Grey

It’s a grey morning definitely in need of a few smiles.

We have both just sniggered a bit. Trying to help Hawklad with his school at home day. It’s French. I’m not much help really. German yes I could help. Speaking gibberish certainly could help. French not really. It doesn’t help that French is one of the subjects that he isn’t getting much support with these days. So he often just has to look at the online class chat system. It’s sometimes used in class and can give at least an indication of what the lesson is supposed to be all about. Maybe even provide some of the questions the class are working on. Well that’s the theory…..

This morning no set work provided so all he can do is crack on with other subjects or find things to learn about and wait… Today he was researching the American Civil Rights movement while waiting for anything from French. Then a class comment was posted.

ma belle-mère a bu trop de champagne et ma grand-mère est tombée du cgair.

Oh my….Dad. Whats that supposed to be”

Wow is there anything else.

No Dad just that. Any ideas apart from it’s about a Grand Mother and a Step Mum”

It surely can’t be what I think it means. Have a go at translating it with your dictionary

Dad it means thanks to Google “My step mum has drunk too much booze and my grandmother has clearly been at it as well and fallen off the chair…. “

Yes I thought it kinda did mean that.

Ok Dad as given my family world I am unlikely to need those French words, can I ignore it and get back to Martin Luther King.”

Yes you certainly can……

What

Always something to look at. Just need to take the time to find things to raise the spirits and lift the soul.

So far this week it’s been 8 lessons. 8 lessons of school at home. So what has been on the educational menu so far

Two lessons thankfully did deliver interest in the form of The Scottish Play and learning about some geographical features in Africa. But THEN…

An abstract artist he will probably never hear of again, some random French words relating to reality TV which he is unlikely ever to use again, drawing out a family tree, cutting an pasting some bible quotes onto the tree, learning about a computer app that he will probably never use again, looking at classroom comments in one class with no idea what was going on and three lessons with zero work provided.

The upshot of all this is too many lessons just missing the point with Hawklad. Just not connecting with him. Is he really learning enough. Is he really learning what he truly needs. Is he really enjoying learning.

That’s why you frequently catch him multitasking in many classes. Kind of following what’s happening in the class. Doing just enough. But then at the same time watching videos on things that do interest him. History, politics, geography, climate change, animal science.

Can’t blame him.

Smaller

Dad what do you think about this question. It’s RE and I have to draw a family tree. Show the current connections. Then describe the family relationships. Then talk about what the various religions might say about our family.”

####So we cracked on for 10 minutes. One current family tree was down on paper.####

“Dad it’s a bit thin. Look at the example one and then look at mine.

The example one is all about quantity ours is about quality.

Dad should I add in those family members not here anymore. That would fill the tree out.”

You can do anything you want. Why not just use our much reduced tree. It is how it is. Your just answering the question. Putting my old ‘at school’ head on, it might mean less to write about.

“I could include the pets….”

Why are you chuckling.

I could then write about our extended family. If we didn’t explain that some of the names are pets then I could really make our family sound weird.”

Yes I dread to think of some of the things you could write about. The stories you could tell about the cat and dog…

*************************

But here’s the thing. Isn’t it about time that schools updated some of their teaching materials. Many children will not come from the classic family structures listed in the textbooks. How hard is it for a child to look at the set images when they may come from a broken home, or has a single parent, or has lost a parent(s) or has no brothers or sisters, or has a family set up which is different to the traditional view or has no family. Surely we can come about with learning materials that are a lot more sensitive to the needs of ALL children.

Play

Another gloriously chilly day here. The perfect weather to play.

It’s official, school play time is getting shorter. A deliberate government policy. A recent report from the UCL Institute of Education confirmed that is the case in the UK. They found weekly break times had reduced since 1995 by 45 minutes for the younger children and by 65 minutes for secondary pupils. It also found a growing percentage of schools offered lunch breaks of less than 35 minutes.

Since that report was published the situation has got markedly worse.

I unfortunately listened to one of the government numpties in charge of our schools. He talked about the need to improvise discipline. Talked about children suffering during the pandemic as their grades might go down. It was apparently time to increase the school day, cut holidays. Allow the pupils to catch up with government targets.

Not once did I hear the numpty say the words health, wellbeing and happiness.

That’s no surprise. Schools are now strictly controlled. Teaching programmes, timetables, how pupils learn are set by the government. It’s all about grades. Grades in subjects that the government thinks appropriate. We here constant talk of a return to good old Victorian Values. But it goes further. As the end of school bell rings children are increasingly channeled into structured out of hours school clubs. Forced into completing hour after hour of set homework.

This eats into that precious free time. Time to socialise, to play, to free think, to dream. Time which is the child’s. Maybe that’s why child mental health issues and depression are becoming an epidemic. An epidemic without a vaccine.

Before the COVID pandemic kicked in I remember one particular school year. Hawklad has two really good friends in classes next to his. When I was at school I would get plenty of time to play each day with my friends, friends in different classes. Well that’s all change now. In that entire school year Hawklad never once spent time with his friends in school. Even at weekends organised school sport events made meet-ups problematic. The only time he met up with them was during the holidays. That’s a minimum gap of 7 weeks. 7 week blocks without seeing friends.

Remember the phrase. ‘Childhood should be your happiest time’. Is that still the case? Sadly not for too many.

Blinded by the light

Blinded by the light.

Ok which version is better Bruce Springsteen or Manfred Mann…..

The home at school project is rapidly feeling like it’s blinded by something. More lessons with no support or materials provided. More time spent trying to find any educational resources hidden on the confusing school system. Far fewer teachers making contact and trying to explain work requirements. When class materials are sent they are often only arriving at the end of lessons or hours late. Hardly any work feedback being sent back. Very few teachers checking in on Hawklad to see if it’s going ok.

Contacting school occasionally improves things for a lesson or two then things fall back again.

With national lockdowns, local school closures and family lockdowns its been over a year since Hawklads last in school classroom day. Maybe school have decided enough is enough. Falling in line with Government thinking. So with an imminent school return looking most unlikely, the educational future is so unclear. Blinded by something……

Birds of prey

It’s been too long. Far too long since Hawklad got to do his favourite ever activity. Handling birds of prey.

He’s done this a few times. Sadly not enough. Hawklad is someone who struggles with social encounters. He finds it difficult to build up trust in others. It takes time and patience. But he can and does. He forms really close bonds with those he develops trust with. Real lasting friendships.

It’s so different with Birds of Prey. Instantly establishing a bond. Complete confidence and trust. Even getting to stroke the chest of one raptor who the falconer said that it had taken him months of effort to build up the same level of trust.

That’s why in an ideal world Hawklad will get to fulfil his dream of having his own falconry and rescue centre. And we all know dreams can come true. There is always hope.

Cracks

How easy is it to slip through the cracks.

It took too many years to get any support and help for Hawklad. A lot of important time during his key development years were missed. He was labelled with the following tags and descriptions…

A loner

Below average attainment

Having issues

Poor concentration

Under performer

Some discipline issues

Can’t sit still

Clumsy

Accident prone

Messy eater

Untidy

Behind national targets

Easily distracted

Needs to work on the basics

Does he need better discipline at home

Then it all changed when a group of Doctors and education experts finally issued a medical letter confirming

Aspergers

ADHD

Dyslexia

Dyspraxia

To get there was a nightmare. Yes it felt like a never ending slog. An ordeal. Constantly fighting the system. You end up doubting yourself. Are we just being pushy parents. Should we just fall back into line.

In the end our son was one of the lucky ones. Too many great kids don’t get the chance to shine. Wrote off. Misunderstood. They never get the support they need because they fell through the cracks in the system. A system which still has such poor levels of awareness, too many stereotypes, too few resources in specialised services.

It shouldn’t be like this.

Walk

So each night Hawklad tries to walk a few more yards. To extend is external walk. To slowly start to build bridges again. Last night he bailed out early as he saw people in the distance. But it is progress. It’s a start. At some stage he will be ready to even face people again. But in his own time. Whether that happens before he leaves school, who knows.

I do worry that too many countries are just thinking vaccines. No other permanent changes required. The vaccine will beat the pandemic and return us to that wonderful former world….

But surely with a mutating virus which is still spreading and still so endemic, all a vaccine does is buy us time. It gives us a chance to make changes. To find ways to live safely. To get support out to the people who need it. To increasingly try to make it harder for the virus to spread and thus mutate.

But here’s the thing. The vaccine doesn’t really help with the growing tide of mental health issues facing our society. Speaking with the team trying to support Hawklad. They are being swamped by rising child mental health problems (and the identified problems are just scratching the surface of the real volume of problems out there). Plus was the old world that perfect. Even before a pandemic there was a mental health crisis.

Society and Governments need to quickly wake up to this. There are somethings a vaccine can’t fix for them…..

Middle ground

Sometimes the middle ground is vacated…..

I think lack of sleep does something to my psyche. Normally I’m pretty much good at compromising. Finding the middle ground. NOT TODAY.

School has a weekly extra 90 minutes of schooling. As our beloved and apparently never corrupt Government imposes it’s esteemed will on schools, headteachers have very limited scope to vary the teaching. To add new stuff. So our school brought in a longer school day once a week. This would allow for dedicated non-curriculum learning. Pupils get to choose from a range of options. It’s all about learning different skills, building confidence, developing interests. Completely behind the principle here. Especially when the options are varied enough to allow each child to find something that interests them.

Although Hawklad is not in school at present school want him to take part in the scheme. Which he has done so far. So it’s time to pick this terms option. The pupils got to pick options in the classroom, then a couple of weeks later Hawklad was approached for his selection. Sometimes (and understandably) he is forgotten about in a process. So the best options have filled up and are fully booked. So what’s left?

Dance

Everyone can create music

Everyone can create video

Everyone can create drawing….

Just NO Dad. I would rather do French than those. I’d rather wash your car than do those. The animal management course would have been ace. As would Astronomy. As would the archeological dig option. Those last 4 options are still not fully booked for a good reason…..”

I phoned school to see if we could find another option. Could he be fitted into one of the full options. NO….. THOSE ARE THE ONLY AVAILABLE OPTIONS.

Ok normally I would try to work with school to find some middle ground. Today NO. Just told school that he isn’t doing any of those, so TOUGH…You will just have to mark him absent for that part of the day.

I think he is much happier with the new range of home based options. Xbox, football in the garden, table tennis, watching The Simpsons…..

Crime and Punishment

Still that kind of weather. Might leave the sunbathing for another day or so.

So school is open. Here we go again.

Four lessons today. Two with work provided. Two without.

Ok Dad I’ve emailed the teacher to ask them what I’m supposed to be doing but haven’t received anything back. So I’m going to look at History. I know what they are looking at next year so might as well focus on that. “

What are you going to look at then.

It’s Crime and Punishment from Victorian times. So might as well start with Jack the Ripper, hangings and Victorian prisons.”

That’s nice.

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What happened to the days of watching The Tellytubbies……