Moving

Here’s the problem with school exams. Sitting in a deathly quiet hall. Surrounded by people who you probably don’t know and if you did know them, what’s the point as you can’t talk. Sat for hours, without moving, writing in silence. The only sounds, the occasional cough (that might be really off putting these days), the rustle of sweet papers being opened and the never ending clicks of the large clock at the front. Then the deafening booming voice – ‘and that’s time, put you pens down’…..

Today Hawklad had a History exam to sit at home. A slightly different exam environment. Sat on a sofa – sometimes. Then pacing around the house to think. A trip to the kitchen to get a piece of cake and soda. Then relocating to his bed to do the long question. All to the tune of music. Some Queen, some Bowie then some Journey. Not forgetting the 2 minute break to give his fingers a rest, best done by tickling the dog’s tummy and kicking a ball around the room.

That’s how Hawklad thinks, works and is most comfortable. Sitting still for more than 10 minutes is stressful, his body needs to be in constant motion. Quiet spooks him. Concentration is done in short bursts then a break. He thinks best when he’s relaxed and moving.

Looking at his completed paper. That free form exam approach works perfectly. Problem is that it isn’t going to be allowed in the final exams. The traditional exam environment is so alien to him. He just can’t perform in that setting. It’s bad for him.

What on earth do we do about that.

Exams

I hated exams. Really hated them. I hated the time pressures. I hated the enforced silence. I hated having to sit still for three hours. I hated the weeks of revision (maybe days, ok maybe hours….) and I really hated realising that I had revised the wrong subjects. That unsettling feeling, gazing round at all the pens scribbling away frantically while my pen was being twiddled in my fingers as I waited for the brain to find just one relevant point to write down.

But I really hated the stress and anxiety which goes with exams. I would make myself ill with worry. I felt terrible. That can’t be healthy or good for a teenager.

Already Hawklad is starting to get significant worries from the impending mock exams. Really bad worries. He’s worried about struggling with understanding the time constraints. He’s worried about his handwriting. He’s worried about the alternative (trying to work with a scribe that he just doesn’t know). He’s worried about not being able to get the stuff in his brain out onto the paper. He’s worried about the pressure causing his dyslexia to return and nit being able to read the questions. He’s worried about having to sit still (he naturally paces around). He’s worried about sitting next to strangers. He’s worried about exam questions that remind him of his anxieties that have beset him. He’s worried about the silence and how that could spark anxiety meltdowns. I could go on but let’s just say the exams are getting to him.

How can all this pressure be anything other than harmful for someone who is battling serious anxiety and phobia issues…..

His main exams are in June next year, although he has to take a couple this year. So what do we do. I’m going to speak to his psychologist for advice but decisions have to be made. I’m not going to let exam worries get to him like they got to me.

White Rose

For those that don’t know Yorkshire is called the White Rose County.

School is a bit of a strange bizzaro world. A world in which most things are back to front and I’m not just talking about my pants 😂😂😂. An education world where Art invades all the subjects except Art. Where Maths becomes Computing. Computing becomes Comic Strip Studies. Where Citizenship becomes Comic Strip Studies. Where Geography becomes Science. Where Science becomes a million ways to learn about ways to get ill and where History becomes Victorian Criminology. You get the picture….

But what is even more unsettling is where the subjects he has elected to go with next year increasingly forget about Hawklad and where the subjects he is dropping within 4 weeks are given him increasing amounts of attention. Where his marks have gone through the roof in soon to be dumped subjects – 89% in one soon to be ex-subject. And in the subjects he is continuing with he is struggling to get hold of the exam paper to even attempt to try them…

And it all starts again tomorrow.

Missed

Apparently Hawklad missed 6 exams last week. That’s a whole lotta exams missed in just one week. On the bright side, Hawklad did complete 5….. 5 out of 11 is almost a pass.

Hawklad completed those 5 exams because the teacher or teaching assistant emailed him the paper. In the 6 he missed something didn’t happen and I just can’t put my finger on what didn’t happen…. Can you.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. The teachers are now tied up in the year above mock exams. It’s another mess. We bury will be so glad to see the back of this school year.

No Surprise

It’s just rained again. No surprise there then….

I’m picking up the courage. The courage to go outside and do some gardening. I have pile of seeds that need planting. I’ve kept putting that off for weeks now. To wet, not enough sun, frosts at night. Problem is that April has gone. Now May is almost left us as well. Our short growing season is getting very short. I did plant some stuff at the start of April but even that has struggled. Plants appeared then stopped growing.

The only exception is one solitary potato plant in a bucket. That one is getting on with growing in this cold weather. I have high hopes for that plant. That plant feels like a winner.

It’s just about making the most of things I guess.

Next week is the school half term week off. Then it’s the school’s year exams. At present we just don’t know how they will work for us. With Hawklad currently being unable to get into school, it makes sitting exams problematic. We have no idea what the plan is. Do school send the papers to us. Does he do them online. At the same time as the other pupils. Or does he do them at a later stage. Does he even sit them. From what I can gather some of the subjects have been sitting practice exams over the last couple of weeks. Hawklad hasn’t…..

For Hawklad it’s just about making the most of things. Getting through to the summer and then it’s decision time. Can he return to school. If he can then is it best for him to learn in the school system or go it alone. Getting on with things regardless of the weather.

Frustration

It looks like Yorkshire. It feels like Yorkshire. Its moody, dark, windy and cold. It is Yorkshire. Some places are perfect for growing olives, oranges, pineapples and coconuts. The climate in some places are just perfect for fantastic wine. Here in Yorkshire the climate is perfect for Rhubard…..says it all doesn’t it.

How difficult can a Science test be.

The answer – a nightmare.

40 minutes to complete 20 questions. Sounds easy. Questions about Pressure, Force, Springs and Moments. Not easy for Hawklad but seemed to get there. Worked stuff out in his head. But that’s only part the story. The real story is trying to get the answers to the teacher. He can answer the questions in his head but then struggles to record them. It’s such an effort to type or write for him that he losses the answers he has in his mind. He can confuse himself or just forget. Even trying to write and type as he goes along doesn’t work, it seems to disrupt his thinking. Ends up going round in circles.

The other option is a scribe. But talking out aloud makes him nervous and makes it harder for him to answer correctly. Often what he describes is different to the answer he has visualised.

How frustrating must that be.

Week whatever

At least we are getting a few glimpses of the sun. But it’s mainly very very dark. For those with good eyesight – you can just see our friendly mole has taken a shine to our neighbours front lawn.

I guess sunshine amongst the darkness is a good way of summing up this weeks school at home project. I think it’s week 7 but I’ve lost any real grip on time.

Some lessons continue to work well. This week PE managed to bring in new exercise routines and somehow find a way of getting the kids to practice cricket fielding skills, in the garden. The teachers have embraced the heaps of resources on the internet. It’s amazing how many coaches and sports stars have uploaded fun things for us mortals to do at home. It also helps that the games teachers are engaging positively and with a real sense of humour with each pupil.

A subject like maths continues to use existing online national teaching resources to run the lessons. Online teaching lessons are followed by online questions. The class teacher keeping an eye on progress and tailoring the online lessons to each child. It’s reflecting how the class operates when the schools are open. It works so well and it does raise the question – can maths become a fully home based lesson when schools start again.

Then the darkness….

We still get lessons which are so formulaic. Here’s some text read it and then answer these questions. The approach never changes. It’s the same approach which is used for each lesson in the classroom. Ok it might work for some kids but for many it just won’t. Talk about trying to make a lesson as dry and boring as possible.

You then get the lessons where content and the knowledge a pupil has is seemingly not assessed. Marking just focuses on spelling mistakes and handwriting neatness. Interestingly the actual English Language subject is one subject which doesn’t use this approach. Some of the most brilliant and talented people I have met seem to have the worst grammar and spelling skills. Surely a pupils understanding of the subject matter must count for something.

Then you come to human nature. Teachers are not robots, they are just like the rest of us. We have those people we like and appreciate. We also have those we don’t get and probably don’t treat as fairly as others. Son has two teachers who just don’t get him. Whatever he does he never seems to get any positive feedback or credit. This week he submitted a piece of work for one of these teachers. I checked it with the marking scheme and his answer definitely went way beyond the standard answer. All the additional marks on offer were definitely covered in his response, and more. The actual teacher marking was predictably distinctly underwhelming. Purely highlighting the negatives. As Son pointed out

No point working harder for this one as it really doesn’t make a difference. Always going to be a C- regardless of the work. I must be the only kid in the class not to get a house point all year from this teacher.

So yep it’s been another dark and light school week. Bring on week 8 (or whatever number it is)….

First rant of the month and then the garden beach

Before anyone says anything this photo was NOT today and not 2020……

It’s a bizarre country which I live in.

A place where British war time spirit and a stiff up lip is the way to defeat this unseen enemywell that’s what our newspapers are claiming. No I think you will find that it’s actually antibodies and vaccines that will do that. Self distancing will help dampen the curve but on its own it will not do the job.

A country which for 10 years has invested heavily in academic testing for an increasingly younger range of school kids. The only principle in UK education is meeting government targets by testing millions of kids, week after week. Test, test, test. Yet the same Government can’t see the importance of testing when it applies to a pandemic. They can’t even provide virus tests for our brave medics and front line carers. Actually the can’t even provide the appropriate protective kit to all our nurses. Suddenly we have a mad scramble for kit, tests and ventilators. It’s not as if the Government didn’t know. Three years ago a study reported to the then Government on how poorly prepared the country was for a pandemic. The Government (including many in the current cabinet) decided to bury the report.

That’s probably why the UK is soon going to have the worst pandemic mortality rate in Europe.

Deep deep sigh and divert gaze to domestic matters.

Dad would you mind if I didn’t do any revision this week for the school tests. Not sure I’m in the right frame of mind for it.”

Given the current climate why on earth is the school doing exams. Oh I forgot – it’s government policy. Can we just give the kids a break. Especially as the tests are based on such a narrow educational range. It’s more about proving to kids what they don’t know and spotlighting their individual weaknesses. What about letting kids show what they are good at, what they do know.

“Ok Son that’s fine with me. When you feel the revision force is with you then if you want to, then do some. If it’s not then just have FUN.”

And that’s what we did. We had to abandon the planned eat some whip cream while bouncing on the trampoline competition. The pigeons who have adopted our garden have now decided to build a nest right next to the trampoline AND it now has eggs. So we opted for plan b and c. Try to make some homemade ice cream. Followed by setting up our very own beach. In the garage I found a couple of old bags of play sand. So that was emptied onto the little patio and the old kiddies paddling pool was filled with water. Shorts and suncream on. An MP3 file of seaside bird and animal sounds was played on my portable music player. Hey presto we are at the beach. Ok we need to work on the beach sounds. The sound of whale songs and walruses fighting are not that common on the Yorkshire coast – but that’s nit picking. As a safe, social distancing adventure it most certainly worked. Now I just need to rebag the sand for our next trip. Maybe it’s to a desert.

Cake test

This was my attempt at baking son’s birthday cake. It’s amazing what heaps of icing can hide. The cake was a bit over baked with a huge volcano like hole at its centre. I plugged the hole with soft sweets and then covered with thick icing. What was left of the sweet packet was scattered on top. I might be onto something here. The soft sweet centre worked brilliantly. As a result the cake was deemed “not too bad at all” which on our sons review scheme equates to just above two Michelin stars. So now that’s got me thinking what other things can I fill the inevitable cake sunken holes with. I’m going for jelly in the next one. I will report back on my test.

On the subject of tests …. ok troops, time to stand by up your beds. Its spelling test time.

School is slipping as we have had only one spelling test this week. So they better make it a doozy.

Imagery

Alliteration

Rhyming

Couplets

Syllables

Stanza

Rhythm

Sonnet

Simile

Metaphor

Hyperbole

Assonance

Personification

Onomatopoeia

Enjambement

Another cracking list of words that will be of great use in son’s future life. My last conversation with school stressed the point

That spelling tests for dyslexic students are not recommended practice. If they have to be used then they should only focus on the most commonly used words.

Good to see the school are sticking to the common words then. I had to look up Enjambement. I was sadly disappointed to find that it wasn’t a Caribbean Cooking term for combining Jackfruit with Jamba Juice. My favourite flying dinosaur (Onomatopoeia) makes a welcome return. Last time I pulled that joke I had a shedload of abuse from my Texan fan club….. For some reason Son can’t say ASSonance without cracking up. Must get to the bottom of that joke.

Don’t mess with the Squirrel

Let’s get the rant quickly out of the way. The UK’s School Minister has opened his mouth again. Remember him. The chap who wants to test kids from the age of 4. The chap who described kids taking time off for bereavement as – an extended holiday. The chap who introduced changes to the teaching of English which severely disadvantaged dyslexic kids – against the advice of health professionals and dyslexia groups. The chap who on several interviews refused to answer any of the questions he was expecting kids to answer. Well now he has told schools and parents what to do in terms of the Coronavirus. Even if the school gets a suspected case then parents should send their kids to school as normal. Schools should remain open. This contrasted with the Chief Medical Officer who yesterday was talking about the potential of closing schools for two months if the virus started to spread in the UK. Well the Schools Minister can take a running jump. He is the last person I would trust my child’s wellbeing with. If it comes to this decision then I will make the call not this over promoted pompous twat. Rant over….

I’ve just been bullied by a squirrel…..

I went out to feed the wildlife in the garden. The usual collection of birds and a squirrel waited not so patiently to be fed. I had a couple of uneaten pancakes to add to the usual menu. As I kneeled down to tear the pancakes up into little pieces the squirrel moved in. He grabbed both pancakes out of my grasp. He wasn’t waiting or sharing these goodies. I did try to have words with the bushy tailed one. But clearly somebody wasn’t listening today. At least somebody likes my pancakes.