What I want…

As I write, GP1 should be well into his PE Standard Grade exam.  And I’ve just read a post on Ewan’s blog about the school curriculum.  I have one son (GP2, 12) choosing subjects for Standard Grade, another (GP1, 14) choosing subjects for Higher.  


I want…  the children to study a broad curriculum that they enjoy, that teaches them to learn, to think, to understand, to question, to synthesize, to enjoy learning.

I want… them to carry on with at least some subjects at school which will teach them to appreciate and enjoy the world around them without the pressure of exams… art, PE, music, craft, literature would be a good start. 

I want… to be convinced that giving so many subjects up at 12 to do exams at 14 and so have a better chance of good grades at Higher with a 2 year course is a good thing.  2 years for Highers, yes.  But condensing the curriculum so much at 12 and then again at 14?  Giving up all those “nice” subjects so young?

I want… to appreciate that the subjects they study doesn’t really matter – what matters is the learning to learn etc.  After all, I really don’t remember any O Level History or even any A Level Latin.

I want… to believe that exam results don’t really matter.  What matters is that they’re happy and well-adjusted human beings.

I want… GP1 to knuckle down to some work before it’s too late and…  **@!* all that…

what I really want… regardless of all the above, is that he gets through these exams with good grades so that he can carry on with a good shot at what comes next.

Oh, and I also want to get some work finished without worrying about how the exams are going….

Hello World!

I picked up NeoWorx courtesy of Ollie and have sort of managed to install it in the sidebar.  The Map seems to be working but I also tried to put a counter on and flags and they seem less successful.  I shalll continue fiddling with it and see what happens.  It’s reassuring to have some sort of indication that there are people out there who read my ramblings;  I have missed GoogleAnalytics since its demise as a tool for individual Edubuzz blogs.  

Study leave

Over lunch yesterday I happened to read this piece in the Guardian about study leave.  It pretty much encapsulated my feelings about my 14yr old son staying home for “revision”.  I did suggest, rather tentatively I must admit, to one of the teachers a while back that some form of mentoring by one of the older students might be a good idea as GP1 really hasn’t learned how to study.  The response was very dismissive as parents really don’t understand this sort of thing and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t chase it.  I also thought trying to enlist a local undergraduate would have been a good thing but there was noone immediately obvious and again I didn’t chase it.  Too late now.

Whilst the 3rd years aren’t taking the whole month as study leave, they are being allowed to stay home for the day before an exam.  I have reluctantly agreed that GP1 can do this as long as I’m at home, but I will be working away for a week later in the month.  I think presenting a structured environment in school, with some paired working with peers, will be for him much more effective than sitting on his own at home not quite knowing what to do but not wanting any parental input.  I feel a lot is being asked of him before he is ready for completely independent study.

Parents evening


It was S1 Parent’s evening last night and we seemed to zoom round, magically finding empty chairs and very few queues, but it still took 2 hours.  This was despite spending very little time at any desk – just long enough to hear what an angelic specimen GP2 is and how they would all love to have him in their Standard Grade class.  Hmmm.  I must invite these teachers home sometime to see this paragon on his home territory. 

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North Sea Landscapes

nsea.jpgWe watched the end of a TimeTeam programme last night about North Sea landscapes and climate change and wished we’d seen the whole thing, even if Sam Wollaston didn’t think much of it.  GP2 stomped off to bed in a huff because it was too late for him to stay up and see the end so I hope they repeat it at an earlier time.  He had already played a football match, then watched part of a slightly higher level football match, and was beyond tired.  Anyhow, this website has information about the seismic studies behind the project, with some interesting pictures.

Tick tock

Countdown to the exams is most definitely on.  They all kick off next Tuesday with English.  The good news is that the 3rd years aren’t being sent home on a month’s study leave.  The bad news is that I’m still saying “you can do that after you’ve done some work”.  I did ask GP1 yesterday why, at this stage, I was still having to nag him to work, rather than to stop work, and didn’t he think that at this stage he should be spending every waking moment working?  Those comments rolled off the teflon coating like all the others!

I felt slightly better, in a backhanded sort of way, after talking to another parent on the football sidelines last night. 

“Is A all ready for next week?” 

“What happens next week?” 

“The exams start.”

“Oh, do they?  That’s news!  He doesn’t tell us anything!”

So we’re not the only ones whose offspring go to great lengths to impart as little information as possible and where exam fever is merely a distant dream.

New York – Paris

maps_results_logo2.gifPerhaps this is a  Friday afternoon set of directions.  Or maybe just someone at GoogleMaps wants to know if anyone ever follows their directions.

This will take as long as you’ve got:-

  1. go to www.google.com                                  
  2. click on “maps,” above the search bar…
  3. click on “get directions”
  4. type ” New York” in the first box (the “from” box)
  5. type ” Paris” in the second box (the “to” box)
  6. click on “get directions”
  7. scroll down to step nos. 23/24. 

Back to work for a rest

I developed a whole new level of respect for people, all sorts of people, at the weekend.  Saturday night I was too tired to talk but did somehow manage to drive back from Glasgow without causing a major motorway incident.  However I did have a little bundle of metalwork to clutch in my hand to cheer me along.  Competitive? Me? Well, what do you think?

The eight of us representing the  East Lothian Masters who went to the Scottish Masters swimming at Tollcross on Friday and Saturday would like to think that we’ve arrived on the scene in style.  The two younger ones have been competing at club level quite recently but for the rest of it was a whole new and humbling experience!  Having raced (sorry, taken part) in triathlon over the last few years, I could not have believed how hard it would be to do a series of swimming races over a day and a half – after all, on a triathlon, it’s non stop for (in my case) more than an hour and a half, and what can be so hard about swimming a few lengths of the pool with big long rests between races? Continue reading


Two quotes down, 3 big tenders to go.  I’m hoping not to be away too much in May when the exams are on, and have just quoted for some work designed to keep me at my microscope for several weeks, but this is the start of the main field season and the best weather.  My income for the year is always dependent on winning at least one large field based contract. 

We have yet to hear what’s happening at school once the exams start – I am dreading the possibility of a month’s study leave as it would inevitably mean plenty of leave and not much study.  I would really feel the school was reneging on its responsibilities if they send the 3rd years home for a month and I hope this won’t happen.   At least if they’re at school they will be in a working environment (at least, I hope they will!), with surely some of their peers involved in heads down studying.  Anyhow, we’ll wait & see.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

School’s back, the house is quiet and it’s almost the weekend already.  I’m off to Glasgow on Friday with a bunch of similarly mad people for the Scottish Open Masters swimming.  Why, I ask myself, as I sit here stuffed up with a cold and a sore wrist to boot, did I think it might be a good idea?  800m frontcrawl is OK – it’s like going for a jog.  You get going nice & steady and just don’t stop until someone tells you to.  Kick hard on the last two lengths.  But the 50m butterfly?  What on earth possessed me?  I’m hoping adrenalin will get me down the second length as technique and training certainly won’t.  And then there’s a whole bunch more metres of frontcrawl in various combinations on Saturday, culminating in 50m – another sprint and I’m way too old to sprint, big breath, head down, go for broke.  I should know by now to leave that to the 15 yr olds.  Oh well, I’ll keep swallowing the cold remedies and ibuprofen for my wrist and hope there’s no drug testing for oldies.  And I’ll report back next week.

My other world

In my real world, my desk is groaning under a pile of tenders I need to deal with.  The immediate question is – how to prioritise them?  There’s always a lot of second guessing goes into putting tenders together, looking for this year’s salary.  Who else is bidding (my husband’s company for one!)?  What do they know that we don’t know – or vice versa?  How much are they charging per day? What is the budget? And how long is the piece of string that is the length of time the project really needs to complete?  How much of that piece of string is the client prepared to pay for?  If they’re not going to cough up for all of it, which bits can be dropped?  Will the field work really take the whole of the school holidays, as happened last year – I had two weeks in the house last summer holidays. Should I put a lot of time into a tender I only have a 25% chance of winning, as no one pays for putting tenders together? And do I want to do the job in the first place? 

I’ve just seen quite a nice salaried job advertised and there is always an appeal of a regular monthly income, holidays that you can actually take and someone other than myself contributing to a pension.  But then I think about driving into an office every day…  And office politics… And staff meetings… I’ll just get on with those tenders.

Ironing is an overrated pastime

p1010055.JPGAt least it is in our house, as you might deduce from this picture.p1010046.JPG  How many nuclear power stations could we shut down if everyone gave up ironing?  I’d rather go out in the garden – here’s the  Forsythia in bloom this year.  Evidence from the last couple of years suggested it had given up the will to live but, just to prove me wrong, it has come back to life in style.  

I hate computers

cmh-090706-21-leptometra-celtica.jpgI spent a large chunk of yesterday and most of this morning trying to install a new subscription to my McAfee antivirus package.  I eventually tracked it down, via various help forums and message boards, to a conflict with IE7 and the need to download some extra stuff from Microsoft.  I wanted to shout “why didn’t you tell me that in the first place? I’m supposed to be on holiday!” at McAfee.  And I don’t even like this new updated version of McAfee; it’s giving me popup messages about all sorts of things I really don’t want or need to know about.  So my next little job was to copy some laboriously labelled photos to a CD or two to finish my input on the Loch Sunart project.  More shouting at the computer and stomping round the house before I finally decided that my CD writer ist Kaput and I’d have to sort it out on the laptop. How I hate that message “There is no writable CD in the drive”. 

Meanwhile revision continues apace -“a” in this context as in abiotic or adiabatic or anoxia.  Bribery, blackmail, cajoling, threats, encouragement, peer pressure – does anyone know anything that works?  I think May will be more nerve racking than when I did exams myself – at least then I was in control!  Roll on June!

Exciting finds

Life as a marine biologist can be interesting; it’s always a challenge to try and put names on everything we see underwater.  It can be fun; I get to go diving all over the UK and have seen bits of Scotland very few others have visited.  It can be uncomfortable; measuring oysters in 2m of water in Loch Sween in January, snow on the ground, for instance. It can become routine; lying on the seabed or sitting on the shore counting small things in quadrats for several days in succession springs to mind. It can also be deadly boring; I’ve just spent a week copying and pasting data from a spreadsheet into a database.  Just once in while though, we find something exciting.  These things rarely fall into the Great White Shark category Continue reading

To see or not to see?

Two 12yr olds overheard in the car this morning (subject choice being a current hot topic):-microscope-small.jpg

GP2: “I’m not going to do biology.  It’s so boring. Physics is good though.”  (So this biologist parent has done a good job there, then.)

Friend: “Biology’s great! Why would you want to do Physics when you just have to imagine everything? At least in Biology you can see what you’re talking about.”

GP2: “Not always. Some things are really small.”

Friend: “You can use a microscope.  What’s the point of learning about things like light waves when you can’t ever see them?”

GP2:  “Well, I’m going to do Physics and Chemistry.”

End of conversation.  The interesting common denominator is the teacher; GP2’s favourite teacher is the Physics teacher, who happens to teach Biology, but not Physics, to the friend.

Easter revision classes


“All right, I’ll go but I’m not going to the whole thing.” 

“Why not?”

“It’s chemistry.  You can’t expect me to concentrate on Chemistry for that long.”

“But you want to do Chemistry Higher.  You’ll have to get a good grade.”

“Yes but…”

“And you’re quite capable of concentratiing on computer games for hours.”

“That’s different.”

and so on.


“It was OK.  I did some practice papers with D and he told me some things I didn’t know.”

“That’s good. So are you going to read through the rest of your notes now?”

“No, I’ve done it now.”

“But there’ll be other stuff you don’t know.  How do you know what you don’t know if you don’t read through your notes?”  (Don’t worry – he didn’t understand that bit either.)

Anyhow, I’m sure you get the gist. 


Hah – I hope that made you look. GMDSS. An acronym that doesn’t have anything to do with teaching.  We finally made it to Port Edgar on Sunday morning for the course to upgrade our VHF User’s licence to this new brand of radio.  This was the course we forgot about when my father-in-law died in January.  It all looked good when we walked into the classroom – a PC on each desk with a GMDSS simulator on the screen and an instructor who could talk the talk.  The trouble was, his mantra was “Don’t touch the mouse! It will take me an hour to reset the computers if you hit the wrong button!”  We did eventually get to the hands on, let’s do it bit – but after a very complicated & long winded set of instructions we were allowed only 5 minutes to play.  By the time we’d worked out what the instructions meant, time was up & we were galloping on to the next bit.  Continue reading