Archive for the ‘conversations’ Category

Proper maths

February 19, 2014

Fainjin has the start-of-year blues.  “School’s so boring!” he complained.  “Everything’s boring!”

“What exactly is boring about it?” I asked.


“It can’t all be boring.  Is lunchtime boring?  Playtime?”

“No…” he admitted reluctantly.  “Maths is boring.  It’s not even proper maths!”

Ah. This takes me back.  When I was at primary school, it was the fashion to teach everything in terms of set theory (at least, that’s how I remember it).  At the start of every year we would go over the definition of a set, the members of a set, the empty set, union, intersection, cardinality and so on.  It was interesting the first time.  Every first day of school after that I would stomp into the house and my mother would ask, “How was school?” and I would snarl back, “We did sets. AGAIN.”

“What’s proper maths, then?”

“Like, plus and equals and stuff! Take aways!” the poor boy was pining for sums.

“And what are you doing instead?”

“I don’t even know.”  So I took a look at his maths book and discovered they’re doing statistics.  How many siblings each classmate has, people’s favourite animals, favourite sports and so on – things that can be counted and expressed in bar graphs.  It is maths, and it’s also really good for the kids (and teacher) to get to know each other, since they’ve come from several different Year 2 classes last year.

I had a word to the teacher and he promised to help Fainjin find something “proper” to do too.  Meanwhile, I’ve been bribing him to school with the promise of extra addition and subtraction worksheets to do at home or at lunchtime.

Rather like I used to bribe his sister with grammar worksheets!

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

God’s Garden

January 30, 2014

Fainjin and Babess often have very interesting conversations with each other, apparently completely forgetting I am there (or, more likely, dismissing my presence as irrelevant).

Today Babess was talking about plants.  She was in a silly mood at the end of a long day, and said something exuberant about “plants in heaven!”

Fainjin quickly nixed her idea.  “There are no plants in heaven.”

I was intrigued as to how he’d arrived at this idea, but I’ve learned to just keep listening.

“There are no plants in heaven at all.  Except for bean stalks.  Bean stalks grow all the way up, and like, God… or Jesus… has just baby ones growing out of their ground.”

Babess looked at him.  “Baby ones in heaven?”

“Noooo, ‘cos they grow big, up from the ground to the clouds, where heaven is, and just little bits stick up in heaven to be plants in heaven.”

Babess nodded.  This made perfect sense to her.

Now, what to say next time they baulk at eating their vegetables?

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Breakfast with more twittering

December 16, 2013

Breakfast conversation is often interesting in our house. There was the memorable morning when Pearl, then aged 7, asked, “Mum, what’s philosophy?” and just a few days ago Pearl and Fainjin were discussing Gorgons and the Minotaur.

This morning started much like any other. Fainjin began by telling me about a cartoon he had seen set in Egypt. He was describing the “Stinks with no nose” which I quickly worked out was the Sphinx. Then he said his class was reading about Ancient Egypt now  – they’re really working hard on mythology this term! I asked what he knows about Ancient Egypt, and he said, “Well, someone wanted the biggest pyramint but the servants had to build it.”

This is the kind of situation where I really love twitter. I happen to “know” someone via twitter who is an Egyptologist. We’ve never met. I knew she would find his pronunciation cute, and be chuffed that a 6yo was interested in Egypt, so I tweeted to her.

Before I knew it, I was passing information from her to both Pearl and Fainjin, and they were sending comments and questions back.  I was surprised at how much Egyptian mythology they both know – much more than I do! We learnt that “Ra sent his daughter to get rid of all the humans because they annoyed him, but changed his mind at the last minute…” and Pearl immediately said, “Oh, was that Sekhmet?” (it was) and Fainjin chimed in, “Yeah and then she turned into a lion!” (she did).

The kids found out lots of cool facts they hadn’t picked up in their own reading, and came up with all sorts of questions (like, was there an Egyptian god of snow & ice? – no, but Seth, god of chaos & anarchy, would probably look after that. (I reckon he has a hand in the kids’ bedrooms, too…)). It was much better than anything I could have dealt with on my own – there would have been an awful lot of “I don’t know” and “I haven’t had enough tea yet to even think about that”.

Now Pearl is wondering whether she can nominate Ancient Egypt as an “inquiry topic” for school next year, or perhaps as a “passion project” for her own research.

Thanks, @GrumpyYetAmusin – it was great fun having breakfast with you this morning!

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Her brain is too full

December 1, 2013

I was doing Babess’ hair for her dance recital this morning, and she was amusing herself with some sums.  “Five and five is ten, that’s easy.  Two and four is… six!  Ten take away four is six… Eight take away seven is, um, four?”

She was flicking her fingers up and down for each number and sum.  Once we sorted out the “eight take away seven” conundrum satisfactorily, she did a couple more then I said, “Can you do them without your fingers?”

“Ummmm. Can I hide my fingers under the table?”

That wasn’t going to work while I tugged her baby-fine hair into tight french braids, so I suggested she imagine her fingers instead. “Make pictures of them inside your head.”

“I can’t,” she said, all sad and serious, “because the only things inside my head are nightmares.”

For the next five minutes she told me a very detailed story about witches who eat children and one came to their school and turned all the little children into FROGS! And all the big kids into… horses.  And all the teachers, she turned them into glasses.


“They were humungous glasses.”  And there was another witch and she turned the first witch into a fairy, then the fairy turned the other witch into a fairy as well but they were bad fairies…

There was more detail than I can coherently retell, all given in a very matter-of-fact delivery.  By the time she had finished telling me, I had done her hair and was assembling lunchboxes.

“That is a real nightmare, isn’t it Mum?”

I had to agree.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


November 28, 2013

We have a busy rehearsal and performance schedule coming up this weekend.  And every performer knows, where there are rehearsals there is also lots of waiting around doing not-very-much.

I was talking about preparing my bag for this, with stories, games, and so on to entertain the large group of potentially-bored children.  Fainjin overheard me…

“Mum!  If you’re getting a story for my class, can it be a miff?”

“A miff?”


“I don’t think I know what that is.  What’s it about?”

“Uh, it’s like… a legend…”

“Oh! A myth!”

“Yes Mum!  M-Y-P-H.  Myph.  Like a legend.”

I spelt myth out for him and had him repeat it.  Then breakfast conversation moved on and he and Pearl started an argument about Medusa, the Minotaur, and the Gorgons.

Some mornings I really feel like I need a second cup of tea.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


November 3, 2013

We were heading home from shopping and visiting Nana & Poppa, and I reminded the kids that there were chores to do when we got home.  It has been a while since they had to do them, since we were away the last two weekends in a row.  They started reminding themselves and each other what their jobs are.

“I’m cleaning the toilet,” said Fainjin.  He does a decent job of it, too.

“I bacuum the kitchen and wash the… what’s those things called?  Skirting boards,” volunteered Babess.

“And help Fainjin dry the dishes,” I reminded both of them, and they groaned.

“I’ve got more jobs than you,” claimed Pearl.  “I clean the basin in the toilet, and the one in the bathroom, and I help with the dishes, and I make Mum and Dad – well, Mum – a cup of tea.  Sometimes.  When she asks me to.”

“What?!” Fainjin was most surprised.  “You make tea for Mum?”

“Yes,” said Pearl.  “When she asks me to.”

“Huh,” he shrugged.  “I thought that was Dad’s job.”

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

What if…

October 20, 2013

Babess is very fond of “what if” questions.  So is Fainjin, for that matter.  They keep me on my toes with wildly imaginative scenarios and suggestions.  But I was caught short (or half-asleep) this morning when I handed Babess her breakfast.

“Mum!” she started, eyes wide with speculation.  “What if this croissant was magic?”

I really couldn’t answer.  What sort of magic powers might accrue to a croissant?  I need to give her The Magic Pudding to read, perhaps.

I just looked at her helplessly.  “I don’t know.  What if it were magic?”  Perhaps she had some idea of what to expect.

She raised her eyebrows dramatically, then took a large bite.  Nothing unusual happened.  She shrugged, and gave her verdict: “Not magic.”

Whew.  A mundane breakfast is more predictable and restful, anyway.  Much more suitable for a Sunday morning.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

The end

October 17, 2013

Babess was looking at the calendar with her Dad, naming the months in order.  The Dad told her that after December, we start back at January again.  She quickly grasped the general idea.

” And over and over and over again! Until you die. Because underground there’s no calendars.”

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


October 16, 2013

Another breakfast conversation with Fainjin – they seem to be my main source of blog fodder at the moment!

I’d been talking about some medicine with Pearl, and used the word “tablet”.  About five minutes later, Fainjin said, “Mum, I’m confused about tablets.”

“Confused?  Why?”

He thought for a bit.  “Well, they can be different things.”

I saw what he was getting at.  “Do you mean like tablets that are medicine and tablets that are computers?”


“That’s just using the same word to mean two different things.  It’s a little bit confusing, but we do it in the English language all the time.  I wouldn’t worry too much.”

He considered that, then said, “OK”.  I was grateful he didn’t ask for another example, because I didn’t have one ready despite my assertion.  Feel free to leave a list of your favourites in the comments.

Then a few minutes later, he mused, “And some tablets are baby frogs.”

Pearl and I looked at him, and laughed.  “OK Fainjin, now you are confused!”

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Thinking about rocks

October 12, 2013

We were driving along the coast road, and Fainjin was admiring some particularly fine rocks.  When he’s thinking out loud, there are often pauses…

“Hey Mum!  If rocks had roots


like plants


then a round rock


would look like a squid!

(It would look like a squid, not an octopus, because it would have too many legs).”

Discussion ensued as there was some disagreement over whether squid are round.  Eventually consensus was reached that the statement would be better applied to pointy rocks.

If rocks did have roots, like plants, that is.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

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