Family Life

Senior School Entry Anxiety…

They say a picture conveys a 1000 words and for those of us who live in London and have children who will – inevitably – take the 11+ exam (or 7+/13+) to gain entry into the most coveted senior school places, the 11+ conjures images of bloody backstabbing, intense Olympic-tutor-training and Edvard Munch type fear. (For those of you who don’t have kids – stop reading – or this will put you off kids forever).

But don’t worry. You are not alone. And you will survive. I promise.

The bad news is that it can be as bad as you can possibly imagine, I mean tears, pill-popping and lying-to-your-best-friends-face bad. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be and I am here to hold your hand and guide you through the whole process. Not sure if I will actually help, but think of me as a ‘survivor’ and someone who made it out alive in – barely – one piece.

I was very lucky in that I had friends with older children who had gone through the whole process and gave me their infinite wisdom, some of which I ignored completely, but a lot of it which helped me infinitely. And for those who don’t have that luck, well it’s your lucky day, because I can be that person. Hopefully, in the next few blog posts, I can give you some of my wise advice.

So to start, ** drumroll* here are my 10 Commandments for getting through the 11+ and Senior School Exams:

  1. Always remember, it’s the school that chooses your child. Not the other way around.
  2. Look at schools that will fit your child, not where you think you would like your child to go to.
  3. It’s not about what you want. As a matter of fact, it’s not about you. Did I already mention that?
  4. Over tutoring may not be a good thing. They may end up overanxious, stressed out, eating too much or too little, and end up a statistic in the increasing teen mental health problem.
  5. Don’t listen to what so-and-so is doing. Anyway, most of them are lying.
  6. As a matter of fact, if you really want to stay sane, don’t talk to any of the other mums at the school gates. Choose a few close confidantes that you can talk to, who will support you, and that’s it.
  7. Make a plan of what you think is reasonable for your child. Don’t over tutor just because you think you have to. Have a clear idea of where your family values lie and don’t waver.
  8. Have reasonable expectations and be realistic – if your child is in the bottom sets, don’t try to make them sit St Paul’s. That’s just a waste of time and energy.
  9. Don’t stress, or your child will stress too.
  10. Remember, it’s your child’s race, not anybody else’s. So support them, love them, guide them, but the rest is up to them.

So remember, just Keep Calm and Carry On and you will get through this.

And Good Luck!

xx

NHM

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Social Commentary

The British Schooling (Torture) System

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Images courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2018. 

Lately, all we’ve (the mums) been talking about has been exams: it is January when most of the 7+/8+/11+ exams are happening and it’s been dire: chatter about who’s taking what exam, to what school and who’s been getting interviews etc…and those that say they aren’t taking them and you see them at the 7+ hiding in the bushes. I have consciously not yet entered this quite cutthroat world, but eventually, I too will have to face it.

I was having lunch with a friend who is slightly panicking because she has never tutored her kids but now has the 11+ coming up next year and is worried about her child not getting into any school. She is adamantly against tutoring, but I told her that the problem is that everyone else is tutoring, so you need to know what you are up against. She then said ‘This is crazy. What are we doing to our kids? And to what end?’

I have heard of people going on anxiety pills for the infamous 11+ – and that’s just the mums – and children not able to sleep at night because of exam stress as young as 7 years old. Everyone is getting stressed: fathers losing their s*&t and mums taking a year off prestigious jobs to overlook their children’s progress. But it is starting earlier and earlier. Children are already being tutored in Reception and by Year 2, everything accelerates when those looking to do the 7+ are already learning the Year 4 curriculum. I’m being advised by a friend on what activities my child should be doing right now for her future university application. It’s all very fast, too early and too soon.

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So, why are we doing this to our children? The most prestigious girls school in the UK has an extremely high rate of mental health issues: anxiety, depression, eating disorders and personality disorders. Until this changes, I would never send my children there. And the girls consortium who is trying to scrap their exam because of exam stress. Isn’t it all a bit much for 11 year olds?

I understand the statistics though: the better school you get into, the higher chance of going to a good university, and the better the university, the better chance of getting a good job. This is all true, by all means. But it’s not the only way. There are ways of getting to the top without these illustrious diplomas and distinctions.

My alma mater receives 30,000 applications for something like 1,500 spots. There is no way I would get into it these days. But I have hope that there are plenty of great schools/universities – perhaps not the best but very good – that will provide my children with a great education. So, let’s all relax a bit. If you’re not trying to be a billionaire/Fortune 500 CEO/Entrepreneur of the year, then you should relax too (and if you are, good luck to you). Most of us are lucky enough to send our children to good schools, and most likely they will end up in good universities. So, let’s just take a step back and realise that the world will be run by robots anyway, so your kids might as well have fun along the way.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

 

Here’s some advice to parents from Hannah Ogahara, who runs a local tutoring agency Love Learning Tutors:

How to be involved in your child’s school life without being overbearing

It is easy enough to be involved with your child’s studies when they are young but what do you do when your child grows into one of those moody teenagers? We’ve all been on the receiving end of some harsh backchat. It can leave you feeling helpless when all you want to do is to offer your years of experience. Let’s face the facts, it may be a challenge to be your child’s best friend over the next few years, but here are some simple things you can do to ease tension at home and stay involved without becoming overbearing.

Actively listen

One of the greatest frustration that teenagers face is when parents make assumptions about what they should be doing. This is quite a general one and includes friendship groups and interests as well as school life. It may be that you don’t remember the particular teacher they are talking about, or perhaps you weren’t really listening because you were juggling many tasks when they confided in you. We recommend discussing school life with your child and making an effort to really listen and retain what you are being told. This builds trust and the knowledge that they can come to you for guidance.

Be aware of your communication style

If you find yourself getting into frequent arguments with your child about school, change your approach. Try to avoid confrontation and change the focus to constructive solutions. Veer away from the nagging voice and steer towards calm, pragmatic tones. Ask open question rather than questions that can be quickly shut down.

Swap “Have you done your homework?” and “Where is your homework?” for “Do you have a lot of homework?”, “Tell me about your homework, is there anything interesting?”

Ask small questions often

Get into the habit of asking small school related questions often so that it doesn’t come as a surprise when you need to bring something up. Try remember who is teaching what, which teachers they like and which they don’t. This shows that you’re really listening and taking interest. It makes it easier for your child to keep you in the loop.

Celebrate

Let your child know when they are doing well and celebrate successes together. Everyone loves to feel successful and valued. No matter how big your child gets, no one is immune to a bit of praise (provided they feel they have earned it). This should encourage your child to tell you how things are going on a frequent basis.

Share stories

Carefully select stories to share about your school experiences. Regardless of whether they are things that went well or terribly wrong. A good story provided at the right time can allow for bonding between you and your child. It helps your child understand that you’ve been through the same things are sympathetic towards them and their academic journey. Be on the same team rather than opposing sides, “you are wrong” vs “I am right”.

Less “When I was at school it was much harder because…”

More “I had a similar teacher who used to…”

Don’t take it personally

This is one of the hardest tips to put into practice. Having your child snap at you can leave you feeling distraught; and feeling that your constant efforts to provide them with the best you can, aren’t being appreciated. Unfortunately, adolescence is a difficult time for everybody. The above suggestions will help with positive and open communication, but things will not always go to plan. When this happens take a deep breath and step away for a moment, rather than letting things escalate.

www.lovelearningtutors.com

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