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”.