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Applying for selective schools: WWYD?

(11 Posts)
BonsoirAnna Thu 27-Aug-09 11:31:00

I need words of advice about how to tackle this.

DP and I have a plan to try to move all three children (DSS1 (14), DSS2 (12) and DD (nearly 5) to the same, new and better school in September 2010. Both DSS1 and DD will be at break points in their education as DSS1 will be entering lycée (the final three years of French secondary school, which follows four years of collège, a sort of junior high school) and DD will be starting in primary school. DSS2 will be mid-cycle, so in theory harder to move as there will be fewer places available.

DP's exW is in theory supportive of our applications, providing she has no work to do herself and that her life is not disrupted in any way.

However, she is a very uninvolved parent and does nothing to support her children's education (we do a lot in this household). It has just come to our attention that DSS2 has asked his mother and two grandmothers to club together to buy a TV for his bedroom at his mother's house. We are already very pre-occupied about DSS2's TV and computer games habit, which is partially due to the fact that he is constantly knackered by the late nights imposed upon him by his mother's lifestyle. I know that if DSS2 doesn't get more sleep and do more productive things outside school that TV and computer games that (despite being inherently very bright) he will be seen to lack the type of self-motivated behaviour that will bag him a place at one of the schools we have in mind.

How do we get the importance of this across to DSS2, to his mother, to his grandmothers even? What we can we say or do to make them all realise that DSS2 needs a more structured and stimulating environment at his mother's house?

Earlybird Thu 27-Aug-09 12:08:46

How much time does he spend with his mother vs. with you?

Do you have the impression that his mother/grandmothers are in favour of the telly proposal, and would they get if for dss2 knowing you/your dp object?

BonsoirAnna Thu 27-Aug-09 12:13:29

He spends 45% of his time with us and 55% at his mother's house.

I think that the fact that DSS2 asked his mother and grandmothers for the money (for his birthday) for the TV without any of them mentioning it to DP (even his own mother) is a clear indication that they all know that DP and I would not be happy about it.

Incidentally, we got wind of the plan from the DSSs ex-nanny, who DP had lunch with a couple of weeks ago, six weeks after her final departure. The nanny thought DP ought to know about this plan (that she clearly didn't support).

violethill Thu 27-Aug-09 12:15:18

I believe all we can do with our children is provide the optimum conditions at home, discuss the importance of things like sleep, having a healthy balance of interests and activities, and most importantly be the role model we want our children to aspire to.

I'm a great believer that children learn best by example - what they see around them, rather than what they're told.

Any situation where a child is living in two households with quite different rules and values is really tricky and pressurised for everyone I would imagine.

All you can do is provide the conditions you want in your home. I don't see how you can really change what happens in someone elses.

BonsoirAnna Thu 27-Aug-09 12:18:52

violethill - then I can pretty much write off him getting into a better school. Which he actually desperately wants and needs. It is really is vital for him to get good support at his mother's house over the next year during the application process.

violethill Thu 27-Aug-09 12:26:17

Well I wouldn't ever write a situation off because I think that implies that these things are black and white. Life is shades of grey (I think I just wrote that in another post on Education!)

Ideally, you want your dss to get the kind of support you offer in the 55% of time he's with you. Realistically that's not going to happen. You may be able to effect small changes, through sensitive communication, but from the sound of it, the structures and values and quite different, so it's not going to change radically.

None of us can map out our own lives, never mind our children's! He may end up with the TV and still get into the other school. He may not get the TV and not get in anyway. He may achieve very well without getting into the other school and have a happy and successful life.

The hardest part of being a parent is acknowledging that we can't control things for our children in the way we think we want to, and when it's a split family situation that's going to be even harder as you have less control

Ohforfoxsake Thu 27-Aug-09 12:26:38

If he desperately wants it, and the next year is critical, could you compromise with him and tell him you will buy him the TV, or make up the difference, once he's got a place?

Some might call it bribery...

Fact is, you can't make his mother parent the way you want her too. If you and DH want this, you will have to up your game to compensate.

Its not fair, I know.

Earlybird Thu 27-Aug-09 12:38:29

Hmm - complicated.

Are the grandmothers on board with the plan for a different/better school? Are they ambitious, wanting-to-be-proud grandmothers?

If so, could you enlist their support regarding your plan so that the entire extended family 'pulls together'? Maybe show them literature from the school about how wonderful it is, what talented/bright students attend there, and some sort of information about what sort of students get in and what is expected of them once they are admitted (very much doubt it would include lots of late night computer/telly time!). Am also thinking/wondering if this is a conversation that should come from your dp rather than you?

Secondly, can you somehow give your dss2 an incentive for making a real effort, trying hard/concentrating, etc (not sure that it should be linked to getting into the school though)? Something he really wants (or wants to do) as a reward that wouldn't be coming his way otherwise?

I know it is difficult to impose your standards on dss2 when standards are different in his mother's home. But, the very fact that he hasn't told you about this telly plan (and surely he knows you/dp would have concerns and disapprove as it seems to be a topic of discussion at your house) smells of deceptiveness and seems a bit underhand. Maybe time for chat about trust, honesty and all that?

Finally - how does your dss2 feel about the new school? If there is a way you could get him excited about the prospect, and make him really want to go there - fab facilities, fun and stimulating classes, good sports/music/art, great school life with wonderful opportunities that are soooo much better than where he is now? You could then help him understand what it will take to be admitted,and that too many late nights, and too much telly/computer will probably work against him? All very tricky though because you don't want a disaster if he really tries (as you want him to), and then somehow isn't offered a place.

Sorry for the ramble...hope you can find something useful there! wink

BonsoirAnna Thu 27-Aug-09 12:47:22

DP's mother is definitely on board for the change of school - she is very ambitious - but unfortunately her own educational achievements and understanding lag behind her ambition, and she doesn't understand what is necessary for the successful execution of our educational strategy sad.

The maternal grandmother is moronic in the extreme. Fortunately the DSSs know this and don't listen to her views! But she does sometimes put a spanner in the works by supporting them in things we disagree with.

All your arguments are very good and helpful, though, Earlybird. I need to make sure DSS2 really grasps the causal relationship between his own motivation and activities outside school, and getting accepted at the new school, don't I? I will work on that. Thank you smile

TheScatterGunApproach Thu 27-Aug-09 15:04:57

Hi Anna

I would find this infuriating too but I am not sure there is much you can do, to be completely honest. I know you have a situation whereby you all co-parent, but she is his mother and it's her house.

I would definitely discuss it with her but ultimately I think you would have to accept her decision.

I agree you are probably better off reasoning with DSS2 if she does not place that much value on education.

I personally cannot for the life of me see why a child needs a TV in their room, but I am a luddite.

Good luck!

BonsoirAnna Thu 27-Aug-09 15:34:14

I definitely think it would be better to convince DSS2 that the TV is not in his interests. The whole idea was at his instigation and he convinced his mother and grandmothers to support it, so it is much more appropriate to win him around than to try to convince his mother to change her mind.

You are right that we cannot change her. The only way we can change DSS2's experience at her house is by helping him to mature, such that he takes better care of himself.

I have spent some time thinking this afternoon about what I shall say (when an appropriate opportunity arises) to DSS2 about the relationship between his out-of-school activities and the school applications. Ultimately, if I don't support his school applications, he hasn't got a hope in hell of the schools we are thinking of (which are bilingual, and I am his other language parent, so my support is critical). So I do have some quite persuasive arguments!

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