Another early start. This time a seriously early one. A perfect insomniac storm. 3am. Hawklad has woken and can’t sleep. I have not been to bed yet and sleep feels a million miles away.
Hawklad wonders if we can see the dawn brake. On the coast.
So a few moments later and after I had sampled the meanest of espressos, we are driving. Driving past badgers, foxes and owls. Before 4am we arrive at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. It’s still pitch black and we have the site to ourselves. It’s such an eerie feeling walking in the complete absence of light and sound. Even to early for the thousands of seabirds perched precariously on the cliffs. No wind and even the sea was strangely becalmed.
In perfect time to watch dawn brake. No thoughts of an Albatross who was apparently out at sea. Who needs one bird when you get to watch all this unfold.
The dark was a challenge to my iPhone camera but it gave it a go.
By 7am a few people had started to arrive, mainly here to take up prime spots and wait. Hoping on catching sight of one particular bird. They had no idea what they had just missed. The deafening sound of seabirds hides the peace that existed just 2 hours ago.
We were back in the car and driving a few minutes later. The site had lost its appeal to Hawklad. Even a handful of strangers proving too much for him. But he had got to see a spectacular show first hand. Just the two of us so without his anxieties. He slept during the ride home.
Yes it was a ridiculously early start. Yes I went more than 24 hours without sleep. But it was worth it for those couple of hours when Hawklad felt that he had the world to himself. I suspect it won’t be the last time we do this. Yes there will be time for trips out to build those social bridges but those come with anxieties. We all need these times and places of sanctuary. Hawklad does. Yes even a worn down parent needs them.
It’s nearly 1pm. I need to pinch myself. Is it really a school day. School at home day. So far absolutely nothing from school this week. No lesson material, no assigned work, no idea what the class is doing. Nothing. That’s three blank lessons so far.
It’s been that quiet we even checked to make sure we hadn’t got the dates wrong and school is on holiday. But no, it’s a full school day.
“What shall I do Dad then….”
Well as we have no idea what his class was doing. No idea even what subjects the class was looking at. It’s a blank sheet of paper. A good chance for Hawklad to set the agenda. Take control of what he learns. So I said what any self respecting Dad would say.
Well Son you can go and wash my car……
“No Dad. What school work shall I do.”
What one subject do you most want to learn about.
“History, definitely history. Second World War.”
Ok spend the morning indulging yourself in the that. And when you finish. You can get off your backside, go outside and clean my car 😂😂😂
And that’s what he did. He studied the Nuremberg War Trials. He so far hasn’t got round to cleaning my car. But here’s the problem. He’s taller than me so I can’t really put my foot down anymore. I might just have to do that job myself.
Yes it’s another one of those massive, multi lane Yorkshire motorways.
We are a couple of weeks into the start of trying to help Hawklad build bridges back towards the wider world again. It started with us taking the mad dog for a walk at night. Nighttime as it would be quiet with no other people out and about. Small steps in breaking out of walls that surround our little house and garden. The isolation which started 15 months ago.
We quickly realised that actually it’s always pretty quiet here, not just at night. So we started going for the walk a little earlier. Now nearer 7pm. Guess what. We still hardly see another soul. Currently that’s perfect for Hawklad. Very rarely we see a farmer or another dog walker. When that happens Hawklad immediately turns on his heels and heads quickly home in the opposite direction.
The other thing is that Hawklad doesn’t like to walk on the path. Just doesn’t feel comfortable doing that. So we walk on the road. Our massive and very busy road….
Well you can see just how big our road is. Just how busy it really is can be gauged on one fact. We have been walking every night straight down the middle of the road. Not once have we encountered a vehicle. The road is ours….
That’s such a cool feel. Such a cool feel for both of us. I can concentrate fully on talking and in the quiet bits, on dreaming.
Do you remember when school holidays meant time off for our kids….
Hawklad and I received emails from school this morning. The emails set out the times of the upcoming year exams. Straight after the half term week holiday. The emails listed all the areas which each pupil are expected to cover in revision. The revision also includes mandatory online tasks that won’t be marked but will be monitored by teachers. All tasks are expected to be completed. The email stressed that they are expecting pupils to undertake significant work levels over the week off…..
To be fair to school they are only following Government guidelines and instructions. The Government has repeatedly spoken of its desire to increase the length of the school day and reduce the number of school holidays. It believes children have too much time off. They have it too easy…..
Parents will have differing views on this. I think you might be able to guess my take on this. I think it’s all BS…… Making pupils work harder and longer is just a smokescreen for covering up the failings of our current school system. Too many trumped up experts getting jobs as politicians, thinking they know best. It shouldn’t be about the quantity of teaching, it should be about the QUALITY of the education.
Ban politicians from education. Let teachers teach… Let Headmaster run the school. Involve the pupils and parents fully. Reverse the trend to test at every level just to populate government performance league tables. We are even testing 5 year olds for pity sake. If the politicians want to do something useful then they should concentrate on finding the resources to help specialists deal with the growing mental health crisis amongst our children.
And above all. Let children enjoy their childhood.
A beautiful little leaning tree we pass on the dog walk… A favourite watering hole of a mad four legged one. No wonder it leans. It leans but it still has a purpose.
I was looking at an email sent from school setting out the upcoming year end exams. Day after day of exams. Often two a day. But what is the purpose. Whose purpose do they represent. Are they really Hawklad’s purpose. Apart from History, Geography, English and Maths, would he freely choose the other subjects. Would he put himself through these exams. Even with his favourite subjects, would he not focus on other areas rather than the predetermined ones set for him by the Government.
A Government Minister was waffling on about how our children should be focusing on this subject and that subject. They were doing too much of this and not enough of that…. Has he bothered to ask what the children want. He’s thinking about the purpose specified by the economy, not the purpose which necessarily the children would pick for themselves.
Ok I get the point of learning the basics but why should some out of touch numpty in London determine which subjects my child is taught. Determine which areas are looked at. Which textbooks are read. Set the teaching method. Determines how much religious education is taught. What art is studied. Basically setting everything…..
Somethings you can ignore and other things you simply can’t. You can can’t ignore how you are feeling but it’s very easy to ignore how someone else is feeling. You can ignore the ‘do not enter sign’ but you can’t ignore the large, foaming at the mouth guard dogs stood behind the sign. You can ignore a bit of rain but you can’t ignore a thunder storm. Well it’s not easy to anyway….
Last night was a massive, noisy storm which went on much of the night. No chance for sleep until the storm blew itself out, sadly well after dawn.
Hawklad received two emails from the same teacher this week. Both saying effectively the same thing. The teacher couldn’t open the work files Hawklad had submitted this week. In addition the teacher moaned about where he had saved the files.
Well here’s the issues which kinda made me reply in a slightly tetchy manner to this teacher. First of all these are the first communications Hawklad has had with this teacher in over a year. Secondly he is saving the files in the same way he does for all the other subjects. Thirdly Hawklad has been diligently saving all the work and homework for this teacher for over a year in exactly the same way, in exactly the same format and in exactly the same location – all in line with school instructions. Fourthly Hawklad has never had any feedback, marks or comments about any piece of work submitted to this teacher since a certain pandemic appeared. The only thing approaching feedback was a couple of random assessment numbers appearing on the quarterly school report. Numbers which unlike other subjects have never changed.
Call me cynical but I don’t think the teacher has looked at any of Hawklads work until this week. Ok class work may not always be marked but surely homework should be marked. Marked and feedback provided.
Can you believe it. 14 months of school at home. Just over half of that time has happened with most of his classmates back at school. Trying to maintain a remote link with his class was always going to be difficult. It can never be perfect. Especially when the Government’s attitude has been to try and force all children back into classrooms as soon as possible. Schools instructed to make it more difficult for children to work remotely. Schools and parents threatened with legal action if pupils are not back in the class. Our school wanted to offer a remote learning option. Wanted to change the school week with most pupils spending part of the school week, remote learning. Wanted to tailor education and create a better school working environment. Unfortunately that was not allowed so the remote learning option had to be largely turned off. That makes things much harder…..
Revision is supposed to start for the upcoming school year exams this week. No idea how they will work for Hawklad. But the individual subjects are now issuing revision guides. Indicating which pieces of school work have to be revisited and revised. In a couple of subjects there are no surprises – we have covered those areas, undertaken the work required. But then there are other subjects. Areas that the class have undertaken that Hawklad was not aware of. In a couple of subjects clearly large tracts of class work, entire areas have not been shared. Is it ok to call it revision when he’s visiting an area for the very first time.
It’s such a mixed bag. Yes a couple of subjects have exceeded expectations, Hawklad has done the entire teaching requirements. A couple have been kind of as expected, covered most areas but with gaps. And some subjects have gone so much worse than expected, with Hawklad being so far behind his classmates.
Surely in the modern world, with everything that technology has to offer in terms of keeping connected, surely my country should be so much better at remote learning. So much better at EDUCATION.
As part of the long process of helping Hawklad building bridges back to the wider world, we ventured out in the car. Further this time. In to the city. To get a take out burger.
All went well until we hit the city. More car, more people. Even though he was in the safety of the car he was on edge but willing to push on.
Finally we arrived at the burger place. You will know the one. It’s got some whopper burgers. The plan was Hawklad to stay in the car while I ventured out to get the takeout. As soon as I left the car Hawklad panicked. So plan B. The drive through. I’ve never tried one of those but they seem super cool in the movies.
We joined the queue of cars and and snaked our way towards the intercom. With excitement we finally made it to the marked intercom bay.
I started to patiently wait for the helpful voice.
“Dad what are you waiting for.”
I’m waiting for the person to speak to me,
“Dad you don’t wait you just say the order out. Come on Dad the cars behind will start to get annoyed”
####Pants so I blurted out the order. NOTHING. Is that it. Do I drive off now####
“Dad they didn’t hear you, shout the order louder”
#### So I did, really loud this time. This time Hawklad got the giggles####
“Dad you are a muppet”
####And suddenly the intercom whirled into life – ‘afternoon can I take your order’.####
Time does slip by. Sometimes as fast as those clouds wizzing across the Yorkshire sky.
As a kid one of the things I wanted to be was an Astronomer. I remember the look on the career advisors face when I would mention that. It was definitely a ‘that ain’t happening so stop being silly’ kinda look. Actually the career advisor only ever had a few options to suggest. Work in the local steel works, work in the local chemical plant, work in a factory, work in a shop, join the army or the truly gifted might even pushed towards a job in the local bank branch.
Ok no Astronomy job did turn up. But I did eventually buy myself a small telescope. But the Yorkshire clouds, sleep and then parenting restricted the times it was used.
The telescope is still with me. Battered and a bit out of focus. Now is that describing the scope or its user….. If I’m not using the scope much so there is no point buying a better one. But I did set myself a goal of using it a bit more over the winter months. When the skies get darker for longer. The best time to gaze up.
Time slips by….
That telescope has not been out all winter. I thought about it a few times but there was always an excuse. There was always a tomorrow. Now winter has gone.
I was reading a news article about home schooling during the lockdown. A government politician was quoted as saying basically that all children needed to be in the classroom. No exceptions. Pupils discipline and grades had deteriorated during lockdown. Homeschooling could never work properly.
Ok so the last year must have a write off for Hawklad
Well let’s think about that…… Over the last year his grades have gone UP. So well that he was moved up sets. Look at his best subject. A year ago he could talk for days about British medieval history. He could name and describe every English monarch. He could talk well about Roman history. A year later he can still do that but now listen to him confidently talk American, European and Chinese history. Listen to him talk about recent world history, Classical Greek times…. you get the picture.
He’s expanded his knowledge on the animal kingdom.
He’s getting great marks now in English Literature. Macbeth, Animal Farm are well within his grasp.
A year ago we were fighting to get him support for his dyslexia. He needed assistance to read even the simplest text. A year at home and he hardly ever needs to ask for help with reading. He can do it himself. Yes he has to skip some words but now he can read articles on line. He can read books now. Slowly yes, but read definitely. 7 years of classroom teaching and he’s made the leap forward at HOME.
I’m no superman. No Yoda. No expert in teaching. Watch me look blankly in most subjects. I’m a bang average parent. Homeschooling has just suited Hawklad. He’s more relaxed. Can pace around. Can jump around subjects. Take breaks. Look at things he wants to. No pressure asking questions, no anxiety putting his have up in front of an overcrowded classroom. It just works for him.
Here’s the thing, the traditional classroom will suit some children. But not everyone. So why do THEY force all kids through the same hoops. Through the same moulds. Through the same exam routes. If the last 12 months has taught us anything it’s that we need to cater for all children. One path just isn’t enough.