Reasons

There is something about this time of year. It just keeps on producing the most amazing mist covered skies. Almost as if the sky was an old watercolour art work.

We will ignore the absolutely sodden feet. Something about this time of year and wet socks as well….

The school term is well underway and finally a few subjects are providing some home materials for Hawklad. Certainly not the entire lesson but at least it’s something. One teacher even marked some work he had submitted and provided feedback. That’s a real start. But it all seems pretty disjointed and I get a sinking feeling – he is falling behind those in class. But at least it’s improving. I wonder if there is another reason for that.

Under the new Government Rules schools don’t notify parents if there are any in-class Covid cases. Lessons continue as normal without any additional precautions. Direct contacts with confirmed cases are NOT asked to isolate. It’s out of Headteachers hands now, external officials control the process. Those officials will not intervene until the number of cases escalate beyond thresholds set by the Government. So parents are kept in the dark and apparently should assume there is no news. Schools are completely safe.

Well a teacher accidentally let the cat out of the bag today with a stray email. The email talked about those unable to attend class due to having tested positive. In Hawklad’s class of 30 pupils, 6 are currently suffering with Covid. Those pupils sitting next to a confirmed case (that’s sat for hours, shoulder to shoulder with someone with Covid) are not traced. Mid last week all in the class had been given the all clear after the quick self testing process. A testing process which is not compulsory.

So I guess the reason for the improved home workload might just be that a sizeable proportion of the school are off…..

Longest

You know summer has gone when you return from an evening mad dog walk and you opt for a hot chocolate rather than a cold drink. Tonight was back to back drinks, that’s proper chilly.

“Dad we should go for a really long walk. Take Captain Chaos with us.”

That’s a big call for Hawklad. That might mean lots of gates to navigate without touching, increases the risk of meeting others. Needs to be carefully mapped out and planned. So maybe we could try to walk a bit further on the evening walk. It’s definitely quiet and I know exactly where the gates are.

Maybe he is thinking about building bridges. Getting use to being out in the big bad world again.

“No Dad we need to go much further but definitely when it’s quiet. It’s nothing to do with meeting people again.”

Ok then we might need to get up at dawn. Does he want to go anywhere in particular.

Apparently not. He just wants a long walk. Maybe it’s just a fitness thing. Maybe he thinks the four legged one needs more exercise.

Apparently not as well. So why does he want the long walk. Actually he wants his longest ever walk.

“It’s really about you Dad”

Oh I never saw that coming. Is he thinking I need to get out more. Maybe start hill walking again.

“No Dad. I was thinking this afternoon about my longest ever. Do you remember it. You took me when I had just started school for a short walk on the army land. You got lost and didn’t bother bringing a map because you didn’t need one. 5 hours later we got back to the car. Do you remember it rained and I didn’t have my coat as you said that I didn’t need one. We didn’t have any food or water. At one stage a soldier told us get back on the path”

Oh yes I remember that….

“I was thinking that my longest ever walk should have a purpose and not just be about my Dad being a muppet.”

He knows me to well……

Crime and punishment

The sun sets on another day. Closer to another school at home week. Yes that’s right – no return to the classroom yet. Actually that might not be such a bad thing.

I’ve mentioned this before but I find some of the syllabus just completely baffling.

Hawklad loves History. He really loves History. I’ve never seen him ever find History anything other than awesome. He has a passion for it. Until now. Until the School History Programme. One third of the course is on Crime and Punishment. So far he has spent weeks learning about Jack The Ripper, Victorian violent crime and Capital Punishment. He has months more of this to come.

Yesterday Hawklad said that he was finding this all seriously disturbing. It was making him really anxious and stressed out. A few phrases struck home

“I found some of the images really disturbing.”

Some of the crime descriptions and autopsy details I just can’t get out of my mind.”

It’s putting me off History…..”

This is school history, it’s not criminology, it’s not a Stephen King Horror Novel. I know history will often have to cover really distressing topics but does that really have to include graphic details about a notorious serial killers crimes. Yes they are graphic….. Of all the history in the world to go for and the Authorities had to pick this. I know the Government has a bit of a fetish about Victorian times. They like to hark back to ‘good old’ Victorian Values. Why… Is it about the unrestrained power of the rich that is appealing or is it the downtrodden lifestyles of those without. Maybe it’s those in charge liking the idea of having Victorian punishment regimes at their finger tips. But whatever the reason, do we really have to suck our children’s education into this area as well.

“It’s putting me of History”. A subject he loves. Not on my watch…..

New

If I keep my eyes open on the mad dog walk, I always discover something new…

So another school at home day. The pattern seems set. For each lesson something appears on the school system which can be accessed remotely. Maybe a one page document to read. Maybe a few random questions. Maybe a link to something on the web but with no signposts about why he is visiting the site. Maybe an unclear project. Whatever it is there are no instructions, no timescales, no indication of what is expected. We don’t even know if Hawklad is expected to return any work. No contact from any teacher.

So if he finishes within a few minutes what does Hawklad do for the remaining hour or so of the lesson. If he submits any work will it be even looked at.

Maybe the teachers are distracted by other issues but it does increasingly feel like school has given up on Hawklad.

They’re at it….

What on earth is going on the conservatory window. And yes the conservatory needs tidying up. Out of focus dinosaur toys have taken over.

So it’s the first full week back at school for families in our area. Already many children have taken the quick but problematic virus test. Our Government is really pushing them while other countries are deeply sceptical of the test we use. Even our own Doctor Groups have expressed concerns. Some parents are refusing to let their children take them. Some schools have run out of the test kits. But the tests are the only precaution left in our schools.

From the parent comments on our school’s forum, a number of children have tested positive and are waiting a full test. A number of parents are isolating due to contracting Covid. But the Government rules have changed. Schools are not allowed to track potential cases without the approval from the authorities. They are not allowed to notify parents of potential or confirmed cases. Parents will only be notified if the number of cases escalates beyond a set national threshold. It seems odd that if a child has head lice then other parents are immediately notified but no notification now with an infectious disease. It also seems bizarre that under the current rules a child who tests negative using the inaccurate quick tests must still attend class even if that child’s parents have Covid, and if the child’s siblings have Covid.

Not an ideal backdrop for Hawklad to be wrestling with going back to school or not. He is still struggling with crowds. Still struggling with OCD. Still struggling to touch objects. Still struggling to venture inside.

School have said that they will try to be flexible about his return but do they really get it . His health professionals recommended a number of changes to help but these have not been acted upon. We asked if he could be put into classes with at least a few friends to help his potential return. Most of his classes have now been announced and guess what. Where are his friends……NOT in his class. It’s as if they had tried to put him in the worst class groupings possible. Let’s hope that the last two subjects fair better. Classes are full, the year is over allocated and unless a pupil leaves then switches can’t happen apparently.

Yes they’re at it again…. And it’s not helping.

And then

Another sign of the approaching Autumn Term. Plenty of insects on the windows. Yes this one is superimposed on the big boy cats butt.

The day has dawned. In hours Hawklad is due back in the classroom. One email from school informing parents that school Covid safeguards have been relaxed apart from some testing. The school day will start with all children undertaking a Covid self test. Then the Year will gather for a school assembly in the main hall. After about 3 hours lessons will then commence.

No specific contact from school about Hawklad.

No discussions on tailoring a return.

No chance for Hawklad to do another pre school visit.

School haven’t even specifically asked if Hawklad is returning.

So what is Hawklad doing?

The thought of 3 hours of being in the small main hall with something like 120 other pupils without masks has really bothered him. Bothers me….. No specific plans have been agreed with school. Nothing in place to help with his potential return. Under those circumstances he can’t return. So I have informed school that he is working from home today.

It doesn’t help that it’s an anniversary……

Let’s see if school offer anything today. At least the timetable and class details will be published. Hawklad has said he will decide on Saturday. At present he feels that he can’t return. If that’s the case then it’s a question about is the a temporary hold or the permanent switch to homeschooling.

It’s such a mess.

Wrestling with a decision

Still no word from school. A day of planning for a potential return lost….

Still no final decision on the return to the classroom. The case for school not helped by the Politician in charge of Education in my country. Remember him, the person with a horse whip on clear display on his desk. In his words schools are ‘safe and protected’. When asked how that was during a pandemic with up to 40000 new cases per day, he floundered and waffled. Then he said that because ‘The Government’ has installed CO2 monitors in schools. They would indicate where air quality was a problem. Windows could be opened, classes could go outside, they could consider other stuff…. He was then asked a simple question, had any schools received monitors for the start of Term and the answer was ‘NO, they will start to be issued later’. They have known about this for 18 months….. Why can’t they just invest in proper school ventilation and reduce the excessive class sizes in English schools….Why enforce masks on school buses but not in school. Finally just decide on what is happening with child vaccinations.

So what is Hawklad’s decision. Still no final word but here is a potential indication. He loves watching Wrestling. He loves going to see it when they tour. He can go to see a Wrestling Event in a few weeks. Normally he would have snapped my hand off for tickets. This time his answer was different.

“If I can’t manage school then I can’t manage going to see wrestling. No Dad don’t get tickets……”

Whitby

Maybe being inside amongst strangers is still a step too far for Hawklad but he keeps trying. A late call but we headed towards the North East Coast. To Whitby. A small town with so much history. A small town which provided one of the key settings for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

These days it’s a busy tourist destination. Today was grey and cold, so hopefully not that busy.

Yes less busy but still too busy for Hawklad. He desperately tried to keep his distance. Often walking down the middle of the road to avoid strangers. His hoody pulled over almost to the bridge of his nose. He couldn’t stay long. It was too uncomfortable and unsettling. He resisted the urge to let me go inside to buy ice cream or the legendary Whitby Fish & Chips. We made it to see a few boats. A quick wander to the Pier. Then it was heading back to the safety and isolation of home.

What happens with school at the end of the week. Still to be determined. But to me there is only one viable road open.

The River

A Yorkshire River. A bit of an odd Yorkshire River. It’s not in flood……

In winter the River is often several feet above the top of the sand banks. But in summer the banks provide a perfect place for Swift’s to nest.

As we walked along the river edge my thoughts drifted back to when Hawklad had just started school. It was the start of the Aspergers journey. it was before any expert help came our way. Two parents trying to get their head’s round our family life. We kinda knew he was on the spectrum but what did we know. Expert guidance was still 2 years away. It was such a confusing time. But one of my clearest recollections of that time was Hawklads’s reaction to people.

Hawklad struggled with meeting people. He wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone apart from his mum, dad and grannies. His hood was always over his head and pulled down over his eyes. He would freeze or have meltdowns if an outsider was too near. If he was in a room with others then he frequently would be found in a corner, facing the wall. Outside he would hide behind trees until the coast was clear.

Slowly over the following years things started to change. With so much hard work he became better able deal with people. Not comfortable but he found a way. He developed a slightly wider network of friends. Really close friendships formed.

Today we are walking along The River. We are avoiding people. We came off the path because Hawklad was struggling. The hood was over his head again. We headed in another direction as soon as an outsider came into view. If he couldn’t avoid them then he hid behind me. Down by The River he could hide away. He had the place to himself and he could tell his Dad all about the migrational pattern of Swift’s. It felt isolated but safe to him. Away from others. He’s comfortable with me and his best friends. Others just no way.

It feels like I have been here before.

Anyone for croquet

Hawklad was feeling anxious. Really anxious. This time next week will be tough for him. It will be a tough call. Classroom or Home….

Sometimes it can feel very isolating just the two of us kinda cut off from the real world. Maybe there is a danger we take root.

So he needed a distraction. Something different. It was time to go hunting in the garage. What can I find. Imagine a place like the shop that Harry Potter got his wand from. Dark, cramped, filled to the brim with things that haven’t seen the light of day in years. Maybe decades. Some objects beyond rational comprehension.

As I rummaged deeper into the recesses my plight became more perilous. I stretched, bent and shakily balanced over box after box. Deeper I went into the precarious jungle of old toys and objects. Then I saw a very large old wooden box. It might as well have been an old precious wand. That will do nicely.

An old garden croquet set that came from his grannies house several years ago.

Yes it was fun. Definitely different. Some of the rules might have been loosely applied or invented. When did croquet become a contact sport. The long grass didn’t help. But the main thing is Hawklad was distracted.

Now was the time to get serious about this martial art called croquet. I got the lawnmower out and carefully cut out a croquet course. Incorporating obstacles. A Mole Hill. An Apple Tree. The Football Goal. Yorkshire Wet Grass.

Captain Chaos was a moving obstacle and introduced his own version of mayhem. Suddenly we have one of Europe’s Finest and Most Challenging Croquet Experiences.

Captain Chaos might be on to something. Croquet with a sock…..Yes Croquet is fun. And fun is needed some days…..