Hermione

On the other side of this Bush is a stunning view yet it’s blocked by plant beauty.

Our Son loves history. You often see him watching very in-depth documentaries about a vast range of historical subjects

  • Romans
  • Viking
  • Pharaohs
  • Greeks
  • Persians
  • Incas
  • American Presidents
  • British Kings and Queens
  • Battles and Wars
  • and on and on

Unfortunately he doesn’t get the chance to extend this knowledge at school (yet).

It’s probably due to being put in the bottom set due to his dyslexia but the teaching is at such a low level. Son says he will keep watching historical videos as it’s the only way he learns anything new. He smiles when he calls himself the Hermione Granger of the History class. If the teacher asks a question he is always the first hand up but is never selected to answer.

I think one incident really sums up the problem.

In a test the class were asked to name facts about King John. Our Son then provided an in-depth answer which talked about

  • When King Richard the Lionheart was captured on the third crusade John (his brother) negotiated with the captors to keep him imprisoned
  • He lost most of his fathers empire
  • After he was forced to retreat from France he alienated himself from the many of the barons and a rebellion started
  • Eventually the two factions started negotiating after months of conflict. The end result was the Magna Carta which limited the power of the crown.
  • He then got the Pope to declare the Magna Carta invalid sparking more civil conflict which spilled into the reign of the next king – his son Henry III
  • He may well have killed his nephew (Arthur of Brittany) a potential rival
  • John was excommunicated when he refused to let the Pope have a say in the selection of a new Archbishop of Canterbury
  • He probably died of dysentery

That is my son speaking not me. My knowledge of John ends with the Magna Carta being signed under his rule and the stuff in Ivanhoe.

His teacher spoke to our son and basically told him that he provided too much information. That he was in Year 7 and he shouldn’t know this stuff until Year 10. That’s a way of inspiring his love of the subject. To be fair to the teacher her approach to learning is what the government wants. Sadly the government understands as much about education (and actually most other areas) as does that Bush in the photograph.

Angles

Son came back from school with news of a maths test tomorrow. So we probably won’t get round to looking at the French Test which is Thursday. It seems like test after test. When I was at school the only test was really the daily trying to avoid being eaten by the Sabertooth Tiger.

Son wanted to have a look at angles. So we went through a number of angles listing them as acute, right, obtuse or reflex. Went well until he started to struggle. As soon as you started rotating the picture and he couldn’t process the information. For example these angles proved very easy for him.

Yet with the same angles but reversed he couldn’t visualise them at all.

This replicates some of the stuff we have encountered with the way he scans words and number patterns. Maybe it’s something he can work on. Maybe it’s something he just has to adapts to. It was an area the Health Service wanted to look at but the specialist team was closed due to budget cuts.

I need talk. I remember putting together an IKEA wardrobe. The bloody wooden demon took 2 days to assemble. It wasn’t until I came to stage 85 out of 86 that I realised I had put it together back to front. The door side screwed to the wall and the rear happily facing out. Partner not impressed with the idea of maybe knocking the wall through so we could gain access to the wardrobe from the kitchen.

Spelling….

Some roads are straight and easy to navigate. Other roads are not….

A few years ago the U.K. Government changed the way children were taught and tested. To ensure that ‘children are better equipped for jobs a greater emphasis should be placed on spelling, grammar and punctuation’. As a result marks are now specifically set aside for these factor in exams. Labelled SPaG marking. It was argued that the previous inclusive educational approach was wrong.

The Government approach is to focus on a limited number of correctly spelt words. Let’s produce kids who can spell one word perfectly rather than have kids who can use an extended comprehension.

Where does this leave kids with dyslexia.?

Teaching Groups, Charities, Dyslexia Associations, Parenting Associations and Health Bodies objected. But what do they know….

Dyslexic Kids can apply for extra time in exams. They can apply for a scribe. They can apply to use a reading pen. They can apply to use a keyboard rather than pen. BUT.

They have to demonstrate a level of independence to gain access to the spelling, the grammar or the punctuation marks. If they can’t then the marks are not available to them.

Looking at our son’s case it probably means that when he takes his final exams if he opts for reasonable levels of assistance (as required under Equality Legislation) he will at best be able to access only 33% of the total SPaG marks available.

In my eyes this is wrong. But this is modern U.K. education policy.

Sadly it doesn’t stop there.

The Government decided to change the course content for Computing. Computing underpins everything now. The range of potential computing skills are endless. So many of our kids have passions and untapped skills here. The opportunities are boundless. Let kids tap into this. NO. The Government decided that the course should now focus on coding and structured programming.

Not often can I talk about a subject with anything other than guesswork, but computing I can get to amateur level. This is way beyond the dogmatic ideological buffoonery that underpins Government thinking. Why in God’s name have they picked the most uninspiring and regimented area to focus on. The approach seems to be let’s push out kids who can code rather than develop kids who can utilise the potential computers offer. Yes let kids have a basic grasp of coding then allow those who want to take it further the option to do so. I remember training in 3 programming languages – all becoming obsolete within 5 years.

AND yet again the Government – The Government which is on our side – have penalised kids with dyslexia. Coding and programming is built around specific commands and symbol patterns. Dyslexics struggle with this. So our son is stuck in a weekly computing lesson which focuses on programming. He flounders as he can’t spell the commands. His confidence gets battered. His struggles with spelling are cruelly exposed. His love for computing is fading. The school knows this but cannot change because it’s the set teaching method. Madness.

Sadly I could go on about other subjects and more Government interference. But the point has been made.

Education is so vital that it should not be left in the hands of our self absorbed and incompetent politicians. How about the politicians just focusing on screwing up Brexit and leaving education to the teachers, the parents, the area experts, the kids. In today’s language that probably gets me labelled as a dangerous socialist. A Traitor. Frankly I don’t care. What I care about is the kids going through our educational system. Clearly that’s something our leaders clearly can’t comprehend.

Decibels

Currently the mad dog is being completely bonkers. It’s a kinda let’s bark at everything type of day. Currently the apple tree is getting it. But as the decibels rise my mind wanders to that quiet little pup. What happened…..

Son is not impressed. If you look closely at the photo you will notice that the duvet cover is Peppa Pig themed. It’s a perfectly good cover so is still used today when his Jurassic Park one is being washed. Son doesn’t really see the practical benefits.

You do know Peppa Pig is for little kids. It’s not as if I’m watching it. I know you do when you get the chance, but not me. I was watching about the Black Death last night..”

I do have to admit that a quick bit of Peppa Pig, or the Clangers or In The Night Garden is strangely therapeutic. And yes I can’t remember the Peppa Pig episode which featured the Black Death.

All my parenting waffles are subject to a major caveat. As statisticians would say – it’s based on a very limited sample size. Like one child. One child on the autistic spectrum with dyslexia. So when I see something I can’t be sure if that is just particular to our son or is a common thing. The only other benchmark I can use is my childhood. That seems a long time ago…..

Son has a lot of areas where he is more developed and refined than his Dad. Seemingly way beyond his years. But also in a number of areas he probably still reverts back to the Peppa Pig years. Cuddly toys. Not wanting to leave the safety of the family nest. Mr Men stories. Petting Zoos. Toy cars….

Maybe it’s a fear of growing up.

But I can relate to this. Not wanting to completely forget your early childhood days. Now where is that Peppa Pig dvd….

Speaking about not forgetting things.

It’s the Great Bloggers Bake-Off this Sunday. It’s all about having a bit of fun. Pop over to Mel’s blog – Crushed Caramel (Learner at Love). She has done so much work to set this up.

Our special judge is A Jeanne in the Kitchen.

Let’s go Sunday Spongecake mad.

Please send photos of your creation(s) to crushedcaramel@gmail.com

Alexa decides

Alexa selected Green Day. Don’t want to be an American Idiot. Tremendous – that doesn’t link with any of the threads I was thinking about. So let’s stick to the plan and see where this takes us down a political road.

Our PM stood in front of the nation this week and said nothing was her fault. But one line really stood out.

“I am on your side….”

Respectfully can I tell you PM May to sod off.

Where you on my side when:

– you actively started copying the current US Presidents approach to running a government

– you put your own self preservation above the need to properly consider a Brexit which helps and protects our country

– when you stood back and watched utility/transport companies flout the market and excessively raise prices

– when you ignored local and environmental objections, forcing fracking on our communities

– when you savagely cut school, health and policing budgets

– when you traded with rogue nations

– when you actively promoted feelings of little Britain. Sending out advert buses demonising good people who had decided to come to Britain to live and work

– when you turned your back on the Grenell Tower survivors and all those families still living in potentially unsafe buildings

– when you sat back and watched changes to the education system which so badly impacted kids with Dyslexia and Autism

– when your decisions continue to destroy our beloved NHS

– when the only voices you listen to are your own deluded tones plus a handful of your own far right MPs and 10 DUP MPs

– when you pay lip service to the mental health crisis facing this country

– when you tell the kids to stop protesting about the environment.

So NO you are not on our side, just your own.

Our gerbils are ready to roll. They will happily form a government which will truly be for the people and rodents. The price – just a few toilet rolls…

18 minutes

This is a week of school tests. At the moment it’s due to be 4 tests. French (x2), Science and History. I’m pretty sure they will sneak in a couple more before the week is up. I keep reminding myself our son is still only 11 – just too many tests for someone so young.

French could be interesting. One of the tests is a reading test. The kids need to read french text and then get the pronunciation correct. No reading help can be provided. The positive is our son is currently quite relaxed about this test. As he says

“I’m dyslexic so I will just do my best. On the basis of probability I should fluke a few words. And the worst thing that can happen is I get to be dyslexic in another language.”

Today was the History test. When I asked how it went the response was interesting

It went well. Didn’t get much help. All about Kings and Queens. But the questions where just too easy. As long as I guessed all the questions wording right then I probably got 100%. Probably a few minuses for spellings. I finished a bit early”

How early did you finish?

Well it was a 60 minute test. A couple of the other kids finished after about 40 minutes. I was a little bit sooner.”

So how soon did you finish?

I was finished after 18 minutes….”

Let’s break some rules….

Our school like so many others prides itself on discipline and the behaviour of its pupils. This is achieved with an inflexible set of rules. If a pupil breaks a rule then it’s an automatic negative. Four negatives in one week means detention. Repeated detentions bring the sanction of isolation. A serious negative can lead to an immediate spell of isolation. It’s all a bit Dickensian – was going to say Shawshank Redemption but that’s probably not a good example to use really…

The rules must come in about 7 volumes so too many to list. But let’s give a flavour by quoting some of the negatives which our son has seen issued.

  • Unbuttoned shirt
  • Incorrect positioning of the tie
  • Throwing a snowball – after school and not on school premise
  • Small coloured markings on white sport socks
  • Parent not signing off the weekly planner sheet
  • Forgetting your planner or text book
  • Incorrect colour pen used. Has to be black, unless it’s a correction which has to be green – still haven’t worked out what blue is supposed to be for
  • Forgetting to bring your cooking apron
  • Bringing the wrong measurement of food ingredients
  • School iPad running out of battery
  • Carrying snacks in a rucksack
  • Going to the wrong lesson if you misread the timetable
  • Getting lost in the school – it is a big school area with several separate buildings
  • Bringing the wrong type of calculator
  • Repeatedly asking to go home if you are unwell
  • Pointing out that the teacher had got a fact wrong (son’s only negative so far)

And on and on

Our son came home yesterday to say that he had to complete a series of corrections in his book. Failure to do so would result in two negatives…. When I checked he had one answer correction to make – fine. But he also had to correct spellings. As you can imagine with dyslexia he had many. We had the dreaded red “spelling mistake” label on almost every line. I gave up counting at 30.

The school has another rule which says that for every spelling mistake the pupil has to write out the correct spelling three times.

Call me awkward but he’s got dyslexia. How can this be right. I have spoken to the school on several occasions but I am told it is the rule for all pupils. Well bugger it. I have emailed school to tell them that he is not doing the corrections. We will add the words he has struggled with to our home reading work. But he is definitely not writing out the corrections three times. If he gets a negative for this then I have warned them that I will consider legal action against the school. U.K. organisations need to take reasonable steps to avoid discrimination on the grounds of disability. Under the Equality Act Dyslexia is classed as a disability. OR the school could just give me the detention – that could be really interesting (unbelievably I have never suffered that punishment).

What works

Anxiety, sadness and fear. Three words which unfortunately are too often near the top of our household vocabulary. Along with fart, burnt food, turn the music UP, where’s the remote, sorry I forgot and Dad you Muppet.So what have we found that actually works for both of us. Here are some of the winners.

5,4,3,2,1

We have found that this technique is really good at taking the edge off panic attacks. It doesn’t work on any underlying problems but buys some time. At the first sign of increased anxiety:

Think of 5 things you can currently see,

Think of 4 things you can currently hear,

Think of 3 things you can currently touch,

Think of 2 things you can currently smell,

Now do 1 large breath.

The Sweetie Jar Oracle

If our son is going through a period viewing the world through unhappy filters we start the Sweetie Jar Oracle. Find a large clear jar and a bag of brightly coloured sweets. Not sure about the rest of the world but in the U.K. smarties, fruit pastilles or Skittles work well. Sort out say the red and yellow sweets. Then identify one of the colours as good and the other as bad. Then over a period of a few days, maybe a week start to fill the jar with the appropriate coloured sweet every time a good or bad thing happens. After a few days hopefully you will see more good sweets than bad sweets. This usually convinces our son that although bad things do happen, good stuff happens more frequently. You can then eat the sweets….

Good Memories Store

We have an old small suitcase which we use to store good memories in. It’s full of old photos and handwritten notes. Every time we remember a good memory I write it down and put in in the suitcase. When times are bad we can then dig out the memory store and hopefully receive an instant boost to the soul. Has the added advantage of making sure you don’t forget those all important wonderful moments in time.

YouTube

Just losing himself in a YouTube documentary works somedays. I remember one occasion when he had an awful day at school but after 45 minutes of YouTube watching he was a happy little bunny. Worryingly he had found solace in documentaries about Caligula. What happened to Peppa Pig…

Wheelbarrow Train of Pain

Talked about this in a previous post. It stops my sudden urge to punch the wall with frustration. Basically load up a wheelbarrow with heavy stuff then push it round the garden. The number of circuits depends on the severity of the frustration.

Lego

Found that building a Lego set really helps take our son’s mind off his anxieties. It’s also good for his fine motor skills. It’s often frustrating for me as it just reminds me that I never got round to buying the Star Wars Death Star Lego set. Now it would be cheaper to buy a real Ghostbusters Proton Pack and get Bill Murray to personally deliver it to us.

Trampoline

Almost everyday on his return from school our son heads for his trampoline. 20 minutes later many of the frustrations of the day are put to the back of his mind.

Late night dog walking

Walking the dog never really helped our son. He was often too concerned about bumping into others. We would be having a happy conversation but suddenly someone would appear on his radar and he would be lost to anxious social thoughts. Almost by chance we then found the delights of night time dog walking. At night no one is about in our village. We have the fields and lanes to ourselves. Now it has become an excellent stress reliever. We frequently use the walks to plan out in detail the next days schedule.

Bad things league table

Every so often we run the bad things league table. We both list all the things worrying us. We then work together to rank them in order of how much pain they are causing us. Points are awarded for the severity of the issue, it’s frequency and how difficult it is to solve. It quickly identifies the stuff we need to focus on or prepare for. Because it’s done as a league table our son finds it easy to talk about and work with. For the issue which is the league winner we then spend a few minutes working out a couple of actions which might help knock it off its top spot for the next league table.

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One of the activists 100% guaranteed to raise our spirits will feature in the next post…

Progress?

“Dad how do you spell Transylvania, I am trying to find a picture of Dracula and his castle”

Our son frequently asks how to spell words when he is using his iPad. As he tries to type out the words which I have attempted to spell the hope is that it will help with his Dyslexia. He is trying to move away from just using the iPads speech recognition app. In this vampire case we had an issue with either my spelling (most likely) or our son’s typing.

“Dad that doesn’t look like Dracula or his castle. It’s a man with make up wearing a very short skirt.”

Yes that was an interesting conversation we had about a word sounding a bit like Transylvania.

We have continued to work at home on our son’s dyslexia. It’s his biggest concern and causes him so much stress. However it’s a constant balancing act as he gets so tired at school. I want him to have time to play and relax. But when we do work we have tried a number of techniques. I talked about some of these in an earlier post

https://bereavedsingledad.blog/2018/11/14/home-help/

Maybe, just maybe we are starting to see some progress. He is starting to recognise a wider range of words (although it takes time). Increasingly some of the more common words are starting to be recognised instantly. This is real progress. He is now starting to read Graphic Novels without the help of me or a reading pen. He is using the pictures, the words he can recognise and trying to figure out the words he can’t recognise. He can just about follow the story now. Hound of the Baskervilles is his favourite graphic novel.

As long as he is up for the challenge we will continue to push. Learning to overcome dyslexia does feel like the search for the Holy Grail some days. But at least we now have some leads. Maybe we have started to narrow down the search zone. Let’s hope so.

School Dracula

This is the Hospitium a 14th century listed building in York’s Museum Gardens. These days it’s a venue for conferences, weddings and special events. Many years ago it was a support building for the Abbey.

St Mary’s Abbey was founded in 1088. The surviving ruins date back from about 1270. York is such a good place for kids to actually touch history.

Over Christmas our son spent a few hours here trying to imagine what life was like before it fell into ruin. Recreating the sounds, the people, the buildings, the life. Big scale creative play. I must admit I was lost in the world of dreams to. Mine was a world of ghosts, ghouls and vampires. I had almost forgotten how much fun you can have when you release your imagination.

This was the visit when the first seeds of home schooling started to be scattered. Last term had been grisly. No real sign of development. No evidence of school making any effort to provide an effective and supportive teaching environment. Most importantly a really unhappy and anxious child.

Our son loves subjects like history but not the way school deliver it. He likes the History Teacher, she is really nice. But being in the bottom set and given his encyclopaedic knowledge – he’s not learning anything. Plus regardless of which class you are in the teaching is so traditional. Text book after text book. Very dry and not very dyslexic friendly. Unfortunately it’s the set teaching approach dictated by the government.

Between my thoughts of ghosts and ghouls I also pondered with so much real life history so close to hand, why not bring the classroom here. Bring the lessons alive. That’s when the thought pinged, if school won’t teach here, why don’t I.

We will see.

The trip was completed with the required extra portions of ice cream. That night my imagination had clearly not been put back in its box yet. A dream about Dracula. But not the bloodthirsty vampire. This one was about a reformed Prince of Darkness. He had sold his Transylvanian castle and bought York’s Museum Gardens. He wanted to turn the gardens into the finest history school in the world. All the teachers were ghosts and ghouls. And Dracula was selling the ice creams and he didn’t skimp on the portions. Now that’s a school.