My eldest son is 10 and would just have started in Year 6 if he was in school. A few months ago, he decided he would have a go at the 11+ exam which is still on offer in our area to children seeking grammar school entrance. We put his name down and the day of the exam finally rolled around.
I couldn't believe the length of the queue when we arrived at the school for the exam - Hundreds of boys with their nervous looking parents. Our son said he was doing the exam "just for fun" and the challenge and experience in itself will have done him good.
It is hard not to be impressed by the grammar school with its sports grounds and science labs sparkling invitingly in the morning sunshine. I look around at the anxious mothers and fathers who are placing so much hope in their son's performance, and I wonder how our little guy will get on.
I have known since he arrived in the world - just as I do with our new baby - that this boy is bright. For 10 years, I have watched him play and learn and grow, and I do not need an 11+ or an SAT result to tell me that he is clever. He loves maths and seems to 'see' numbers in a way I have never been able to. Reading and writing have come later,and he is still far stronger orally than he is able to get across on paper. But his vocabulary is broad and intelligent. How will he get on?
During our brief visit to the school some months ago we were told not to coach for the test, and as I am vehemently opposed to the 'teaching to test' which SATs tests have pushed schools towards, I was happy to follow the advice, trusting that the test will draw out the brightest children. I guess, on the day, you either perform or you don't, but I am mighty glad all my hope is not invested in the result.
As the day drew nearer, I began to doubt, and wondered whether we should have pushed harder, started preparing earlier ...? He ran through a few practice papers this week, and my husband attempted to fill in a few gaps in his mathematical knowledge which he has yet to cover in Kumon. How were we to know if it was enough?
What our son has, and I believe home education has helped him with, is a great ability to problem solve ... to look at a question and to apply all his knowledge in trying to solve it. He doesn't look for a method or try to remember a formula, but he puts his mind to finding the answer. Perhaps this will bode in his favour?
He ran in through the gate with an enthusiasm and a willingness I was proud of and, as we had advised him, he gave it his best shot. As I waited outside with the crowd of hopeful Mums and Dads, I found myself wondering what we would do if he passed? I am not 100% sure I would want him to go to school - even this impressive looking grammar school. But I found I was not 100% sure that I wouldn't want him to go either. After all, there are opportunities there for a bright young man, different opportunities to those we can offer at home. I guess we will cross that bridge if we come to it. For now it is enough that he set himself the challenge and had a go!