Archive for the ‘disappointment’ Category

School choice

Robin

Within hours of his eleven + result, Robin had decided he wanted to go to the local High School. L & I preferred the school a little further, a bus-ride, away. We collected recommendations from parents of older children. Both schools were heavily praised, but L & I had a sense that the more distant school was closer to what we wanted for Robin.

We sat down with Robin and L made a list of advantages and disadvantages of each. He was resolute, we tried to sound open-minded. We completed the exercise and agreed to give it some more thought.

Separately, L & I came to the conclusion that we couldn’t find evidence to support our hunch; certainly not evidence that overrode a lengthy bus journey, a 30 minute earlier start to the day and difficulties collecting him from after school activities. And so, Robin will be going to the local High School next September.

Eliza

Bumble suffered a stroke and did not recover. Gabe asked if ‘the curse’ had struck again. It did feel a little like it had: three gerbils, three hamsters and two guinea pigs under Eliza’s affectionate care have perished. The pet cemetery in the front garden gets (a little) bigger.

Gabe

Gabe was shocked at Trump’s victory. ‘Why doesn’t the rest of the world refuse to trade with America?’ he wanted to know, forgetting that the UK will soon be desperate for a trading partner. He is genuinely interested in politics and well-read for his age. As he reflected on the succession of dispiriting election results in the last 18 months,¬† assured him the 1980s had been similar with defeat after defeat for the progressive, left-leaning causes and candidates.

Pass mark missed 

Robin

The postman arrived minutes before Robin and I were due to leave for his football match. L gathered the letters and took them into the study. She opened them, “He’s not passed. Shall we tell him now?” We did. He nodded, seemed to expect and accept it. 

He was quiet in the car. From across the pitch he looked preoccupied as the team warmed up. With the match underway, he had a distraction. “He seems ok,” I whispered back at home. 

But that afternoon, he sobbed and sobbed with L. Upset, embarrassed not to be following in his brother and sister’s wake to the Grammar school. 

Monday, back to school and facing his classmates, some who had achieved the pass mark, most hadn’t. He stayed close to L in the playground. Vulnerable, as he hasn’t been seen for years. Late in the afternoon, his teacher called. He had been crying at lunchtime: Gabe & Eliza said he was stupid (what he imagined or feared, rather than what was actually said, I believe). 

Within a few days, he’s steadier. We’re thinking about which school to opt for. His priorities are existing friends, ease of getting to school, the layout of the dinner hall and the look of the uniform. L & I are looking more at which school will engage and stretch him, but not discounting travel to school. We decide this week. 

Gabe & Eliza

Both are on notice to treat Robin gently; not to make off-hand remarks about the schools we must consider, which could easily sway him. They seem to be managing this. “I gave him a hug when the programme got scarey for him,” Eliza explained when I made my case to her for being kind to him. 

Chocolate party

Eliza

Eliza had agonised over how to celebrate her 12th birthday. She couldn’t figure out how to balance her new school friends with her old. The solution came with a joint party with a new school friend and a sleepover with her best friend.

The joint party, in a local church hall, featured Oliver the chocolatier teaching ten attentive girls how to make truffles and other chocolate goodies. The group sat for an hour, chatting quietly and engrossed in the activity. When it was finished they picked from a buffet eating a fraction of the quantity of pizza our kids eat (and so a fraction of the pizza bought for the occasion). After tea they arranged their own games. Both sets of parents observed, praised, offered food but had very little to do with a group of self-possessed youngsters.

Robin

Robin was in a bad mood leading up to Eliza’s party. He had wanted to watch either the City match or El Classico, but both clashed with the chocolate party. Worse was to come when I offered Gabe the chance to go to the City match with friends, without extending the offer to Robin. City were one down before we left home. Robin was unimpressed and lapsed into exaggerated Manchester footy-speak as we listened to his team go further behind in the car on the way to the party.

Gabe

Monday nights, Gabe spends an hour with a German tutor. Prevented by school from studying more than one modern language, L & I arranged private tuition (the school has agreed to enter him in the exam) to enable Gabe to work towards a GCSE in German. He seems to enjoy the 1-1 lessons in our kitchen and, each week, L supplements this by working with him on vocabulary.

 

Distinction

Eliza

Eliza’s autumn of faultless examinations continues. She achieved a distinction in her grade 2 piano. We met her music teacher outside school. She was more excited than Eliza and went through each of her marks, repeating that Eliza had scored 30/30 for her first piece.

Gabe

Gabe dropped out of county advanced cricket nets. He went to two of the first three weeks, both times needing persuasion. After a long chat, I accepted that if he wasn’t enjoying it he need not go. Gabe had disliked being so young and small in a group of 13-18 year olds and not having anyone he knew in his net. I spoke to one of the county coaches, who confirmed it was a very advanced group with several county under 18s and one on the elite pathway. He agreed it was better to quit than continue unhappily and hoped Gabe would return at some point on a future course.

Robin

Robin has played two evenings of indoor cricket matches in recent weeks. I cannot account for the sudden development in his batting. As recently as September, I was under-arming balls to him in the club nets; he would swipe, miss or edge, and end up on the ground. Gentle prompts to swing with a straight bat were not well received and so I left him to thrust and mow.

Now, though, suddenly, he is playing drives with a clean straight swing and transfer of weight to his front foot. The explanations he’s offered are that he has concentrated on batting as his bowling hasn’t been as good as before and that he’s watched cricket on TV. Neither convince me, but whatever the influence, it has worked.

Telescope

Gabe

Gabe’s astronomy class, one hour per week after normal school hours, has been boring, difficult and entirely theory. That changes next half-term, with the need to complete three observations. I ordered Gabe a telescope and together we assembled it (a lot of cajoling required). There was a problem with the eye-piece which slotted into place too securely and couldn’t be removed. I decided to unscrew the eye-piece casing, found that I couldn’t, but neither could I resecure it, leaving the telescope rattling inside with nuts I must have dislodged. Next stop: find a telescope repair service for the telescope that Gabe hasn’t even used yet.

Eliza

L headed to St Andrew’s for the half-term holiday by train with the three kids. It was the day after Eliza had been at a sleepover party at her best friend’s house. Eliza was tired and grumpy. The train on the final leg of the journey north of Edinburgh was crowded and they had to stand. “I’m not having it!” declared Eliza, who lay down on the carriage floor and shut her eyes.

Robin

Robin’s football team had a successful start to their first season of inter-club football. In the top section of the district they began with a win and a draw that they should have won. Since then, they’ve been beaten every game. Robin has taken this equably. He notices that more goals are let in when he’s off the pitch, but no longer sulks when losing or after a defeat. Within minutes of a game finishing, he and his teammates are happily larking about.

Success (and tears)

Eliza

Three letters from the three schools where Eliza had sat entrance exams arrived on the same day. One-by-one, L opened them: Pass, Pass, Pass. A clean sweep and a free choice for Eliza.

A couple of hours later a text arrived from her best friend’s Dad. E had failed by six marks. The best friends wouldn’t be going to secondary school together. Eliza went silent, cried quietly and stayed upset for the afternoon.

Robin

I was walking Robin to football when L called us with the news. Robin danced for joy and hugged Eliza when he saw her later. At school, he made her a present in art class to mark her achievement.

Walking with L a few days after Eliza’s news, Robin said he would like to go to the same school as Gabe and Eliza. L said he would have a good chance if he worked hard. Robin said he knew he could work hard, but wasn’t sure he could pass the exam.

Gabe

Gabe has become the guru of grammar school, offering advice and answering Eliza’s questions. “Do girls wear cardigans?” is my favourite. When she was at her most upset at her friend, E’s, exam result, he did the most to reassure her: “You’ll make new friends at school and still have a best friend out of school.”

Performers

Eliza

Eliza has sailed through a weekend of musical performances. On Friday, with orchestra and recorder group at a junior school music competition, where as part of the latter ensemble, she won (as the only entrant, but attaining the mark set by the judges). On Saturday, at her music teacher’s annual concert, she played violin and piano. The first didn’t go quite as she wanted, her chin rest falling off the instrument as she stood up to play. But the piano piece (I know him so well) was performed confidently on a grand piano.

Robin

Robin also performed at the junior school music competition, in the choir. In the first class, they achieved the second highest points total, only to be disqualified for singing a piece longer than allowed by the rules. The teacher had to make last minute cuts to their song for the second class, or suffer another disqualification. This upset the choir’s preparation and they weren’t at their best.

Gabe

One of the features of Gabe’s first year at Grammar School were the large, purple congratulatory postcards from the school for good results, effort or engagement. Over half-way through year two and there haven’t been any – although he continues to perform well. Then his year two duck was broken last week, with a card from his drama-dance teacher praising Gabe for his preparation several weeks ago for the piece he participated in the school play – Singing in the Rain. Gabe had not encouraged L or me to see it and when L tried to get tickets they were sold out, so we never got to see this performance. Gabe didn’t really understand why he’d been sent the postcard and was unclear what it was about his preparation for the play that was being celebrated.