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!