Calling all Catholics

More daunting than you'd imagine

We had Nora's first "open evening" (ie: slightly late afternoon) aaages ago now but I totally failed to write about it at the time.

It's the "feeling uneasy about it" thing which has got in the way. It's likely that it will sound like I'm being a smug, beaming parent (beaming, certainly true); it is possible I may say things about Nora's school which taken out of context might make it sound alot worse as an environment than it is and I'm hitting a barrier, more and more at which I think "What happens when Nora's schoolfriends find this? could they use it against her?".

Which is a self-editing issue for a blog which supposedly is about me being a parent. although more recently you'd have to query if that's true.

So. Parents Evening.

I've talked before about the powers of Nor. I'd have to look up when she started to read, but she could basically read at 2 and a half. Everything after that point has been building on that somewhat extraordinary event. We are, of course, constantly dumbfounded by The Powers Of Nor, and sometimes, we find ourselves feeling a little bit like we're treading water, not really knowing how the hell to move forward with the whole thing.

It never occurred to us (rightly) to go down the 'hot house' route ie: pursue some ridiculous obsessive learning routine that would enable Nora to enter spelling bee competitions (if they even existed in this country) at the age of 6, or answer 400 random mathematics queries per day in return for ice cream, with the hope that she ends up in Cambridge by 12.

Er... no.

How Nora's capacity for learning tends to show itself in (much to my intense joy) is a vast capacity to ask questions, and want to know about stuff. Some recent queries have been: How do you make plastic? How do knees work, inside? How does hair stick to your head? For some reason these all come out at tea time. We bought a book from the local charity bookshop at Christmas featuring gorgeous photos of mountain ranges from satellites, and it enabled us to talk about and explain plate tectonics. All this begins to sound normal and "So what?" after a while, because you know.. Nor'a a bright kid and so shouldn't she be asking those kind of questions? Except then you remember that Nora's 5th birthday was less than a month ago.

So. Nora's teacher at the open evening suggested that Nora is on the cusp of getting bored in class. Luckily, the other kids haven't learned that people who are different should be persecuted, as yet, so Nor is happily playing, and messing about with her peer group but that's a peer group who only really want to play, and who can't read, and can't count up to 20. It's simply ridiculous to try and compare the class standard to Nor at this stage, because I mean, we're looking at... I don't know. 3 or 4 years ahead?

Getting back to the 'getting bored in class' point, my alarm bells started honking, because that has always been my biggest fear. It's exactly what happened to me - albeit, about five years down the line. I began my journey downhill toward the distinctly average after I completed everything I had to do in class, and stared, bored out of the window. Again, and again, for years. In every subject. It was terrible, and I make my own heart sad thinking about what might have happened if someone had said  - even once, "Right, ok, you've finished that, so why don't you take a look at this slightly harder thing?".

I will do everything possible to avoid this happening to Nor. The teacher said a bunch of other stuff which is mildly boasty, to be honest. This is difficult enough to write about as it is, so I won't add more ammunition to Nora's future bullies.

I posted a message to a bunch of old friends (we seem to have al grown up together since the age of 25, or less) many of whom are almost obscene over achievers, in the hope of wheedling any experience based advice out of them - where they or their mates had *not* been left to their own devices and ended up boring themselves in to mediocrity. Meg told me about an organisation that she and her brother were signed up to as kids. They ran Saturday workshops in which an almost Montessori like complete mix of age groups did all sorts of interesting activities which were designed to tweak their intellectual interest buttons. It was useful for them, and useful for the parents, having to cope with these overly smart children (ie: are you as daunted as we are? You bet). Turns out they don't do weekly anymore, but they do have monthly get togethers in Kingston (Kingston! FFS! It's miles away) so we'll go along and see if Nor likes it. Sounds like they're real experts at getting kids "doing" and there's barely anything Nora loves more than joining in and making something, so it should be good.

We've also been advised that getting her in to languages would be useful, given that it takes up brain-cell 'thinking' space and makes you a bit brain-tired and far from bored. I've been meaning to buy the "Muzzy" set of 'learn French' videos from Ebay for about 2 years and have failed spectacularly so I must get that together. Having said that though, Nora's been going to piano lessons for about a term so far. In classic Nor type fashion, we've been thinking that she could try harder, and oh, blimey, she's maybe not doing as well as we thought (given that we have quite ludicrous expectations of her, based on the stuff she can do well and loves), only for her teacher to call her attention span unprecedented at that age, and that she has great potential, etc, etc - ie: what the hell are you thinking? She's doing fantastically - she's only just *5*, remember?

So that's the update. We both made it clear to Nora's teacher that we expect her to be supported at school as solidly as possible... pffffttt. It's difficult. we have the best school in Lambeth walking distance from our house, that can take kids from age 5 right through to A levels. Their A level results are up around the best in the country. (Un)Surprisingly enough, it's a private school for girls! That's useful.

I am thinking more and more that we should go and talk to them, with a view to investigating scholarships and so forth in the future. Simply so that we know, you know? I'm sure the kids there are happy, smiley and as multi-ethnic and multi-background as you'd imagine, in London, so it wouldn't be quite as ridiculously stereotyped as it would have been 20 years ago. Nora is of course on the school's "Gifted and talented" programme, which offers various nice things for the smart kids to do, but that all doesn't start kicking in for another couple of years at least.

Various friends when I posted my "Hayalp" email suggested I relax and just let Nor play. That's what Reception class is all about. Socialising, and learning through play. In answer to that, and if anyone reading this was about to make the same suggestion, I just want to point out that we are basically following Nor here. She wants to learn, and question, and drag us to interesting places, and talk about how you make plastic, what a volcano is, and why she maybe shouldn't read "Beedle the Bard" which she was given for Christmas, even though she could quite easily read it (the answer is: because it's scary, realistically.  Nora gets really frightened by things that are in books for eight / nine year olds - it's a real strain, trying to get her stuff to read where the suspense element is relatively minor. Even "The wishing Chair" by Enid Blyton was too strong for her in parts).

In summary:
-We are both very proud of Nora and she continues to stump us by her leaps and bounds ahead
-We want to continue to create a supportive environment around her so she can be stretched enough and in the directions which she develops really strong interests in
-Thank the great spaghetti monster that her school is also recognising her 'special needs'
...and finally:
-We'll be keeping a close eye on things.