Archive for the ‘school’ Category

Cyber clams

March 21, 2014

Earlier this year, Babess’ class at school discussed cyber-safety.  They watched an information video about cyber-bullying and digital footprints, and talked about it in the classroom, as well as bringing home a letter for parents to discuss as well.  The video featured a cartoon dolphin and some other sea creatures and their (mis)adventures online.

All well and good.  It’s great that schools are teaching this kind of awareness right from the start.

But this week the topic of bullying came up (indirectly) at our dinner table.  Babess piped up confidently, “I know about cyber-bullying!”

“Great!” I said.  “Tell us all about cyber-bullying.”

She retold a scene from the cartoon her class had watched, with lots of detail and character names.

“But what would cyber-bullying look like if it happened to you?” I asked.

She looked at me as if I’d suddenly sprouted a second head.

“Mu-um!” she admonished.  “I’m not a sea-creature!”

When The Dad & I could control our (slightly appalled) grins, we had a great family discussion about what cyber-bullying really is, and Fainjin and Pearl made valuable contributions too.

But today I had a quiet word with Babess’ teacher, just to make sure she wasn’t the only child who assumed cyber-safety is something you only need underwater.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

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.


February 17, 2014

Pearl started at a new school this year.  It’s an “Intermediate” school, for Years 7 & 8, which is common here between primary school (Years 1-6) and secondary school (Years 9-13).  It’s not universal – there are schools which go from Year 1-8, for example, and some even from Year 1-13, but in our neighbourhood most kids go to intermediate.

She was apprehensive.  A new school, with a uniform, kids she doesn’t know (although of course she does know several – just not all of them like she did at primary), teachers she’s never met, a changing timetable – they have some new subjects: a foreign language (yay!), technology, cooking, and so on… it was all quite daunting, as well as exciting.

But she loves it there.  She has been there three weeks and is revelling in it.  She loves the new subjects, the opportunities and the new friendships.

We’re pretty impressed with the school too.  Today we got a postcard in the mail.  It was from Pearl’s teacher.  The school has its own postcards, featuring students’ art – that’s pretty cool.  The handwritten note on it told us that Pearl has been doing some excellent writing.  It gave a specific example and described the piece she’d written as “stunning”.

I was a bit stunned myself.  What a wonderful idea – much nicer than a phone call or email.  I asked some other parents today, and found that this seems to be something of a policy – when a teacher notices something outstanding, they send a card to the parents.  I heard of one involving a particular example of sportsmanship.

The thoughtfulness and positivity of this practice speaks volumes to me about the culture of the school.  I’m really looking forward to the next two years.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Spelling homework

November 26, 2013

Pearl was casting around for something spelling-related to do for her homework.  Apparently she’s finished her “list” so she was asking for something to doooo.

I pointed her to my dictionary shelf, and said, “Find some interesting words and write about them, or write a story using them.  Better still, look in the Dictionary of Etymology and look up word histories.  It’ll be like the Word Hunter series you like so much.”

She liked that idea, and sat down for a fair while with my dictionary and a piece of paper.  Later I looked to see what words she had chosen.

The first one was “etymology“.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


Sometimes you just need a break

November 23, 2013

Babess has had a low-grade viral thing recently – resulting in some asthma and general tiredness.  She’s been complaining of the odd “sore tummy”, which for her often means she’s tired or reluctant or anxious.  Last weekend she fell asleep a couple of times during the days, most unusual.  I suspect a strong case of “5-yr-old’s end-of-year-itis”.

So I had a chat with her teacher, and suggested a mental health day, which her teacher thought was a fantastic idea.  We had a look at the schedule for the week, and agreed on a Thursday.

I didn’t tell Babess in advance, just informed her that morning that she would be staying home with me.  She was quite happy, although at one point during breakfast she thought she might go to school after all… I told her that in that case I would quickly pack her lunchbox, and she hastily reneged!

We spent the morning baking biscuits for lunchboxes and Christmas gifts (they freeze well), and a friend came over for lunch and stayed to play.  Babess did carve out some rest time for herself, snuggling on the couch for nearly an hour while I finished the baking.

She really enjoyed her day off, and was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for school the next day.  However, she did tell me, “I only want to go to school on Wednesdays and Fridays now, ‘cos Wednesdays we have swimming and Fridays are choosing time.”

It’s great that she’s completely changed her attitude to swimming! But I told her she still has to go on other days too.  But only for another four weeks or so (eek).

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Hooray for mathematicians!

November 16, 2013

Our school celebrates both academic and sporting success.  Children who do well at athletics and swimming get to represent the school at regional and national competitions; children who do well at maths and English are invited to participate in national and international competitions.

Pearl took part in three of these: two for mathematics and one for reading comprehension.  She did us proud in all three.  Of course, we were proud just to have her selected to participate!

Yesterday Pearl and the other scholars were presented with their certificates at a senior-school assembly.  I was struck by the genuinely joyous celebrations of their peers.  Some children got certificates for “participation” or “merit” and were soundly applauded.   But those who received “distinction” or even “high distinction” were clapped and cheered and the crowd went wild.  The pleased blushes of the kids standing up the front were matched by the proud grins of their parents sitting at the back.

I hope these kids will continue to celebrate and recognise academic and scientific success.  They’re being trained well.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Babess gets wet

November 13, 2013

Today was Babess’ school swimming lesson.  She has had a couple already, but hasn’t really participated.  She has been very anxious about the depth of the water (she is shorter than nearly all the other kids) and reluctant to get in.

I got an email from her classroom teacher, who has been working with the swimming instructors to encourage Babess.  She said it was a “rough start” getting in the water, but… Babess blew bubbles, and even stood up in the water without hanging onto the side!  Apparently the class gave her a big clap for being so brave.

My heart melts.  Hooray for brave Babess!  And how lovely is her teacher, persevering and supporting, and sharing her pride with us?

© UpsideBackwards 2013.



Writing practice

July 6, 2013

Babess is enjoying school, from all accounts.  She is becoming more confident, but still playing the “I’m little and new” card somewhat successfully.  She is little, easily half-a-head shorter than anyone else in her class, and of slight build, so it’s easy to underestimate her.

She readily admitted one day that there was something she didn’t really want to do – of a schoolwork nature – “… so I just did the first little bit and then because I’m new Mrs X came and wrote the rest for me.”

I gave her a stern look and told her that wasn’t the right thing to do and won’t work for long – and had a quiet word in the teacher helper’s ear next time I saw her!

Although she hasn’t found the joy of writing her own stories yet, she does seem to enjoy the physical act of writing, and does lots of practice.  This evening she wanted to write some subtitles below a picture she had coloured in, of a princess or some such.  So she grabbed her brother’s book, “Horrid Henry’s Dinosaurs”, and copied out a chapter heading at random.

Now we have a lovely picture, all coloured in, sweetness and light, with the caption in beautiful handwriting: “Bloodthirsty beasts”.

This is why we had children.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

All in one place

June 24, 2013

Babess started school today.  We now enter a very brief era of all the children being in the same place on weekdays.  Next year Pearl will move to intermediate school, and from then on they will all be at different schools and (presumably eventually) university and out into the wide world.

I’m told Babess did very well.  News this morning was all about the huge storm we had late last week, and all the children had something to share about that.  Babess needed a bit of encouragement at writing time, but did decide on something to write, and has nice handwriting.  At maths time she wasn’t very confident so chose to sit with the teacher and observe, rather than participate, but in the afternoon she perked up again and was speaking up and taking part in the class activities.

All in all, a very successful first day.  Especially because when we got home, Babess asked anxiously, “Mum, can I go to school tomorrow too?”

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Not adding up

June 12, 2013

Fainjin was reluctant to go to school this morning.  In fact, he announced that he just wasn’t going.

“Why not?” I asked him.

“Because it’s boring.”

“Uh-huh.  Which bit of school is boring?”

“Maths,” he grumped.

“Oh dear.  Do you have trouble with maths at the moment?”

“Yes.” He was almost tearful.

“What’s the problem with maths, Fainjin?”

“There are too many pluses and minuses!” he blurted.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

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