Perfect or imperfect

Just a little something to break up the dark greens, browns and greys. Definitely really appreciated. Si adorable…..

Dad why do they make French so difficult to learn. It feels like we are trying to build a fusion reactor some days. Not trying to describe what I did on a visit to a Paris Park.

Hawklad is so right. Yesterday he was given a long list of French words and asked to work out the correct endings for both Perfect and Imperfect tenses. How about first checking if the pupil actually knows the word first. Asking a dyslexic to write 40 words out perfectly (twice with slightly different endings) is like asking me to cook the perfect Soufflé. It isn’t happening and is basically a waste of time.

The problem is that in the UK teachers are not allowed to teach. They are basically just presenting what the Government tells them to say. The Government is not interested in pupils developing and growing. It’s all about passing one exam. Parrot Learning in the good old way Victorian children did. Only last month schools were instructed to not use any learning materials from sources which are considered to be anti-capitalist.

It’s really time to let Teachers teach and the Government can focus on governing. Oh hang on a minute – our Government can’t even do that properly.

Jim Morrison

Definitely been one of those mornings. One of those French mornings…..

It’s taken us 8 weeks to work out that class has been accessing a learning resource that we didn’t know about. So two months later Hawklad finds himself behind. I guess it was one of those things that was discussed in class but not passed on. Deep joy.

I can officially say that this subject has become a disaster.

Anyway I think the time it would take to catch up would be better spent on other activities. Maybe even playing with a non school sanctioned language app. Let’s see if we can find one that works for him. That would be a start. At least it would start to give him the basic skills and bugger the school tests in this subject.

I must admit that this so mirrors my time at school. I so struggled to learn French. Just wouldn’t stick. In the end sitting my final French exam was a bit of a Hail Mary Pass. Not much hope.

But strange things can happen.

Half the exam was the expected shambles. A series of random guesses really. Then the final question accounting for 40% of the marks. Read a long French newspaper article and answer questions in English. I should have had zero chance. But unbelievably the article was about Jim Morrison and The Doors. OMG I know every answer without reading the text.

Two months later I received my certificate in French. I had scraped a PASS. Must have got a perfect score on the final question and winged 10 marks from my other guesses. Yes I owe my French Qualification to Rock Music.

Francais

So the dawn of another school at home week. Let’s ignore the fact this is a sunset…..

School at home is kind of working for some subjects. That’s often down to the availability of the online content, the accessibility of the material and how interesting the material is. Unfortunately some subjects are just not working. Prime amongst all of them is FRENCH.

Le Francais ne fonctionne pas

This is not something new. I remember struggling with the subject at school. The teaching method seems to be very dry. This works great for some kids but not others. But in the UK we are still focused on delivering one teaching approach to all pupils regardless of it works or not. One day we will shift to tailoring learning to suit the individual child rather than the needs of the Government.

Our Son is dyslexic. That presents significant issues when trying to learn another language. For a start certain languages are less transparent than others. Presenting more issues with learning pronunciation, spelling, grammar and word order. English and French are two really difficult languages in that respect. Potentially presenting greater challenges for those with dyslexia. Languages like German, Italian and Spanish may present easier routes to learning.

Our Son has Aspergers. The impact on language learning is not entirely clear. It largely depends on the individual. In our sons case he can visually remember lots of facts and instantly remember then. Not so good if it involves text. Visual imagery is best.

Then we come to the learning approach. What is the current approach. Trying to remember words parrot fashion. Translating text. Writing out sections of text. Old school spelling tests. Then expecting that to be brought together into listening and answering comprehension questions on spoken dialogue. Penalising errors. That just isn’t working for our Son. In his words

“I’m now dyslexic in two languages.”

Maybe a better approach is to let the child pick a language first…..

Then offer a range of multi sensory learning methods. See which ones work and which don’t. Every child will be different. Maybe our son would benefit from concentrating on listening and speaking. Focusing any other learning on more graphical approaches. He loves history. Maybe try to incorporate history about the country into the language learning.

That’s the ideal world.

But back to reality. The current school approach. I keep stressing to school that the current approach is just not working. He is quickly losing interest and patience with French. Eventually school has said that it will see what it can do. It looks like they will try to add some more explanations to the text and potentially video some parts of the classroom lesson. Problem is that it’s still the same teaching method just with added detail. It’s a bit like when you go abroad and struggle to make yourself understood. So what do you do. Often you don’t try to change what you are saying, you just end up saying exactly the same thing but now shouting it. So I’m not entirely hopeful of progress.

If and when we do go full homeschooling then language learning will be the very first thing we change. Find something that works for our Son. It has to be that way.

Ca doit etre mieux que ca

Questions

This is a little tree which is close to our house. It sits at the side of the farmers field which backs onto our garden. It’s close by as a couple of my garden football shots have nearly hit it….. In the years that we have lived here it has never grown. It just seems to lean over a little further each year. I know how it feels…..

So many questions today. So many school work queries.

Dad what are your thoughts on Gladstone‘s and Disraeli‘s political reforming achievements. They didn’t go far enough and do you think their colonial record negated what good they did do?”

“Dad what do you know about DNA structure and it’s impact on identical and fraternal twins?”

“Dad how would you write the mass of the earth in standard notation?”

“Dad in Animal Farm what does the character Moses represent and his relationship to Soviet history?”

Dad have you ever studied John Agard’s poem FLAGS. Is it about the dangers of patriotism?”

Dad I can’t get my head round French Verb Conjugation. Can you explain it to me?

As any self respecting parent would do I looked suitably vacant and thought wishfully back to the questions about which was my favourite Tellytubby. I was good at those questions.

School at home week something

Still summer…

It’s the end of another school at home week. These weeks are just merging into each other now.

School at home has gone pretty well over those whatever weeks. Son has adjusted well to it. He’s been pretty relaxed but we have a cloud on the horizon. Next week the school is starting to bring in virtual classrooms and live teaching via Microsoft Teams. Son hates the thought of being videoed. He really struggles with it. Plus with the other kids present he will retreat into his shell again. So this new teaching development has filled him with dread. The technology will work. Will it work for all kids. Will it work for those kids with special educational needs. That’s a bridge to cross next week.

The other thing which has stood out is observing the impact a slight change in school routine can have on our son. And it’s not just the virtual classroom idea. Sudden and unscheduled changes in teaching style, teacher, timetables…. All these have a major impact on him. He becomes deeply unsettled and stressed out. This really compromises his performance. I’m not 100% certain schools are aware of the impact these things have on kids on the spectrum.

But back to this week. What has this slightly bewildered parent learnt.

  • Son can walk, eat, drink and use his iPad at the same time with ease. I struggle to walk without crashing into walls.
  • Two words have the immediate effect of sending me into the kitchen to eat junk food and find coffee. French and Drama….
  • How many lessons does a kid need just going on about how to make puff pastry. Surely Food Technology can find another food to look at.
  • Apparently the term for you arm hairs standing on end is Piloerection…
  • When I get the feeling that I am right and the science teacher is wrong on magnetic fields, it’s probably best to fact check my knowledge first……
  • Occasionally giving a kid a little constructive feedback on work might be a good idea. Most teachers do. Unfortunately some teachers give nothing back. That’s something like 13 weeks with nothing. Really…
  • Practicing tennis in the garden is difficult when you can’t find any tennis balls.
  • Practicing tennis in the garden is difficult without balls and it’s chucking it down.
  • Practicing tennis in the garden is difficult without balls, in the rain when you can’t find the tennis racquets.
  • Online French classes seem to drain the iPad battery much quicker than any other subject. This is bizarre as French vocabulary seems to have exactly the same effect on me.
  • It’s rather emasculating when your Son decides to film his own art cartoon project. The words maybe getting the cartoon in focus might be a good idea do sting….
  • When your son has Dyspraxia and Dad has basically got the artistic talent of a Brussels Sprout – trying to free draw a pie chart on the iPad is basically a waste of time.
  • iPad voice recognition works with hundreds of languages but can’t handle anyone speaking with a Yorkshire Twang. For example how difficult can it be for a machine to understand someone saying ‘Royalty’. As hard as Son tried the iPad kept hearing Roll over and when I tried it heard Reality. Remind me not to try it with a word like luck.
  • I can’t remember how to programme the microwave or where I left the TV remote control but somehow I can remember school calculus. How is that possible.
  • The school has done a great job in getting the school at home IT working. But it hasn’t cut down the paper usage. Since the project started in April we have used up a full ream of paper….

So another week down. I get the feeling next week will see the return of the really sarcastic parent….

Over my head

One of the advantages of not cutting the hedge. A bit of overhead yellow is always very nice.

Dad this is just going over my head.”

He wasn’t referring to the hedge as well…

“This is refusing to enter my brain. Sometimes dyslexia is a right pain in the butt….”

He was referring to French. In particular today’s lesson. All about grammatical gender. It’s not an easy concept for English speaking numpties like me as we don’t tend to get so focused on gender and nouns. Which is most odd as our language is heavily derived from Anglo-Saxon and French, which are. So you can hear my brain chug away when it sees

A simple word like HAPPY become in French either HEUREUX (masculine) or HEUREUSE (feminine).

Hard for me, a nightmare for a dyslexic. So a lesson of writing these out for an hour is just torture for him. Yes you can try and learn the rules. But when you struggle to pick up word and letter patterns – it’s not much help.

Hey Dad I’m dyslexic in multiple languages. Surely I get a badge for that.”

We should really be switching dyslexic kids to different learning techniques. Maybe focusing just on visual and verbal learning. Using fun, online teaching resources. Finding out what works and what doesn’t work for each industry child. Unfortunately teachers are given so little flexibility by our Government. They have to stick to the national curriculum. Sadly the factory education approach doesn’t work for many. So we try to make the best of it. But it’s not easy seeing your child struggle.

It feels like you are holding onto the side of a giant bolder as it tumbles down a hill. Not in control and just grimly trying not to fall off. But eventually you reach the bottom. You can take a breather before you start tumbling again. I guess the secret is to make the most of the flat bits. Grab that ice cream and think of ways to make the tumbling down hill more fun. Must be possible. Remember being a kid and rolling down the slopes. As long as you avoided the nettles and animal droppings, it was the best laugh ever. So we will put our thinking hats on, how to make learning French fun.

Bonne journee (yes I know I’ve dropped a mark for the missing thingy off the e, but my keyboard doesn’t do French)….

Please note one of my great regrets is that I’m not multilingual. I love talking to people who can effortlessly switch languages. So I will keep going. You never know, one day…

Lollies and homeschooling

Somebody waiting to share my ice lolly.

This weekend the weather is going to be mad. For a start it’s dry (which is mad for Yorkshire). But the temperature. Midday today it was 21C (70F). Midday tomorrow is due to be 2C (35F). On the Yorkshire temperature scale that’s going from a string vest to two jumpers.

This week it was a 4 day school session. Definitely into a pattern now. Some subjects working well using an iPad and online resources. Some lessons not working well. But what have we learnt this week from the school at home project.

  • School are looking at how to enforce social distancing when they reopen. They are doing this without any help or information or resources from the so called Government. The only way they have managed to find a practical way is to split the existing classes up. Maximum Class sizes have to a third of what they are now. This basically means that it only works if many kids are homeschooled for at least part of the week.
  • The secret with about teaching is understand the particular needs of the child. With our Son and a subject like a History, it’s not about getting new information into him. Already he has a staggering encyclopaedia stored. It’s finding ways to get that knowledge out of him.
  • It’s basically impossible to free hand draw a circle and a pentagram on a tablet.
  • Even at home we have a stationary leak. Pens, pencils, erasers, rulers …. are going missing. I can understand losing them at school but at home …. really. Where are they?
  • When did long divisions become so complicated.
  • Son is enjoying having a regular school lunch. He says that his work on an afternoon has improved. He’s less tired. At school because of too many kids trying to use overstretched catering facilities, Son often doesn’t eat or drink. It’s certainly not helped by government pressure to cut break and lunch times.
  • Kryptonite won’t count when you are trying to name inert elements.
  • Son, the IPad and I do not agree on how most words are spelt.
  • One of the great feels is Son completing a lesson with 30 minutes to spare. Son can go outside and I can hover.
  • I am becoming a bit of an expert in Russian geography. Begs the question why I was so rubbish at Geography when I was at school.
  • The French I learned (or thought I learned) is fundamentally different to the French Son is learning now.
  • In all the weeks we have done this thing at home, most subjects have not set additional homework. Yet we are told that the kids are keeping up on the curriculum requirements. So what is the point of setting heaps of daily homework when they are at school

And the last thing we have learnt. Ice lollies during subjects like Drama really do ease the pain.

Facts

Last night was one of those yucky sleepless nights. So very tired yet all I could muster was probably 40 minutes sleep. Annoyingly those 40 minutes came right at the end of the night and was brought to an all to abrupt ending with the morning homeschooling alarm.

During those zombie like hours I started writing a list of things to do this week. After getting stuck on item 1 for far too long, the list morphed into a more fruitful

What have I learned about myself during the last few weeks of this rather odd period in our history.

So here goes with my early morning facts

  1. I’m crap at writing To Do lists,
  2. Late at night I have a habit or writing LIST so that it looks like LUST,
  3. I can’t sleep properly,
  4. My old mobile phone has never worked better since it got machine washed with my clothes,
  5. My phone has a surprisingly good camera however it has the most annoying panorama function. The photo above took hours to do,
  6. I am so lucky to have that view from the garden. But what would I give for either a mountain or the sea in the distance,
  7. I quite enjoy most of this home schooling lark,
  8. Homeschooling and work are never going to be a good fit for me,
  9. Homeschooling and long distance running are never going to be a good fit for me,
  10. Homeschooling and my bank balance are never going to be a good fit for me,
  11. Homeschooling, my bank balance and holidays are never going to be a good for me,
  12. High petrol prices are not an issue when you don’t drive your car for 6 weeks,
  13. I can now make my own pizza bases as long as they are square shaped. Round is beyond me,
  14. I can fill a freezer up real quick when I start saving leftover food,
  15. A dairy and gluten free diet is a pain in the arse when the shops sell out of specialist diet ranges,
  16. I miss football on the telly,
  17. I miss alpine sports on the telly,
  18. I hate the news now. I miss the days of moaning about Brexit,
  19. I’m a barnpot yet I would do a better job of running our country than the clowns currently in charge. Apparently it’s ok for a Prime Minister to miss FIVE emergency meetings and have weekends off during a national emergency,
  20. My Son knows more than I do,
  21. Receiving a parcel from Amazon now feels as dangerous as trying to change a fuel rod in a nuclear reactor,
  22. Not being able to get Sons favourite Soup, Beans, Skinless Sausages and Pasta is one of the most stressful things in the world,
  23. I must be really vexing to live with,
  24. Cheap tea bags taste the same regardless of how many times I reuse them,
  25. Using Yorkshire Slang Words gets me put on the Spam Naughty List,
  26. At some stage I might have to physically talk to someone else than our son. I’m dreading that thought,
  27. You can still get colds if you are isolating from the outside world,
  28. When I’m carefully stood in my designated 2m queuing area why can’t I stop thinking about how long virus particles stay airborne for,
  29. I get so excited when I see an aeroplane now that I must rush to check where it’s flying to,
  30. I haven’t combed my hair in 6 weeks,
  31. Where does all the so called spare time disappear when I’m on lockdown,
  32. The more I learn German the less I can remember of French. It’s as if for every new German word entering my brain, a French one has to pop out to make space,
  33. I will even talk to slugs these days,
  34. Don’t set up a darts challenge with your son then at the last minute realise you don’t have a dartboard or darts,
  35. The Government and Chief Executives of major companies only email me when there is a pandemic going on,
  36. I still hate U2,
  37. I want to live in Switzerland
  38. I’m still a widow. Or as my Predictive Text tries to type – I am still a window,
  39. These days it really doesn’t matter if I put my pants on back to front.

Pink legged German

He survived his challenges today. Staggeringly our French telling the time trick probably picked up a few marks. To be fair to school son was provided with a scribe for the English exam. No scribe for French. Will have to find out why.

I survived today’s challenges. Made it out in one piece from the bizarro world which was work. Then made it round the 12k run. Once again the view helped lift the soul.

Well clearly the bizarro work world had rubbed off on to me. On the run I was listening to my German language course. It seemed to be the right thing to do as son would be currently sitting his French exam. It was basically going in one ear and straight out of the other one. A passing cyclist then flagged me down and asked if I knew where the nearest cafe was. I suspect he wasn’t expecting the following response.

Guten Tag. Es ist diese Straße runter. Über 5 Kilometer

As I noticed the cyclist’s bewildered I just repeated my amateurish German but this time a bit slower and a bit louder. Then it dawned on me. What a wally. All very embarrassing. What was even more embarrassing was that when I finally switched to English I’m not sure the cyclist was any more the wiser. Although we where in Yorkshire he clearly didn’t understand my Yorkshire accent. As we speak the poor man is probably lost somewhere on the moors cursing that useless German in his pink leggings. Still it took my mind off Son’s ongoing French based anxieties.

I will leave the last words to a modern day Philosopher.

Well Dad I survived. The problem with the French Exam was that it’s basically in French. English is hard enough but French. It might as well have been in a foreign language.”

Memory tricks

You get sone days when running is particularly tough. Tough physically and certainly tough mentally. On those days I need to set mini goals to tick off on my run. Memory tricks to convince the body to keep going. On this route it’s to reach 9k. At 9k I get this view. Doesn’t matter how many times my little legs take me past here, this view never fails to deliver. The view is lost way too soon and it’s back on the slog again. A couple of hill climbs are fast approaching. I’m not the spring chicken I once was. Those hills hurt. Currently the only thing that works (apart from using a car) is to count. When the climb starts it’s about counting from 1 to 100. The deal is that I can only stop running up the hill at 100. So far every time I have got to 99 I have reset the count back to 1. Don’t say 100 or skip past it really quickly and I must keep going for a while longer.

These little tricks help me. Now we are searching for another one.

We all have blind spots.

One of mine was historical dates. I’m normally good with numbers. I can memorise phone numbers really well yet I just can’t remember dates. As hard as I try those dates just won’t stick.

Son has a few blind spots. He’s good with numbers but can’t get his head around decimal places. Ask him to work out 24×37 and he can do it ever so quickly. Yet ask him to add 1.3 and 3.8 and it’s impossible. Whatever we try just doesn’t work.

He can remember dates with ease yet times are a different matter. He struggles with the concept of time. He struggles to tell the time. Digital clocks are problematic while analog clocks are impossible. Everything we have tried has basically failed. So now we come to this Sunday.

It’s the Year 8 French Exam tomorrow. One of the areas which is bound to come up is telling the time in French.

Dad if I can’t tell the time in my own language what chance do I have in telling the time in something which probably isn’t even my second language.”

Everything we have tried has failed. In the end we settled on an educated guess approach.

Learn parrot fashion il est ….. heures ….

Then assuming he can’t work out the right time in English he will put the first number he sees (converted to French) after heures and the second number before. If he can only see one number then that goes before heures. That gives him a chance. Ok it doesn’t work with every time but it’s the best he can manage. He’s found his own way of trying to get through this challenge. It convinced him that if he’s sees time questions then he still has a chance. It’s worth having a go. Gives him hope and belief.

So tomorrow at the same time he is enduring his exam I will go for a run. I will suffer with him. Let’s hope both our memory tricks work.