Monday, 29 April 2013

Learning on the go!

The canal on a somewhat brighter afternoon!
The Home education community can be a great source of information and ideas.Only the other day I blogged about the flowers I had seen and asked if anyone could identify a small white spiked flower with small rhubarb like leaves. As a result I was introduced by another Home Edder to a wonderful Facebook page called "The Nature Table" containing photos of flowers, birds and animals, people have seen and photographed. A wonderful resource for people like me! Within a very short space of time I got my answer.It was Butterbur, so called because it's leaves used to be used to wrap up butter!
The site resembles a virtual nature table, reminiscent of the days when we had a Nature table at school - in fact we still have one at our house- well it's not exactly a table but a window sill upon which I place sea shells, rams horns, pretty pebbles and drift wood that I find as I go on my walks with the family. It reminds me of the wonderful things around us and often prompts as discussion as the children spot the latest addition to the table!
Today's walk took me  along the Ulverston canal basin . It was too wet to take photos but I stopped to read the signs explaining the history of the canal and the busy port which used to flourish there until the Lancaster railway took over transporting Kirkby slate, Coniston copper and iron ore to the Port at Barrow. In total the canal flourished for only 50 years. There is still evidence of the large ships which used the canal to reach the port- large bollards at the waters edge to tether ropes to. As usual when I came home I googled  Ulverston Canal and discovered a BBC article about a bridge I'd passed. It looked innocuous enough but apparently it is the only one of it's kind in England and is now grade 2 listed. You can read about it here. Next time I walk down there you can be sure I'll pay a little bit more attention!

Old map of  Ulverston canal

Mussel shells- a natural Nature table!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Walking until the Cows come Home!

Well the house is satisfyingly peaceful, My daughter is curled up on the bed reading a book, my son is chatting to his friends on the computer,one son is spending the evening with friends at the pictures and I'm about to rest my weary bones in a hot bubbly bath with a new book on Home Education.
Days when the sun has shone and you've spent all day out side in the fresh air are always the most satisfying, the thick walls of our cottage give you a sense of warmth and security when you finally lift the latch, throw off your wellies and sink into a chair with a lovely cup of coffee.
I've spent the afternoon walking the country lanes and footpaths to rack up more mileage for my training. It was the second walk of the day.The first began at 8.00am this morning before most people were up and there was a different feel about it. The family were still in bed so I grabbed some breakfast, fed the hens put on the dogs leads and away we went.The farmer was milking his cattle this morning as I passed and the noise of the tractor hummed in the farm yard as he was about to start work. A builder was unloading his van and I passed a lone dog walker and a couple of cyclists setting off for the day.

I arrived back to a more animated household, Everyone was up and in a different state of undress but all generally ready to tackle the day. I had my son to deliver to our local market town to meet his friends as we haven't any convenient public transport on a Saturday so we parked in a short stay car park, unloaded my son, his sleeping bag and his gym attire and my daughter and I set off in search of bargains.
She is currently practising at Dance class for a dance production and was looking for a chequered  shirt for a line dance.We found the ideal candidate in a charity shop - a favourite haunt of home educators. At a time when there is discussion about introducing money management into the national curriculum it looks as if the government have finally discovered what home educators have known for years - You never pay full price for anything if you don't have to! It's the most valuable maths lesson you can ever deliver .My own bargains comprised an electronics set and two Horrible Science books for my son too!
We then purchased drinks and sandwiches and headed for home , parking on the fells to eat our picnic in the sunshine. 
At home my daughter and her friend went cycling down the country lanes whilst I embarked on walk two - a vital part of my training for the C2B.
This time I set off for the top of the valley, avoiding the road. I followed a footpath between two dry stone walls and walked down the hillside into the neighbouring village before climbing back up the hill side and turning onto a footpath rising high above the road with magnificent views of the valley floor and the estuary beyond.

 I passed by farm yards ....

and farm implements...

The photos really didn't do the scenery justice.

And as I reached the end of my walk I met these ladies...

Waiting for the cows to come home!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Flower Power


Walking through the lanes this afternoon , after the rain had stopped,  I was amazed how the hedgerows had suddenly come alive.There were so many flowers which only days before were not in evidence. 

Wild primroses

 Wild primroses filled the banks as I climbed towards the fells.

Wild strawberries

Even the tiny wild strawberry flowers were blooming in the grass, Foxgloves and honey suckle were beginning to sprout and what I thought was a member of the dead nettle family although I stand to be corrected if anyone knows any better!

Wood anenomes

I love the delicate wood anenomes.They were still closed up this afternoon but I couldn't resist taking photos of the delicate while blooms and the foliage,

And I have yet to discover what this is! The flowers have just gone over but were little spikes close to the ground.

And finally......

I loved this, now where did I put my welly?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Watch the Birdie!

Baby magpie with broken wing

One of the advantages of living in the countryside is access to wild life and the rythmns of nature. This morning my neighbour told me that she had spotted two Gold Crests in the garden, little wren like birds with a yellow strip over their heads, we've had Dunnock nests, pheasant nests, buzzards, curlews, wrens, Fieldfares, and all the every day birds like black birds, blue tits , chaffinches and magpies at some time or other in the garden. We even have our own buzzard which sits on the dry stone wall in the field beyond our house.
Pheasants nest in the undergrowth

Dunnocks nest amongst the brambles

This week two red kites were spotted circling over the body of a still born lamb, their forked tails clearly identifiable in the air. I have also seen a Sparrow Hawk swooping down on a collared dove in the garden and my neighbour told me that it has been swooping down on her bird feeder and snatching the blue tits.

Female blackbird (brown colouring)

We've even learned to identify the distinctive whistle of the Curlews as they fly over, and the clear call of the blackbird.
We didn't set out with the intention of studying 'biology' or habitats or birds, our knowledge has grown naturally as we've seen new birds and sought to identify them.
It was lovely during the winter months to see the garden birds feeding from the bird feeder outside the window. We have been using a commercial one this year but when my son was younger we made a Fir cone feeder.Even during the wettest winter days we were able to watch the birds as they fed outside the window and watch them really close up. As with all the subjects my Autistic son studies, we do it autonomously- there is no 'bombarding him with information'. It just doesn't work with oppositional teenagers,particularly Autistic ones! We often see herons and pheasants when out and about on our travels and my son will point them out to me. It's all he's really known since he was five and we moved into our cottage in the Lake District so he doesn't even see it as education.
And how's this for a sight - hundreds of oyster catchers rising up from the beach where they were waiting by the waters edge as the tide came in! A really spectacular sight to behold and one which will remain with me for a long time to come!

Oyster catchers


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Learning to walk and Walking to Learn!

Rural life in better weather
Walking in the rain, on road surfaces in a hi viz jacket is not my idea of a walk in the Lake district but that's what I've been doing today as I train for the National Autistic Society C2B team. I planted an image of  "Death by Chocolate" and a cup of steaming coffee firmly in my mind and got my head down. It was too wet even to take photos so I savoured the Wood anenomes (which remained unfurled today because of the rain) , the view of Standing Tarn, the funny shack in the woods and wonderful place names like Dimple hole lane (in fact just looking up the name led me to this brilliant website on local walks and I reluctantly decided I would just have to return when the sun was shining to take my pictures!
The C2B is now only 20 days away and I was surprised not to meet more people.Throughout the duration of my 12 mile walk I came across 5 walkers! I've learned a lot throughout the last 4 months. It'd been a long while since I'd really walked for pleasure. For years, school commitments and after school activities got in the way of 'me time' . then we had hospital appointments, statement reviews, autism meetings and finally a diagnosis of Aspergers .With that came anxieties and reluctance to leave the house and, for a few months, a resistance to letting me leave either.
Walking has finally given me some freedom, freedom to be me, to revel in the countryside where I'm happiest, watching the birds, learning about the flowers, people watching,  meeting and talking to interesting people ( the best teachers in the world for home educated kids) and time to take my photographs.
I am being home educated just as much as my son. It took me a long time to realise that if we open our eyes and minds we will always learn. I am constantly noticing, buildings, plants, animals or place names and having to come home and google them because I'm inquisitive to find out more. 
Walking has made me fitter too! Not for me gyms and swimming pools. I enjoy the isolation of walking alone and being at one with the world.
My friend completed the London Marathon today. It was a fantastic achievement and it made my little 12 miler seem insignificant until I realised I have never walked 12 miles before in my life , never, ever, ever, ever. My achievement was in fact every bit as great as hers because at the ripe old age of 50 I had achieved something new!
That's why home education is so empowering, it's why Michael Gove is wrong when he says that the school day should be longer and holidays should be shorter. It's because learning actually takes place mostly at home not in school as he seems to believe.It's a question of mind set. If you keep an open mind you will always continue to learn. If you have your mind 'closed' by school then when you come home you won't want to learn anything that seems remotely educational. It's probably why so many 'educational books' remain pristine and end up untouched in the charity shops!
Anyway having whiled away 12 miles mulling over life, politics and pschology I finished my walk and sat quietly for a moment with my chocolate cake and black coffee among the ruins of Furness Abbey and realised how lucky I am!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Seize your Opportunities!- Coniston2Barrow update

As I walked down the fellside towards the caravan park this morning I met a lady with a microphone. She was she said from Radio Cumbria and was finding it hard to find people to interview. It did occur to me to ask her if she had looked around her recently.There seemed to me to be myself and the dogs and two men working in the caravan park in the vicinity.
What, she asked, was my opinion of the proposals to extend the Wind Farm? Better than the plans to build a nuclear dump I replied.It seems I was in the majority (wonder if she was counting the dogs?) Anyway I explained that I was training for Coniston to Barrow for the National Autistic Society so she took the dogs' names and promised to mention us! Not bad publicity for a lone walk in the Lake District Hills! If you haven't already, you still have time to sponsor me for this very worthwhile cause .Just click on  K2B, scroll down to the box.Type in the name FROST and my name and my twelve year old daughter's Evie's will appear. Thank you!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Your Mother is a piece of Modern History!

Our trip to London
I love hunting for eggs, it's a bit like Easter rooting around in the undergrowth seeking them out! Fortunately we have only 4 hens and an enclosed space so I can normally find them as I did today but as a novice hen owner I remember uncovering 15 eggs once, having assumed that , because there were no eggs in the Coop, the hens had stopped laying. They are normally happy to lay  in their nesting box but the wind blew their Coop door closed today so I suspected they had gone elsewhere to lay and indeed they had!

Since I 'strategically planted' my rat poison down drain pipes sunk into the rat holes a couple of weeks ago I haven't seen a single live rat. I did however find a dead one in the compost heap. I was torn between celebrating or feeling like a murderer. I decided on the former. If I am living in the country I am going to have to learn to be tough. As I've said before the countryside isn't all about honeysuckle and roses round the door! In fact I noticed my husband cross his legs extra tight as my daughter explained the procedure of castrating male lambs on her friend's farm!

On the learning front it was an an interesting day yesterday. It was Margaret Thatcher's Funeral. The longest serving Prime minister in the 20th century and the first woman Prime minister for Britain- a bit of British history! Coincidentally this popped into my in box from Surfnetkids,com It's a great website for home educators as there is always something topical and  a calendar of upcoming anniversaries and special days so you can plan ahead with projects and topics.

 Watching clips of the funeral led to various discussions about the cost to the tax payer (an estimated £10 million.) Whether Margaret Thatcher deserved a funeral similar to that of Winston Churchill and how the money could have been more wisely spent in these days of cut back and recession.As my son studied the congregation he identified politicians both past and present and once again I realised how much he knew about current affairs through being at home when things 'happened' in the world (which of course they always do) but which so often get missed at school because they don't fit into the curriculum. He also recognised St Pauls cathedral where the funeral took place, Westminster Abbey where the body lay before hand and the various London landmarks 'en route' as he had been there. Even the simple fact that Margaret Thatcher was mother of twins and had been a lawyer (like his mother) were relevant to the picture building in his head about The Iron Lady.

Now that she is no longer with us I think we will watch "The Iron Lady" together- it will be a piece of modern history like Chopper bikes and Hot pants or  when Snickers bars were called Marathons and Mars Bars cost 2 1/2p. Now I am showing my age !

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

I did it my Way!

One man and is dog!
My son went to sleep at 11.00 pm last night and he is still sleeping now. I can't remember when he last went to bed at a fairly normal time - a few months ago I think. I find it interesting. It's not that he isn't getting any sleep it's just that he is sleeping at the wrong times.Wrong for me that is!
I read an interesting article in Asperger United yesterday.A young adult with Aspergers was bemoaning the fact that he had work at 9.00am each day and was regularly still awake at 3.30am in the morning which caused a great deal of anxiety and other mental health issues.
At our recent CAMHS meeting we were  given a sheaf of information sheets on promoting sleep- the professional freely admitted that she wasn't an expert in ASD but she thought they might help. They suggested all the normal things, wind down before bed, no screens, lavender bath, milky drink - none of them work. If my son is tired he will sleep, if he's not he won't.
I'm actually coming to the conclusion that his way isn't wrong.The reason he slept last night is that he has stayed awake for 2 days. That's how he turned it around last time so effectively he has a strategy if he really needs to get up for 9.00am. The problem is that society places expectations on us and that's what caused the stress. If my son was at school he would need to be out the house at 7.40am to get to the bus stop in time for school. I would be stressed, he would be oppositional and then we wouldn't make it. We would probably have ended up with school refusal and a visit by the school attendance officer, combined with intervention from CAMHS and every Tom, Dick or Harry, trying to 'sort out my son'.
In fact there is no right way. I can see that my son will have to work around his sleep patterns.I predict that he will handle working for himself better rather than working for others (another issue entirely) and there will be times when he has appointments which don't suit him (but then don't we all?) Shopping is likely to be online or at night- a benefit of the introduction of new technology and long opening hours, and most of his socialising will be online or at least until he has got to know people well.
It may make him appear eccentric to others but it certainly won't harm them and I'm pretty sure it will help keep him sane and free from unnecessary stress. Only time will tell if I'm right- one thing however I'm sure of is that home education has worked and is still working for him and, as I read the positive messages from all the lovely friends I've made online who are home educating their autistic children I'm convinced that for us it's the RIGHT way!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The times they are a Changin'

Looking back over the last twelve years I can reflect on how things have changed both in my attitude towards Autism and in my son's way of dealing with it.

Back in the year 2000 when my son and daugter were born I knew nothing about the condition. In fact I remained blissfully unaware of it for the next four years until my son started school. At first I thought his diffivulties settling in were due to him being an August baby. If I'd been told it was possible I would have held them back for a year as they missed a whole year at home which their older brother had been able to spend with me because he was old in his year, In retrospect it wouldn't have made a great deal of difference but it would have given my autistic son a year more of being happy in his own skin.

School showed him he was different, teachers described a child I didn't recognise, one who wouldn't sit with the other children, didn't like the playground because it was too noisy and got angry to the point of running away from school.

At the age of five it's difficult for a child to explain how he feels and sadly for us the school didn't tell us the truth .After meetings with educational pschycologists, home school books and constantly being cornered by teachers every night at school when I went to pick up the children from school . the stress of school started to spill over into home life and when I finally found my little boy in the kitchen pinching his arms and hitting his head I decided no more.......

Home education didn't cure everything but it did give us space and time to understand one another and I'm still learning. I clearly remember my son regressing to a 'baby voice'. It drove me mad at the time but I recognize now he was stressed and. several years on he doesn't do it .In fact I'd forgotten about the episode until someone reminded me on a forum the other day.

There was night after night of  'wanting to be dead'. It was heart breaking and I didn't know what I could do to help. We both know now not to talk but to sit quietly together whilst I give my son an Indian head massage as it relaxes him and seems to 'unlock his brain' so that he can think straight. Thank fully thoses episodes are behind us, at least for now!

Then there was my need to control him  versus his opposition to anything I requested. It caused a lot of arguments and I felt like a terrible mother. Having accepted him for whom he is and realising he doesn't need to do things just because society expects it has made a huge difference to our relationship and there are far less arguments.

With age comes maturity too. We have been through periods when my son has been unable to leave the house and has refused to let me leave. Times when he has lain down on the floor in the supermarket overwhelmed by the sound and light and unable to move. Times when he has screamed and sworn at me in the carpark because I diverted slightly from our original plan and he couldn't cope. I won't say it has always been easy but I do know that  the bumpy road of Autism  has involved climbing mountains and running down valleys.. Lifes challenges have subtley changed and what once posed a problem pales into insignificance or is absorbed into 'normal' family life as you adapt.

The message I'm trying to get across to those having a hard time of it at the moment is that  things change and it won't be like this for ever. It's a bit like a worried parent of a toddler being reassured that 'he won't be doing it at 18', although with an autistic child there are no such time scales.Children mature at different rates and children with Aspergers tend to be a few years behind their peers with many living skills.

At the moment the main challenges in our house are food, insomnia and reluctance to go out. The first is a sensory problem, the second two more to do with anxiety I think. We are however riding the waves. Our son seems happy, there is no anger or sadness and we are managing to work round it so that family is content.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Aspergers and Hygiene - How do you Smell today?

I'm not actually sure that you can put Aspergers and Hygiene in the same sentence. For anyone who saw the film 'Temple Grandin' there is a scene where her boss gives her a can of deodorant and tells her to use it because 'she stinks'. It may sound harsh or hurtful but in reality my son only takes notice if I 'tell him straight'

Hygiene has got worse as my son has got older. Perhaps it's because when children are little you expect to help them with their baths and teeth.At twelve however you expect them to do it themselves. Get that hope firmly out of your mind! They're sneaky and if you don't watch them they with do  nothing, yes that's right absolutely ZILCH!

Only the other day my mum was saying how sad it was that my son's hair was so messy, it made him look geeky and she worried someone would laugh at him. I bit my tongue and began to worry. I knew it was messy but I made a promise to him some time ago that if he would allow me to use clippers on his hair he would never, ever again have to go to the hairdresser. I hadn't shaved too much off as the first time we did it his dad was in charge and he came up for air looking like  Franciscan monk- it was awful! Luckily my son just laughed, you see he really doesn't care what other people think of him and that's the key- we make ourselves look nice to attract others and conform and neither of those things matter to my son!

Fortunately for me my husband told my son he needed a haircut and he would have to take him to the hairdressers.My son decided that he needed to get his hair done quickly before his dad had the chance to carry out his threat so he asked me to cut his hair when his dad was at work. I reduced the length of the trimmers this time and we were just on the last few strands when his dad walked in the house. It wasn't perfect but it was a great deal better! Next time I resolved to reduce the length of the trimmers to 'short grass' height.

Bathing has take a turn for the worse too. As a young child my son was bathed every day, however as he has grown up I have far more after school activities to go to so I'm inevitably not in at bath time. I have discovered that he responds better with a set bath time at 8.30pm as it's not unexpected, however if I'm out I have to remember to text his father otherwise bath time gets missed! Invariably my alarm will go off in the middle of choir practice with a message to say it's bath time. It has caused a great deal of hilarity!

 There was a time not so long ago when he was anxious.He would climb into the bath complete with ear defenders and underpants, a sort of Sponge bob Super hero and he insisted I sat in the bathroom whilst he had his bath- that time seems to have passed now and he will bath alone. If we are not careful though he can go for days without a bath. The other day he had one because his elder brother told him he was starting to smell. There can be no pussy footing around you have to tell it straight!

Cleaning teeth isn't any better we are experts on every flavour, colour and type of toothpaste, we've had ice cream flavour, banana flavour, mint, stripey, and transparent. Some have suited for a while, others haven't got past the tooth brush! We haven't had much more success with mouth wash. At the moment my son is rubbing his gums with mouth wash every day but if you could see his face when he does it you would think he was being poisoned. Chewing gum has been our best bet. Far from ideal I know but at least we don't have to smell his stinky breath.

I am dreading the onset of puberty. I just hope we can find an anti perspirant to mask his scent. Perhaps we will have to resort to Lion Dung - rather than attract people in his direction - it may keep them away!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Life doesn't come with a Road map

I've become aware recently how my parenting style has changed over the years. Much of the change has been due to that fact that I realized that normal parenting styles didn't work for my Autistic son- the more I tried to get him to do something the more he wouldn't do it.It wasn't just 'stubborn'.it was more than that. I would describe it as 'entrenched'. As a teacher once said to me 'it's as if he boxes himself into a corner and can't get out'

If all my children were like that I'd have realized that I was doing something wrong- but they're not.They are pliable and can be persuaded to help out round the house or do things I need them to do. With my Autistic son the tactics I use to encourage his siblings didn't work so I had to look for other solutions.

 For anyone who doesn't know me (or who doesn't believe there is anything wrong with my son) there have been comments about letting him get away with things , I was once told by a gentleman in a supermarket that 'even Autistic children can be MADE to behave'.

 At times I have cried at the judgement of others on my parenting skills. NOW I know that ,rather than controlling my son , I have to let him take the lead.It's worked too- he is far less explosive and angry when he is allowed to show us what he feels comfortable with.

This style of parenting has affected how I handle my other two children too. I used to try and 'control' them, now I hope I am more intuative towards their needs, So many parents (albeit unwittingly) are manipulating the direction in which they want their child to go. I have witnessed parents arranging 'play dates' for their children (if you can call them play dates for 12 year olds) Many I have noticed are single children or children who don't socialize well There's nothing wrong with making arrangements for your children to get together as long as it's a result of the express wish of the children. Sadly all to often it's the parents who 'want' their children to have friends and worry about lonliness. I believe that children have to make their own friends they can't be coerced into it however subtley and you should only help them if they want you to.

My eldest son and my daughter are sociable creatures and we rarely plan anything in advance although have a steady flow of telephone calls and texts arranging for them to meet with friends or go camping . This morning my daughter has set off with her friend to her friend's farm where she is going to work all day then come home and camp in the garden. My eldest meanwhile has arranged to play football on our local astro turf. I haven't arranged anything I'm just the chauffeur and 'facilitate' their plans.

My Autistic son however doesn't socialize a great deal - he doesn't enjoy small talk although he is prepared to talk for hours about the latest PC or Xbox game. He doesn't lack friends although, apart from two the rest are online and he is building up a relationship with them. I'm in no doubt that one day he will ask to visit one of them.We have already had a visit from a friend in Bedford who he has known online for over two years now!

It's the same with exams and school. I have encouraged my son, who is due to go to college next year ,to study subjects he enjoys. So far it has paid dividends as he has done well in his non compulsory (read non academic subjects). He is motivated and knows what he wants to do and that is the key. So many 16 year olds aren't ready to make that decision but are being 'encouraged' to take certain subjects to 'ensure they get a good (for that read 'well paid') job.

 Several children have gone back to school to do retakes. My son has asked that if he doesn't do well that he isn't sent back.I wouldn't dream of it - he needs to want to do it for himself not because I want him to.He can always retake a subject later if he wants too and it's relevant to what he wants to do.
It would take away so much stress for parents and pupils if they accepted that different people mature at different times. There is no rule that says you have to go to University at 18 (or indeed that you have to go at all).In fact my son wants to do motor vehicle maintenance at our local college and his grandfather told him that in his local garage the owner's son has just returned from university. Despite studying motor engineering he is now having to do the same course as my son to get the necessary practical experience.
If we let our children take the lead and try not to control them with our wishes and aspirations then our lives will be a lot less stressful. In fact I read yesterday that my new style of parenting is called 'peaceful parenting'. A few years ago I would have judged this style as being too lenient and letting the children get away with things but so far they are proving themselves to be mature and responsible individuals with a respect and tolerance for others and as long as it stays that way I MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Learning the Ropes!

 As I continued with my practise walks today for the Coniston2Barrow Walk in aid of our local branch of the National Autistic society I decided not to go too far afield.My autistic son hadn't slept at all during the night so decided at about 11.00am it was time to get some kip and my daughter and eldest son wanted to chill out at home so I decided to walk along the canal at Ulverston. It's supposed to be the deepest widest and straightest canal in the UK and unusually didn't form part of a canal network but went from Morcambe bay to the foot of Hoad hill bringing ships to the small port.

 I started along The Rope Walk, a pedestrian footway along which ropes used to be made for ships rigging. A notice board explained how the rope was twisted to make it strong.

 At the end of The Rope Walk I noticed a Victorian post box so stopped to take a photo to show my son. Although he rarely comes with me on my walks nowadays I have adapted my teaching style to discuss the things I learn as I go about my travels . That's the thing about home educating an autistic son, you have to continually adapt your 'style' to suit the current 'challenges'.

 From The Rope Walk I then walked on to Canal Foot and sat and ate my sandwiches in the sunshine looking out over Morecambe bay. The sea was out today but you could clearly see the railway viaduct to Silverdale and Chapel island,

Back along the canal tow path I stopped to watch the various species of water fowl and took some photos of some magnificent swans,

As I approached  the end of the canal at Canal Head I noticed that the flag was flying on Hoad Monument , signifying it was open today. It's a long time since I climbed the monument so I'll have to make an effort another day as the views over Ulverston, the birth place of Stan Laurel are magnificent!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Vikings in Furness!

Unlike her Autistic twin brother. my daughter is extremely sociable and always wanting to be doing something particularly when there are people.Today she asked if we could go to our local museum- it's not large but it's free to go in and I find that no matter how often we go we always learn something. There was a new small exhibitions about the Vikings following the discovery of The Furness Hoard - a collection of Viking coins on the Furness peninsula in 2011. We learned that the name of our village Kirkby is Viking for Church land, no doubt as a result of the monks at Furness abbey owning the land around our village.
I also discovered that if we travel up the west coast to Irton or Gosforth we can see some Viking crosses. Naturally my daughter decided to dress up....
There were also models of a viking man and woman,
And the charred remains of a human skull which it is thought was cremated but didn't burn because the temperature wasn't high enough.
Our local museum is contained in a dry dock in Barrow in Furness which is famous for ship building and more recently for building the nuclear submarine The Astute.This is what the bottom of the museum looks like. Presumably they used to let the water in here when they were ready to float the boats.

One of the things I was particularly interested to find out about was the Japanese Warship The Mikasa. I've mentioned my son's interest in Military History before. He has a huge encyclopedia by Dorling Kindersley on Military History and discovered that the Mikasa was built at Barrow in Furness- in fact until then I didn't understand the significance of Mikasa street in Barrow. My father tells me that he was given a small model of the boat when he was young which had been built in the model shop in Vickers (now BAE systems). Today however I managed to buy a postcard of it's launch in 1900 for my son and learn that it is now docked in Tokyo! Obviously my daughter just had to try a sailors cap but what the goggles were for goodness knows!
We also learned about the local iron ore industry  and saw a piece of hematite or pig iron! There are a series of local films too. This time we chose to watch one of the Furness peninsula from the air and learned that there is evidence in the village down the road of the Medieval strip field system.
Just a few more pieces of our history jigsaw!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Outside Inspiration!

I've just finished reading Hana's Suitcase.As I closed the book I realised the bath water had gone cold and my skin was decidedly crinkled. I'd obviously been there far longer than intended!
It's about the search by the curator of a Holocaust museum in Tokyo  for the owner of a small brown suitcase.A sort of Ann Frank and a true story which was both moving and thought provoking, an ideal book for anyone 10 and above (including adults) to learn a little more about the persecution of the Jews in World War 2 without being too graphic
I love the way my son and I learn history- it sort of 'falls together as and when we find a new book , film or piece of literature or go somewhere which links the period together without us having to learn dates or chronology- that happens incidentally.
Whilst I was reading Hana's Suitcase my son was reading about Warcraft in an Usborne book I'd found in a charity shop today. As with many Autistic children he has a 'special interest'- history, Military history in particular. When he started home educating at the age of 8 I realised it wasn't long before he had covered the GCSE syllabus! Another of his interests is geography - he can tell you where most places are in the world if you hand him an atlas!They refer to this as a 'spiky profile' - my son excels as some subjects but struggles with others- his pet hate is maths. 

Apart from scouring the charity shops for books and home education resources today, my daughter and I visited our local community garden where we found these lovely scarecrows

and a silver tree with leaves made out of foil! Definitely something to brighten up a bare tree in winter and something we might try next year.

There was a woodland walk as well and we caught this little chap on camera.

and walked under the willow arch!

Lots of lovely inspirational ideas for us to try at home. I bought a pot of home grown borage too so am going in the garden now to plant it!


Thursday, 4 April 2013

In at the Deep End.

My daughter spent the evening scuba diving. Albeit at the local baths but she is practising for a 'real' dive later in the year. She was really excited and announced that given another chance she would jump at the opportunity to do it again.
I don't know where she gets her nerve from, certainly not me . I was always the child who tiptoed round the ice rink so as not to fall over whilst my daughter will launch herself straight into the middle. It's probably why she ended up in Scouts amongst the boys rather than guides where she found the activities too tame.

Her big brother spent the day at school.It's the middle of the school holidays but he's preparing for his GCSE's and wanted to finish his D.T project as they haven't had enough time at school.Fortunately, as a home educating family we have often discussed the importance of self motivation and my son was up and ready to go at 8.00am. He'd worked out that if he started early he would finish early and he was right. He was able to spend the afternoon socialising with his friends .

Living in a remote rural area public transport isn't great but we have discovered a students' pass which allows the children to travel anywhere round Cumbria for £1. Their passes are well used and have enabled my neuro-typical children to travel to home from school after after school clubs without relying heavily on me- a god send particularly when their Autistic brother felt unable to leave the house making it virtually impossible to collect them.Having an autistic member in the family certainly encourages independence!

The brighter weather has definitely made a difference to my son who took the dogs for a short walk with his brother yesterday. At twelve he likes to be supported when he goes out and I've noticed he is much more likely to try new activities if his brother and sister are there but never the less there has been an improvement. About a year ago he wouldn't set foot out the house- he was too frightened in case a jet flew over our house (low flying jets occasionally fly over the estuary and can be very noisy when they come). He wouldn't even let me go out and leave him whilst I walked the dogs. He has moved on however and whilst he doesn't often choose to come out with me,he will now happily stay at home for a couple of hours with a mobile phone on which I can contact him ( he doesn't answer the house phone when I'm out - actually come to think of it- never, unless I ask him to.) I've learned something else too from another parent whose son is further down the line from me- what I thought was agoraphobia ISN'T. If my son wants to go somewhere such as K.F.C or to pay money into the bank in order to buy a pc game on-line then he will willingly put on his shoes and coat and climb into the car without so much as a moan. If on the other hand we need to go to the dentist or on a day trip (which in my son's mind has no purpose) Then no amount of cajoling by me will persuade him to go out the house. I have learned not to feel a failure that his dad can successfully get him to do these things whilst I can't- it's a common feature amongst oppositional pre- teens.Instead I use his father's ability to get my son to go to the denstist, have a bath, do his teeth- in fact all the things that most people would regard as everyday normal routines but that parents of Autistic children know only too well can be a nightmare!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

World Autism Awareness Day 2013

Today is World Autism Awareness day. Word is spreading but there is still a long way to go. A huge lack of understanding and training of professionals within the education system , the NHS and the general public means that many children are misunderstood  and stigmatised.

This year for the first time I have been aware of a huge push to educate people about Autism.Celebrity Melanie Sykes who herself has a son with Autism appeared on the Lorraine show  this morning to talk about her son . Our local radio station Radio Cumbria interviewed Amanda Bland a local NAS representative and Jemma Swales who runs her own business working with and supporting Autistic children and The North West Evening mail published an article about local buildings, including the Town Hall, lighting up in blue to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day.

Locally the Furness branch of our N.A.S organised a balloon release and picnic in our local park. Typically my son was too sleepy to attend, having been awake until 4.00am . Other children refused to leave the house - the ordeal was too overwhelming.But for those that did there were free rides on a mini steam train , cupcakes and helium balloons with their names on them to spread the word that it's OK to be Autistic.Every child is different and if you spend time getting to know them then you may well get a pleasant surprise!
 The day was a huge success and an opportunity to bring parents and carers together.It's only by combining forces that conditions will change. We are told that early intervention provides the best possible outcomes for our children. Until early diagnosis and help is available we won't stop our campaign !