Posts Tagged ‘Secondary Schools’

Machiavellian Cunning of Nine Year Old Boys

June 4, 2008

My nine year old son starts extra tuition with a private tutor after school today to improve his shoddy maths. This is to make him acceptable for the standards required in the entrance exams he takes this November and then again in January for his move into secondary school. 


His current local State school is utterly useless, and I was shocked at his lack of maths when I went into it with him. It isn’t his fault at all, and when I started teaching him some of the basics he was lacking in he picked it all up immediately. State schools seem to be mostly rubbish. This one certainly is.


When my son went for an assessment  to the Kip McGrath ‘school’ (private tutors) on Saturday, they said he was very bright and his maths abilities far exceeded the pedestrian level of teaching at his present school. They said they were confident he could easily pass the maths part of the entrance exam, but not if we relied on his State school to teach him anything, because it famously can’t really be bothered to.


The weekly tuition is costing me £22 a week, and as my income currently fails to even pay the ordinary weekly bills, it is a statement of optimism that I will be able to continue to pay for the tuition for long enough. I told my son I expect him to contribute  his pocket money towards the cost of the tuition. His response was sheer amazement that I was actually paying for it at all. He thought it was free !


I have to pay for the tuition, rather than doing it myself for several reasons. The first is I have been completely unable to find the necessary time to do it in the several months I have tried to. The second reason is that I am utterly ignorant of how to go about it properly and what things he is actually supposed to know at his age. The third is the usual problem of parents finding it much more difficult than other people to teach anything at all  to their kids.


So far, every effort I have made to apply pressure on my son to voluntarily sit down and actually do some maths without me chaining him to the desk and standing over him snarling constant threats of dire consequences if he doesn’t get on with it, have come to nothing.


He agrees with the abstract idea of ‘wanting to do the extra maths’ to be able to get into a good school but, unfortunately, it remains entirely abstract unless I physically sit down and do it with him. This has certain limitations.


To give you an idea of how it works, let me explain what happened yesterday.


I wanted him to tidy up his lego. Vast amounts of it are scattered over every square inch of the lounge floor, and have been for a very, very long time. At least a a year probably.


I have asked him in a variety of ways to put it away, many, many times. I have been endlessly patient and even calm about it. I have been diplomatic; ranging from diffidently polite, through the huge range of diplomacy options as practiced by superpower diplomats politely explaining to Middle Eastern Dictatorships that no one will attend their embassy parties or even play with them  anymore and their country will be bombed out of existence unless they start behaving themselves.


Nothing has worked. Certainly not my threats of extreme violence or hints that pocket money might become a thing of the past or he might be confined to the house and not allowed out to play with his friends in the woods anymore.


So, yesterday, I tried a new tactic. Rather that give way to my inclination to fly into paroxysms of uncontrollable rage and beat the living daylights out of the little blighter, I thought I would call his bluff and just be calmly and quietly insistent that he goes nowhere and does nothing until all that ruddy lego is back in it’s boxes. 


All the flaming lego ‘Bionicle’ alien thugs with their fierce features and violent interstellar death ray weaponry which are perched on every surface must go. All the debris from their battles overseen by the Warlord Ninja Wrecker (my son) which litters the lounge floor making it impossible to walk the short distance to the the telly to switch it on without crunching bits of lego underfoot and breaking them. This causes subsequent accusations from him of me doing it on purpose, followed by copious tears from the Ninja Wrecker as he accusingly  holds up a cracked and broken alien’s face or favourite missile launcher for me to see.


It simply must all be packed away so I can actually get round to hoovering up the two year layer of dust on the floor.


I naively thought that if I didn’t get cross and just quietly insisted he stay put until it is all done, eventually he would just have to get on with it. Bingo ! he would get bored, stop making excuses, and it would be done.


Foolish me. I had reckoned without the Machiavellian cunning nine year old boys can display. Bitterly complaining it wasn’t fair, he disconsolately picked up bits of lego one by one, slowly, pausing each time to sigh as if he was the victim of terrible child abuse.


After a while he  simply curled up on the sofa and went to sleep for several hours. It was only late morning. Seeing as how I had to go out of the house and do things later in the day and had to take him with me, my cunning plan had failed. The lego still remains virtually untouched. All I can do is repeat the performance, with massive inconvenience to myself and no guarantee he will ever pick up his lego at all.


He wins – yet again !