Parenting, profundities and humour

Silly Season — July 3, 2016

Silly Season

taj mahal.jpg

It is nearly the end of term. All my children have done end of year assessments. We have concerts and sports days left. Cricket matches and charities afternoons. Swimming galas and house rounders. The last few weeks are busy.

As such I was hoping for a let off homework wise.

Unfortunately this is homework ‘silly season’.

In the last few weeks of term Eldest has been doing ‘mini projects’. One in science, one in RE and one in Geography. I am sure the teachers love them. I imagine them on Facebook or taking down classroom displays whilst their charges get on with ‘independent’ work.

To be fair Eldest managed his Geography project quite well alone and I had little involvement. Except to correct some fundamental errors in his map reading of our local area.

The science project has involved me driving him to a mates’s house so they could recreate the solar system out of polystyrene and represent the phases of the moon with Oreo cookies. I think the mate’s dad did get involved. Eldest mentioned a man cave. And the resulting model does imply that said dad has a lot of hardware type stuff ‘lying around’. Good job they did it there. We don’t have a man cave. Or lots of bits of stuff hanging around. Thanks mate’s dad…. All Eldest needs to do now is get said stuff to school tomorrow along with his cello and games kit. Luckily my friend is driving…

The threatened RE project has yet to materialise. Eldest did mention making a model of Exeter cathedral, which we recently visited. I put my fingers in my ears and sang ‘la la la la la’. Repeatedly. And am hoping it has all just ‘gone away’. If not we will stick a bit of coloured cellophane on a shoe box and call it quits…. It could be worse it could be making the Taj Mahal out of matchsticks…

In music they are filling in the last few lessons by learning to play a contemporary song in small groups. Eldest is his group’s pianist. I and the rest of my family are slowly going mad being subjected to the opening bars of ‘Seven Years’ over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. He does not seem to be able to get beyond those opening bars. I have been roped in to help. Which seems to consist mainly of me shouting ‘B flat major chord’ at him a lot, whilst washing up. I used to like the song. Now? Not so much. ‘Once I was 46 years old, Eldest said to me, got to learn the song, now I hate it all so much’. Or something like that…

Middlest’s maths teacher decided that setting ‘making chocolate brownies’ for homework was a ‘good idea’. Some sort of guff about ratios. How spurious? They are ‘due in’ on Wednesday. Of course Middlest has also been selected for cricket matches on both Monday and Tuesday evenings and also has other commitments on those nights. So guess what we were doing at 7pm today?

I am sure the maths teacher loves ‘marking’ this homework. And feels he is being cool and hip. What he is really being is a right royal pain in the arse. I like to cook with my kids. But I would like to choose the time. And the recipe. If it is all the same to you Mr Maths teacher.

And for the avoidance of doubt I don’t want to make chocolate brownies at 7pm on a Sunday evening.


I hope all that ‘marking’ makes him sick.


Project Management — October 20, 2015

Project Management

Actually that was my face...
Actually that was my face…

There is currently a big black cloud on my horizon. Not literally, although after I put my washing on the line earlier it did go quite dark, no I mean metaphorically.

And the reason is the impending Year 6 Local Environmental Issue project. A forty page plus project on a local environmental issue of your choice. Quite self explanatorily.

Last year when Eldest was in Year 6 we got through the winter term relatively unscathed. Rugby took its toll and in early January his Senior school entrance exams loomed. Although the school were at pains to point out that they were just a formality.

And so he went back to school in January on fine form. Looking forward to the football term although not those exmas. And then on that first day back the school emailed out a letter.

The letter outlined the project that needed to be undertaken during the next term. At first I was confused, did they mean after Easter? Then it dawned on me that the letter was late and should have come out before the Christmas break.

And my heart sank.

The letter pulled no punches. It explained that parental involvement would be necessary. As the project required site visits and interviewing and photos. That in itself was quite refreshing. At least they were being honest about the level of work I would have to do. Usually schools seem to believe children can produce, say, the Taj Mahal out of matchsticks unaided. Ha. Ha. Ha.

In some ways I was glad for the fact that the letter had been issued late. And therefore we had remained in blissful ignorance over the seasonal festivities.

No such luck this year as Middlest hurtles his way towards the same project.

I am never really sure what such pieces of work are for. Or who.

I agree that children need to learn to manage larger pieces of extended work. They need to practise time management. Be able to plan in sensible chapters.

Unfortunately mine are some way off being able to do this independently. And so guess who ends up doing most of it? Well guiding them to do it but you know what I mean.

Not only that but they are supposed to use their humanities lessons at school to progress the project. And so in order to ensure they don’t spent those valuable hours sharpening pencils and chatting to their mates I am left lesson planning too.

And then there is the topic. I shot my best bolt local environmental issue wise last year with Eldest. I now need to think of another issue that around 40 pages of work can be produced about. Along with a photo journey and an interview and site visits. Without too much colouring in. Middlest hates colouring in.

Asking my ten year old to come up with an idea for such a project is laughable. I have asked him a couple of times if he has had any thoughts. I get a sort of blank, quizzical look. I guess one could take it as a shocking lack of knowledge. Or just be realistic; that the average ten year old wants to cause his own environmental catastrophe by owning every plastic gun in the known universe not write an extended piece about it.

So I have been wracking my brains since last year to no real avail. I have come up with the recycling journey of a yogurt pot or the impact of the new bypass near by. Neither are filling me with excitement. And both involve me in speaking to the council to get access and information and facts. Which requires me to do something before Christmas. The clock is ticking.

Had the project been about something Middlest was passionate about, say elephants or the wider environmental and conservation issues surrounding elephants, he might be more engaged. But no it has to be local. Not many elephants round here. That site visit would have been more fun too…

Or it could be a history project which would get my juices flowing and therefore by default his. And we could visit castles and I could once more coo over medieval plumbing (still find that fascinating…the forethought to build drainage through those thick, thick walls, mind blowing). In fact for me it could be any other sort of project really; history, geography, art, politics etc. Just not the same one as last year.

But, no, we are stuck with these parameters. Yawn. I spent six weeks plus of my life living, eating and breathing the last ‘issue’. Spending our weekends trawling round our local Community Forests. I like a woodland walk. I enjoy birds and wildlife. I like feeling that I am ‘contributing’ to such a worthwhile cause whilst eating organic flap jack. I just don’t enjoy having to do all that with half an eye on chapter eight whilst photographing every information board and surveying cyclists. And I certainly don’t relish having to come home and force a child to sit down and write about it. As such I have no enthusiasm left.

It is safe to say that when Eldest got 39 marks out of 40 (he lost a mark for his slightly ‘thin’ Conclusion…. by that point he had truly HAD ENOUGH) my heart sank a little. For now we need to replicate that this year. Or else Middlest will plead favouritism. Again.

I truly hope that in another two years when it is Youngest’s turn the subject will have changed. If not it will be severely tempting to recycle Eldest’s. In the name of the environment.

Footnote: After writing this I was inspired enough to e mail the Council. I got the standard ‘Our turn around time is 10 working days’ response. This is why I need to start now. Weep…

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