Some parents may occasionally feel deep frustration that their bright, articulate and promising eleven plus candidate does not seem to be grasping an intelligent, knowledgeable and succinct explanation. (In other words, “What?”)
When a parent is teaching, or working through an unfamiliar procedure, then a primary aim is to build a good attitude towards the exercise. Parents will be trying to build knowledge, skills, confidence and attitude.
The frustration may come about for a number of causes. Did the eleven plus candidate simply not understand the various steps of the explanation or discussion? Was the work too hard or too easy? Would the over burdened child rather be doing something else? Were you, as a parent, in a slight hurry because you had a further thirty five things to do before YOU went to bed?
Of course you will realise that when you are working on an unfamiliar task you have wisdom, experience and, hopefully, a whole lot more ability than your child. All you have to do is to maintain a constant reappraisal of your behaviour. It is no good hurrying because it will take longer in the end. It is no good delaying providing a solution, and relying on the much loved partner, because you never know what and when something is going to happen.
When you are learning something with your child you are not starting from scratch. You already have a body of knowledge. You also have the confidence that you have solved bigger problems than one stuck in the middle of an obscure eleven plus paper.
Do you remember when you were teaching your child to tie shoelaces? It was fun. There was much laughter. You were patient. You allowed for constant repetition. Sometimes you even sang a little song. (I don’t remember the words or the tune – but think that it was something to do with rabbit ears crossing over.)
If you don’t tie the knot in the right order, however, the shoelace comes undone.
This will probably be last time in your child’s life when you are in such a position of power over learning. After all how will you keep up with the knowledge required for twelve A* grades at GCSE? How will you help with all of the necessary driving lessons? (You may, however, get a call one Sunday morning from university asking how long it takes to roast a leg of lamb – but that could be sporadic help rather than a sustained push.)
If some parents do start feeling that their child can learn – but won’t learn - then they are not alone. Parents are, however, rather cunning. Do you remember the time you helped your child to tie that shoelace for the first time – and the little beauty then pulled the lace out of the shoe? Do you remember what you did? It is unlikely that you allowed an argument to develop – all you would have done is tie a knot on each side.
Of course if your eleven plus child won’t learn you could mutter: “Oh, just tie a knot in it!”