4 minutes

Grim afternoon in Yorkshire.

So the schools will largely remain shut until at least the 8th March. Key worker parents can still send their kids into the classrooms. So it’s another 6 weeks of the full school online system. That means more structured lessons and class work. Hawklad has definitely noticed a difference. No being forgotten about. Actually getting some marks back and a few comments. That helps.

Hawklad hasn’t been in a classroom since the start of March. Apart from a few brief emails he has had no direct conversations with his teachers in that time. In fact those emails are often not from the teacher but the class teaching assistants. Without feedback he just can’t gauge progress and teachers can’t assess any learning issues.

It’s no better from a parenting point of view. The last face to face meeting with teachers was back in 2019. The school reports are issued at the end of each term. A one page sheet comprising of scores for behaviour, attendance and expected final attainment. No narrative from teachers. I’ve tried sending direct emails to teachers but with little real impact. So do the teachers have a grip on Hawklads learning needs. Do they really know what’s going well and whats not going well. That really matters.

I guess I must not be the only parent asking for a chance to directly speak to some of the teachers. School is now going to run an online parents evening. You can book a slot with a teacher. One problem. Each video call will be time limited to 4 minutes. After 4 minutes the call will automatically end. That’s not much time at all. Especially as it’s almost time to pick which subjects Hawklad will study for the final two years. Yep that’s a lot to discuss in just 4 minutes. Anybody who knows me will understand that it takes me about 4 minutes to just say ‘Hello my name is Kermit the Frog’.

Cat….

A beautiful start to the day. Early morning. A time for reflection and renewal. The perfect time for yoga and meditation.

Well that’s the plan.

The reality was somewhat different. A creaking, stiff body. A sleep deprived mind and a cat. Yes that cat. The big boy. The biggest cat on the Vets’s books. Yoga is too much of a temptation for him. Great for him. Not so great for yoga practice. Not the greatest photos. Too dark. Cat way too close. Trying to hide my exposed short covered legs….

L

Bed

Still cold….

Still one of those day….

Why is it that when you set the alarm to go off at 6.45am that the body alarm decides to go off an hour earlier. I think there should be an official rule. Parents are not safe to parent on less than 3 hours sleep. Certainly for me.

I dragged myself out of bed. Made myself a lovely, thick, dark, evil looking coffee. Then just as I was about to indulge I remembered. I’ve not had caffeine for over a year now. PANTS. So it was poured out and a rather sad looking decaf was brewed.

Then it was exercise before Hawklad was sorted out. I headed outside clearly underdressed for the cold. After a frigid 30 minutes of weights I headed inside for yoga. Yoga inside opens up the exercise to the pets. In this case it was the boy cat. The big boy cat. The biggest cat on the Vets books. As a result of the close attention of the big chap the yoga practice was clearly not as enriching as it should have been.

Then it was time to burn the toast. Drop the apple juice. Realise we had run out of Hawklads breakfast cereal. The usual failed parenting stuff.

Then it was the typical tired homeschooling day. Unable to get the WiFi to work when a school deadline is looming. Unable to find a black pen that works. Unable to find the required watercolour paints. Unable to find a blank A3 sheet. Unable to explain just what on Earth the teacher wants. Unable to get Teams to work. Unable to find the lesson files. Unable to get the iPad to stop changing French spellings back into the closest available English word.

‘J’adore’ might work in French, I suspect the autocorrected ‘Car Door’ is not going to get Hawklad many French marks….

I wonder what the French is for ‘clearly when I’m tired I acquire Superman strength as when I tried to then squeeze in a bit of housework, the hoover handle snapped off when I tried to push it’. I would go on Google translate to check but the WiFi has switched off again just as Hawklad has tried to submit today’s Geography work.

Nothing else for it. Food. As Hawklad tucked into his Gourmet dish (a Pot Noodle) I set about something even I couldn’t mess up. So it was yogurt and cereal. It probably would have been nice but I foolishly turned my back for a second AND

The big fat boy cat was clearly intent on upping his calorific intake. My lunch was perfect for the job.

Is it time to go back to bed yet?

Trust

The sun setting on another school at home day.

The schools are still kind of shut. Open for essential worker parents. They have been for a few weeks now. In that time not much has been done. The Government’s great pupil testing plan has been thrown into chaos. Any child who self tests negative is good to get into the classroom was the plan. Apparently a plan not approved by the medical agencies. But that’s ok as the teachers had been trained up as health experts. But that’s it. No great push to make the classrooms safer. No change to mask policy for pupils. No drive to establish a robust national homeschooling alternative.

But again that’s ok. Our schools are perfectly safe we are told. Parents are found to reinforce the message. Photos are issued of half empty, modern classrooms with lots of social distancing. Unfortunately when the classrooms fully reopen that won’t be the reality for many. Full to bursting classrooms, no social distancing, antiquated facilities with little meaningful ventilation. But it’s ok as children don’t get covid bad apparently. This is clearly NOT backed up the Government’s own statistics service(ONS). The following shows the percentage of patients who suffer significant covid for longer than 5 weeks

17% at age 17-24

15% at age 12-16

13% at age 2-10

Everybody wants schools to open as soon as possible. The Government want them open so parents have no excuse not to return to work. The economy needs a few sacrifices. Others want schools to open safely so many of our kids can learn and socialise. That means changes to schools and education. Creating space. Changing practices. Offering a well established homeschooling option. Even the Government’s own scientific advisers are arguing for this. We are still waiting….

At present Hawklad is able to access all of the lessons virtually. It’s working ok. Unfortunately the school has confirmed that once schools reopen again they will have to switch much of the online system off. The Government currently wants as many pupils to return to the classrooms as possible. Homeschooling options would potentially discourage many parents and pupils from doing this. Don’t want to let people make up their own mind on things like education.

It’s as if the don’t trust us….

Sun has got his hat on

“The sun has got his hat on.”

As a kid things seemed so sensible. So believable.

I remember my parents would be always saying that phrase and singing the old song. Normally when the sun was out which as we lived on the Yorkshire coast was on average once every three years….

The sun has got his hat on hip-hip-hip hooray 
The sun has got his hat on 
And he’s coming out today (Gay & Butler)

I remember asking my Dad once why the sun would have his hat on. Dad said that it was to keep the sun from the Sun’s eyes…..

At the time it seemed an entirely plausible explanation. I was happy with it.

Looking back those 930 years at my Dads answer and I can spot one or two minor issues. Surely the hat needs to be inside the Sun to keep itself from blinding itself. Maybe it’s not as scientifically watertight as I had once thought. Ok let’s call it a philosophical metaphor. Not sure Dad did them…

It’s now made me question some of the other things my parents told me.

Thunder rumbling is Cowboys and Indians fighting in the sky….

Lightning was dragons fighting in the sky …… very busy up there

Wind and the clouds moving was down to all the butterflies in the world beating their tiny little wings all at the same time….

Fairies and elves lived at the bottom of our Garden. …… For a while I misheard that one and believed Elvis for some reason had moved to Yorkshire

The Sky was blue because it was reflecting the colour from the oceans and sea …….. most odd as the North Sea is permanently grey offset with the occasional black oil slick

Every Sunday lunchtime my dad would set off in the direction of the pub saying that he was ‘off to see a man about a dog’. As it was every Sunday, that must have been some dog.

You only got curly hair if you ate the crusts from your bread slices.. I’m still waiting and actually probably left it a tad late now.

I suspect some of these parental facts might be a little dubious. My life has been based on so many falsehoods. Well at least I still have Santa. Maybe I need to borrow the Sun’s hat to hide under it for a while. Best thing to do these strange days.

Well spent

It’s been wet. Very wet. Many places round here could do with a dry spell. Just look at the flood warning list.

But here’s the thing with a lockdown. Normally I would be moving about . Witnessing the rising waters. Driving through the floods. Going shopping and working in the rain. The raincoats getting a real hammering.

But that’s not the case now. House and garden bound. When it rains I just go inside. The only need for a raincoat is if it starts to rain when I’m doing exercise in the garden. It’s the same for Hawklad. I was in the process of buying him a new coat just before the family lockdowns started. He had almost grown out of his coat back in March. I dread to think how small it is now. But currently no need to worry about that.

Might as well wait until he needs one. He’s still shooting up. I bought him a new school jacket at the end of February. To replace the slightly battered and rapidly getting too small, old one. It arrived the week we started our lockdown. It remains in its plastic cover. UNUSED. I suspect that almost a year later and it will now be getting a little snug on him. With no imminent prospect of needing it, we can officially say that

It was £60 well spent…

Cold

It’s cold. Bracing on the hairy knees.

I remember my old grizzly rugby coach during those freezing cold evening midweek training sessions. Shouts of

“It’s like summer”

“Stop whinging, a bit of frost bite is good for the soul”

“Your not a southerner GET THOSE #£###%%@@@ GLOVES OFF…”

If you were found wearing gloves, hats or even a training top it meant trouble.

“Take them #@@@%%#### OFF and do 20 press-ups, then sprint round the pitch twice”

Today looking over the fence at the ice I definitely won’t be running round the pitch or doing press-ups. Will just grasp my hot drink just a little tighter. Think of memories. Many good ones. Some sad ones. It’s no surprise that the sad ones make me feel just a little bit colder.

I can remember walking across a field just after I had lost my partner. Wandering aimlessly across a snow covered field having just dropped our son off at school. Looking back and only seeing one set of tracks.

Yep grasp that hot cup just a little bit tighter.

Them

The sun continues to shine down on the school at home project. Sun shining down – is that the right phrase. Maybe not.

Those lines may not be grammatically correct.

Maybe the sun would shine if the teachers, parents and children could be left to get on with the process. Unfortunately we are not trusted. The current so called government needs to be in control. Apparently they know best.

So maybe this is a more apt photo.

The government wants to control what subjects are taught, what material is used and what material can’t be used. But it doesn’t stop there. They try to control how lessons are taught. Dictating the methods used by teachers.

That has become even more clear during these last 10 months.

Free thinking is to be avoided. Teaching must be prescriptive and follow the required process. Children must learn the same steps in the same way. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work for the child, at least they will remember the basics. It’s more important that they learn to spell a prescribed set range of words perfectly rather than acquire a wide vocabulary. It’s more important to learn the set rules of grammar than to develop a love of writing. Mechanism over creativity.

From the age of 5 to 12 Hawklad went through the education production line. The net result was that he couldn’t read. Teacher reports listing him as low attainment and unable to keep up with the curriculum. Ten months of working from home and now his reading is progressing so well. Ok he might struggle with many of the set grammar rules. He will get marked down for that. But he has found his own way of reading. A method that works which goes against the set governments reading method. That’s something teachers are not allowed to try.

The education of our children is too important to be left in the hands of self absorbed pillocks like Williamson and Gibbs. It’s time for a schooling revolution. It’s time to let teachers teach and to let our children really learn. Learn the way that best suits THEM.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for our weekly visit to beautiful Switzerland. I’m writing this sat just under a 1000 miles away from this unique piece of alpine heaven. August 2015 was the last time I stood in those alpine meadows.

Back then we were a family of 3 making plans for our next few visits. Time in St Moritz. Visits to Lake Constance and Lake Lugano. Wander round Gruyeres. Creux de Van. So many more places to visit. That’s the thing about Switzerland. It’s a relatively small country yet it just has so much to offer, so much to experience.

We are now a very different family. It’s a very different world. But Switzerland is still there. There is still hope.