Hermione

On the other side of this Bush is a stunning view yet it’s blocked by plant beauty.

Our Son loves history. You often see him watching very in-depth documentaries about a vast range of historical subjects

  • Romans
  • Viking
  • Pharaohs
  • Greeks
  • Persians
  • Incas
  • American Presidents
  • British Kings and Queens
  • Battles and Wars
  • and on and on

Unfortunately he doesn’t get the chance to extend this knowledge at school (yet).

It’s probably due to being put in the bottom set due to his dyslexia but the teaching is at such a low level. Son says he will keep watching historical videos as it’s the only way he learns anything new. He smiles when he calls himself the Hermione Granger of the History class. If the teacher asks a question he is always the first hand up but is never selected to answer.

I think one incident really sums up the problem.

In a test the class were asked to name facts about King John. Our Son then provided an in-depth answer which talked about

  • When King Richard the Lionheart was captured on the third crusade John (his brother) negotiated with the captors to keep him imprisoned
  • He lost most of his fathers empire
  • After he was forced to retreat from France he alienated himself from the many of the barons and a rebellion started
  • Eventually the two factions started negotiating after months of conflict. The end result was the Magna Carta which limited the power of the crown.
  • He then got the Pope to declare the Magna Carta invalid sparking more civil conflict which spilled into the reign of the next king – his son Henry III
  • He may well have killed his nephew (Arthur of Brittany) a potential rival
  • John was excommunicated when he refused to let the Pope have a say in the selection of a new Archbishop of Canterbury
  • He probably died of dysentery

That is my son speaking not me. My knowledge of John ends with the Magna Carta being signed under his rule and the stuff in Ivanhoe.

His teacher spoke to our son and basically told him that he provided too much information. That he was in Year 7 and he shouldn’t know this stuff until Year 10. That’s a way of inspiring his love of the subject. To be fair to the teacher her approach to learning is what the government wants. Sadly the government understands as much about education (and actually most other areas) as does that Bush in the photograph.

18 minutes

This is a week of school tests. At the moment it’s due to be 4 tests. French (x2), Science and History. I’m pretty sure they will sneak in a couple more before the week is up. I keep reminding myself our son is still only 11 – just too many tests for someone so young.

French could be interesting. One of the tests is a reading test. The kids need to read french text and then get the pronunciation correct. No reading help can be provided. The positive is our son is currently quite relaxed about this test. As he says

“I’m dyslexic so I will just do my best. On the basis of probability I should fluke a few words. And the worst thing that can happen is I get to be dyslexic in another language.”

Today was the History test. When I asked how it went the response was interesting

It went well. Didn’t get much help. All about Kings and Queens. But the questions where just too easy. As long as I guessed all the questions wording right then I probably got 100%. Probably a few minuses for spellings. I finished a bit early”

How early did you finish?

Well it was a 60 minute test. A couple of the other kids finished after about 40 minutes. I was a little bit sooner.”

So how soon did you finish?

I was finished after 18 minutes….”

School Dracula

This is the Hospitium a 14th century listed building in York’s Museum Gardens. These days it’s a venue for conferences, weddings and special events. Many years ago it was a support building for the Abbey.

St Mary’s Abbey was founded in 1088. The surviving ruins date back from about 1270. York is such a good place for kids to actually touch history.

Over Christmas our son spent a few hours here trying to imagine what life was like before it fell into ruin. Recreating the sounds, the people, the buildings, the life. Big scale creative play. I must admit I was lost in the world of dreams to. Mine was a world of ghosts, ghouls and vampires. I had almost forgotten how much fun you can have when you release your imagination.

This was the visit when the first seeds of home schooling started to be scattered. Last term had been grisly. No real sign of development. No evidence of school making any effort to provide an effective and supportive teaching environment. Most importantly a really unhappy and anxious child.

Our son loves subjects like history but not the way school deliver it. He likes the History Teacher, she is really nice. But being in the bottom set and given his encyclopaedic knowledge – he’s not learning anything. Plus regardless of which class you are in the teaching is so traditional. Text book after text book. Very dry and not very dyslexic friendly. Unfortunately it’s the set teaching approach dictated by the government.

Between my thoughts of ghosts and ghouls I also pondered with so much real life history so close to hand, why not bring the classroom here. Bring the lessons alive. That’s when the thought pinged, if school won’t teach here, why don’t I.

We will see.

The trip was completed with the required extra portions of ice cream. That night my imagination had clearly not been put back in its box yet. A dream about Dracula. But not the bloodthirsty vampire. This one was about a reformed Prince of Darkness. He had sold his Transylvanian castle and bought York’s Museum Gardens. He wanted to turn the gardens into the finest history school in the world. All the teachers were ghosts and ghouls. And Dracula was selling the ice creams and he didn’t skimp on the portions. Now that’s a school.

Oldest thing

We have a wall in one part of our little bungalow that never gets any direct sunlight. On that wall we have the oldest thing in the house (I think). It’s small Tapestry carefully and beautifully made by a 12 year old girl called Elizabeth Walgate over 200 years ago.

The photo doesn’t do it justice and I don’t want to move it to try for a better angle – just too fragile. I don’t know anything about Elizabeth or the tapestries history. It’s been passed down my partners family for generations. What forgotten stories are forever hidden amongst your fragile fibres. What I do know is that it’s now in our son’s custody and he treasures it.

Testing times

Our son’s school tests kids every couple of months (most schools do the same). Speaking with some of the other parents – most of the kids are getting stressed out over them. Maybe I’m old fashioned but these kids aren’t even teenagers yet.

My frustration is not only with the amount of testing, it’s with what is being tested. We currently focus on such a limited range of skills and are so inflexible on how the tests are operated. Not all kids are suited to the current testing environment.

I was talking to one parent whose child has really struggled to reach the set expected performance levels. However this child is brilliant. I’ve seen her paintings and cartoon sketches. Unfortunately we don’t have a test environment which allows her to demonstrate this brilliance. No government targets for painting.

Our son astounds me with his knowledge and understanding of history. He is scheduled to do a school test which is about the Battle of Hastings. He has a forensic knowledge in the area. Last night he spent two minutes explaining details of Bishop Odo who took part in the battle. The night before he explained in detail what William did after victory including how he persecuted the north. So if we could design a test environment so he could just talk for 30 minutes about the battle and then verbally answer detailed questions – then he could demonstrate his brilliance.

Problem is the test is to write a one page essay on the battle. Without help then he has no chance. Even with help he won’t be able to shine. This can’t be right. No government targets for developing autistic kids with dyslexia.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CAN WE GIVE ALL KIDS THE CHANCE TO SHINE

I always thought I was pretty good on history. I tried to show this off to our son.

“William the Conqueror brought his army to the field in October 1066”

My so called knowledge was shot down in one line…

“Dad it was the 14th and he was not at that stage William the Conqueror. He was called William Duke of Normanby or sometimes William the Bastard because his mum was unmarried. The Conqueror was first referred to in around 1120, sorry I can’t be more precise”.