Archive for the ‘wisdom’ Category

100 great goals

Robin 

Every night, for months, Robin has chosen, before sleep and after L or I have read to him, to read from a book that describes 100 great goals. A short description of the action is leavened with some information about the scorer or the occasion. There’s also a diagram of the movement of players and ball on its way into the net.

When sleep is about to smother him, Robin tosses the book from his bed. In the morning, it lies on the floor, crumpled. Its hardback cover fell off weeks ago. Its binding can’t hold for long. But even if it does disintegrate it has lodged itself in Robin’s memory. He knows the goals and scorers by number (1 to 100). He can even recite some of the reports if given a scorer’s name or goal number. 

Eliza

‘My palm has five layers of skin left,’ Eliza explained on the way home from gymnastics. Intensive work on the bars in recent weeks has worn a tear in the skin of her hand. She has been practising a manoeuvre that involves a complete rotation on the higher bar. To achieve this safely while in the learning phase, her hands are bound to the bar. It’s from that friction that the skin on her palms is torn away.

Gabe 

The election result has been welcomed by Gabe. At school, Corbyn is a hero. Gabe is dissatisfied by my position that neither major party leader is a fit PM. ‘What have I got against Corbyn?’ I was asked often during the campaign, as well as, who are you going to vote for and why? On election night, he sat with Lou and I as the TV guests and presenters toyed with the unlikely exit poll. Around midnight, with four GCSE exams the next day, he conceded that is was time for bed. 


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Saved until last

Eliza

Eliza’s parents evening, attended by L, Eliza and me, was an evening of almost unremitting praise. The French teacher went into Gallic excess. More English, more restrained were history, English, music (although Eliza’s failure to go to strings group on Tuesday lunchtimes was mentioned) and science. Only maths, in the person of a very dull man, failed to join in the fun. But last was best, because the RE teacher, amongst her praise for Eliza, admitted that she always saved marking Eliza’s homework for last – to give her a boost at the end of a long marking session.

Robin

On a mild March evening, Robin joined L and I on a walk around the neighbourhood to get some air and steps on our health apps. A few minutes down the road and Robin announced that he was going to give us a quiz, on the subject of.. himself. For the next 20 minutes our knowledge of our younger son was tested: favourite music, tv programme, holiday and food preferences and much else. His mother, of course, won.

Gabe

Gabe is nibbling away at the pile of GCSE assessments that fill year 11. Science practicals, music performances, French controlled assessment, cookery assessment and PE performances have all been ticked off, with the exams to come after Easter.  The most stressful for him was the food technology test. He had never completed a practical in the allotted time, but we persuaded him to practice at the weekend and prepare some of the ingredients at home. His savoury Chelsea bun with tomato sauce looked impressive. He prepared most thoroughly for the French assessment, drafting a sophisticated piece about his home town that he reproduced under controlled assessment conditions (dictionary + 40 words of notes). The interim results place him well to achieve an impressive set of GCSEs.

New Year’s Eve games

Spending New Year’s Eve together at home, we decided to play games. The children turned the opportunity for some family fun into a contest. Points were awarded for positions in each game and an overall tally kept.

We started with the alphabet game – naming things of different categories (boy’s name, girl’s name, shop, city, musician, etc) beginning with a selected letter. Gabe and Eliza scrapped over definitions and rules, trying to undermine the other’s efforts with unwarranted ferocity. Robin kept up a running commentary of the categories for which he couldn’t think of anything – which was most. L won this round.

We moved to kitchen table table-tennis. Robin battled to second place behind Gabe, who was unbeaten, despite being taken into extra-time by Robin and L.

Round three was pairs (a memory game, involving picking pairs of cards from a pack spread face-down). Gabe bailed out and Robin played half-heartedly. Eliza was thwarted in the first game as she, L and I drew, but could not be resisted as her fierce concentration brought victory in the second game. It was now well past eleven o’clock.

As midnight neared, Eliza went into the garden to watch the local fireworks. L and Gabe watched the coverage from London on TV. Robin asked to be taken to bed and read to. “It will be exactly the same fireworks as last year,” he reasoned.

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.

Work experience

Gabe

Gabe spent the final four days of his fourth year at secondary school back at his old junior school. When, months ago, the requirement to complete work experience was communicated, he quickly dismissed working with Lou or me – both jobs too boring – and settled, in the absence of any career calling, for his old school.

He has enjoyed the experience to a degree that surprised me. The week began with him refereeing a grudge football match between two classes. He spent a couple of days in Robin’s class. Most challenging for him was a day in the class for kids with special needs. He found it frustrating that their learning of the most simple things was so slow. But, he conceded, they were cute – wanting his reassurance.

Gabe even returned to the school on Friday for the leavers’ assembly. L saw him singing the leavers’ song, which he explained away as because he had helped them learn it.

Robin

At leavers’ assembly, the year 5 pupils were given their job roles for next year. Robin was made captain of one of the school houses, the second most prestigious role after head boy, but far less desirable to Robin than football captain. Later in the day, Robin was told that he had an additional role – deputy head boy – on stand-by should the head boy be away.

Eliza

We took Robin to Eliza and Gabe’s school for the open evening. Eliza took part in a drama performance, while we went on a tour. First we went to Eliza’s form room and recognised her French teacher. I introduced myself to him. There followed a five minute encomium to Eliza – the sharpest of his students, for whom he has plans: that she will do A level French. Later in the evening, in the English department, we met Eliza’s English teacher who explained that she had moved Eliza to the front of the class to keep her company. She praised Eliza’s understanding of literature and also pitched for Eliza to, in five years time, opt for her A level.

Macbeth

Gabe

L, Gabe & went to the cinema on Saturday night. It is an old picture house recently re-opened after refurbishment, featuring crushed velvet upholstered seats, sofas and bar refreshments. The film was Macbeth, Gabe’s GCSE Shakespeare text. During the film, he whispered from time-to-time with L. At the end he was effusive – highlighting the delivery of Macbeth’s soliloquies, changes in location of scenes compared to the play, scenes cut from the film version, as well as maintaining with L an intellectually impressive discussion of the film’s broader meaning. 

Robin

Three years ago, we had to manage a situation at a sleep-over where Gabe’s friends were going to be playing the 16 rated video game, Call of Duty. It’s a problem that has recurred as most of his friends are allowed to play that and similar games, while L and I have not dropped our opposition. Now Robin, two years younger than Gabe when we first faced this issue, reports that the boys at an afternoon party he attended were playing Call of Duty. He avoided it, he explained to me, giving the sense that he understood it was not something he should be seeing. 

Eliza

For all Eliza’s impressive academic record and progress, her lack of general knowledge is exposed by the wider curriculum of secondary school. For RE she had to learn for six major religions, the founder, the holy book, what adherents are called and the name of the place they worship. Had Eliza had some inter-faith responsibility, she could cause great offence, mixing up Sikhism with Judaism and Buddhism. 

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.”