Friday, July 25, 2014

A Levels - A View from Afar

So, I'm aware that there are thousands of British kids waiting for  O (sorry, GCSE*) and A level results. Oh, I remember that time - not very well, since it was so long ago, but the "life-hanging-in-the-balance" period. You don't know which A levels you should take till your O level results come out, and when waiting for A level results, you don't really know what the next three years is going to look like. And isn't it sod's law that they always come out when you're on your long-awaited holidays? For American readers, I must add that these results don't come out till mid-August. Universities don't start till early October, but it's still very late in the day to be hanging around not quite knowing, in my opinion.

I remember when my A level results came out. I was working in a bread factory (oh, the memories and the smells are flooding back). This was before the days of computers and mobile phones (oh yes), so one friend went into school, where the A level results were all up on a large poster. She wrote down all our group of friend's results, went home, then we all phoned her to get the news. Did we have the grades to go to our top choice university? I was OK, I thought, having achieved one better grade than my uni had asked for, one bang on and one lower. If they were going on a point system, I would be OK; and I was. One friend had done a lot worse on one subject so there was much angst in the lunch room that day, followed by her having to take a day off to get herself a place through "clearing". Ugh, the panic.

Over here, it's much more civilized and most kids know where they're going well before the end of the school year (end of May-early June). Entrance to uni is based primarily on the GPA (grade point average) which is an average of your grades over the last few years. A lot of colleges also want a test score, which is either the ACT or the SAT. This is a three hour exam which tests a range of subjects, although nothing like subject-specific A levels. More like an IQ test or the 11+ but harder. The good thing is you can take these tests more than once and send your best score to your colleges of choice. Colleges here also take much more than academics into consideration, which makes for a stressful application period. They want to know what you did outside of school which teams you played on, and why. They also ask for one or more teacher recommendations, and of course at least one personal essay. The application process itself is a lot more complicated than the British version, especially as many kids apply to 5-10 colleges. But as I said, it's all over before they leave school, unless they really tank their last set of grades.

So, good luck to everyone waiting for results in the UK. Wouldn't want to be doing that again.

* - Since it rolls off the tongue, I'll just say "O" level instead of GCSE.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Uh Oh - I've become THAT mother

I've never thought of myself as a particularly maternal mother. Oh, I quite like my three kids (*waves*) and all that, but I'm not known for being a "great mom". (One of my kids had a friend whose mother used to do treasure hunts with treats every time he went over for a play date! I told her she was raising the bar too high and to knock it off!)

What I mean is, I sort of just got on with being a mother. I did what the kids needed me to do, encouraged them to do things for themselves, made sure they were clean, fed and up to date with their homework and instrument practices - that sort of thing.

Recently though, I'm getting the distinct impression I'm going a little too far on the mothering front.

The Punk Rocker has a highly dangerous summer job which involves delivering cookies in the middle of the night, on a bicycle in Chicago. See what I mean? His shift often finishes at 3am. How the heck am I supposed to sleep? I drift off a little but I always hear the beep as he comes in and sets the alarm and I check for signs of his safe return (ie. stuff everywhere) each morning. Much eye rolling from him!

The ex-Queenager has an internship from 11-7pm, four days a week. She has a four block walk from the train station to her workplace, which involves walking past a building site. All I'm saying is that one of these days I'm going to drive over there, grab them collectively by the gentlemen's vegetables and ask them if they have a daughter or a sister.

Since she gets up a couple of hours after me, I now find myself making sure her coffee is percolating when she comes downstairs, and packing her a healthy lunch. I know. She must think I'm a changeling. She is also working a part time job elsewhere, but they seem to have hired too many part-timers and she's left with a paltry 5 or 6 hours of work per week. So unfair, given that she could have pursued other options to make money this summer. Needless to say I am livid, but she has absolutely and positively banned me from e-mailing the owner, (so I'll just blog about it instead!)

The Little Guy is also doing his share of "Jeez Mom"ing at me! He insists, at 11, he can put himself to bed, but half the time he can't put his (unmade) bed together properly, or he puts a perfectly clean pair of shorts in the wash when he could easily wear them one more time. He'a also insisting he's old enough to stay home on his own but I'm not there yet. I did run three blocks to the pharmacy yesterday but I wrote down my phone number and stuck it right next to him, forbade him to answer the door and put the dog into "guard dog" mode.

Yes, I am turning into THAT mother and it's getting on everyone's nerves, I can just tell.

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