Midday

Still summer is glorious. Had been hoping to get outside, have a chat and be creative with a pencil, but the weather is just not playing ball. This is midday…..

The school at home project has allowed this Dad to see some practical evidence of the progress and issues which son has with his learning process. The level of insight that is just not provided to parents from schools. Maybe in class sizes approaching 30 this type of insight is just not collected.

After these 3 months I have a better grasp on the dyslexia position. The feedback from school has been limited to

  • He has reading problems,
  • He is doing quite well in spelling tests.

That’s it…. Nothing else in just under two years.

So what insight has the last 3 months provided.

  • His reading has developed. I would estimate that he can read unaided about 50% of words. If he takes his time he can try to sound some of the missing words out, eventually arriving at a word he’s heard of before. The other words at school he’s been guessing or just ignoring. At home he’s happy to ask for help with words. Even allowing me to read out particularly difficult sections,
  • His dyslexia is more pronounced when he’s doing handwriting.
  • He finds it easier to type out answers. It’s a long process as his typing is not quick. He also struggles to see when the predictive text function selects the wrong word.
  • With certain word patterns it doesn’t matter how many times he sees the word, it’s like he is seeing the word for the first time.
  • When he gets tired the dyslexia flares up with greater force. Regular breaks really help. The optimum time appears to be 20 minute work blocks with short breaks.
  • Number dyslexia is still a problem. 6’s and 9’s are easily switched, especially when a decimal point is introduced into the number.

I’m not a trained teacher but I have a valuable quality which many teachers don’t get in UK schools. Quality time. Time to focus on one pupil. That is something which is not permitted under the current government led approach. An approach based on schools operating like automated production lines. That must be another vote for homeschooling…..

Gone Fishing

Red sky at night fishermen’s delight, doesn’t always work. The next morning it’s absolutely chucking down. Maybe it’s good weather to catch fish.

My Dad loved fishing. My brother loves fishing. They would take me to see them fish from the sea walls and in the local lake. I found it fascinating but it just wasn’t for me. I get the relaxation bit. I will happily sit on a sea wall or by water and just chill out. But you can keep the fishing bit. I only went actual fishing once. My brother took me to the local fishing lake for an afternoon. He caught loads, me – not a thing. Brother put that down to my casting action. To me catching something would have been a huge surprise. Whisper it quietly. I never put a fishing hook on my line.

I’ve subsequently been close to fishing a couple of times. I once played a fishing game on the computer. Wow that was a thriller….. The other was at a Fun Fare where I played that ‘hook a duck’ game. I was hoping to win a Cuddly Snoppy Toy and ended up with a real goldfish in a bag. Thank god that’s been banned. That fish was taken straight home and put in our indoor fish tank. My Dad loved tropical fish. But my little fish just kept growing. Soon he was too big for the tank so one summer he was moved out into the garden pond. That’s the pond which was under the protection of our big and mad family dog. And still he grew. Eventually he was even getting too big for his outside home. Finally he was resettled in a massive fish pond in the local park. That was a military operation requiring a huge bucket of water and sneaking over the locked gates. Tom Cruise has nowt on me…

As it’s possible for some types of fish to reach three figure ages, I like to think that my one ever fish catch is still going strong. Lord knows how big he is now. I do always keep an eye out for him in the Jurassic World movies.

Whitby

It feels like it’s been an eternity since we last took in some seaside air. I think it’s just under two years. TWO YEARS…. That must be my longest ever inland run. Especially not great when you are a seaside child, born on the North Yorkshire coast. One day with patience.

This is Whitby. Here’s a few random facts about this beautiful little town.

  • Captain James Cook lived here and his famous ship the Endeavour was built here.
  • Whitby has some of the best Fish and Chips on the planet.
  • The black semi-precious stone Whitby Jet.
  • Bram Stoker developed the idea of his Dracula book here. The opening chapters are set here. Also the idea of Dracula taking on the form of a huge black dog is based on local legends.

When I was a kid we would come here on a day trip by train. While my parents went about doing parenting things, I would be sent up the 199 steps to The Abbey which is in the background of the second photo. My job was to hunt for Dracula’s grave. I never did find it but maybe next time.

I’m not sure that time wasting parenting excuse would have any chance of success with our son. More chance of him convincing me to go. These days we come to Whitby for the chips, the ice cream, the beautiful beach and a bit of dinosaur fossil hunting. This part of the country has been named Jurassic Coast for the number of discoveries it yields. This is one of ours.

So let’s hope it’s not long before the fossil hunting is back underway.

Drama

You take your eye off the veg patch for a few days and an Amazonian Forest starts to form. Clearly rain rather than warm sunshine is the secret to greenery. Now where did I plant the spring onions?

An email from school made me smile. I notified school of the hospital issue and told them that Son would be out of action for a while. I would speak to school on Monday with an update. Then on Friday night the email at 11.30pm. Son had apparently failed to satisfactory submit work for one subject on Friday. Son immediately guessed which was the only subject that would do this. Why is it always DRAMA. Why is Drama always a drama. Following a rather snotty midnight parent email the teacher quickly apologised on Saturday. On the plus side there are only 2 more weeks to the summer holidays. After that Son has elected to drop the subject (assuming he goes back). So only two more hours of Drama left. How much drama can be squeezed into those 120 minutes…..

Bleak

It’s another bleak old day. Definitely a two jumper day. July 4th was the day when many places like pubs reopened in the England. Well in some parts, rather briefly. A local attraction here opened at 10am and closed a couple of hours later due to the bad weather and high winds. Definitely a two jumper (sweater) day.

Definitely a day for no house work. Disney Plus movies, warm drinks and giving son the attention he needs.

This photograph reminded me of old times. Pre parenting days. When I went through tough periods. When I went through challenging times. Times when I seemed to stumble and constantly lose my way. I would need to reset my inner self. Take a breather. Back then I would book a climbing or walking trip. A weekend in the wilderness. The bleaker the better. That’s what I needed to do my personal reset. Yes I would be tired on my late Sunday drive back but normally I was in a much better mind set. Ready to rumble again.

Fast forward to 2020. Those climbing and walking trips are no more. Single parenting means no timeouts. No weekend long resets. Just keep going. Any internal resets have to be done on the hoof. So with some uplifting words from a friend swirling around my mind, I find myself outside. Sat on the garden fence with a hot drink. Taking a few minutes to breathe. Imagining walking through the bleak landscapes and starting a reset. Yes definitely time to go again.

Hedge

A completely random photograph of our hedge…..

A hedge which has many roles. Too many to list but I guess the main ones are

  • Photosynthesis,
  • Making more hedges,
  • Survival,
  • Home for wildlife,
  • Boundary marker,
  • Barrier to try and keep a dog this side of it,
  • A Barrier to try and keep a football this side of it,
  • Boost to Son’s feeling of security,
  • Something to look at,
  • A home of long lost toys, balls and garden gnomes,
  • And now something to photograph.

Our brush with hospital this week reinforced one issue. Many people including single parents often have few backup options. Plan B’s are rare. I was sat trying to get my head round what would I do if son had to stay overnight on the ward. I wouldn’t leave him (wasn’t allowed to leave him alone). So how was I going to

  • Bring in a change of clothes,
  • Fetch stuff to entertain him (his iPad and a charger),
  • Bring some food and drink which son would actually consider having,
  • Fetch my phone charger,
  • Feed the pets, let the dog out into the garden,
  • Put a new parking ticket on the car,
  • Bring my reading glasses,
  • Check that I had locked the back door……

Yes in normal times I would have a couple of family options. But these are not normal times. They are either unavailable or would take many hours to arrive. No other immediate options. Thankfully son was allowed to go home at 11pm. But it’s a stark reminder that many of us operate with the most fragile foundations. I was lucky as at least an option existed, even though it was far from practical. Too many people have zero options. That’s a sobering thought.

Questions

A hospital visit is now an even more unpleasant experience. Masks at all times except when you were in a separate room with no other people. One temperature check. All staff with masks and gloves on at all times. The place filled with clearly very panicky people keeping their distance. The children’s ward only allowing one parent in with a child.

But here’s a thought for you.

We faced far more detailed pandemic questioning from the Boiler Repair team (over 20 questions) than we did when we had to access two separate Hospitals and a Surgical Theatre (one question) ….. I guess that’s what happens when people are confused, scared and left without clear trustworthy guidance from the Government.

Open your eyes

Looking through a few flower photos and guess what I found. Another appearance from our friendly garden visitor. This unexpected find brought a much needed smile.

The unexpected hospital visit was tough. It was physically and mentally tough for our son. Hospitals are not pleasant places at the best of times but during a pandemic. Just awful.

It was a routine procedure but it made me face some demons. Waiting for news in the building where my mother died and where I found out my partner would be dead within days. Too many traumatic memories flooded back. Sat by myself in a waiting room. Yes it’s ok to cry.

Those memories and the clear unpredictability of the future made me realise what is so important to me. The things I need to cherish and make the most of. No more trying to email when talking to our son. It’s such a bad habit, you miss out on so much and son can see the lack of focus. Quality time MEANS quality time. It took something so unpleasant to clear my mind and refocus my priorities. Your never to old to open your eyes.

Timing

I drafted this just a few minutes before Wednesday deteriorated so rapidly. I guess it’s kinda apt now.

Sometimes your just in the right place at the right time. 20 seconds later and I would have missed the winged visitor.

It was the case with my partner. I was in the right place at the right time. She gave me the most wonderful times. Now I carry on with our Son. Trying to burn as brightly as she did. Hopefully making a few people smile along the way. That’s my excuse for the terrible jokes.

The timing of that winged visitor got me thinking. Yes I know that’s dangerous. 20 seconds later and I would have missed it. So if I had not answered that annoying telemarketing phone call then I would probably have never seen the winged visitor. So something annoying led to something quite wonderful. We (I) often forget that. It’s easy to think that ‘Bad stuff leads to more bad stuff’. Well it doesn’t always. Sometimes the bad stuff presents new opportunities.

Looking back I very nearly never took the job that led directly to me meeting my partner. I was due to take a better paid position somewhere else. At the last minute the organisation I was due to move to changed management structure. My job offer was rescinded. Next day I applied for the job that would change my life. A bad thing leading to something beautiful.

Now I’m not going to argue that the loss of my partner led to something beautiful. It was truly awful and will remain that way. But it certainly did change me into a better person and a much more complete parent. It forced me to ditch a career and opened up more quality time with our son. I certainly live a simpler more sustainable lifestyle now. I find it much easier these days to be thankful. So yes a truly awful event did lead to positive life changes.

I guess it’s all about accepting that bad stuff happens and not assuming that bad necessarily follows bad.

Differences

Wild Strawberries growing under the blueberry bush. Certainly wasn’t expecting these to grow here but with an open mind, this is such a result.

The decision to abandon mainstream schooling is in our son’s hands. It’s his life. His risks. His anxieties. His dreams. His future. So ultimately he decides. If it was my call then I’ve made my mind up. It would be homeschooling from September. That viewpoint has hardened with the last two communications from school.

The first was a summary of the schools position. Basically son is low attainment and has significant educational needs. Progress will be difficult. His educational needs are best met in the bottom set. With effort he may still be able to get a few qualifications. He is best following the normal teaching programme with no specific interventions (which would eat into tight school budgets).

Ok….

Then the next communication was his school report for the year. It painted a slightly different picture. To quote a few phrases from his individual teachers

  • Strength for creative writing,
  • Worked hard to produce some fantastic work,
  • Excellent attitude,
  • Will progress very well in subject,
  • His remote learning has been great,
  • He is a star,
  • Class work of the highest standard,
  • Superb young historian,
  • Considerable talent in the subject,
  • Very good understanding of the subject,
  • Pleasure to teach.

Ok….

Two conclusions here. One is that the report comments are standard across all the kids and so they mean nothing. Just a way to keep parents happy.

OR

The report comments are the reality and something is seriously wrong with schools overall assessment.

I strongly suspect this is a common pattern across the country. It mirrors current government thinking. If thinking is the right word to use. Basically kids with educational needs do not fit neatly into the factory production line educational approach. Minimise input costs to generate a set and limited output. Discard those items which fall out of the narrow design specification. Educational needs equate to additional teaching costs which will not be funded. Thus the best approach is to dump kids with Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, disabilities and mental health issues into the bottom set. Conveniently forget about them. If these kids then get the odd qualification out of the system then the authorities can pat themselves on the back after a job well done. Let’s not forget the important thing, all this delivered all so cost effectively.

Maybe I am being cynical but that’s the reason I am definitely falling into the homeschooling camp.