Friday, October 17, 2008

On Sim and his future 

I am spending a lot of time at the moment dithering about Sim's education.

On the one hand, he is as bright as a shiny new penny, on the other hand, he is well, not all that good at school.

Which rather makes him an unknown proposition when it comes to potentially arranging a year abroad for him.

Our plan, you see, with his mumbled consent, although I don't think he is really sure what he wants, is to afford him a year's grace from the English education treadmill of exams, exams, and just when you think you're through, yet more exams.

This we hoped to achieve by sending him next academic year to a country of his choice to take a semi-sabbatical year out attending high school somewhere else and learn or reinforce one of his other languages.

I am thankful to say that most developed countries do not appear to be as resistant to the idea as the UK is, and that many many students do this every year, crisscrossing he globe in their twin bids to be free of their families and to learn how the other half of the planet lives.

At the moment, French seems the most sensible option, due to the high proportion of the boy's family actually born there, living there or having links there. On the other hand, there is Quebec, a country (I always think of it as a separate country...) a country donc with which we now have links if only of the heart.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both these options.

On the one hand, there is the unendurable academic snobbery prevalent in most of the establishments I have spoken to France that offer the kind of international education we are hoping for for Sim. Sim's current grades, gained at a high-achieving selective school, reflect only his relative attainment compared to the other pupils of his high-attaining selective school. For objective comparison of his abilities with the whole of his age group, we must await the outcome of the hoops he is compelled to jump through over the next few months (I realise at this point that I always sound a little negative about the GCSEs. I cannot pretend otherwise, although as I emphasize to the boy, just because something dull and humdrum stands between him and his future does not mean he can simply opt out of it).

On the other hand there is the CEGEP system in Quebec.

On the other other hand, there is Sim. Whilst bright, he is not one of life's natural performers, and doing things to please anyone has never been part of his makeup. He is more than happy coasting along, quietly evading the attention of any teacher who might attempt to make him do more. To wit: July 2008, attainment grades for English and Biology- C (ie rubbish vs Sim's ability), effort grades- 4 (ie: you are really not trying much at all, are you? aka Crap!). October 2008, effort grades for both: 1 (excellent).

See? The teachers got onto him, he pulled his socks up to make them go away, problem solved. Effort grades in French meanwhile have slid down to a 4 (Crap! but not Execrable), whilst his attainment stays at a high A.

It's as though he's fighting bush fires, beating them out when they pop up, instead of stopping and considering not playing with those matches in the first place. I would love to think that immaturity is causing this, and mostly I do, it is just that I also feel that time is very short in the UK education, and space limited for thinking his way to a more mature approach to his future.

Hence our thoughts on allowing him a year's relative freedom while he considers which is the range of school leaving diplomas might best suit him. Here in Exeter he has A levels (shudder) or the International Baccalaureat from which to choose. Further afield in France he could do the Baccalaureat with International Option offered by the French education system- with the provisos listed above regarding their inflexibility re grades.

Which brings me to the US education system, which as I understand improves in quality as you progress through it, although that may be just a myth... I would welcome any thoughts on this. I feel that the US system may be more suited to a late developer, although obviously for Sim to go to high school in the US rather removes exciting language component. I have a brother now legally resident in the states (you would not believe how hard it is to get a green card if you're British...) so he would have an uncle stateside. I am intrigued by the Lycee Francais in LA, which is only about 40 minutes from where my brother currently lives.

And then there is the judo, which Sim is still very much enjoying and very much getting good at, and Japan, the home of judo, which may or may not be another possibility for a year abroad. But Sim will not be 16 until July, which seems awfully young to even consider shipping a child, even a bold and adventurous one, halfway across the globe when we know no-one there and he speaks not more than a handful of judo related Japanese words.

I am all a-dither, as you see...

Friday, October 03, 2008

the life, she spins, and sometimes I just want to get off 

I what seems like the blink of an eye, our children are old enough to be away from home for days at a time. We firstly lost Hen and our Spanish lad to a World War 1 battlefields trip, closely followed by Sim leaving for a survival course in the middle of Cornwall.

Sim will return later today fully able to trap, slaughter and cook innocent bunnies. The bivouacking part of the course he decided would be boring and old hat for someone who has spent nights on Dartmoor in October sheltered only by ferns. By god, but my child is feral. I must at some time voice my concerns about his school work, whilst at the same time trying to remain hopeful that he will be one of those kids who plucks good GCSEs* seemingly out of thin air. At the moment, we have virtually daily battles focused on his lack of organisation, focus and tidiness.

Hen and our Spanish lad return tomorrow evening, muddy and tired after sloshing through trenches and shell holes for 4 days.

This evening, the Purple towers will be swollen by the addition of the French couple we are hosting for 4 days during the visit of our twin village on the south coast of Brittany. Of which twinning venture more anon I think, loathe as I am to lampoon people...

*NB for those of you lucky enough to have no idea what GCSEs are- they are a mind-numbingly dull set of public exams taken at the end of their last year of compulsory schooling by all English and Welsh school pupils. These exams reward the ability to tolerate large amounts of humdrum information and to regurgitate it all in a format that is easy for a child of 6 to mark. Many schools have taken to putting their pupils through them a year early, or making them do only the five compulsory ones, and spending the time gained on more interesting things.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I know I'm too busy for blogging, but still... 

Snippet from a DIY translated marketing document I unwisely accepted to "proofread" in just a few hours:

Desorientated customer (difficulties tospot in the aisle)

It's 6000 words of this.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Letters I wish I could write 

Dear Client lady,

You dare to return to me a once-beautiful piece of carefully-crafted prose, now sadly sullied with the profuse side-notes of "tracked changes". The person making these changes (Milene, whoever you are, you are an idiot) is clearly deluded in their ability to converse in the Queen's English.

Whilst I accept that clients come in all guises, and that jobs must be accepted from any moron waving cash, I did expect a little more discernment from you. You sent the wrecked document back and stood back as though you had lit the touchpaper. How ironic that the tracked changes should also be blue.

Well, lady, here is the explosion. I wish never to work for you or your organisation again. Your entire organisation is a hellish babel of a conflict between administration and common sense. The environment in which you work is overshadowed by tinpot neighbourhood despots who think they can do anything, including speak most European languages to mother tongue standard.

I have no doubt that that the phantom proofreader is some grey self-important denizen of an equally grey and self-important European administration, whose whims must be met be indulged if work is to keep coming in. Did you have to send the bloody thing back so very wrecked altered though? Have a heart, woman!

Yours most earnestly,

Purple Pen (Ms)

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