A window

A brief window to step outside and breath. Otherwise it’s been horrible. Many of the places around us have closed due to bad weather. Must admit education feels that way a bit currently.

UK School doesn’t really work for those with additional educational needs. The traditional classroom setup brings much stress. School at home brings a little respite.

So that’s two weeks ticked off from the next stage of the school at home approach.

I was asked why I didn’t call it homeschooling. Basically we are still trying to follow what the school is teaching. Not setting our own learning agenda. Having to do this just in case our son decides to return to school when he is able to. So it’s not the freedom of homeschooling, it’s basically school but at home.

So in two weeks we have kind of found a way of trying to keep up with the class. Covering the same subjects. In some lessons we are getting all of the material which is being used in class. In some we are getting some of the material and we are trying to fill in the gaps as best we can. In a few subjects we are basically getting nothing so we are just winging those – maybe we are following the class, maybe we are heading in completely the wrong direction.

He is getting virtually no pastoral care from school. Absolutely zero feedback on work submitted, not sure some of the teachers are even reading it yet. A couple of the teachers do occasionally send a message asking if he is ok with the work set. That’s it really. On a Thursday all the pupils have to select an option for an additional lesson. It’s supposed to cover non curriculum activities. It’s about learning new skills and building confidence. It could be a gaming option, archeology, performing arts, sports, astronomy. He hasn’t been included in this programme – says it all really.

In my mind I have already settled on the best way forward. It’s for our son to leave school and opt for full on homeschooling. But it’s his call. It’s his future. So when the time is right then he can make a decision. But I have to say school are not bending over backwards to sell themselves.

L

Grouse

Most definitely not like this today. The strange yellow thing in the sky has most definitely gone on holiday. Hopefully not a long one.

Currently I am looking out of window into the rainy garden and thinking. I’m guessing this home at school project has many months to run. As a single parent it’s trying to get my head round the logistics of that. At present there is not much work and what work there is can be done at home. Shopping can be done through a combination of home delivery and very quick trips to the small local store. But what happens if I need to make a longer trip out. Hawklad is not comfortable at all being left alone.

The options are limited at the best of times and these are not the best of times.

Normally our options would be one of two sisters (but one-off those is 2 hours drive away, and both don’t drive) and a couple of local parents who have known Hawklad since the age of 5 (they are busy so are not often available). Unfortunately under the new Government Lockdown rules all four options are now banned. Breaking those would leave us open to heavy fines. The Government has even encouraged people to contact the police if neighbours flout the rules. The irony here is not lost, flouting rules if you are a member of the government or the dad of the PM is said to be entirely reasonable. Under the new rules our only option would be for a grandparent to stand in. Unfortunately ours have all left this world. But here’s another irony, those grandparents would fall into high risk groups. Those who should be shielding. Are grandparents seen as expendable….

The other irony is that those who would be an option before they were banned fall into much lower risk groups. They can’t babysit for us but I could go to work with them and sit alongside them in an office – that’s apparently fine. We could even put on green camouflage and go grouse hunting together without any punishment. Maybe that’s the childcare answer, we set up a grouse hunting lodge in the garden. The first ever vegetarian one….

It’s wet

It’s definitely wet today. Pouring down and very cold. All rather depressing so let’s take the time to look at a bit of nature’s colour.

Do you ever have those conversations. Those conversations where the words seem to head in one direction but actual the conversation clearly ends up in a totally different place. Ever so frustrating.

I’ve spoken to school about Hawklads enforced school at home project. I thought I had explained to school that although it’s kind of working it was far from ideal. In particular

  • He is getting absolutely zero feedback. He is submitting work but getting nothing back. The other kids are clearly getting marks and comments back. That’s clear from some of the teacher comments on the set work tasks. But those comments are always aimed at other pupils. If he doesn’t get feedback then what is the point.
  • Have the teachers forgotten that he is dyslexic. Comments like ‘if I don’t get round to sending you tasks for the lesson then just read a book on the subject’ don’t really help….
  • Have the teachers forgotten that he has difficulty in hand drawing. He struggles with fine motor skills. I can’t believe the number of times the set task is to hand draw something – unbelievably that is currently not Art.
  • Some of the subject teachers are still completely forgetting about Hawklad. No subject material at all has been made available.

Anyway the school seemed very supportive, so surely job done. Clearly not as the school responded with an email basically saying that they were happy that things where going so well. They will keep going with the current approach and they hoped that we would keep in touch…..

Sounds like it’s time for me to most definitely stay in touch with them right now.

Bit of orange

It’s been a good year for roses here but so not for other flowers. But occasionally the colour shines out. Just as summer is closing we get a couple of late visitors. They are must welcome.

Hawklad is due another home counselling visit this week. Every two weeks is the plan. Part of a long term care strategy to see if they can help him with his anxieties and fears. An attempt to help him feel sufficiently ok to venture back into the wider world. He needs that professional support. Some things are just a bit outside of my parenting skill set.

Even with that help it’s going to be a long process. We need a fair and supportive wind to help the process along.

Like in many parts of the world pandemic numbers are rising. Unlike some parts of the world, the UK is trying to navigate these stormy waters with no effective government. They have a natural talent to make things worse, to add oil onto the fire. So it’s all a tab chaotic and shambolic. The PM sticking to his whack a mole strategy. His words not mine.

I was contacted by Hawklads care team to let me know that they will have to keep assessing if the service will be able to continue in the short term. They are receiving contradictory instructions from the top. It is likely that the home visits will have stop at some point. Probably very shortly. When they do stop then they will look into things like video appointments. Better than nothing I guess but far from ideal. Hawklad really struggles with that type of thing. The worry is that if the visits are forced to stop then they will not probably restart until after winter.

It’s just one of those things. Outside my control. Outside the care providers control. We just have to make the best of it. But it does add to the feeling that a return to school is a very long way off, if at all. It kind of feels like that our castle drawbridge is being raised again. Time to start manning the battlements. That’s a bleak thought. AND that’s why seeing a couple of small orange flowers in the garden is such a big thing for me.

We are in this together!

Apparently we are in this all together.

In the UK our Test and Trace system is supposed to be World Leading. Sorry time to shake head and mutter. In practice it has collapsed for many. This true story says it all. Schools are struggling to get those showing symptoms tested. In many areas tests are just not available. I know one school where a number of teachers and students are showing symptoms but local tests have not been available for over a week. The only option for those who are sick has been the offer to travel on a road trip to Shropshire for a potential (not guaranteed) test. That’s a round trip of 470 miles. Because test results are not available the school has not been allowed to go into full lockdown measures.

Remember we are all in this together.

Yesterday our loathsome government told us to Stop Carping and celebrate the phenomenal success of the government’s Test and Trace approach.

Ok I will try. I’m a simple person. I’m seeing an approach which has a Test and a Trace system. Most can’t get a Test, there is a massive backlog of test samples (more than 200000), timeframes are missed, sick are having to travel for hours and then queue, results are inaccurate, we don’t have enough kits. Ok. Let’s look at the Trace system. Currently even by the governments own figures the tracing system is contacting way less than 50% of those they urgently need to contact. That’s an awful lot of people who should be shielding who just don’t know. So in our phenomenal Test and Trace system – Testing has failed, Tracing is failing. So ok if we exclude the test and trace elements, then the Test and Trace system might be a phenomenal success.

Remember we are all in this together.

If you to virtually all schools in the country, they have returned without tests. It’s not considered important for those teachers, pupils, support staff and families. Only when someone has symptoms is it then deemed necessary to have a test.

Many of our government went to a very select and expensive private school – Eton. When Eton returned all staff and pupils had covid tests whether they needed them or not. It was deemed essential for them.

We are all in this together.

Morning has broken

The scene after I had just finished my early morning exercise session. I might be tired but it’s so nice exercising outside, in the sun, and yes when it’s almost warm. Not so much fun in a few months time when it’s freezing, dark and chucking it down with rain.

Well finally school has broken into some action.

  • A confirmed timetable
  • A list of teachers
  • Some class materials starting to appear on the system
  • Some work assigned
  • A method of submitting work kind of established.

Took some negotiating but at least we have a start. Something to work with.

Ok Dad it’s your favourite subject, ART. What do you know about Japanese Art? And don’t mention Manga…”

Errrmmmmmmm. Let me think for a few minutes. Manga!

Useless Dad. Ok apart from Manga what do you know about Japanese Art?

Errrmmmmmmm. Godzilla.

That’s not much help. Apart from Magna and Godzilla, what do you know about Japanese Art?”

Errrmmmmmmm. Mothra and Ghidorah

Still not much help DAD. So apart from Godzilla monsters do you know anything about Japanese Art?”

What about Rodan.

Dad no more Godzilla monsters. Your basically going to be not much help as usual.”

Yes Hawklad, sadly no help at all unless Art becomes a Godzilla Fight Scene.

Useless. Mum would have been a great help. She was great with Art and Culture. I’m stuck with comic boy…”

Yes but your mum would be no use when King Ghidorah attacked. It’s all about priorities. And your mum liked comics. I once bought her the complete TinTin comic compendium.”

Don’t you think mum would have preferred some flowers.”

Probably……

But in my defence the previous Christmas your mum had bought me a ‘Dance Hits of the 80s’ cd. She knew a metal head like me would really appreciate that type of music. So you don’t always get what you want.

Bit like me and wanting a parent who might know just a little bit about Japanese Art…”

Cobwebs

Sorry this post is a day late. Think MONDAY….

Someone has been very busy. Boris is happily sat admiring all the hard work. Poor Boris the spider. Having a name which is now associated with our so called leader. Boris is a part timer, a serial liar, heartless, out of his depth, out of step with the world, a relic of a bygone era, addicted to his privileged lifestyle, not interested in the future of the species, has been repeatedly sacked, likes to hear his own voice and is basically a reptile at heart. Qualities not found thankfully in our little garden Boris.

So the start of the next phase of the school at home project got off to a predictable start. Looking at a blank screen. Waiting for something from school to allow Hawklad to try and do some work. Two hours of a blank screen. As we don’t even know what subjects are being taught today, there is nothing we can do. So all we can do is – I will send another email into school and Hawklad can play on Minecraft. You never know that game maybe part of the curriculum.

Cobwebs is an apt description for today. The first school day. An early start for Hawklad and even earlier start for me. Back to the delights of early morning workouts. Those early mornings when I just can’t seem to shake those cobwebs from my brain. It’s times like this that I really miss caffeine.

A few times this morning I found myself just repeating the same exercise. Over and over again for several minutes. The brain stuck in a tired loop or maybe it had just switched off and I was in autopilot mode.

Stuck in autopilot mode is probably a good description of the school system. Repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again, no variation, almost forgetting what you are trying to achieve. At least our garden Boris doesn’t do that. He is definitely a most able teacher about life.

The third sequel

The third sequel already. The Trilogy done in one day. Eat your heart out Peter Jackson.

So this is the third instalment in the ‘what has changed over the 6 months of pandemic isolation’ saga. This time it’s what has changed for me. I guess this one is called The Return of the Kermit the Frog King. So what has changed then for me.

  • With Hawklads increasingly pronounced Social and Health related anxieties the last six months have seen a ramping up of the parenting pressures. Fewer breaks, more challenges and yes less support. In the UK small amount of support that has survived the Conservative Funding Cutbacks largely stops when kids hit the teenage years.
  • Have become a home educator. A school facilitator. A Classroom Supplies specialist. Much smirking…. After 6 months I’m still winging it.
  • I’m sleeping less. Much less. Just can’t seem to reset the insomnia cycle.
  • Certainly more isolated in terms of actually meeting people outside our little bubble. In 6 months I’ve seen family members twice, one work colleague (and good friend) maybe three times, neighbours a handful of times, the local shop workers maybe a couple of times a month, the dentist once, one visit from the boilerman, a few health workers and doctors. That’s about it. Oh actually forgot one person. The Postman, the only person I see regularly. I count his fairly frequent waves as my most regular physical contact. Luckily I have lovely online friends.
  • With not meeting too many people I’ve started noticing human life more. I notice dog walkers in the fields, cyclists, passing cars, voices from the street, even planes in the sky. A reminder that a bigger world still exists out there.
  • My conversation skills have never come easy to me. I have to work on and practice them. That’s just not happened for months. Even on most phone calls I can feel myself becoming increasingly wooden.
  • My largely unseen dress sense is becoming increasingly avant-garde.
  • I have lost 6lbs but you wouldn’t notice it. Having to resort to consuming far too much Soya (Soy) which isn’t great for my tummy. No I’m not pregnant.
  • I’ve stopped running and walking and road cycling. Must admit it’s not doing my old contact sport injuries any good. Bits are starting to seize up. So I’m trying to find my inner Yoga. Or as I call it Controlled Falling Over.
  • Work has dried up. This was supposed to be a really busy year. Lots of new jobs and major events. In practice that all was cancelled. Remains cancelled. Some plans have been put in place but really I’m not going to get much work until 2021.
  • I’m more able to fill my day without leaving our little household world. No need to visit shops daily, coffee shops, cinema, visit family or friends. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it comes easier to me now.
  • I do tend to overthink things now. Can have days when I do sober too much time internalising stuff. With me that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s such a short stroll to self doubt and negativity.

Yes things have changed for me. They will continue to change as our personal lockdown is not going to end anytime soon. Potentially months more, maybe much longer. With us being an Aspergers Family that was kind of in place before the pandemic. Maybe many of these changes were already happening before the March lockdown. They have just become more pronounced. Maybe these are longer term changes. Maybe it’s much more than a three episode trilogy. Maybe it’s a permanent feature.

Where did that go

Where did that go? Where did the summer holidays go. For so many families, where did that lockdown go? That’s 7 weeks of summer and exactly 6 months of lockdown.

We leave the summer holidays like we found them. Grey.

Many leave the lockdown as we found it. Well actually that’s sadly not strictly true here in the UK. The daily rise in pandemic and the rate of spread (R number) is actually higher now than when it forced us all into lockdown. I guess the confusion is the same. Some times it’s safe to meet in groups then at other times it’s considered most unsafe. Sometimes masks are required, sometimes they are not. Get tested but please don’t get tested. It’s safe to meet work colleagues but most unsafe to meet friends and family. There are those in high risk groups but you don’t need to worry about that. You must observe 2m social distancing but it’s ok if you don’t especially in pubs and at Horse Racing events. Don’t worry about the details it will be fine.

But for some families and households, the lockdown is most certainly not over. The Government seems to be demonising those in that position. We are being unpatriotic. Not doing our civic duty. Letting others down. As a result support is being pulled, threats made, blamed for the problems of the country and fines starting to be issued. I can assure the so called Government that it’s not out of choice. We are dealing with the reality of life. And that life is messy, complicated, unpredictable and frustrating. We have to deal with the details.

That part of life has not changed during the summer holidays and lockdown.

Turning

Those leaves 🍁 are turning. Autumn is coming.

Well actually the last few nights it has felt like winter has already arrived. It’s been freezing. Heating and lights full on. Jumpers (sweaters) most definitely are out of storage. I’m not very organised but I do always remember where I put my million jumpers. Normally I have all of them on at the same time.

So school starts on Monday. Our Son will not be returning at that time. If and when he returns is a matter of much uncertainty.

Dad have school decided what is happening on Monday then ?”

Not yet Hawklad.

Has school sent you the new codes so that we can check the online pupil pages for each subject?”

Not yet. Until we get these then we are basically stuffed.

So what will I be doing?”

Not sure as yet. I don’t have the school timetable. Don’t know what the subject teachers will be looking at.

As I’m now in a new set we won’t even know any kids we can ask to see what they have been doing.”

No. So I can’t speak to any parents and see what they have been given.

So basically Dad we will be winging the homeschooling thing.”

Yes definitely winging it.

So a bit like your cooking then. Bit of a disaster…”

Yep, but at least it won’t be dull.

If it’s bad then I’m going back to bed. Just to let you know.”

Don’t worry son, if it’s that bad I will be resorting to building lego sets…

***********

As it stands the plan is

  • Follow the school timetabled lessons for the day,
  • Email the individual teacher for a guide to what we should be doing….. not entirely hopeful about that. Failing that will see if any lesson notes have been loaded onto the pupil online pages ….. these are often blank or feature very brief notes loaded days after the lesson,
  • Look out for any homework tasks being posted. Submit these to the teacher somehow,
  • Try to find relevant videos online for him to watch. The BBC and other countries have some good resources,
  • Send copies of any work he does to the teacher …. somehow.

Yes winging it sums it up perfectly. I’m actually quite relaxed about the schooling side. The key is for our son to be in a good place. Assuming he is not at school for this half term, then it’s just about keeping him from falling too far behind the rest of the class. Certainly not looking for him to get gold stars. If keeping his hand in means he gets the school day done in an hour, then so be it. More time for him. More time for him to try and reconnect with his happy side.

The key thing is.

Yes we are doing school but it’s not the priority.