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.

Curve ball

Definite curve ball from school today.

I have wrote about the problems Hawklad has been having with French classes at school. The way the subject is taught just don’t suit him. Dyslexia complicates the learning process. Being at home adds to the difficulties.

I have been trying to get the school to modify the teaching approach in this one subject. Even switch the language to one which better suits him and one he is more interested in. Basically met with a brick wall. Then today’s curve ball.

The school doesn’t feel that he will be able to pass exams in this subject due to his learning issues. So they are now recommending that he drops the subject completely. Undertake no language learning at all. He would use the French class time to work on his other subjects.

So rather than try other learning routes they just want to ditch the subject. I’m kind of speechless. Will let Hawklad decide what happens next. BUT my initial take is that

…..Sadly it reflects the lack of flexibility in the UK teaching system. It also reflects the general approach schools take with those pupils who have learning disabilities.

Odd

Oh Yorkshire. You are such a beautiful county. Ok a bit cold, wet and windy. But definitely beautiful.

Beautiful, cold, wet, windy and a tad ODD. Look at me… Ok I’m not beautiful but the other 4 things most definitely do apply.

I think the weather has a tendency to make us a little odd here. You can tell by some of the things you here. Let’s go through a few Yorkshire words which stick in my mind. There are others but many spectacularly fail the decency bar.

I remember my school teacher announcing to the class. “Tomorrow 3C you get new classmates joining you. Brother and Sister. They are called Esmeralda and Oscar. With names like that they must be from Lancashire…..”. The funny thing was that they actually were born in Lancashire. The other funny thing was that our class was called 3C, which was ironic as the school only had two classes.

I remember going on a secondary school trip to The Yorkshire Dales. As we got off the bus the Teacher went though the safety rules. No mention of the nearby cliffs, caves or army firing range. “Right you need to climb that mountain and come back here. I would normally join you but I’ve forgotten my boots so I’m going to sit with the bus driver and listen to the cricket on the radio. Don’t get lost. Don’t go further than the mountain cairn as beyond that is Lancashire. Venture in there and you will be a lost soul forever….” Lancashire is our neighbouring county. Yorkshire is on the East and Lancashire is on the West of England. Both counties have been basically hurling abuse at each other for centuries. It has descended into Civil War and bloodletting over the English Throne. Thankfully it’s just verbal abuse and a couple of annual mad cricket matches these days.

I remember hearing a tourist ask a local in York how to get to the train station. The locals response was spectacularly helpful “Well Lad I wouldn’t start from here”. He then walked off….

I was stood on a Yorkshire Train Platform when the station announcer called out the next train to arrive. She finished off with the following helpful words. “The train on platform ….. will be departing in two minutes for London and the South, my thoughts are with those passengers at this difficult time for them as they head off into the badlands. There is still time for you to change your mind.”

As a kid my next door neighbour was a bit of a character. He would sing to his Rhubard patch every day. Usually things like ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘We will meet again’. It was an experience as he had a singing voice equivalent to a misfiring tractor engine reversing over a long line of exposed toes. Anyway one day I picked up the courage to ask him why he sang to his Rhubard. His response ‘They have feelings ya know’. Apparently he would wee on them as well. Clearly not that bothered about their feelings.

I remember my Dad often telling me that “this was the wrong type of rain for the plants”. “The rain has far too much water in it….”.

When I was at Uni I had to program a robotic arm. For a joke I decided to change all the user input instructions away from English into Yorkshire slang words. As you do! Unfortunately when I tested it for the first time eckie thump wasn’t the instruction to lower the arm cradle gentle to the table. I should have told the robot to wazzock. Eckie thump basically sent an expensive piece of robotics smashing through the table causing untold damage. Yorkshire was banned from the laboratory, probably still is.

I had been Rock Climbing in deepest Yorkshire and had popped into a remote pub for some lunch. Looking at the meat full menu I asked the Landlord if he had a vegetarian option. This clearly perplexed him. He scanned the menu board for a few moments and then asked “The best vegetarian option will be the Pork Sausages. They won’t have that much Pork in them most days….”. He did deliver as he made me one of the worlds greatest chip butties.

Final mention has to be left with out very own Yorkshire born Hawklad. He had been pestering me to take him to the KFC Restaurant. Finally I succumbed and took him. As the helpful assistant asked him what variant of southern fried chicken he would like. Hawklad responded “Have you got anything else to eat rather than chicken. I’m not keen on CHICKEN…..”.

So yes Yorkshire is most definitely ODD. But it is staggeringly beautiful.

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

You can’t take the Yorkshire out of Yorkshire

It is my civic duty to continue your enlightenment in the dark arts of being from Yorkshire. Think of it as a Public Service Broadcast. Think Bear Grylls and Born Survivor. One day you might end in deepest, darkest Barnsley – these help guides may just end of saving your life.

So here goes. Pay attention and digest the following Yorkshire list.

  • Don’t ever get into a discussion with someone from Yorkshire about how tough your childhood was. A true Yorkie will be compelled to outdo you. If you don’t believe me look up the Monty Python and the Four Yorkshiremen Sketch.
  • Queens English is not recognised in Yorkshire. You need to speak Yorkshire. It’s the only dialect which not one single voice recognition system has been able to crack.
  • To say Yorkshire you need to say YARKSHAR…
  • To say Hello you need to say OW DO or EY UP
  • To say Goodbye you need to say SE’THE
  • To say Very you say REET
  • To say ‘Can I Please Borrow’ you say CADGE
  • To say Nothing you say NOWT
  • To say You it’s THA
  • To say Yes it’s AYE
  • To say ‘I would like that one’ then you say BAGSY
  • Be careful with the word CHAMPION. In most part of the worlds it’s a fine shoe and sports clothing brand. In Yorkshire Champion means Excellent
  • Similarly in the rest of the world OK means I’m OK. In Yorkshire to say I’m OK you need to say ‘I’m fair t’ middling’
  • Someone approaching you and asking for a CROGGY is either a term of affection or they are asking for a lift on your bike.
  • If someone shouts ‘tha Chuffing ……’. That could mean you are being physically sworn at or it could be a warning that you are smoking and you need to jump into the nearest river.
  • You need to remember that the first Heavier than Air Manned Flight took place in Yorkshire over 150 years ago. I hear you ask WHY. The answer was that in the same year it became the law that Yorkshire Ferrets had to be kept in trouser pockets. Wouldn’t you be desperate to leave the county….
  • When you speak to someone from Yorkshire then you need to brace yourself. It’s only a matter of time before Yorkshire being the centre of the known universe is brought up. Quickly followed by the following line ‘which over place can claim to have a Captain of the Starship Enterprise, the first ever female Dr Who, the head of the X-Men and a member of the Fellowship of the Ring.
  • Never try to argue with someone from Yorkshire as this will either result in the Yorkshire Terriers being set upon you or you will have to endure the following words – ‘you do know that Wuthering Heights was set here.’
  • If you are offered a Yorkshire Pudding then you need to be on your toes. This could either mean it’s being served as a starter, main course or sweet – or probably ALL three. In inclement weather you might also be offered one as a protective hat.
  • If you spend more than 5 minutes in the presence of someone from Yorkshire then the subject of CRICKET will enter the conversation. Specifically Cricket and Rhubarb. Just nod and smile and let the following local expression rattle around your brain. ‘Me ol mum could ave hit tha’ ball with a stick o’ rhubarb’. Also don’t be shocked if you then here ‘tha’s got more edges than a cracked bedpan’ – *** please note I cleaned that one up considerably***
  • You will hear many references to needing a Yorkshire passport. Currently this is not the case but in certain parts of the county the wearing of string vests and knotted hankies is a requirement.
  • The word ‘Scraps’. Here in Yorkshire it can mean two things. It can mean what happens when people get physical as they fight over the last frozen chicken left n the shop freezer. But it can also mean food heaven. Ask for a ‘bag a scraps’ in a Yorkshire Fish and Chip Shop and you will get a portion of the deep fried batter leftovers which are at the bottom of the fryer. But be careful with how you say ‘scraps’ to the Chipman and don’t ever make eye contact. This might end up with the chipman attacking you with a frying pan.

Ski Jumping

This is a special rose. It’s very old and has moved houses several times. Every year I have a goal of keeping it going for one more season. Thankfully it looks after itself.

I’ve talked about trying to become multilingual. Its not easy for me as I even struggle with English. German is my next best language. But currently my learning has been a little unfocused. No real time limited goal to strive for. Previously it was a trip to Switzerland which would spur on the German. Sadly not been there since 2015. I’ve kinda drifted. So I need a new language goal.

At Christmas I will attempt to read a book in German. It might take me ages but I’m going to give it a go. So which book?

I have always loved Alpine Sports. The three which are closest to my heart are Skiing, Biathlon and Ski Jumping. Ski Jumping always seemed the most atmospheric sport to a young lad from boring Yorkshire. Yorkshire is a Cricket loving place. Now you might understand why Ski Jumping looked so cool to me. Over the years I’ve got to understand this cool sport so well. Can name all the hills, the competitors and the coaches. One coach in particular always fascinated me. I loved his passion for the sport. The former Austrian coach Alexander Pointner. But he also has a really tragic back story. His daughter committed suicide. He has battled depression for years. When I’ve heard him talk he has real insight on life when you are at your lowest. He is brutally honest. So that’s the book then.

Now I have a goal. December 1st, I start reading this book.

Words

I’ve always wanted to be multilingual. To effortlessly switch between languages. To hold actual flowing conversations in another country. So far that goal has eluded me. But there is always hope. There has to be hope. Es muss Hoffnung geben.

At the moment German is my hope. I’ve found a memory technique which is for the first time allowing me to learn words and the tricky part – the gender. So my hopes have started to rise. So how many words do I actually know. So I counted them. Around 450…. Sounds good but apparently you need about 10000 words to be truly fluent. What’s the German for oh pants. Possibly oh hose

Still it’s a start. Once I’ve mastered German, I’m going to move onto my next big challenge. Master English. Actually that might be beyond me……

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…

Speaking

I have always hated speaking. It’s fine if I am amongst friends and people I trust. But put me in front of strangers then it becomes a completely different ballgame. I have to find ways to get through it. Ways to avoid tripping over words. Trying to stop the stammering returning. Public speaking becomes a mechanical task which needs a process. I significantly cut down my vocabulary range. I never use a planned written speech (I just can’t find any rhythm when I’m speaking from prepared text – I even struggle to read a book aloud). I plan and memorise the first two lines that I will say. I work out exactly how I am going to greet someone. I never make direct eye contact, rather I tend to look at eyebrows or foreheads. Even then it’s a bit of a lottery. I’ve delivered a perfect conference speech to 500 yet completely collapsed in front of just 2 people. I guess the secret is to try forget about the inevitable mistakes or just smile at them.

I remember speaking to the medic who mentioned the word Aspergers first in connection with our Son. She was an autism expert – one of only two we have ever met, which is kinda scary. Anyway I remember her saying something like

I suspected that he was on the spectrum almost immediately. It was the way he walked into the room. They way he struggled to sit and make eye contact. He confirmed my diagnosis as soon as I heard him SPEAK.

Son was very like me in that he started to talk pretty late as a toddler. As soon as he did start talking then his vocabulary rapidly expanded. At nursery he was absolutely flying with his speech. But then at about the age of 5 he started to struggle with a number of factors

  • His speech suddenly become extremely monotone,
  • He would either speak far too quietly or far too loudly,
  • He struggled to pronounce many sounds correctly,
  • He would always get the use of plurals wrong,
  • He was definitely using language which was well beyond his age.

The final one was not a problem but it did lead to some amusing incidents. In his first year at school the class was about to start a series of lessons trying to teach the kids about animals eventually after a number of weeks leading to touching on evolution. Within a couple of minutes of the first lesson our boy put his hand up and then proceeded to explain evolutionary theory to the class. The lovely teacher said she had to later go and look up some of the terminology he had used.

But as the months went on his speech issues became more pronounced. Eventually his Aspergers Expert managed to arrange speech therapy for him. Slowly the therapy started to work. Certainly his pronunciation and his control of his voice levels improved. Unfortunately after 6 months the speech service was cut by the Government to save money. It’s never restarted. The therapist gave us a number of exercises to practice but did leave us with a message

Constant practice will help manage any speech issue but they won’t solve them in your son’s case. They will be underlying for the rest of his life. They may become more pronounced as he gets older. He needs to develop his own way of coping with that.

That’s where we are today. He still can’t get his head around plurals. He is still struggling to pronounce certain sounds. No help is available for him. But rather than trying to cope with the issues, it’s more about him developing his own unique communication style. One which suits his personality. That approach I’m pleased to say is working. The other key thing is to stress that we all struggle with speaking at some stage. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s who we are. It what makes us unique.

Son always likes to hear one of my most embarrassing speech incidents. I have a niece who when she was very young would not say big or large, rather she would have to say really really REALLY big. That was pronounced wheelie wheelie WHEELIE big. Anyway many years ago I was delivering the organisation’s annual report to The Council. Representative of the Government was there as was the local press. Talking about the financial position I meant to say

In terms of of our Operational Budget and our Tax Revenues we have a significant underspend.

Unfortunately that was delivered by this prize muppet as

In terms of of our Operational Budget and our Tax Revenues we have a wheelie wheelie wheelie WHEELIE big underspend.

Not sure that key message was delivered with quite the gravitas I was hoping for. Still at least we can laugh about that now….