Diary of a Primary School Mum: 'It seemed there was no end to her talents'

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The Independent Online

Miss Perry asks for a word before class is dismissed. Her contrite expression gives away concern that she may have offended one of the twins. "Claire wiped some important phonics work we'd been doing off the board," she said, "and I was particularly firm with her, so she might be a bit shell-shocked." Miss Perry has an excellent grasp of my daughter's sensibilities, so the "shell-shocked" tag was taken for gospel.

It was with much surprise, therefore, that on exiting, Claire appeared especially happy – ebullient even. Relieved to have escaped the classroom, perhaps? No, it was because, the whiteboard white-out aside, she was awarded her first certificate. Better still, she was made a fuss of, standing in the middle of the group circle while Miss Perry lavished praise.

Claire is a sensitive soul. She's sensitive to not being picked to play the princess or to run the race, and to her pictures not being hung up. Most importantly, she's sensitive to her brother being higher in the pecking order. So far, every award that's been up for grabs, he's got first, be it the superstar certificate or his one for excellence in literacy. But today was Claire's day, because she got the first-ever class certificate of merit for good work in drama, acting out the story of We're Going On a Bear Hunt with great enthusiasm and expression.

When she's doing things she likes (drawing, singing, mimicking voices), Claire's levels of concentration are unparalleled. When it comes to reading and phonics homework, however, my daughter has become increasingly stroppy. "Not now," she refuses, with an attitude expected of a teenager rather than a five-year-old. Numbers are her bête noir, and a few days ago came the complaint that she couldn't draw at school all afternoon because it was "boring maths games".

At the recent parent-teacher consultation, Miss Perry suggested practising sums at home. "Make it fun," she advised, "by writing numbers on little Post-its and hiding them for her to find. See not only if she can recognise the numbers, but if she can sort them from lowest to highest."

We wondered how mathematics could in any way be made fun, but this advice was nevertheless followed to the letter in our house. Post-its were hidden in slippers, with clues such as "they're inside something you wear, but not everyday clothes" adding to the enjoyment factor. Amazingly, not only did Claire work out every random number from 10 to 100 with ease and place it in its correct, numerical order, she also successfully counted (unasked) in 10s from 0 to 100. Hoorah!

My daughter was not as mathematically challenged as previously thought, and it seemed there was no end to her talents. We were seriously afflicted by this fun bug, and the next morning, numbers were accurately read off houses and registration plates, arithmetic confidence restored.

Back at home, Claire couldn't get enough. "Shall I count from one to 100 for you, Mummy?" This task couldn't possibly go wrong, considering all previous accomplishments, so only half an ear was kept on Claire's progression as spuds were peeled for dinner. "Forty-seven, 48, 49, 40-10..."It almost slipped through the net. "Sorry, could you repeat that?"

Out came a repeat delivery. "No," I said, putting down the knife. "There's no such thing as 40-10. It's always a round number after a nine, like 30 or 40, and after 49 comes 50." Claire nodded. "Keep on going," I encouraged, starting her off on 51.

As she climbed higher, I held my breath. "Fifty-seven, 58, 59, 50-10..." Sorry, Miss Perry, over to you.