Random Tree

A random Yorkshire tree. When it snows, a random Yorkshire Tree positioned at the end of our sledging run. So a random Yorkshire tree with a very hard trunk which I have collided with on more than one occasion. It’s like a Rome. All the sledging runs seem to abruptly end at this tree.

So this morning’s fight with WordPress was a bit of a score draw. On the plus side it went remarkably smoothly and very quickly. On the downside my attempted fix – didn’t pigging work. So the app is still possessed. My comments on many sites just disappear. One explanation is that I’ve upset one of the Spam filters. I might have used a naughty word on a comment (or two ). See kiddies swearing is not big or clever. Anyway until it’s resolved I will keep trying to comment on your sites – a few comments are still sneaking through. Enjoy the peace and waffle free time while it lasts.

So the school version of homeschooling has ended for another week. It’s now the two week Easter break. A break which will probably look very like the last few weeks. Normally we look forward to these two weeks but this time it feels like just the same as the last few weeks. No real change except the school iPad can remain switched off.

But as everyday is FUN DAY let’s try to make the most of them.

It’s good to see school is getting into the celebratory mood. The kids have been set homework and have been given plenty of revision to complete over the holiday. After Easter it’s straight into online exams and YES the delights of spelling tests. Deep joy.

But we are not going to let school put a dampener on life over the next couple of weeks. So at lunchtime we reverted back to one of sons favourite games. Bouncing on a trampoline while holding a bucket filled with water. It’s amazing how even Son’s bucket of water ends up over his Dad. Maybe that’s why the game is so much fun. Then it was back to online lessons and trying to explain to a bewildered son the finer details of love poetry. You might have seen my sledgehammer writing style in Thursdays Terrible Poetry submissions. Me advising on poetry is like asking a pheasant to operate a pedestrian crossing. Some lessons are about personal growth and development. However this one was just about survival.

After the last lesson of the day the Easter break started with a dog walk. A walk to our sons self imposed world boundary. And a look over to a distant random tree. A tree beyond our little world. Let’s hope that when we get snow again, once again all our sledge runs will be able to meet this tree again.

Hold off for a week

Looks like Spring. The daffodils are out in force, blue sky and the sun is beating down on the Yorkshire soil. A frozen Yorkshire soil. One problem with this Spring. It’s absolutely freezing and apparently it’s going to get colder. I will hold off getting my shorts out for another week or so.

Yes some things are best left for a week or so.

School is most vexing. Increasing signs that schools version of homeschooling is in fact just the same old, same old. Rebranded but essentially the same teaching approach. It might work for some kids but it’s not working for our son. Yes a couple of subjects have tried to think out of the box, change things up. But the majority have not. It’s such a wasted opportunity.

Most kids are working remotely with no physical contact with their friends. So why not let them use the schools online system for to exchange messages during the homeschool day. No no no. All chats are monitored to ensure they are restricted to school work. Woe betied any kid who is even a minute late to log onto the system at the start of a lesson. Stick to the required task and don’t deviate…..

But let’s give school a week or so to see if the remote teaching programme evolves.

It’s been interesting to notice how much of the online teaching so far has been based on just reading a piece of text then answering questions. No modification for those kids who struggle to read. No additional help for those with dyslexia. Nowt new there then. I asked school for the reading and writing progress he has made over the last 20 months. All school will say on his writing was that no issues had been raised by teachers but they will look at using a computer for his main exams. Will that come with keyboard skills therapy work to help with the problems he has with typing…. apparently not.

On reading they have done some testing. According to the results he is still well behind the expected reading age. Apparently his reading age has improved only marginally in those 20 months. As a result school consider he’s best placed in the bottom set. No one on one help will be provided, if he needs help with reading then he needs to put his hand up and ask the teacher. He just needs to accept that his reading is poor and additional work on improving it is a bit of a waste of time. That’s interesting as over the last six months his reading has drastically improved (no thanks to school). What could be achieved if school did make an effort.

Well let’s give it a week or so. We need to think about the road going forward. What’s the best for our son. Is it schools version of homeschooling (school gates are likely to be shut for months) or will it be our home version. The following weeks will tell us.

Prophecy

Colour slowly returning to the garden. Sadly just in time for the next weather blasting. Just so predictable….

A few years back our son had a wonderful medical expert who did an awful lot for him. Just before retirement I remember the experts prophecy. To paraphrase

Our country’s support for kids like yours is nothing short of a disgrace. Sadly if you think that the support he gets now is patchy and insufficient, well just wait a few years. It’s likely to get very much worse. Maybe when he is 12, most definitely when he is a teenager, the minimal support will dry up. He will get reassessed by clinicians who have no practical experience of your son. They will deem him above the clinical threshold and will turn off the support. Clinical threshold should be renamed budgetary threshold. It’s not a reflection of the clinical position. He will still have severe clinical need for intervention. The support will be removed because as a society we don’t support teenagers and adults on the spectrum. We expect them to fend for themselves. If they don’t fulfil their potential then tough. I’ve seen this happen to virtually every kid I have worked with. If they achieve anything in life it’s just down to themselves and their parents. On top of this the school system just assigns them to the bin. It stinks….

Sadly the prophecy is coming true….

Just before Christmas he was reassessed for one of the support services he receives. The assessment was done by someone who had never met our son. The outcome – the service was withdrawn as he no longer met the clinical requirement.

Today we had a therapy session at the local hospital. It’s a service he has had since he was 7. It’s made some great progress over the years. It’s taken time and many sessions. At the last session his worker agreed on a programme to help with his handwriting, keyboard skills, and areas such as shoelaces/school ties. The programme after that would look at trying to help with coordination specifically aimed at swimming and bike riding. He has significant problems in each of these areas. Well guess what. At today’s session his worker was joined by a senior member of the team. A reassessment was made of his case. After a few practical exercises we were informed that he was now above the support threshold. He was now discharged from the service. They would write to school and give them some suggestions on his future schooling. We were handed a couple of information sheets on handwriting and shoelace tying. We can ask his Paediatrician to review this decision. We are on the waiting list to see a Paediatrician – currently our last appointment was over two years ago.

So we are now down to one service support now. But that is so underfunded. His worker is wonderful but because of workloads she struggles to see him now. Last year we got invites to a couple of group sessions. His last one to one session was back in 2018. Clearly it’s only a matter of time before that last helping hand is removed.

It really feels like that the health service has now dumped our son since he’s a teenager. I guess they argue that it’s an educational problem now. Unfortunately the school system has washed its hands of our son already. Like so many kids the school’s write them off. Label them low attainment. If they get the odd exam certificate in the end then school has achieved its goal. Ticked it’s box on the Government’s school assessment.

So here we are in the brave new world. We are fending for ourselves. Our only support – a few pages of photocopied guidance from a textbook. How can we have got this so wrong. How many thousands and thousands of autistic teenagers and adults are in the position. Some of the statistics on autistic suicide rates, unemployment, depression and poverty are appalling. But society doesn’t care. Our leaders don’t care. That’s a truly sickening thought.

Cake test

This was my attempt at baking son’s birthday cake. It’s amazing what heaps of icing can hide. The cake was a bit over baked with a huge volcano like hole at its centre. I plugged the hole with soft sweets and then covered with thick icing. What was left of the sweet packet was scattered on top. I might be onto something here. The soft sweet centre worked brilliantly. As a result the cake was deemed “not too bad at all” which on our sons review scheme equates to just above two Michelin stars. So now that’s got me thinking what other things can I fill the inevitable cake sunken holes with. I’m going for jelly in the next one. I will report back on my test.

On the subject of tests …. ok troops, time to stand by up your beds. Its spelling test time.

School is slipping as we have had only one spelling test this week. So they better make it a doozy.

Imagery

Alliteration

Rhyming

Couplets

Syllables

Stanza

Rhythm

Sonnet

Simile

Metaphor

Hyperbole

Assonance

Personification

Onomatopoeia

Enjambement

Another cracking list of words that will be of great use in son’s future life. My last conversation with school stressed the point

That spelling tests for dyslexic students are not recommended practice. If they have to be used then they should only focus on the most commonly used words.

Good to see the school are sticking to the common words then. I had to look up Enjambement. I was sadly disappointed to find that it wasn’t a Caribbean Cooking term for combining Jackfruit with Jamba Juice. My favourite flying dinosaur (Onomatopoeia) makes a welcome return. Last time I pulled that joke I had a shedload of abuse from my Texan fan club….. For some reason Son can’t say ASSonance without cracking up. Must get to the bottom of that joke.

Sod’s law

Don’t you just hate Sods Law (Murphy’s Law). Son has been desperate for some snow to have a sledging session. This season has been a complete right off so far. He’s just had a week off from school where it has basically been storm force winds or torrential rain. Not a sniff of the white stuff. So guess what. On the first morning back at school we wake to this.

And by the time he got back from school the snow has been replaced with rain and high winds again. All the white stuff has gone. He is so so sad. It’s not as if school was in any way enriching. It started with any kids arriving late still receiving negatives – no allowance for the awful roads and paths. Welcome back kids to this happy establishment. First day back and homework is being handed out like confetti at a wedding. Long lunch queues and over running lessons meant no hot food for his class. AND THEN we come to Drama.

The school is clearly desperate to produce the next Laurence Olivier. It’s chosen route. Spelling Tests.

So here goes my friends, your first spelling test of the term. Enjoy.

Grendel

Marking the moment

Proxemics

Thought track

Status

Narration

Levels

Themes

And I’ve saved the best till last

Beowulf

Heorot

Uniferth

King Hrothgar

Dane folklore spellings – what a top idea. So school has started off again being exactly the same grim, oppressive institution. It’s never going to change under this Government and it’s Victorian approach to education. I’ve again given him the option to be homeschooled and again he has reluctantly declined. He still wants to see if he gets moved up in any of his classes. But I must admit another school snow day may just push him over the edge. And I really couldn’t blame him.

How wrong I was

Not our garden, this is from a neighbours garden. Very jealous especially of the lawn which when cut always resembles a bowling green. So unlike our used rugby pitch.

Another stormy and very wet day. That’s the third weekend in a row for us. The weather is doing nothing for our souls. Nor is the imminent return to school. His anxieties levels are starting to peak now. Soon he’s back into that alien environment. The hope is that he will return and he’s been moved up in at least one subject. Just move him up in History and it would boost his confidence so much. I fear that’s a pipe dream. I would also be staggered if the support system has suddenly improved. How can it. It’s the same teaching team, with the same school education strategies and with schools struggling for resources. But on the bright side we have been told to celebrate as soon we will have a new blue UK passport. A passport made in France….

Maybe he will decide to abandon the failed school project. Can’t blame him and I would fully support that. It would be so worth it to lift this cloak of anxiety which often suffocates him. It’s not as if the school approach is delivering results. In most subjects he’s bored and starting to stagnate. I have asked school for the latest benchmark data on his reading, writing and performance. Again I’m not holding my breath. I’m still waiting for school to do any meaningful assessment work on his reading or writing. I suspect it will be spelling tests and nothing else. The Physiotherapist contacted school to say that he was clearly struggling with handwriting and asked what concerns the school had about his handwriting. The response back was that no teacher had raised any concerns. Really….

At his last school they worked with the heath service to monitor his reading age every quarter. He left that school with a reading age three years below the expected level for his age. His current school has so far refused to do another benchmarking assessment. The argument is that he’s doing so well and a benchmark would not change his teaching programme. Read that as they cost money and all kids get the same set teaching approach. Well if you don’t have benchmark information how can you say he’s doing so well. We don’t know if he’s catching up or if the age gap is widening.

It’s funny looking back at this parenting gig. I always realised it would be frustrating and tiring. But I always assumed the school system would largely take care of his education. How wrong I was.

End Game

The way forward is shrouded in mist but a clear route is emerging.

As we move into the second week of the Year 8 exams we have a clear state of play emerging. Son is trying his hardest, school clearly is not. Son again was upset this weekend as he clearly thought that school sees him as not very bright and a failure. He found out that he came third bottom in his Drama exam. Well was that surprising when he was given only a short period of time to read questions then an equally short timescale to write answers. Absolutely no help was provided. So clearly autism, dyspraxia and dyslexia do not apply in the world of Drama.

Sadly this has not been an isolated incident.

  • In subjects like Mathematics, Design Technology and French he received zero help. No additional time. No help with reading. Nothing. Maybe help was considered but as Son pointed out

One of the kids broke his hand so the one Teaching Assistant had to scribe for him. Maybe that’s why I didn’t get help. I really struggled to read and understand the questions. Even maths had lots of words I didn’t recognise in the questions.”

  • History did not proved a scribe but he was given a laptop to type his answers in. So he still had to try and read the questions. He was given a laptop because the teacher was concerned about being able to read his handwriting. Problem is that son is waiting for some therapy work to try and help with his typing skills. His typing is slow and very inaccurate. He hadn’t practiced answering test questions on the computer. The computer also had the spelling aids disabled. No additional time was provided.
  • Science and English did provide a scribe. He hadn’t practiced working with the scribes provided. He was really uncomfortable trying to work with the two assistants he had previously had very little interaction with. He had thought incorrectly that he was getting extra time but with a couple of minutes to go the scribe just said the exam is finishing when it’s 10.15. He struggles to tell the time using an analog wall clock. The scribe in English only read out the questions. She was not allowed to read out the passages which he had to answer comprehension questions on.

What was the point. The scribe would tell me things like for this question you need to read lines 5 to 12 of the text then describe what writing techniques the author has used. Well I would if I could actually read the text. Some of the text was using slang language – I struggle with proper language, got no chance with slang.”

So basically it’s been a mess. If his marks are not good then this is going to hit his confidence going forward. Currently school are deadpanning my queries but I guess they will just say that appropriate support was provided and he just needs to work harder. Poor results will confirm their assessment of low attainment. I just hope for his sake that he manages to get some decent marks. I’ve told him that for me it’s not he who is being assessed, it’s school. And clearly school have failed – AGAIN. To quote a reasonably popular movie, it feels like that we are moving to the mainstream education END GAME. No we still can’t truly afford to homeschool but this failure of due care can’t go on. Son deserves better than this.

Onomatopoeia

That jolly yellow thing in the sky is still here. Any longer and it might qualify for the Yorkshire Cricket Team. I understand it’s called The Sun. A simple name yet so confusing for kids like our Son. Is it a Sun or is it a Son.

So on to this weeks spelling test. Ok campers your simple words this week are

Alliteration, Onomatopoeia, Simile, Metaphor, Slang, Rhetorically, Personification, Emotive, Language, Imagery, Verb, Adjective, Adverb.

See I predicted it was only a matter of time before the poor kids had to try and spell complex dinosaur names. The Onomatopoeia was always my favourite flying dinosaur…..

I think school probably thinks that the spellings are getting too easy so they have now added a twist. Previously the teacher would say the actual word to be spelt and the kids tried to write it down. This week the teacher won’t say the word. Instead she will read out a definition and the kids have to decide which word it describes – then spell it. Easy with Onomatopoeia as it will be the only dinosaur….. if only.

So the kids will have to work out which of the above words fits with what the teacher definitions are and then try to spell it. From definitions like these

This is a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes

This is when something is said to be something else

A describing word. Sometimes there are three together to make it more effective

A word describing how something is done

This is the repetition of letter sound at the start of a word

What chance has a dyslexic kid got when he struggles to spell and as a result has never really understood the technicalities of the English Language. But what do I know. A simple parent compared to the might and intellectual magnificence of the current government education regime. As our PM’s Dad publicly stated when he stood in for his Son in an interview.

Spelling “Pinocchio? That requires a degree of literacy, which I think the great British public doesn’t necessarily have.”

Its hard being a PM so he only handpicks a few interviews these days. Better to send his Dad. But the message is clear. The great unwashed didn’t go to Eton and Oxford. They are basically illiterate. They need to be force fed things like spelling.

I am one of the great unwashed. An illiterate who went to a poor sinkhole Comprehensive School and only to the clearly unworthy Warwick University. Maybe we are illiterate for a reason. The dreadful state of our crumbling education system. An education system that lets down so many kids. Which discriminates against those who don’t fit the mould. Money allows you to buy a better education. The money which the PMs Dad easily forked out to send his Son to Eton. But in the real world the majority struggle on. Dealing with an education system which has been systematically screwed by those with a view of the world so like that of PM and his Dad.

I might not be able to spell Pinocchio but at least I know my pterodactyls from my Onomatopoeias.

Green and pleasant land.

Welcome to Britain. A green and pleasant land.

A country where this man has just won a massive majority. A man who continues to cover up his repeated cockups which has led to a British Citizen bring help in Iran since 2016. Now his focus is on trade deals and turning the country into a trumped up lap dog. Sadly the poor British Citizen can’t offer a trade deal so she is stuffed.

Where this man from our Government claims that he has more common sense than those who died in the Grenfell Tower Disaster. He has made millions from his hedge fund company on the back of Brexit.

Where this man has been our Schools Minister since 2014. The man responsible for the current state of our schools. The man responsible for the introduction of testing for 4 year old kids. And the man who said kids taking time of for bereavement was like an extended holiday.

And a country where this man has just been awarded a knighthood. A man who introduced sweeping and brutal benefit reforms which has led to unprecedented levels of misery and is probably responsible for the deaths of hundreds who lost benefits.

Britain a green and pleasant land.

*** the photos of these lovely human beings are from The Guardian, Inside Croydon, Yorkshire Post, Change.org

Red School Sky

Red sky at night ready for the school fight.

So the dreaded hour is fast approaching. School opening its gates again. Feel so sorry, sad and angry for the kids like our Son having to face up to the nightmare which is modern schooling. I use the term modern in its loosest sense.

Increasingly my thoughts are turning to homeschooling. When to flick the switch. How to make it happen. Trying to stress tests the plans which are swirling around in my pea soup of a brain. Which options are best. What fits best with our circumstances. The aim being to have a workable plan in place by the end of February. As ever Son is the voice of reason. In fact as it’s his future he is driving the process. It has to be that way. He really isn’t happy but he’s giving the new term a go.

Dad going to give it a real go. Want to either see me moved up in the subjects I’m good at or want to be helped in the ones I struggle a bit in. Just one subject move would be cool.

“It’s not the subjects you struggle in. It’s the way the teachers judge you in those subjects. It’s never about the stuff you know. You have never had one comment about that. Remember what that teacher said last year – Don’t let anyone tell you your not clever. You are. The problems are not yours. It’s ours. We need to find better ways of getting the stuff in your head out into the wider world.

Ok Dad. Well let’s see what happens. What’s the plan if it goes pear shape this week at school?

Send you up chimneys to earn some money to pay for my rock and roll lifestyle”

Are you joking?

“Sorry, yes son I am pulling your leg. At least you can fit up a chimney.”

Your bottom would me a fine chimney sweeping tool. Not much would get past that.

“Let’s hope that school goes really well and your super happy. Let’s cross the over bridges if they happen. Most bridges are good ones.”

Which bridges. If I remember correctly we drive over 5 on the way to school.

And the voice of reason brings his Dad back into the real world again. So many options to consider.

  • Online tutor v Local tutor.
    How much will I teach. I can certainly do Computing, Mathematics, Science.
    Subjects like Geography and History maybe we just let him run with it. As last years Class Teacher said ‘you probably know the subject better than me already“. Just concentrate on how to access his ideas. Find the best way to express them.
    How to tailor some of the tuition around times that I need to go into the work base.
    Restructuring work to fit round the new world. Luckily I can probably do this. Just maybe will have to put off buying that sports car for say the next 100 years.
    When we move into the 15 and 16 age range how to handle examinations. Some of the colleges have courses for qualifications he could opt for. Would that work for him. Or do we go the tutor or online tuition routes.
    Languages – how far do we go down the online packages route such as Rosetta.
    Ways to ensure that he can socialise when he wants and needs to.
    And on and on

So much to consider. Maybe just maybe school might step up to the plate and this is never needed. That is probably a pipe dream so it’s time to sort this out. It will be a reassuring feeling when a plan is in place. When we have an idea what his education week and plan will look like. To our Son that level of practicality is an essential part of the transition process. It will help him at school knowing that he has a Plan b.

If anyone reading this has ever homeschooled then it would be great to hear from you. Either as a comment or email. What did your ‘learning week’ look like. What approach did you take. I’m sure this wont be the last you hear of this. I think the more we can talk about homeschooling the better. In many places it’s still frowned upon or it’s seen as a bit of a dark art. Maybe people should frown upon the mainstream school system instead.

I will leave you with one final thought.

Dad Santa can get down chimneys so there is always hope for you. There is always hope.