I know I underestimate my child. Probably as much as I underestimate myself. I know she’s smart, but I didn’t know how smart. It’s really difficult to somehow talk about it without feeling like you’re bragging (that’s a hangover from H’s first school where some parents said that about me behind my back) or doing that ‘my daughter is the best child in the world’ type of thing, which obviously she is, much as your child is also the best child in the world (probably).
So when we were sat at Parents Evening at school and her teacher said she’d be a contender for the local Grammar school it threw us both. “Um, what do we do?!” we asked, having no idea really. It wasn’t something we had put a lot of thought into, and having gone through the Grammar School system when I was her age I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing and had pondered over it many times being unsure.
Things change though, and a visit to the school soon made us realise.
These days Grammar schools have woodwork departments, they have more than one computer. They have decent school dinners. This isn’t the 1980’s any more.
There was still one hurdle to get there though – sitting through the dreaded entrance exams. I mean, my daughter had only just turned ten and here I am putting these extra pressures on her. She needed to want to go to this school – and if she wasn’t bothered, that was it. We could stop. But if she wanted it she had to be prepared to put the time into it.
She was, and we did. Locally schools put on mock exams too so we paid for her to do one of those so she’d be less nervous on the actual day. That was £25 well spent, let me tell you.
We bought a lot of eleven plus maths and english books too. The school website said that they don’t recommend tutoring, and indeed on chatting to another parent they said that abilities can plummet when a child is tutored and it stops. So we didn’t bother – if she made it then brilliant, if not then we tried and there are still brilliant schools she can attend.
So over the summer we became teachers. We taught algebra. We tried to work out why algebra is still taught and when we would use it in our later lives (the Accounts Director at my work also said Trigonomotry, so let’s add that too). All the things she’ll be taught this year, making sure she understood. Going through mode, median and mean which I used to love doing and probably do use in later life. Making sure she knew the difference between horizontal, vertical, perimeter, area and all the things Year 6 will cover and might not have done.
There were fights, there was stroppiness. We gave up. We tried again.
I found EdPlace and took out a two week trial and then paid for a month to cover the two exams. We started work on Year 7, 8 and 9 maths to see how it all progresses and how to make the formulas work to solve the maths. I set funny targets like ‘Well done, you’ve won some money – 5p’ or ‘Well done, daddy will sing a song for you now of your choosing’ (she hates Shaun singing) and other such hilarity. Occasionally I would throw in ‘You’ve worked really hard. Switch the tv on’ (she wasn’t allowed to watch anything though) – that was followed by ‘okay, you can watch Taskmaster now’ after another score of 10.
The day came. Over 2000 girls sat the first exam and around 900 got through. H was one of them. She didn’t want to know the result, though fortunately I had printed it out so she sat on the stairs and read it. She was good enough – now we all had to believe. Believing you’re not good enough is NOT good enough. As one of her schools said, ‘Dream, Believe, Achieve’. Now we all had to do that.
The second exam came and went, and the results email arrived two and a half weeks later. The 900 girls down to 700, with just 400 places on offer. Now we wait. She did enough and if enough isn’t enough there are still good things out there. My gut feeling is that it is enough.
We have to wait until March which feels like a long way away. Whichever school we’re offered we’ll be happy. We gave it a shot and whatever happens it will be a good thing. We dream, we believe and hopefully we’ll achieve.
So yeah, I’ve got a smart kid. I think I surprised myself at how much maths I remembered and how I managed to talk my daughter through it. I think we’re all a bit shellshocked by it all because we haven’t given ourselves time to prepare for it like some families have. We stumbled into it.
I thanked H’s teacher. Had she not said anything at Parents Evening this wouldn’t have happened.