Bad History

The fungi keep on coming in Yorkshire, must be the perfect weather for them.

Hawklad was muttering about school, in particular HISTORY.

“Dad why do they just focus on the bad stuff in history. Wars, murders, executions, purges, treachery, villains. We clearly spent month after month after month studying Victorian Serial Killers for a bit of light relief from the bad history stuff.”

Yes it has not exactly been a barrel of laughs.

“It’s been like this for years. Just bad history. Never the Good Stuff in history. The uplifting things. The Heroes. The groundbreaking discoveries. The breakthroughs. The great reformers. The adventures. The fun stuff. So many great things have happened in history yet we never look at them. “

It does make you think. Why months of schooling on Jack the Ripper and yet nothing on Mother Teresa or Marie Curie. Not a mention about the Moon Landings, Climbing Everest, Discovering Penicillin, the first flight, development of philosophy, art and literature, the good stuff we can be proud of in history.

History can be uplifting and inspiring. It’s doesn’t have to be always BAD…..

Bill

A great place to think….

A great place to get cold as well…..

Well I was…..

24 hours after my double shot of Flu and Covid booster vaccines. The arm which enjoyed the Pfizer needle was feeling like it had been repeatedly punched by Tyson Fury. The rest of me was just feeling cold, like I had a cold. Not sure why but every single time I have had the Flu vaccine, the next day I have without fail come down with cold symptoms and it was no different this year.

So feeling COLD and THINKING next to this awesome little lake.

“Dad I’ve come up with a Christmas list idea, how about a Scalextric Set…”

Bang goes my one great big surprise idea….. Pants…..

“You don’t need to get me any Shakespeare stuff Dad, anything to do with School English Literature is not ever making the list now. Definitely not after school sucked the life out of it.”

It’s ok, Shakespeare was not in the Gift running list. The one and only time he did make the GIFT list, it was via the wonderful Horrible Histories BILL movie.

“Dad we haven’t watched the Horrible Histories movie in ages. I learnt more from that movie than school has ever managed to teach me about Shakespeare in years. The movie was fun, school isn’t….”

He’s not wrong there….

Can you remember the last time you had fun with your schools.

“Not happened so far, but to be fair, I’ve only been at school for 11 years.”

And stood by this cold lake, we probably stumble on why education in the UK is in such a mess for so many families.

Monuments

A weekend walk on the Yorkshire Wolds.

Yorkshire does like a good old monument. Three good ones on one brief walk.

So school should be fully back in swing now but I’m left with one overriding feeling.

WHAT IS THE POINT…..

School helpfully emailed all parents with a list of topics that need revising for the upcoming Mock Exams. Unfortunately well over half the topics are new news items to Hawklad. Is it revising when you have to look at a topic for the first time. Deep sigh….

Hardly any interactions with teaching staff still, Hawklad is definitely feeling increasingly cut adrift. Unfortunately for the rare subjects that are still in touch, he kinda wishes they had joined in the collective radio silence.

One of the teachers did mark some of his submitted work. I thought it was really good work, better than I could ever manage. But what do I know, the teacher awarded him a FAIL. Apparently when a question asks for consequences of a particular event, marks will only be awarded if the pupil sticks to the limited number of consequences provided by the teacher in class, which have been approved by those in charge. It reflects just one of a number of equally valid opinions. Stick to what you are told. Parrot learn the wording and then regurgitate the words in the exam. Critical thinking, or thinking for yourself are not required. Valid consequences and detailed reasonings that differ from the very narrow school script are not accepted. I did recheck Hawklad’s answer and yes I quickly found that his arguments were backed up by a number of subject experts. Hawklad really can’t get his head round all this. It confuses him. It frustrates him. It makes him doubt himself.

What makes this worse is that this is his favourite subject. The subject he is best at. The one he enjoys the most and yet because of the academic approach, it’s now the one he is getting the lowest marks in.

Failed for thinking. Failed for having a passion in something. Kinda sums up the school at present.

It just seems like a MONUMENTal waste.

I do like a good pun, but tonight even that pun doesn’t make me smile. Yes school is back again.

Shakespeare

Autumnal colours.

I wonder how Shakespeare would describe this scene. I bet he would use lots and lots of vowels…. This set me off thinking about school. What would Bill think about how his plays are taught in some schools these days. Initially he might be a tad chuffed that his words are still being read. Once he had got over that feeling, then what would he really think of how the plays are being used.

When I was at school with the dinosaurs, we would read the Shakespeare plays together as a class and then act out the scenes. I remember doing a rather excellent snotty nosed version of Lucentio. The teachers tried to make the learning fun and interactive. As a kid I shouldn’t have really liked Bill’s plays, but I actually did. School did it’s job.

Fast forward to Hawklad’s schooling and wow it’s changed. Shakespeare is still taught, just so very differently. The fun has gone… Now it’s about parrot learning key quotes. It’s about memorising the metaphors, the juxtapositions, the oxymorons, the alliterations. It’s not about acting the plays out, enjoying them, that’s all replaced by being told what to think about the plays. The work is so very often, repetitive, writing sections of the plays out, word for word. Then writing out the comments the teacher has scrawled next to the text. Then doing the same thing, over and over again. Got to get those words into the child’s head. Got to get the one approved interpretation memorised. They never ask what the pupil thinks about the play, just what the pupil can remember from the set model answer. In too many subjects Hawklad has been marked down for expressing his own opinion. Its not interactive learning, it’s more like brainwashing. Is it me or is schooling going backwards in the UK.

Deep sigh…..

I’m not sure Bill would be that impressed as well……

Random Facts

Another busy Yorkshire motorway…

Here is a completely random fact for you. If this was like one of those fine old Roman Roads, and just kept going ‘straight as a die’. Well if you kept driving straight, in just over an hour, you would get to where Chris Rea was born. I’m not sure this would be the Road to Hell he was talking about. Add another few miles on in that direction and you get to where mum was born. She had a few Chris Rea cd’s.

Sorry, this is what happens when you play with the newly found compass and direction finder on your mobile. Especially when your stood waiting for Captain Chaos to finish off his morning constitutional. It takes a while…..

It’s also happens to be nearly 2 miles to the nearest dog poo bin. Deep joy. Spookily 2 miles in the same direction as Chris Rea.

Actually thinking about it, I could also have picked the Free and Bad Company vocalist, Paul Rodger’s birth place. That would have been ‘Alright Now’. Then again I could have gone for Captain James Cook, but I’m not sure what his Rock Music credentials are like.

It’s nice to be thinking about other things for a few days. Even random things. Schooling was really getting me down. School definitely feels like somewhere between the Road to Hell and Another Brick in the Wall, but let’s worry about that next week. Back to random facts.

This road leads you to the actor Richard Griffiths birthplace, thars the actor who played Harry Potters Stepdad. Go a few more miles down this extended road and you get to Ridley Scott’s birthplace. Alien, Gladiator, Blade Runner.

Random Facts……

Fungi 2

It’s been a cracking Fungi season. A gift that keeps on giving.

The school half term holiday starts tomorrow evening. The school at home project has completely nosedived this half term. Any support provided is becoming at best very very very patchy, too many of the subjects are dropping completely off the radar. It’s all very vexing and we both quip that it feels like the postman will be bringing a letter from school saying that Hawklad has been sacked. So a week off is needed to lift his spirits, to relax. He is seriously stressed out.

Apparently NOT….

School has made it clear that for pupils like Hawklad, this half term is about work and revising. The school will be checking to see that pupils have put in the hour after hour of work by setting tests as soon as school reopens again.

All work NO play.

I realise other parents might take a different view but this is so wrong to me. Everybody needs a break, especially in these times. Kids need time to relax and have fun. So many are stressed out. Stressed out with school, freaked out by the madness they see unfold all around them. No wonder that UK Child Mental Health Services are being swamped. Latest figures show that over 400000 children per month are being treated for mental health problems.

So here, yes there will be a small bit of work but hopefully bucket loads of relaxation and play. If Hawklad isn’t up to work then stuff school.

Fungi

If you like Fungi, then this is the time to come to Yorkshire.

There has been MUSHROOM today to admire these regular autumnal visitors. A bit of a pattern is forming with Hawklad’s final school year before the main exams next May. A couple of subjects upload reasonable class notes onto the online school system, enough to follow a lesson but there is no interaction with the teacher. A couple of subjects will randomly load up shed load of questions, no explanations, no teaching materials, just questions. Hawklad then needs to figure out what he is supposed to be learning. Sadly his answers to the shed load of questions mostly remain unmarked, not even reviewed, an answer sheet makes it his responsibility to assess his own work. And the rest of the subjects, well let’s be polite, the bare minimum is sometimes being provided ….. possibly.

School has been back one month now and he hasn’t had any direct contact with a teacher. The occasional brief email, the occasional one or two word scribbled note on a document. That’s it. No teaching interaction.

So with a return to the classroom seemingly as remote a possibility as ever, we have mostly falling into homeschooling. It definitely doesn’t feel like a ‘school at home’ project anymore.

Conkers

It’s CONKER season……

A rather depressingly familiar school at home week. Hardly any contact with teaching staff for Hawklad. We managed to randomly find some stuff that the classes have been covering on the online system, but not much. Even those few finds were a little dispiriting. Too many references to the class using textbooks, class learning materials that Hawklad has never seen, covering topics that haven’t even been mentioned to him. It really feels like he has only covered a fraction of the areas that his fellow classmates have. The scale of the missing teaching is now becoming all too apparent.

So we have 8 months until his final exams, 8 months to try and catch up. 8 months to try and get Hawklad ready for exams that he has had no practice at sitting. Relying on his muppet Dad to try and be an expert teacher in Maths, in English, History, Geography, Sciences, Religious Studies. School ain’t stepping up to the plate to help much. All while Hawklad is trying to re-engage with the outside world again. Absolutely no certainties that he will be in any kind of frame of mind to sit them. His well-being comes first.

Deep sigh.

It’s the weekend, time to try to relax.

Time to play with my conkers….

Pesky minus

Autumn is here. The Swallows and Swifts have left for warmer climes. Today felt cold even under a thick hoody.

Hawklad is making great strides on the dyslexia front. His reading is really good, now able to read History Textbooks. It’s hard to believe that back in 2020 he struggled to read books aimed at 6 and 7 year olds and school had decided that he would never read, so there was no point trying anymore. Sadly I realise they never really started trying in the first place. I had even gone out and bought a reading pen. He can now accurately read maybe 80% of the words then he can make educated guesses on most of the other ones. It works for him and that’s all that matters.

What is still very much a work in progress is his number dyslexia. He has finally conquered his difficultly with 4 and 7’s. Getting the two mixed up and often writing the two numbers back to front. But he just can’t break the roadblocks that are decimal points, fractions and minuses. Today he was easily expanding out complex equations, yet he would immediately grind to a halt when faced with something like +5-7. He just can’t visualise that. The problem is at home I can gently help with that, but in an exam there is no help.

This week has also highlighted another school stumbling block with reading. SHAKESPEARE. Hawklad’s way of reading just can’t cope with Shakespearean language and spellings.

And I will take thy word: yet if thou swear’st,

An open et caetera, thou a poperin pear!

I did try to read the sonnets to him but I struggle with Shakespeare as well. Plus according to Hawklad when I read, my character voice sounds like I’m reading parts from a SpongeBob cartoon. My Romeo apparently is a dead ringer for Patrick. But at least we have a solution to this one. Just watch the play on thou swear’st Netflix.

Wrestling with the logistics

He misses out on so much, so much of the teenage life. You can only experience so much when you spend so much time isolated. What highlights the isolation is that since March 2020 he has spent some time with only ONE friend in that time – his only contact with someone his own age. Yes a really good friend but that’s a shed load of teenage socialising missed out on. It’s not the same but when a chance to do something special for him presents itself then you grab it, regardless of the difficulties.

The alarm went off before 5am.

300 miles of driving later, two traffic jams and we park up in Cardiff.

Trying frustratingly to find facilities that weren’t too busy and that could be used without causing too much stress.

Trying to take in a bit of the history of the Capital of Wales while avoiding the crowds.

Watching the anxiety levels rise as we join the long queues to get into a huge stadium.

But then the goal. The whole point of this. Getting the wrestling mad Hawklad into the UK’s first major Wrestling Televised Live Event in 30 years, along with 62000 other crazy fans. Was I so underdressed in a grey T-shirt and Jeans…. With much trying I had obtained 2 tickets at the back but crucially in an area with some space around us. Then for 4 hours Hawklad could be part of something, experiencing something different, something exciting. A brief breakout from the isolation

Then it was over, 300 mile night driving and almost 24 hours later we arrived back home. Wow I was tired. Yes it was difficult. Yes the trip highlighted many issues that create roadblocks to eventually easing the isolation and maybe returning him to a classroom. But Hawklad did some of that exciting living and that is all that mattered.