Sunday, 14 December 2014

Judge for yourself- don't believe everything you read!

Land based science working party

Yesterday I was talking to a lady about my daughter's school.

"Ah yes" , she said, "That school has a bad reputation doesn't it?"

Well actually it doesn't. When OFSTED visited the school all the parents (with the exception of one) rated the school as excellent or good in all respects.The school is small. with a high percentage of special needs and it caters for each pupil as an individual ,whether they be potential Oxford and Cambridge entrants or struggling with a life long disability which will make independent living very unlikely.

School Fell race 2014

The sad thing is that people listen to OFSTED and the perameters of what makes a 'sucessful' school keep changing so  numbers dwindle and the future of our small local schools become threatened.Perhaps that's what the government is aiming for.After all they are a drain to the Treasury pocket!

I once read that the optimum amount of people that anyone can get to know is just over 100. In my daughter's school there are 150 and she knows most of them, if not personally, by sight. Bullying is stamped on immediately and when I suggested my daughter might be slightly dyslexic she was assessed within two days.

I can ring up reception and they know who I am and I can send an email knowing that my message will be passed on to the relevant teacher. Parents and children work together as a team and want what's best for each individual child. It's just about as good as it gets after home education. (but then I'm biased!)

So if you're looking for a good school,go and visit and judge for yourself. There is more to an excellent school than just good grades. But then what would I know, I'm just a parent!

Land based science working party

Dry stone walling!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Thinking for ourselves- when Education takes over!

In the light of The Corporation and Bowling for Columbine, Google and I have been looking at the economy and how it works. What the subject would be called at school is debatable. Certainly economics, possibly psychology. What I do know is that he wouldn't be studying it at school as part of the current National curriculum in the United Kingdom

 We have considered the power of large companies over the public and politicians, seen "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" (both American imports)  come and go, and the efforts of small business ' in Britain to fight back with "small business Saturday."

In "Bowling for Columbine" we saw that despite easy access to guns in the USA and Canada,gun crime in the USA is much higher. In the Canadian large cities gun crime was virtually non existent. The conclusion of the documentary was that the news media in America fed fear into  people, promoting negative and tragic stories because that's what brought in the money.
Whether the conclusion was right or wrong it made us think about society and the world we want to live in.

Google commented that he would like to live in Canada and we were certainly left with the impression that it was a country where community has not been lost, where people trust one another, where health care is free and wealth is distributed more fairly.

We also spoke to someone in the village who regularly watches News from France or Russia and Japan to get a more open view of what is happening in the world. Someone called her 'sad'. I call that open minded.

With petitions in circulation daily against injustices highlighted by members of the British public Google and I  have explored the working conditions of several large and 'successful' companies and are having to rethink  how and where we shop.

We've also looked at how food is marketed, what goes into processed food,how the obesity is rising and it is causing us to challenge what we do as a  family. In fact home education is changing our lives.

I've mentioned before that home education has made us more politically aware. Certainly Google follows current affairs with interest and has an opinion on most matters. He certainly doesn't sit back and accept the status quo!

I think that's what's wrong with our current education system.It doesn't challenge teenagers to think for themselves it's simply an exam processing machine!

 This morning I read a free E book about helping our children to develop into well rounded thinking individuals .It's called Re framing Success and it challenges the notion that those with high grades are 'successful"

I'm glad we took Google out of school.It's challenged us to look at what we do and change things when they don't sit comfortably with our beliefs.

So this year most of our Christmas presents are home made of from local businesses.We are trying to buy more fruit and less processed food,I've unsubscribed to some of the companies who send me daily promotional emails and trying to reuse and recycle where we can.

We have a long way to go but no matter how long it takes,each step is a step forward. Education is becoming part of our lives!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

What makes us Happy?

As I grow older I increasingly find that it's the simple things in life that bring me the most happiness, like walking in the countryside,singing,coffee with friends and sharing! In fact a special friend and I have agreed to spend no more than £2 on one another for Christmas ( including card and wrapping paper) I'm having a great time scouring the shops for just the right present! The worrying thing is that my husband thinks it's a great idea and has decided that the i-pad he thought he might buy me has gone out the window!

The best gifts for me are memories. Putting up the nativity and remembering the year when Google decided to put baby Jesus on the roof, or the Easter card ,where if you looked closely , Google's chicken was wearing spectacles whilst his twin sister's conformed to the acceptable 'norm'

Making Sloe gin and watching the sun set over Black Combe as my daughter and I  stood by the farm gate with a box filled with Sloes. Being privileged to participate in a concert in memory of the First world war and struggling to sing the words "Everyone suddenly burst out singing" based on a poem by Siegfried Sassoon as there was such a lump in my throat and half the audience were crying!

And now we are looking forward to a season of concerts in nursing homes, day care centres and public Christmas events.Singing is free and brings lots of pleasure to so many,including those of us that sing! Here's one of my current Favourites "Cold enough to Snow"
I read this,this morning and thought it worth posting! I hope it has as much impact on you as it did me!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Story of Alan Turing

This morning I found myself in the Doctors surgery explaining what a Bonobo was to the nurse Not that it's likely to be something she comes across often in the Lake District, but you never know. It was something ,I told her, that my Autistic had explained to me a couple of weeks ago. "He sounds just like 'Google',she said and lo and behold I had my new blog name for him! So from now on "Google" it is! Google and I went to the cinema to watch The Imitation Game It's the story of mathematician Alan Turing and his successful attempt to decode The Enigma machine during the second World War.  The Imitation Game  has been criticised for being historically inaccurate in many ways , but having read about him after seeing the film,I have come away with a much better perception of how his invention played a huge part in bringing the war to an end, the punishment for homosexuality in the 1950's , the difficulty for women to be accepted as the academic equals of men and an overwhelming desire to visit Bletchley Park and expand my knowledge . The sad thing is that Alan Turing wasn't recognised for his genius during his lifetime and died at the age of 41, having committed suicide. He was only pardoned in December 2013  for his criminal record for being homosexual. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays him as a man with Asperger syndrome, and although the film never says that and there was no diagnosis in Turing's day there has been speculation that he was in fact Autistic. As Google's mother I found his portrayal both heart warming and extremely sad that most people didn't 'get' him. Google however just sighed and said "You think everyone has Aspergers!".I'll leave you to make your own mind up about it ! I gather that there has been much discussion in the scientific world as to whether he was on the spectrum. I don't think it much matters except that we do need to try and understand people better and if a label means that the normal man in the street understands the difficulties and challenges they face and makes compensations for that then it can only be a good thing. I discovered this blog post and found it fascinating If you get the change to see the film I'd recommend it!

Monday, 1 December 2014

A Corporate Christmas- not for me thanks!

Every day I check my emails and delete the daily promotions which are regularly sent to me from book clubs,gardening sites and sports outlets.Friday was exceptional and I was suddenly bombarded by something I'd never heard of called Black Friday.It's an American idea and an American friend tells me that historically it was the day after Thanks giving when family would spend time together shopping and having fun. She says that latterly it has become more like a warzone with people knocking each other over in their bid to get a bargain.So when I hear of similar sights on the news in this country on Friday I wonder why oh why would we want that in our country? Coincidentally I watched a documentary last night called The Corporation ,a fascinating insight into the power of big companies over Government and the populas.The overriding message at the end however was that we as individuals have the power to change all that if we work together! If we really want to change something then we can.If we disagree with Black Friday we don't have to buy into it,after all,the emails I receive daily about special offers and free delivery are not going to dramatically improve for 24 hours only. Sales were far more fun forty years ago when they just happened at New Year,people saved and waited to buy their new three piece suite or car.Now we seem to be driven along on the commercial band wagon and I for one won't be joining them! I'm sure I'm not alone.I came across 'buy nothing day" on Saturday.I intended take part but had already decided to go along to our annual Dickensian weekend and I wondered if the two were mutually exclusive?There would be crowds and stalls everywhere.Instead, I decided to take my camera and focus on the sights and sounds of Victorian Britain.
I had a lovely day, talking to visitors from Salford ,Liverpool and Nevada. Learning about the stall holders and their skills and looking at the decorated windows and listening to carol singers.A real festive treat! And now I'm sitting here surrounded by jam jars making my Christmas presents and enjoying the peace and tranquility of the country side! I may even have a go at making a Christmas wreath this afternoon!
Christmas really is what you make it.For some of us it's a Christian festival with Christ at the centre for other it's family time. It's a mind set.You can enjoy the community of Christmas nativities,carol concerts and craft fayres or you can get wrapped up in the trappings of Christmas ,just as the Corporations intend you to.It's your choice!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Flexibility and the link to Stress with our Aspergers Children

Yesterday we went to KFC for my son.Whilst it goes against all my ideas of healthy eating it got my son out the house and that is just as important for his well being as when we venture out we find new things to discuss and learn about.

My son sat in the car with his set of history books which I bought a few weeks ago. When I first gave them to him he gave them a cursory glance and turned back to his computer but I have learned to just STREW and watch what happens. For the second time this week he asked where they were, tucked them under his arm and got into the car. He spent the whole journey, there and back, just reading.

It took us a while but my son has learned that reading is a strategy he can use to 'block out the world' when it becomes too much for him. It's a socially acceptable way of 'not speaking to people' and it suits me too because I know he's learning.

As he walked to the car I thought he'd forgotten his ear defenders but no,they were safely tucked around his neck in case he needed them ( which as it happened, he didn't)

Whilst he sat eating his lunch I suggested that I would pop over to the pound shop to buy his sister some sweets as she was going to the cinema with a friend that evening. "Would you mind if I left you a minute ." I asked.

His face crumpled slightly and his lip began to wobble, "OR we can both go together when you've finished your lunch?" I suggested.

"I'd prefer that" he said.

So that's what we did and we managed to go into the cinema to book tickets and pick up a catalogue too.

Now whilst that may not seem like much to parents of neuro typical children we have come a long way since the days of being physically unable to get out the car, never mind go to the cinema. I've learned to follow my son's lead and instead of having a list of places I had to go (which granted was bigger when he was too young to leave at home) I choose two or three and go in the exact same order as my list. It used to take a bit of discipline on my part as I'm easily distracted and very sociable but this is far preferable than sitting in car parks trying to coax your son into the car or trying to stop him opening the car door in mid journey and throwing himself out.

I can smile about it now but it wasn't funny at the time I can tell you!

If we remove the stress from our children then they are more willing and able to comply and will in
fact do far more things that you want them to do rather than continually oppose you and fight.

The key is to remember is that they are not deliberately being naughty, they are anxious and scared and if you watch and listen to them you'll be surprised what they will teach you.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A Day out!

We' re very lucky to have a Wild life Park within 10 minutes of our house, which each year during the quiet season opens up its gates for free, or a minimal donation.

Every year we have dropped in for an hour or so to observe the animals and learn about their habitat and eating habits and we've found that by concentrating on only one or two each time and then just 'enjoying' the others for the sake of it, we have gradually built up a little bit of knowledge each time.
Yesterday ,after an abortive attempt the previous day, my son who has Aspergers and who suffers severe anxiety when venturing out, decided today was the day.

The weather was glorious and that meant that despite it being a school day there were lots of visitors with young children or holiday makers so I wasn't sure if it would work.  I have learned to play it by ear.

What I am learning however is that if my son wants to do something then he can overcome all his sensory difficulties and this was one of those days.

The zoo is being expanded and the new additions were the Artic wolves and Snow leopards.The wolves looked majestic as they stood together against the sky line!

Highlight of the day was, I think the white handed Gibbons, which 'whooped' (that's the only way I could describe their cry) to one another as they swung on ropes and balanced on them as though they were sitting on planks a foot wide! We stood and watched the spectacle for a good ten minutes!

The colouring of some of the  birds feathers is dazzling and here are just two of the photos we took between us. The lovely thing about home education is that it is constantly cross curricular so as well as learning biology and geography we were doing art too!

The Gophers with their funny stance came up quite close to inspect us.

and the Capybara (this one reminded me of Arthur), when they weren't fast asleep in the sun, had four large toes!

We learned that giraffes have seven bones in their necks (and each has different patterns) and that there is only one species (but seven sub species)

We also saw this Stork which often sits on a lamp post on the by pass next to the zoo!

We had a really lovely day and once again I was reminded how home education has helped my son so much in his development ,it has given him space and time to develop his own coping strategies and I'm thankful for that. They can't be learned in 'social skills lessons' they have to be applied to real life and I have the time and motivation to give him that. We are truly blessed!