Another brick….

A cold chill blowing across the Moors. It might be June but it’s feeling more like November. Spot the well hidden, very secret military listening base in the distance.

They hid that one well 🤣🤣🤣🤣

I wonder if those at the base will listen in to me having a rant about education, AGAIN. If they are listening well can you record the next message. Boris Johnson has blood on his hands, he’s taking us all for fools and he should be in prison….

Anyway I’m GNARLY today…..

School finally sent through a bundle of mock exam papers. No instructions, so I guess it’s work through them under exam conditions and send them back for marking. So poor Hawklad sat the first paper today. In the living room wearing his Ron from Parks & Recreation T-shirt. You never see Ron and Ned Flanders in the same room together – just saying.

Anyway back to the two hour home sat mock exam. We tried near enough exam conditions. No help, no books, no internet, no extra time. But he could get up and walk about. No need to put a hand up to go to the toilet. If he wanted to get a snack from the kitchen, he could. Exams stop children doing what comes naturally to them. Modern day Victorian enslavement.

I am GNARLY…..

After the exam I checked how it went….

Hawklad struggled. Clearly in this subject much of what has been taught in the classroom has not found it’s way here. You can’t revise if you not taught the area first….. Then we come to the exam paper wording. Do this and you fail, don’t do this and you fail, your not allowed to do this…. Is it possible to make the instructions more cold and foreboding. And then the question wording. They’re not exactly brief…. Not exactly clear. Misread one key word and you’re stuffed. The convoluted wording is often open to multiple interpretations but only one will get you marks. That is a nightmare for pupils under pressure and stress. That is a nightmare for those who struggle with reading skills. It’s a nightmare for kids like Hawklad who often interpret things in different ways, who can read most of the words but occasionally get the odd word wrong.

Hawklad talked about two questions in particular that really spooked him. I’m not at all surprised. I have a Masters Degree in this area, I’ve worked for years doing things covered in these two questions. One question involved working out an angle. A seriously complex problem to solve that I would describe as a two coffee solution. I would need at least two coffees to work this one out. How can that be a fair school exam question. The other question involved completing a technical drawing of a complex 3D shape. I’m not entirely sure I could ever do it by hand, maybe with an online drawing package. If your going to do this as a question surely you use a far simpler shape that gives the pupils a chance of completing while under pressure. Again….

How can this be a fair question….

Why do we let our children go through this. The stress of exams. Some are good in exams, many are definitely not. Countless studies have shown the negative impact exam pressure can have on mental health. And why, what are they trying to achieve. These exams are not about showing what the child can do, it’s about showing what they can’t do. Exams like this are setting many up to fail. It’s definitely not about finding the special talents that every single child will have. They are only about filtering out, child weeding based on such a narrow, arcane part of life. PINK FLOYD definitely got it right with Another Brick in the Wall.

Look at the state of those in charge of The UK and you realise that the education system just doesn’t work. It definitely doesn’t work for the children.

Punishment

A much needed late afternoon walk. Feels like we have the place to ourselves.

Next week the School starts the mock exams for Hawklad’s Year Group. We are still waiting to hear what the arrangements are for Hawklad as he is still not in school. We know when the exams are and the clock is ticking. We are assuming he is sitting them in some form so he has been revising. Like for most of us – he is not enjoying the experience. But he is trying. Many pupils will be trying. I wish certain teachers would realise that.

One particular Teacher approaches revising by setting shed loads of homework. And I mean SHED LOADS. Question after question. But also setting tasks such as getting pupils to write out detailed revision notes and then submit them so that the teacher can make sure sufficient work is being undertaken. If a pupil doesn’t complete all the set homework then punishments will be issued. The Teacher emailed all her class and emphasised that if all the homework was not completed by the end of the weekend to a high standard then Detentions will be issued…..

Hawklad asked me how School would operate a DETENTION if he was issued with one. I gave this much thought since we don’t have a suitable classroom. Best option would be to send him into the back room. The room which has his XBOX which I’m sure will be ON.

Hawklad just doesn’t learn facts by writing out comprehensive neat revision notes. His mind doesn’t work like that. He watches videos and podcasts. He reads books. He thinks about stuff while pacing around the house. He creates images and visual maps in his mind. That’s how things stick for him. That’s certainly not helped by the threat of detentions for doing things that just don’t work for him.

I’ve emailed the teacher to explain this and stressed that revision notes will not be submitted. Maybe I will get a detention as well. Maybe we can play FIFA 21 together while serving our punishment.

Detention might be a good break from the chores of revision.

Eggs

Still not feeling very Spring like.

Somebody’s been busy….

These EGGS make a cracking Egg and Soldiers. Mighty fine very local honey as well. Every few months the Bees do a mighty impressive fly past directly over our house. There is something much more regular than that. Every morning the Cockerel provides a morning alarm call at 6am. Not always welcome.

If only we could bribe the big fella to call out at other times. Hawklad would appreciate that. He really struggles to get the concept of time. Digital or Analog, doesn’t matter, he just struggles to tell the time. Sometimes he can work it out but it’s a real effort. Thankfully he can use his iPad to read out the time for him and to set alarms.

Unfortunately iPad audible alarms and time prompts are not allowed in the exams. Exam timekeeping will be a huge issue for him. So as Hawklad pointed out, “I wonder if they would rather me take the cockerel into the exam hall instead.”

Why not, I bet Cockerels are not specifically mentioned in the regulations.

Not ready.

Another weekend has come and gone. Again just the two of us. Talks in the garden, walks around the deserted fields. Occasionally passing a fellow dog walker in the village, bringing just a quick nod. No deliveries. No postman. No sign of the neighbours. No phone calls.

Here some are starting to ignore the Government line that Covid is under control. Numbers are rising rapidly here. The hospitals are stretched again. So people are far less likely to stop and talk, preferring a quick shout from across the road.

That is adding to the isolation feel here.

We did look at visiting somewhere else, Hawklad fancied a historic site but the online booking systems clearly showed that there where extremely busy. So we stayed put. A weekend at home. Not using the car saved a bucket load of cash.

The last person I had a conversation with before the weekend was with his health professional. When I raised the school pushing for him to sit exams, she was clear. A clear “ he is not ready, not ready at all for that, he is potentially months or more likely much longer away from being anywhere near ready for classrooms or exams’. So let’s see what schools attitude is when I convey that message to them.

Where did that go

A weekend walk across the surrounding fields. No rain but the ground doesn’t need any more, it’s got enough to spare already.

The farmer has been busy.

Where did that weekend go. It was supposed to be a time to unwind. Much needed on Friday when homeschooling shut its doors but then in a blink of an eye it’s early Monday morning. In just a few hours the school week starts again. Why do I feel so tired. Not physically, just mentally. Probably the same reason Hawklad is starting to struggle so much with his schooling motivation. As he said yesterday – “I’m not learning anything interesting from school and I might not even get any qualifications out of it, what is all the effort for.”

So we plod on again this week. Plod feels like the perfect word for the schooling experience.

I remember a conversation we had a couple of years back. Talking about school. One throw away line from Hawklad sticks in my mind. It was something like…..

“Dad for a few thousand pounds I could go to wrestling school where they teach you how to wrestle. I might get more out of those few weeks than I end up getting out of all these years at school….”

Sadly he might have been right……

Views

Look in one direction.

Then spin round on the same spot and look in the other direction.

Which water filled view is best?

A late winter walk around the Yorkshire Arboretum. Very good for the soul. Much needed…..

Exam diary dates emailed today. Two key ones in May, then another eight next May. Here’s the problem. The latest medical advice is that Hawklad is probably not going to be in any sort of position to sit any exam over that time frame. The expert opinion is that he desperately needs an extended period of many months (maybe longer) without anymore stress. That’s the only way he is likely to be able to start to get on top of his current anxieties. Sadly this is an increasingly excessively troubled and stress filled world . Exams (regardless of where Hawklad sits then) will only make things worse. The exam buildup and exam environment just do not suit him, they in fact work against him.

But then leaving school without any qualifications is also filling Hawklad with worries.

What to do, what to do.

Vexing exams

Why is school so vexing. Do all parents end up feeling this way.

Important exams start tomorrow. Well I think they start tomorrow. This is based on three bits of evidence

1) One teacher has sent a calendar invite for something called an ‘Exam’ is his subject. To be fair to him he has also sent some revision notes. I can live with that…..

2) Many of the other classes have disappeared, I assume they have been revising.

3) A PE teacher emailed Hawklad’s Year Group this evening to tell them that Netball was cancelled tomorrow due to ‘your exams in the main hall’.

So important Exams I guess start tomorrow. Not sure if Hawklad is sitting them or not. Can we do them at home or not. If so are they online or written. When are they. What happens if he is not sitting them. Why are they important.

We wait with baited breath for news. Yes, school is most VEXING.

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.