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Thursday, October 20, 2005

So we've just got back from our conference with Sophie's teacher.

She has only good things to say about Sophie. I should hope so, because Sophie has got to be one of the easiest and most enthusiastic people in the world to teach.

One of the things that her teacher mentioned was how pleased and impressed she was that Sophie had already mastered cursive writing. (It's expected here; the rest of the class learned last year but Soph had never tried it before this term.) In passing, Bobby asked the teacher just how important cursive writing is in the greater scheme of things, and her answer really surprised us. She said that handwriting actually forms part of the grade they're given when they write the national tests in Year 6, that writing in print would be completely unheard of for any other than special needs children, and that, even on things like university application forms, there's usually a section that must be hand-written, and that anything other than a nice cursive script would count against you there.

I am just amazed by this. I've never considered anything other than legibility an issue where handwriting is concerned. It also makes me wonder how many other unwritten codes and norms Bobby and I are blithely ignoring. What other things that we do - or don't do - form part of the secret British code of conduct? It's a bit unnerving, to think that people could be judging us according to criteria whose existence we simply haven't suspected.

The teacher was at pains to tell us that Sophie is in the Top Group for everything, and so is provided with enrichment activities that go well beyond what the children in the other groups do. On the one hand, I'm happy that she doesn't have to work at the same speed as the least able children in the class. On the other hand, I have a visceral dislike of the concept of a Top Group. It seems elitist and divisive and possibly unfair, and I worry about the children in some of the other groups who should also be able to take advantage of the cool enrichment activities, but whose abilities may not be being recognised.

I really, really, really, miss home-schooling.

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