Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

Travel man

Robin

Apart from school and football, Robin doesn’t go out much. ‘Why,’ he asks me, ‘would he want to hang around town centres?’ which is what he believes his peers do. But Robin is always talking about going places. He’ll be visiting four new countries in the next few months, which he finds highly satisfying. Although he stays at home a lot, he’s widening his frontiers, watching videos of travel shows, working out where he would like to go, learning about other countries.

Gabe

Gabe’s hoovering up of knowledge has found a new focus: literature. He is becoming widely read, picking books from the canon or quizzing L and me on what he should pick up next. Typically, he is forthright in his assessment of whatever he has read: Pride and Prejudice – very good; The Leopard – boring; and he’ll support those views with a well argued case. Each book read and each book planned to be read is logged on the Good Reads app.

Eliza

Eliza challenged herself to a phone de-tox. For two whole days she claimed to use it just for listening to music on her walk to and from school. She was pleased that she had completed her period of self-denial, but found it inconvenient as she missed important communications from her friends. She reverted straight back to the phone being her constant, closest companion, having to be reminded to put it away at meal-time.

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The Smiths shambles

Gabe and Eliza

While their music tastes have converged, Gabe and Eliza’s differences are seen clearly in their interest in the Smiths. Gabe got there sooner. He owns their LPs. He has a fan and critic’s knowledge of the songs and the band. He listens in his room or roaming the house on his headphones.

Eliza’s passion is lively. The Smiths provide old bangers – great tunes that she adds to playlists. She sings along, but recognises she cannot remember the lyrics, or even the titles, let alone where they appear on each album.

Eliza wears a Smiths’ T-shirt. This enrages Gabe: “a shambles”, so ignorant is she of what matters to him about the band. He spits out questions that her inability to answer proves his point.

This weekend Eliza is going to a gig. There are nods and silent acknowledgement of the event between her and L. She isn’t going to mention it in Gabe’s ear-shot. She knows how superciliously he will respond. It is The Smythes, a tribute band.

Robin

At Robin’s parents evening, he racked up compliment upon compliment for his achievement, his attitude and his conduct. His feeling for school remains at best ambivalent, and often negative, but this hasn’t affected how he goes about his school-day based on the feedback we heard.

Robin was with us at each meeting, not just the subject of the discussion, but active in it. This impressed me: where Gabe and Eliza would have been non-committal or embarrassed, Robin was articulate and controlled.

15th birthday party

Eliza

Eliza’s 15th birthday party was changed at short-notice from Saturday to Friday to accommodate some of her friends, meaning that L was away and I was sole adult in charge. I had made stern warnings against alcohol, invited guests only and guests coming and going. 20 guests arrived, including one lad who was far taller than me.

Eliza’s friends were very noisy and really polite. They danced and chanted along to songs in the kitchen and the garden. I kept a low profile but at one point went into the kitchen where they were all holding up phones and dancing to a rap song with rude lyrics. Soon after 10pm I reminded Eliza that she should bring things to a close. An hour and three-quarters later, the last of her friends left. Eliza glowed with the fun of hosting a party.

Robin

Robin loathes being overheated in bed. He sleeps bare-chested to keep a tolerable temperature. Before bed-time, he lies on the floor, lest his body heat up the bed before it’s time for him to sleep. One evening, Gabe lay on Robin’s bed playing FIFA on Robin’s X-box. Robin was infuriated that Gabe had warmed up his bed.

Gabe

Gabe’s school week is evenly balanced between lessons and free periods. He uses his frees to study, read and do crosswords. When Gabe reported that he had completed three quick crosswords in a single free period, I challenged him to try a cryptic crossword. I showed him how they work and then we tried to solve one together. The twisted logic of the cryptic clue appealed. He has teamed up with L to solve more puzzles and is nearly ready to fly solo.

Half-term holiday

Gabe

With Oxford entrance exam looming, and the teachers piling the work on to their A level students, Gabe had almost an essay a day to write. He didn’t manage that, but at home and then later in the week in Scotland, he dedicated a lot of time to preparing for the Oxford History Aptitude Test and completing a US Civil War essay that he could submit to Oxford if he gets invited to interview.

Robin

Robin longed for the quiet release of the half-term holiday. But once there, he was out and about with school friends old and new. Some of these visits probably amounted to playing Fortnite alongside the same friends he would have sat in his room and played Fortnite with remotely. In Scotland, he was happiest seeing his aunt and cousin. He was the shock winner of not just a mini-golf tournament, but a card game, too.

Eliza

Eliza – non-stop socialising at home – slowed down and flopped around at Grandpa’s in Scotland. Hurried out of the door by my poor timekeeping, she arrived at North Queensferry in a bad mood for our boat-trip on the Forth. Seeing seals and being on the water on a calm, bright autumn day cheered her up. That evening she led the (younger) cousins in the pumpkin carving, then had a protracted sock wrestle with cousin F.

Ireland

Robin

Robin and I joined his football team and their Dads on a weekend trip to central Ireland, via Dublin airport, where they took part in a competition.

Robin was anxious before and during the flight, grasping my hand. After some raucous play in our mid-refurbishment hotel annex, I persuaded him to bed. The next day, his team played four 40 minute matches, winning two (Robin scored and set up the goals in the first game), losing the final. Back at the hotel the boys and I went swimming. A loud face-off with some American boys ended peacefully. Later I again managed to persuade him to bed while some lads and dads continued partying.

Sunday started slowly: we arrived an hour late for the football match but still had time to burn before returning to the airport, where our flight was delayed three hours, intensifying Robin’s anxiety about flying. We were back in Manchester after 11pm.

Eliza

After several weeks of volunteering at gymnastics (ref: Duke of Edinburgh award) with a group of younger girls, Eliza was offered the chance for some paid employment. She has started helping out at the parties hosted by the gymnasium. The first few sessions were unpaid ‘try-outs’, which she passed and now earns c£4/hr (£8 per party). Last Sunday, she assisted at three back-to-back parties. She works with a shifting crew of gym people, meaning roles change and a fair amount of improvisation is needed to keep the party beneficiaries happy.

Gabe

We bought Gabe insurance to drive L’s car on his provisional licence. L was the first to take him out – to the local tram park and ride car park. He stalled the car and got frustrated with it not being the same as the car in which he has his lessons. By the third trip he had managed to start without stalling and seemed to be progressing. I asked him to pull into a parking bay. Slowly, he turned the car so it was between the lines, but kept going, up the kerb, over the shrub that borders one part of the car park from the next then down the kerb an into the next section. He was shaken, “not good, not good” he kept saying. We deduced he had forgotten to depress the clutch when trying to stop.

Two ticks

Robin

Two ticks – but not a mark of approval. L noticed a black speck on Robin’s upper arm as he lay in bed at his Grandpa’s house. She brushed it gently, but it didn’t come off. It was a tick – one of two that had half-buried themselves in his skin. Robin refused to eat breakfast before the ticks were removed as he didn’t want to feed the creatures. NHS Direct recommended a visit to A&E; the local pharmacy offered nothing. Auntie S suggested the vet, where her cat had been de-ticked. Robin was increasingly upset, walking around town bare-chested. The vet’s receptionist sold a pet tick removal device, which Auntie S successfully used to extract the parasitic insects.

Gabe

The half-term holiday visit to Scotland allowed Gabe to visit two universities that he is considering: Edinburgh and St Andrews. The former, which we wandered around, he found reasons to dislike. St Andrews, around which he was taken on a tour, was much more positively received: old buildings, a university town (rather than a town with a university). He also likes the idea of the four year degree, with the first two years studying three subjects.

Eliza

Eliza, setting to one side her recent indie-pop tastes, went to the Etihad Stadium to see Ed Sheeran. She was thrilled by the experience, although vague about what the concert had been like. She was a bit more specific about the taxi-driver, who had served time for manslaughter, who drove her, her friend and her family home.

Inflatabirthday

Robin

Robin’s birthday came and so did his agonisingly chosen guests – three from his new school, two from his old. They had an hour at Inflatanation – bouncing in a warehouse of inflated shapes. Two mobile phones were lost and both found. At home, sitting down for tea, without the outlet of physical activity, some awkwardness returned, but fortunately new friend T is garrulous and kept the chatter going. Robin was happy with his birthday, signing off with a sleepover for old friend A. A week later, and Robin has invited his first school friend, M, home after school, and they had a kickabout in the garden.

Eliza

Eliza’s school PE class was set a challenge: do as many sit-ups as you can, keeping time with a ticking clock. Eliza stopped in the 80s, but could have continued. She was conscious that the rest of the class, all having given up, were looking at her. Her legs were a bit wobbly afterwards, she conceded.

Gabe

Gabe has been making slow progress with his 5,000 word extended essay (aka EPQ), on 60s music and social change, which is due for submission in March. He asked me to read the first 1,500 words. He is stuck trying to unpick what was a cause of social change and what was an example of social change. Access to abortion, he points out, was a social change and created social change. ‘Spot on’, I reply. But he wants certainty and clarity not real world ambiguity.