Monday, June 30, 2008

Free range?

Went shopping with son to get birthday presents for his dad's birthday.

We were delighted to find organic cotton and bamboo socks in a certain department store.

Son: Organic cotton? Hmm, but are they free range?

I think he's getting the picture.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Exams over! Really over!

Last Monday he had his final hurdle.

The day started as usual at 8.30am and went: school as usual, piano grade 3 exam, classes as usual, lunch as usual, band practice at a different time (cancelled last minute), games as usual, quick change (no time for shower), clarinet exam. We finished about 4.20pm, perhaps. Exhausted.

In between I missed helping to run the school uniform shop. I completely forgot. Thankfully the other mother did not forget. I was, to say the least, a bit stressed by all this. There was a chance that he might be playing a cricket match after lunch. So, for the first time, I was relieved that he came back last Friday and said, "By the way, I was not selected to play for the match."

Whew! What a relief! As I would have had to fetch him from the games grounds (a little drive away), rush him over to school again, get him changed, freshened up, etc, for the exam. No thanks (or should it be "no, thank you?").

This morning I got hauled up by the Director of Music. Apparently son went into the exam hall and spent a minute scrabbling on the floor sorting out his music. The examiner has exactly 12 minutes for each candidate and told him to move along. (The examiner had also been at his job since 9.30am.)

Not his fault, really, I insist. His clarinet teacher has decided that he would pick pieces from three different books. With his piano exams, they use a standard book with the three sections from which they choose a tune. For some strange reason, son had to do pieces from three different rather dated books.

Ah well, I just hope he had not been marked down. We keep making the excuse that he's only seven, or now, he's only eight. So much of his behaviour is really due to his being a really young boy. The fact that he is ahead of his peers in his music and maths does not make him any other more than, well, eight.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ESB -- Extra Special Boy?

Got his ESB (English Speaking Board) exam results yesterday. Had a 'Merit Plus', whatever that means.

Then went on to say that his best friend got a Distinction.

There was a look of clear disappointment on his face and I felt so sorry for my little boy.

The point is he refused to let me or his dad help him with the preparation.

For the poem he chose Alfred Noyes 'The Highwayman', just Part I because it is a long poem. I thought that was a bit ambitious. But he wanted to do that as a challenge.

For the talk he talked about his 'blue bear'. It was short, presented in his own clumsy little way.

Then he read from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I know for a fact that all the other parents gave a great deal of help to their boys. They would listen to their talk every day, maybe helped even in writing some of it, primed them on how to answer the questions from the floor, made them read and taught them how to read with expression, etc.

My son would have none of it. "If I get a Distinction I want it to be ON MY OWN WORK, not somebody else's."

That, I think, is a very good attitude. But he was disappointed that he did not get a Distinction.

He also did his 'Maths', "How could I get Distinction in the talk and reading, and a Merit Plus in the poem and still only get a Merit Plus?"

Let's hope he has learned his lesson. That sometimes he should listen to the opinions of his Mum and Dad and take their suggestions on board.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Being Franck about one's abilities

Yesterday we did the unprecedented. We took our son to an Anglican church not far from us where his piano teacher plays the organ.

After the service we were treated to a rousing performance of Walton (composed for a coronation, don't ask me which one).

Son was allowed to play his exam piece by C Franck (written for the piano to sound like an organ) on the pipe organ. There were a first few hesitant notes. And then he was off.

So we take our hat off to the composer. It really sounds good on the organ despite the fact that it was being played by an eight-year-old!

As we waited a number of people who were busy tidying up the church after the service asked if we were OK. Proud mother here found herself saying, "That's my son on the organ." Everyone who came to talk to us seemed suitably (or politely) impressed.

We left him to play for a bit. He seemed, after a while, to be really enjoying himself. He tried playing another exam piece, but clearly it was not written for the organ and sounded a bit weird. We then got a bit worried that he might decide to launch into the theme from Indiana Jones. But son was sensible.

Later on Mr Piano Teacher confirmed that our son is a 'natural' on the organ. That means we have to think seriously about whether or when he should switch to playing the organ alongside his piano and clarinet.

Thankfully, we still have six inches of time. His legs are not long enough to reach the pedals, and we would let him continue with the piano for the next couple of years instead.

The only problem is, now that he has played the organ, he seems to be very keen to play it again!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

What is life?

When I say to people that my son has special education needs, they often think that he is autistic or something like that.

In his case his psychologist did wonder whether he could be borderline Asperger's, but has ruled it out for now.

We recently had a parent-teacher consultation and it was good news to hear that his form teacher (as head of that section of the school) has made plans for son to do some Maths lessons with some of the 'more able boys' in the Form above him from next year. This is subject to time-tabling working out.

That is good news for us. Having said that we are very thankful that son has calmed down so much this year. He is clearly more relaxed. He is enjoying school, making more friends, not afraid of making mistakes.

He still has his moments, especially when he cannot find any logic in what his teachers require him to do. Eg in swimming, "What's the point of making us do sculling when we can already do the backstroke?"

Then there were issues with his being bored with Fun Choir that has ceased to be fun. With the new songs and therefore new challenges he is clearly much happier.

What is mentally exhausting for us -- me, especially -- is that we have to keep going about finding answers. So one morning it was, "I don't really want to go to school today. I am bored."

A few minutes later it was, "What is life, any way?" Not "what is the meaning of life?" or "why do we exist?" but "what is life?".

At ten minutes past eight, when the school goes at 8.30am, I didn't really wish to discuss that. Somehow managed to bundle him off to school.

Having been a philosophy major I am usually happy to discuss such issues as life, rationality, morality, etc, but I find it exceedingly difficult to discuss philosophy with my eight-year-old because I can never find suitable examples and illustrations that an eight-year-old would find relevant.

Any way we did read a chapter of his Philosophy for Kids book and settled on the chapter "are number as real as human beings?". And he seemed really happy that we did that together. Perhaps after mulling over the reality of numbers he would be closer to answering his own question of "what is life?". Who knows.

The point is, he needs a parent to be there with him to explore these questions.

I reminded him that he once said I could return to work when he was seven-plus. Now that he's eight, he is still very against the idea of Mum not being there to pick him up from school.

"I won't have a chance to make professor now."

"Do you really want to be a professor?"

"Yes, I do."

He said something like, isn't having your own business better than being a professor.

Sometimes I am not sure.