Monthly Archives: February 2016

Initiation ceremonies

And now for something completely different.

I’m working on a new ms — draft at 25,000 words (which for me is about 2/3rds of the way through a first draft — I’ll add description and explanation and additional character interactions in subsequent passes) and I need a kind of initiation trial.

So I was reading about ways in which different peoples mark adulthood for their kids and one which jumped out (although it jumped rather confusingly because the sources seem to say different things) was the Spartan Krypteia.

Leonidas I Sparta

Certain boys —  who had performed so well at their training that they clearly had leadership potential — would be sent out into the countryside to kill helots, subjugated peoples the Spartans used as agricultural slaves.  The boys were instructed to target strong, fit men especially. presumably to reduce the likelihood of rebellion (which was an ongoing concern — there were a lot more helots than Spartans).

What a terrible thing to do to children (and subjugated populations).

What a brilliant background for a story.

It’s no use for the one I’m writing at the moment, however, so on with the research…

Parenting and Platforming 1

Forgive me while I work some things out. I appreciate that people who think about things more than I do have already reached their position on this, and they’re happy with that.

I still haven’t.

Recently, for reasons too tiresome to go into, I have discovered a fair bit about the “No Platforming” struggle, which seems to consist largely of students demonstrating against speakers they regard as objectionable, and journalists etc. throwing their hands in the air and despairing of this new snowflake generation.

And, you know, how can one possibly argue against Free Speech? It’s one of the fundamentals of our freedom from tyranny, right? If we compromise it, we’ll end up in 1984, being watched by the television and robbed of words like “fantastic” and “ecstasy” (which will become, by order of government, “double-plus good”).

I might be naive but I’m not totally uninformed. I might have spent the last ten years in baby-twilight, but I do know what happened in the totalitarian regimes of the early 20th Century. I have degrees. Some of them entitle me to put letters in front of my name as well as after it. I have spent time freezing my fundament off in archives in Moscow, Ul’yanovsk (now Simbirsk) and Ivanov just so that I can have opinions on stuff.

Opinions like these:

  • Students complaining about things are only complaining. They’re not in charge of the government, they’re not silencing people literally — they are making their own voices heard and protesting. Sometimes, the speaker in question changes their mind about coming to speak. This is not censorship, it is protest — another of our fundamental rights blah blah.
  • Students protesting are very different from totalitarian governments. Perhaps that’s obvious. It really should be.

Break for a moment for me to draw on the last ten years or whatever and mumble about parenting.

If you want a quiet house and you have multiple children of different ages/ strengths, one thing you can do is leave them alone together. In these circumstances, often, there is not much conflict because what the big kids want is what happens. This is especially effective if you put them somewhere you can’t hear them.

Being powerful means you get to do what you like.  It’s true for kids, maybe it’s true elsewhere? Hold that thought.


(And, in case you feel the urge to comment and discover it doesn’t show up, please be reassured that I am not censoring you. It’s just that the comments are so crazy with spam that I just block them all.)


Well what a surpri– Wait. No one’s surprised.

A looong looong time ago, my son’s P2 teacher told us his written work lagged dramatically behind his verbal skills, and I spent the next six weeks trying to persuade myself that he couldn’t possibly be dyslexic.

In P3, his teachers agreed that while he had some of the signs of dyslexia (a real difficulty reading) he didn’t fit other things they associated with it, and so he wasn’t diagnosed.

We are now in P4, and his reading is not suddenly taking off as nice, well-meaning people suggested it might, so we ended up going to an independent educational psychologist.

Guess what! He’s dyslexic!

(I have come to terms with this in the last couple of years).

Not only is he dyslexic, but he is really quite clever, which is nice because it confirms what we thought was true — he can absorb information beautifully as long as it’s verbally presented. If you write it down, he struggles.

It’s not that he can’t read — sometimes he reads OK, and he’s still coping with the rest of his class, just about, by decoding everything he’s given from first principles. It’s painfully slow and exhausting, but it works.

And I shall skip over the guilt and the self-recrimination that comes after years of asking him why he can’t just apply himself to his reading/writing/spelling etc. when you watch your child doing his absolute best to complete a task that someone else has given him and is totally unable to work it out (word chains, in this case — where whole words are presented as a long line of letters and the child has to distinguish the whole words within them, e.g. hotchildkettledog).

He wasn’t being lazy, or awkward, or distracted. He really, truly, couldn’t do the task, no matter how hard he tried or how much he concentrated. No matter that his General Ability index (which is what they use to measure intelligence in people with specific learning difficulties) is in the 99.6th percentile.

He understands what he’s being asked to do, but he just can’t do it.

So… what next?

He does understand rules quite well and he likes things that can be made into patterns, so I think we might look at some of the reading programmes like Orton-Gillingham and see if we can use the bits that work for us.

I will say I was in two minds about getting him formally evaluated, because I didn’t want him to be pigeon-holed and labelled as learning disabled, but the diagnosis has made us all happier. We know he’s brilliant (of course) and now we have numbers that say so. It’s just this one funny mental trick of holding an abstract image in his head and associating it with a sound that’s difficult for him.