Testing Times

It's been a long old haul, but we're nearly there.

The PET (pre-exam tension) started around 10 weeks ago, when daughter no1 came home from Uni and spent her 5 week vacation with her head in the books, in preparation for her part one exams. Not to be outdone, daughter no2 also began her GCSE revision. We now have 2 more weeks until the whole batch of exams is over. During this prolonged period we have encouraged, cajoled, suggested, tested, mopped up the tears, and encouraged some more. I have produced two 'exam kits' - stuffed with chocolate, amusing quotes and helpful things to do ('go to bed early', 'take a short walk listening to happy music' and 'throw your RE notes in the bin', for example). We have dusted off our English grammar, our periodic table and our between-the-wars history. Fortunately The Man has forgotten nothing useful from his maths degree, and is A* material for RE (good job seeing as he teaches it); and I have biology pretty much covered. I read Of Mice and Men (no hardship; even if only to annoy Mr Gove). We read some good and some questionable poetry together.

I don't remember anything like this level of involvement from my parents. That's not a criticism in any way; I think it was a different time then, when parents' main functions were to gaze in awe at their children's supposed wonderfulness and to make sure they ate their greens. Now the pressure is on, for us as well as the kids. And it's exhausting.

Taking a quick look at the advice offered to parents, our roles are many and varied. We should be life coaches - encouraging them to fix their eyes on their goals. We should be boot-camp leaders, driving them to work hard (but not nagging, and drawing attention to failures; it's a fine line. We must also be trapeze artists). Psychological support plays a major role, along with motivational speaking. In addition we should be nutritionists (making sure they eat healthily), TV and internet police, personal trainers ensuring regular exercise, stationery suppliers, and role models.We should offer direction; inspiration; incentives; and refreshments. We must be prepared to catch them when they fall. We should become a combination of pilot, co-pilot, cabin crew and landing staff. And all the time the same stuff is happening in our own lives - the same jobs, the same health issues, the same ailing parents, the same financial concerns.

So thanks for the advice that I must be prepared to offer "useful equipment, a positive home environment and unconditional love". Well done for telling me that "in the run-up to exams, (I should) try to be at home as much as possible to share a break and a chat together." And ta very much for mentioning that I am "the expert on (my) own child and have always been her most important

Now I really do feel worried. If either of them fail, it's All My Fault.

Yes I know parental involvement is important. And given our wide range of interests and areas studied, we as parents are better placed than many to help (did I mention that The Man used to be a mathematician? I know what if feels to have a subject where I would be of no help whatsoever, and am very relieved to be off the hook). But boy oh boy is it ever hard work. And after they've finished, what do we get? They have the long summer to relax, enjoy friends, sleep, catch up. We have gnawed fingernails and a headache. And we just keep going.

It's been a long old haul. Pass the gin.


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