Red School Sky

Red sky at night ready for the school fight.

So the dreaded hour is fast approaching. School opening its gates again. Feel so sorry, sad and angry for the kids like our Son having to face up to the nightmare which is modern schooling. I use the term modern in its loosest sense.

Increasingly my thoughts are turning to homeschooling. When to flick the switch. How to make it happen. Trying to stress tests the plans which are swirling around in my pea soup of a brain. Which options are best. What fits best with our circumstances. The aim being to have a workable plan in place by the end of February. As ever Son is the voice of reason. In fact as it’s his future he is driving the process. It has to be that way. He really isn’t happy but he’s giving the new term a go.

Dad going to give it a real go. Want to either see me moved up in the subjects I’m good at or want to be helped in the ones I struggle a bit in. Just one subject move would be cool.

“It’s not the subjects you struggle in. It’s the way the teachers judge you in those subjects. It’s never about the stuff you know. You have never had one comment about that. Remember what that teacher said last year – Don’t let anyone tell you your not clever. You are. The problems are not yours. It’s ours. We need to find better ways of getting the stuff in your head out into the wider world.

Ok Dad. Well let’s see what happens. What’s the plan if it goes pear shape this week at school?

Send you up chimneys to earn some money to pay for my rock and roll lifestyle”

Are you joking?

“Sorry, yes son I am pulling your leg. At least you can fit up a chimney.”

Your bottom would me a fine chimney sweeping tool. Not much would get past that.

“Let’s hope that school goes really well and your super happy. Let’s cross the over bridges if they happen. Most bridges are good ones.”

Which bridges. If I remember correctly we drive over 5 on the way to school.

And the voice of reason brings his Dad back into the real world again. So many options to consider.

  • Online tutor v Local tutor.
    How much will I teach. I can certainly do Computing, Mathematics, Science.
    Subjects like Geography and History maybe we just let him run with it. As last years Class Teacher said ‘you probably know the subject better than me already“. Just concentrate on how to access his ideas. Find the best way to express them.
    How to tailor some of the tuition around times that I need to go into the work base.
    Restructuring work to fit round the new world. Luckily I can probably do this. Just maybe will have to put off buying that sports car for say the next 100 years.
    When we move into the 15 and 16 age range how to handle examinations. Some of the colleges have courses for qualifications he could opt for. Would that work for him. Or do we go the tutor or online tuition routes.
    Languages – how far do we go down the online packages route such as Rosetta.
    Ways to ensure that he can socialise when he wants and needs to.
    And on and on

So much to consider. Maybe just maybe school might step up to the plate and this is never needed. That is probably a pipe dream so it’s time to sort this out. It will be a reassuring feeling when a plan is in place. When we have an idea what his education week and plan will look like. To our Son that level of practicality is an essential part of the transition process. It will help him at school knowing that he has a Plan b.

If anyone reading this has ever homeschooled then it would be great to hear from you. Either as a comment or email. What did your ‘learning week’ look like. What approach did you take. I’m sure this wont be the last you hear of this. I think the more we can talk about homeschooling the better. In many places it’s still frowned upon or it’s seen as a bit of a dark art. Maybe people should frown upon the mainstream school system instead.

I will leave you with one final thought.

Dad Santa can get down chimneys so there is always hope for you. There is always hope.

Flick the switch

Ans so the transition begins.

A transition from a happy and relaxed boy to one wracked with doubt and anxiety.

School starts to flick the switch again. How many kids are going through this experience. Far Too Many.

Here the school prison gates open on Monday. Son’s words not mine.

So on this glorious winters day he tries to wade through the homework which was dished out before Christmas. He spent an hour trying to sketch a mirror image of a Scream like skull photo. The fear of picking up a negative for not putting enough effort into the drawing driving him on. Sadly I fear it’s also driving any love he might have for art well and truly out of his system as well.

Once the skull torture was finished. He started work for two upcoming spelling tests. Then time spent on Science, Mathematics and French work. Finally he needed to work hard to complete a writing piece neatly. His teachers words. Whats the point, going to get told that it’s not good enough, I haven’t tried enough and it needs to be done again. Son’s words.

This really can’t go on. Son deserve so much more than this. So many kids deserve better than this. Is it so difficult to make education just a little less daunting and just a little bit more inclusive. What’s the word I’m looking for. Welcoming. Another word. Enriching. Another word. Fun.

Who am I kidding. It will be the same school that he was so pleased to escape from before Christmas. But 2020 feels different this time. This time the prospect of a positive change has dimmed significantly. Our Government is now in place until son will have left secondary school. It is committed to extending the current education philosophy which has already created this hell hole. We are now facing a real risk of son being failed for the entirety of his school life. That’s a sobering thought.

2020 will start with yet another push to deliver any positive change at all. Again school and teachers will be told exactly what actions and support son needs to be put in place to make his schooling work better for him. The dialogue will be constant – certainly from my side. But deep down I know what the likely outcome is. So this year the question is probably more about what it will take for us to flick the switch and turn off this failed schooling nightmare. If we were still a two parent family then the switch would have already been flicked. Homeschooling. With Single Parenting it’s more fraught with logistical and financial issues. So many issues to address. BUT son only gets one childhood. One go at his formative years. Flicking the switch is increasingly looking inevitable.

Three

2020 currently is very three orientated. My football team got beat three nil at home. They had to use up all three substitutes before half time because of injuries. Then quickly found out that three substitutes was not enough as another player had to go off due to injury as well.

I got three bills in the post today.

I phoned up for a Doctors appointment and was told I had to wait three weeks for the first available slot.

Currently I am missing 3 running socks. Paddington Bear Stare towards Captain Chaos. So for my next run I can choose between a red running sock or a blue running sock or a white running sock. I think the red and blue combo with be best.

We have three gerbils. They are super friendly and also rather fascinating. If I could ask the three chaps (hope they are three of the same sex) one question it would be

Why when I put cardboard and wooden tunnels in your cage do you always put the smaller tube inside a larger one. Even when I put them on opposite ends of the cage why does one end up in the other within a few minutes.

As my gerbil vocabulary is so poor I guess I will never find out the answer to this first burning question of 2020. But I can’t leave this post on such a unresolvable cliffhanger. Apologies for the early contender for the most rubbish link of the year. As I’ve got over my initial New Years Blues and in the absence of an answer from the three rodents maybe it’s time for a few lists of three from 2019.

3 Biggest Fears that came true

  • School giving up on son
  • Boris Johnson becoming PM
  • Governments/The U.N. paying lip service and kicking into the long grass the momentum for change generated by the likes of Greta Thunberg

Best books read

  • Jean Lee – Nights Tooth
  • Stephen King – The Institute
  • Blake Crouch – Recursion

Best 3 movies of 2019

  • Avengers End Game
  • Horrible Histories – The Movie
  • Godzilla

Best 3 concerts

  • Alter Bridge/Shinedown
  • Kiss
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd

Best 3 albums

  • Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky
  • The Hu – The Gereg
  • Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood

Best 3 places visited

  • Kielder Water
  • Housesteads Roman Fort
  • North Yorkshire Moors Railway

3 Most helpful bits of advice from 2019 – kind of

  • Maybe bring your dog back when he’s calmed down a wee bit – dog training school
  • Just needs to work a bit harder to improve his spelling and handwriting – teacher
  • Lager is better for your teeth than lemon water – Dentist

Best 3 things which helped our son

  • Setting a goal for the number of new places to be visited
  • Rock music and concerts
  • Catching balls while bouncing on a trampoline

Craziest 3 things the pets did

  • Muddy paw prints on the ceiling – how is that possible
  • Boy Cat getting the award for being the biggest and heaviest cat on the Vets books
  • Captain Chaos burying one of my running shoes in the garden. Took me weeks to find it.

Waiting

Every morning we get a scene from Hitchcock’s Birds. Hordes of feathered friends waiting for the me to get my act together. Come on it’s about time we got breakfast. Just remember what happened in The Birds. No cute Angry Birds here….

We watched Angry Birds 2 a few nights back. It’s very funny. Red and Big Terrence are my new role models. The Birds in the Hitchcock movie are just a bit too Deadpool for my liking.

Everyday the garden birds wait and every day it’s worth it. Free, easy and safe food within feet of their nests. So sometimes waiting is worth it.

We finally managed to get our sons Education and Health Care Plan approved a few months after WE lost his mum. I remember a few parents saying well that’s the job done, your quids in now, it’s top class education for your son now. You could feel the sarcasm dripping off the words. Many parents buy into the idea spread by the media that kids with learning disabilities are taking money off their kids education. Schools are short of money because of these privileged kids. And anyway what’s the point – they are just low attainment. So undeserving. Just give the money to the normal kids…..

Welcome to modern, inclusive, caring Britain…..

Thankfully I didn’t assume it was job done. Now the real battle had begun. Trying to get any meaningful support from our factory farming education system. In practice the small level of funding nominally provided to our son effectively bought him a place in a secondary school. Nothing else. The money is put into the school budget for general classroom Teaching Assistants. These Teaching Assistants then are a resource for ALL kids in the class. The Teaching Assistants are not trained in learning disabilities. The school does have one who has experience in the area yet she has never spent anytime with our son. The school does not provide any additional help to kids like our son. It so much easier to label the kids low attainment and do nothing. So we get into a never ending cycle. The media vilify kids with learning disabilities. The government never contradicts these miss truths and the schools continue to do provide any support. The kids fall further behind. The parents pull their hair out.

So we are still waiting. Still waiting for progress. Still fighting battles. Still listening to the campaign of hate promoted by the media. Trying to get any help which might give our kids a chance. Not asking for special treatment. Just an opportunity for a decent education. So many kids are suffering in silence.

Still waiting. But there is now a sobering thought. A thought to take into 2020. Many of the current failings with the school system can be traced directly back to government policy and educational dogma. Ten years of taking schools back to traditional teaching practices. Back to Victorian values. Back to a time of unmitigated suffering for any child not fitting the expected mould. NOW we have 5 more years of this Government. A government proposing an even more stringent traditional approach. But here’s the rub. In 5 years son will be leaving secondary education.

We wait. So we probably will be still waiting in 5 years.

So as we move into 2020 the conclusion is that the school system will will not help kids like our son for many years. It will never help our son. It has and will continue to fail him until he leaves. I’m still trying to get my head round this. We will keep fighting but with little chance of any progress. So we are now in Plan B zone. What is Plan B? I’m not sure yet.

Sometimes waiting is not worth it.

Christmas Diaries 2

Still not what you would call postcard Christmas weather yet. This is lunchtime. Having said that how often do we get the crispy white stuff at Christmas anyway in North Yorkshire. In the 17 years we have lived here I can only remember one White Christmas. However I can remember many like the photo above.

When I was a kid I remember one really heavy snow Christmas Day. I remember sinking to my belly and my wellies filling up with crisp snow. Can also remember Dad going out before lunch to join a number of other men trying to clear the footpath. He told me it was so that the kids could get to school. Strange as the school was shut for another week. It was also strange that the cleared path went in the opposite direction to my school. Bizarrely the men stopped when they reached the pub. Can’t think why.

Our son’s school has now broken up for Christmas. So if it does snow I won’t need to worry about clearing a path towards it. One thing I do need to worry about is another little tradition of ours. How to keep the pets off the Christmas Tree.

The cat likes to try and sleep in it’s branches.

He is a very big boy, our biggest cat

That is how his Vet described him. So he doesn’t make the best tree climber. We usually find the tree toppled over with a slightly confused cat underneath it. Then we have the mad dog. Captain Chaos loves a tree. So much so that he likes to try and relocate it to his dog bed. This normally results in the tree toppled over which makes it so much easier for the mutt to pull it. Lord knows what Team Gerbil would do to it.

So my chair has to be relocated next to the tree. So I can sit and basically fight off unwarranted pet tree attention. It’s only a matter of time before the tree is toppled over and I am underneath it. Bet I would get the blame for that. That thought brings a smile. When I was 5 or 6 my family would put a real tree up in the living room. The family comprised mum and dad, my brother, three sisters and a very big dog. A dog who once bit the postman and then bit the local bobby (policeman) who came to ask dad to better control his pet. The tree would be filled to the brim with decorations. Prize of place on the tree would be these little silver paper wrapped chocolates. Either in the shape of Santa or an Elf. From Christmas Day onwards we were allowed to have one chocolate decoration a day. But this particular Christmas someone helped themselves to a decoration early. Three days in a row. Unbelievably I got blamed for it. Then on Christmas day the real culprit was caught in the act. The dog. I’m still waiting for my apology.

***WP is going into awkward mode again. Doing things like switching off comment boxes and stopping me liking other blogger posts. Normal service will be resumed when WP allows me to***

Splendid

Running is such a release for me. It was such a shock when I was advised to stop due to injury. As I’m no spring chicken I feared that was it. But luckily a period of recuperation and a completely changed exercise regime has got me pounding the trails again. Some days you think WHY…..

Drenched, cold and running into a 20mph wind. Unfortunately I’m not what you would call aerodynamic. Today I felt like a tub of lard. An unfit Tub of lard would probably have gone quicker into that wind than me. At least nobody witnessed my struggles. These winter months it feels like I have the place to myself. Splendid isolation it might be but oh for the occasional running partner.

Splendid isolation is a phrase our son likes. I think he’s decided that he would love to have a circle of friends while getting as far away as possible from everyone else. I think most of us probably feel that way these days.

As a parent you desperately want your kids to be happy. Seeing the world through my eyes I often see happiness in terms of him spending time with a range of friends. Yet in reality this doesn’t happen. Over the last 16 months he’s been invited to one birthday party and probably had no more than 5 or 6 meet-ups (if that). The friends he made at his last school have slowly drifted into new friendship circles. The way his new school has put him in a class with none of his old friends has not helped. When I spoke to the school they argued that as he was basically low attainment they didn’t have any option open to them. Read low attainment as being dyslexic and being on the spectrum. And NO school – sitting a random kid next to him in a class does not count as a friend. Last year he did start to make a couple of friends in his class but both kids were moved up into a higher class in the summer. Out of school there are no kids his age in the village. Hardly any kids at all and certainly no communal play facilities for miles. But that’s through my eyes.

Through his eyes it’s Splendid Isolation. He will find the right people to be friends with in his own time and in his own way. Until then he’s more than happy with his Old Pop and doing things on his own. It’s important that we recognise that everyone is different. And difference is a good thing. To me being so isolated is a significant cause of anxiety – but not to our son. To me running is a brilliant releases – but to our son running is monumentally boring and should be restricted to no more than the occasional 5 yard burst. He does have a point.

Time for punishment

After weeks of rain the clouds finally parted and reassuringly the sky is still blue. The sky is blue and the ground is still muddy.

Since it’s a day with a name that ends with DAY – it must be a day for another school moan. Don’t worry it will be the Christmas holidays soon and you will get a break from the rants – hopefully.

Next week our dyslexic son has to sit TWO spelling tests. One for English and one for DRAMA. That’s DRAMA. So to develop any Performing Arts talents he has to learn to spell words like

Melodrama, Exaggeration, Facial Expressions, Placards, Stock Character….

I guess when he wins his first Oscar in his acceptance speech he can thank these Spellings…..

Then we have the English Spelling Test. The weekly spelling test. This week he has 15 words to learn. Including such beauties as

Advertisement, Similarity, Persuade, Exaggeration, Testimonial, Alliteration….

All the class (regardless of individual spelling ability, regardless of dyslexia) have to spell the same words. The expectation is that you will get 100%. All it takes is a bit of effort. Hang on we need to raise the stakes just a bit higher. Anyone not getting at least 10 out of 15 exactly right will get a Negative. Four Negatives get you detention and much shame. It also rules you out of the end of year trip to the Fun Park/Zoo.

For F*#@ Sake.

This new penalty rule was introduced minutes before today’s test. One unfortunate student received his punishment. Our son managed 11 so survived. As he says he had to guess the ending of most words and was largely lucky today. But he’s a nervous wreck. Having seen this weeks words he’s convinced he has no chance. How can this be part of modern teaching. Oh I forgot our Government wants to return to Victorian values. Well they can all bugger off back to Victorian Times and leave us in peace.

On a side not I see our Prime Minister is avoiding being asked difficult questions so he has started sending his Dad to do some of his interviews. I’m not making this up. Well today a member of the public phoned in and basically said Johnson was like Pinocchio. His Dad then said mockingly “the British Public couldn’t even spell Pinocchio if they tried”. Well let’s try – Pinocchio.***** up yours you posh snob.

So what do we do. We have the weekend to think about it. I’ve offered son the day off if school insist on him sitting the test. At the moment he is saying that he will have to sit the test. He doesn’t want to be picked out as different. But that’s the problem with the current approach to handling dyslexia in the classroom. It’s the same as with Aspergers and the classroom. The approach is so fundamentally wrong.

Assume the child is low attainment.

Resist providing proactive support

Deliver one standard teaching programme for all kids – no variations

Put the onus on the child to put a hand up and ask for help – in front of all the other kids

Child doesn’t put the hand up so assume everything is fine

Watch child struggle in tests and class work

Confirm assessment that child is low attainment

One final thought. It’s ok to penalise the kids but what about those leading us. Our School Minister – Remember him he’s the lovely chap who thought kids having time off for bereavement was like “an extended holiday” – was asked a grammar question he was expecting school kids to get right. Guess what the numpty got it wrong. So maybe he should get a negative and be barred with running our schools. That is one punishment I can agree to.

Spark an Interest

York Minster is one of Europe’s finest Cathedrals.

The central tower is 235ft (72m) tall. It’s Northern Europe’s biggest Gothic Cathedral.

The first religious building was built on this site in 637AD. Work started on the current Gothic structure in 1230 and was completed in 1472. The Minster has 128 stained glass windows which apparently have 2000000 individual glass pieces. It’s a busy place of worship with over 1600 services each year.

Thankfully York has not succumbed to the plague of high rise buildings. So The Minster still dominates the city view from all directions. I remember having a chat with an American work colleague who on visiting the city for the first time told me

“That’s a lovely church but it would have been better if they had built it on a hill”

Unfortunately the nearest hill is about 15 miles away. Strangely our little bungalow is on that very hill. We struggle to fill our little church so I’m pretty sure a Cathedral would be bit of over kill.

It’s absolutely stunning inside but we never make it that far. Son loves to walk round it and think. Then he looks to the skies for a glimpse of the nesting Peregrine Falcons. Finally we always end at a statue of a Roman Emperor. In 306AD Constantious died in York. The soldiers in York immediately proclaimed Constantine the Emperor. So for a brief moment in time York was the centre of the Roman Empire. Son loves to drink up this history.

Surely when you have such history on your doorstep why not use. York has the largest Train Museum in the World showcasing engineering and invention at its finest. What better way to spark an interest. To learn. To grow. But apparently this is not the case. It would seem writing out spelling mistakes 3 times is the way to go. Regardless of the subject – Science, History, Maths, Design Technology, Drama – let’s just get the spelling right. I bet that will spark an interest!!!!

Let’s spell out Monday

An entire weekend without seeing any evidence of other humans. No post. No phone calls. No dog walkers. Villagers hidden away in warm dry houses. On the walks not even one passing car or stray rambler. Helps when many of the roads are closed with overrunning roadworks or floods. Great fun in the pouring rain trying to play tennis on the pavement. Very cramped in an area probably not big enough for table tennis.

Sadly the relaxing weekend goes to quickly and dreaded school looms. A temporary change in school bus routes means more strange faces and much larger buses are running. No guarantee when the bus turns up. An absolute nightmare for a kid with Autism. If only that was the only thing.

Another heated discussion with school and the authorities. Both reassuring us that measures have been put in place which ensure compliance with government requirements and allows all kids a fair chance of performing well. Yeh right. Keep the Government happy – Sod the kids in effect…. Clearly certain parties need to lookup the definitions of all and fair. So this weekend our son’s homework basically is all about writing out three times all his spelling mistakes and unclear handwriting attempts. That’s going to expand his mind and boost his confidence!!

Then to cap it off he has to revise for an English Test. The test is an old school Spelling one. Learn 20 words.

Language

Presented

Sherlock

Through

Evidence

It’s the same spelling test for all in the class. No extra time or help for any child. Again maybe it just me and my cabin fever. If it is please just delete this post. But how is this fair. On what planet is this supposed to have any positive impact on any child with dyslexia and autism. Designed to fail AGAIN. For all the required words our son can give definitions for and provide alternative examples of how to use the word correctly in spoken English. But this is not important apparently. Not what school and the government wants. The focus is on getting all kids to just spell by learning parrot fashion a list of predefined words. If you can’t do this then you are low attainment. A failure. A faulty item.

Education is filled with really good, dedicated and caring teachers. Yet they are increasingly told how to teach and to focus on a narrowing range of objectives. Objectives not about the interests of the child. It’s all about Satisfying the Government. The agenda is that money should go to fund tax cuts for the rich rather than on unimportant things like school budgets. To make sure this happens Schools need to follow the tried and tested factory model. Increasingly large production runs which help drive down costs. Eliminate natural variations and reduce choice. Children just seen in terms of inputs and outputs. Push them through the system. Those who don’t fit are labelled a problem and discarded as surplus to requirements.

I will tell you where the staggering stupidity and the real problem lies. It’s in those leaders pushing this dogmatic crap and equally on those who choose to vote for them. Shame on you.

So we move on into another uncertain week filled with too much anxiety for someone so young. Let’s hope a few Muppet and Spider-Man movies can briefly lift the mood. Even a bit of no space tennis might help. But surely the countless thousands of children who suffer deserve so much more than this. The really do.

Accidents happen

I bet if I leaned on that hay bale it would end up rolling down the hill and smashing into my car like a guided missile.

During my life one of the truths I have leant repeatedly is – accidents happen. I am accident prone. Always have been. Always will be. Big ones. Small ones. Ones that hurt. Ones that make you laugh. Ones that get you into trouble. Ones that make you embarrassed. Ones that make you cry. Just too many to mention. Some notable ones include

  • Breaking my arm balancing on a stool. Then breaking my other arm within 3 hours of having the pot removed. Same Doctor had to put the new pot on who had taken just taken the old one off.
  • Dropping a toilet roll just bought from the shop and watching it unravel as it rolls down the High Street. The High Street was on a hill and I dropped it at its highest point.
  • Falling out of a window while trying to paint it.
  • The door on a temporary toilet jammed at a festival and it took an hour for me to be released.
  • Trying to hammer a hanging basket onto next doors fence and accidentally pushing most of the fence over.
  • Breaking my finger trying to put up a deck chair.
  • Using a staple gun and stapling my thumb to a piece of wood
  • Breaking my little toe when I accidentally kicked the toilet.
  • As a kid playing cricket on the back field and managing to hit the best stroke (shot) of my life straight through our toilet window. A wonder shot of 100 yards. Unfortunately Dad was on the toilet at the time. Thankfully my ‘a big boy did it and ran away’ excuse worked.
  • Managed to get a pea stuck up my nose. Staggeringly our son did the same thing many years later.
  • Split my leggings a third of the way up a 4 hour cliff climb. The climbers below are still in counselling after all those years.
  • I saved up for a new watch. Within 5 minutes of buying it I had tripped over and smashed the face.
  • I was trying to pull my trousers up after using the cramped toilet on a speeding French TGV. Unfortunately I lost balance and exploded out through the toilet door and into the crowded carriage. Busting my head open as my hands were still desperately trying to pull the trousers up past my knees. The international shame.

So accidents happen. All you can do is try to smile and learn from them. Mostly no ones fault. They just happen.

Our Son asked if he could borrow my Tablet to play the chess app. After a few minutes the mad dog jumped on him and started licking him. In the confusion our Son forgot about the Tablet and must have rolled on it. A few minutes later we had a very bent piece of tech. Quite a bit of the touch screen is knackered and beyond repair. The poor kid was mortified. I’m so pleased I didn’t shout or be in any way angry. I know accidents happen. Thankfully he cheered up eventually. Re-telling the French Train Toilet incident helped. It shows that I didn’t intend to bare my buttocks but all I had done was not anticipate a particularly bumpy track section and a crap door. It’s life and things are sent to test us.

So I will make the best of a broken tablet until I can save up for a new one (or a refurbished one). Sorry in advance if you get some strange spellings on my posts of from my comments – the on screen keyboard is now possessed and rather random. Very apt that it’s Halloween. When the new one comes I will make sure that before either of us use it that it’s enclosed in a protective case. Because accidents can and will happen.