Friday, 19 June 2015

Education is an Onion

Yesterday my daughter had a dance audition in Lancaster. It is something she passionately wants to do and she was very excited.Once again it occured to me that here was my daughter (despite it being  a Saturday) choosing to educate herself and challenge her abilities beyond the scope of school . She was missing a voluntary school dance  session to take part and had been challenged on her commitment by her school teacher who knew nothing about her audition, when in fact my daughter was choosing to pit her chances against dancers far older and more experienced than her and with  dance teachers with a varied and professional history of dance.The injustice of it all only makes my daughter more determined to succeed.Somewhere along the way she outgrew her school teacher and realised that there was knowledge and information which she wasn't learning in the classroom .

Dance wasn't the only thing she learned.There were  the life skills of reading a train timetable, travelling to a strange town and navigating her way to the dance studio.This time ,at her request, I went with her. but she felt that she would be confident enough to do it herself next time.

As a by-product of  the trip to her audition I decided to find out a little bit about the history of Lancaster as I hadn't been into the city for years.I visited Lancaster museum where there was an exhibition about the  agricultural history of the area which has some of the most fertile land for vegetable growing in the UK.

Upstairs were the permanent displays about the city of Lancaster from roman times to the present day, including the famous medeival castle dating from the 1300's and famous for its witch trials . The Kings Own Royal Regiment also had their military displays there and  I picked up leaflets and took photos for Google who has a passion for all things military.

I also popped into the Assembly rooms and visited the little chapel of the almshouses next door, a very peaceful refuge from the busy city traffic.

My trip really only glossed over the surface of what Lancaster has to offer but I realised that the lessons learned today had been threefold.My daughter's passion had led us up a new road of adventure.I had begun to learn about the history and architecture of the city and been able to pass on some of what I'd learned to Google when I got home.A bit like the layers of an onion really.The outside layer is only the beginning.If you peel away the outside layer you find out even more inside !All you need is an enquiring mind.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Learn what you want to learn, when you want to learn it.

Today I recommended this book to a couple of parents after I read this article. It is one of the books which has most influenced the way I educate my children.Having home educated Google since he was eight I felt guilty at failing to home educate the other two ( there was a spell when I home educated my eldest with Google for a year) but Google's needs were too great at that time and that year gave my eldest the space and time he needed to  grow and make his own choices about his education.

What this book taught me was that by sending my children to school I wasn't handing over their education to the government with it's narrow curriculum and  inflexibility towards the individual needs of each and every pupil but I  was choosing to primarily offer them the education opportunities they wanted to do such as dance,play the drums,sing,go camping and kayaking and walking, at home. Similarly life skills, morals and responsability and  consideration for others were the domain of our family  whilst school was a place where my social children could choose to socialise and spend time with their friends. 

There have been occasions when teachers have questioned my daughter's choice not to participate in after school activities- they seem to think that if you don't take part at school you're not doing anything at all.

I've had to explain she's  far too busy choosing what she wants to do outside of school with different teachers, teachers who want to share their passions with no other motive than to see others share their enjoyment where their enthusiasm shines through.Where   there are no tests  to pass unless you choose to take them.

It's a concept that some of them find hard to understand.Apparently most kids don't want to 'learn' when they're not at school.I wonder why? Perhaps they're being put off by what they are being taught at school? 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Just leave them be!

Now I haven't posted about Google in a bit, that usually means that things are going along smoothly ,it certainly doesn't mean his autism is cured.

That message was brought forcefully home the other day when I read a blog post written by a usually humorous and  lighted hearted father of an autistic boy . He is currently going through one of those 'dips' that we all come across with our children every now and again.

I've being dealing with autism long enough now to know that you get through them but I also know how draining it can be for all those involved at the deepest point.

We are at the stage with Google where we have learned to leave him to his own devices most of the time. He is happiest that way.Every so often he will come downstairs to sit with the family to watch television or to eat tea but generally he is at his happiest sat upstairs in his bedroom playing on the Xbox or the computer or reading books.

It wouldn't be my choice for him.I would much rather he spent his days camping or playing sport like his siblings but that's just not what he wants to do.

The other day we decided that we would take the train up the west coast of Cumbria to Carlisle. On a sunny day it's a beautiful ,if somewhat lengthy journey up the coast following the coast line of the North Sea through Ravensglass (famed for its miniature railway) the georgian town of Whitehaven and St Bees

Google was invited to come with us and , after weighing up the alternatives, decided he would come. With one hour to spare he changed his mind. Part of me was relieved as I had visions of him refusing to get on the train when it arrived on the platform, leaving my daughter and myself stranded ,unable to go. Another part of me was sad that he couldn't handle the change and challenge of the unknown.
If his dad had been with us he could have handled it but he doesn't feel secure unless we are all there and that wasn't possible.

It was interesting what I noticed as we travelled north. The train had incredibly squeaky brakes as we came into stations. In fact the noise hurt our ears, the passengers wore really strong perfume which made my daughter and I cough and sneeze as we suffer from asthma,and when we arrived in Carlisle the shops were busy and crowded and it was windy.All these things would have made the day out unbearable for my son and we would have had to deal with the consequences.

Home education has lessened all the sensory issues which he would have had to deal with from day to day but they are still there. Fortunately we can introduce Google to them gradually rather than force them on him before he is ready. Hopefully that will make his life easier and lessen the likelihood of depression or mental illness which so many of our Autistic children face. I hope so.