Sunday, 16 August 2015

Growing up and Autism-and the benefits of Home education

Google has just been with us on a family holiday.He went aged fourteen and came back fifteen.

As always, holidays give us  the time to reflect on how he has matured.Long gone are the physical outbursts of anger, the kicking of doors and throwing of chairs.What we have now is a very tall, handsome teenager whose voice has dropped to  deep base and who has a  sense of  identity and a conviction about  his own strong views and opinions.

He couldn't give a fig if  people think his views or actions are 'strange'.He is just who he is and he's happy with that.

School doesn't prepare you for life.I read this week about a study that confirmed it. Dr. Gerard Hoefling, of the autism support program, Drexel University, Philadelphia:has said,

"We make the erroneous assumption that high schools are getting students ready for college, and they're not really.

That's not their primary task. High schools do a wonderful job
of getting students ready to graduate from high school."

I firmly believe that. How many children know how bank rates work, how to use a credit card, about the electoral system and democracy and communism and dictatorships for example?

As I watched my son I realised that he wasn't wearing his ear defenders, he checked out a menu on-line before going to a restaurant so he could choose his meal in advance without being overwhelmed by the choice. He paid for a DVD over the counter without support. Suggested to his sister that they go to the local park on holiday,then went out the door and set off to the park with her struggling to get her shoes on and follow him.Despite having no wifi on holiday he happily joined in family discussions and played board games ( with only the slightest mutter about the benefits of digital technology) He went to bed at a fairly reasonable time for him (and slept!) and he even managed a trip to the Metro centre in Newcastle where we had a Chinese buffet and then a short shop for his sister to buy a birthday present.Whilst he indicated that he did find that uncomfortable, he patiently sat it out without a meltdown and I realised that he had grown up substantially.

He is able to communicate his needs far better now.When he had blisters from walking, he told me that so I could offer thicker socks to cushion them.He told me he gets a bad back from sitting at the computer so long (something which I suspected but he has never told me) so we have discussed the benefits of more fresh air and exercise and a better computer desk and chair.

Now that he is 15 I have suggested that our aim for the year is to enable him to support himself more by making meals ( and ensuring he doesn't forget to eat) and also we need to start looking at ways he can start to learn to bring in an income (possibly a computer based income which would make complete sense for someone with autism)

Who knows where we will be this time next year? We will just have to see!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

My Life in books!

At the moment I'm reading My Natural Life by Simon Barnes. It's the story of how the love of nature helped to shape the author's life and it came to me that there are many things that shape the direction of our path as we go through life. For me books have always been a passion.They accumulate dust in a pile under the bed of those I've yet to read and they have been a major part of our home education journey.In fact I'm only reading this book now because of Ross Mountney's blog the other day about How to be Wild by the same author.

As I look around our house I see that Google has a pile of books:


The Military History Book

Java for Dummies

History of the Second World War

and Into the Unknown

My pile on the other hand contains

Short walks in the Southern Lake District

Map of the Cumbria Coastal way

Wainwright The Biography

A Child in the Forest

A walk in the Woods

The English Lakes- Memories of times past

Surviving the Iron age

What do your books say about you?

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Making the grade (or not!)

"Parenthood is a perpetual compromise between neglect and pushing.The last thing you want to do with anything that matters to you-art, books, wildlife-is to ram it down their throats."

My Natural History by Simon Barnes

I'm forever coming across parents (and teachers for that matter) who are convinced that without good GCSE's their children are doomed to a life of drudgery and low pay.The government perpetuates the myth and I cringe when time and time again I come across children who are re doing  their A levels because they failed them first time round and couldn't get a place at university.

I remember my son asking me if he would have to go back to school to redo his GCSE's if he didn't do very well.The answer was no.It turned out that was the right decision.Without parental pressure to suceed, he set himself his own goals and achieved the grades he needed to climb the next step on the ladder towards his goal.That's how we work in our house.You set yourself an immediate goal and then find out what you need to get there, we have found that intrinsic motivation is what matters, not extrinsic influences.

If you become bogged down with what you think your child should be doing, you set up problems for yourself later on.How many people have followed their father's footsteps into the family firm only to discover that they hate it.It was never their goal you see, but their parents.
In his book  "My Natural History " Simon Barnes describes his mother's expectations of him:

"Education and subsequent high achievement was never my goal.Rather it was my duty...So I  not only had to follow that tradition, I also had to make good the wrongs of the past."

It is interesting that, later on in the book he explains how he himself home educated his own son.Perhaps out of realisation that education isn't about grades or degrees, it's about wanting to learn about things as and when they are relevant to you.

Just as we have to grieve when we have a disabled child (and Simon describes this too in a chapter about his Downe syndrome son Eddie),, so too we need to give up our expectation for our children to let them live and grow as independent human beings . They are not 'mini mes", they are individual human beings with their own minds and interests.

We will only learn if our instincts are correct when we look back on our children and hopefully find well rounded and balanced individuals.For now, number one son, loves his job and is doing well, my daughter has her goal and is working step by step to becoming a dancer and Google has yet to identify what he will do to bring inan income but I am confident that that will come

So next time you worry about your child and their grades, stop and look at their life skills.Are they confident, happy and mature, if so they will be fine.If not, build on their life skills, it is those, not grades that will get them where they want to be.Grades are just a by product of that.