Monday, 26 August 2013

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

I heard the latch of the front door close softly this morning as my eldest son left   for work.It was 7.20am and the sun was shining, so different from his experiences last summer. It has been a really exciting week for him.First he was offered his apprenticeship then gained  great GCSE results and then   to cap it all, out of the blue he got a call to ask whether he could do holiday cover at the local kennels over the weekend. It’s a James Herriot sort of experience , dog kennels, in a rural  setting  full of eccentric clients AND dogs and my son loves it!. He has us in stitches with the stories he tells when he gets home….

There are the people who arrive on their way to the air port who have forgotten to book their dogs into kennels or the customers who can’t bear to be parted from their dogs and take half an hour to say their weepy goodbyes.  Then there are those  who send their dogs in with packets of sweets and goodies. In a farming community it raises some laughs. I’m just waiting for the dog who arrives complete with flowery wellies and a rain mac from Next in case it rains.

My son has been regaling us with his adventures this week.There has been a Rotweiller with painted claws , the German Shepherd which pulled him over, the Staffie which has to be walked on its own , the dog which won't eat dog food and the Newfoundland which raised itself up to the height of my son, who at 6ft towers over me, put it's paws on his shoulders and gave his face a great big lick! A real assortment of cuddly and not so cuddly canine friends.

Dogs are great. We have two in our house. The carpet is always covered in fluff, they pinch the childrens’ bean bags to sleep on or get into the suitcase or laptop bag but they have always given so much love to the children and keep us sane. My autistic son loves them too. They stay up at night with him when he’s awake. He feeds them and gives them love and Rusty our border terrier is more like a teddy bear than a dog. 

  I went blackberrying with them this morning.There is one special bush that is ready way before the others . I picked blackberries whilst the dogs stood underneath ,eating those they could reach- no wonder our dog Benny has a mother called Bramble.

They may be a tie but we all love them and they are a wonderful part of this home educating family

Friday, 23 August 2013

Juggling Balls!

What a fantastic day! We had yet another birthday in our house today. It was a day of unknowns, My son had his first interview, my mum was undergoing a hip replacement and my husband was having a birthday- talk about splitting yourself into thirds! It could have been a disaster, with me feeling that I'd failed on all counts to fulfil my duties as a mum, a daughter and a wife but thankfully it didn't work out that way,

My son can downstairs looking so smart in his shirt and tie, He had opted to shave off his Austrian stubble and looked smart and 'conventional'.  I dropped him off at his interview and went off into town to pick up supplies for a birthday meal. A 'home made' chinese take away and ingredients for my daughter who was inventing her very own Chocolate brownie sundae!

After the interview my son reported back to say that the interview had gone well and he was one of seven (well six actually as the first candidate hadn't shown up) chosen out of  110 for interview. He is now waiting to see if he is successful and depending on the outcome may then be faced with the very adult decision as to whether he continues with his college course or opt for  a work based training scheme instead to achieve the same qualification. There are pros and cons to both routes.

Back at home I rang to find out how my mum was getting on to find she was out of theatre and back in her room awaiting visitors. I found her in good form- a huge relief for us all and hopefully her quality of life will be greatly improved.

And as for my husband- we managed a Chinese banquet which,judging by the empty plates was enjoyed by us all although the chocolate brownie sundae, topped with Ben and Jerry's ice cream,cream and toffee sauce topped it all!

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Truth about school!

With GCSE results coming out this week,today is not about our home school journey, more of a take on what 'school' is really about ,both from the perspective of an Adult with Aspergers and a mum who home educated her children successfully into adulthood. I have come to agree with both viewpoints over the years and they will hopefully help those whose children are less academically inclined!


Sunday, 18 August 2013

A week of Stealthy Education.

We have had a week of birthdays in our house so it's been an exciting time.All my children are now officially teenagers and a new chapter is no doubt beginning .

I love the home made presents they receive. The mouse my sister made for my daughter.

or the home-made cards:

and the photo in a frame of my daughter and her friend. These are the most special gifts.

For my daughter the gifts of dancing shoes, leotard, swimming costume and cycling gear shows what an outside sort of person she is.Whilst for my son it was money- he is saving up to make his own computer.Two very different little people.

I love the Summer holidays.It's the time that I home educate all my children- not in a formal sense with worksheets and tests you understand but in the very best sense there is.
My Autistic son's continued interest in the Japanese language meant that he sat riveted, watching a documentary about the train system in Tokyo. Not a place he commented, for an Autistic person,cramming 4000 people into trains built for 2000,where trains arrive every 3 minutes and are not allowed to run late. He still fancies going to the more rural areas of the country though.

My daughter, who has become a dab hand at birthday cakes, baked her own and ,as the theme of our buffet was continental food, she had a fantastic time seeking out unusual foods at the supermarket and printing out flags for each country. Even Grandma and Granddad were converted to Chicken Tikka Masala and Cajun Chicken wraps, as a result!

On the continental theme my son returned from Austria, complete with a beard! He has suddenly stepped over the boundary from childhood to adulthood and is looking forward to college, learning to drive and living independently.Something,which despite his decision not to go to university at 18 will be an important transition and something for which we are preparing him  now.

He came back to an invitation to attend an interview for an apprenticeship- no doubt based on his extensive interests and achievements outside of school and understands that it is his opportunity  to interview them too , to see if the job is one which interests him. We shall see!

A trip to the charity shop resulted in an impulse purchase of bongo drums. The entire week the house has reverberated with the sound of distant jungle drums as one or other members of the family passes them on the stairs.

Home education is never dull! I'm looking forward to another week of secret education!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Has anyone seen Munchkin?

"You know mum, writing in Japanese is much easier than English because you write in symbols not letters", said my thirteen year old son.

"How do you know?" I asked him ,

"Well I've been teaching myself Japanese.Look here are the words I've written down,"

And he proceeded to explain how different symbols were different sounds, and that there were three classes of Japanese language.

I shouldn't be surprised at how he stumbles across knowledge without being taught after all these years, but it still fascinates me. He struggles with the physical act of writing and we took the decision early on to encourage the use of a key board because his spelling and vocabulary are well ahead of his peers and his struggle with forming letters was getting in the way of his imagination. 

His fingers now fly over the keyboard without a thought. But his comment that Japanese was 'easy' to write made me once again question why. I came to the conclusion that it is writing in patterns and shapes - something which, as a visual learner, he is good at.

Since then the family has been bombarded by apparently fluent Japanese phrases such as birthday cake, birthday card- important subjects when you officially become a teenager next week.

So whilst her twin brother has been learning Japanese my daughter decided to turn to the more mundane and practical task of actually making a cake, a chocolate cake , which her brother happily devoured  at teatime.

Then we got down to the business of designing a wind  chime for the garden. A project inspired by a photo on pin interest. This is what we ended up with and  was just as therapeutic as cooking in the kitchen!

Then it was off to our local horticultural show. The show,which is in it's 134th year is a wonderful show case of the talent and creativity in the village and there were some very inspiring ideas for using vegetables such as this.....

or this.....

or making creations from old wellies like dogs.....

and swans..........

or the more demure craft of floral arrangements

As with any village show there is always time for a chat and a gossip and as my daughter and I left together with our visitor we were asked,

"Can you keep your eye out for Munchkin when you are walking through the village. He disappeared 5 days ago when we were on holiday"

" What does he look like?" I asked, assuming I was keeping a look out for the family pet. "Oh you can't miss him," came the reply - "he's brown and quite large.He's a cow you see."

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Living a Normal life- with Aspergers

This week we were discussing the possibility of taking an exchange Explorer scout from Australia as my eldest son has the opportunity to visit Australia for the summer holidays. My daughter piped up "In that case we would have to pin a set of rules on the wall such as 'everyone sleeps in their own bed' and 'no sleeping on the settee at night'"

I replied that it might come across as a bit weird and my Aspergers son announced,

" I don't think it's weird,it's normal to me' and I had to admit that it is. I was heartened to note that he didn't feel 'different' in an uncomfortable way he just accepted that that's the way it is - I'm convinced that home education has given him that confidence which may have been knocked out of him by his peers had he remained in school.

We have had a lovely week, in fact on reflection it has been the most normal week we have had in months, even years. Whilst our eldest has been to Austria with Explorer scouts we have spent an idyllic week in Scotland at Tigh Mor Trossachs.

We have been several times before so nothing was new for my son and, although apprehensive at going without his brother , he was looking forward to it. It has its own swimming pool and games room and a lovely area down by the lake where you can fish or row.

It is a time when being a twin is very useful as you always have a companion for support and his sister was great.

We went boating on the Loch, swimming every day, played pool and table tennis, went ten pin bowling, walking and played pitch and putt.

The learning that went on was unbelievable. We learned that William and Dorothy Wordsworth travelled all the way up from the Lake District by horse and cart to holiday there. What a journey that must have been through rugged uninhabited country side on muddy tracks. As a result of his writings Sir Walter Scott travelled in his footsteps and wrote about Loch Katrine in his poem  'The Lady of the Lake' so encouraging more tourists to flock  to the area.

We read books.Witch Child by Celia Rees and then learned on our travels how a local priest had been found murdered during that same period in the hills near Aberfoyle. He believed in faeries and wrote descriptions of them in a book which the locals believed would anger 'the little people'.

I also read Freedom Fighter by Carlo Pichio , a childrens book about the partisans fighting in Italy during world war 2. When I first started out on the road of Home Education I little realised how much history you can learn from reading fiction.

We visited the Hydro electricity dam at Pitlochry and learned how it was a sustainable energy but that they had had to weigh the ecological damage against the benefits of providing electricity. The government had dictated that when building the dam ,a fish ladder had also to be built to allow the salmon to pass up the river to spawn.

During our week, we had no panic attacks, normal sleep patterns, periods without ear defenders on a huge healthy appetite and my son declared the holiday to be fantastic. He hadn't once been on a computer or mentioned the lack of it. I had to wonder how much of his 'disability' is psychological- he obviously feels safe and secure when we are together as a family- he has often said that but his demeanor reminded me of the child we had at 4 or 5 and it proved that it is possible for an Aspergers child to live a happy and comfortable life - it gave me hope.