Bear had his first ever spelling test at school last week. There were four sets of words increasing in difficulty from set 1 to 4. Bear’s teacher said the children could choose which set to learn. Much to my relief he decided not to go for set 4. I thought ‘counterintelligence’ was a bit optimistic for a six year-old too! When he chose to learn set 3, my first reaction was to gulp and ask myself if these weren’t too difficult. I’ve known adults who struggle with ‘surprise’ and even some who’ve been on a snowboard before they could actually spell it. But I resolved to apply my usual parenting mantra – provide support and do a bit of clearing up if necessary.
I needn’t have worried. He thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and spelled all of the words correctly in the test. Apart from another boy in his class who chose set 4, everyone chose one of the easier two sets. I was impressed by the confidence of the two and I admit to feeling slightly humbled. In their shoes I would have balked at the task unless explicitly encouraged by an adult. At first I assumed that Bear is simply more confident than my younger-self. But what if there’s more to it than that? Are we to believe the stuff about school being geared to the way girls learn? Surely if two of the boys could do it, at least four of the girls must have been able to do it too. Maybe the difference between Bear and me has more to do with gender than personality. Apparently testosterone levels double in boys at around the age of four, so hormone differences must come into play even at their tender age.
I could go on all night about measures of success in society being set by men, so of course they’re more successful at the stuff they find important. I’m not going off on that one now, I just know the girls can do it too! We might need confidence and encouragement, but my hope for the girls in his class is that they will find it – from parents, teachers, friends and ultimately from themselves. Come on girls! I know you’ve got it. It’s time for you to know it too!
Bear got his homework book from school this week. He felt very grown-up about it. I can’t believe my baby is old enough to get homework. Actually I’d rather he didn’t. I don’t believe homework in primary school helps final learning outcomes. I think it has the potential to put children off forever, as well as destroy their relationship with parents and carers. (Watch this space!) I’d really like him to be a child for longer than this. But hey, what do I know! I’m not a teacher or a child psychologist. I could be described as an anthropologist, as I do observe one from close quarters. But I’m not exactly impartial and one child doesn’t make a scientific sample. Anyway, whatever my uneducated opinion (but not humble – I make no apology, I just don’t do humble opinions), he gets homework now.
I always think September is a better time for resolutions than New Year and a better time for new beginnings than Spring. Maybe it’s because September is inextricably linked with the beginning of the school year and empty notebooks with no mistakes in them yet.
Anyway, my resolution is to encourage Bear to finish his homework each Friday evening so we don’t have to think about it at the weekend. It worked this week. But I’m not holding my breath! And I’m not going to let it rule or ruin us. So there!
After Olympic-fever comes Olympic-fatigue and then more Olympic-fever. I don’t know whether it was Team GB starting to win things, Bear being so excited by the whole thing or actually going to the Olympic Park and Stadium, but as the Olympics wore on I became totally involved. It stopped being about ticketing fiascos, cynical sponsors and ‘security’ and started being about the people it should have been about all the way through. The people who have given their lives for at least the past few years to achieving Olympic success. Then strange things were happening in our household. I was listening to 5-Live instead my usual Radio 4. I was the one switching on the telly to catch up with the day’s events and I was totally up-to-date with the medal table. (I didn’t manage to find out anything about Handball, but Rome wasn’t built in a day!)
So the Olympics was basically a load of athletes doing things that I can do, just fitter stronger and faster. I can run, ride a bike, swim and throw things! They just did it a whole lot better than I could. But the Paralympics is a totally different ball game. I need my own legs to run. I would drown with a missing limb. The idea of playing football without being able to see the ball is frankly terrifying. I will be watching athletes performing feats that are above and beyond my everyday ideas for what is possible. I can’t wait to have my mind stretched. Mr. Invisible, Bear and I have tickets for 5-a-side football and swimming. The Olympics was just to get the party started. This is the real event. We are going to be total Paralympic tarts!
This morning, I was privileged to be invited to visit Richard House Children’s Hospice in Newham. What an amazing place! What amazing people! Richard House provides care for children with life-limiting conditions and complex healthcare needs, as well as support for the whole family. The emphasis is on positive experiences and creating memories.
The purpose-built centre is light, bright and airy with beautiful gardens and outdoor planting and play areas. Apart from a few clues it looks like any other children’s playcentre, with children’s artwork on the walls, children’s sensory toys and a well-stocked playroom and sensory suite. There’s also a teenage den to give the older ones some separate space. The residential-care rooms look just like a bedroom at home (ok, a lot tidier than the bedrooms in my house but you get the idea!)
It feels wrong that parents have to experience the death of a child. It feels wrong that the innocence of siblings is shattered at such an early age in such a cruel manner. But death doesn’t discriminate against age, religion, ethnicity or gender. In the meantime, there is the best care a child can get and the precious memories that the people at Richard House work so hard to help them create. Guys, you’re incredible!