Thursday, 18 September 2014

The one that got away!

I watched as my seventeen year old son and his fourteen year old sister piled their rucksacks into the car and drove off to Explorer camp for the weekend and realized just how grown up they are now. Both have been camping for several years and now have packing down to a fine art- the only difference this year was they were going together and my son was driving.That meant a few tweaks buying extra equipment but we know from experience it will get used.Next on the list will be a good quality two man tent for wild camping- we are savhing up for that!
So that leaves three of us, my husband,myself and my fourteen year old son with Aspergers.We have a very quiet house!
This week has been interesting.It is the week in which one of my children has started her GCSE options and her twin brother has chosen none.They're both academically able but very different children.
We are going against the flow.We have encouraged our daughter to choose subjects she enjoys rather than those recommended as 'going together'. One of the subject she chose is Land based sciece,a largely practical exam,designed to interest the farm lads who don't want to be in school.There is a risk they might disrupt the class (so far they haven't) but my daughter's attitude is that she'll get on despite that if necessary.In fact most of them have a lot to offer,already one has shown her how to turn a sheep over onto it's back! This week my daughter was allocated a Tup and was asked to check it's health.She learned to age it by it's teeth,checked its ears and feet but before she got to weigh it it took an almighty leap and jumped a two metre high fence - it was the sheep that got away. My daughter has a nick name Bo Peep!
Then there was a trip to the Westmorland show - the high light?Well it seems to have been the Sheep show! A sheep with a Bob Marley  hair style was the star.It did some " Jammin'" (sounds like my idea of education)
As for my son, he continues to monitor current affairs, the scottish referendum,the Invicta games and to make his views very vocal in our discussions.Whatever he decides to do - he's unlikely to become a sheep farmer!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Learning new things!

We all need to learn in order to grow and develop,parents too! That's why education is important but school isn't.It doesn't matter where you learn or when you learn it as long as you continue to search out new things. That's why when you are struggling with home education, as we all do at times,it's good to take a step back and instead of asking  "What should I be teaching my children" perhaps we should ask"What do I want to know?"

Because an interested teacher is a motivated and enthusiastic teacher and that shines through.

Of all the parents of children with Autism that I know,the ones that shine through are the ones that get on and do things in spite of their child's autism. It doesn't mean they don't struggle or get down but they have learned to set goals and go for them and, surprisingly, it is their achievements which improve their own quality of life ( and often that of their autistic children too)

This week, after four years, one friend has published an ebook about autism   Having struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis of not one but two of her children and the attitudes she found towards her when she was struggling in public to control them she decided to do something about it.

Another friend took up running and discovered a passion which she could share with her family.

Yet another writes a fabulous blog about her hill walks with her son Evan in the Lakes district. She is inspirational and has shown just how much can be achieved through home education, and yet another has just completed the great North run!

I am surrounded by positive people and it rubs off!

So that just leaves me - what have I learned this week?

We entered Benny and Rusty for the first time  in our local dog show (we didn't win anything, but it's the taking part that counts,right?) But don't worry we'll be back next year now we know the judge prefers spaniels (just have to work on the spaniel fancy dress costumes for our border terrier and black labrador)

Oh, and did I mention I've taken up running? It's a twelve week course called from Couch to 5K and I've just about got off the couch at the moment but watch this space- with all the nudges and winks going on in our family it's like a red rag to a bull. I'll show them!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Following interests makes for motivated children

It's been  six years  since I first started home educating my autistic son . It's been an interesting journey and has not always gone according to plan but I'm so glad I did it , both for him and for our family. As I read the comments of many parents on facebook who are glad the summer holidays are over I feel sad that they are unable to enjoy quality time with their children because of the pressures of work, trying to juggle child care and jobs and the difficulties that arise through having intense periods of family time when you have to cram so much into six short weeks.

Being at home with my son has allowed us to really get to know one another, to realize that we often need our own space, that we are different people and I have had to accept that for this child , at this moment,outside activities and crafts are not for him.

We have however discovered a common interest in history, me in the people, him in the events and the inventions and that's how we came to be at the Bovington Tank museum on Monday.

It all started a few months ago when he announced he would like to visit the biggest tank museum in the world- Bovington Tank museum. I'd never heard of it  so I did some research and discovered it was seven hours away in Dorset.

My son has just turned fourteen and getting him to set foot outside the house is a major operation so for him to ask to go anywhere is unusual. We took the bull by the horns and my husband booked a Premier inn in Dorchester,half an hour away from the museum and the visit was planned.

 I've noticed on several occasions now that when my son wants to do something
 1. He isn't stressed going out
2. He often doesn't wear his ear defenders
3.He eats just about any food given to him and
 4. He sleeps at night.

 For anyone who doesn't live with an autistic person they could argue that we just give in to him normally and that he's perfectly capable of going to bed at a sensible time and eating the same food as the rest of us,but as a friend put it yesterday "they don't know the wall that is autism"

My theory is that motivation overcomes all fear and anxiety enabling my son to do things he would normally find really hard.

What a success! We sat in a chieften tank and learned how they worked,
travelled in an APC,
watched a display of tanks and personnel carriers and learned the science behind tracks as opposed to wheels
 visited a reproduction world war 1 trench , a mock up of an army base in Afghanistan and walked through a hall showing the history of tanks starting with Little Willie and Mother to the present day! My son even completed a quiz sheet as he wanted a goody bag - for a boy who hates writing that's no mean feat. Six hours of pure unadulterated learning, no cohercian or pressure,just a desire to learn more! It has worked for my autistic son and convinced me that whilst school would not have worked for him, home education most certainly has! Interest led learning is the key!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Summer Pastimes!

 This is Leprechaun,and this is Socks.....

My daughter has been looking after them whilst a friend is away. So far this summer she has looked after three cats, six chickens. two dogs, a rabbit and looked after various dogs at the kennels where she works! She said she would quite like to train guide dogs when she is older!

In fact that's the whole point of experience of the real world.It's preparing her for the world of work whatever she decides to do!

Animals and nature play a huge part in our home education journey. I took this photo whilst walking the dogs the other morning.Having a camera with me reminds me to record the small things I see, the things I would miss if I drove past in the car or was too busy to stop and look.

A visit to Grange over sands the other day led me into a community orchard! It had been planted for the enjoyment of the residents and there was an information board about the different types of apple.Just enough to wet your appetite and find out more at home!

Apple orchards in the Autumn sunshine are beautiful places (although you do have to beware the odd apple as it falls from the tree). It's lovely to watch the peacock and red admiral butterflies as they feast on the rotting fruit or to watch the hens staggering drunkenly round their Coop!

We've had such a beautiful summer. Lots of time spent in the garden, by the sea and on the lake with a few lake district walks thrown in for good measure! It will be interesting to see what the next academic year has in store!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Conversations round the tea table

Today's discussion turned round whether people appreciated something less when there was a lot of it ! Quite a deep philosphical discussion for thirty minutes around the tea table!

I'm not quite sure where these questions come from but again and again they do! They have just become part and parcel of our everyday life and it's interesting to watch the dynamics as each member of the family gives their pennyworth. Each opinion is valid and valued and the children are encouraged to think about and appreciate each others point of view. Unstructured learning has certainly given our autistic son a freedom to ask questions and argue in a way which his schooled brother and sister would feel more inhibited to do because of structure within the curriculum and lack of time within the school day!

It has been a day of learning in different ways.I have been given a wormery, something I have wanted for a while.We have a large garden and are up to four compost bins now although the quality of compost is often too bulky to serve well when planting up plants in flower pots. Wormeries are supposed to create finer compost and I can keep it within reach of the kitchen door rather than walk up the garden on rainy days.I already had worms in the lids of my existing bins so they have gone in together with the peelings left over from our roast dinner today.

My eldest spent the night in a barn in the Lickle Valley,he and his friend emerged out of the mist this morning, soaking wet' having slept on the floor of the barn with a group of friend with whom they had celebrated a seventeenth birthday party last night. The barn was in the middle of no-where, half a mile from the nearest human habitation and it brought back memories of a birthday party I'd been to in the snow thirty years ago at roughly the same age when we walked along country lanes in the snow on a clear starry night as there was too much snow to access the village by car. I used to pick wild daffodils in the Lickle valley as a child. There was an honesty box at the field gate. I wonder if it is still there?

My daughter practised drama for the village holiday bible club next week. She is helping and is looking forward playing with the little ones. It is all helping to build up her portfolio of experience for later when she's looking for a job!

*Lickle valley walk

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A Lakeland Country Fayre

Summer is the time for Country Fayres and agricultural shows and, in this neck of the woods. we have them in abundance. It's a chance for the farming community to meet up and for local communities to enter into the competitive spirit with their crafts and cake making,not forgetting their talented pets!

At John Ruskin school in Coniston for the first time, the pupils have the opportunity to take a land based science GCSE, concentrating on farming and good management of natural ressources.

My daughter has already ordered her John Deere overalls and is excited at the prospect of lambing and attending the Westmorland County show in September.

This year we have had the most fantastic weather.Agricultural shows are so weather dependent and,as I'd never been to Coniston Country fayre before, I decided that the location, on the shores of Coniston water ,seemed an idyllic way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The fayre was held in the grounds of Coniston Hall and as we entered we passed a row of vintage tractors which had been lovingly restored.

The three bears were having their picnic.

and the little red fox was apparently waiting for Chicken Licken.

Country Fayres are a great way for the locals to exhibit their skills and we watched as a chap carved owls with a chain saw.

Not quite as delicate as the carved walking sticks on display but just as creative! There were hounds to judge and fell races up Coniston Old Man in the searing temperatures.

I was just thankful to be sitting in the shade enjoying a picnic and watching the boats as they passed up and down the lake!

And of course it wouldn't be Coniston without a mention of Arthur Ransome and Swallows and Amazons

I learned that he started his Career as a journalist during the First World war and vowed to continue with my book Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint's Trunk.

And it wouldn't be a Lakeland Country Fayre without some Cumberland Wrestling! The little chap on the right drew the short straw when he was chosen to wrestle with a boy twice his size! Better luck next year!

The power of Flowers!

One of my favourite trips is to visit our local community garden at Ford Park for inspiration and imaginative ideas. The garden is situated at the foot of Hoad Hill is Ulverston and is open every day .Volunteers work on the garden and excess vegetable and plants are sold to the public,

As we strolled round the garden a few days ago there were laminated poems about plants by Maggie Norton and as well as a pink lady scarecrow there was a floral bicycle propped up against the wall!

We walked through a willow arch,having studied the structure for a future project.

But the highlight was the butterfly garden- a swathe of wild flowers and bushes grown randomly to attract the butterflies!

A small girl was sitting with her daddy whilst he identified a moth too her and showed her some caterpillars underneath a ragwort plant

She took a few home in a jar in the hopes that she could watch them turn into Chrysalis and butterflies. Meanwhile I caught this moth on camera! I have a friend called Poppy who I'm sure will identify it for me!