Boring

Walking through that undergrowth will do havoc to my legs when I’m wearing shorts. It would ruin my catwalk career.

I can think of something else that really feels as bad as thorns and nettles on exposed legs.

Dad what is the point of this. I can’t do it. Never will do it and it’s boring. I’d rather wash the car. It’s that boring.”

I know Son. It really is.

If I could drop the subject Dad I would just to stop this weekly torture.”

Sadly you can’t drop Computing. Plus you need to be ok with computing and technology. Apart from this little bit of the subject you are really good at it.

I might be but every week this comes up and I it does my head in. Every week.”

It is just about every lesson. It is really stupid.

Just why?”

Sadly that’s not the teachers fault. The government forces schools to teach this. They think it’s a good idea. Which frankly shows you just how little they understand or care about the real world.

I don’t need it do I?”

No you certainly don’t. Certainly not the way it’s taught in our schools. I was never great with it and I’ve got a Masters Degree in Computing. In fact apart from my first job, I have never used it. The way schools do it, they get you to use languages that will be obsolete. Languages that are mind numbingly boring. Ones which only work if you get every word perfectly correct and everything in precisely the right order.

Which I can’t do Dad, I’m dyslexic….”

I know. It’s madness that you have to do it. It would be so much better if they encouraged you to problem solve and then teach you to have fun with technology. See what brilliant things you can do with computing.

##################

What are talking about.

CODING….

Start again

Another Monday and the start of another school at home week. I make that Week 38. That’s a lot of weeks. Funny thing is that it doesn’t feel like 38 weeks. Somedays it feels like only a couple of months. Other days it seems like years.

In all probability during the early part of 2021 it will be a full year of schooling at home. That wasn’t really in the plan.

It has really all felt a bit hit and miss. Some good bits and some not so good bits. Lots of frustrations. But equally lots of laughs. Some subjects where the teaching is working. Others where after 38 weeks it is still a complete waste of time. But that’s thing. With having to stick to the school curriculum we don’t have much scope to change things. We are dependent on the school making changes. But they have to stick to the national curriculum.

But over those 38 weeks we have settled into a rhythm. Parent and Son. No need to set the alarm as we just naturally wake up at the right time. No real pressure if Hawklad starts a few minutes early or late. No need to think about breaks or food. They kind of just happen. We know which lessons will work and which won’t. If we don’t have an item for a lesson we now know how to wing it. We are not surprised by the lack of feedback. Hawklad doesn’t panic now if a teacher forgets about him. I get on with stuff until I’m needed to help out. The school week just happens now.

True homeschooling did feel daunting now it feels very doable. Tough but something we can cope with. But Week 38 also marks a dangerous time. That’s a lot of weeks of emailing and phoning school. Trying to make improvements to the teaching. Make it more tailored to Hawklad. Am I starting to take my eye off the ball. Not pushing the school as much. Maybe week 38 is time to refocus and start again. Or maybe it’s just going to be another one of those weeks. If I was a betting man I would put my money on the latter. It just feels that way.

Fibonacci

We had a bit of a perfect storm during the morning. AND for a change it wasn’t the Yorkshire micro climate to blame.

MATHS

In particular number sequences. A whole 90 minutes dedicated to the little beauties. Geometric, Arithmetic, Square, Cube, Triangular, Fibonacci. I always remember thinking Fibonacci sounded like a really cool wrestler. The Maths Tutor didn’t find that thought very amusing.

For those who quite rightly have forgotten mathematics from school and college, the Fibonacci sequence is where the next number is the summation of the preceding two numbers. One of those things you are taught and will probably never need it. Fibonacci has only ever cropped up twice since school. Annoyingly not in the school exam. I remember giving one unfortunate External Consultant a bit of a frosty reception when he tried to convince me that I should be using Fibonacci to better manage agile teams at work. I think the poor chap learnt some new Yorkshire words and was then ushered out to annoy someone else.

The second time Fibonacci entered my world again was today. This morning we discovered that our son struggles with number sequences. He just can’t see the patterns. It wasn’t helped by the frequent use of decimal points to make the patterns even more pesky. Much frustration. Son couldn’t see the patterns at all and his dad could see the patterns BUT I struggled to describe them in words. Clearly one of those things I can do with out thinking but I’m not entirely convinced how I do it. Bit like trying to programme the washing machine.

But here’s the thing. I convinced son that it didn’t really matter. If sequences do come up in the exam then they won’t count for many marks. He can still have a stab at them and if all else fails, guess and move on to stuff that he will be able to do. And after his exam unless he meets many keen External Consultants, he is unlikely to need number sequences again. He’s better off learning stuff he wants to learn and stuff that he will use.

Let’s leave Fibonacci as a wrestling star.

Argument

One leaf in the corner of the garden. It definitely has a story to tell.

I was looking at a Social Media exchange about a secondary school in another part of the country. Parents were discussing how good the place was or wasn’t. Clearly it was quite a heated exchange. On one side you had comments like

It’s a great school…

Look at the grades the kids get…

It gets fantastic OFSTED ratings…

My daughter is likely to get straight A’s thanks to the teaching…

I love the school. It has discipline and look at the results it gets…

My daughter won an award for Drama because the school pushed her…

Fantastic teachers,

You always get a minority who are never happy…

Well if your not happy take your child to another school

Well homeschool then, miss out on the special treatment you son gets then…

And on the other hand you got comments like…

My child has just been dumped in the bottom class,

The teachers don’t care,

My daughter is getting no help, just left to fall behind,

My son keeps quiet and doesn’t cause any trouble in class. Wish he did as the teacher might start spending some time with him,

I’m not sure the teachers even want to know that he has ADHD,

School is not bothered that my son is scheduled to get no grades,

It is useless at helping kids out who have special needs.

That last line gives the basis of the argument away. The English School System provides one model of teaching for all pupils. It works for some kids but unfortunately a few too many are left behind. Increasingly special education is seen as a distraction to the main school function. An unnecessary drain on resources. You see articles in the Press basically talking about those children getting funding to cover additional needs as a gravy train for parents. That approach mirrors government thinking. Yes schools are given some targets for educational need but a school that fail in this area can still be seen as Excellent. The key is hitting the limited exam, performance management, how well they stick to the curriculum and the financial targets set for them.

I bet you can guess what side of the argument I would have been on. But I would add one important thing. All schools have good, dedicated teachers. Teachers who care. But they can’t provide for those children with additional educational needs when they are hamstrung by government. Where they are undervalued and trying to teach classes with up to 30 children crammed into them. With a set and unwieldy curriculum which must be strictly followed. I remember a conversation with school about computing. The teachers shared my frustration at having to teach Hawklad so much coding. Coding is a nightmare for dyslexics and some on the spectrum to learn. But they had to teach him that because it was a key part of the national curriculum set by government. Surely we can find a way of teaching all kids which offers the change to offer different learning routes depending on the individual.

A school can be excellent and at the same time fail to many of the next generation.

Go again.

Schooling often feels like a river. Sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes frustrating and if you follow it then it takes you were the river wants to take you, not where you might want to get to.

I was talking to Hawklad yesterday about school and homeschooling. It’s his call what happens going forward. He will be doing school at home until Christmas. Then it’s time to make another call. Currently he just can’t see himself returning to the classroom in January but he’s not yet ready to call time on school. So it looks like we will start 2021 still in home at school mode.

If that’s the case then it’s time to start making some adjustments to the teaching delivery. Starting with French. The time the school allocates to learning things like perfect and imperfect tenses is just currently a waste of effort for Hawklad. So that time will be spent on using an online language learning app. Probably Rosetta Stone. I’d rather him pick up a few words that he might be able to use in the future than to parrot learn stuff just for one exam in two years time.

Time

I could wax lyrically about that wonderful Pink Floyd song, Time. All about how TIME can fritter away from people without them realising until it is too late.

I could talk about Dr Who. Mentioning that the first ever female Dr is also the first Yorkshire Time Lord.

But not today. We are talking about telling the time.

Hawklad has always struggled to read a clock or watch. It’s not for the want of trying. Different types of watches and clocks. Different styles. Nothing seemed to work. Analog time has just proved impossible to him. It’s taken years but he can very slowly read a digital 12 hour display. Not very accurately. He has to look at the display for many seconds before it seems to register. Even then it may need some further explanation.

It’s not just telling the time, it’s the concept of passing time. He struggles to get his head round what 20 minutes, or an hour or 3 hours actually means in practice. He was doing an assessment paper at home. I noticed that he had been on the first question for 30 minutes. When I told him that there was another 14 questions to do in the remaining time he couldn’t believe that he had spent that long on one question. To him it was just a couple of minutes. This kind of thing happens so very often.

Whether this is to do with Aspergers, or number dyslexia or just one of those things – we will never probably establish that. Just got to work round it. Find ways for Hawklad to cope with time.

Because he struggles to tell the time and then can’t comprehend how much time has passed, this stresses him out. Give him a time to work to and he starts to panic. As a result we often use something like a movie as our measure of time.

It’s bedtime at the end of this movie.

We need to get ready when this show finishes.

It will be 45 minutes when the game ends.

That’s why the TV is often on in the background. Not for entertainment, but as a timer. Where this leaves him with his pending exams and his adult life, who knows. But here’s the thing, he’s great at sticking to plans and following a series of steps in his head. If he could just get his head round time then he would be brilliant at project management.

It’s 40 minutes until he needs to start looking at his homework. Today that’s the end of Jumanji. Jumanji the Clock.

Decimal places

A lovely start to the day. Looks are deceiving. Over my shoulder was a mass of grey YUK rapidly heading towards us. And now…

Wet, cold, grey and just grisly.

Another thing which is grisly here is DECIMAL POINTS.

Hawklad is dyslexic. That’s both letters and NUMBERS. 4,6,7 and 9’s can be difficult for him. Somedays they are fine others not so good. This is so frustrating as he is really good at Maths.

Something which is never fine are those pesky DECIMAL POINTS. He just can’t process them. He can do really complex calculations yet struggles to do the simplest additions if you introduce DECIMALS. When it comes to schooling it’s just keeping those fingers crossed that DECIMALS just don’t appear. They can mess up Maths, Science, Geography and Computing lessons.

His Maths Assessment Scores fluctuate according to those pesky dots. His last score was 60% as there was a large section on rounding up decimals and standard notation. He did another paper yesterday. This time only one decimal appeared. From what I can see he got that question wrong but was perfect on the other 16 questions. That paper as a final in 2 and a half years time would be so cool for him.

Eat chocolate

I received a lovely present today in the post. The government support package for Hawklad will expire soon. So I need to reapply. Helpfully they have sent the 50 page application form to complete. I can’t submit the old paperwork and need to have more recent assessments and evidence. That’s a nightmare at the best of times but during a pandemic!!!!!!!

Only thing for it….. A bar of dark chocolate, a decaf coffee and listen to some angry music. Today’s choice, the latest from Roger Waters. That’s one seriously cheesed off artist recording those songs. That fits as that’s the music I would make today. Normal people are forced to jump through hoop after hoop for their kids yet friends of the Government are awarded multi million pound contracts without any due process. Roger Waters would certainly get the irony.

Well I then made a start. Book an appointment for a new assessment from a Paediatrician. On the waiting list. That’s currently a one year wait and growing. It’s a start…. Where’s the next chocolate bar.

But here’s the really scary thing. Our Son is fortunate as he has had some support. We somehow battled through the intentionally difficult minefield to get that. So many are either unsuccessful or are just missed. That’s the children, adult support is almost none existent. Discarded by our society that has its priorities so badly skewed. What’s the answer. Certainly to keep fighting. Most definitely to eat chocolate.

Perfect or imperfect

Just a little something to break up the dark greens, browns and greys. Definitely really appreciated. Si adorable…..

Dad why do they make French so difficult to learn. It feels like we are trying to build a fusion reactor some days. Not trying to describe what I did on a visit to a Paris Park.

Hawklad is so right. Yesterday he was given a long list of French words and asked to work out the correct endings for both Perfect and Imperfect tenses. How about first checking if the pupil actually knows the word first. Asking a dyslexic to write 40 words out perfectly (twice with slightly different endings) is like asking me to cook the perfect Soufflé. It isn’t happening and is basically a waste of time.

The problem is that in the UK teachers are not allowed to teach. They are basically just presenting what the Government tells them to say. The Government is not interested in pupils developing and growing. It’s all about passing one exam. Parrot Learning in the good old way Victorian children did. Only last month schools were instructed to not use any learning materials from sources which are considered to be anti-capitalist.

It’s really time to let Teachers teach and the Government can focus on governing. Oh hang on a minute – our Government can’t even do that properly.

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.