Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Two Right Wellies!

I've just been to feed the hens, went to the welly rack and found two size five wellies (too small) and two left wellies (sizes 6 and 7). My daughter has set off to school with two right wellies as she is going out on a field trip to our local National trust farm.

Well it's raining rain and leaves, and the trees are almost bent double! I have visions of her squelching through the mud in her school shoes (that's if she doesn't slide over into the mud like her brother did a couple of weeks ago in his new jeans and expensive trainers!)

So it looks as if a trip to Coniston is in store. Good job I'm a Home Educating mum!

Anyway it's been a while since I mentioned my Autistic son, he's fourteen now and home educated , and slowly and surely I'm beginning to see him mature. That's why this blog is so usefu.For many with neuro typical children it's perhaps difficult to understand just how important small steps are to the family of a disabled child! Tying shoe laces or learning to ride a bike are huge achievements for many autistic children.For us ,at the moment, one of the challenges is hygiene. We've moved on from hair cutting, which is now accepted as long as we do it at home with hair trimmers ( although last time my son wore his bobble hat for a month after as I'd cut it too short!)

We are however still struggling with teeth cleaning (and haven't yet worked out an answer to that one) But we have made a break through! Now that puberty has set in and he's getting sweaty,he is more open to the idea of regular baths (not THAT regular you understand) but not the one every two weeks if you pin him down under the water for a few minutes kind of bath. It's interesting that he doesn't get upset if you say 'You smell horrible you need a bath', it's a bit like the clip in Temple Grandin's film 'Temple Grandin'  when her boss hands her a can of antiperspirant- you have to tell it as it is!

I know we've moved on because when I suggest a bath he doesn't flatly refuse but waits a few minutes to process the idea and then ,after I forget I've asked the question, announces 'OK'. He still requires prompting and I suspect always will but we'll get round that one as he gets older with alarms or calendars or something!

Leaving him the choice of when he goes out has also made a difference. Now he is fourteen and can stay at home when I pop to the shops, I no longer have to pressurise him to go out, which only caused him panic attacks and me huge frustration at being late, unable to get my shopping or meet other people. I've accepted he isn't interested in socialising a great deal and that he isn't sad and I have noticed him coming out into the sunshine with the dogs recently to sit and play with them on the grass. Yesterday I came home to see him out walking the dog with his elder brother (I couldn't have made him do that in a million years ) and we have a couple of meetings lined up ( a visit from another home educating family) and his brother's eighteen birthday meal (a quiet affair for family and grandparents- he likes that!)

He has been to the pictures, popped round to grandma's and we have talked about planning a visit to Duxford air museum.All very small steps but I'm finally 'getting it' and learning not to be swayed by what others think -my son is doing it his  way and has no intention of being changed by society and that's just the way it should be!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Work to Learn,NOT to Earn

My son is reading Rich Dad ,Poor Dad for Teens.I found it on Readitswapit and remembered how the adult version had so much impact on myself and my husband years ago. I read it in the days before home education,in fact before children. but it starts off by reminding us that school doesn't prepare you for the real world of work and that good grades are not the only way to become 'successful'

Too many of my son's friends don't want to do voluntary work because they don't get paid.They have yet to gain the maturity to understand the experience they would be acquiring. I even spoke to a mum whose daughter had completed her A levels and found a very good apprenticeship telling me that her daughter was only being paid the 'minimum wage' as though somehow her employer was being fraudulent.

My son has always had a different outlook.Perhaps we inadvertently fed him our ideas although I think much is down to his personality. He grabs opportunities with confidence and creates his own 'luck'.

At the age of fifteen he was asked if he could help at our local kennels for a week whilst one of the walkers was on holiday.Every day he was up at 7.30am and back again at 4.00pm without a moan or a groan and came back with stories of all the dogs he'd met and what he'd learned.As far as he was concerned he was doing it for free to help out the owner.At the end of the week he came out smiling from ear to ear  and a wad of five pound notes in his hand.He'd earned his first wages and he hadn't expected a penny! In 'Rich Dad Poor dad' it says you work to learn,not to earn and it resulted in my son's first job and later a great reference when he started to work full time.

From a weekend job he was then offered an apprenticeship after he left school with our local council.He had intended to go to college full time but he applied for this apprenticeship 'for practice' and was offered the job! This job paid for driving lessons and car insurance and gave my son the independence he needed. It was also a valuable lesson in how ineffective management and lack of knowledge in current health and safety legislation can have a negative impact on the morale of the work force. As a first experience of an Apprenticeship the whole experience had the potential to have a very negative impact on a conscientious and hard-working sixteen year old whose endeavours to use initiative and creativity were thwarted at every corner because  of  a deep rooted fear of change.It in fact gave him a huge insight into the lack of accountability, complacency and money wasting going on within local government. His first introduction to Politics!

And so it was necessary to cut away dead wood and negativity, brush himself down and move on. He began completing application forms and received a phone call from the recruitment company asking him if he would consider another,higher profile apprenticeship which hadn't been advertised? Of course he would!

He was interviewed,asked to see the workshops ( a lesson learned from his last job and health and safety experiences) and to speak to someone who had already done the apprenticeship. It seems his prospective employer were impressed.He had never been asked that before and so my son ended up one morning with two offers of employment on the door mat and having a choice to make!

He chose Lake District Audi and has experienced first hand what a difference effective management and private enterprise can make. He has a full time mentor, proper protective equipment without having to wrangle because of cost, and he is just about to embark on his next adventure - an Audi Induction course at Milton Keynes.

And for anyone interested he is still on an Apprenticeship wage (but no longer the minimum) but he has learned so much about working as a team,motivating your work force and looking after employees (he has a Christmas dinner coming up)

No work experience is ever a waste.Paid or unpaid, look for learning opportunities and new opportunities will come along too! And for the little ones who aren't quite there yet, why not try the games on Rich Kid ,Smart Kid which are aimed at introducing children to managing finances. The sooner they start the better!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Being Crafty.!

I used to envy those who have a gift for crafts,my sister is one of those people, whatever she turns her hand to turns out looking professional and good enough to sell.
Being a home educator you can feel a bit of a failure when all around you seem to be making pictures from autumn leaves, making soap or finger painting and generally giving the impression of the 'perfect home educating family'
So many people,when you speak to them about home education will tell you,"I could never do that. I was never any good at maths,or English or crafts ( whatever their perceived weakness).
What I gradually learned is that it really didn't matter. My daughter left guides because she didn't like doing "crafts" and she joined scouts instead. She has just moved up to Explorer scouts and after a weekend away last week she has been making dog collars out of paracord, having learned how to make a survival bracelet at Mersey-moot. It's a bushcraft skill.A way to make a very strong cord and she has really enjoyed it.
It occured to me that, as with all subjects which I as a home educator don't know how to do ,there are always people able and willing to teach them. Every year there is a local lantern procession in our nearby market town.The scouts learned to make paper lanterns from withies,tissue paper and P.V.A glue and there are some great creations made by people from all walks of life,many of whom have very little time in their daily lives to paint or draw or make things just for the fun of it!
I also learned that crafts are not just about 'art'. I love taking photos and am slowly learning how to use the camera. I also have a penchant for car boot sales and love buying and making things for the garden. I've painted old wooden garden chairs, planted up tea pots and fish crates, made wind-chimes out of cutlery.All these things have bought me pleasure and fulfilment and cost virtually nothing. They have also been relevant to me and where I am at the moment. My son on the other hand has turned his hand to lego,minecraft world and digital art because of his interest in computers. There is no linear development in home education as there is in school, you don't learn about Constable one week and Picasso the next but there is a sense of turning your hand to arts and crafts when you need or want to. With my husband it's do it yourself, with my daughter its cake baking, with me it used to be sewing now it's upcycling. We learned in different ways, from parents,friends, books and videos but even though we didn't learn at school we still learned.So don't despair, if you feel you can't teach something,put out some feelers and find someone who can,they're out there somewhere!

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!