Friday, 8 May 2009

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Time marches on, and I've suddenly started to notice how Boy #1 is growing up. Walking along the street as he scooted along in front of me this week, I can see how he's become taller, stronger and more confident in the last few months.

Our conversations have developed, too. Of course we still talk about favourite animals (his; a puma, mine; a cheetah), what dinosaurs ate (small boys of course), and who's turn it is to play with the hobby horse (never mine), but yesterday evening he asked me what my favourite book was when I was a child and then sat wide-eyed whilst I ran briefly through the plot of 'The Hobbit'. The story of Bilbo's forced exit from The Shire, his incredible journey with Gandalf and the Dwarves, his encounter with Gollum in the caves and his subsequent theft of the Ring took on a new excitement as I went through it with him. When I went on to describe the battle with Smaug the dragon I realised that I can hardly wait to re-read the book - with him - myself.

At school he's started being given spelling tests, something I've got mixed feelings about. I'm not proud of it, but I have to admit that my Mrs Competitive pops up and thrills to the news that he got 5 out of 5. Of course I do my best to push her firmly to one side, but she's annoyingly resiliant at times like this. Then I console myself with the thought that most schools do it, the tests are not complicated - consisting of only 4 words like 'look', 'is', 'at' and 'come' - and finally that he seems to enjoy practicing once in a while at the weekend.

Who am I kidding? Certainly not my Husband who, being Dutch, sniffs dismissively about what he sees as 'hot-housing', believing that there is plenty of time in the future for tests. And bearing in mind that my beloved - who didn't start school until nearly six - speaks 5 languages well, and can grasp the fundamentals of many more due to his classical training in Latin and Greek, perhaps they do know what they're doing in Holland on this front. Although having said that, I remember that tests formed a big part of my education, and it certainly never did me any harm. I do speak...1 language fluently (and 2 sketchily), after all.

Let's see. 5 languages vs 1. Perhaps he has a point.


  1. I think I must have a bit of Dutch in me, it even comes out in my accent when I've had a few beers. I think these plenty of time for tests and pressure at school.

    That's quality that you can share your favourite book with him. Not sure what mine is, but I don't think it will be shareable.

  2. I used to love the Just William series of books (but then again, I'm convinced I was bought up in the 1940s).

    However stories of a very naughty group of boys might just give them ideas!

  3. The Doctor and I were talking about schooling yesterday and worked out that when he was 7, he had school all day until 4pm, whereas in Hong Kong I finished school at 1pm in summertime and 3 in winter. He also started French at age 7, and I at 11. The upshot is that our academic progress after that was remarkably similar.

    I guess what it says to me is that as long as children have the ability to learn, they will be OK, regardless of any 'hothousing' at a young age.

    But I know I'm in a minority in Nappy Valley...

  4. Being in the US, where they start later, and certainly don't push the acaemics as early, it used to freak me out. Now I have a couple of teenagers who are exactly where they would be had they been raised in England!

  5. "academics" - ha ha. Great place to make a speeling mistake eh?

  6. SPD, there's a joke in there somewhere about me having a bit of Dutch in me but for the life of me...

    Mud, great idea. But not yet. Not until the boys are oh, married with their own children, I think...

    NVG, you're absolutely right, of course!

    EPM, freudian slip? (And of course, you're right. They all get to the same point in the end).

  7. I think there is no one national, or global, answer for when to start schooling. I think different children need to start at different ages and the only real answer would be to provide the ability to delay or advance the start of school according to the needs of the child. Don't know if that actually happens anywhere.

    Rosemary's an August baby and will be starting school next September, just after she turns four. I have a cousin who was also an August baby and should have been given the opportunity to start a year later. She spent her whole school life behind her classmates and would have been much better off with an extra year to develop at home/pre-school. And I was an October baby, and was incredibly bored at school. I would have benefited from starting a year earlier - though I did end up a year ahead at secondary school after a few years of home-schooling.

    If parents and pre-school teachers could provide an assessment as to whether a child is ready or more than ready, I think it would have the potential to help a whole bunch of children learn at the right pace for them. Probably the majority would go at the same time as everyone else, but the minorities on either side would have the head-start or slower start that they need.

    (Sorry. This is one of my pet subjects, so I can go on and on and on and on...)

    All that said, though, the vast majority of children will end up at similar levels, regardless of when they start. They'll catch up or slow down at some point.

    Oh and I used to love tests! During my home-schooling time, I used to insist on having tests at least once a week - spelling, vocabulary, maths... all sorts. Loved them. And loved getting percentages in the high 90s. Getting 100% on a test would make my week. In fact, when I did some Open University courses a few years back I had the same reaction to high scores - and serious mopes to low ones.

  8. I hate teaching my kids all the American spelling lists they come home with (especially since it can be a struggle for them). Seems like wasted effort - they're only going to have to re-learn them.

    I honestly think that the main thing in primary school is to instill a love of learning, and an enjoyment of applying oneself. Trouble is, how to do that varies tremendously from child to child.

  9. Tasha, as you say, they will all end up at the same place eventually. Hope your little girl makes the transition smoothly!

    Iota, it must be so tempting to correct the teacher's corrections on the words spelled differently over there. Or is that just me, being pedantic?

  10. I'm also looking forward to when Jonathan starts taking tests. A little anyhow. It will be fun watching him learn. His daddy was/is so smart and I won't be surprised if he is too. Not that I want to put pressure on him at all, though. It's amazing how fast they grow up and change, though, isn't it?


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