expected 12 months ago.
She has learnt to say 'awesome' in response to everything; she has visited a Hindu temple in Cardiff; she's still in the same sized shoes, but her legs seem to have grown half a metre; she has met her future husband; she has learnt the art of lying; she's invented a superhero; she has done a presentation to the class about why chickens lay eggs; she has won a sticker for doing 30 seconds' jumping in just 20 seconds; and she's decided that she wants her teacher to be her mum instead of me.
Goodness knows what September onwards has in store. Based on her first year, I wouldn't even like to guess, but I am gearing myself up for a lot of hard work and being more proactive with her learning at home (as long as it doesn't involve the likes of Biff and Chip). And I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that Play Doh, bubbles and glitter are no longer adequate stimulation for my school girl.
In the meantime we have six weeks of family time together, which fills me with trepidation and excitement in roughly equal measure. Being spared the school run for a month and a half is a definite positive. Not feeling guilty about failing entirely to do anything formally educational also feels good.
However, the thought of a highly energetic five-year-old charging around the house and garden day after day after day, pausing only to mourn the lack of contact with her beloved teacher, is not a prospect to relish.
But we have a new tent, and as long as it's sunny for more than about three hours in a row between now and early September, we should have some fun.