Diary of a Primary School Mum: Nice children, shame about the maths...

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The Independent Online

Time to take stock! Over halfway (gulp) through the twins' first year at school and what has been achieved? "Well," said Claire, "we've learnt letters and writing and how to count in tens. Oh, and we found out how to say good morning in German."

Oliver silenced his sister's "Guten Tag", clamping an inky palm over her mouth. "No, no, no," he groaned, frustrated. "We've learnt so much more than that. We've learnt letters with two sounds, one with three, adding and subtracting numbers up to 100. And, and..." Long pause. Sigh. "Oh, I can't remember anything else."

My best friend, who's a primary school teacher, is round for supper. Cracking open a bottle of cava, I raise my glass. "To 20 years of friendship," I toast. Clink. "And to 20 more," my friend adds. Ever the proud parent, another toast sits on the tip of the tongue, one to the twins for their excellent progress, but immodesty is so unattractive.

Post desert and humility can no longer be reigned in. "Do you know," I brag, "the twins are reading ever so well now and Oliver was awarded Miss Perry's first "Literacy Superstar" certificate the other day. He even knows all 45 of those high frequency words already, the one's he's meant to recognize by the end of Reception. He's ahead of the game."

My friend could raise an eyebrow, place hands on hips, turn a deaf ear to such shameful boasting, but she's a regular Florence Nightingale. "That's excellent," she exclaims, "because what I would expect at this stage is for them to have settled socially, gained confidence, recognize their own names and have a basic understanding of the operations of addition and subtraction. If all they could read by now was a few 'consonant vowel consonant' words like 'cat' and 'dog' they'd still be on target."

Subject closed, over to Miss Perry. As my husband and I arrive for our second parent-teacher consultation of the year I'm about as calm as an arachnophobe holding a black widow.

Uncomfortably perched on pint-size plastic chairs Miss Perry begins with praise. "Your twins are two of the nicest, most hard-working children in the class [bet she says that to everyone] and we are very pleased with their progress."

Oliver's so good at the three Rs that they're preparing to move him on to the Year One syllabus. Claire, while still doing very well, is a touch behind. Her handwriting is beautiful, her drawing noticeably superior, but Miss Perry's expert opinion confirms that my daughter is indeed as mathematically challenged as her mother and I am sent away with homework which is quite possibly unachievable – helping Claire practise adding and subtracting numbers up to 100.

Mathematical blip aside, the twins are top-of-the- class material. Future Nobel award winner, rocket scientist, a doctor or dentist in the making perhaps? Flicking through a coffee table book of contemporary paintings, my son asks if an artist just draws things he knows. "No," I reply, "I suspect some artists travel a lot, to different places for inspiration."

Oliver reflects a second. "I think I'd like to be an artist when I grow up [I thought Miss Perry called him "hard-working"] and then I can draw every day, even weekends."

Is this how budding Picasso Claire sees her future too? "No," she says. "I want to be a teacher and I want to be a teacher in the same school I go to now. Would that be a nice job do you think Mummy?"

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