Saturday, January 23, 2016

Conversations with my son (1)

Or not, as the case might be.

Which 15-year-old son wants to talk to his mum?

Not mine. Takes some getting used to. But I live in hope that one day he would find talking to me less daunting.


Many people who have known him from primary school have been very impressed by his prowess at Maths and sciences. And English. And French. And Latin ....

What to do in his future, and which subjects to choose for his Pre-Us (not A Levels) has been under a lot of discussion.

Over Christmas, it was 'classics'.

But we have not found a university where he could do both Classics as well as Maths, except at St Andrews (Scotland) and other advice has been: stick to Oxbridge.

Three weeks down the road and another interview with a careers adviser, it could possibly be Physics and Philosophy. Unless he could find a place to do Maths and Philosophy.

More interestingly, it transpired that he was told that he could consider being a dentist, upon which information I nearly choked. As I had wanted very much to be a dentist, but then thought better of it. Thank God for that!

Philosophy was an untouchable subject amongst Christian students when I was at university. It was supposed to steer us away from our faith.

Well, I studied it for three years as a major student, asked many questions about my faith and, well, I am still a Christian.

Had I remembered to turn over my exam paper on Buddhistic Philosophy I would have sailed into the Philosophy Honours class and my career trajectory would have been rather different.

And now my son is contemplating studying Philosophy. How intriguing!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Scholar and Gentleman

It's been nearly two years since I posted here.

In the last week we had the very good news that son has been offered an academic scholarship to a very academic school not so far from our house.

He was on his school ski trip when we found out. So I made a banner to welcome him home with the news. He was chuffed.

Yesterday he returned with the news that in a history 'test' with 800 boys he has been ranked 20th. Today he sat part 2 of the 'test'. He came home feeling confident as well.

History was not something he took to so easily. His grades were never all that good. But in the last two years he was determined to do better, and do better he has, scoring A grades.

We've had lots of run-ins with his music. He still finds it hard to knuckle down to practise.

Just before Christmas we learned that his teacher (who teaches him at school) was going to stop teaching. A bit of a panic.

We got him the other piano teacher at school who made me realize that son had come a long way on half-hour lessons in school, during term time only. Then son lets on that often the lessons were about 20 minutes. Sometimes the former teacher just did not show up.

How son got this far is just unbelievable. He could have gone so much further.

Then there was the problem of bullying. The boy who grudged him his hockey colour has been such a pain.

I think this young man is to be pitied. He does not show obvious talent in the four main fields at school: academic, music, art, sport, or even drama. Significantly his parents push him in the academic direction.

When your child is not academic, your child is not academic.

So I wonder if this child might be happier doing something he enjoys and is good at. Cooking? Woodwork perhaps?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Hockey colour, but ...

End of the Lent Term. Son was happy.

Husband and I attended the end-of-term concert and final assembly.

It was a very pleasant surprise to us when son's name was included in the list for Hockey colours.

"He'd be so happy," I said, while waiting for him to emerge from his locker room.

But no, son was not looking happy.

"Why are you looking so sad?"

Answer: Someone said he heard other boys saying I don't really deserve the colour.

I was most annoyed.

On the first Headmaster's assembly after his ski trip, when he was presented the "skier of the week" award, he was confronted in public by a classmate for being selfish, in a manner that left him with no chance of defending himself.

The boys managed to settle the matter amongst themselves later on, which was good, but it totally ruined what would have been a very happy start to a weekend.

Today, after winning an award for the first time, ever, in a school sport, his achievement was being belittled by classmates (allegedly) because he "did not deserve it". Once again it ruined the start of our term break.

Why are these boys so wicked? Why are they so unkind to my son?

My son went up immediately to his teacher to ask, "Was that a typo?" He thought perhaps he was given the colour by mistake. It was not a mistake.

We phoned Nanny to give her the news. Her first response was, "O! Just like grandad."

Grandad was an ace hockey player.

Son is not a natural at sport, but is good in academic work and music. He tries very hard at games. Just two weeks ago he was chuffed that he came in 10th in his cross-country in his age group, eighth in his class, in a very good time.

Some weeks before that he told me, with pride in his voice, "Mum, I can kick a rugby ball now."

Great, I said, well done.

"Yeah, but the other boys in class could do that three years ago."

Only in recent months have they been playing more hockey and I was surprised the first time I was told by a staff member that he played really well. But he was sad that he was not in the A team. Instead, because his rugby had really come on, according to the Games Master, he was made to play rugby.

Eventually he was back on the hockey team, and seemed happier.

Any way we are happy that he finally has been recognized for his effort in a sport. To the boy/s who say he does not deserve the award, my response to them would be, "The correct response to that should be 'Congratulations!'"

If my son has said to a classmate that he did not deserve an award (in school work, say), I would be very cross with my son. In my opinion it is bad form, poor upbringing, appalling manners to say to someone, "You don't deserve an award."

Last week he had a homework assignment which required to consider which of the Ten Commandments he thought was the most significant. His answer was, "do not envy" (covet), because it leads to the other sins (theft, murder, adultery, etc).

We concluded that these other boys are just envious of him.

He was given his effort and attainment grades. He was not impressed by the list of A grades (English, Maths, Science, Latin, French, Music, etc) , "I've got an 'A' in Games," was his delighted response.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I ski, therefore I am

Had a child-free half-term last week. Such fun!

Son was off skiing. Husband at work as usual. I didn't make it to the gym "every day" as I planned to because I had quite a few things to see to.

A cousin was over from Singapore to sit her PhD viva. We celebrated on Thursday her achievement of "Passed with minor amendments". Making those amendments should be a formality.

Son came back on Saturday (yesterday), a bit sunburnt, and he was pleased to tell us, while walking home from school, that he was named "skier of the week". He even has a T-shirt (ie "got the T-shirt") to prove.

He went on about how it is a very large T-shirt. Possibly because they didn't expect a 10-year-old like him to win that title. And that he would be wearing that T-shirt for the next few years.

When we got to the door we learned that some of them did the "giant slalom", "but that was only six gates".

Son did the "massive slalom" and he lost count of the gates. The result was he came in second amongst all those who took part. Most of the group was made up of boys and a few girls from another school who shared the bus and instructors with them.

So, Charlie (from the other school) came in first. He must be at least Year 10 (15 years old). Then came son, Year 6 (aged 10 going 11) followed by another boy from his school (Year 7, age 11 or 12).

As such son is top skier from his school, improving on his overall third position last year (despite being a novice and beating other more experienced skiers). He was also given a silver medal and he was very proud: "My first medal for a sporting event."

(Last year he was given a baseball cap for being top skier in his group (novice) but he managed to lose it at a museum in Singapore. Whoever found it never returned it to the Museum.)

This Friday he expects to be presented with the medal and certificate again by his headmaster at Assembly.

Meanwhile, it's back to the slog with his Grade V Theory Exam looming. He does not have the energy to do another mock exam, and I don't blame him. He just wishes to get it over and done with. Let's hope he is not too careless.

Trivia #1: O! He lost two molars on this trip. Last year he also lost a tooth while on the trip.
Trivia #2: Somewhere along the line his new friend Finn from the other school asked him (while waiting for the chairlift) asked him what his IQ was. So son told him. Finn then shouted to Charlie, "This kid is a genius!" I am still trying to get to why Finn would think to ask a person's IQ.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

118 at least it's not 119

The news was delivered with little fanfare, please don't take too much notice of it mum, and I really am OK about it.

To our utter surprise he did not get a distinction in his clarinet exam, having scored 132 in his mock.

He did not even get a Merit which starts at 120 marks.

"Did you pass?" I was getting a bit worried.

He did pass though, at 118, just two short of a merit.

He mucked up his sight-reading enough to have failed it. Despite a perfect score on his aural, similar scores on his set pieces compared to the last grade, the seismic shift in his sight-reading and a slight dip in scales and arpeggios meant a good pass, that's all.

That made him take stock. He must work on his exams. So far things have been too easy for him. He's been winging it. Then he has a really strict examiner, and he falters.

We hope that this means he would work harder on his sight-reading for his Grade 5 Piano. He needs a distinction to be considered for a scholarship.

Meanwhile he is somewhere between Calais and Saalbach on his first school ski trip. Twenty hours of travelling by coach. Cattle class.

Apparently he found a seat on the coach and quickly bumped his head. He's not used to seats being so close together.

Still waiting for the text that says they have arrived safely.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The colour of money

Two significant things happened last week.

Son took his clarinet exam on Wednesday morning. Said, without any fear in his eyes or voice, "I mucked up the sight-reading, but I think it is OK."

In the afternoon he was assigned the task of being the "runner".

He was given a list of names, had to check/sign these names/candidates in, take them to the practice room, and then take them to the exam room in a different building.

This was because his own piano teacher often enters candidates at the school (as a location) and these candidates would not know where to go.

It was interesting that the director of music thought it fit for son to do this job, usually reserved for a boy at least three years older. Add to that the fact that this young man is very shy. Meeting and greeting strangers? Signing them in? Taking them round the school?

The director's risk-taking paid off and from all accounts our son did well.

Best of all, his teacher rewarded him with a £5 note. He was ever so pleased with these first earnings of his. Yesterday we used the £5 note to buy us tickets to the school play (next week).

From son's perspective, the best thing however was being able to miss Maths. He's good at Maths but find the lessons really, really boring.

Friday we drove to his prospective boarding school to meet two prospective Housemasters. We learned that the Housemasters are like the Headmasters. Each is in charge of a House with about 60 boys/young men.

The boys eat three meals at the House, do their prep/homework there, have lots of activities, etc, besides going to classes at the main school. They also have an interesting practice of not having lessons between 2 and 4pm. They boys are all cleared out of the Houses and have to go play games or something else.

At 4pm when we were leaving we saw them back in their suits and hurrying back to classes.

My sister-in-law asked me what their school uniform is like. I have not noticed anything about school uniform on the school website. It turns out that the boys do not have a school uniform. They are just required to dress smartly (ie in a suit/blazer).

They are allowed to walk into the town and because they are dressed no differently from other young men and women, no one would know that they are from the school.

This contrasts greatly with the school up the hill from us with their boaters and what-have-you.

It also appears that son took immediately to one Housemaster. Because this one asked him questions directly, he enjoyed giving the answers.

At one point he was even being cheeky.

We know that he has to pass an interview to get into this school. We were dreading this as while we know our son is full of important and trivial knowledge, talking to strangers is not his favourite activity.

Having seen him chat with this Housemaster and the Deputy Registrar who showed us round the grounds, our fears were laid to rest.

It is going to cost us lots financially to send him to this school. But clearly he wishes to go and we think he is going to enjoy it there.

However when one thinks -- as a stay-at-home mother does -- of all the washing, cooking and cleaning that one needs to do around a teenage boy, we are basically paying for these privileges. It would cost me more to employ a cook and/or cleaner to do this for him (although when I do these tasks, I don't get paid).

Most importantly, teenage boys (and girls) are not going to talk to their parents, are they? So in that sense we were choosing a surrogate parent for him. That way we know he has a role model we can trust.

(One of the Housemasters expressed that he had never looked at it that way.)

So now that we, or actually son, had chosen, it is up to the School/House to decide whether they want him there. We won't know till next year.

Better get on with the application now.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

So long and ...

Not saying "adieu" but it has been so long since I blogged about this boy.

We had a good Christmas despite my being rather busy and distracted trying to sew and embroider handkerchief orders. I was surprised (in a pleasant sort of way) to be overwhelmed.

We had my niece en route home from Warwick on exchange and son was pleased to have some company. It was fun listening to them both chuckle at Spongebob Squarepants, etc.

At church he was sheep #3 or something at Christmas production. I was stuck at home mostly with a terrible cold. Then I learned that he was asked to do a Scripture reading at the Candlelight service. I could not attend this either as my tinnitus (from the cold) was so bad I wouldn't have coped with the sound levels. From all accounts he was outstanding.

Back at school in January they started working on their ESB (English Speaking Board) Exam. This is something the school has chosen to do with the boys so that they could gain confidence in speaking.

Son had to recite a poem, give a three-minute talk, read a passage from a chosen book and answer questions from the floor, made up of his classmates and their parents.

He decided that his talk was going to be on Philosophy. We worked together on it for a bit. I helped him with the outline. He wrote it out, and then I tidied it up.

This evening we heard him trying to memorize this speech.

There's a drama production at school. He auditioned but said he did not want a major part. A classmate decided that he had to give up his part (poor boy had been in and out of hospital for operations) and the teacher offered the part to my boy.

He gamely took the challenge. This was soon after an episode at school when we had the impression that he was being bullied.

It is always about Games. He has Late Games on Thursdays and he often comes home in tears because of something that happened at Late Games.

On this occasion he was inconsolable and Mum and Dad both found it very upsetting. At the same time he would not name names of the people making him so upset. So we set about thinking up strategies to counter this.

When we had a chance to speak to the Games Master it appeared that our son was just a poor loser. Well, that may be so, but in my books jeering at a failure is not gentlemanly behaviour.

On the whole I am really enjoying this time of his life. I've often said that nine-year-old boys are "silly". Our son is silly, often, but most of the time he is a real delight. We have wonderful conversations, especially at dinner, and these will be precious memories in the future.

At the parent-teacher consultation all the teachers only had good things to say about him. Their challenge is to stretch and extend him.

Son seems to have done very well in that area of late. Either he is not so gifted after all or he has learned to cope much better. He seeks his intellectual stimulation in his own ways, reading science magazines, being one of them.

We've been taking him to ski lessons. He wanted to go on the school ski trip for as long as he has known about it. Desperate to learn to ski because ... James Bond skis. Basically anything Bond could do, he wishes to do. That is why he is keen to learn to fly.

The first lesson was a disaster. Mum and Dad, not having had ski experience at all, did not know how to get his boots on, did not know how to secure the gloves into his sleeves, did not know anything, full stop.

He got snow in his gloves and we saw him fluffing around and Dad, by now furious, was going to take him home straightaway.

Something clicked and he survived that first lesson. Last week he came so close to being able to get onto the main slope. Had it not been for some of the other children in the group holding him and Nat back, they would be able to get onto the main slope at the next lesson.

"Nat", she's the girl in the group of whom son said, later on in the car, "I think I'm in love with her."

We think he is just winding us up.

Still it's one more lesson on the training slope before proceeding to the main slope.

And as a result of ending his ESB speech on "42" (the answer to life, the universe and everything) we started reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The film happened to be shown on TV at the same time. Son has watched it several times and has memorized chunks of Stephen Fry's narration.

Son is really growing up. O! Clarinet exam (Grade 3) next week (O no! not again!), and we're all cool about it. Don't panic! Son tells me he knows where his towel is.

So ... THANKS for all the fish!