Really

Another school deep sigh moment. Time to look at the view for a few moments and breathe.

All parents have different takes on life and schooling. No one right answer. Parents can fundamentally disagree on things like schools. So I am fully aware that what O might say now won’t strike home with many. It’s just me.

These are tough times. So much stress, anxiety and fear. It’s bad enough for adults , what’s it like for our children. It must be a nightmare for them. It’s robbing them of a large chunk of their precious childhood. So I’m my opinion it’s time to cut them some slack. Clearly that view is not shared.

Late last night Hawklad had an email from one of his teachers. Sent to all the class. It was a reminder that the homework that had been set over Christmas was due tomorrow morning. The teacher wanted to remind all the class that the large piece of work had to be done on time. One quote stuck with me. The homework is due regardless of the pandemic lockdown, negatives will be issued.

Ok some parents will be happy with that. This one isn’t. For a start why are we giving out homework over Christmas? Really. It happens every holiday. Can’t we just let children enjoy the time off. Especially at this dystopian time. And then those words regardless of the pandemic lockdown. Really…. For me those 5 words sum up everything which is wrong with the school system.

For me it REALLY needs to change.

Hanging around

A day perfect for just hanging around.

It’s was one of those school days yesterday. Four lessons scheduled. Four lessons that should take up many hours work for Hawklad. The first lesson had a few pieces of work on offer. But not much. Within a few minutes he had finished. The problem is that we are trying to stick to the classroom teaching plan. Hawklad through a misunderstanding ended up doing several lessons worth of work the other day. So he is too far ahead. He needs to wait until the class catches up.

Then nothing from the next two lessons. Absolutely nothing. No work. No research. No idea what the class has been looking at. Nothing for him to do. He tried emailing but got no response. It’s difficult for the teacher as they are trying to teach a class of 30. Some of the teaching assistants are good and they ensure the class material goes online so Hawklad can access it. Ok some verbal stuff is not shared but that is so understandable. The problem happens when the usual assistants are not in class. Maybe the class has no assistant working. Maybe the replacement assistant just doesn’t know about Hawklad. For whatever reason nothing is put online. Hawklad twiddles his thumbs.

The final lesson did email some work but it was work Hawklad had already done. That’s another problem you get when the teaching assistants change. They have no idea what work has already been sent in previous lessons. Hawklad quickly redid the work and that was the school day. Well that’s not quite true….

When I say Hawklad was twiddling his thumbs, that is not exactly true. We know these days much better now. Hawklad can sit and just wait OR

I could set him some work that may or may not fit with the teaching schedule OR

I could just let him play on his Xbox until some work turns up.

Guess one we went for. Yep bad parenting option. Can’t believe he beat me repeatedly at FIFA…..

3am

Last night I was tired. Unusually tired for me. But it was one of those pesky tired setups. During the evening I could feel myself nodding off. Plenty of those ‘just starting to drift off while sat on the settee – then suddenly woken by those cataclysmic sudden neck snapping forward’ moments. This went on all evening until it was bed time. But then I just wasn’t tired. Pigging fiddlesticks……

Finally sleep came but all too soon…..

DAD, DAAAAAADDDD!

What’s up son.

Dad I’ve forgotten, sorry we’ve forgotten the art assignment.”

Ooh yeh, that one that isn’t due in until the 12th.

That’s the one, But ITS THE 12th.”

Oh big pants. Can you do it as soon as you get up?

No it’s due at the start of the first lesson.”

***********

I could see by the look in his eyes that until it was done, sleep would be impossible. So a few minutes later I was in the kitchen making hot drinks. Years ago a late night session would have had a very different meaning to tonight’s version. 3am and rocking out to Japanese Art.

Basically I sat there looking vacant, occasionally nodding (in a of course I knew that kinda way) and asking Google such questions as ‘what on earth does wabi and sabi mean’. It took an hour before Hawklad had convinced himself that he had done enough. The school panic in his world was over. His completed presentation was significantly more robust than his Dads initial suggestive assignment text

Japanese Art is cool but Godzilla is real cool. Now it’s time for bed….

Hawklad got to bed and immediately fell asleep. I guess at about 4.30am I found some sleep. I woke up a couple of hours later with one overriding thought. How can you write two pages on Japanese Art and not mention Godzilla‘s Atomic Breath just once. What has become of Art.

It’s wet

It’s definitely wet today. Pouring down and very cold. All rather depressing so let’s take the time to look at a bit of nature’s colour.

Do you ever have those conversations. Those conversations where the words seem to head in one direction but actual the conversation clearly ends up in a totally different place. Ever so frustrating.

I’ve spoken to school about Hawklads enforced school at home project. I thought I had explained to school that although it’s kind of working it was far from ideal. In particular

  • He is getting absolutely zero feedback. He is submitting work but getting nothing back. The other kids are clearly getting marks and comments back. That’s clear from some of the teacher comments on the set work tasks. But those comments are always aimed at other pupils. If he doesn’t get feedback then what is the point.
  • Have the teachers forgotten that he is dyslexic. Comments like ‘if I don’t get round to sending you tasks for the lesson then just read a book on the subject’ don’t really help….
  • Have the teachers forgotten that he has difficulty in hand drawing. He struggles with fine motor skills. I can’t believe the number of times the set task is to hand draw something – unbelievably that is currently not Art.
  • Some of the subject teachers are still completely forgetting about Hawklad. No subject material at all has been made available.

Anyway the school seemed very supportive, so surely job done. Clearly not as the school responded with an email basically saying that they were happy that things where going so well. They will keep going with the current approach and they hoped that we would keep in touch…..

Sounds like it’s time for me to most definitely stay in touch with them right now.

Turning

Those leaves 🍁 are turning. Autumn is coming.

Well actually the last few nights it has felt like winter has already arrived. It’s been freezing. Heating and lights full on. Jumpers (sweaters) most definitely are out of storage. I’m not very organised but I do always remember where I put my million jumpers. Normally I have all of them on at the same time.

So school starts on Monday. Our Son will not be returning at that time. If and when he returns is a matter of much uncertainty.

Dad have school decided what is happening on Monday then ?”

Not yet Hawklad.

Has school sent you the new codes so that we can check the online pupil pages for each subject?”

Not yet. Until we get these then we are basically stuffed.

So what will I be doing?”

Not sure as yet. I don’t have the school timetable. Don’t know what the subject teachers will be looking at.

As I’m now in a new set we won’t even know any kids we can ask to see what they have been doing.”

No. So I can’t speak to any parents and see what they have been given.

So basically Dad we will be winging the homeschooling thing.”

Yes definitely winging it.

So a bit like your cooking then. Bit of a disaster…”

Yep, but at least it won’t be dull.

If it’s bad then I’m going back to bed. Just to let you know.”

Don’t worry son, if it’s that bad I will be resorting to building lego sets…

***********

As it stands the plan is

  • Follow the school timetabled lessons for the day,
  • Email the individual teacher for a guide to what we should be doing….. not entirely hopeful about that. Failing that will see if any lesson notes have been loaded onto the pupil online pages ….. these are often blank or feature very brief notes loaded days after the lesson,
  • Look out for any homework tasks being posted. Submit these to the teacher somehow,
  • Try to find relevant videos online for him to watch. The BBC and other countries have some good resources,
  • Send copies of any work he does to the teacher …. somehow.

Yes winging it sums it up perfectly. I’m actually quite relaxed about the schooling side. The key is for our son to be in a good place. Assuming he is not at school for this half term, then it’s just about keeping him from falling too far behind the rest of the class. Certainly not looking for him to get gold stars. If keeping his hand in means he gets the school day done in an hour, then so be it. More time for him. More time for him to try and reconnect with his happy side.

The key thing is.

Yes we are doing school but it’s not the priority.

Online Education

Red sky – delight or warning?

For a couple of weeks I had been thinking about doing a list of things which might help make homeschooling work. But then Robyn published her wonderful post about Successful Online Learning. Robyn said it way better than I could ever do, so I thought let’s forget about my post. But then the inner muppet took over. How about tips on making a complete dogs dinner of Online Learning. I can do that. So here goes a Muppet Guide to Homeschooling.

  • Don’t bother checking the unused school bags which have been sat next to the front door since March. There is absolutely no chance that half eaten sandwiches and bananas might be still squashed in there. Even less chance that damp PE kit might still be festering under the mouldy school lunch.
  • Make sure you buy new and expensive school uniform items a week before schools shutdown for a pandemic. Absolutely no possibility that your kid will shoot up several sizes in those few months.
  • When the PE teacher asks for the parent to also take part in home games lessons, you have only one sensible response. Absolutely, it will be fun to show off to your child that you are still a sporting Super Being. There is no conceivable risk that you will pull every single muscle in your body and that you will be completely humiliated by your beloved offspring.
  • The Xbox is a perfectly acceptable online educational tool.
  • When you hear the words SCIENCE LESSON and MOLECULAR STRUCTURES in the same sentence then immediately pretend to be on a works call for the next two hours. The same principle also applies to the words MATHEMATICS and CALCULUS.
  • On a similar theme the words RELATIONSHIP And SEX EDUCATION should immediately bring the response – “go and speak to the other parent”. If that is not practical then it is perfectly acceptable to run outside and spend the next hour cutting the grass in the pouring rain.
  • Letting your child watch wrestling videos during a Citizenship Lesson is perfectly in line with governments curriculum.
  • It is perfectly acceptable to attach a profanity to any reference to DRAMA lessons.
  • A can of Pepsi, bag of crisps and a chocolate bar represents a balanced school lunch.
  • When homeschooling first starts you have this real commitment to fully focus on your child’s education. To sit with them. To be that one on one teacher. That feeling lasts for at most a couple of hours. You start to waiver with frequent trips to the kitchen for a hot drink and a biscuit. Next you sit next your child but secretly try to look at your emails and news feeds. It finally breaks down as your openly start playing Crossy Roads.
  • You don’t need to worry about charging the school iPad up. Your diligent child will always do that…..
  • It doesn’t make you a bad parent when you tell your child to ignore the instructions of the French Teacher and to use the Google Translation App.
  • Never get drawn into debates on History. You have zero chance of winning those – you haven’t read a history text in decades and watching the Ozzy Osbournes history tv show does not count as an Academic Qualification. Best approach is to just smile and nod.
  • For absolutely any Geography question your only responses should be – ‘The Himalayas’, ‘The Nile’, ‘Coastal Erosion’ or ‘Go and watch the Discovery Channel’.
  • When you restock on pens from Amazon never buy the cheap multipacks. You will never use the Red and Green ones.
  • For Food Technology it is perfectly acceptable to let your child watch any Gordon Ramsey Show.
  • Try to avoid saying things like ‘In my day’, ‘That’s not what I was taught’, ‘The Dinosaurs were not extinct yet when I was in school’. These all may give the false appearance that you are in fact an old fossil.
  • When your child has to do an art project never say ‘what is it supposed to be’ when you see the completed work for the first time. That’s not cool parenting at all. Much better to say ‘that’s nice’ or ‘that’s better than an Andy Warhol masterpiece’.
  • You might think you are an expert in computing. This might be backed up with academic qualifications. But never ever get involved in anything to do with technology. Trust me, let your child deal with the computer stuff. In fact let your child sort out your mobile at the same time.

There you go. Don’t follow any of my tips and you might make homeschooling work for you. Even better go and read a post like Robyn’s, she knows what she’s talking about….

Remember homeschooling can be FUN.

Schools Out Still

So much beauty from a 10p seed packet. I hear you cry, MR CHEAP. Or is it Mr Teacher.

So the 7 week summer school holidays have started. Hawklad is happy. So that completes something like 18 weeks of school’s version of homeschooling. It was an unexpected and very much unplanned journey. So what have been the key take away points.

  • Not having to iron school shirts and trousers is just the BEST.
  • Getting up in the morning seems to much less stressful when your mind isn’t focused on not missing the school bus.
  • School does like to use a lot of paper even with an online system.
  • Sending out emails telling pupils about an exciting careers video isn’t really going to work. Might as well email about a new knitting pattern.
  • Progress can be made with dyslexia.
  • Home PE lessons are nothing more than an excuse to embarrass and injure parents.
  • Drama is a drama.
  • Homeschooling definitely has the potential to isolate parents and kids.
  • Dad learning German at the same time as a Hawklad is doing school French is not a great idea.
  • Pets don’t help with school work.
  • Pets do help with creating a mess which adds to the chaotic homeschooling feel.
  • Going to sound old now….. In my day I would rush to finish schoolwork to start playing football, now an early finish creates more time for Minecraft and Crossy Road.
  • Kids grow a lot in 18 weeks.
  • Don’t buy new school uniform the week before schools closedown for a pandemic.
  • Homeschooling increases the consumption of biscuits.
  • In 18 weeks some subject teachers have failed to provide any feedback at all. That doesn’t help.
  • Pencils can be used for many things other than ‘pencilling’.
  • Investing in the protective cover has been a wise move. School iPads get dropped and dropped and dropped….
  • Chemistry has changed since I was at school….
  • Homeschooling in pyjamas is kinda cool.
  • The words ‘Dad’ and ‘I’m struggling with algebra‘ bring on parenting panic attacks.
  • I was rubbish at biology as a kid and I’m rubbish at biology as an adult.
  • Home Economics has a thing about puff pastry. 18 weeks of cooking with just puff pastry. Hawklad is not that keen on the stuff.
  • In 18 weeks we had only one email from the teacher who is supposed to be looking after the kids with additional educational needs. That was 15 weeks ago. Has the school stopped monitoring in this area. If so should they not inform the parent.
  • iPads only crash when a homework deadline is looming.
  • Homeschooling spreads out and seems to fill the house with papers, books and pens.
  • How can a calculator go missing so many times in such a small house.
  • History come to life if it involved trips to local historical sites.
  • What do you do with all the paperwork generated over the 18 weeks. Is it needed next year. No idea…..
  • Where did those 18 weeks go.

So that’s 18 weeks of school at home. So what comes next. Return to school or homeschooling. We shall see….

Blue

Blue Sky. Well just a bit but it makes such a difference. It really does.

After weeks of not using the work’s computer system it’s such a shock when you have to finally turn it back on again. Not a clue what my username or password is. I picked something I would never forget which I have now forgotten….. In fact where is the laptop ON button. Trying to tell my fingers that it’s not a touch control screen, that’s the reason you get psychedelic colour patterns every time I press it. What’s a keyboard. Having somehow turned the computer on, it must be time for a hot drink. See back in the swing of work already. When I returned the computer had decided to upgrade itself and was stuck at 4%. So the computer was quickly back in the normal swing of things as well. So the hot drink was enjoyed outside. That blue does look good…

So I’m back inside and ready to rumble. Now the upgrade is at 2% completion. As a professional accountant I can just about work out that it’s just lost 2% of its upgrade thingy in the last 20 minutes. So it’s de-upgrading. I can’t work out if that means it will complete sometime in 2026 or maybe it would have been completed in 2014 in a time-warping kinda way. Randomly throwing pink socks at the screen I guess will not speed things up. I wonder if the laptop finds that really annoying. Strangely I find it very therapeutic. Just like lovely friends and blue skies.

Mothballed

This is a mothballed Coal Power Station that is right on the furthest horizon we can see. We can only see that far as we are on top of a hill. It takes an effort to find it from here. Can only see it from one extreme corner of the garden. This is also at my poor old camera’s maximum zoom. I guess it’s a reminder of a rapidly receding age and will be getting demolished soon.

Last school week and it’s trying to end the year on a most vexing high….

Let’s see how many assessments we can squeeze into 5 days. The answer ….. TOO MANY.

I had spoken to school and told them that son was still not 100% following his hospital visit but would give the last school week ago. However he wasn’t firing on all cylinders. School assured me that they would go easy on him. ASSESSMENTS are clearly easy on him. That’s so how I remember school tests in my day. Then we come to English. He completed the online lesson and submitted a rather fine gothic story. I was impressed with the storytelling and especially the writing. It was grammatically very good. Whisper it, spelling was almost perfect. That is some progress for him. So I was a little surprised to receive an email from school at 11.30pm to inform me that his work in the lesson had been below standard and incomplete. Really. The teacher has not responded to my query as the email failed to provide any details. Well that’s helpful. Having reviewed the lesson material several times I can only assume that he failed to respond to one rather vague question. A hard to spot question requiring a one sentence answer. Son had actually answered it but forgot to upload a photo of the one line answer. Unsurprisingly not a mention of the story he had submitted. If I wasn’t already convinced about the failures of mainstream education then this has finally clinched the deal. Well stuff school. I’ve assessed his work as brilliant and he will be getting a reward for it.

Maybe it’s time to mothball our countries factory farming educational approach…

Biscuit inspiration

Flowers never fail to take my breathe away.

Sadly on too many days, school has the same effect on me

I contacted school to let them know that son was still struggling but as it was the last week of school, he would give the online lessons a go. School said that they would let all his teachers know and would appropriately restrict his work demands. This week had to be a phased return. That was 8.30am on Monday morning. His first lesson went ok then it was time for the second to start. He was told to complete a one hour test (starting in 5 minutes) which the rest of the class has had a week to revise for. In fact some of the questions related to course material which was only introduced during the week he was absent. Apparently even if a child is sick, that child should still log into the school system and check all class lesson notes.

So much for a phased return to schooling.

This called for the inspirational powers of hot milk, digestive biscuits and toast. The test was completed with much common sense and quite a bit of creative guesswork. Looking at some of the questions – his Dad would have been as much use as air conditioning is in Yorkshire.

That was the first morning of the school week. This could be a long one. Good job we have many packets of biscuits and chocolate ready to go…