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A Lesson from Nature! · Friday March 28, 2008 by Christine

by Christine

One of the most exciting things about Home education is that it is never boring!

The sheep are lambing in our village at the moment and we’ve been watching our local farmer taking them up the lane to the field behind our house.

Thomas went down to the farm on his bike the other day and was invited to come and see the lambs any lunchtime and to bring his friends. Well of course that was it, Caitlin and Christopher wanted to go there and then and were most disgruntled when they had to wait untill dinnertime the next day!

Promptly at 12.00am we set off and knocked on the door of the farm house. Paul showed us round the lambing sheds , introduced us to the lambs and let us all cuddle one!

This year the sheep have been allowed to lamb in the fields and then they’re taken straight down to the lambing sheds for 24 hours with their lambs , as the lambs need to have an injection and have bands placed on their tails. It also takes that time for the sheep and lambs to bond.

If a sheep has three lambs, one can be removed from it’s mother during this time and placed with a singleton sheep otherwise it will need to be manually reared as it’s mother won’t be able to feed it.

The kid’s loved it, especially Christopher ,who demanded a job!

They’ve been back and forth all week to help bottle feed the lambs. What better way to spend the Easter holidays and learn about the lambing season?

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Busy Days, and Diagnosis - Home Ed Rocks! · Thursday March 6, 2008 by Rose

by Rose

Its been a hectic week or so.

Last Friday we had the first meeting in the hall that two of our group had organised, in our area. It was perfect: space to play indoors and out, places to sit and do crafts, a place to sit and chill – suitable for a wide age range and interest.

I took along the soft play, indoor sports equipment we’ve gathered from Sainsburys and Tescos vouchers in the past year or two, and that was ideal.

Someone set up some craft/painting, which many of the younger kids got involved in.

The big thing, for me anyway, was the attendance of a journalist from one of the broadsheets – yes, finally, home ed has made it to the “serious” papers! They are going to do an indepth feature and the guy is shadowing our group for a while.

He spoke with lots of families, and began to see for himself just how diverse HE is. Amongst the families there were people who have home educated from the start, to those quite new to it. Kids who have never been to school, and kids who did school. Kids with SEN. Kids who were bullied. Families with religious convictions. Families who don’t believe the state should be involved in the education of our children. Families with one, two, or many children.

The usual bag of home educating flavours in other words!

As he is doing this properly, and offering complete anonymity, even the kids were happy to talk with him – and I think he was bowled over by some of them! It was so cool to listen in to them chatting away to him.

One of the kids with Aspergers in the group had a meltdown – poor thing was already having a bad day due to ill health – and I think that too was a statement in itself: both how the kids around him dealt with it, and how the parent – and the other parents – just got on with things.

On Monday some of us went to a farm park – and again, the journalist came. By now he was commenting on how mature, how friendly, how self assured our children all were. He noted also how friendly the parents were, how welcoming. He was surprised that, considering some of us as individual adults hold almost opposing views on some subjects (religion and politics being just 2!), we get on really well, and so do our kids!

It sounds daft, I know, but I felt so darn proud of home educators! We really are quite an amazing bunch – all the more amazing because we are ordinary (if you see what I mean).

Tuesday was our indoor play area day. We had two new families come along, plus a two families who hadn’t been along in ages – including the youngest addition to the group, now 3 months old! It was, therefore, a really good time, with lots of chat – both trivial and serious – and lots of kids running around making friends.

Our family have all been struggling big time with this nasty head cold. JJ is especially having problems because of his asthma. Poor old baby JL is waking every morning with eyes glued shut, and nose crusted over :0(

He is 9 months old today, I can’t you believe it! And to celebrate, he has cut his FIFTH tooth, and number six is probably only a day or so away!

This afternoon we went down to meet with some other teens in the group, who have taken to hanging out together on a regular basis. We didn’t stay for long, as we were late due to taking JJ to the doctors first, just to check that his chest wasn’t infected (it isn’t).

The other big thing was that yesterday we had the “result” of SJ’s diagnosis process.

18 months after we started, yes he is confirmed as being on the spectrum, with Aspergers.

He is “presenting subtly” in the areas of social communication, and imaginative play.

Home ed rocks! I said to the two doctors, that is what two and a half years of “just playing” and learning life skills has done.

I am so, so proud of him, and so extremely glad we took him out when we did. What with the work we’ve done with him on language, and with his Dad teaching him all the top tips for how to talk to people, engage them, etc, as a “saleman”, and with the playing he does every day with his two brothers, my son is able to take part in the world to a degree that, had he stayed in school, he could not have done. In fact, he would have continued to “fall behind”.

I got stroppy at the end of the meeting because one of the doctors said “now, of course you know that for people with Aspergers, it is ESSENTIAL for them to achieve academically”. Basically, she said that they needed to know what they were good at (agreed) and she said that should mean academic work (disagree!). She said that whilst she “heard” what I meant about my priority having not been about “school” work, that obviously wasn’t going to be the best for him.

Huh!

It totally contradicated everything they had just noted about his progress. Again and again I could show how home ed had provided him with all these skills he needed… at his first assessment he’d been distressed, unable to answer, unable to maintain eye contact. Yet a few weeks ago, he took part in another one, relaxed, eye contact much of the time, and “such a confident, kind young person”

That was another thing – him being “kind” and caring for others was non-typical of being an Aspie… yeah I know why they say that but I don’t exactly agree!

Anyway, I put her straight and said that whilst we were continuing to work on his maths, and were going to relearn how to read (as I now understanding why he has huge gaps in his reading ability, as I realise how he WOULD have learned, had we known about the aspergers before, and why the way the school taught him didn’t work), I wasn’t going to make him learn irrelevant subjects he wasn’t interested in, just for the sake of it.

I left shortly after that!

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A day by the lake......and how far she has come · Thursday February 28, 2008 by Ann

by Ann

We had a lovely day yesterday, at a nearby park and activity centre.
In the morning the youngsters went off to do a mountain biking session and then in the afternoon, there was another ‘Introduction to Sailing’ session.
The sun was glorious and it was delightful to be sat by the lake, with a bunch of like minded people, watching the wildlife.
Shrieks and giggles reached us from the boats and we were all sat trying to work out from the sounds, which child was in which boat.

Lucy is so confident out there now, she did her bronze level of sailing course with this organisation last year and all being well (and if enough youngsters like the taster sessions) there will be enough people to run another set of lessons this year and she can do her silver level.

However another family joined us yesterday who really bought it home to me, just how far she has come.

Two lads joined our group last summer, both are dyslexic and dyspraxic and the younger one is as severely dyslexic, as Lucy was at the same age (9)
His mom had gone off to find his older brother and I saw the panic in Stef’s eyes when the children were asked to go and sign in.
So I suggested I went with him and helped him sign in-the relief was so easy to see.
He managed to write most of his first name -missing only one letter and then told me how his surname is pronounced (it is Greek) and I wrote that.
He was then quite happy, to go off and do the mountain biking session.

Later in the day when sailing had finished, he came off the lake with his brother with a grin a mile wide. They had had such a good time again.
But when asked if they would like to do the sailing course in the summer, the worried hunted look came into his eyes and he said “No, no I don’t want to do a course-I just want to keep on having fun like this”

And I remembered

I remembered how Lucy had refused point blank to do the sailing course aged around 9, when her older sister did it (and started what I think will be a life time’s passion for sailing)
When I finally pinned it down, it was because she was still so scared of taking any sort of formal instruction-in case she had to read or write something, or didn’t understand an instruction-”and then everyone would know how stupid I am”

Last year Lucy really ‘got’ reading finally, I have posted before about how this happened in it’s own time and how we allowed her education to run ahead whilst allowing reading and writing to catch up, in it’s own time.

She can read anything now-some days she is slower than others but manages really well overall.

It is only now that she can do that, that she is ready and able to do things like the sailing course.
The damned dyslexia has held her back for so long-or the belief that she left school with, that she was so stupid, did.

And now I see exactly the same thing happening to this young boy.

I told him Lucy wasn’t ready to do it at his age either as she was frightened of having to read or right something. He asked when Lucy did do the first course and I said when she could read properly, aged 14-he said “That’s when I’ll do it then, when I can read as well as Lucy”

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Now the Dog is Home Educated Too! · Saturday February 23, 2008 by Abbie

by Abbie

Our dog Arrow is now 14 and a half, and has lost an eye to glaucoma, the other one has a cataract, and she is very deaf. She finds it difficult to know where we are, and if she falls asleep with us close by, but then wakes up and we are not there, she sort of panics and barks for us.

I think she has the same sensory problems as Ram, only his are too sensitive and hers have lost their sensitivity!

We decided that when we went out we would wake her up and let her see us leaving so that she would know we had gone and she could go upstairs and curl up on our bed. So as we prepared to leave for the home ed meeting, I woke her up, said goodbye, and walked to the door.

Unfortunately she had the same idea! She raced us to the door and wouldn’t stay back. We couldn’t pull her inside because her neck is arthritic and we didn’t want to hurt her, so in the end we decided to take her!

I don’t know what she thought when we got to an empty car park. We were first to arrive so we let her wander around and sniff the ‘doggy newspaper.’ When the next family arrived we got out the hockey set (thanks to Tesco school vouchers!) and she settled down to watch. The next family that arrived hadn’t met her before and were intrigued by her lack of eye, failing sight and deafness. It was fascinating to watch the children explore this, and have them run up to me and report how much she responded to them. She is very patient and didn’t seem to mind the kids interacting, or trying to interact with her. It was a great learning experience for them.

As it wasn’t the best of days weather wise, we went inside. The boys were a bit noisy and running around, so Arrow was a bit nervous and decided to lay down behind the legs of the parents! It made me think of Ram when he first came to the home ed meetings and how he used to just want to me near me.

We are working on an animation of an episode of Red Dwarf, using Lego models, so the kids settled down to watch the episode again, while the adults edited the script and made a list of props needed. I was also able to show one of the girls how to do ‘fill the gap’ disk weaving. I had no idea that she was into Japanese things and most modern disk weaving is done in Japan (called Kumihimo) so it was really exciting to be able to show a willing learner how to do it!

All this time Arrow was quietly sleeping by the kitchen door. What it is with dogs and food!

She did finally get restless and wanted to go home about at the same time that Ram had had enough. Will we take her again? I don’t know, but having a sensory impaired dog with me reminded me of how difficult it was for Ram when we first came, and also how difficult it would be for other sensory impaired people to come to a meeting with lots of noisy boys!

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Changes here too! · Sunday February 17, 2008 by Ann

by Ann

I’m posting because big changes have happened here very recently.

People often ask me how autonomously home educated young people with no qualifications get on when applying for jobs-and what would they write on the CV etc.

Alice-now aged 18, went for a recruitment weekend recently for a well known national organisation.
On the application form she wrote “home educated by parental choice using self directed learning.”
Then she filled in details of her life and work experiences.
Including helping to crew a yacht and look after the young children of that family, whilst they sailed around the UK for a couple of summers, the experience she had working for the mobile internet provider, the retail outlet and the fact that she helped run workshops for women who were victims of domestic violence.
She sent reference details with it as all her employers have been very happy with her work

They seemed to work in getting the attention of the recruiters.

Alice went along for the weekend and seemingly got on very well indeed.
She was told she has been accepted by the organization and then just a couple of weeks ago, had a phone call asking her to start the following week.
As accommodation is provided and the city is about about 90 mins drive from home, this meant we had exactly one week to get everything ready and move dd1 out and into her new accommodation.

She has been employed for exactly a week today.
She is having a ball. So far so good. I’m so thrilled for her-but missing her like crazy.

Lucy is missing her but didn’t stop her moving everything out of Alice’s (much bigger) room, measuring up the walls, to work out how much paint she needed, going and buying it and starting work on the redecoration
She has worked out her design scheme and measured up the floor space to work out what furniture of Alice’s she will keep and which of her own pieces will also fit in.
Her friend Laura came down to stay for a few days and help.
The work is almost finished-without any help from us -as she didn’t ask for any, and it is looking good.

Lucy has gone over to stay with an ex home ed friend, who now goes to school, for the weekend. She says she will do the final touches to Alice’s room and move in tomorrow when she returns in the morning.

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Wow... where did the time go? · Saturday February 16, 2008 by june

by June

Well the gap over Christmas was planned – but here we are and it’s more than half way through February already!

This post starts a new stage for the he-special blog. We are no longer going to take turns to post each month, and from now on we are going to post whenever we want. It should be obvious who is posting… if it all works out OK.

I hope you like the new format.

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Worn Out, But Determined · Monday November 5, 2007 by Rose

The weekend was fairly quiet. Dh spent the time recovering, and I did quite a bit of cooking.

The boys spent time on the internet; WD worked his way through an old, first reader, from Ladybird, with his Nan. Its pretty obviously that he is memorising what his Nan is saying that the words say, but still, that is how many people learn anyway, so I’m not bothered. He came running in and said “finally I can read!!”

Today we hosted a fireworks party in the evening, so the day was spent tidying up and setting up. Dh set the fireworks up around the garden, and I prepared the food, putting a mild chilli into the slow cooker, and then doing lots of jacket potatoes, cheese, and beans.

We had 25 people in total, and with only 2 potatoes left, I obviously got the catering about right! Someone else brought another box of fireworks so that, together with the ones DH had set up, made for a nice display.

Several of the kids were young, and/or with special needs. In order to make the evening as accessible as possible therefore, we’d started very early, I’d got glow sticks for everyone instead of sparklers, and we chose the quietest fireworks available.

I was absolutely thrilled therefore that one of the HE kids, ASD, who up until this year was scared of fireworks, managed to enjoy himself. He’d spent the weekend watching fireworks from the bedroom window, which built up his confidence. This evening, he stayed in my Mum’s room, with my nephew and our baby, and watched the fireworks through the window. He was really excited, and really enjoyed himself.

For me, his pleasure, made the entire thing worthwhile.

During the evening, in total contrast to the fun we were having, I took an EO enquiry. The poor lady had gone into school to collect her daughter today to be told by the teacher that she thought the parent ought to know that her 8 year old daughter had been “touched inappropriately” by a boy that day. Apparently, the school had decided not to tell the mum, but the teacher didn’t agree with that decision so “told”. The mum was incredibly distressed.

At times, I get very angry at “the system” and the abuse that it puts some kids through, and incredibly frustrated at my “little voice”.

I look at my boys, especially my two funny, friendly, loud, frantic aspies, and shudder to picture them in school.

This week on one of the HE email lists, a lady was venting her total frustration at how hard HE had turned out to be. Her children were fighting, running around, running her ragged, and leaving her unable to cope with a young baby. She quite rightly pointed out that HE is usually painted as some pretty, fun, rose coloured world.

She’s right. It isn’t always like that. Over the past week to be honest, there have been days I would have PAID someone at times to take the boys out, days when their lack of interest in learning has left me furious, times (many times!) when their bickering, sniping and arguing has had me screaming and yelling, times when their constant presence has left me exhausted.

But.

When they were at school, there were times, outside of school hours, when I would have PAID someone at times to take the boys out, days when their lack of interest in anything other than the tv left me furious, times (many times!) when their bickering, sniping and arguing had me screaming and yelling, times when their constant presence left me exhausted.

In other words, not a lot is different in those bad times.

But!

There are fewer bad times. These are more than balanced by days when their sheer enthusiasm for learning leaves me breathless, when their fascination in some topic has me running to keep up, times (many times!) when I listen to them playing happily together despite age and ability differences, times when I hear them say spontaneously to each other “I love you” or when they stop on their way past me to give me a hug for no reason other because they can, times when their constant presence reminds me of everything that I love about being a parent.

And..

Every time I see the news, read messages on the lists, answer helpline enquiries, talk to schooling parents, I am so thankful that my boys are home educated and know that I would truly not want that to change.

So it isn’t always pretty. Its very often hard work. It is exhausting. But fortunately for us, it is also exhilarating, interesting, stimulating, and fun, and has bound us tighter together as a family. I pray to God that the negative, for us, never ever outweighs those benefits.

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Quiet but Busy · Saturday November 3, 2007 by Rose

Friday, dh had some minor surgery, so someone else from the HE group gave JJ a lift to his sailing lesson.

There was a lot of driving around, but as the hospital is next to the supermarket, I managed to “enjoy” a quiet shop at 7.30 in the morning!

I also had a chance to catch up with a friend from church, whose baby is 6 weeks younger than mine, which was nice.

Once dh was home, it made things more hectic than usual as I was trying to do everything.

Today was a bit easier. We recieved the free stuff from the Potato for Caterers site. The booklet full of recipes will be ideal for our church catering team, and the other stuff is going to be used by us. As I’m planning on doing jacket potatoes for our HE fireworks on Monday, I will be able to use it then perhaps!

I used one of the recipes for dinner tonight, together with some rainbow trout which was half price at the supermarket this morning. I’m really fortunate that the boys are used to a wide range of foods and are generally pretty good at trying new things. Even SJ and WD, as aspies, are reasonable though we do of course have a few meltdowns… Tonight though SJ said that, even though he doesn’t like fish very much, it was “ok” to eat it!

I’m feeling slightly happier now I’ve found some gf, cf, soya free, egg free crisps (Kettle lightly salted!), and also found that the boys’ haribo sweets were vegan as well as gluten free!

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Relieved to Have a New Washing Machine ;O) · Thursday November 1, 2007 by Rose

Well, our appliances are all now refitted and working!

Yesterday our new toilet was put in. It has a water saving flush feature, which pleases JJ, and a button flush to operate – which pleases us all as WD couldn’t reach the high flush handle and we all used to have to flush the toilet for him!

When they delivered the new washing machine today, I said to the men that I thought it was very sad just how excited I was, to which they replied that it was no surprise to them as most of the people they delivered to, got excited over it!

A week without a machine has been looooong!

In the afternoon/early evening yesterday the boys went to a youth party at the church, which apparently went really well. During the day they pottered around, playing several games, working on the pc, etc.

Today dh and I had a long business meeting (at home) with a potential new business partner, and the boys were brilliant by playing out of the way quietly.

In the afternoon, there was more blogging and other online work.

And lots of washing!

I took several calls as an Local Contact for EO, as well as spending 52 minutes on the phone to Richard Whitehead, who is a practioner of the Davis Method for helping dyslexics. He was explaining how they view dyslexia as a gift, rather than a disability, as it enables the dyslexic to do things, see things, and make connections that others can’t.

Its an attitude I’ve found a lot amongst the asperger community, where older teens/adults have come to reveal and celebrate their unique take on life. It also brings to mind a very dear friend of mine who is a dyslexic. He says that he is sure it is at the root of his tremendous sense of humour; making connections “erroneously” between words – due to his dyslexia – makes him the master of the pun and a tremendous wordsmith. It’s always hard keeping up with him in a battle of wits, or wordplay!

I certainly know that dh, as an aspie, has founds many of the traits and characteristics that he (now) knows to be linked to it, invaluable in business. They are the elements that make him who he is, and so good at what he does.

Baby has been really unsettled today but I think that is down to teething as he has had red cheeks all day, poor thing.

Me, Im finding myself day dreaming of all the foods I can’t eat….

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Autonomy rocks! · Tuesday October 30, 2007 by Rose

Today, despite our, er, toiletry restrictions, has gone reasonably well.

WD got out one of his letter books, and voluntarily sat down to practice copying the letters. He could also pick out 3 of the 5 letters of his name, from the alphabet. This may not seem much at 5, but as he is being autonomously educated, this means it is as a result of his own “learning”, rather than anyone teaching him.

I’m also about to sit and watch him on Education City.

JJ has written up another book review, and also worked through an Egyptian pack. Interestingly, he said to me that he got answers right to questions that he didn’t know that he knew. I said that this evidence just how much information he was taking in when he watched documentaries etc.

SJ has stunned us today by writing a brilliant story. Let me explain, as maybe it may sound harsh to say we were so surprised. As an aspie, his imagination doesn’t work itself out quite the same as JJ who is usually assumed to be the inventive one.

SJ is more into non-fiction, rather than reading stories, and has never yet shown a real interest to write his own fiction.

Also, considering he has Semantic Pragmatic Disorder, and struggles so much with the meaning of words, the choice of words that he has got in the story is brilliant; very descriptive.

The story is about him and his brothers discovering a magical world just for them and in it he has JJ saying something, which we all fell about when we heard, as it was exactly what his brother would have said!

This shows real insight into characters, which I didn’t realise he had.

In the afternoon we had our outing to the indoor play area, though JJ decided to stay home and get some space away from his brothers.

The rest of us had a good time.

The good news is that we should be having a new toilet put in tomorrow. Being without facilities somehow strikes at the very heart of one’s comfort and feeling of civilisation!

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