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!