Pesky minus

Autumn is here. The Swallows and Swifts have left for warmer climes. Today felt cold even under a thick hoody.

Hawklad is making great strides on the dyslexia front. His reading is really good, now able to read History Textbooks. It’s hard to believe that back in 2020 he struggled to read books aimed at 6 and 7 year olds and school had decided that he would never read, so there was no point trying anymore. Sadly I realise they never really started trying in the first place. I had even gone out and bought a reading pen. He can now accurately read maybe 80% of the words then he can make educated guesses on most of the other ones. It works for him and that’s all that matters.

What is still very much a work in progress is his number dyslexia. He has finally conquered his difficultly with 4 and 7’s. Getting the two mixed up and often writing the two numbers back to front. But he just can’t break the roadblocks that are decimal points, fractions and minuses. Today he was easily expanding out complex equations, yet he would immediately grind to a halt when faced with something like +5-7. He just can’t visualise that. The problem is at home I can gently help with that, but in an exam there is no help.

This week has also highlighted another school stumbling block with reading. SHAKESPEARE. Hawklad’s way of reading just can’t cope with Shakespearean language and spellings.

And I will take thy word: yet if thou swear’st,

An open et caetera, thou a poperin pear!

I did try to read the sonnets to him but I struggle with Shakespeare as well. Plus according to Hawklad when I read, my character voice sounds like I’m reading parts from a SpongeBob cartoon. My Romeo apparently is a dead ringer for Patrick. But at least we have a solution to this one. Just watch the play on thou swear’st Netflix.

Summer going

Where did that summer school break go. Just over a week left now and the weather is suitably moody as well.

Something hasn’t really properly sunk in until now. This is Hawklad’s last proper school summer holiday. He leaves school in under one year now. Yes some will get another summer break before college starts but others could jump into a job straight away – official end of childhood according to society.

Where did those years go.

Still no clearer on the educational path ahead. Kinda feeling like I’m going round in circles as a parent. What’s right, what’s wrong, what works, what might not work. What’s best for Hawklad’s future, what’s best for Hawklad now.

I really don’t know anymore.

One thing I do know for sure. I wish I could reset this summer break. Go back 5 weeks and make SUMMER last just that bit longer. Hawklad probably needs that. I definitely need that.

Autumn….

You can almost feel the nights drawing in.

A conversation today with Hawklad’s lead Clinician kinda confirmed the Plan A course. It’s been increasingly the likely path. Support which now comes his way from the NHS will not focus on a return to the school classroom. It will shift towards trying to get him ready for sitting exams in 10 months time, but sitting them away from the main group of pupils. A neutral, non school location. Plus the long term goal is to see if they can help him start College after this year is finished. They will issue a ‘can’t currently return to classroom note on medical grounds’. That is a relief as The Government is pressuring schools to start fining parents for keeping children away from school, even when the parent believes it’s in the child’s best interest.

So another year of school at home beckons, maybe it’s will end up being a full on homeschooling approach. Better stock up on the coffee then. Oh hang on, I’ve quit caffeine. Better stock up on Donuts then…..

Rainbows

Maybe there is a pot of gold there.

Now there are just under 3 weeks until the school opens it doors again. No news on the proposed school plan for Hawklad’s exam year. I know how school works, we won’t hear a thing until at least a few days into the new academic year. Will he get the few hours of one to one support that we have requested. Will they install the technology that would allow him to remotely attend classes. Will school just pull him from exams as they clearly feel he is a risk to their overall exam performance (already they have pulled him from two subjects). Have they looked into alternatives to exams if he is unable to sit them or they just don’t let him sit them. If he was to return to classes have they put in the plans that they promised.

One thing school has never got its head round is that Hawklad needs certainties. He needs to know what is going on, to have a plan and then he can build to it. Anxieties spike when there is uncertainty. I have repeatedly told school this, health professionals have told school this. Yet every year he starts school with no plan. He doesn’t know his teachers, his timetable, what support (or lack of support) he will get. This year he still doesn’t even know which subjects if any that he will sittings exams in, just under 10 months away now. This is starting to be deeply unsettling for him, this anxiety will just keep building.

Maybe that educational pot of gold is there. School will deliver. All we can do is wait for the rainbow to appear, unfortunately we never really know when that will be.

Heritage 2

A trip to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire. It’s a seriously atmospheric and stunning location.

It gets really busy here in the summer so it was an early start. Do as much as we can until the crowds get too much for Hawklad and then it’s a quick exit.

The trip went well. Almost first in the queue when the site opened and for a couple of hours, Hawklad had his much needed space. Precious moments in the 11th century Cistercian Monastery. Precious moments spent without touching anything, spent maintaining distances. Hawklad spent the time dreaming and instructing me on history. Well mostly…

Stood under this amazing rood structure and I asked Hawklad to enlighten me, to teach me something. He instantly described some interesting facts about Starfish reproduction. I must have had one of those slightly confused looks that parents develop increasingly to which he replied.

“Oh you wanted some information about the monasteries….”

History comes alive when you can see it, touch it, smell it. We have so much history on our doorsteps. Bronze Age, Roman, Viking, Saxon, Norman and onwards, all within a short drive of the schools. So why is school history exclusively learnt via textbooks. Not one single school trip to a experience history. What a missed opportunity.

Then the crowds started to arrive, scores of family picnics breaking out everywhere. Time to leave. Time for our picnic but ours is taken away from view, a remote road lay-by with a view. Then it’s a scenic route home.

Definitely a decent trip out but still a million miles from returning to the classroom. I think we can safely say that won’t be happening in just over 3 weeks now.

Door

A random door appeared in the village today. I wonder which world it leads to. I wasn’t brave enough to open it this time, maybe the child in me might have a few years back.

A closer inspection revealed a note, ‘free to a good home’. Is that referring to the wooden door or the world behind it.

Just over 5 weeks now until school reopens. A return to the classroom appearing to be a more distant prospect than the mystery world behind that white door. Constant hand washing, repeated clothing changes, inability to touch any alien surfaces, unable to be physically close to others, debilitating anxieties bubbling just under the surface. In a quiet, peaceful village with few people and much space, this is manageable. In a classroom and overcrowded school, definitely not currently manageable.

So let’s try to make this summer holiday time as fun and as relaxing as possible. Let’s see where the education door leads Hawklad when it’s time to open it……

July Flowers

The end of July brings the start of the six week school holiday. Wow was that welcome. School had worn pupil and parent down. I’m sure the teachers would say a similar thing. Why does it have to be such a grind for everyone.

This year school kinda just fizzled out, hardly the stuff of an Alice Cooper epic single.

The work and contact with teachers just ebbed away over the last few weeks. Hours and Days would pass where school made no contact with Hawklad. Occasionally work would come appear on the online system. One subject teacher would send an email before some of the lessons providing a two line guide on the upcoming lesson. Nothing from the other teachers. Work dutifully submitted was never marked. Eventually it all just dwindled away into nothing. Finally the last day came and went with complete radio silence. Around midday Hawklad kinda shrugged his shoulders and whispered

I guess that’s it then, might as well blast out SCHOOLS OUT FOR SUMMER then”

And with that the school year ended. No goodbyes. No enjoy the summer. No date to return. No plan for September. Is the school signalling that Hawklad is on his own. NO IDEA. But at least Alice Cooper cranked up to 11 never fails to deliver.

SCHOOLS OUT but for how long.

Pushy

The farmer playing real life MINECRAFT.

Day One of the Two Day Heatwave. Todays garden temperature from our mini weather station hiding in the shade was….

That is ridiculously hot for Yorkshire, unheard of. The forecast is that it goes even higher tomorrow. At this rate I might have to take my jumper off. Unbelievably, it was so hot that Hawklad put shorts on, WOW, the last time that happened was when he was at nursery.

You can only fire water pistols for so many hours. Well if the school doesn’t send any work, you have to improvise the learning day….. So as we sheltered inside for a few moments and dried out, I tried to get my head round the Government’s latest ideas to sort out the Special Education mess. From what I can see it’s about replacing one mess with another mess while saving a bit more money….

Currently parents have to jump through a seemingly never ending number of ever shrinking hoops until their child gets a Plan approved (or mostly doesn’t). It’s a process which forces shellshocked parents to take on the mighty big bureaucracy. The lucky few emerge with a plan that is supposed to identify needs to be met. A personalised budget is then awarded to the child to help fund this. Sounds promising but what then tends to happen is that the big bad bureaucracy then says

You now have to give us that money back and that buys you a place in a mainstream school. No money no place. That money then pays for general teaching assistants who the school then use to help out teachers. They provide no dedicated help to Special Needs pupils. Then the big bad bureaucracy talks up the idea that PUSHY parents get this gold plated education for the lucky child. PUSHY parents are taking money from the majority of other pupils. This sets parent against parent while the special need pupil is mostly left without support. That’s the current system.

The new proposed system seems to be, keep the same nightmare approval process, make it harder but add in a bit of mediation when the application is almost inevitably rejected. If you do fluke it through to getting approval then rather than bothering identifying individual child need, parents are just offered a standard ‘one size fits all’ solution. Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t suit the individual child, at least we are saving money and it’s much easier to administer.

So it’s a mess and if it changes it’s going to be just another mess, but cheaper.

Sigh, breathe deeply and slump a bit lower in the chair. Definitely time for water pistols…..

Harvesting

The farmer is hard at work in the fields. Whatever it takes.

We have a real problem with education in the UK. Too much potential is missed. Too many pupils are served up factory production line schooling which is about the needs of the system rather than the needs of the individual child. If you don’t fit the expected mould then you are discarded.

The farmer chooses to focus on the crops that provide him with what he needs to keep going.

What a perfect indication of the health of the UK’s education system than hearing one of the loathsome, self absorbed candidates standing to be our next Prime Minister talking about a disabled child needing to go to a special school because ‘disabled children are generally aren’t intelligent enough’ to go to a mainstream school.

Unbelievable.

Unforgivable.

Lost for words……

Sadly it’s not an isolated view……

Had a long video meeting with school today about Hawklad. Call me NAIVE but I thought school might have been just a tad POSITIVE. A pupil against the odds teaching himself to read when school told him it was beyond him. From having a reading age of about 6 years behind the expected school standard to now reading History Texts without assistance. All achieved through his hard work in just over 2 years. A pupil who is getting really great marks in the exams and tests he sits at home. Definitely NAIVE I am.

‘We are concerned that his marks aren’t reflective of the true position”

“Are you sure that you are not helping him, or he is using GOOGLE to answer questions”

“He is performing way ahead of his predicted attainment levels”

“So he wants to go to college. Has he thought about some more vocational routes rather than college. He may probably not meet Our College’s entry requirements. College might be beyond his academic levels. Don’t want to disappoint him .”

“Other colleges and places might have offerings more suited to his level and requirements.”

“Unless he can demonstrate he can perform in formal exams then there is little we can do, course work and home work doesn’t really count these days. That’s how the system works….”

SPEECHLESS……

School can’t seem to get their head round the sad irony that he learnt to read and overcome his dyslexia when he was REMOVED from their CLASSROOM environment. Like too many pupils with dyslexia, with special educational needs, they are just dumped into the bottom set with minimal help. Assumptions are made on low attainment levels. To get even the most minimal help they are required to put their hand up in front of the rest of the class and admit they are struggling. That is never going to happen long term, occasionally when Hawklad did that, other kids poked fun at him. The teachers often focusing on those pupils with the worst behaviour so even if the hand went up, help never arrived. So he stopped putting his hand up and he started to fall behind. This is not an isolated case, it’s sadly reflective of modern UK schooling. It’s all about EXAMS. Schools become EXCELLENT because of exam results not because they meet individual educational needs. This school is no different to most schools here.

In the UK we have a looming food production crisis because we have become too dependent on factory, one big size fits all farming….

The school term finishes in a weeks time. Then it’s a 6 week break. I’m discussing with Hawklad what he wants to do. It’s his future. It’s has to be his call but I know what I would do in an instant if it was my call. Why does it feel like the school system is working against him.

Stress

Well that was real fun, a first…..

It’s been over 2 years of Hawklad being off from school. Over two years of trying to replicate what is going on in the classroom, from a living room 12 miles away. In all that time the link with school has been hit and miss. But this week was the first time we had no contact from school. Absolutely no contact. Yes we tried to see if any files had appeared on the online school system, but absolutely nothing was sent from a teacher or teaching assistant. Where he found work, Hawklad submitted it but it always remained unmarked. He was due to sit a couple of exams at home but nothing arrived. Hawklad could have been sat playing computer games or walking round Disney all week and school would not have realised. There was a time when school asked each day for evidence that Hawklad was following the classes, an online register, but that was dropped.

I was getting stressed out about school, on top of getting stressed out about work, on top of all the stress which seemingly has become such a part of this currently mad world. Definitely stressed out. Going round in never ending stress circles. I had to break the circle so I found myself walking across a wild meadow. Still stressed out. Now the walk was stressing me out. I couldn’t stop worrying about stuff. Living in a world full of stress. Then a realisation, this is kinda like how Hawklad gets. Stressed out about everything. Not being able to break out of the entrapment. This isn’t healthy. So what do I say to him. Be happy. Remember the important stuff, remember the good things. We are NOT at home if Mr Worry knocks on the door. If you can do something about a worry then do it, don’t let it eat away at you. Find things you like doing, distract yourself from all the stuff you can’t do anything about and try to breath and have fun.

As I stood in that field, stressed out, I thought….

I really need to come up with catchier advice….

I do talk some rubbish…..

Easier said than done……

Why did I give up caffeine…..

But eventually I did actually follow my own advice. I drafted a work ‘I quit email’. I drafted a ‘Hawklad quits school’ email. That helped. Knowing I can just press one send button and two big headaches disappear. Ok it might create other other issues but at least they would be our created ones which we could better control. I also agreed with Hawklad that if school can’t be bothered then STUFF waiting for them. We might as well do some day trips than wait in school if nothing is coming from them.

Now I’m a lot less stressed out. Yep, I should listen to my own advice occasionally.