Archive for the ‘fears’ Category

Mock exams

Gabe 

Gabe has finished the first week of mock GCSEs. His preparation featured some focused revision sessions, but they were neither as frequent or enduring as I would have wanted. Christmas in Scotland was a blank and he didn’t return rapidly to his books on getting home. But he does seem to have done some meaningful work targeting specific activities – like learning quotations from set tests. Testing him on his notes, his capacity to absorb, retain and reproduce information impresses. He also has a strong grasp of everything we have looked at together. 

He reports satisfaction with how the eight exams sat so far have gone, pleased that he’s completed all tasks and used all the time available. He has shown no nerves, but has taken the initiative to get to bed early and asked to be woken earlier than normal. He has also enjoyed the freedom to come home immediately his day’s exams are finished.  

Robin

Robin’s closest friend, A, has found a passion greater than football: skateboarding. Gradually Robin has been lured towards it, too. Initially, in A’s garden and then taken to the centre where A practises. Robin, in borrowed gear, started off in a beginners group, separated from A (although with some other boys he knows). After just three lessons, Robin feels that passage to that higher group is within reach. 

He finds skateboarding thrilling, describing to me (as I’ve not yet seen him in action) the tricks and manoeuvres, lapsing into skateboard slang, which leaves me guessing. With A and he headed to different schools in September, and A’s commitment to the football team wavering, it may become their shared passion that keeps the friendship running. 

Eliza

Eliza has declared a commitment to environmental issues. Why, she wonders, won’t people cut down on environmentally damaging activity? I score well with her for changing our energy supplier to a renewable-only provider. School – geography, I think – has planted these ideas. She’s also considering vegetarianism, but acknowledges there are meats she likes to eat. She thinks she may want a career doing something promoting the environment – “if it’s not too late by then” she worries. 

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. 

Sights of Tuscany

The children might have settled for two whole weeks at the villa, but L & I led us away every second or third day to a Tuscan sight.

In Pisa and Florence we scaled tall buildings: the leaning tower and the domo. Robin was enthralled by the climbs and the sense of height. Eliza was anxious and needed a hand to be held (almost as much as I did) as we walked around the summit of both climbs. Gabe made it to the top of the Leaning Tower, briefly, but pulled out of the ascent of the domo before the section that took you up stairs cut into the arc of the lower level of the dome.

The children were more reluctant to appreciate the architecture from street-level – apart from in Pisa where the tower offered photographic opportunities. We managed an hour and a half in the Uffizi: Eliza most focused on the art; Gabe on historical and cultural facts; Robin under intense strain.

More popular was a day at a crowded water park. As a threesome, they queued for trips down slides, not demanding L or I participate.

But every trip out was tolerated knowing that it would bring a reward in the form of ice cream, coke and pizza.

Servitude

Eliza

Frequently, Eliza will make her way from the kitchen to the dining table, sit down and then ask, “Can you get me some water?” Less often, she’ll climb the stairs to her bedroom, get into bed and ask, “Can you get my book from the living room?” This doesn’t feel like absentmindedness but a preference for having other people (L and I) do things for her. She likes to be waited upon; she gives the impression it is her entitlement. I try to give the impression that she’d be lucky; although that doesn’t deter her trying.

Gabe

Gabe is a little more self-sufficient than Eliza, except when it comes to getting around. Such is his antipathy towards walking anywhere that he asked to be woken early on Saturday morning so that I could give him a lift to the barbers on the way to Robin’s football match. I pulled the car up around the corner from his destination. “Can’t you park closer?” he asked. Then this morning, he was forced to walk to his own football match as L and I were elsewhere. “That’s not fair,” he declared, reduced to making the kind of complaint that was commonly heard from him 8 years ago by the injustice of having to make a short journey under his own steam.

Robin

Robin sent L and me to Coventry after school this week. We had erred, he believed, and he was furious, nearly in tears, but settling for a deep sulk and no communication. L sent me a text asking if I had paid the deposit for his school residential trip. ‘Can’t remember’, I answered honestly. It seemed that the rest of the class had received paperwork about the trip, but not Robin. I was sent to the school office the next morning to find out if the situation was recoverable, confident in the knowledge that the school had cashed a cheque that I had written.

In seconds the predicament was resolved: the paperwork was a receipt card for the payment and there was an innocent explanation for Robin not receiving his. “You must have been worrying all night,” the school secretary said to Robin, who nodded gravely.

Big school

Eliza

Eliza has started at secondary school. She has settled quickly, showing no particular anxiety, other than one: getting lost. She walks to school with Gabe, less for safety and company, than just to make sure she knew the way in her early weeks. She was concerned about finding her way around the school with its oddment of buildings and long corridors. Gabe says he has seen her looking lost, studying the map given to new girls and boys. He has even helped her find the classroom she sought. 

On a day L was working late, Eliza gladly accepted the task of meeting Robin out of school. “Ok” we said, “describe your route from your new school to your old school.”

“Well, to start with, I’d turn right.”

“No! It’s the other way!”

Gabe

Gabe has started his GCSE courses and with that has come a novelty: homework. This staple of schools is referred to at the grammar school as ‘extension studies’, as it doesn’t have to be done at home. And Gabe has always taken advantage of this, finishing extension studies in class or in breaks so his home time remains free of schoolwork. But something has changed this year and now we see him regularly at the computer with his books out. 

Robin

Robin has chosen to move from packed lunch to school dinners. From the security of ham sandwich nearly every school day for three or four years, he has put himself at the mercy of the lunch menu. So far, two days into this trial, he has eaten a baked potato with cheese and chicken in a sauce. They sound like modest choices but actually represent dramatic broadening of his dietary palette. 

Eagles fly

Gabe

Gabe flew this afternoon to Utrecht with his football team. 13 boys and four adults, none from his family. This short flight has been the cause of enormous anxiety for Gabe for weeks. The lost Malaysian airliner, being sick while flying have spiralled around countless conversations. It was almost a relief when the club ordered him a track suit for the trip that is far too large, as it introduced something else for him to obsess about. We don’t know if he kept himself together on the plane, but there’s been nothing on the Facebook page for the tour that would suggest otherwise. We will know in six days and one more flight’s time.

Robin

His older brother’s Friday night cricket commitments created a vacant slot for a piano lesson. Robin snatched it up eagerly. He’s had one lesson, where he explained he learnt to play ‘pieces’, and left as enthusiastic as he had arrived.

Eliza

The results of Eliza’s mock eleven plus are in. Her aggregate score was in the top quartile of the 300+ participants. Her English mark was the top score achieved on that particular test. Non-verbal reasoning appears to be the discipline at which she needs most practice before the real thing in September.

Activity holiday

Our Easter holiday featured over a dozen activities in four days at the PGL Adventure Holiday site in Shropshire, topped off with my annual birthday walk. What Eliza and Robin approached with relish and gusto, Gabe faced with hesitancy and clearly declared fear.

The most startling of the activities, the Big Swing, took place on day 2. Gabe opted out and was making similar noises about other activities. This was where the young, upbeat instructors stepped in, reassuring, coaxing him to participate. In the case of the wall-climb, they rebuffed his request to come down from half-way up the wall and convinced him, in a way I could not have done, to carry on climbing. He showed his determined side by crouching in the woods trying to light cotton wool with a spark long after anyone else would have conceded. And he managed it.

Eliza thrived – her balance and physical confidence unimpaired by the apparent (though not real) peril of the activities. She went furthest of the whole group in the kayak challenge – moving from sitting, to lying to standing to walking along the kayak.

Robin matched her, when away from the water. The swings, climbs, abseil and zip-wire were devoured. Our final challenge, the high ropes, did cause a wobble as he went out on the circuit then returned. But he went back for a second go and managed to complete the course.

Given Robin’s reticence on the high ropes, Gabe’s achievement of finally screwing up his courage and giving it a go, was even more impressive – though he didn’t like the congratulations it earned him. Meanwhile, Eliza swung around high ropes, trusting to her harness and unaffected by the height.