Another school exam at home today. More walking about. More music. Not much sitting around. The exam room was basically the house and at one stage, extended to the garden. It works for Hawklad. He gets more information onto the papers this way.
So I spoke to school. What are the alternatives to exams. The initial response of a separate room, under exam conditions, just doesn’t go far enough.
I watched Hawklad do his work while in perpetual motion, my mind wandered back to university. My last exam there. I wonder what Hawklad would have made of that.
Everyone in fancy dress. I went as a Roman Centurion including fake plastic sword. I was not allowed to take the sword into the exam room, it was deemed a banned item. I’m not sure how a cheap plastic sword would aid with any Degree Paper. During the exam, the overall experience was bizarre verging on transcendental. I can remember many of my fellow exam candidates. All living the last few hours of a 4 year course. A chap in traditional Moroccan dress, although everyone thought it was actually more like Obi-WAN’s Jedi costume. A girl dressed as a mermaid. Another as a air hostess. Barbarella made an appearance. The Blues Brothers, Thelma and Louise, The Village People and Elvis all turned up. A guy dressed as one of the Charlie’s Angels. That guy was clearly in much discomfort during the 3 hour exam. He couldn’t sit still. Apparently his figure hugging garment was applying too much pressure to his nether regions. I had the other experience. My centurion tunic was a little on the short side and it kept riding up. Not only was my modesty under threat (I was conscious of the poor female friends in viewing distance) but it was also far too draughty for my liking. Those Centurions were seriously tough, wearing so little while stood on the exposed Northumberland Hadrian’s Wall during winter.
The crazy thing is that it all that mayhem and madness worked. We all passed that exam. Most with higher marks than expected.
I wonder if school would consider that particular exam adjustment. I wonder if Hawklad would. One thing is for sure, I’m not fitting into my Roman attire these days. I suspect that even a 10 man Roman Tent would be tight around my thighs now.
Here’s the problem with school exams. Sitting in a deathly quiet hall. Surrounded by people who you probably don’t know and if you did know them, what’s the point as you can’t talk. Sat for hours, without moving, writing in silence. The only sounds, the occasional cough (that might be really off putting these days), the rustle of sweet papers being opened and the never ending clicks of the large clock at the front. Then the deafening booming voice – ‘and that’s time, put you pens down’…..
Today Hawklad had a History exam to sit at home. A slightly different exam environment. Sat on a sofa – sometimes. Then pacing around the house to think. A trip to the kitchen to get a piece of cake and soda. Then relocating to his bed to do the long question. All to the tune of music. Some Queen, some Bowie then some Journey. Not forgetting the 2 minute break to give his fingers a rest, best done by tickling the dog’s tummy and kicking a ball around the room.
That’s how Hawklad thinks, works and is most comfortable. Sitting still for more than 10 minutes is stressful, his body needs to be in constant motion. Quiet spooks him. Concentration is done in short bursts then a break. He thinks best when he’s relaxed and moving.
Looking at his completed paper. That free form exam approach works perfectly. Problem is that it isn’t going to be allowed in the final exams. The traditional exam environment is so alien to him. He just can’t perform in that setting. It’s bad for him.
A couple of new neighbours have moved in to the field over looking our back fence. They are much quieter than the usual neighbours. No farting and no incessant water works. Actually the don’t smell as much as well. That’s just lost me all my sheep and cattle followers. Its ok, I’m just horsing around.
Today was one of those school days. Every subject featured lesson material which was difficult for Hawklad. Covering areas that made him uncomfortable. Content which stoked his anxieties and fears. So today was schooling which focused more on the new neighbours and not much on lesson details.
It’s been a day filled with worries. Hawklad gets these days where he just feels like he’s trying to run constantly into a headwind. He woke up with worries. School lessons added to those. The longer he stayed inside the worse things got. So it was time to abandon school for the day. Let’s see what a walk brings.
At least being outside helped stop the stream of new worries. That’s a start….l.
But if you look hard enough there is always something to lift the spirits. To bring a laugh.
I hated exams. Really hated them. I hated the time pressures. I hated the enforced silence. I hated having to sit still for three hours. I hated the weeks of revision (maybe days, ok maybe hours….) and I really hated realising that I had revised the wrong subjects. That unsettling feeling, gazing round at all the pens scribbling away frantically while my pen was being twiddled in my fingers as I waited for the brain to find just one relevant point to write down.
But I really hated the stress and anxiety which goes with exams. I would make myself ill with worry. I felt terrible. That can’t be healthy or good for a teenager.
Already Hawklad is starting to get significant worries from the impending mock exams. Really bad worries. He’s worried about struggling with understanding the time constraints. He’s worried about his handwriting. He’s worried about the alternative (trying to work with a scribe that he just doesn’t know). He’s worried about not being able to get the stuff in his brain out onto the paper. He’s worried about the pressure causing his dyslexia to return and nit being able to read the questions. He’s worried about having to sit still (he naturally paces around). He’s worried about sitting next to strangers. He’s worried about exam questions that remind him of his anxieties that have beset him. He’s worried about the silence and how that could spark anxiety meltdowns. I could go on but let’s just say the exams are getting to him.
How can all this pressure be anything other than harmful for someone who is battling serious anxiety and phobia issues…..
His main exams are in June next year, although he has to take a couple this year. So what do we do. I’m going to speak to his psychologist for advice but decisions have to be made. I’m not going to let exam worries get to him like they got to me.
Friday was the first real test of our new approach to the School at Home project.
This year it’s truly about the needs and wishes of Hawklad. That’s what drives us, not just tying to regimentally stick to a school timetable. If work is sent for Hawklad then it will be completed but to our timescales. If the school was more dedicated to providing regular work, at regular times and that work was consistently marked, then we might be more inclined to stick to the school times. But after 20 months school just hasn’t worked that way. It’s been very hit and miss. That’s how it’s going to be for as long as Hawklad is unable to learn in a classroom. So here goes…..
A Friday morning appointment 30 miles from home. Previously as soon the appointment was over we would belt back home to try a d catch up with any lesson work issued. Too often the rushed return was wasted as no work waiting.
Not this time….
No rushing back for school. Rather a relaxing detour to the coast. A bit of bird spotting. A walk. Fresh sea air. We returned back home a few hours later, then the weekend could start. Hawklad can catch up with any school work missed during this week’s quiet moments.
A walk in the deep, dark wood. No encounter with The Gruffalo on this walk, maybe next time.
Another Yorkshire Gem, Dalby Forest on the edge of the Moors.
A short school at home week. Just 2 days. Should be eight lessons, one lesson dropped for Covid testing. Three lessons, no idea whether they happened or not. One lesson with a few brief notes provided. One quite detailed lesson and one exam to be sat at home.
Sometimes you have to go with the flow. Schools are struggling. Teachers off. Support staff off. Pupils off. Old, unventilated classrooms. Covid in school. Additional pandemic workload. These are challenging times. I will politely chase up homeschooling issues but with understanding.
So when the lessons don’t happen, we go with the flow. Lost schooling time creates more time for the school of life. That school is fun. It has few boundaries. Definitely no exams. Only expectation, having fun. A trip to the Deep Dark Wood is definitely fun……
I have to admit that I am not in the slightest bit upset about Hawklad avoiding a return to the classroom this week. He is not ready. As new covid cases average 200,000 a day. That’s a number that doesn’t include the large number of people getting reinfected, it’s also at a time when many with symptoms can’t get tested. The worry is schools have been closed for 2 weeks, what happens when the variant hits the classroom. Without schools, today in England 157 children were hospitalised with Covid.
Apparently schools are safe and the Government has done everything to protect the children and those who work in them. Reluctantly they have reintroduced masks. Pupils will be tested twice a week if schools can get hold of the test kits. And with a big fanfare it’s been announced that 7000 ventilation units will be finally purchased for schools.
UK classrooms are frequently cramped and poorly designed. We also have some of the largest class sizes across Europe.
One problem with that announcement is that there are over 32000 schools in the UK. Let’s say each school has 10 classrooms, Hawklad’s school has well over 50. So which of those 300000 plus classrooms will get the 7000 ventilation units. That’s a lot of cramped, over crowded classrooms left with inadequate air quality levels. Good indoor ventilation is seen as a key defence against an airborne virus. As one headteacher pointed out, the Government could have put in a ventilation unit into EVERY classroom for half the cost of the new Royal Yacht, which the Government is buying. The Yacht is seen as an essential purchase. Our children clearly aren’t……
Now you that is spectacular. The cliffs at Bempton. Another Yorkshire Gem.
This world has so much to offer.
We travelled here yesterday. A visit to one of the countries best bird viewing sites. That good that the Northern Hemispheres only Albatross chooses here for a summer vacation. No albatross yesterday but we did see many sea birds and a rare chance to see a Short Eared Owl hunt over the fields. That’s some bird.
Hawklad is pushing the boundaries but under his terms. Avoiding crowds, avoiding people. The fact that he can’t face an over crowded classroom doesn’t mean that he can’t venture out. So what next…..
He has set himself some realistic goals for this year. Twelve ‘avoiding people’ targets. I’m signed up to them, so let’s see how many we can tick off during 2022 for him.
1. Visit the New Forest
2. Visit Sherwood Forest
4. Climb Yorkshire’s two highest mountains (they are small ones….)
5. Visit the Lake District and walk up one of England’s bigger mountains
6. Visit a new wildlife park
7. Go to see an Osprey hunt
8. Go for a torchlight walk on the Moors and get to see the stars with zero light pollution
9. Go to Scotland to see a Golden Eagle fly
10. Visit Stonehenge
11. Visit a new castle
12. Go for his longest ever walk
We also have a new golden rule. When we venture out, if a car park is ever half full or busier – then no questions asked, we don’t park. We continue on, find somewhere less busy or we head home.
Hopefully 2022 will show that you can avoid people and still have adventures.
So Hawklad’s School Production Line Report arrived today. His best subjects ranked by school as his worst subjects, possible fails. His weakest subjects ranked better. Lots of random grades and targets. No pattern.
Then a pattern.
The few subjects where the teacher has looked at his work. Made suggestions. Actually tracked his work while he has been away from the classroom, tried to be proactive, these are his highest ranking subjects on the report. The subjects that are no more than borderline fails are the subjects where the teacher effectively has not been there for Hawklad during his homeschooling days. The subjects featuring no marking, no feedback, at best just minimal work sent out.
Does this show the inaccuracies of a metrics based report without any context.
Does it just show that because of the excessive teacher workloads, those pupils away from the classroom just suffer educationally.
Does it show that some teachers still fall back on assumptions. Pupils with unique educational needs are just shoehorned into the bottom set, labelled low attainment. Much more productive to spend teaching time on other pupils
Does it show a school system ravaged by a pandemic.
Does it show the way forward for Hawklad.
I’m not sure yet. I’m kind of too tired to process all this yet. But it’s clear as we move into the new year, to me Hawklad is making massive strides forward especially given the challenges he is having to deal with. It’s also yet another year which starts with the a school system which for whatever the reason, apparently isn’t delivering for Hawklad. Another year of battles with school.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, let’s all dust ourselves down and go again. We can do this.