A WHILE AGO my mother dug out all my old secondary school reports.
They make interesting reading, but I'm not sure that I will be sharing them with the Offspring as I want to maintain an air of superior swottiness - particularly at this, the beginning of the exam season.
Back in the 1970s, when GCSEs were called O-levels, a teenager could still expect a grounding in domestic science, along with the finer points of ancient Greek grammar.
I don't know how they timetabled such minority choices as Greek, ancient history, Russian and Hebrew, let alone found anyone to teach them, but they appear on the report sheets so they must have been offered.
Who would have thought that a generation later and our children would be taking qualifications in computer studies. The only computer I'd seen by the age of 15 was at the local polytechnic and it filled a room.
Today's youngsters may not be able to produce a cooked breakfast or bake a rock cake unaided, but they can cut and paste into a spreadsheet like nobody's business.
I've been giving such things quite a bit of thought recently as Firstborn enters the twilight zone of serious examination revision. He's got his GCSEs in a few weeks. Over Easter I'm planning to offer unwanted advice/nag/bribe/encourage and generally hover helpfully about, while also studying for my own Spanish GCSE.
However, just in case I needed reminding of my duties, the Boy cut an article out of the Sunday paper, which had been written by a 17-year-old about to face his A-levels.
It was one of those "10 ways to help your child" articles and it suggested that we oldies shouldn't keep harping on about the way we used to do things. Apparently, boffins in white coats have studied the optimum ways to study and it's fine to listen to Motorhead on your iPod while typing up your French revision notes. What's more, lying in bed until midday and staying up until 2am is absolutely fine too (teenagers don't produce any sleep hormones until midnight).
It almost goes without saying that I have voiced an opinion on this. Namely, that listening to Motorhead will result in him learning all the lyrics to Motorhead songs but not absorbing much French. And becoming nocturnal is going to make things extremely difficult when he has to get up early for an exam.
Of course Firstborn has discovered that he is a "kinetic learner" and, therefore, is able to multi-task. So, quite clearly, my experience of exams through school and college is irrelevant.
As a parent all this is extremely frustrating because, as I keep pointing out, it is my job to pass on the benefit of my experience. And, in this case, my experience is not just based on what I did in the Dark Ages BC (before computers) but on the past year of study for a contemporary GCSE.
In the unlikely event that I do better in Spanish than my son he will no doubt point out that I only had one subject to study for. If I argue that I had to do this while going to work, cleaning the house and looking after him he will be singularly unimpressed. If I fail, however, I will never again be able to offer advice on anything to do with exams/schoolwork.
Unfortunately, languages were never my strong point, as my old Latin master's comments make clear: "She needs to have a more serious approach to her work."
It's taken more than 30 years but I think I've finally become seriously swotty.