Nothing to see here

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.

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.

Rickety

There’s always been a tree house we occasionally pass around here. Never seen anyone ever up there. Probably a good thing looking at how rickety it’s looking these days. But if there is ever a great flood I might just give it a go.

Currently getting through the day on zero sleep. Even watching Avatar didn’t work last night. After an hour no sleep was coming and I was bored out of my mind. So it was time to give up. At least I’ve maintained my record of never being able to sit through one complete viewing of that movie. Sorry I just don’t get it at all…..

Homeschooling is feeling very rickety this morning.

No information or class material for maths. So we guessed the subject. I tried to teach probability. That’s TRY. Remember no sleep…..

Then for French we did get a pack to work through the only problem was that it seemed like it was in a foreign language…….

Then Science. Absolutely nothing. Going to sound old here. But in my day they split science up into separate Chemistry, Physics and Biology. They never met….. At least you knew what subject the teacher was wittering on about. Now it’s Science. So when you get no support you end up even having to guess which branch of science to look at. In the end we plumped for Physics. Just because it’s my better subject. I them mumbled my way through trying to teach wave theory.

Is it bad to say I’m ready for bed already and it’s only lunch time.

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……

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.

Blue Sky

It’s been another blue sky Yorkshire day. If only it was warm. Really cold but definitely hot under the collar day.

An email from school definitely livened up the day and focused the parenting mind. In a nut shell the email said

Today and the next lesson in Citizenship will be about sexual awareness and consent. It’s a legal requirement. Hawklad is not in school. We can’t do online education for this one, its deemed inappropriate for the subject. So tough. Over to you parent. STAND UP AND DELIVER. We can send you one video on consent. BEST OF LUCK

Grand……

I tried to rack my brain back to my school days. From what I can remember the sex education lesson involved a nervous make teacher mumbling for 10 minutes then he showed a video. As it was a small TV the class had to huddle round for a sight of the action. After just a few moments a clip of a baby behind delivered was too much for one lad called Donnie who was stood on a bench . He throw up over those in front of him and then fainted, spectacularly crashing backwards to the floor. The lesson was abandoned and that was it. Not much help.

I can’t revert to the classic ‘better speak to your mum about this’. So had to man up…..

How did it go. Badly. After flailing around for 5 minutes under the most forensic questioning I did the decent thing and reverted to YouTube videos, of varying educational quality…..

I can’t remember this being in the patenting terms and conditions I signed up to…

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…..