Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My boy's got "sticky brains"

Driving my son and a school mate back from the sports ground (where they have "Late Games" once a week) I heard them discussing their exam results.

Rewind a little: Despite a half-term break that was not much of a break, despite having to study for his Grade IV Music Theory Exam in the middle of school exams, and despite leaving out -- again -- a whole chunk of revision required for his Geography paper, son achieved very good results. In the 90s with all the papers except English.

So he and B were chatting and comparing results and talking about how difficult Geography was and how they did not have time to finish giving the answers.

Son: I got a whole paragraph wrong, but I went back and sorted it. The last question I had no time to finish.

Friend: What did you get?

Son: Somehow I managed to get about 19 or something out of 20.

Friend: What? That's 90-something per cent.

Son: 95%. I was afraid I'd get 98 or 99 per cent. Last time I got 97 per cent and Mrs W said if I scored any higher she would have to rewrite the whole exam and make it more difficult.

Me: I think Mrs W was only joking.

Son: Yes, she was only joking.

Friend: Why are you so good?

I was thinking, O, no! This is where son would say, "That's because I am clever." Not very modest, that.

Instead I heard after some hesitation: Well, I have a sticky brain. The facts stick to it.

Whew! What a relief?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

New Term. New Headmaster

Quite a change at school, actually with a new Headmaster.

Back four weeks now. How time flies. Another two and we'll be on half-term break already.

School seems OK. Off sick two weeks ago after catching Daddy's cold.

Staying home on Wednesday (missing Fun Choir) and Thursday (missing Games) was not fun at all. I make it a point for him not to "enjoy" much when he's supposed to be unwell. Never give your child an incentive to stay home.

However the new rule at school is if your child is well enough to come to school, he should be well enough to do swimming, PE, and so on. Since son could not cope with either, not being a hundred per cent fit, he opted to stay home. Even when he knew there'd be no TV till after school time.

A bit cross that yesterday another boy asked to swop clarinet lesson time with him and son agreed out of the kindness of his heart. He forgot that he would miss French -- again -- two lessons running.

Told him he is not to swop now for frivolous reasons. Apparently this other boy was given a half-hour catch-up lesson because he was ill. Typically if a child misses the lesson because of illness, he misses it. I don't know how he managed to get his lesson back. None of my business actually.

But when it encroaches on the learning of MY son, I think it is a bit unfair. Both boys had missed lessons due to illness. But why should MY son be disadvantaged by having to miss the same school lesson twice to accommodate another child?

Just us parents being selfish, really.

Son also said piano teacher now thinks he might be able to do Grade V piano in November/December instead of March next year as planned (giving him a long break between exams).

That's on top of his Theory Grade IV in November, on the same day as a school exam. I hope the clarinet teacher is not going to spring the Grade III exam on us as well.

I find it hard to think that my nine-year-old might be attempting his Grade V. But it does not bother him one way or other. He's not pushed. Neither does he seem arrogant about it. No sign of wanting to brag about his achievement. That's a very good sign.

Last week a young friend who was elated about getting a Merit in his Grade I Trombone asked if son had taken any exams yet. Son just quietly replied he's working on his Grade III.

He said he felt it was not right to say anything (like he had a Distinction in Grade I) to take away the joy of his little friend. For a boy who's scored so lowly on "social comprehension", he is definitely improving.

Proud of him.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Cub Camp

As I write son has just been deposited at his fourth Cub Camp.

For the first time he was reluctant to go.

Turned out that he was told off at the last camp for something that he claimed he did not do -- being the loudest in his tent/room. He was tired and wanted to go to bed but the others were noisy and then a leader came and decided that he was "the loudest" and told him off.

He looked alright as he settled into his tent this evening, so I hope and pray that he would be 'smiles' when we pick him up tomorrow.

He's leaving camp early after the Saturday campfire because he wanted some time to rest before starting school on Monday.

In fact he was not going to this camp at all but the Pack Leader has asked him specifically to go as he is "an important part of the pack".

It's nice to feel wanted. Still I hope he does not get swallowed up by his negativity.

3rd October: Weeks later now. Forgot I had this post on draft. Camp was OK. He's even made friends again with the youth leader who reprimanded him. Turned out he lives on the same street and is now back at university.

Turns out too that son really thinks of him as his "role model".

Monday, August 10, 2009

Having a lovely summer

Son has been spending time at the holiday club run at his school premises. He enjoys some days more than others.

On the whole I think it is benefitting him. There's plenty for him to do and many boys and girls with whom he could play.

Meanwhile I seem to be working non-stop at one thing or another.

I could be refining embroidery patterns, photographing handkerchiefs or table napkins, putting photographs on the website, etc. One week I spent two whole days just coding in html.

I said to son sixteen hours of coding at £50 an hour would cost -- please work it out -- answer: £800. Dad said it's probably more like £30 an hour. Still that is quite a lot of money.

Anyway the point is I don't have to pay out this sum of money because I do all the coding myself. The £20 I spend on his holiday club is peanuts.

Sometimes there are sales and custom orders I need to take care of. Last week someone ordered nine lilac hankies. I only had one ready-made. So I had to wash, iron and cut fabric as well as hand-sew these hankies very quickly.

Can't sew these "quickly" as such. Each takes up to two hours to complete, depending on the light available. Sometimes it is so hot downstairs I have to work upstairs on a lap-tray!

Then I make hospital visits. A lady at church had suffered a stroke. She's a member of our fellowship group and I feel obliged to visit because she has no relatives in the area. My husband cannot visit as he is afraid of picking up a bug from the hospital.

It is fiendishly expensive to park at the hospital, so I take the bus. I don't usually stay for more than 20 minutes because it is now impossible to communicate with her though she knows exactly what I say. Trip there and back is an hour and a bit.

Sometimes I don't even stop properly for lunch, or forget to take lunch, and wonder why I am so hungry.

Today I was also trying to organize my own appointments to two different hospitals where I have to undergo testing. They now give you a date and time and you simply have to accept it. They wouldn't change anything.

I said it is difficult for me to organize childminding. Sorry, but you have to be seen within six weeks. If we miss the target we'll be in trouble.

That's right: their target is more important than the welfare of the patient.

That just about sums up NHS (Not the Health Service).

Just having a rant.

And son is looking really handsome with his hair allowed to grow longer instead of his usual four-by-two (or is it two by four?).

Saturday, August 01, 2009

My 9-11 boy

That's "nine-to-eleven".

I have this hypothesis -- after having spent many hours interacting with boys at son's school as PTA member/secretary/chairperson -- that boys undergo a 'silly stage' at ages about nine to eleven.

And then as they edge towards 12 and 13 they suddenly learn responsibility, it seems, and become very sensible, thoughtful, and for most at his school, polite.

This is why I think it is better to transfer boys to senior/secondary schools at 13 rather than 11. The extra two years, as the teachers in his school tell me, make such a difference.

When son tells us the jokes that his History teacher tells, for example, and how the boys laugh, I said, "Yes, he's a 9-11 boy."

He laughs at the most silly things, banal jokes and is repetitive to the point of tedium at times. But what is familiar is also comforting. He seems a bundle of contradictions.

Sometimes he loses sleep over the credit crunch and was once found in tears before bed worrying about the world economy, war, etc. Yet he still enjoys Spongebob Squarepants. Right now he's watching -- again -- Indiana Jones, chuckling over the funnies, commentating on the action, and hiding behind cushions when it gets gory.

Then he goes mad over a helium balloon. When we were on holiday he pestered his dad to buy him his first beach ball. (We didn't notice that he's never been given a beach ball as he had all kinds of floats and stuff for use prior to this. A beach ball was what he really, really wanted.)

Thankfully he is still very, very sensible despite being 9-11. He's learning to be very helpful especially after dinner when he helps to clear the dining table. He looks after himself more and more and I am really pleased. I do not wish to mollycoddle him.

He also has this 9-year-old tendency to burp loudly.

Is there anything physiological in this? Someone please tell me.

I remember my nephew who at about eight and nine also used to burp rather frequently and loudly. His visits to us were memorable by the number of times he went, "Pardon me."

Ah, but at least he was polite enough to say that.

My son? He's usually OK, but sometimes he is so comfortable with us his parents he does not remember his manners. Reminding him to form a good H-A-B-IT is another important task.

I don't think parents can ignore the relationship between the physiological and the emotional.

I remember that face when he first sat up (propped up, actually) at four months. Suddenly it seemed he could see so much further and so much more. Life is a bit more than the lights on the ceiling and the stuff that hang from the cot, etc.

As he matures physically, as he is able to handle more practical tasks, he also needs to mature emotionally and learn to use those practical abilities.

I mean what use is a nine-year-old who could handle a sharp knife if mum does all the cooking for him?

After dinner tonight husband said "He is growing up" and it makes him feel old.

I said we must learn to live with it. I anticipate missing him a lot when he goes to boarding school (should he decide to go to boarding school), but that's what I need to get used to. Eventually he would have to leave home.

There comes a time when every parent has to let go. And as I say to my Christian friends we have to "let go and let God".

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer holiday over

Today we came back from centerparcs. It's the end of our family summer holiday. Feels strange as the state schools around us are only starting their holiday today.

Holiday started off with my putting my back out. Got down early. Took the washing out and hung it up and might have packed a few things away. Went back upstairs for my shower and found that I could not stand up straight.

The pain was so bad that I had to take painkillers. Thankfully the journey there was comfortable enough. Son was very good.

Got there and had to collect our bikes. Would I be able to cycle?

Answer: yes. It was OK so long as I kept bent over. I was still in too much pain to stand up straight.

We lazed the rest of the day away.

Day Two: I put my feet gingerly on the floor. Would I feel pain if I stood up?

I was able to stand up straight!!! What joy!

There was still some pain, but it was bearable. I didn't need to walk around hunched over.

But I decided not to do the ten-pin bowling as planned. Husband however remained competitive. Son was devastated by his poor performance. (He refused to use the gutter guards and had many gutter balls.)

Son suffers from an attitude problem. Came to a point where husband was so fed up he was ready to walk out. Somehow we (the boys) managed to keep going.

Son persevered grudgingly. When he was good (or 'lucky'?) he scored the most amazing points, but most of the time he decided to hurl the ball into the gutter.

I could 'talk' but could not do much. When husband tired out I played a few of his frames and did OK. I had to show son that despite my temporary disability that it's not simply brute force (think husband/dad) that matters.

That was perhaps the worst bit of the break. Thankfully he became more positive after this. We swam, played bowls (only husband had done this before), table tennis, etc. and had a great time.

We enjoyed the food -- no cooking for me, yay! -- and were blessed by good weather.

Aches and pains we had many but in the end I could celebrate at least that son had gained so much confidence in his biking skills. He moved from a trailer ("Faster! Daddy, faster!) to a tricycle which he rammed into the bike ranks, to a bike with stabilizers, and now a real 20" bicycle.

He was also incredily confident in the water and enjoyed the 'waves' and the big slides. And the amount of food he ate. ... scary!

Seven more weeks of son at home before school starts. Just as well he's booked into holiday club for some of this time!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Last Day of School

Went for the Leavers Service. This is the school chapel service dedicated to the Form VI boys leaving for senior school. It is quite an emotional time for the parents whose sons have been at the school for some time.

I like going to the service to pray for the boys, some of whom I know better than others. They each go up for a special blessing from the School Chaplain whatever faith (or none) that they may or may not have. I saw proud parents taking photos of this moment.

So pleased that in such an overtly Christian school they have managed to integrate pupils from such diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.

Then we moved swiftly from the Chapel to the Hall for the final Headmaster's Assembly. As the Headmaster was leaving this was his final final assembly.

More certificates were given out. Son was given his Excellent Work in Drama Certificate and Good Work badge. He later showed me his certificate for Class Champion in Chess given out earlier in the morning and the Headmaster finally returned his Chief Scout's Silver Award to him then as well.

"Goodbyes" were said to boys leaving, migrating and going on long holidays.

Another school year had flown by so quickly. In a few weeks' time son would start at the top form of his 'Middle School' and having to get used to putting stuff in lockers and organizing his day, taking exams in the main hall, taking on more responsibilities, etc. etc.

It's great to see these young people growing up.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Speech/less Day

Lazy morning. Hot.

Managed to all pile into the car at 1.21pm as planned. Found a convenient parking space. Yoohoo!

Proceedings bearable.

Then as we headed out of the church son came running back in. He had lost one of his Prize envelopes (with store voucher inside).

A couple of minutes later we saw him again. He had two envelopes in his hand.

Then as we got to the door, he was seen running in again. He had forgotten his water bottle.

I waited while the rest got to the car to get it started up, etc. Son came out, couldn't find water bottle. Maybe he didn't take it out of the car at all.

And just as I was about to say "Let's get to the car."

"O! I've lost one envelope again."


So I waited as he went in to try to retrieve his 'Instrumental Music Award' which only minutes before I had seen in his hand.

Back he came, couldn't find it.

I don't remember what I said but it obviously upset him. It's one of those "whatever I say will be wrong" moments. So I stopped trying.

When we got home he refused to return to school for the reception.

"What if someone has found your stuff and is waiting to hand it back to you?"

He came reluctantly and only some time later lightened up enough to have something to eat. Then he realized that there was some really good grub about and ate some more.

I don't know. This kid drives me mad sometimes. What was supposed to be a happy occasion he had to make into something not-so-happy with his strop. It was not as if anyone had chided him for losing a water bottle, or his award.

Favourite song at the moment, Africa by Toto after we heard and saw this, courtesy of Ginney at Straits Times Press. It's really quite amazing. These are Slovenians, but their English is so good. Definitely better than my Slovenian.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Speech Day Tomorrow/Victor Cup

Nanny's arrived (with her partner) for the event.

Weather's been so hot the boys have been told to be in 'shirt-sleeve order'. No blazers, no ties, no caps.

Yesterday son took part in the Victor Cup. This is the premium open swimming event at school. Boys swim two lengths each of backstroke, breast-stroke, butterfly and front crawl. They are not separated into age groups. Last year the event was won by a 10/11-year-old.

Son is not the strongest swimmer. In fact no matter how hard he seems to be trying his performance is not rated at anything above C (which is average).

Pick-up time he told me he came in third in his group (Form II). But there were only three boys in the race.

I was really chuffed by his attitude.

I was actually most surprised by the fact that only two boys (the third was from a lower Form who could not swim with that Form because of a nosebleed, but who actually beat the two Form II boys) in his Form took part.

One boy is superior to the others in swimming (his mum teaches swimming as well) and swam with Form III. No surprise there. He won his round.

But there are other boys in Form II who are very good in Sport. Why did they not take part?

Son entered the competition knowing he did not stand a tiny chance of winning, but he took the plunge (pun intended) and went for it.

It made up for his disappointment for not being able to take part in the Swimming Gala last week due to his burn wound.

I reminded him of how proud I am of him.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sports Day, Chess, Swimming Gala

Sports Day on Tuesday went really well. Weather was perfect: dry, warm, but not too hot with a gentle breeze.

Son did well again coming in third in the 50m House heats. So last year's third place was not a fluke. It was great to see the determination on his face when he ran. The first four get to do the Inter-House relay.

Sadly there were fumbles on baton changes and their team only came in second in the Inter-House relay. They could have been first by a mile. Even then I was proud that he did not give up when the baton first dropped at his changeover.

200m final saw him running with the best runners in his Form. He was doing so well and I thought he would get a bronze, but no, he was pipped at the post. Still he beat two of the best athletes in his Form. Unbelievable.

Tennis throw wasn't very good, I was told. His long jump was very credible, and showed good technique with the plastic javelin (which is rubbish). The highlight for me was the 'parents' javelin' as a few of us sweet-talked the teacher into letting us have a go. I think I won that one!

Back at school son's been playing Inter-House Chess competition. He won in his class today, beating his best friend. He now goes on to play the other class champion in his Form. It's quite tedious.

I've been stressed out by the swimming gala. Not because son is taking part or not want to take part. He managed to walk into an iron I had left to cool off on Sunday. The wound seemed to be healing and then yesterday appeared weepy again.

Son wants so much to play his part in the swimming gala, but we're not too sure if he should go into the water.

Managed to see a nurse late this evening. We were given some waterproof dressing and Mum (ie. me) would dress the wound and keep the dressing in place with a bandage tomorrow.

Let's hope he gets the chance to swim.

This article about competition in school is very interesting and apposite: Ed Balls, you can't win by banning competition

Meanwhile his current song is "O, What a Circus!" from Evita. He's heard it so many times being done by Cantabile. This week we got the lyrics off the Net and he just won't stop with the "Salve, salve, regina" part.

My consolation is: the top athletes in his Form have a long way to go to catch up with him in the academic subjects. So to see him at the heels of these athletes on Sports Day has made me feel very Small (as in Heather Small), ie. proud.

He now has a habit of just coming in fourth. If only he could just medal. That would be the icing on the cake for him.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chief Scout' Silver Award

Woohoo! He's got it! We've been told he has completed this and will be given this, the highest award available in the Cub Scout section, at the AGM last Friday.

Unfortunately he had a school trip which meant very long days on Thursday, overnight at the Shrine of Walsingham, pilgrim procession which meant bed after 10pm and a 5am start on Friday because a roommate was snoring very loudly, etc. etc. Coupled with the mix-up over when we should be picking him up, he was physically and mentally exhausted and decided to not attend that meeting.

Actually he was distraught, but I think this had much to do with his physical exhaustion.

He'd be presented with his badge soon, I'm sure.

Monday, June 08, 2009

"A" Team, at last

Son was very excited when I picked him up last Friday. He had been picked to run in the 'A' team for Sports Day. They had done qualifying runs some times back and his time was good enough to go into the 'A's'.

In everything else -- football, rugby, hockey, cricket -- he's been in the C's or B's. So this is great encouragement to him.

I've never thought of him as a runner as such. Having said that he surprised everyone by coming in third in his qualifying race on Sports Day last year. But there is great competition amongst the boys. All the best to him.

On Wednesday last week husband and I met with his Form teacher. There was very little she could tell us. Everything was good with him, it seemed.

He appears to have lots of friends. His writing is flowing. His vocabulary and grasp of the English language is good. He shows great maturity of thought, for example, when it came to writing about the one object he would take with him if he were going to the Arctic. A warm hat was his choice whilst his classmates were bringing their PS1 and PS2's.


His Form teacher is new to the school. When we noted that son refused to write two years ago because he thought his handwriting was not good enough, she was surprised. No one seemed to have briefed her on that.

Well, we noticed that with the new teachers at school, son does not come with any 'baggage'.

Which explains why the new Drama teacher gave him the starring part in the class play earlier this year. A far cry from being given four lines when he asked for a 'main part' previously.

To be fair he is not a 'natural' actor. Just as he is not a 'natural' footballer. But he is extremely capable in learning lines, and when he's given good acting directions, would follow it to the letter. Suits some types of directors more than others, I guess.

Still, he confessed to shedding a few tears on Friday when he was being very quiet after swimming. We are used to him "getting into the zone".

There are times when he would 'blank' and seems in a world of his own. It happens before he performs on the piano. It happens when he has a serious thought or when he tries to work out some complicated connection. It happens any where, sometimes at dinner table.

His classmates noticed he was very quiet. But boys being boys they could not leave him alone. Someone said to another, "LT is crying."

He was not, but when others started echoing that same comment, he did indeed cry.

He has to learn that he could tell this people: sometimes people wish to be quiet and think about something rather serious.

Ah, well.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Just eat!

Fridays are difficult days to cook for. Typically I cook two meals for the evening. One for son before he gets to Cubs, and another meal for when husband gets back and we eat together.

Today, being half-term and no cubs, it was just a fried rice with some fresh prawns (from our local fishmonger), using up food left over from previous meals. Dessert was all the fruit left in the fridge topped with a crumble, with some broken digestive biscuits thrown in.

As we served up dessert, son went on about "whether custard is a colloid".

O! Just eat!

PS: Custard IS a colloid.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An interesting day

Yesterday son had a play date with a female friend from church.

She's only six years old, very intelligent, and the two seemed to get on really well.

Her family are just back from from East Asia after several years teaching out there. We had lunch with them some months ago and we noticed these two highly intelligent children got on very well.

We had been clearing/sorting son's Lego. You wouldn't think any one child could have so much Lego. Anyway, instead of chocolates we decided that son would give her a bag of Lego bricks.

He packed a reasonable number of pieces, with all sorts of shapes of bricks, with mini-figures and all. Very generous of him, really.

Young lady friend was delighted. Her parents had packed her Lego away and couldn't find them after the house move! She noted too that she only had basic pieces and son gave her a very good selection of different types.

Today I asked him if he felt a bit lonely being an only child. A bit, he said.

Would he like to 'adopt' this little girl as her 'sister'.

"I don't think she's up for adopting," he said.

You have to laugh. I said, "You know, we could do things together with her. Go visit places, etc."

I think his response was "maybe".

PS: Also learned from young lady's mum that it is not 'politically correct' to say that my son is classified as 'SEN'. In an ordinary school he would be on the 'G&T' register. But since the school does not have a 'G&T' list, he is 'SEN' and the school has bent over backwards to help him.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Must participate more!

Report cards came back.

Son shows consistently good results but most of the teachers indicate that he does not put in his best effort and all say that he could participate more in class.

So I mentioned that at one meal time. His response?

He does participate, but it gets a bit embarrassing to be giving all the right answers. He does not wish to show his friends up.

Dad says, you let the teachers worry about that.

For a young man for whom tests have shown that he lacks social comprehension, his sensitivity towards his classmates is to be lauded, I think.

The teacher has indicated that he gets on with everyone in class and is well respected. How long would this continue if he does, as the teachers expect, to put his hand up to give all the correct answers, or even incorrect ones?

The plan now is at least for half a term he participates as much as possible, regardless of what his mates might think of him.

He's also getting a bit tired of being made to play the piano at school music classes, he says. "It would be nice if I could play the glockenspiel (spelling?). "But because he is the most proficient pianist he gets the job of doing that. Never mind.

He is revelling in how everyone wants to be on his team when it comes to anything to do with music.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blogger trouble

Believe it or not! My Organic-Ally blog has been flagged as a SPAM blog.

Very funny.

Got a message from the Google folks and I thought: how do I know THEIR email was genuine. Ha!

Any way, since this blog is about my son I thought I should repeat what I had posted there (tried to, any way) over here as well.


It's good to talk ... listen

On Tuesday I heard a BBC programme in the afternoon (hands on the sewing machine, ears to the radio, that's multi-tasking?) which made me feel completely vindicated about not letting my son watch TV for the first two years of his life.

Well, not all TV, but children's TV. He was allowed to watch sport and news.

The psychologist (Arik Sigmund) on the programme confirmed my hunch that children's TV is bad for the developing baby/toddler brain.

According to scientific studies children who watched 'educational DVDs' were not any better in their comprehension and vocabulary when compared to those who watched The Simpsons and Oprah Winfrey. The only group with superior ability were "those who watched none of those but simply incidentally hear background conversation of their parents with others".

He concluded that listening which forces us to 'paint pictures in our mind' is better at fostering cognitive development. Well, there!

I remember feeding my baby with the radio tuned to BBC Radio 4. It often took an hour to nurse him at each feed. When he was a little older we 'invested' in CDs which told stories. There was even one which adapted Shakespeare themes.

Growing up in a rather poor family where we could not afford the TV -- my father justified it by saying it did us no good, and he was right -- our entertainment was of listening and reading.

There was Rediffusion ( a wired service, cheap to subscribe to) which gave us programmes in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, including BBC programmes. In the evenings we sat down to do homework, listened to drama on Rediffusion (usually a detective, a soppy soap, or a ghostly tale) and when that was done, Mum would play some of her Cantonese opera on tape (she had recorded this off the Rediffusion).

She sang along with the opera, and we learned to do much the same!

Only when I was sixteen when a grown-up cousin decided that he had had enough of his old black and white TV and passed it on to us was I able to watch myself on TV. Yes, I used to appear on TV as part of the school band at 'Central Judging', Youth Festival, or even in special recordings with the Singapore Schools Orchestra (where I played the trombone) but always needed to go to a neighbour's house to do that.

I don't think living without TV did me any harm. Indeed it forced me to 'paint pictures in my mind' and I was determined that my son would share the same privilege.

Coincidentally when I met him at school later that day son showed me his exam results and I had another pleasant surprise. He sat exams in English, Maths, Science, History, Geography, Religious Studies and attained 90-something percent in all, with 100% in English Comprehension.

Last night we worked out his average as 96% compared to a class average of 69%. Vindicated once again.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mr Hot Cross Buns

It's been a lovely weekend. I am tired and should be asleep, but I feel I must plod on.

Son's had a whole week of exams (in the mornings) and busy in the afternoon with his usual activities. He also had 8.30am music lessons on Wednesday and Thursday for otherwise his teachers could not fit in his clarinet and piano lessons.

Friday he tells us that he had been asked to replace one of the senior boys to perform on the piano on Saturday for prospective parents at the school open day. Cool.

He was up right early Saturday morning because he best mate was expected before they both had to go to school to perform with the Fun Choir.

The purpose for their performance was to showcase what the boys get up to so that prospective parents would go "wow" and send their children to us.

After the Headmaster's (long) speech in which he referred to saving the best for last, the school's best pianist (Form 5 boy) was called to perform. We reckon he was playing a piece from his Grade 6 syllabus.

Then son got up to announce he was going to play "Hot Cross Buns". There were audible sniggers and I thought, "O no! How dare they laugh? This would put him off."

He played his Hot Cross Buns, a swing version with intricate chords and rhythm, flawlessly, much to my relief. After that several parents remarked how impressed they were. After all, he's only nine (in Form 2) three years younger than the best pianist and four years younger than the senior boy he stood in for.

He told us later that when he heard the audience laugh he nearly said, "but not as you know it", and thought he must play it so well that no one would laugh after that.

A bit of Susan Boyle there.

Boy done good, and we are, as usual, immensely proud of him.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Merit in Piano

Ah, no! He proved me wrong. Last Friday he told me at pick-up, "I've got 124 in Piano exam."

And I let off the loudest scream I've screamed for a long time. (Actually I don't usually scream at all, it's true, I'm a rather repressed person!)

Why? On the morning of the exam he could not play his scales properly. He was going, "I don't want to do the exam."

We're now looking forward to his Piano concert at school in a couple of weeks' time.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Distinction in Music Theory

Head of Music phoned us this afternoon to say son had attained 97% in his Grade Three Music Theory exam which is a Distinction.


Just the Piano result to go now, which I suspect is going to be a Pass.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Merit in Clarinet

End-of-term assembly yesterday and he was awarded his Band badge as well as being presented with his Grade 2 Clarinet Certificate (ABRSM) with Merit. On the whole the boys had done very well with two boys gaining distinctions (one in Grade 1 Oboe and one in Grade 5 Trumpet).

Have I mentioned that he was fantastic Mr Fox in the school production? I had lots of mums come up to me to say how wonderful they thought he was. I was embarrassed because I didn't know all their names. Most of the parents know me/us from when I was chair of the PTA.

Grade cards also came home and it was A1 and A2 in all academic subjects with Bs in Games and PE and C in Swimming. BUT, big BUT, no '3' in Effort.

Boy done good, we thought. We are not concerned with the 2's in some subjects (like Maths) which indicates that he does not actually put much of an effort in it. This next term's grades will be based on exams, I think. There is revision to do this term break.

Can't wait!!!

As if.

Friday, April 03, 2009


Cross Country was run on Wednesday and son's new improved time is 4 minutes 24 seconds. Eighth in his Form. (His time was 5:55 last year but we're not sure if the distance was exactly the same.)

His House came in first overall. Well done!

This was what I wrote for the school bulletin whether it gets published or not:

Cogito ergo sum run (I think, therefore I run)

There’s no [bulletin] for the last week of the Lent Term, but I feel I have to write this, even if it only goes to print in the Trinity Term.

With a few other parents I was at the Cross Country. Overheard:

Mother 1: J was not keen on his breakfast this morning.

Mother 2: Our lot (6+) cannot do the distance.

Me: O yes! They’ll be alright.

They were ALL alright. I believe everyone who started finished, and that is very good.

The small group of parents were cheering every boy on, whether or not we knew their names. By the end of the session we had very painful palms and quite sore throats.

What was heartening was to see the young men stay the course. Not all are Haile Gebrselassie-shaped. Running for a bus/train might be a struggle, let alone the distances some of these young men were doing.

Several stopped after a lap or two and thought they could get away with it, but Mr B coaxed them on and somehow from somewhere deep inside them, they found the reserve to cross the finish line, running.

I think distance-running builds character. Training for such distances requires great discipline and is a lonely business (I know this only too well). Quite often it is a question of mind over matter (ie legs of stone). It gives one time to think, and one must think to finish. When so much of modern life is ‘instant everything’, staying the course when the going gets tough is a lesson that distance-running helps us to learn.

I was less interested to see who finished in medal positions as to observe how those who are not quite 2012 material (or 2016, 2020, etc) completed the course, many in some degree of pain. To these young men: you have done it once, you can do it again. Remember what a certain quiz-master used to say, “I’ve started so I’ll finish.”

One word of advice to the more competitive runners: Pace.

Many thanks to Mr B and other staff for organizing this event. Perhaps we could have a few more parents to join the cheer team next year???

P.S. How does one say ‘run’ in Latin?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Exam stress

Has it really been more than a month since I posted?

Last week was chock-a-block.

Monday morning I helped to take son's Form (two classes with total of 26 boys) to the Barbican on the Tube. They were to attend a special concert by the LSO introduced by Gareth Malone (recently on TV about boys who won't sing).

They were one adult short and as I had volunteered to help before (being CRB checked and all that) was called upon to do my turn. Enjoyed the experience though I found the sergeant-major emerging in me.

The boys were given partners for the day. The teachers forgot what I think is another important rule or two:

  1. do not talk with a person walking behind you, and
  2. always stay not more than two paces behind persons in front of you.
I was bringing up the tail and found myself saying/shouting, many times, "Boys! Eyes front. Keep up!"

Somehow in the middle of the line you would get one or two who kept turning to the person behind (maybe they didn't like the partner they were allotted) to talk. They start lagging one step, then two, then three behind. Soon there will be a great break in the line and a teacher shouts for them. They run to keep up. So must I, in my heels.


On the whole the boys were a good bunch and I enjoyed the time with them even though it was a bit noisy. Why is it that nine-year-olds cannot wait their turn to speak? Why do they all have to ask questions and make statements together?

Tuesday, late pick-up because son was at drama rehearsal. He was not pleased that his class didn't get to do much as the other class took such a long time to read their lines.

There was to be a String Concert at school. Son planned to go to support his friend performing for the first time. But he realized that he was too tired and there was too much homework. We stayed home. The rain thrashed down.

Wednesday was Fun Choir. He survived that and enjoyed the chocolates given out after the event. (He hates it when they get given those haribo sweets instead.) He also managed to fall badly at play time and sustained cuts on both palms and bruises elsewhere.

After bath we slopped/slapped on the savlon and magnesium. He had been cleaned up a bit at school but there was clearly still lots of dirt left. We call magnesium 'happy cream'. To keep the bedding clean we decided to bandage his hands.

Thursday was fraught.

8.30am piano lesson. We had been trying to get a swop because of his long day but it was impossible. Apparently this then got cancelled as he didn't manage his arpeggios with his hands in bandage.

3.00pm I had my turn at the Uniform Shop. Supposed to finish at 4pm. 4.04pm when I was 'cashing up', some parent wanted something for his son. Straight-forward transaction, I thought. But he made such a fuss over paying, etc, etc. It wasn't 4.15pm before I managed to get stuff back to the School Office.

Looked in at Late Class to see whether my son needed help with his revision as he sits Music Theory exam at 4.30pm. The Late Class teacher didn't know where he was. A classmate said Mr E mentioned "exam".

OK. Nobody seemed to know where he was. But as I had seen Mr E's car by the shop I suspected that he was not at games that afternoon and decided to start son's exam earlier.

I trudged home. 4.25pm. Put the kettle on to make myself a cup of tea. Removed my coat. Phone rang.

Son on the line saying he had finished his music theory exam, could I come fetch him?

Back to the school. No sign of him. Found him upstairs in Mr E's classroom grinning from ear to ear. Exam regulation was he could not leave till 35 minutes after the start of the exam. OK, time up, he could go as Mr E started him at 4pm.

Either my son is a genius who answered all his questions correctly and quickly or he has done very poorly. Who knows?

Poor chap still had a whole lot of homework to complete.

Friday morning. I had written a note to Mr E to explain why he had not completed his homework. But son decided to complete his h/w after breakfast. And did.

Only Toddlers group for me to look after this morning and Cubs for him in the evening. And the optometrist and music shop to buy more clarinet reeds.

Finished school at 3.45pm. Yay!!

What a week!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Snowed under

By and large, son has been happy. However he was most upset after he returned from a school trip at the beginning of term. Something, someone, or both, had upset him. Something was building up and somehow it had to be vented. Mum copped it. As always.

There were moans about Maths: too slow in his normal class and too fast in his special class. He was so unhappy that a note to the school was required. Then all of a sudden, he was as happy as could be again.

But I do worry about the Maths. It's part of the National Curriculum Nurmeracy strategy that these children now learn about a dozen ways of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. Last week he came home with the question, "How do you divide 72 by 6 by splitting 72?"

In our time we would instantly know 72 divded by 6 is 12. Which son knows, too, of course. The exercise however was to 'split' 72 into two numbers to make it 'easier' to divide.

Thus '35 divide by 5' can be worked as '30+5 divided by 5'. 30 divided by 5 is 6. The remaining 5 divided by 5 is 1. Add 6 + 1, you get 7. So 35 divided by 5 gives you 7.


Any way, so how does one split 72 to divide into 6? He decided it would be 70/6= 11 and 4/6 (2/3). Then remainder of 2/6 = 2/6 (1/3). Total: 12. Clearly anyone who could manage the 1/3 and 2/3 do not need to split the 72 in the first place.

Then Mum had a brainwave while trying to get to sleep. Maybe they wanted the boys to split 72 into 60 + 12. Thus 60/6=10 and 12/6=2. Total: 12.

No wonder he was bored and frustrated in class. Last Thursday he had his special Maths class (which he does with the stronger 'mathematicians' from his class and the class one year up). "Guess what?" (He was all smiles.) "We started on algebra!"


He's been asking to start on algebra for a long time but got confused every time I tried to start him off. Today he knew instantly when I said if son is x years old and he was born when Mum was 39, then Mum's age (y) will always be x+39. Sorted!

There was the snow from last week. Lots of lessons learned in the snow.

Physics: why do we need to press the snow down to make a snowball? What does the snowball make a sound when you roll it?

Maths/Physics: how does the size of the snowball vary with the distance it can be thrown (and the force needed to throw it)? What is the optimum size for a snowball if it is to be thrown?

Philosophy: "You call this work? I call this fun!" OK, so "why do prisons NOT work?". Prisoners have too much fun.

Cognitive anthropology: "This is powder snow." "This is wet snow." Why do you think Eskimos have different terms for different kinds of snow? (Why does London Underground only have the "wrong kind of snow"???)

PE: Hitting snowballs with rackets. Watching them disintegrate, or not. Rolling on the snow. Fun.

The afternoon was spent doing 'Business Studies' ... playing Monopoly with Dad who spent many hours on the Tube and had to turn back because the trains were not going any where near his place of work.

Music exams: too much. He has been entered for Clarinet Grade 2, Music Theory Grade 3, Piano Grade 4.

I am furious about the Piano as I'm now told that if he does not do it in March, the syllabus changes and he would have to learn three new pieces. I had told the teacher not to start him on exams till he has had a term of rest playing fun music. He insisted on starting him on the old syllabus. Why?

Thankfully son is game to do Grade 4. Dad has now given him a new incentive.

We started him on theory, thinking that it would help him enjoy his music a bit more. To an extent this is true, but the exercises are tedious. Again I was not keen for him to do exams. Again the teacher said he could do it.

On top of this, son has been given the part of 'Mr Fox' (Fantastic Mr Fox, Roald Dahl) in their class drama. He has lots of lines to learn.

But of course he comes up with something like, "I like the pressure." O, well, we'll see.