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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Frowning on the Eleven Plus

What is actually happening when you see your eleven plus child deep in thought? You are aware of the puckered brow, the frown looks uncommonly out of place and sometimes you will observe a hand moving unconsciously upwards to stroke the hair.

During the process of watching their child think through an eleven plus question, various thoughts will flick at lightening speed through a parent’s mind:

Is the question intellectually demanding enough? Is it too easy or too hard?

Is my child motivated to answer the question? Sometimes we may find that eleven plus children have remarkably short attention spans if the question is so technically abstruse as to be almost incomprehensible. Some questions seem to reflect the desire of the question writer to be clever than attempt to guide a child towards examination competence.

Is my child hungry? A little actual or real hunger can inhibit – but parents will be aware of the `time for a break’ hunger which seems to strike at the most inopportune time. On the way home in the car you have provided a fulsome repast – at a much higher level than a mere snack. You reach question three on an eleven plus exercise and a little voice murmurs, “Mum, I am hungry.”

Different evidence of your child thinking can be seen when your child offers answers that seem to be the result of rummaging around in the brain. A solution pops out that does not seem to show any relationship between the question and the required answer. This is where parents question their own sanity. “I am not sure if I am doing the right thing in encouraging my child to work towards the eleven plus examinations.”

Would my child rather be doing something else? It is Tuesday afternoon at 5.30. The chess club is starting in another quarter of an hour. Your child is remarkably good at chess – not quite a prodigy but certainly able to show evidence of being able to think and solve problems. There was no time for work on the eleven plus paper over the weekend because the whole family went out. Your mission is to help your child pass the eleven plus. Does chess come before solving a rather silly eleven plus question?

Your mind starts to wander. When your child was little there was plenty of evidence of creative thought. There seemed to be no problem with solving problems. In fact your child was acknowledged as being witty, funny and a delight to be with. How and why has this changed? “Why am I doing this?”

My child used to be able to run quickly. My child used to write stories for fun. I have provided every single opportunity that I can to promote an atmosphere where the conditions for learning are favourable. (This is the state where parents tend to become a little maudlin.) “Why me?”

This is not the time to look into a mirror. Parents need to look forwards with brave and certain hearts. The eleven plus is accomplished by:

Building self respect and esteem. (This goes for parents and children.)

The realisation that some questions require more thought and less action. (This goes for parents and children.)

Self injected Botox is an over hyped mistake. The frown lines will not stay if the wind changes.

The courage to insist that repetition and revision do help! (Remember Emerson saying ‘A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.)

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