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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Should we try for the eleven plus?

We are often asked the question: “How ready is my child to pass the eleven plus?”

Well we can draw from far more than test results or the school’s assessment. We can draw on an every day happening in the home.

The mail comes in at breakfast time. The obvious circulars are easy to spot. The recycling bin gets a workout. Bills are naturally scanned very quickly to be dealt with later on as are the mountains of correspondence from the bank and credit card companies. Personal letters, birthday cards could all flow in on a particular day. For one reason or another you have no time to sort off the paper work out as it comes in. You may land up with a conscious decision to leave everything that is not urgent until it suits you – rather than when mail has arrived.

You now come to Sunday afternoon. You have a huge pile – at least six inches high - of unsorted paper work stuck tidily in a drawer.

You hand the job of sorting to your ten year old child and explain that he or she has just twenty minutes to do the job. As well asking for the pile to be sorted you demand that there is system to prioritise the items that you need to act on.

This will give you a picture of how well your child will be able to cope. As the mail is jumbled you will be able to see how you child will cope. Will he or she sort the mail into neat common piles? Will all the bills be placed in one pile? Are any letters sorted into another? Does your child simply throw away unwanted circulars or place them into a pile so that you can go though them to see if anything catches your attention?

Halfway through the exercise start organising tension in the room where all the work is being done. Make sure the dog starts eating the curtains so that you can yell at the dog and inject some noise and disruption. Does your child join in the condemnation of the dog or just keep working steadily?

Ask a favourite aunt or family friend to telephone just after the dog has been ejected and invite your child for trip to the cinema. You child will need to leave the sorting task and prepare to go out. Does your child dump everything and rush off to prepare for a visit or does he or she explain that a visit to the cinema is out because there is work to be done?

When the work has been completed ask for a five point written assessment of the problem of mail. Ask too for verbal feedback on the nature and scope of the problem. In the middle of the feedback remind your child that the cat has not been fed – and that there had been a promise that the cat would be fed every day.

We can see where this is leading. To do well in grammar school you must hope that your child has the ability to follow instructions. You child must be able to cope with conflicting instructions from a variety of sources.

It is essential that noise, confusion and disorder are coped with calmly. There is a lot of homework and extra study coming up at the grammar school. Your child must be able to focus on the task in hand.

Decisions have to make. Your child will at times have to make unpopular choices. Work or play? Study or chill? Some decision you will be able to help your child with. Other decisions will simply have to be made by your child.

The grammar school will expect your child to be able to prioritise assignments. This is all part of growing up.

If you can feel that you and your child can cope with at least some of this mayhem then do not hesitate - just go for it. Go for the eleven plus!

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