Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Piano exam results

We were hoping that the results would be announced by the end of term, but they didn't come till the day after school closed.

Son's teacher emailed to say he scored a good pass (117), three marks short of a Merit.

We were disappointed, but not surprised. Son however soon said, "It's 17 above Pass. That's very good!"

He is right, of course. It was just that he had set a precedent with getting a Merit and had aimed for a Distinction, failing which he would settle for a Merit, that we felt bad that he only got a (good) Pass.

Now he's determined to do much better for his Grade Three. (At one point he was so fed up with playing the exam pieces he said he would not bother with exams any more. We said, "That's OK by us, but you must continue with lessons.")

It will be so nice if son could just play and do exam syllabii but not sit every exam. But he takes lessons at school and the school likes to present as many boys as possible for exams, to give them something to aim towards. It's also good on their CV when applying to senior schools.

The teacher has now given him a jazz book. He's learned the first piece, but does not show any interest in playing more written music. Instead he just sits at the piano and makes up his own.

Yesterday we ran into the school's Director of Music who mentioned 'clarinet' (ie exams). I said we'd talk about it another time.

Meanwhile son is still on an enforced break from the clarinet because of his top front teeth growing out (nice and straight at the moment). The Director of Music has said son could join the orchestra in the new term. Son is really looking forward to that.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Predictable unpredictability

After the clarinet teacher fiasco, I thought I must introduce some 'controlled unpredictability' so that son gets used to things not always going to plan.

From a very young age, son thrived on structure and boundaries. When these are clear, he's happy. He knows exactly what is expected and he performs.

When things do not go according to plan, however, hmm, the world falls apart -- or so he thinks.

So from this week I said he might need to be at Late Class. I shall not tell him when he might be required to go, but if I am not where I should be to pick him up, he should go to Late Class like the other boys whose parents are late in picking up.

I shall be interested to see what the outcome is.

I noticed that whenever we noted a problem and we discussed and worked on it, he usually gets better in that area. It is just SO TEDIOUS to have to work through these issues one by one.

But I am his mother. If I want him to grow into independence, then I must do my job.

God help me!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Piano exam over, but then ...

Smiles as he came to me after school yesterday.

Thought he did well, but made a mistake in his scales. (Eventually he let on that he "ran out of fingers".) The examiner let him play it again, so he felt OK.

Celebration at home as planned.

Piano teacher group emailed to say everyone "had an odd blip". Ah well, that is life.

His new clarinet arrived. Although we had a note that says his lessons are suspended for at least two weeks to let his new teeth grow out, he spotted his name on the notice-board for an 8.30am lesson.

So we were there with his old school clarinet and his new clarinet. The Director of Music came around, retrieved the old clarinet and son continued to wait. When the teacher hadn't shown up by 8.50am he was in tears.

A prefect on late duty was taking him to the office when I emerged from the office after trying to sort out a little issue of the float for the school fair on Friday.

Told him to get back off to class.

Later I had an email from the Director of Music and a phone call from the teacher to say his lesson was indeed suspended but he didn't have time to rub out his name on the notice-board.

Ah, well, confusion cleared. Teacher was kind enough to talk it through with him personally.

Son was happy enough after Fun Choir, especially when he was rewarded by a chocolate biscuit. (They get a treat after rehearsals.)

Let's hope he learns to deal with unexpected situations much better as he grows up.

Poor boy. Has it been my fault for being so protective and always giving him very specific and clear-cut instructions? Should I cut him some slack? Let him flounder a bit more?


Monday, November 26, 2007

Piano Exam again

Tomorrow he sits his Grade Two exam. Did the mock exam today and only got 114.

Would he have the energy to put in another 6 points to get a merit?

This exam preparation has been too protracted for him, a marathon. He is so bored with playing the pieces we won't blame him if he messes it up. Would he have enough sprint left with the Finish line in sight?

At Fun Choir they were doing Jailhouse Rock. Over the weekend he started putting together Jailhouse Rock on his own. The result is quite impressive.

Husband and I agree that if he didn't do another piano exam again, we won't mind. But we want him to continue his study of the piano. He would be able to do so well, to enjoy himself and bring so much pleasure to others.

For now piano exam is a chore -- and he got himself a paper cut before going to bed, nice!

He's looking forward to being able to play in the orchestra. The Director of Music has invited him to join and son is chuffed.

But first those front teeth must grow out (down, actually) first. "Toothless" has been excused from clarinet lessons for two weeks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tooth be told, exam results

Went off after school with his German classmate. A few boys in his class just love having him around. This German boy, in particular, wants my son to be his brother.

He was supposed to be dropped off when older German brother goes to play football, but the session was rained off. So we picked him up instead.

While stuck in traffic (thanks to road works), we were told that he had outdone even his best friend at the 'beep test'. They did this two weeks ago and because he was late from piano lesson, didn't have a fair chance at it. The Games Master told him to report after lunch for a re-test and he did.

He's top of the his class at the beep test, it seems -- but only because the stronger boys are in the other class.

Then trouble: his other tooth was out. Great big grin on his face. He's been jabbing himself in the jaw somehow due to this offending tooth and now it's out. Great big grin showing a great big gap.

Then I realized I really ought to have a chat with him despite it being so late. It soon transpired that he was given his exam results and it's Maths: 100% (average 62% in class); English 81% (average 50% in class).

Glad that he could go to bed happy, but he's lying in wait for the tooth fairy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tooth be told, exams over!

So we celebrated by eating at one of his favourite restaurant. It's nice to 'meet Daddy' after work. He decided that he would dress smart, so put on his new suit and red 'musical notes' tie.

It was a very cold day.

It was a really lovely evening.

Home, and bed-time ritual.

Oh-oh! Bloody mouth again. A tooth was bleeding somewhere. We decided that he should rinse out the blood, carefully, with the plug in the sink, to make sure that even if he did spit the tooth out by accident it does not get washed down the drain.

We were having a good laugh when it was clear he had stopped bleeding and then I looked at him and saw a gap in his front teeth. He had lost it!

But WHERE was the tooth?

Checked in the sink. The plug was still in. No escaped tooth. We hunted around and found it on the bathroom floor, and there was celebration again.

Any way today on the phone to Nanny I heard him saying about the exams, "It was very difficult [pregnant pause] to get it wrong."

What cheek!

We also discovered on the floor elsewhere in the house a 'Special Award' certificate from school for being kind and befriending the new boys in class.

Well done!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My son -- the next Steven Spielberg? George Lucas? Whatever.

My son is currently into making mini-movies.

He's really into Star Wars. He's really into Lego. Put the two together, you get Lego Star Wars movies.

The Lego site for children has mini-movies made by other Lego/Star Wars enthusiasts. My son has been so inspired he's been making his own using our mini digital camera.

I like his sound effects best.

Any way, still in the vein of the Parenting a Prodigy post, just because he shoots these mini-movies it does not make my son a 'film producer'. Does it?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

(The all-dreaded) Writing exam

Today's the day. Trepidation!

Son has got his 'English II' exam paper.

Considering how he had frozen over the last time he had to write an 'essay' in an exam, I was really worried.

Monday was 'English I' (Comprehension, etc.) and he came back confident that he had answered all the questions in full sentences.

Today was writing a story based on a picture which was 'pirates': 'an adventure on the high seas'.

His verdict: It was fun.

Did you complete the story?

Of course. I filled up the whole page.

That's my boy.

What a relief that there weren't tears and tantrums. Especially when a bloody wobbley tooth at breakfast caused him some distress.

Praise God!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Parenting a prodigy?

Saturday morning last I was feeling a bit under the weather. Heard on BBC Radio 4 Today programme that a seven-year-old from Singapore is looking for a place at university to study chemistry.

When I felt well enough to look up this news item I followed links to read his dad's blog and his comments, answers and responses to other blogs.
Here are my thoughts:

  1. Poor seven-year-old. I feel sorry for him.
  2. Poor parents. The more vocal dad, as a proud father of a very gifted child -- and why not?, sadly seems to be somewhat deluded.
  3. A combination of "I used to be gifted but no one recognized that" and "here's a chance that my child might be extremely gifted" is a dangerous combination indeed, an almost-certain recipe for disaster.
  4. While the father writes profusely about how advanced his children are in their physical and intellectual development and in particular how advanced his eldest son is in his knowledge of chemistry, I am mystified that nothing is said about this little boy's friends (if any) ... and the games he plays (if any) ....
  5. The father's blog empasizes how bored he is with school, etc, but no mention of tears or tantrums. One gets the impression that this boy is very ordinary, very well-behaved, except that he is extremely clever in the area of chemistry.
  6. He is so clever in chemistry that he sat his O Levels recently and came away with a 'C'. He is now being prepared for his 'A' Level chemistry, and that is why his parents are looking for a university where he could have lab facilities to carry on with his chemistry education. In The Times, a reader commented: Hello! This genius only got a 'C'! Implying that he is not that much of a genius really. Clearly this child has an exceptional memory, so I imagine he would do well in organic chemistry, as all you have to do at A levels is memorize about a hundred equations.
  7. In a blog entry the father recounts his shock when prodigy son asked, "What do you get if you collide Calcium and Californium in a cyclotron?". The answer was apparently "Ununoctium". The father of prodigy has entitled this post "Socratic questions of a genius". Really? If you did a google search on these key terms you will find that just before this posting, this was the hottest news in the scientific world. Scientists believe that they have at last found element 118. It was so new that they had given it a temporary name "Ununoctium". If my son were to give me similar information, I would first ask, "Where did you read that? Show me," instead of delaring to the world that he asks "Socratic questions".
  8. Father of prodigy mumbles about MENSA not being interested in his son. (MENSA does not test children under the age of 10-and-a-half, according to their website.) Then he writes several blog posts about how IQ is a con, and that it does not actually show one's intelligence. However, he also goes on about the genius of Rembrandt, and out of somewhere (source not quoted), tells us that Rembrandt, so clearly a genius, only had an IQ of 110. Well, elsewhere someone worked out that Rembrandt had an IQ of 155. Honestly, how these people managed to test or speculate the IQs of dead people is quite beyond me. I believe this child has never had his IQ assessed.
  9. The prodigy is supposed have "written books" on science. Many children staple papers together to make 'books', and write their ideas, some original, some not, down and draw pictures to illustrate. It does not make these six-year-olds authors. My son also started on 'The Book of Everything", how wonderful was that? A book, booklet, leaflet, essay, is more than writing random thoughts down on pieces of paper.
  10. In The Times article which first alerted the BBC to this genius, father of prodigy took offence at a comment by Joan Freeman (probably reported out of context, who knows?) that “to send a child to university at 7 is like you are not regarding him as a human being, but as a performing monkey”. He responded by saying that she had no right to comment unless she herself is a parent of a prodigy. Yeah, except that she happens to be a an expert on gifted children. And by his reasoning a psychiatrist cannot pronounce a diagnosis of schizophrenia (eg) on patients unless the psychiatrist himself had experienced schizophrenia. Just to give a flavour of the hysteria here.
I am a parent of a very gifted child, so I hope that gives me the right to comment. Two weeks ago my child was comprehensively tested by an educational psychologist. Despite scoring comparatively lower on 'social comprehension', he has an IQ in the 140s. In some areas he has the ability of a 16-year-old.

Anyone who reads "About my boy" will be familiar with the real struggles that he faces, the fears and anxieties, the need to be perfect, etc. It comes with the territory of being gifted.

It is precisely because we do not want to be in the position of: he's finished his A Levels at eight years old, what now? that we took pains to keep his interest in maths and science and a lot else in as broad a manner as possible without having to keep completing curricula for 'O' and 'A' Level exams. We believe there is more to life than sitting exams and going to university. (What good is university if you can't enjoy the social life? Come on!)

When your child is clever, you know he or she is clever. There is no need to prove to the world that he has Os and As under his belt at age seven, eight or nine.

The difficulty is -- and we sympathize with father of prodigy -- such children get very bored at class. Maintaining interest is a challenge.

But there are also areas that our gifted child is weak in. He knows that. He acknowledges some of these weaknesses, not all, and we are working on these. Football and penmanship are two. But bless his heart, in the last few months, he has been trying so hard to be better in these areas, without going overboard with feelings of underachievement.

Friends used to say, "Wow! He could say these words," or "Wow! He's already doing this." My reply was always, "Yeah, but your child will soon be catching up." And THEY HAVE in all the important areas that matter.

"I used to be gifted once."

I must have been. I got bored in class, but I was not disruptive. Then I got to the best school in Singapore on the basis of an EXAM. Then, as the girls have been recently recounting (gleefully) in our forum 30 years after we left that school, we started getting red marks, failing exams, realized we were not that bright after all.

Being gifted at aged eight does not guarantee that one will remain gifted for the rest of one's life. When in this top Singapore school I often thought "I must have peaked at 12." My school results never got better than when I was 12.

The rest of my academic career was rather lack-lustre. Not till after I finished my Bachelor's degree did I find it in me to move ahead academically. I have found my forte in research: designing research, formulating hypotheses, gathering information, writing up results, etc.

So in between supporting my parents financially, becoming a full-time Christian worker/missionary/minister of religion, and various other roles in between, I finally got to the PhD I really wanted.

People assume that I am clever because I have a PhD. Am I? The more I know, the more I know I don't know. That is the truth.

My son thinks he is very clever, because he is obviously very clever in some areas. But I am glad that I am able to tell him that it does not matter if he becomes ordinary again. In fact, part of me hopes and prays that he would not be off the scale in his progress in Maths, Science and French.

The advances he has made in his music is striking too. How anyone could practise maybe 5 minutes a day and still get a merit in his piano exam just ten months after his first ever lesson is beyond me. His teacher has another student, slightly younger, who also got a merit. This boy spends more than an hour every day practising the piano, and missed a distinction by three marks.

If my son were to practise an hour every day would he have got a distinction? I fear not, because repetition bores him, and he gets worse instead of better. But the exam curricula give him the skills to compose and improvise which give him (and us) much joy and pleasure.

I don't think we would ever be able to stop our son being interested in Maths, Science, French and music composition. But we encourage him in every way to study AROUND the subjects: history of maths, philosophy of science, different types of music, eg, instead of progressing him simply in the direction of school exams.

When he asks questions on trigonometry, we try to give him some answers, not brush him off. Then he is allowed to explore for himself. (So he goes and draws a 'sine wave'.) He was very keen to learn about quadratic equations, but when we talked about it, he realized that ah, he needs to learn algebra first, and he's not really into that at the moment. We (gladly) let the subject drop.

On the advice of the psychologist we are not going to push him in academia at all. We practise no spellings or times tables. Instead we are working on his social skills.

And no, the last thing we want is for him to finish his 'A' levels in two years' time. What good is an 18-year-old mind trapped in a 9-year-old body?

What a refreshing change to read this: The Downside of Being a Child Prodigy

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Love Me Tender

I had arranged a meeting in the afternoon.

Yesterday son came home to tell me parents are invited to today's concert at school. So I had to re-schedule the meeting.

What joy to see him singing 'Consider Yourself' and 'Food Glorious Food' so confidently with the rest of his mates.

He wanted to play 'Ode to Joy' on his clarinet, but one of his best mates is playing that on the violin. After chatting with the teacher, he decided to play 'Love Me Tender'.

He did well. No squeaks. Good tone. Must work on breath control though.

Interestingly he had chosen the clarinet, not the piano, which he is able to play far better than any of his classmates.

A part of me wonders if this is because he thought it was rude to come across as being too good. Is this a sign that he is trying to fit in?

His answer to my probing was a simple: the clarinet is more of a challenge.

So I got asked by other parents how long he had been playing the clarinet.

He started in September at the start of term and had six half-hour lessons.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Growing up

It's been two weeks of half-term break and I am thrilled to see/feel how our son has 'matured'.

Last Friday we took him to a Thai restaurant. He was very well behaved, all things considered, and was most fascinated by the naked flame on our table.

Then he's learned to say things like, "O! Why are you wearing THAT?"

"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"

"I've never seen it before. You look very nice in it."

From little things like taking his crockery back to the kitchen to making his bed without being told (though he sometimes forgets), he seems to be more in charge of himself.

There are still the signs of frustration when he is not able to cope with some things in life, but he's getting better all the time.

We often forget: he is only seven.

Any way, today (Wednesday) he came home asking me to write a note to his music teacher to say he does wish to perform on the clarinet for the children in the Junior School. On Thursday he discussed this with the teacher and decided that he would play Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender".

He's not actually played this even for his clarinet tutor. So I think he is a very brave boy.

Piano exams around the corner. His sight-reading is still not brilliant but is improving. His exam pieces however seem to be 'over-practised'. He gets them wrong when we know he could get them right. So I am not hard on him when he does not bother to practise.

I am a bad mother!!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Colour Badge - Boy Done Good

Last day of school yesterday before the start of a two-week half-term break.

I edged away from a conversation between two new parents, one of whom was asking about a Maths tutor for her son.

Then another mum approached the group of mothers I was with and asked if Thursday's maths homework was a bit of a struggle. She said she took a very long time to explain the intricacies of the different mathematical concepts to her son. Another said they took 40 minutes to complete it.

One of the mums said to me, "Obviously, your son must have completed it without any problems."

Well, he didn't.

I now know why my son had a worried look on his face when I picked him up on Thursday. They had been warned that Maths homework was supposed to be quite difficult, so it's OK if they did not complete the second part.

Even before he got his shoes off my son whipped out his worksheet and sitting at the bottom of the stairs, we read through it.

It was history of the Romans in Britain combined with maths. So questions like "If he started out with one legion and eight joined him each day, how many did he have when he arrived at Londinium?" (Answer: 25)

And "When the Roman army finally faced the Celtic army, the Celtic women fought beside their husbands. They were all killed with the Celtic army. If one in every two Celtic soldiers had a wife, what fraction of the Celtic army in its final battle was women?" (Answer: 1/3)

They had to add several numbers together, including the denominator (3) from that last question to arrive at a final 'check number'.

My son got the fraction wrong, so his answers did not tally with the 'check number'. But he duly went back to try to think through the question.

Fearing that he would go into one of his shouting rages, I offered to explain it to him.

"No, no, no, I must work this out myself."

He tried using a number (100) to work out the fraction. I suggested he didn't.

"No, don't interrupt me! I must do this myself!"

Then, "One -third. The answer is one-third."

Ironically this was the first piece of homework he found "enjoyable" this half-term. It made him think, and though he initially got the answers wrong, he was not afraid to go back to it and when the pieces fell into place he was a very happy boy.

Any way, there we were waiting for our boys when my son approached, grinning ear to ear, "Have you noticed something different about me?"

He was wearing a little round blue badge on his lapel. A colour! He has been awarded a colour!

"This is for hard work. We get to wear it for the rest of the term. If we keep up with the good work, we get to keep wearing it."

Then he let on that he was given the wrong colour at Assembly. The badge should reflect his house colour. Of course he didn't know this at first. Anyway a teacher spotted the mistake and he was given the correct colour by the end of the day. Only one other boy (his best mate) in his class was awarded a colour.

He also came home with his 'grade card'. 'A1' in French and Music amongst other very good grades.

Boy done good!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Winning Goal

Yes, when he should be sleeping, son slipped downstairs to say, while they were playing football at PE today, he managed to score the winning goal. Well done!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


After several attempts to see the Headmaster, son finally had his Blue Card validated. He is very pleased.

The senior French teacher also sent two of her senior boys to son's class and 'marched' him and his best mate (who was also awarded a Blue Card for French) to her own class to listen to their demonstration, to ensure that they were of a sufficiently high standard to deserve the Blue Card.

Well, looks like they passed the test. The Form VI boys applauded their efforts, I was told. Later on when son was finishing his Prep in 'Late Class' because I was helping to set up the hall for a PTA event, the head boy (whose mother was helping me) said to son that his French was really very good.

Yesterday we were told that his French teacher had asked him and his mate to coach the other boys so that they could also get those Blue Cards. However, the other boys chose to play football instead of going to these two for extra coaching at play-time. I'm not surprised.

Son has also been immensely helpful as we prepared for Quiz Night last Saturday. Dad had to work most of Saturday despite a cold and when he got home, it was not fair to expect him to attend Quiz Night.

Son was distraught over his B Minor scale (left hand) in the morning. He lost it. So did I, as I was feeling a bit stressed out about the Quiz Night arrangements. We talked. He went back to the piano, and then he got it, that B Minor.

It's always like that, it seems. It has to become so very bad before he lets himself have a chance to succeed. Weird.

Played a football match yesterday. (We only discovered in the morning that they were doing this.) He was in good spirits and positive (they lost again). Supposed to play another match this afternoon, but it was rained off.

Instead we made it to the school wind and brass concert, featuring the boys (and guests) who play various wind and brass instruments (and drums, too). There were no clarinets. Son was not invited to play this year (he's only had four lessons), but we like to think that this time next year he might be playing something really bluesy at this concert. He likes blues.

I'm tired. (See other blog)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Being obtuse again

At prayers last night I said we should pray for another mum who is in hospital.

Then we talked about medical conditions being chronic or acute. (He knows Dad has a chronic disease.)

His cheeky face lit up, "So are there obtuse diseases?"

Monday, October 01, 2007

Deja vu and carte bleue

Son and mates played another match today. It was an 'away' game at a school unfamiliar to us parents so most of the boys were bussed back to school.

It was a dismal day, weather-wise. They lost all the games. But surprisingly my son was chirpy. He seemed to have enjoyed the match even though they hadn't won.

It was a very positive spirit and I congratulated him on that.

What disturbed me was his accounts of how a classmate has 'threatened' him with words like, "I will take you to the park and whack you hard," etc. There was talk of blood and all that. This classmate also demanded to have all the money from my son's piggy bank if my son does not want him at our house before his best friend gets there.

Huh? Pardon?

It was not even that my son was being bullied. He didn't let any of this bother him, he claimed. But I was very disturbed that a fellow seven-year-old could use such language and think such violent thoughts. Clearly there was no way he was going to carry this out, but still ....

My son said that his classmate was probably feeling (and he acted this out: a crying baby). This other young man was probably a little jealous of someone else being invited to our house, and not him.

"But you can't get people to become your friend by threatening them," I said.

My son was not even bothered. He seemed to have learned to stick up for himself. Good for him.

But the big question is: do I approach the parent of this other boy to alert him of these thoughts that are being expressed by his son?

The other news is son has got his first 'Blue Card'. The school has a system of rewarding good effort, results, behaviour, etc with points for the House. They earn a House point here, and a House point there, and at the end of every term, the biggest cheer at end-of-term assembly is for the winning House.

My son is an avid earner of House points. The Blue Card is worth a whole dix points. Today he and his best friend were awarded the first Blue Cards for the Form for their ability in speaking French. These cards have then to be validated by the Headmaster.

Son is looking forward to seeing the Headmaster soon to show him the Carte Bleue and to demonstrate his fluency in saying:

Good morning, Mr B.

[Mr B answers.] How are you?

I am fine, thank you. And you?

[Mr B to answer.]

My name is ----. I am seven years old. I live in ------ in England. The name of my school is ---- ----. Etc, etc.

Can't wait to hear what he has to say about this experience.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not the 'A' Team

When I got to the football ground I was embarrassed to find that I was the only mum from son's class to be there.

It was our wedding anniversary -- our nineth -- and I had plans to do as little as possible. But son wanted me at his football game. So there I was jumping up and down by the goal-line of the opposing team. They had a larger fan club.

But the goal-keeper was really bored. All the action was on the other side of the pitch.

My son's team was thrashed. O, never mind.

I was heartened, however, to see that he was taking an active part and had indeed made many good defensive moves to keep the score difference down.

Amongst other things, they had at one point, the boy with the smallest stature at goal. The opposition kicked the ball so hard he managed to catch hold of the ball but the momentum of the kick pushed him across the line, at which point he dropped the ball. So it was a goal to the opposition.

At other times this and the other goal-keepers had their backs to the rest of the team, watching the 'A' team battle it out on the adjoining pitch. "Stand in front of the goal line!" I found myself shouting at whoever was at goal.

It was hilarious. It was.

The other consolation is the boys whom I know have been taking football lessons weren't any better than my son. So, there!

When we got home there was still homework to do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Made it to the football team

Son did manage to get to school yesterday (Monday). I was on edge all day waiting for the school to phone to say he needed to be brought home.

No phone call came.

The football match they were supposed to play was postponed due to an administrative oversight.

Pick-up time: son was smiling after having three periods of 'Games' in the afternoon. He was excited.

He had been picked to play in the postponed football match now on Wednesday. He would have to miss the theatre visit of a group presenting Wizard of Oz, but "who cares?" he said.

He's not in the 'A' team, but in the 'Mixed' (meaning mixed ability, I think) team. But who cares? And he has the right attitude towards it, too.

But this morning, there was a moan about having to go to school. It's swimming day and again he's not feeling confident about his swimming. Sigh. After having done so well to "escape" being put in the "beginners club" he is finding swimming very tedious.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fever Las Vegas!

Young man woke up early yesterday with something bothering his throat. But he didn't let him affect his activities too much.

By evening, however, it was clear that he was not well. It was difficult to get him -- wrapped in his favourite blanket from head to toe -- away from watching the Elvis impersonators on TV, but I managed and sponged him down.

When he got to bed he was able to say, "I'm feeling a bit drowsy now ...."

He was perspiring a lot in his sleep and yet drew the duvet well up to his neck. This morning it appeared that the fever had finally subsided, but it could just be the effect of the medicine.

Any how, he is good as gold and being most polite. He's always most polite when he is most unwell.

I am not complaining.

He had been going on about a football match at school tomorrow. He's been trying very hard to improve in his football and would really like to put his new skills to the test.

We shall see whether he even gets to school.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Being obtuse

Yesterday, as a special treat, I bought a little chocolate fudge cake, organic, of course.

Just as well, because son was not very pleased when he got home. He had been to 'Fun Choir'. It appears that the older boys were asked to vote who was the best singer amongst the youngest boys, and vice-versa.

Son thought -- it goes without saying -- that he was very good, but every older boy bar one voted for the youngest boy in the choir. One brave soul voted for one of son's good friend. But nobody voted for him at all.

He couldn't contain himself any more when we sat down to have our snack (said chocolate fudge cake). "Why didn't even ONE boy vote for me? I can't understand! B-- was rubbish and mucking about and yet they voted for him."

It wasn't made easier when one of these older boys said to him as we were going home, "... you were the best. Really, you were the best."

Look of distress on son's face and then, "If I was the best, then why did everyone vote for B--?"

It took some time to calm him down. I can't think why it mattered so much to him that someone "at least showed appreciation" of him.

Any way he did cheer up after this. But he couldn't have any more cake after dinner as it was past six o'clock. Chocolate after six makes it quite difficult for him to fall asleep.

This morning he looked at the cake and said, "I am going to have a piece with an obtuse angle. That will leave Dad with one with an acute angle."

"What is an obtuse angle?" I asked.

"One that is more than 90 degrees."

"And acute?"

"Less than 90 degrees."

"Have you been learning about angles at school?"

"Of course not!"

"Then how do you know obtuse and acute?"

"From a book, perhaps?"

He then proceeded to show me a "reflex angle".

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Marching boys

Walking home from my business group mentoring session (I walk through a fairly large park, it helps to clear my head after three hours of talking business and exchanging ideas) I ran into the school cook who asked about my son.

She observed that he seemed happier. He was always so serious looking. Then she recalled that a few days ago he and two others were "marching" into the Dining Room. So he does lighten up a bit.

I mean, he often has us in stitches at home with his jokes and the way he describes something (that happened or in his imagination).

Yesterday I mentioned that after a hard slog I finally managed to get tickets to the British Museum to see the Terracotta Army exhibition. Daddy has always wanted to see these soldiers and has planned to go to China for a visit at some point to see the "real thing". So he was chuffed when he found out that the exhibition was going to be here, right in London.

I said, it's once in a life-time, a bit like Daddy being taken to see Tutankahmen.

"Tut who?"

"Tutankhamen, you know that Egyptian Pharaoh ...."

His response was, "What do you do with an Egyptian door bell?"

"What do you do with an Egyptian door bell?"

"Toot and come on in."

Of course that was not original. He read it somewhere, but at an appropriate time he was able to recall that to good effect.

Yet we were told he does not smile in class.

I ask him after school every day, "On a scale of one to ten, what was the day like?"

"Five hundred. No, make it ten thousand," or something like that.

He seems happy enough, and I am pleased.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Son was happy at the end of the school day. He could not wait to tell me how hard he tried and now he is off the "beginners" swimming list.

He was not pleased when he discovered on Thursday that he had been put on this list which means additional swimming lessons on Thursdays. It would mean his having to miss Art Club at lunch break.

So he worked very hard and now he does not have to do extra lessons, he thinks.

As to why he joined Art Club, I do not know. He tells me he's doing a special sketch for me and the Art teacher is helping him. OK.

Prep time. He was supposed to spend not more than 20 minutes on Prep. There were 40 animal names he needed to put in alphabetical order. When 20 minutes were up he was less than halfway through. I tried persuading him to stop and either carry on the next day or let the teacher know the Prep required more than 20 minutes.

No, he wanted to carry on, and when he came to the "L's" he got confused. I tried explaining but he would not listen. He said he didn't mind if he got them wrong. That way he could learn from his mistakes. Lots of tears and shouting.

He met with the same problem again when he came to "W". Somehow he managed to remain calm enough for me to show him he must not "cross-compare". Then he realized why the "L's" were wrong.

I don't know what to think of his attitude. He had been so good and positive all week, and at the end of the week he just seemed unable to cope anymore. He was clearly physically and mentally tired, but he insisted on carrying on.

More pertinently I realized that despite his reading age -- he's said to be able to read better than the 12-year-olds -- he does not yet know the English alphabet off by heart!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Voices and noises

Husband and I had a good meeting with the headmaster and two of the staff.

Basically we agreed that we need to seek professional help to ascertain what is bothering our son. I have in fact tried to kick-start this process by going to the GP. He has referred, but is not quite sure whom to refer son to.

Any way the school now knows a little more about son's peculiar habit of asking for instructions over and over again. This had previously be put down to his wanting to be perfect.

In the past three years he had been told consistently not to be too hard on himself, it's OK to make mistakes, he does not need to be perfect. I have since discovered that it might have nothing to do with wanting to be perfect. He asked instructions over and over again simply because he does not remember them.

For example I've been saying in the mornings for a week: brush your teeth, clean your face, get dressed and make your bed.

But after brushing his teeth he forgets what is the next instruction. "What do I do next?"

Yesterday I said, "OK, the sequence is 'teeth-face-clothes-bed'."

Son then muttered something like "Teeth are in the face, which is in the body, and the body rests in the bed which is where the clothes are." Sorted.

I had to print off some photos for him in a hurry and left him to his "routine". What a surprise it was that when I came upstairs again he was sitting in his bed reading a book, fully dressed on a well-made bed, having brushed his teeth and cleaned his face . Bingo!

Today, well, he got a bit distracted. He completed the routine but stopped in between to read something. Still the routine seems to have registered.

His continuous need to seek reassurance on instructions was seen as timidity and a lack of confidence and anxiety. Now I am beginning to wonder if it was just his way of checking and counter-checking, because some instructions, especially verbal ones, just do not seem to register.

Chatting with an old classmate over the net about her son said to be suffering from CAPD, we ventured into the area of being a spatial-visual learner. Then I remember how son always had trouble discerning where sound was coming from.

He's nearly pitch-perfect. You sing a note, he goes to the piano and nine times out of ten, he plays that exact note . You could even play intervals and he could identify these as 'doh-soh' or 'doh-fah', or whatever. More frequently he hears a tune on TV and he goes to play it on the piano.

But there had been countless times when he shouts "Where are you?" and I am upstairs in the en-suite bathroom with the door slightly ajar and I shout back, "Here!". Even though he might be in the next bedroom, he could not identify where the sound comes from. He would then wander off downstairs, check every room, and not finding me, starts crying, "Mum, where are you?"

And I am shouting myself hoarse upstairs in the loo, "Here, I am upstairs."

He wanders upstairs, "Upstairs, where?"

He's outside our bedroom and I shout, "In the bathroom in the bedroom." And then he finds me. He's in a flood of tears.

Of course now I shout "Here in the en-suite bathroom" or something like that instead.

Sometimes this happens when I am in the conservatory and he's in the next room. No bathroom door in between. I say, "I'm here" and he goes to the room further away from me to look for me.

It appears that he has no sense of where sound is coming from if it is not immediately in front of him, where he could see the speaker.

I wrote about how he was disturbed by the sound in an indoor sports hall. It was not loudness, perhaps, but that the noise and echoes were coming in all directions, unrelentlessly, and that upset him.

Ironically when he uses the bathroom he would turn on the light even in broad daylight so that the fan would turn on. "I like the sound," he says. The sound of the whirring fan comforts him,

O yes, when he was a baby I could not use the food processor until he was in bed, or shutting two doors between us, but the washing machine and tumble dryer were OK.

He was taken to the cinema by a friend when he was three and refused to go again for another three years time because of the "noise". (The sound level in the cinema was indeed very high.)

We have a friend who has suffered a head injury. She tells us that she too cannot distinguish the direction from which sounds are coming from. Everything is a blur and it tires her out just trying to process these stimuli. She cannot filter out the unimportant noise from the important noise. This lady also sings beautifully.

Could our son be suffering a similar condition? Does that explain why certain types of noise upset him so much?

Then I recall how much he had calmed down in the last half-term of school last year. Something caused me to think this coincided with the sudden departure of a boy who was very disruptive.

Our son used to get very upset if this boy had made it impossible for the whole class to "do any learning". He complained about this boy's whingeing. Could the whingeing have had an impact on my son?

Why do the episodes of anxiety happen only on Fridays?

Is it because he gets taken out of class for his piano lesson? And this often means he misses handwriting class? Does this make him anxious and then coupled with swimming -- which he perceives himself not to be so good at -- right at the end of the day, he gets too tired to compensate, and falls apart?

What are these "bad voices" as he was supposed to have said that bothered him?

But this week he has made phenomenal progress on the clarinet. He practised really hard to get rid of the puffy cheeks. (It helps when Mum plays wind instruments.) He tried and he tried, and by Sunday he got it. Dimpled cheeks while making a solid sound on the clarinet.

He learned to play two more notes on Wednesday (yesterday) and he's playing tunes, even those not in the book, as he makes them up.

His piano too is coming along and husband and I are really enjoying the exam pieces he has chosen to play. They are not easy to play, but very pleasant to listen to.

The teacher will decide in two weeks' time if he should be presented for exams in November or March.

Son also joined the Fun Choir, the Middle School boy's rite of passage, it seems. They are doing songs from Oliver Twist and son is enjoying 'food, glorious food'.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First day back at school

Actually it's second, but 'second day back' doesn't have the same ring, does it?

There were too many nervous parents. The 'old boys' were moving from 'junior school' to 'middle school'. They were moving from short shorts to long trousers. Instead of little plastic school bags they now have sports bags and a school-issue back-pack.

At lunch they would now be able to choose from a wide selection instead of being given a specific menu. (Junior school pupils would take too long to make up their minds, I imagine.)

So 3.40pm, give or take, parents were gathered to pick up our children. Son was making some 'happy gestures' while waiting to be dismissed.

He was all excited because, "Guess what? I was given my piano certificate today, and I received it from Mr B (the headmaster)." He was chuffed.

"I was the only one from Form I who was given a certificate."

"I was the first one to be called."

Then it was how they would all get their first house point if they could manage to remember their caps the next day.

And they now have their Prep Book, kept always in their school blazer, and he has some Prep to complete (sticking the sticky plaster-protector-thing onto the Prep Book.

He was so excited, so happy. When he got home he talked in such a grown-up way it felt like I left a seven-year-old little boy at school at 8.40am and seven hours later I got back a seven-year-old very polite young man instead.

He duly completed his Prep, did his piano practice, and was able to relax for the rest of the day.

No problems with writing so far. He's been writing names and information at various places and they are all legible. What a pleasant surprise!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Day Camp Over

Thursday we discovered that he was playing hockey and volleyball as well at the camp. He thinks he's quite good at hockey.

I hope so. His paternal grandfather was an ace hockey player, it seemed (as well as being good at cricket and golf). He was offered a place at Cambridge on that basis and if he could get those A levels as well, and it was assumed that he would then become part of the Hockey team and then a 'Blue'.

Sadly Grandad was far too busy playing sport to get those A Levels he needed. (I imagine my husband's life would have been very different if father-in-law did get to Cambridge. As it is, it was a real blessing that he did not.)

I enjoyed playing hockey, too, while in school, when Miss Lim made us play all kinds of sport during PE.

On Friday son went dressed as a 'seismologist' -- someone who wears glasses -- and came back with a picture of a computer screen, the map of UK and concentric circles emanating from two cities. They had to go as the person they wanted to be 'when they grow up'.

Bradley apparently went dressed as a pirate. I am surprised that his parents let him. But Bradley also complained every time he was 'out' in a game, and broke the bumper of the go-cart, etc. Many of the girls wanted to be pop-stars and singers. Only one (other boy) wanted to be a scientist.

He's also been talking about the various techniques he's learned at football. Clearly his confidence has grown in that area, and we are very pleased.

The biggest surprise on Friday was when I rummaged in his bag and found a certificate: for being first at volleyball. Whatever that means. It does not matter.

But no more camp next year. Next year we will be spending most of the summer in Singapore, we hope. He would go to a 'camp' there to learn more about Singapore ways.

I hope.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Day Camp

This week started with a great deal of trepidation on my part. I had, months ago, signed son up for a week at activity camp.

With eight long weeks of school holiday and us not going abroad at all -- like most of his mates -- I thought it would be wise to break up the hols with a week doing some structured activities. Besides I really wanted to 'push' him outside of his comfort zone, force him to do something out of the ordinary.

It is difficult for son to do this. Unlike most children I know, he is quite happy to stay inside the house all day, all week.

But then he also goes, 'I'm bored. What can I do?' and keeps asking to play on the computer or on his PSP, or watch TV. Sometimes he would quietly read a book, and sometimes he would decide that we could do something together, but only sometimes. Much easier to build a complex Lego model than try to teach Mum the rules of Backgammon.

Being really pathetic at football, I also took the opportunity to sign him up for an hour of extra football coaching a day.

I have asked, and asked, I've lost count of the number of times, if he would like to do football lessons, like most of his classmates do.

The answer has been a consistent 'no'. Fine. I am not about to lose my lie-in on Saturday mornings to take him to football then. But he then comes home from school distraught that his mates have not picked him to play on their teams.

Any way, he was happy to go on Monday morning, probably quite excited about having to take a packed lunch. For children who get school meals, a packed lunch is a treat.

I had arranged for him to be picked up and dropped off, thinking that he would get a chance to travel in a mini-bus and get a chance to talk to other children. But he is the only one being picked up this week. Sigh.

After four week of having him with me 24/7, I started missing him badly by about 3pm. It was weird that the house was so quiet.

He looked happy enough when he was dropped off on in the late afternoon and said to his chauffeur that he would see her the next morning. He was also excited to tell us how a boy called 'Bradley' would keep shouting he was not out when he was out, etc.

He enjoyed his football and learned to make a straight pass. When too many children decided to play golf, he volunteered to give up his place and played tennis instead to keep the programme moving. When the others went swimming and Mum had not packed his trunks he played tennis with an instructor and did a very good back hand, surprising himself.

But would he go back on Tuesday morning? Tears. 'But I missed you!' (Lie.)

He would have to survive that week, I said. 'How am I to survive one week at camp?' he asked tearfully.

Somehow managed to get him dressed, packed his lunch, with a surprise, and he went off.

By the time he came home Camp was '10 out of 10'.

He had been go-carting (and 'Bradley broke the bumper of his cart!') and doing Archery, as well as managed to tackle a much older boy and gained possession of a ball. And on Friday they have to go dressed for the kind of work they want to do when they grow up.

'So I'll go in a checked shirt and glasses as all seismologists dress like that.'

OK, so he plans to be there on Friday.

'If Mum gave in this morning and said you could stay home, what would have happened?'

'Bored the whole day and missed doing all the fun activities.'

'Now you know why God gives us Mums and Dads to make children do things they don't like to do?'

So, at last, he's learned a little more of the wisdom of Mum's ways.

Today was another '10 out of 10'. There was swimming and golf (but the space was not large enough for his shots so he had to reign in his swings). AND he managed to stop a ball by Adam, his football instructor. He is pleased with himself.

Bedtime found him reading his 'Football Annual' to find out what position he is most suited to play.

I feel vindicated again. I am not a cruel mother after all.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

He's writing

The aim this summer holiday is to get our son comfortable and confident in his writing: both to accept the style of his own handwriting (very scratchy) and the process of putting his thoughts on paper.

It hasn't been easy so far.

Early July he started out very well, writing down thoughts and reports on what he had done in the day, using the 'loopy' joined-up writing he was taught at school. But the legibility soon deteriorated to a point by about Day Six that we had to re-strategize.

Leaving a line was difficult for him, so was leaving clear spaces between words. He refused to contemplate these options because he did not do this at school. Clearly the influence of his teacher on him was far too strong.

In the end, tears. He said he started feeling bad about his handwriting when they began doing joined-up. But he tried and he tried. (I remember one weekend when he completely refused to do his writing homework. He was taken out of class to do his piano, thus missing the handwriting practice session, and missed learning how to write a certain letter.)

Let's start again: no joined-up writing then. And we'll leave a line.

It was okay doing this for the next few days. But again by about Day Six under this new 'regime', tears.

He just could not bear to write his thoughts down any more.

It is not like he has no ideas. He comes up with the most fabulous stories over what he's done with his Lego constructions, for example, or his computer game, but would he write it down? No.

There is such a disconnect between what he is able to say and what he is able to write that I got really stressed out.

Has he a phobia for putting pen to paper? Does he need a psychologist to de-sensitize him?

Is there something different in the way he perceives the written word or the way he processes the physical writing process that makes writing too painful or too distressing?

I also learned that there is a different kind of joined-up writing taught at school, one that cuts out all the elaborate loops and retracing of letters. I bought a book to help him do this.

He's working through this book.

He's still reluctant to write down his thoughts and feelings.

But he has not given up learning this style of writing with their 'four joins'.

Some days his handwriting is better than other days, and he enjoys a 'web chat' with me on paper.

Maybe he just thinks writing something like a diary is meaningless. He's happy to write answers to specific questions, but writing 'free thinking' is difficult for him.

He also copies out poetry very well. He likes poetry and his efforts at copying poems have been quite remarkable by his standards.

So I'm hoping that perhaps this is another way to develop his confidence in writing.

Monday, July 23, 2007

He's done it, again!

My husband and I now cherish the time we sit at the cafe of our local golf 'club' while our son has his lessons. It's often the only time we are not busy with stuff around the house or he's too tired to hold any intelligent conversation.

Then he goes to pick son up from the driving range, or wherever.

Yesterday son came back with him and waved a piece of paper in my face. It was his YMG Silver Award.

I was taken completely by surprise.

He has been working his way up the YMG ladder: Cadet (distinction), Bronze (merit) and Silver ... well, nobody in the class passed Silver the first time. Son completely forgot he had his theory test and spent about 10 minutes revising. He was lucky he got away with the theory with that.

They needed to be able to do various things in practice before they could pass. We had the impression they had to do the course about three times over before they could pass.

Last week husband told me that he was swinging the club much more comfortably. So obviously there had been some improvement and the certificate is proof that he had made the grade. (Just 'Passed' because he could not re-sit theory again.)

One more feather in his cap.

His handwriting is improving. Working on leaving spaces between words.

Good work, son!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

He's done it!

The first thing we looked for when we came back from our short holiday (inland) was to check son's piano exam results.

We were looking for an email from his teacher.

It finally arrived and son passed "with Merit". Husband and I think he has done exceedingly well considering the fact that he only started learning the piano nine months ago.

When I showed son the email, there was the tiniest flicker of a smile on his face, and then it was, "OW, I missed a Distinction by a few marks."

That is good. Gives him something to work towards, my husband and I think.

His teacher has already started him on Grade 2 music which he is enjoying much more than his Grade 1.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


2nd July Monday

School ends on Thurday this week, and I was still busy with the parents' work at school, this time with the cookbook that we desperately wanted to get out for Speech Day on Wednesday.

Walking past the lobby I saw excitement over a list of names posted and remembered that the Prize Winners List should be up and I went to take a look, expecting my son's name to feature.

Not the 'Attainment Prize', not the 'Progress Prize', not even the 'Effort Prize'. We knew he wouldn't have won the Handwriting Prize as he didn't complete it, so that's that.

No, that wasn't that. My heart sank. It fell into my soles and if it could have sunk further, would have done so.

How is son going to react? What will the emotional fallout be? Would I be able to cope with the tantrums and the tears?

He had been so confident of winning the 'Attainment Prize'. His aim was to win it three years in a row. As he saw himself as being clearly ahead of his peers at work in class, he thought the Prize was his. How will he cope with this 'failure'?

I had to work on damage limitation. I went home and quickly wrote a note to his Form teacher. Please make sure he gets a 'class prize' so that he does not feel overlooked.

Then I had time to think through the 'why did he not get the Attainment Prize' more thoroughly.

His teacher had told us that he would definitely get the prize. He is so far ahead of his peers in work. How did he not, eventually, get the prize?

The thoughts that ran through my mind were: was there some bias? I know he is not the teacher's favourite student. He was deemed too stiff in acting, too narrow in his views, too concerned with right and wrong, and hell bent on getting the one acceptable correct answer to anything. These were not characteristics endearing to his Form teacher.

Husband happened to be home due to illness. We conferred and decided that we must email the Headmaster and asked, "If son was made out to be so clever and intelligent by all those who had taught him, why then is his achievement not in line with his ability?"

(OK, he did not get the Attainment Prize, what about 'Progress'? He has progressed further than anyone else in the class. No, that prize went to another boy. OK, 'Effort' then? How could the School who kept telling him "Don't be too hard on yourself" because he tries so hard to be perfect now turn around to say he did not even deserve an 'Effort' Prize?)

I became more and more confused, and more and more distraught. Something is not right with the 'system', if there was one.

We hoped that the list was just a provisional list and that perhaps there was a typo.

3rd July. We've had no response from either Form Teacher or Headmaster. I had a quick word with the Form Teacher at drop-off time and clearly the matter of our email had been raised with her by the Headmaster.

Her brief, almost dismissive, comment was "He just did not perform at the test and someone else did better".

A test? I was gobsmacked. What test did she mean?

O yes! At some point my son mentioned they were doing 'tests'. At the parent-teacher consultation, the teacher also mentioned tests, and assured us that son was performing up to standards in his Maths and Science tests. At that point they had not conducted the English test because the papers were not available.

So, I concluded, on the basis of the English test, son had lost his prize.

It does not matter that he is better at spelling and dictation than all the boys, or that his Maths is way ahead of everyone else, or that he tackles the most complicated issues in Science with panache. He did not come in first on a timed test.

As the boy who won the Attainment Prize also won the Handwriting Prize I then concluded that my son lost his Prize on the basis of his bad handwriting.

When we talked to him about the test he let on that he did not manage to finish writing his story. In any case, he volunteered, there were not enough pages for him to write his very complicated story. This was his way of rationalizing his inability to complete his task.

The pieces were beginning to fall into place.

He was either trying too hard to get his handwriting perfect to complete his essay or he panicked too much about completing a written task within a certain time to manage to complete his test.

I searched the Internet on 'gifted children and handwriting' and all the results tell me that gifted children often have 'chicken scratches' rather than handwriting. Many are penalized as a result. Gifted children also learn to compensate. My son's way of compensating is to write the minimum, simply because he cannot bear to see his own handwriting which he feels is not up to the standard he demands of himself.

His teacher tells us that he speaks excellent grammatical, well-structured English using the most flowery and complex figurative language. His writing however is at par with, at best, the most average student.

Clearly this dis/ability in handwriting or aversion to written tasks had not been taken into account. When I reflected on how he froze at his handwriting competition, it only adds further evidence to how my son does not like writing down anything on paper.

Next question: why was no allowance given so that he could be tested verbally or in any form other than written tests? Was the test a test on ability, attainment or handwriting?

I chided myself for not doing this research a little earlier. I must confess I had been in a state of denial about son's abilities. We assumed (wrongly, we now know) that if he is so clever, then this cleverness will show through and there is no need for us to push or do anything different. Any emotional calamity he had been facing was put down to his need to be perfect and we assumed that he would grow out of it. Well, apparently they don't.

With no response still from the Headmaster, I then sent a long email to the Second Master (who had observed him at lessons), the first person who alerted us early in this academic year to 'seriously consider' that our son could be 'gifted'. (The Form teacher does not usually check her email so it was pointless trying to write to her.)

We are really worried that if son continues to 'under-perform' in written tests he is going to give up. He is clearly very bright and he manipulates numbers and scientific knowledge very expertly. But his frequent frustration at the lack of recognition for what he is capable of was also clear.

After more questioning, we realized that he had pretty much been teaching himself Maths at school. He was given his text-book and he just followed the instructions and had taught himself fractions and long division, etc. (Most of the rest of the class are still adding and subtracting.)

At home I found him demonstrating and explaining kinetic energy and how it is transferred using his sky-rail (a sophisticated marble run).

But learning by rote is very difficult for him.

Instead of memorizing the sequence of 7 times table, for example, he adds 1 to the 'ten' column and takes away 3 in the units column. So while he is able to do mental arithmetic very quickly while 'reciting' the tables in order, he gets stumped by 'random tables' when he is thrown numbers like 3x7, 9x7, etc at random.

Spelling: he had been complaining about being bored with spelling the same simple words over and over again. We don't even drill him, but he has a 100% record.

Looking at the literature available it has become clear to me that his intelligence has to be managed and nurtured in a very different way from other children and we have now requested a conference with the staff who'd teach him next year to sort this out.

For example, he manipulates facts in a very different way from me. This was clearly the case when we had 12 fairy cakes. After three were eaten I asked him what fraction had been eaten. The answer came back almost instantly, "a quarter".

When asked to explain how he worked that out, he mumbled something about "4x3 equals 12, and I know if 4 is at the bottom than it is a quarter".

Neither my husband nor I quite understood how he got to the correct answer, but we did not argue with him.

OK, what if another fairy cake was eaten, what fraction now has been eaten? "O! That's easy, one-third." There was no hesitation at all.

What if Mummy eats another two (ie six out of twelve)?

"That's a half."

Another plea from the experts in dealing with children like him is: do not make them "show their working". Their "working" might be completely nonsensical to a teacher.

Interestingly while he is so good at retaining certain facts (thermodynamics, kinetic energy, poetry, lines from films and plays, etc), he is hopeless at remembering a sequence IF it is not first made clear to him that it is a sequence he has to remember.

So if I casually mentioned that we are going to the Post Office to post parcels, then to the shop to buy some food, then to a book shop to buy him a treat, he would be asking 50 yards down the road, "Where are we going? Why are we going there?"

If I prefaced this with, "Remember this sequence: ...." he would remember the sequence without a problem. This suggests that 'trivial' information does not register at all with him, but when he's presented with a 'whole unit' (eg a sequence of events) somehow he makes them into a sensible, memorizable and therefore recollectable body of facts.

Is that why he is often unable to tell us what lunch he was given at school, or who were the boys in his team at play or games? These facts are of no importance to him. Trivia do not register at all.

But on the last Wednesday of school when Science lesson was replaced by Art, there was no end of complaining, "We didn't have our Science lesson today. Instead we had to complete making a stupid shield."

I've also learned not to tell him he is too much of a perfectionist in his work. It appears that he cannot help it. That's the way he functions. That's the way he makes sense of the world. That is the way he approaches life. Just as one cannot tell a child his hair is too brown, please make it less brown, a gifted child cannot be told that he is too perfectionistic.

At the first opportunity I said to my son I had to apologise to him.

"For what?" he asked.

"For all those times I've been telling you to 'not be such a perfectionist'. I now realize that's the way you are special and you cannot help being like that. I shall try to stop myself from saying you are being too hard on yourself."

A wide cheeky grin spread across his face and he put his hands together, '"Yippee!"

At last, it must have seemed to him, there is a grown-up who understands that he cannot help doing things the way he does, and feeling the frustration when things do not go his way.

When I read about how children like him could be very sensitive to noise and touch, they add up further. When playing his first football match in a cavernous indoor pitch he became distressed by all the shouting and echoes in the hall. I saw the teacher leading him out of the hall.

When I got down to the bottom of the stairs I heard her telling him he just had to cope with it. I did not intervene because I thought the same: this is part and parcel of life, he just has to learn to cope with it.

He is ultra-sensitive to clothes labels, another symptom of his 'condition'. I cannot recall the number of times he has complained that the labels are bothering him and we have had to cut away so many labels. Now he has taken to wearing his socks inside out so that the seam at the toes do not bother him so much.

On Speech Day itself he coped well with not winning a prize because we primed him for it. But he got very upset that a classmate -- for what he felt was a silly reason -- pushed past him. He just went into a strop for the next half hour.

The solution is to avoid taking him to places where he has trouble coping with these stimuli.

We have a long way to go in understanding his needs and how he learns, but building on his confidence in handwriting is the project for this summer holiday.

As usual, I would appreciate any advice.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Non nobis Domine

Two weeks ago when my sister and her husband arrived, son started playing the piano.

He was not trying to show off. He just wanted to play The Entertainer which he enjoyed.

For some reason he could not play a phrase properly. It's a bit of music that he had been playing without a problem before. This caused him immense frustration and there were floods of tears. In the end he tried crawling under the piano again.

There was frustration all round.

When I finally got him to the kitchen where we tried to have a conversation he was going, "I wish I was dead." It's a phrase he repeats often when things go wrong.

"And what good would that do?" I asked. "Who's going to be happy when that happens?"

"I will."

"You can't be happy when you are dead. But Mummy would be sad. Daddy would be sad. Is that what you want? Is that going to make anyone happy?"

He was in deep thought for a while.

"I know who would be happy."

"Who?" I asked.


It frightens me sometimes when my son brings into conversation aspects of the spiritual realm. I get pictures of him turning schizophrenic, "I hear voices telling me to kill ...."

But there in the kitchen I realized that he might well have hit the nail on its head. When I reflect on it now, he does often have these "episodes" after he's been contemplating issues of a religious nature.

When I could finally speak I heard myself saying, "Yes! I think you are right. When you are dead you cannot give any glory to God. You know Satan is the only person who does not wish you to use your music talent or your cleverness to serve God! He does not wish you to use your gifts so that you can give glory to God."

And then like a light has been turned on, son said, "I know what to do."

He went and got a piece of paper and made a poster: 'Down with Satan I love God' and held it to his forehead.

Then he made another drawing: Satan on one side with 'loser' on it and God on the other, the 'winner'.

When I was pregnant my prayer for the unborn child was that he would be a healthy child so that we do not have to be distracted from serving God, that whatever his talents might be, he would use these to God's glory.

We felt blessed that he was born good-looking with a calm nature as well. As he developed, we realized that he is intellectually advanced. Soon after he started learning the piano we had to come to terms with the fact that he is also gifted in music.

His progress has only been hampered by episodes of extreme frustration when he felt that he was not performing well. Most recently he froze at the class handwriting competition.

He had practised for it, although his efforts seemed to have deteriorated nearer the competition instead of improving. He was so distressed he could not carry on with the competition. The reason for this is, we thought, he knew he was not the best at handwriting in class. Clearly he was not going to win, and he did not like that.

We could not fathom why, when we do not push him to be perfect, he has set himself such high standards. My husband thinks that this is from his Chinese genes, the need to keep 'face'.

So it was worrying for us. He has all this talent, was he going to waste it?

Knowing now that this might be a spiritual battle ... well, we are now better armed.

Son has been singing "Non nobis Domine" in preparation for the School Speech Day next week. Searching through the Internet I found this:

Not unto us, O Lord,
The praise or glory be
Of any deed or word.

For in Thy Judgement lies
To crown or bring to nought
All knowledge or device
That man has reached or wrought.
And we confess our blame,
How all too high we hold
That noise which men call fame,
That dross which men call Gold.
For these we undergo
Our hot and godless days
But in our hearts we know
Not unto us the Praise.

O power by whom we live,
Creator Judge and friend
Upholdingly forgive
Nor fail us at the end:
But grant us well to see
In all our piteous ways
Non nobis Domine

To God be the glory indeed in all that we do.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


It has been a good week for us wrt son.

He enjoyed his cricket match (his team won) which finished earlier than expected, continued to play"fun" cricket while waiting for his piano exam, and looked surprisingly relaxed.

He emerged from exam earlier than expected and while I was head down between pages of The Ecologist (the one with a near-naked man on the cover) a voice chirped up beside me, "I think I might get a distinction."

And there he was grinning from ear to ear with a look that exuded nothing but pure confidence.

He was soon followed by his music teacher (on a crutch) who confirmed that he had done well from what he could hear on the other side of the door.

Son did confess to making two mistakes.

I told son I do not now care whether he merely passed, passed with merit, or even a distinction, but to see that look of confidence after the exam was priceless.

For a boy who gets upset that he could not do some things right (perfect) the first time (especially in the pool), who froze at his handwriting competition because the rules were changed slightly, and who crawls under the piano when a practice does not go well, for him to say, "I enjoyed the exam. It was easy," was the best treat I've had for ages.

So we wait in anticipation for the results.

O! To top it all, he also won the Junior School Shield for Pupil of the Week. His citation reads: for being calm and collected for the whole week! This is probably the last week in the year that the Shield is being awarded. He is delighted to have won it, his fourth time in three years.

What joy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

D-Day tomorrow

It's nearly here now. Grade 1 piano exam tomorrow.

But before that son has a cricket match to play against their arch-rivals.

He does not think very much of the sportsmanship of this school. They keep refusing to play their matches at his school. They have excuses like they do not have enough staff and so we have to go to them, or they simply do not show up.

Surely if they do not show, it should be considered a walk-over, and we should be declared winners. But we are far too polite to act like that.

Any way, tomorrow, this school comes to play cricket. While our boys have not been able to work on their cricket as they had been rehearsing for their Sports Day last week, and Speech Day in two weeks' time, they have been playing a lot of cricket just for fun.

By all accounts our boys are much stronger at cricket than they are at football or rugby compared to this other school. So I look forward to seeing them in action.

And then I would have to whisk son away for his exam. Pray that his fingers are not injured.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I have invited the boys from school to busk for some money to liven up the atmosphere at the school summer fair.

Of course my son insisted that he should also be busking. He had been working on The Entertainer all by himself and was keen to show it off.

So I was constantly being harrassed at the fair by a seven-year-old, "Where is my piano? When can I busk?"

We had to move the piano away to make way for the bottle tombola in the corridor. In the end the 'big boys' decided that they would perform indoors and wheeled the piano in.

Of course son decided to jump on it and played. Not very much as he was shooed off by the senior boy, probably afraid that people would be giving him money instead of to his band. (These 13-year-olds decided to play for money to raise funds for a new school trophy. That is so very sweet, I thought.)

Thankfully son did not mind too much about being shooed off in this instance. But he's just been given new music books by my visitng cousin and it has got movie theme tunes in there. He can't wait to work on those.

However he has his piano exam to get over with first. This Thursday, after his cricket match in the afternoon.

Just hope and pray he does not get injured during the match. He does have a tendency to throw himself around.

Meanwhile no computer games. We noticed that after a session of hitting the keyboard furiously for a few minutes (not more than 20 minutes usually), his piano playing goes hay-wire.

It is as if the muscles used for the piano keyboard goes a bit wonky after a session on the computer. Just as I used to find it impossible to play the flute after an orchestra rehearsal playing the trombone. Totally different muscles are used and they need to be 're-conditioned' to get them right.

All the best, my son!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mr Bean on Holiday

It's half-term week and of course we have builder in to put in new cupboard/desk/etc to maximize a small room for our son. He's outgrown his room (again) and at last I have agreed to built-in furniture because, well, we don't really have a choice.

Also, having worked through Scott Joplin's The Entertainer on the back of his piano book all by himself, we asked if he would like a treat and he -- surprise, surprise -- asked to go to see Mr Bean at the cinema.

This was the boy who has refused to go near a cinema because of the loud noise level there for years. Then another parent from school took him, with cotton wool balls as ear plugs, and he now seems to be more open to the cinema.

I too was pleasantly surprised that the sound level was not as high as I remember it. Either that or my hearing has gone very bad.

Or maybe enought sensible people have complained and the management did something about it. Or maybe the Health and Safety people called round and told the cinema off. Or, I don't know. I don't care.

The thing that puzzled us was children have to pay £1.50 but an accompanying adult goes free.

There must be a catch somewhere. Ah! The popcorn is £4!

Also, we now buy tickets either from machines or the young people who serve food. No counters dedicated to selling tickets any more!

When we got into the cinema I was amazed to see the number of people, young and their parents, coming in with what appeared to be a very long (like a foot-long) hot dog with ketchup on the top, or people with tacos and gooey-stuff that I wouldn't think of as cinema food.

It was a 10.30am!

Any way, I've concluded that we live in a different world from many people.

We eat our breakfast and other meals seated at the table. Never in front of the TV, and certainly not in a cinema. Where have we gone wrong?

It was a milestone for us: son going to the cinema for the first time with his own parent!

Most importantly, son enjoyed the film.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It hurts, Mummy, it hurts!

Wednesday afternoon, just before pick-up time, I had a call from son's school.

"He's complaining of pain in his ear. Could you please come to pick him up now instead of after 'Late Class'?"

I was down at the school in about four minutes. Son was obviously distressed.

Checked with the teacher that he had not been stressed by anything else.

"No, they've been watching the Middle School play."

It was a miracle when I actually managed to get an appointment to see the GP in under an hour's time. So it was a quick snack and we walked to the clinic.

I chose to walk even though son wanted me to drive. I knew the traffic at 4 pm will be horrendous round the school which we have to pass to get to the clinic.

As we walked past the school we could see that cars were at a complete standstill. We would have been very stuck in the car between the 4x4s and Benzes and BMWs, because it is pick-up time at this private school.

We got to the GP and son was seen to quite quickly, but the walk back was horrendous as he was in quite a lot of pain. We also had to stop at the pharmacy at one of the supermarket chains to fill the prescription (only because it was en route).

The drawback of not driving was that son had to suffer quite a lot longer till we got home. Ear drops in and he was shouting for a good few minutes. The ibuprofen for children in our house has gone past its expiry date, and so I had to make a phone call for husband to stop by a pharmacy on his way home.

Son was shouting in pain in the background as we spoke.

It was Blue Peter to the rescue as he really wanted to see what the presenters were up to. Husband got home a little earlier than usual. We gave son his first dose of 'hair gel' -- as that was what the ibuprofen looks like and he was soon asleep, in our bed.

We had a quiet dinner, recounting the day's events and realized how blessed we were in that the ear-ache happened today and not the day before.

Tuesday was son's special day -- playing at his first piano concert at the school to parents and others. He had played just before Christmas to the 'big boys' at 'big boys assembly'. But this concert was for parents.

Last year I took him to the very same school piano concert showcasing all the boys who were learning piano at school. Son decided that he would be performing at the next concert, that is, at this year's concert.

And so he did, playing Sarabanda, one of the Grade 1 exam pieces (not Mini Rag as noted in the last post). It's another one of those milestones. Had he been afflicted by ear-ache just 24 hours earlier, we would have taken him out of the concert.

As it was, he enjoyed performing to a very appreciative audience, and then enjoyed a wide variety of crisps that was laid out at refreshments, that sort of junk food that does not usually cross our front door.

Tonight, Daddy had to climb into son's bed. I readied myself with water and a supply of biscuits as I knew son would wake and wish to have something to eat.

While he slept I was also able to put in another dose of ear drops. No screaming and shouting this time although he did stir. Ah ....

Half an hour past midnight, a voice interrupted my sleeplessness, "Is it time for dinner yet?"

He was looking much better. He had a drink, a wee, a couple of biscuits and more 'hair gel' and I tried to get him back to sleep.

"I don't remember the last time we were able to talk like this before going to bed," I said. "O, yes! when we were at Uncle YK's place. We were in Singapore without Daddy."

"OOO, yes," he replied, "I remember that. It's a bit like having a midnight feast this time."

We carried on talking for a while. Whether he was going to school the next day was a prime topic. Then it was lights out.

"You can keep on talking, but I might not reply as I need some sleep now," I said.

We all slept rather well. The next morning, son was back at school, much to the surprise of his teachers.

That's three special blessings: (1) not falling ill till after the concert, (2) getting a GP appointment without my getting stressed, and (3) sufficient recovery for him to enjoy school the following day.

God is good!

Sunday, May 06, 2007


On the positive side, his piano is progressing well and he will be presented for his Grade 1 Exam in mid-June.

His instructor said, apparently, that at the way he's been playing his exam pieces (there are three), he would score about 23 out of 30 for each. But he wants son to get up to 27 or 28, and he is capable of 29.

There are still the scales, appreggios, broken chords, singing and sight-reading to worry about.

Meanwhile he is more interested in the concert he would play at school just before half-term and he has chosen to play Mini Rag, his favourite exam piece.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Swimming again

Apparently tears in the pool again.

Under a new instructor and has been doing well. But felt that he was not good enough at breast stroke while "all the others could do it"!

This was the first time they were doing the breast stroke in any case.

Nonsense! we said. Mum's been trying to learn the breast stroke since she was nine and she has still to master it.

After much talking, "Yah, yah, I know. I'm trying to be perfect again."

I hope next Friday is going to be better.

I don't know what I need to do to get son to understand that he does not need to be perfect the first time around.

Or that most normal people need to put in loads and loads of practice at any one task to be good at it.

Any advice welcome.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Who messed up my washing?

Or boys who know their recycling

As I wrote to my customers in our occasional newsletter:

"For the first time in a while I had a load of washing plastered in shredded paper. My son quickly owned up. Well, it was his seventh birthday and we had taken him and his best friend to a theme park. Every time they were given something to eat and drink they examined the containers to look for the 'recyclable' sign.

"They are studying recycling in their Science topic this term. These little boys can now tell me, 'It says PET and a number one, so it can be recycled.' Not bad.

"They kept collecting containers to take to the school for their sorting exercise. At some point, son decided to keep the 'recyclable' serviette that was wrapped round his ice-cream cone.

"It was my fault really for not checking those pockets."

The truth is I take for granted that only cloth hankies are used in this house that I've become quite lax (is that the right word) in checking pockets these days.

Back to Organic-Ally.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


For some reason, son was reluctant to go to school last Friday. He had been off sick on the previous Tuesday but appeared to be dying to get back for Wednesday so that he does not miss his Science class.

Friday was, "Hmm, isn't it sad I do not have the same religion as my parents?"

And so we had a long discussion on how it is not up to us to dictate to him what religion he should embrace. Yes, we would very much like him to choose Christianity, but us Christians also know that God made free will and son has to decide for himself.

He then seemed happy enough to go to school.

Pick-up time I was told that he was so distressed in the pool he had to be taken out. Apparently he was hysterical and started "making animal noises" and continued to make these noises for a long time after this.

Got him home in a hurry and we tried to talk about his upset. Of course it was difficult to get anything that he does not want to tell out of him.

The issue seemed to be he felt he was 'rubbish' (again) as he could not do a forward somersault in the water. "I tried three times!"

After much cajoling I learned that he had done all sorts of wonderful things in the pool: all kinds of floating patterns, on the front and back, log rolls, etc. But he could not swim under water and stumbled at the somersault.

I myself cannot do the somersault, so I am not surprised. To have achieve so much and yet get distraught about not being able to do one thing perfectly after three tries sounds just like my son.

We persuaded each other to go to the public pool on Saturday to practice the 'roly-poly'. (I don't like going to the public pool as the changing facilities can be filthy sometimes.)

In the pool on Saturday he was no problem at all. He was relaxed, comfortable and enthusiastic. He kept trying his somersault and swimming under water. (Earlier we talked through the physics of getting into water and staying submerged.) I couldn't get him out of the water.

"OK, I've had enough. Let's go home now," I kept saying.

"No, I'm having so much fun!"

So it was till he needed to go to the toilet.

I wrote a long letter to the teacher to recount what happened at the pool, and since I was writing, decided to list the disappointments that my son had faced this year. They are not grievances, just events which I thought would help the teachers understand how his mind works.

We were told to meet with the teacher mid-week. Husband happened to have had a hospital check-up and so was able to attend the meeting.

We were told that son has an IQ of 144 and a reading age of 13 when tested last year. He is going on seven end of April.

I was gobsmacked. I knew he read well and I know he is highly intelligent, but I certainly did not expect these kinds of results.

Teaching him is like treading on eggshells all the time, we were told. He is very sensitive to sound, and hates disruptive children, ill-discipline, etc.

But both teacher and us agree that sometimes -- because he seems so grown up in some ways -- we tend to treat him as an adult. The teacher also agreed that perhaps she had been expecting much more from him than any other child.

So while a little improvement or effort by another boy would have warranted a reward, my son has been rewarded more on results, and is expected to go further than others.

I can imagine a little of how he feels when he is expected to cheer someone else on for making a tiny improvement in behaviour or in work when he himself had already far exceeded this milestone himself. But no matter how hard he tries, all he gets is yet another sticker in his homework book. There has been no public recognition of his good results, let alone his effort.

How does one get better than 100% at spelling every week, even when random tests are given without notice?

So we hope that things would improve as now the teachers are more aware of how he feels about the lack of recognition of his effort.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Surplus Value

Can't remember how we got into that conversation. Son learned the idea of 'profit' as we talked about 'the little girl in China who makes my toys'.

It came down to "Does Daddy make a profit in his work?"

"You go ask him yourself."

Daddy was duly summoned upstairs, "Dad, in the work that you do at your office, do you make a profit?"

"Yes," came the decisive and immediate answer.

Son was shocked. In his little mind surely his Daddy, his hero, does not stoop to making a profit out of the labour of others.

When he had recovered from this shock, "If I told the man who employs the girls who make my toys that I really appreciate the toys, would he pay them more money?"

"I don't think so," came the answer. "I'm afraid that's called economics. People pay as little as possible to get as much out of it as possible."

"Unless we are willing to pay more," said I, "Which is what fair trade is all about."

"But that does not mean that the girls will be paid more, until and unless customers make it clear that they are not going to buy from these manufacturers until they are willing to treat their workers properly and give them a fair wage," wise old Dad said.

I don't think son got the answers he needed or wanted to hear, but I'm making some headway, I think, in getting him to understand that our lifestyle of needless consumption is only making a few people very rich to the detriment of hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of others who have little or no bargaining power at all.

Profit is not an evil thing when profits like those made by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett can be put to good use for the rest of humanity. It is extreme profit that is the issue, when a human being is taken to be nothing more than a 'resource', to be exploited, squeezed dry, and like a piece of machinery that has outlived its usefulness , could then be 'de-commissioned', dismissed, whatever.

Money is NOT the root of all evil as has often been misquoted. It is the "love of money", an excessive worship of profit, that is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Happy Cream

My cousin is in town again to see her PhD supervisor. It's Chinese New Year (still) and we went down to Oriental City hoping to catch some 'culture'.

We were just in time to see a couple of 'lions' walk past us. Son was thrilled.

The week before when a senior boy came to junior school to talk about Chinese New Year he listened attentively and was rewarded with a paper dragon for answering a question correctly. He wanted to get another of those dragons (made with honey-comb paper) for his best friend.

Unfortunately the bakery had run out of his favourite buns and he sat glumly playing with some wooden chopsticks while the rest of us pigged out. Then 'Ouch!'.

A splinter. Tears. More tears.

No First Aid post at the centre. We ate as quickly as we could. Shopped as quickly as we could, and headed home.

None of us could see the splinter but it was obviously causing him much pain. Our eyes were showing their age and we found it extremely difficult to locate the source of his pain.

The next morning, without my contact lenses or glasses I was finally able to see a tiny splinter. Removed it ... so I thought. But son insisted that it was still hurting.

So back to Plan A, which was to take him to A&E to have it seen to, to make sure it does not get infected.

Three hours wait was what the electronic signboard said we would have. But son was seen to by a Nurse Practitioner and we were out within 45 minutes. We were even only slightly late for church service.

Now son is happy showing off his bandaged hand. We need to apply magnesium sulphate to it for a few days to draw out the splinter (if indeed it is still there). Or the body defences would break down the splinter.

Most reassuring of all: it is not going to travel round the body as my mum used to tell me.

But something in the cream seemed to be making our son rather floaty. We've started calling it his 'happy cream'.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mr Elite Spy

Took son to the Spying Exhibition today at the Science Museum and he 'graduated' as an elite spy.

What a thrill!

He's a happy boy.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What a star!

We were all glad that school re-opened on Friday. The boys were all so excited about the snow still on the ground.

Son came home with 15 out of 15 for his spelling.

In the pool, swimming front crawl to the deep end is no more an issue.

His piano teacher wrote in her notes to me that she was impressed by his transposition skill. I had written earlier that son loves sitting at the piano to play tunes he has been playing in a different key from written.

He's been given the last tune in the book to play for next week. It's a tune that even I have not been able to master.

The strange thing is while I read much better than him, it does not translate so well to my fingers on the piano. I have to practise really, really hard to be able to play both hands together.

Son is not so competent at sight-reading, but once he's worked out the fingering -- his sense of rhythm is amazing -- he plays as if he has been playing that for ever. I am deeply envious.

What's the news about playing at school assembly then?

"Well, without my asking, Miss C says she'd arrange for me to play 'Race Against Time' at school assembly."

The last time Miss C said he should play "Indian Dance". 'Race' is a much more complicated piece.

And he jumps on the piano playing 'Race Against Time' without even bothering to look at the music.

At dinner I asked what was being said at Chapel.

"Something about leaders."

"Was Jesus a good leader?"

"No, you know that man who had twelve sons? But the youngest was chosen to be king."

"O! That's King David. He was not very strong like his brothers, was probably rubbish at football, but he was good at music, like you."

"Yes, he played this instrument like a little, what do you call it ...?"

"A lyre."

"Yes. A lyre. Can I play one too?"

At bath-time he said, "I want to be a TV star."

If he chooses to be and is able to be a good TV star, and brings much glory to God that way, let him be a TV star.