Midday

Still summer is glorious. Had been hoping to get outside, have a chat and be creative with a pencil, but the weather is just not playing ball. This is midday…..

The school at home project has allowed this Dad to see some practical evidence of the progress and issues which son has with his learning process. The level of insight that is just not provided to parents from schools. Maybe in class sizes approaching 30 this type of insight is just not collected.

After these 3 months I have a better grasp on the dyslexia position. The feedback from school has been limited to

  • He has reading problems,
  • He is doing quite well in spelling tests.

That’s it…. Nothing else in just under two years.

So what insight has the last 3 months provided.

  • His reading has developed. I would estimate that he can read unaided about 50% of words. If he takes his time he can try to sound some of the missing words out, eventually arriving at a word he’s heard of before. The other words at school he’s been guessing or just ignoring. At home he’s happy to ask for help with words. Even allowing me to read out particularly difficult sections,
  • His dyslexia is more pronounced when he’s doing handwriting.
  • He finds it easier to type out answers. It’s a long process as his typing is not quick. He also struggles to see when the predictive text function selects the wrong word.
  • With certain word patterns it doesn’t matter how many times he sees the word, it’s like he is seeing the word for the first time.
  • When he gets tired the dyslexia flares up with greater force. Regular breaks really help. The optimum time appears to be 20 minute work blocks with short breaks.
  • Number dyslexia is still a problem. 6’s and 9’s are easily switched, especially when a decimal point is introduced into the number.

I’m not a trained teacher but I have a valuable quality which many teachers don’t get in UK schools. Quality time. Time to focus on one pupil. That is something which is not permitted under the current government led approach. An approach based on schools operating like automated production lines. That must be another vote for homeschooling…..

Bleak

It’s another bleak old day. Definitely a two jumper day. July 4th was the day when many places like pubs reopened in the England. Well in some parts, rather briefly. A local attraction here opened at 10am and closed a couple of hours later due to the bad weather and high winds. Definitely a two jumper (sweater) day.

Definitely a day for no house work. Disney Plus movies, warm drinks and giving son the attention he needs.

This photograph reminded me of old times. Pre parenting days. When I went through tough periods. When I went through challenging times. Times when I seemed to stumble and constantly lose my way. I would need to reset my inner self. Take a breather. Back then I would book a climbing or walking trip. A weekend in the wilderness. The bleaker the better. That’s what I needed to do my personal reset. Yes I would be tired on my late Sunday drive back but normally I was in a much better mind set. Ready to rumble again.

Fast forward to 2020. Those climbing and walking trips are no more. Single parenting means no timeouts. No weekend long resets. Just keep going. Any internal resets have to be done on the hoof. So with some uplifting words from a friend swirling around my mind, I find myself outside. Sat on the garden fence with a hot drink. Taking a few minutes to breathe. Imagining walking through the bleak landscapes and starting a reset. Yes definitely time to go again.

Questions

A hospital visit is now an even more unpleasant experience. Masks at all times except when you were in a separate room with no other people. One temperature check. All staff with masks and gloves on at all times. The place filled with clearly very panicky people keeping their distance. The children’s ward only allowing one parent in with a child.

But here’s a thought for you.

We faced far more detailed pandemic questioning from the Boiler Repair team (over 20 questions) than we did when we had to access two separate Hospitals and a Surgical Theatre (one question) ….. I guess that’s what happens when people are confused, scared and left without clear trustworthy guidance from the Government.

Differences

Wild Strawberries growing under the blueberry bush. Certainly wasn’t expecting these to grow here but with an open mind, this is such a result.

The decision to abandon mainstream schooling is in our son’s hands. It’s his life. His risks. His anxieties. His dreams. His future. So ultimately he decides. If it was my call then I’ve made my mind up. It would be homeschooling from September. That viewpoint has hardened with the last two communications from school.

The first was a summary of the schools position. Basically son is low attainment and has significant educational needs. Progress will be difficult. His educational needs are best met in the bottom set. With effort he may still be able to get a few qualifications. He is best following the normal teaching programme with no specific interventions (which would eat into tight school budgets).

Ok….

Then the next communication was his school report for the year. It painted a slightly different picture. To quote a few phrases from his individual teachers

  • Strength for creative writing,
  • Worked hard to produce some fantastic work,
  • Excellent attitude,
  • Will progress very well in subject,
  • His remote learning has been great,
  • He is a star,
  • Class work of the highest standard,
  • Superb young historian,
  • Considerable talent in the subject,
  • Very good understanding of the subject,
  • Pleasure to teach.

Ok….

Two conclusions here. One is that the report comments are standard across all the kids and so they mean nothing. Just a way to keep parents happy.

OR

The report comments are the reality and something is seriously wrong with schools overall assessment.

I strongly suspect this is a common pattern across the country. It mirrors current government thinking. If thinking is the right word to use. Basically kids with educational needs do not fit neatly into the factory production line educational approach. Minimise input costs to generate a set and limited output. Discard those items which fall out of the narrow design specification. Educational needs equate to additional teaching costs which will not be funded. Thus the best approach is to dump kids with Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, disabilities and mental health issues into the bottom set. Conveniently forget about them. If these kids then get the odd qualification out of the system then the authorities can pat themselves on the back after a job well done. Let’s not forget the important thing, all this delivered all so cost effectively.

Maybe I am being cynical but that’s the reason I am definitely falling into the homeschooling camp.

Really

So the great Boris Johnson let’s open ‘Schools in September’ plan is becoming oh so clear. Basically let’s disregard all the current Covid guidance. Let’s squeeze the kids back into the cramped schools and forget about social distancing. But here’s the master plan. Let’s split the kids into year groups and ask the year groups not to mix. That way we can try and reduce the spread of the virus amongst all the poor sods in the school. Maybe stagger some start times and do a bit of cleaning here and there. If teachers go off sick then try to squeeze more kids into even larger classes. And that’s basically it. Oh and of course schools are safe because Boris said so. OK….

Last week some schools in the English city of Leicester were opened even though confirmed cases were rising alarmingly in the area. Parents were assured it was perfectly safe to send kids to school. On Tuesday it was announced that schools in the city would close on Thursday as part of a local city pandemic lockdown. So it’s apparently safe for kids and teachers to go into school until midnight Wednesday at which point it becomes unsafe again….

Dad is that really what a Prime Minister should look like….”

***** photo from the Daily Record******

Well that’s the neatest I’ve ever seen him.

Dad. It looks like he’s doing a Paddington Bear and he’s keeping his sandwiches safe under is hat.”

Certainly not keeping his brain safe under there. No one has seen that for years. Still the brains not needed as he has his special adviser.

The one who looks like a Sith Lord and can ignore lockdown rules .”

Yep that’s the one.

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

Now here’s the thing. The special adviser is Dominic Cummings. This lovely chap.

******photo from The Guardian******

The X-Files could have spent many a series and several films just on this shady villain. I will give you just one little nugget. He passionately believes in Eugenics. The belief that the key for our countries development is to improve the gene pool of the population. That is to encourage those deemed ‘the finest’ to breed and breeding out those who do not fit the template. That means the likes of our son would not be included in the desired gene pool. Can’t have defective genes in the pool…..

Welcome to modern Britain. Welcome to the Government. Where’s Mulder and Scully when we need them.

Excuse

This was the last few hours of the heatwave before the stormy weather arrived.

There’s a new expression taking hold in England. The matter is now closed. Unfortunately it carries no weight unless you are a member of the Government. It works like this. It comes to light that a member of the government or a sponsor has been caught doing bad stuff. Recently that’s things like criminal negligence, collusion with a foreign power, breaking the law, ignoring lockdown rules, profiteering from the pandemic or brexit, harassment, breaking procurement regulations, waiving or ignoring planning rules for personal gain and misconduct. The type of stuff that if me and you did this then we would be thrown to the wolves.

But that doesn’t apply to members of the elite.

But here’s where the phrase comes into use. So a member of the government is caught with his or her trousers down. After days of denying anything happened they issue a brief statement saying nothing bad happened and anyway it was someone else’s fault. This is then followed by the PM saying The Matter is Now Closed and I have full confidence in the rogue bandit. Now since the PM likes to see himself as a part time Emperor, well that’s it. No need for further investigation or questions. The PM has done that kinda stuff while sipping on another expensive champagne. He is court, jury and judge. You can trust the emperor as he had an exclusive private education and he had been bred to lead us. This approach is proving such jolly good fun that it’s really taking hold. The mainstream media buy it, prosecuting authorities are increasing deferring to it, as are an increasing number of the public.

So when I was a kid and I got hauled off to the head teachers office for snapping a pencil or swearing in cricket – if only I had access to the the matter is now closed defence.

If only my ‘a big boy did it and ran away‘ excuse had proved so effective……

Service

Maybe I can call our little part of the world a Rose Garden. Makes a change from Jungle or Weedville.

Well so far we have survived the boiler service. The chap turned up and to be fair to him, he did use a mask and gloves. He did confirm that it wasn’t me being a muppet. It had fuel. It was turned ON. He explained that it was the oldest boiler he had seen in ages. Possibly over 40 years old. It’s poor motor had finally died. Unbelievably he found a replacement motor in the van that just about fitted. So with a hefty bill winging my way he departed. Apparently after all those years it is still working at 90% efficiency. Wish I was that good at 40.

The thought of an outsider entering the house sent son into an anxiety meltdown. Unplanned visitors is not easy at the best of times for someone with Aspergers. But during a pandemic…..

To try and keep a lid on his anxiety we agreed a decontamination protocol. Thankfully this was carried out to the letter.

  • The service person wore masks and gloves,
  • He only entered the house via the back door,
  • He only ventured into one room,
  • After he finished I quickly disinfected the room and the door he used,
  • That room and that side of the house was then closed off for 3 days,
  • As was the path which the serviceman walked across,
  • I than had a shower and completely changed clothes.

It might seem OTT but to our son this was the bare minimum which was acceptable to him. His way of protecting his safe place. He will be much less stressed out when that part of the house comes out of lockdown. Later we had a chat about all things pandemic and his anxieties. Clearly we won’t be dropping our local procedures for a considerable time. Putting aside the merits of homeschooling debate, I just can’t see how he cope function in a public environment any time soon. Certainly not in a crowded school at the start of September. Thankfully the concerts we were due to see have been cancelled. (The Who, Whitesnake, Foreigner, Europe, Aerosmith, Hollywood Vampires). We are down to just two in October now. Deep Purple and Ozzy. But I just can’t see them happening as well.

So maybe we start to adopt a mindset that actually our enforced house and garden lockdown will last into 2021. Will need to think about that. What additional things do we have to put in place to ensure that we both can continue to enjoy life for all those months. Maybe that industrial sized ice cream and slush puppy machine is not such a far fetched idea……

Not had a rant for days…..

I came outside to look at the roses. And breathe..

The UK Government has a natural ability to take the breathe away. What are the words I am looking for

Self-serving

Incompetence

Charlatan

Criminally negligent

Fraud

Part timers

Out of their depth

Nest of vipers

Dangerous

Liars

Elitist

One rule for the many, doesn’t apply to them

When you think it can’t get any worse and then they take it a new level……

So on the 4th July Britain is open for business again. Something we all can sign up to if it’s done properly and safely. But this is Boris Johnson we are talking about. The laziest and most inept Prime Minister in over 150 years. So here are just a few nuggets of his so called plan

  • The governments own scientists have warned against easing restrictions too soon. If we do the safe way is to do that carefully and in small stages. The PM has said oh tish to that. British wartime spirit apparently is all we need to follow. It clearly does help a leaders senses when he has rich backers and views the world through the bottom of an empty champagne glass….
  • For months we have been told that masks are a waste of time and that we should be keeping at least 2 metres apart. Suddenly 1m is cool as long as your wear those marvellous masks (but only if you really want to).
  • Since March we have been told that the key to beating this virus is the Tracking and Tracing App. Rather than go with the Google and Apple one we decided to give a contract to friends of the Government. This world class app was promised to go live in April, then May, then June. Then suddenly it’s dropped because it didn’t work (not the Government’s fault of course, it was all down to those pesky people at Apple). Now it won’t be ready until the winter but it’s ok as it was never a priority – everyone must have repeatedly misheard the PM and the Health Secretary …..
  • This scene according to the PM is perfectly safe, carries no pandemic risk and so can happen freely (this was our nearest beach yesterday) …..
  • However this scene is not allowed, carries huge pandemic risks and deemed unsafe….
  • People are not allowed to attend live theatre due to the risks yet our PM is delighted to allow pubs to open. The PM clearly trusts Joe Bloggs and his drunken mates to act responsibly and stay 1m apart at all times (wearing a mask) after 10 pints of strong lager.

But no they haven’t finished yet. Apparently schools will reopen fully in September. The plan is to ditch all social distancing rules for children. All we need to do is to tell the kids not to sneeze on others. Squeeze them back into cramped classrooms and act as if nothing has changed. Just in case each class should try not to spend too much time with other classes. Really. It’s ok for the Government as they send their kids to private schools where class sizes are less than 15, here social distancing can still happen. But not for the state schools with class sizes of over 30. In fact the PM has dropped rules so that the class sizes can go much higher than 30. If teachers become sick then you can just have supersized classes.

Well they can just sod off. They are no Government of mine. Time to bunker down.

So back to the roses and breathe.

Sign of the times.

Looking across the farmers fields makes life look so simple. So straightforward. Sadly that’s not the case…..

It was like the toughest questioning from an old school Doctor.

  • Is anyone in the household self isolating?
  • Is anyone in the household classed as high medical risk?
  • Have you or anyone in your house had Co-vid 19?
  • Is anyone in the house currently diagnosed with Co-vid 19?
  • Has anyone in the house got a high temperature?
  • A loss of smell or taste?
  • A sore throat?
  • A persistent cough?
  • Flu like symptoms?
  • Hay Fever like symptoms?
  • Is anyone in the household awaiting the results of a Co-vid test?
  • I know it’s a shambles but has anyone in the household been contacted by the national track and trace system?
  • Has anyone in the household travelled outside of the country over the last 14 days?
  • Has anyone in the household had contact with someone who has travelled outside of the country over the last 14 days?
  • Does anyone in the household visit high risk virus areas such as hospitals, care homes or meat processing plants?

Once I had provided a satisfactory answer to the bombardment of medical questions, the next question was

So what appears to be wrong with the boiler? Are you sure that the oil tank is not empty!

Sign of the times really….

Lost Friends

And another rose photo…. I have to say out garden is blessed with weeds and roses. Each year they appear and they always feel like the return of friends.

Last night I had another weird dream. This time it took me back to my university days. It started off by showing that my career path had been influenced by a slip of a pen. I had applied to do a degree in Economics but had been put on a Home Economics course. A degree in cooking for the worlds worst chef, OK.… But the main part of the dream was centred around friendships. All my college friends were on the course but no one recognised me. As hard as I tried, nothing. I was just blanked by them. Most unsettling.

As ever the weird dream put an end to my nighttime sleep hopes. So it was time to drink tea and think. A quick search on the internet found recent pictures of some of my old college friends. I just about recognised them. Would they remember my face which is perfect for radio – probably the same I guess. But here’s the key thing. These were really close friends. Yet when was the last time we met up in person. Our careers and life’s moved us apart. I’m not sure it was even this century. But it doesn’t stop there

  • I haven’t seen my schools friends since I first left my childhood home to go to University.
  • One really close school friend I did keep in contact with. We would meet up every few months. But again our life’s drifted further apart and the last time I heard she was living in Israel. That must be over 20 years ago.
  • My climbing friends still keep in touch via letters. Yes letters – how old fashioned does that sound…But we haven’t been climbing together in 6 years.
  • I still keep in regular text contact with a good friend who I went to football matches with. But I’ve stopped going to games now due to circumstances, so we don’t meet up in person.
  • Work and parenting friendships have come and gone.
  • Friends in the village have dwindled. Some have moved away, some have sadly left this world.

So in terms of actual physical friend meet-ups it’s down to one chap I normally work with. He occasionally drags me for a game of golf. There are so many stories right theremy golf career is about as good as my cooking career. But due to the pandemic I have not seen him since the start of March.

Life and my choices have sent me down this path. Living in a rural area, bereavement, single parenting and autism in the house have all contributed. But it is was it is. A huge element of personal choice comes into the mix as well.

Yes this is sad but I am so lucky. The gaps left here have created space for blogging friendships. I’m doing the best job in the world – parenting. Job is the wrong word, it’s more a privilege. I have a great life. But I do so worry for others. Feeling alone can be such a dark place. Alone and yet claustrophobic. No one to reach out to. No one to interact or grow with. Some choose that option freely. But many are forced into it by circumstance. Illness, age, special needs parenting, single parenting, location, social factors, fears and yes a pandemic. It’s so easy and unfortunately very convenient to forget about those who drop off the grid. Last night was a timely reminder for me.

Take care my friends.