Boys: a miscellany

One hitherto unforeseen advantage of trundling round the house with the vacuum cleaner is that it gives you space to compose blog posts in your head.  One disadvantage is that the instant you switch the machine off, those wonderfully crafted words disappear, sucked up as far as I can tell into the Dyson. 

Anyway, there I was, mulling over the apparent impossibility of getting GP1 to even think about doing any revision for the forthcoming prelims or perhaps even making a list of what he needs to do.  I don’t ask for much.  His younger brother, on the other hand, also faced with exams, comes out with such gems as “Mum, if I do this past paper could you mark it so that I don’t cheat?”  You’d throw up wouldn’t you, if he wasn’t your own son.  So I just laugh, lavish praise,  agree and wonder why the application genes couldn’t have been divided equally.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to auction tickets for someone to accompany me to Parents’ Evening tonight.  Continue reading

Talking to teachers

The school communication chain

Part 1    Parents talking to teachers

  1. Identify a pressing need to speak to a teacher.
  2. Find out name of relevant teacher from reluctant teenager.
  3. Weekday morning: write note and send it into school with relevant teenager.
  4. Weekend morning: find scrunched up note in pocket of trousers heading for washing machine.
  5. Next week:  phone school to speak to teacher.
  6. Teachers being teachers, they’re teaching (during school hours) or in meetings (after school hours), not speaking to parents on phone.
  7. Leave message for teacher.
  8. 2 or 3 days later, phone school again.
  9. Speak to receptionist, she of So I’m Supposed To Know Everything, Now? fame.  She insists that it’s not school policy to put parents through to teachers and you have to be routed via guidance. (See?  She does know everything.)  Leave message for Guidance teacher to pass to Class teacher.
  10. 2 or 3 days later…  Assuming you 1) still have the will to live, 2) can remember the original question (did you keep that note?) and 3) still want an answer, figure out Guidance teacher’s email address and email the question.
  11. 2 or 3 days later… Yes!  Result!  Receive response from Guidance teacher who has spoken to class teacher.
  12. But…  You need to reply to the teacher’s reply.  Email Guidance again.
  13. 2 or 3 days later…  receive a reply to the reply.
  14. It must be about week 4 by now.
  15. If you’re lucky, very lucky, Continue reading

The worst mother in the world

Apparently that is my sobriquet amongst GP1’s friends, due in part to my whimsical tendency to insist that he occasionally tears himself away from the X Box to do his homework (well I try) and in part to my – sorry, our – bizarre and totally unreasonable refusal to allow TVs, games machines or computers in the bedrooms.  I found this out last weekend when we took twelve teenagers paintballing.  Twelve?  Yes, twelve.  That’s the result of having two birthdays in the same week and then, as happened last year, choosing to have major surgery that very week.  There’s a lot of making up to do.  Bad planning, some might say. 

Anyhow I thought it was a bit unfair to call me The worst mother in the world, albeit with a huge smile,  when Continue reading

Onwards and upwards

 Standard Grades seemed so simple.  Were they ever an issue?  Did I ever worry that GP1 might not be working hard enough?  Surely not.  The fact that GP2 is sitting his SGs this year is really just incidental.   Because, dear reader, we have Highers looming.   I have written very little about GP1 and his meandering journey towards Highers for the simple reason that I find it all too distressing.  It’s also difficult not to get too personal about it all.  Why, I wonder, am I the one waking in the middle of the night worrying about oldest son’s English essay?  I’ve got my own report deadlines to worry about, thank you very much.

But I was cheered the other day by an email comment from the wonderful lady who is struggling to tutor him through English and I thought perhaps Continue reading

To boldly go

Read in younger son’s physics homework the other day:  “The bench moves you fastly to the start and then slowly back through the…”

Nothing to do with hadrons or black holes, fortunately.

Me:  “There’s no such word as ‘fastly’.”  😆

Him:  “Yes there is.  What’s wrong with fastly?” 😎

Me:  “The word’s ‘fast’.  But that doesn’t really work there; you can use ‘rapidly’ or ‘quickly’ but not fastly.” 🙄

Him:  “‘Slow’ and ‘slowly’ are OK so what’s wrong with ‘fastly’?”    😛

Me:  “It’s just not English.  Perhaps the DofE had a point when he asked if you could read and write.”  😈

The conversation progressed on those lines.  I eventually won. 

It reminded me, though, of some other ‘…ly’s and various dislikes.   Continue reading


Timetable in a Norwegian school by Edublogger.It was the end of June and so the end of term when I found myself reminded of the reason why I adopted Guineapigmum as my nom de blog.  Three years ago (was it really that long ago?) the school decided to bring the Standard Grade exams forward a year.  The students would choose their 8 subjects at the end of S1 (Year 8 ) rather than S2 and sit their exams at the end of S3  (Year 10) instead of S4.     They would choose their 5 subjects for Higher at the end of S3, do a 2 year instead of the more usual 1 year course and sit Highers as normal at the end of S5.  Got that?  Come on, keep up at the back of the class.  If you stopped gossiping you’d know what I said.  

GP1 was in the first year group to go through this system and so he sat his Standard Grades a year ago, in 2007.  With this first cohort, the teachers had to deal with two entire year groups Continue reading

Tutors – help!

School’s out.  It’s the last day of term.  Yay! 

But there’s a small problem, and I know I’m probably too late to post this.  Everyone’s suddenly on holiday but we need to find a tutor for English Higher for next term.  Can anyone in the East Lothian/Edinburgh area point me in the direction of anyone?  So far I’ve only drawn a blank.

Breaking the habit of a year or two, here’s my email in case anyone has any bright ideas:-

christine at amisfield1 dot fsnet dot co dot uk

Protective? Or overprotective?

slide-header.jpg“You’re an overprotective mum. ”  🙄

“No I’m not, I’m just interested.  Do you know all the people on your contact lists?”  ❓

“Of course I do.  Do you think I’m stupid?” 😡

“Well, anyone can see those pictures you’ve put on.” 😕

“No they can’t.  It’s private.  And I haven’t put my surname, or my age, or where I live.  Go away.” 👿

So I did.  I went and googled GP1’s name, then GP2, and I couldn’t find either of them.  I was mildly reassured but note – mildly.  I have done this before but in a fairly desultory sort of way.  Tonight, though, I was just back from the school Continue reading

The personal touch

45656455_ed1f145c5c.jpgSo there we are.  External exams are over for another year.  Next year will be the big one – GP1/Highers (I’m trembling and pale at the prospect) with GP2/Standard Grades (an entirely different proposition).  This year, though,  was a relative breeze. 

First up there was SVS.  Once I’d got my head round the fact that Continue reading

Ask the teacher

When my tall, laid back (read “idle”), 15 year old son comes in from school each day, the conversation generally takes this pattern:-

Me: “How was school today?” 🙂

Him:  “Boring”. 😐

Me: “Do anything interesting?” 🙂

Him: “Nope” 😐 as he disappears into his bedroom to change in preparation for adopting the lounging position in front of the XBox on the sitting room floor.

Me:  “Much homework?” 😉

Him: “Nope”. 😐

End of conversation.   I’m sure I’ve reported on this before – sorry to bore you!

Yesterday, however, was different.  He suddenly launched into a diatribe Continue reading

Ocean Youth Trust

greater-manchester-challenge.jpgI’m not a great believer in the children missing school for any reason.  They really have to be close to death before they can stay home sick and it takes a family wedding to get them the last day of term off.  But they’re both taking a week out in April to go with the Ocean Youth Trust, a sail training organisation, on the Greater Manchester Challenge.

A friend had organised a group of youngsters from dinghy sailing clubs in Derbyshire to go on the boat but several dropped out recently and she was offering the places more widely.  We initially turned it down as it was during term time for us – Easter holidays in other parts of the country – but GP2 was keen to go.  Some more thought and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.  The school agreed and have been very supportive about the idea; they’re not getting off scot free as they’ll have some reading and writing to do.   Anyhow, they’re both going and so is their Manchester cousin.  They’ll sail from Holyhead, probably out to the Isle of Man, and back to Liverpool. 

Interestingly, although it’s expensive it’s a lot cheaper than some of the school trips on offer, presumably because we don’t have to cover staff costs.   Travel costs will be helped by the fact that I have a meeting in Bangor that week which I’ve managed to rearrange for the Monday – they board on Sunday – so it’s all fitting in well.

And I’m very jealous.

77 nil

david_callam.jpgOh dear.  That was the scoreline at the end of GP2’s first ever rugby match last Sunday.  It wasn’t the team’s first match, despite what the scoreline might suggest.  But they were playing a team from Gala, in the Borders, and, as you’ll all know, Borders lads are farmers’ sons and built like tractors.  Or cow sheds.  Huge, in any case, and surely twice the size of their opponents.  There was plenty of ducking and weaving but this was mostly from the Ross High team in their efforts to avoid tackling the trains that came hurtling towards them, clutching the ball, no need to pass as they banged down yet another try.  I don’t blame them – I’d have dived for cover at the first whistle. 

Still, he said he’d enjoyed it, despite the bitter wind, tucked away safely out on the wing,  and he got his hands on the ball once for a nanosecond before off-loading in the face of another juggernaut.  Good strategy – let someone else get tackled! GP2, by the way, is one of the smaller boys in his year.

This first ever rugby match took place Continue reading

High days and Holy days

grumpyowl.jpgThis is going to be a very selfish, mean-spirited, churlish, curmudgeonly, whingeing and Grumpy Old Woman sort of post.  There.  You’ve been warned.  For more enlightened, friendly, positive, cheerful reading you could try some of the links on my blogroll instead.  Iota’s started posting again about life in the States and she’s always entertaining and currently much more enthusiastic than me.  Or there’s Reluctant Memsahib who writes about homeschooling, schooling of the boarding variety but mainly day to day living in the Tanzanian outback.  And you could try Potty Mummy, Mother at Large and Pig in the Kitchen for general entertainment and cooking tips.  Oh, and I nearly forgot Fidra books who are offering to give away books to schools.  I hope you’ve all gone now so I can complain in peace.

Well, brother-in-law got engaged at Christmas. Good news! Exciting news, even, as his fiancee only appeared on the scene in September; Mother-in-law had, I think, secretly started to give up hope of any more grandchildren and suddenly hope came galloping into our Christmas celebrations.  Sister-in-law to be, who keeps Continue reading

Rock on!

nwage0121.JPGTonight is the Ross High School concert, always a good event.  Last week the brass players from the primary and secondary schools around the county gathered for their annual Christmas bash, with the Glasgow-based Scottish Co-op Band, home of the brass instrumental teacher, playing the second half of the concert.  I think it’s fair to say that, whilst the standard of the first half of the concert may best be described as variable, with a lot of young players who may have only been learning brass for a few months, overall the band has improved year on year.  And they only get one hour’s practice all together, just before the concert.  It’s always a great evening: this year’s highlight was the guest soloist, a gorilla drummer from the Co-op Band.  Nuff said.

But moving on.  Continue reading

Life goes on

In fact, it goes on at such a pace there doesn’t seem to be time to write blog posts.  And that’s with no significant work to do for a week or so.  Bliss!  Christmas shopping and meeting fellow bloggers without feeling that there’s something else I should be doing.  Make the most of it.  It won’t last.

So, in the last ten days I’ve had my second round of chemo, which was no problem, although I think it took a little longer to get over than the first.  I did manage to get myself along to the EduBuzz meeting but was feeling slightly spaced out so I’m not sure I contributed anything coherent.  In fact, I may have agreed to write something; it’s rather akin to agreeing to something at a party or with a pint in your hand.  You wake up the next morning thinking “I said I’d do what?”.  Anyhow, as I’m fairly certain I haven’t said I’d swim the channel for charity, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

I also met up with fellow bloggers Helen, Vanessa and Erica at an Edinburgh coffee shop and then visited the Children’s Bookshop in Morningside.  Continue reading

Please explain

Long ago, in the days when I was naive, innocent and, dare I say, young, I thought that diving was the planet’s main repository of acronyms.   SCUBA, BSAC, PADI, NAUI, ABLJ (remember those?), BC, AAS, ITC, PIE, TIE, IFT, NDC, NDO…  The list could be very long.  And boring.  And growing – let’s add in ERD.  But then I discovered education.  I had of course encountered education before, but only as an end user, one who sat in a classroom and did as she was told.  I didn’t realise that that Latin teacher whose life we made such a misery – yes, even in a respectable girls’ grammar school we could make life hell for an innocent  – I didn’t realise that she was probably an NQT.   I did have to find out what an UCCA form was but really, that was about it.

Now, however, in my present incarnation as an enormously responsible and troublesome parent, I’m having to learn a whole new vocabulary of acronyms and jargon.  Continue reading

Flying high: Double maths and badminton

One of the highlights of school, ever since day 1 of Primary 1, is being chosen to represent the school at an event.  The recorder group, the choir, brass band, sports of all sorts, Celebration of Success – whatever the event, the excitement is high.   With GP2, the excitement is infectious;  he still manages to hang on to some of that little boy enthusiasm that his more wordly wise older brother tries hard to hide. 

Last Friday there was a badminton tournament  at Meadowmill after school. I didn’t have the heart to say to GP2 “You’re supposed to be at Regional Wind Band practice”.  After all, there’ll be other practices and these tournaments don’t happen too often.  Continue reading

Ghost writing

The school newsletter has been lying around in the drift of papers on our dining room table for the last couple of weeks, waiting to be tidied away.  I read it when I came out of hospital, starting, as one would, with Dear Parents and Families on the front page.  I wondered what it meant.  Husband read it at some point during half term.  “What does this mean?” he asked.  Sister, a teacher of some 20+ years and married to the sort of head teacher who gets put into difficult schools to sort them out, read it: “Where’s the letter from the head?”  “That’s it on the front page” I said.  “You’re joking!” she said.  Continue reading

Bed blogs

Patientline entertainment system Patientline is the communication system that is installed at each patient’s bedside in the ERI.  It provides a personal telephone number, television, radio – and internet!  Woo hoo!  It took me a day or so to discover the internet function and a little longer to get onto Edubuzz (I like the new look, by the way!) and guineapigmum.  So I saw a couple of good wishes people had put on my blog and it cheered me up.

Once the morphine fog cleared a little, I thought I’d have a go at responding – and then it all ground to a halt.  Interminably slow connection speed, a keyboard with letters that didn’t work, most of the blogs that I read regularly blocked and a brain that wasn’t functioning.  What, I wonder, is wrong with Mother at Large, Not wrong, just different and Reluctant Memsahib? Are they full of scurrilous material, likely to raise the heart rate of patients to a dangerous level?  Anyhow, I gave up and resorted to less challenging pasttimes – the Archers and the insufferably perfect Nigella (although I have made the chicken pie she demonstrated since coming home, and it was pretty good).

I wondered, though, if this is what it is like trying to use the internet in schools.  Slow, broken and blocked.  I hope not.

To Bebo or not to Bebo – that must be an old one


I’ve just dropped by Ollie Bray’s blog and read his post about a family-oriented internet safety training evening that Musselburgh Grammar School held this week.  I would have liked to have gone along but there’s been too much going on this week, so here’s hoping Ross High will run a similar evening in the near future.  (Just nicked your picture, Ollie – thanks!)

I am very aware that my eldest son spends all his spare time at home on the computer – games, BeBo, MSN, Hotmail, Skype and who knows what else. His cousin in Manchester Continue reading