Opinion: Matthew Munson – Soul searching over a return to school


I’m one of those people who gets up early and likes it – and yet I still wouldn’t describe myself as a morning person. As a child, I would get up early on a Sunday morning to watch kids’ TV; in fact, I would get up so early that kids’ TV wasn’t even on yet, so I would be stuck watching Transworld Sport until it was on. That was in the days of just four channels, and a huge technological innovation was when my parents got me a TV for my bedroom. I don’t think they saw me again until I was 17 or 18.

Getting up early has stayed with me ever since, because it means I can enjoy some peace and quiet before the whirlwind of life takes over. Nowadays, that whirlwind of life has emerged into a person in the visage of my son, and so these moments of early-morning peace are even more precious. I need time to wake up and rouse myself; I can’t just turn on my brain straight away. Perhaps it’s because I’m 38 and, I suspect, now firmly ensconced into middle age.

Bryan, on the other hand, is active, awake, and fully conscious from the moment his brain decides to wake up. Most children are, of course, because they’ve got so much of the world to explore; my bedroom is directly opposite Bryan’s, and I can usually hear him wake up. He is pathologically attuned to not staying in his bedroom unless it’s bedtime – I’ve never known a child to dislike spending time in his room so much. I’ve managed to get him to the point where he will find something quiet to do – whilst sitting right next to me – for ten or fifteen minutes when he first emerges, and that helps me adjust to the stream of consciousness that will accompany it. Oh how my life has changed.

But I’ve also had to do some soul-searching recently. There could have been the opportunity for Bryan to return to school this side of the summer holiday if the circumstances had aligned, and I had to decide whether or not to pursue that option. Bryan’s a sociable kid – an extrovert, in old money – and misses his friends; he thrives on human contact, and asking a nine-year-old child to go without that for a significant period of time is tough for them.

I had to ask myself, as a result, whether I should then give him a few weeks in an environment he loved if that was possible. His school was quick off the bat; they emailed out with some information and have a plan of action for when the selected year groups go back – and key worker children continue in school. But it won’t be normal for a while; they’ve come up with a good plan for the time being, but it won’t look like a normal school day. The routine will be different, the classroom layout will be different, and it’s unlikely that many others – if any – from his class will be in on a regular basis.

So I decided to keep him home until September. The learning side I’m not so worried about; I can keep him ticking over until he gets back to school. As for the social side … I keep hope that, as restrictions lessen, I can restart more social activities that he enjoys and thrives on. We’ve actually found more activities to do during these strange and unusual times, and that time together is so precious. This opportunity will never happen again, so I intend to make the most of it.


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