Planning pt 1

A carefully planned day trip. A trip 140 miles north up the coast. To deepest Northumberland. To the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. A stunning tidal island set in the North Sea. To reach it you need to cross a one mile causeway which disappears when the tide comes in. Saint Aidan founded a Monastery here in 635AD. Even today you can see why.

So much planning was needed. Time the arrival as the tide was just revealing the causeway. Stay just long enough before the crowds arrived.

Unbelievably the plan worked. Hawklad got his day out with few crowds. That is definitely the blueprint for trying to expand his world on HIS TERMS.

Waters

Why is it that as I get older my body rejects more and more food and drink. More foods and drinks that it struggles with. AND why is it always the stuff I love. It’s never broccoli or cauliflower or beetroot.

When I mentioned that to Hawklad he simply sighed, shrugged his shoulders and reflected on life.

“It’s because you love the really unhealthy things…..”

There is that…..

Water is good but add shed loads of full on coffee and it’s not so good anymore. Ice is good but add bucket loads of Cream and …….

I guess it’s just like education. Learning is good but add too much British Schooling and sadly ……

Am I being unfair, probably so but it’s sometimes hard not to be. Up to 12 months ago Hawklad loved HISTORY. REALLY LOVED IT. He loved learning about History. He loved learning about details, facts, dates, people. He couldn’t get enough of it. But then the school HISTORY syllabus hit. He has zero interest in Victorian Crime and Serial Killers. He didn’t want to learn about the details of infamous crimes and punishments (month after month). Today I found him staring into space. School history lessons finally moved on from Jack the Ripper. Now he is having to learn about the development of the American Cattle Ranching Industry after the Civil War. Unfortunately that is just not Hawklad. He is rapidly falling out of love with History. He is falling out of love with learning.

That can’t be healthy or right. Is it so hard to tailor learning to the individual. Clearly so as this afternoon hours were spent trying to parrot learn Ionic Chemical Equations. Guess what

More hours of Hawklad staring vaguely into space.

Should it really have to be like this.

Recharge

Another day, another one of those days……

Absolutely no sign of the sun. Unremittingly damp, cold and bleak. Our poor outdoor solar festive lights have now officially gone on strike. Switch them on and there is just about enough power generated to muster a dim flicker and then nothing.

I can’t begin to tell you just how wet and muddy I got on today’s walk. but it was still good to be outside. There is always things to see.

That is a seriously impressive Hay Snake.

Yesterday I talked about the fantastic reading progress Hawklad has made. Reading history textbooks is a real statement. But things are never straightforward. He still really struggles with writing. Getting his ideas out on paper. Here his dyslexia still dominates. His handwriting just won’t develop. His typing is laboured and inaccurate. His ideas don’t reach the paper.

He feels so much frustration when he can’t make much progress in this area. And he does feel real frustration. He can now read. He has an amazing mind and can visualise things that are way beyond me. Ask him something like to list all the British Monarchs in order, and it’s a breeze for him. Ask him who where the defendants at Nuremberg and he can name them, including the verdicts. Ask him to work out a complex sum in his head and he can do it effortlessly. Yet ask him to add to simple decimals together and he is lost. Ask him to tell the time and as hard as he tries, he just can’t. Ask him to list the alphabet and he just can’t get the order right after D.

It’s tough seeing your son get so down on himself. I feel his frustration intensely. As a parent you feel like you have run out of ideas. It’s impossible to not get down on yourself as well. But that’s not helping anyone. When tomorrow comes and Hawklad is again trying his heart out, and he will. He hasn’t given up. He won’t give up. I’m the one who needs to get going again. So that’s why those walks in nature are so important. Even in bad weather and unlike those solar lights, I do recharge. So we can try again tomorrow.

Cobwebs

It’s that autumnal time of year for cobwebs. The local world is covered in them. Definitely another great reason to go outside. That one is almost good enough to play tennis with.

If only the cobwebs didn’t extend to my brain…..

Trying to show Hawklad how you work this little beauty out.

If 9 grams of water is decomposed, how many grams of oxygen and hydrogen are obtained?

If only it was just this one question. Another 30 questions of increasingly fiendish difficulty are facing Hawklad. As his science expert (🥸🥸🥸🤪🤪🤪) it was my job to explain that to him. Oh the brain cobwebs. That part of my brain has been much neglected over the many years since leaving university. Strangely no cobwebs in the parts of the brain that could answer questions like

Who won the FACUP in 1955?

Who played the hero scientist in Quatermass and the Pit?

Name all the characters in The Penguins of Madagascar?

Recite every word from The Dead Parrot sketch?

But sadly chemistry has much cobwebbing for some peculiar reason. So after 90 minutes of mental short circuiting I asked the next question with some trepidation.

What’s the next lesson?

Its History Dad. All about the 1542 Witchcraft Act.

Oooohhhhh. #@##%##@…..

It’s ok Dad, we have unbelievably done that before. I’m good on that. You can stand down for 90 minutes and have a rest.

The 1542 Witchcraft Act is clearly a horrible moment in our history but I get a rest, so for one day only, it’s gone up in my estimation. Does that make me a bad parent…….

Outings Part 1

It’s autumn and it’s about to rain – AGAIN.

Maybe it’s just Hawklad’s Secondary School (11-16 age) but what happened to School Trips. Ok a Pandemic hasn’t helped but even before that kicked in, where are the school outings. At his last school they would go out once every term on a school trip. Always to places that supported a current learning objective. Trip to places like castles or Viking sites that fitted in with History. Trips to churches and mosques to support RE. Trips to plays to support English and Drama. Trips to the countryside to look at Geographic Features. Trips to local science labs to foster interest in Science. Trips to Sporting Venues to encourage PE. It’s been so different at his current school.

Before the Pandemic kicked in NOT ONE educational school trip out for Hawklad. A few pupils got the chance of a trip to France to see war sites, but spaces were limited. With so much available on the schools doorsteps. So much History, Geography, Science, Religion. Why don’t the school use it. One of the best learning tools is surely to put the textbooks down and actually experince what your learning about. To see, touch, smell the subject.

Why am I always so at odds with modern schooling in Britain. Surely there is more to education than just trying to increase the length of the school day and reintroduce Victorian discipline into the classrooms.

Crime and punishment

The sun sets on another day. Closer to another school at home week. Yes that’s right – no return to the classroom yet. Actually that might not be such a bad thing.

I’ve mentioned this before but I find some of the syllabus just completely baffling.

Hawklad loves History. He really loves History. I’ve never seen him ever find History anything other than awesome. He has a passion for it. Until now. Until the School History Programme. One third of the course is on Crime and Punishment. So far he has spent weeks learning about Jack The Ripper, Victorian violent crime and Capital Punishment. He has months more of this to come.

Yesterday Hawklad said that he was finding this all seriously disturbing. It was making him really anxious and stressed out. A few phrases struck home

“I found some of the images really disturbing.”

Some of the crime descriptions and autopsy details I just can’t get out of my mind.”

It’s putting me off History…..”

This is school history, it’s not criminology, it’s not a Stephen King Horror Novel. I know history will often have to cover really distressing topics but does that really have to include graphic details about a notorious serial killers crimes. Yes they are graphic….. Of all the history in the world to go for and the Authorities had to pick this. I know the Government has a bit of a fetish about Victorian times. They like to hark back to ‘good old’ Victorian Values. Why… Is it about the unrestrained power of the rich that is appealing or is it the downtrodden lifestyles of those without. Maybe it’s those in charge liking the idea of having Victorian punishment regimes at their finger tips. But whatever the reason, do we really have to suck our children’s education into this area as well.

“It’s putting me of History”. A subject he loves. Not on my watch…..

Summer holidays

So we are deep into the Summer School Holidays. Actually in Yorkshire they should be rebranded as the ‘Are you kidding me, is this really supposed to be summer’ School Holidays.

Currently I’m thinking about some of the things Hawklad gets up to and contrasting them back to my school ‘summer’ holidays. Bearing in mind that this was before home computing and just prior to the mass dinosaur extinction. Back then my brain was officially switched off for 6 weeks. Sharks think they are so clever when they can shut down half the brain for sleep but keep the other part of the brain functioning so they can still swim. What’s really special is me shutting all of my brain down for the entire summer holiday and still managing to occasionally get out of bed by lunchtime. I didn’t need the brain to find Dads secret chocolate stash each day. That tin in his garage was always filled with chocolate cigarettes – wow how things have changed. I could also just about name Newcastle United’s upcoming fixtures. That was the sum of my holiday brain work.

Now contrast that with this ‘summer’ holiday. Hawklad is memorising the French kings and queens. He’s learning the outcome of every case that went before the Nuremberg War Trials. He’s also trying to improve his knowledge on UK Sea Birds. He has also been watching every season of the American version of The Office on the TV while at the same time also watching a YouTube series about the Roman Empire on his tablet. Apparently he can only get through both series in the 6 weeks if he watches them at the same time. That’s in between playing online with his friend who has covid and trying to build bridges to the outside world again.

Has he really got 50% of my genes or are those genes just heavily concentrated in his bushy eyelashes.

Kirkham

Kirkham is a former Augustinian Priory that was founded in 1120. It was active until 1539 when it was surrendered as part of the King’s dissolution of the monasteries.

During WWII it was used as a test site for the D-Day Landing preparations. A site so important that it was visited by the King and Winston Churchill.

It’s amazing that there was anything left at all after that.

It’s now been visited by Hawklad. Far less destructive.

Another important step.

A full car park but a large enough site that no one hardly ever came too close. As Hawklad points out, about 30m is the sweet spot. The ideal social distancing. Any closer than that and people start to make him uncomfortable. It doesn’t seem much but that is progress. At least we don’t run for cover at the first sight of others….

A couple of times the 30m gap was broached. Once by a friendly Alsatian, that was acceptable. Once by a woman about my age. This resulted in Hawklad pulling his hoody over his head in Sith Lord style and he gave her the full Paddington stare. When that failed to work he decided to hide behind a large piece of history until she had walked off. I later asked why he didn’t put his mask on. The response was worryingly ‘I really wanted to but no one else was wearing them and I didn’t want to stand out’.

That social pressure is a concern. If he does return to the classroom in September then it will only work if he can take the steps he needs to manage his anxieties. The worst thing would be if he was forced into situations that he is really uncomfortable with. If the class doesn’t wear masks then will he wear his when he needs it.

So yes another step forward but there are so many more still to be taken.

Abbey

Bylands Abbey which is not far from our home. We are blessed with so much history on our doorstep. There has been an abbey on this site since 1135. Bylands grew to be one of the most important monasteries in the country. It’s church was described as one the finest in Europe during the 12th century. At its peak it was home to 36 monks and 100 lay brothers. It was closed in 1538 as part of Henry VIII’s suppression of the monasteries.

Late afternoon we ventured here. The weather had been grim but was slowly improving. It seemed the perfect time and place for Hawklad to test just how much progress he had made with connecting again with the wider world again. His favourite subject, HISTORY and likely to quiet.

At the start it was a little too quiet for the test. We had the site completely to ourselves. There are places which have a special atmosphere. This is certainly one of them. You could definitely hear the echos of the past.

After a while a few other brave souls arrived. A couple of families. Some rather damp walkers. A well behaved dog. I dread to think the damage Captain Chaos could cause if he was given free reign here. The dissolution of the monasteries would have happened so much quicker if only it had been left to a mad pup.

It’s a pretty big, open site but to Hawklad it shrank rather too quickly. No one got too close, Hawklad made sure of that. He noted that no one had masks on. He wanted to put his on but felt self conscious. Even when I put mine on he still declined. He made sure not to touch any surfaces. The visit changed in nature. From a fun historic walk to anxious glances and nerves. Within a few minutes Hawklad was rapidly heading towards the exit and the safety of the car.

So he made another visit. It’s a step in the right direction. But it also highlighted just how far he still has to venture. Even small numbers of strange faces are enough to throw him. That’s outside and not inside. Inside would be such a test. A test he may face sooner rather than later if he is to return to school in September.

Odd choice

Thousands of years of history. A world of unique and fascinating areas for schools to study.

Hawklad’s favourite subject. He loves absorbing and living bygone places and events. Already he has an in-depth knowledge of Britain’s Kings and Queen’s dating back before 1066. He’s pretty hot on the Roman Empire. During lockdown he has developed real expertise in Hitler and German fascism. These all were developed largely without school help.

Now he us keen to expand his knowledge into ancient Egypt and the French Revolution.

It would be nice if the school system would run with this desire to learn. Sadly the UK state school system has developed a Henry Ford approach. You can have any learning as long as it’s only the one that is imposed on pupils. One learning fits all approach.

So what subjects will school history focus on for the remainder of his schools days.

Russian Tsars – ok Hawklad can live with that one

American Wild West ok

Victorian Crime and Punishment……

I’m sorry he has zero interest in that. Learning graphic details of the Ripper Crimes is not his thing. He struggles to even think about this area due to his anxieties. Effectively a third of his best subject course and exam is likely to cause him severe stress.

Of all the fantastic areas they could have picked and they went for this. When did History effectively become Criminology. So a complete school stay and no European history (apart from the two world wars), no ancient history. Here’s what really bugs me. Hawklad’s school history has failed to look at some of the great historical figures. Nero, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Martin Luther, Louis XIV, Charlemagne, Constantine the Great. Nothing. Yet Jack the Ripper gets shed loads of focus.

Some might want that, but many won’t.

Here’s a radical thought. Let the pupils have discretion to pick from a wide range of subject interests. That’s how you great a true lifelong spirit of learning.