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All Cheesed Out · Wednesday November 29, 2006 by Abbie

We had an early start this morning. Usually Ram wakes much later than me but he woke about 15 minutes after me!

Sometimes he is hungry but one of the things that he finds quite difficult is knowing when he is hungry. We have worked with him a lot try to get him to recognise the feeling of an empty stomach. One morning recently he was in a bad mood when he woke and finally when we were getting dressed he said that his stomach was so empty it was shrinking to a singularity!

So rather than wait until he was very hungry and he finally recognised this, I suggested that we get up early and have pancakes for breakfast. I must also try to get him to eat more in the evening. If I don’t prompt him to eat he just won’t do it.

So Mystery Manor, our ghost story, didn’t get read much this morning, but that is OK because it is more scary in the dark at night!

Instead he decided to watch Walking With Beasts – again! He was always more interested in prehistoric mammals than dinosaurs. He hasn’t watch the tapes for a while, and he enjoyed reminding himself of all the names of the creatures.

Now, I can hear you asking, what does cheese have to do with all this. Well, it started in the bathroom while we were getting dressed. Ram created the CRA; The Cheese Rights Association. Apparently cheese has the right to free speech and to be sold on ebay!

We then had the word cheese put into everything, all day! We had long monologues on the Cheesosaurus, the Diplocheesus, and many, many others. We also had the random word cheese repeated throughout the day.

I look upon this as all part of Ram and who he is. It wasn’t until we got to town to do the shopping and I was pushing him in his buggy (he has weak ankles that hurt when he walks so we have a buggy for when we go out) and he was singing the word cheese to the tune of The Flintstones and we were getting lots of funny looks, that I remembered that he is on the autistic spectrum!

Oh no! He read what I was typing and I am now being serenaded by him singing the same song again.

Excuse me while I just thump him to stop the record from repeating!

That’s better, he has stopped.

Nope. I was a bit premature there. He is now singing it from the other room!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, in town! After shopping we went swimming. Although Ram stopped singing he was still coming out with cheese and cheese related words for the entire hour we swam. Some are part of conversation but many are just said out loud. Luckily it is only a small pool and everyone knows us and is quite accepting of his behaviour.

We had a really good swim and his front crawl is coming along nicely. I even remembered not to say anything this time so that he would carry on and not stop.

We are going to watch an episode of Planet Earth before bed tonight. Ram always find watching things like this is better done in the dark so that he isn’t distracted by anything else.

I just wish they had such good natural history films in my day. I guess that is one of the great things about home education. We adults can keep on learning too!

But I must get him to eat something while we are watching it. Cheese and crackers? I don’t think so. It will be me that goes crackers if I hear the word cheese again today!

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Just Another Day · Thursday November 30, 2006 by Abbie

We started the day reading aloud again, and cheese featured heavily! Why is it that Aspie children have to use the same words over and over again?

Actually, don’t answer that, Tony Attwood already has. Apparently it gives them comfort!

While Ram was finishing his breakfast I continued to read aloud to him. “Mystery Manor” now has another educational aspect to it. One of the characters has an interest in seventeenth century history and has a library full of books on the two Charleses and the Commonwealth. The some of the children in the book are not that good at their history so explanations are given by the others, and I can see that something that happened in that era has affected one of the characters in the book so I am sure we will be finding out more about this time in history as the book goes on.

I asked which character Ram feels he is like; Oliver the bookish boy studying for exams or Bill, the lively one that prefers to dig in streams and climb trees and for whom maths is a mystery. Ram didn’t hesitate to answer Bill!

As much as I would like a boy that was academic we have to accept our children as they are, and hope that they don’t fall out of too many trees!

We took a break from reading, well, my eyes needed it, and went over to the village pond to feed ‘our ducks’. One of the nice things about home education is the continuity that runs across the years. We have been watching the ducks for two years now, and we have a weather project that has been running for over three years.

Every morning I record the temperatures from previous 24 hours, then the write them along with the pressure and humidity down on a chart. We managed to find a box of weather stamps so that Ram could do the precipitation and sunshine levels without having to write the words. Ram doesn’t know it yet, but one day he will be getting to grips with spreadsheets and graphs and charts and will be imputing all the data for me!

Off to watch another episode of Planet Earth tonight, then bed, hopefully without cheese!

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Pinch Punch, First Day of the Month! · Friday December 1, 2006 by Abbie

It is interesting how things pass from generation to generation. This was one of those sitlly things that we did as kids, and now I do it with Ram!

I let him get me this morning with it. It took him a few minutes to get there though. He is always slow to wake up in the morning. I asked him if he knew what day it was and a couple of minutes later he crawled out from under the covers and pinched and punched me!

We also get to turn over the calenders today. Last New Year I went to one of those calendar shops that appear in December. They always sell off their calendars cheaply in the new year before they close their shops. Last year I bought some art calendars. One is Salvador Dali, and the other is Frida Kahlo. Each month we have a look at and discuss the painting. I just hope the shop is there again this year so I can buy some more!

We came across an interesting bit in the book this morning. One of the main characters, Jane, is left in a hotel reception room with another child, who is a bit snooty. She has a governess who is away for a while so the girl is at a loose end. This girl tells Jane that her governess reads historical novels to her. I know that today we don’t think of governesses and tutors as home education, but they are just another form of it, and it seems that back then reading aloud was also part of home education!

After breakfast Ram decided to watch the DVD we rented for the week. It is called Princess Mononoke Quite a lot of things came up for discussion in this, such as the environmental theme, Japanese mythology, and animation.

In the afternoon the gardening boys came to dig some holes for the apple trees I have nearly ordered! Ram decided to go out and ‘help’ them. They are really good with him. Probably because they are straight forward chaps and don’t invade Ram’s territory by coming into the house. They found some newts and the fish in the pond made a special appearance too!

Ram is now chilling out watching the original Batman film. Not everything we do is educational!

Oh, and no pinch backs or punch backs!

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The Power and the Education · Sunday December 3, 2006 by Abbie

I am a bit behind at the moment. We had a ten hour power outage today! It wasn’t too difficult for Ram to adjust though, as all he wanted me to do was read aloud to him!

But it also gave us a chance to clean the oil lamps, and get them ready in case the power didn’t come back on. He got a chance to realise just what the electricity does. We can take modern conveniences for granted so much that it isn’t until we don’t have them that we realise what life would be like before electricity. We are pretty well off in this house as when we converted it we knew that it would be prone to power failures, so we have a large wood burning stove and gas hob, along with candles in every room. In fact it was the candles that gave us something to do! I had some bee’s was sheets saved for a rainy day and today was it! Ram made half a dozen candles.

We have also come across another learning opportunity in the book, Mystery Manor. Actually, this is really a tie in more than a new opportunity. We have been watching the Accidental Angler over the past few weeks. The chap in it is a fly fisherman, and goes round the world trying to catch fish, and in the process takes a look at the people, natural history and wildlife of the areas. It is a sort of David Attenborough meets the Holiday show!

So how does this tie in with a book written in 1937? Well, in Mystery Manor Oliver and Bill, the main children in the book, go spying on Mr Hugh, the main suspect. It starts at Mr Hugh’s cottage, where he shows them his fly fishing equipment and tells them all about it. He then goes off saying that they can’t come with him. Of course they don’t believe he is really going fishing him, so they follow him. But much to their surprise he really does go fishing, and there is a couple of pages where it is all explained very clearly.

I didn’t learn the first thing about fly fishing from the TV programme, but I do know all about it now!

I call this type of learning learning by proxy. It is the children in the book that are being taught all about fly fishing, but by ‘listening in’ on their experiences, Ram can learn about it too. Because he is so oppositional if someone tried to ‘teach’ him something like that he would just turn off and stop listening.

Tonight is the last episode of The Accidental Angler so now we can what what he is doing with more understanding. As it takes place in the London area we can also find out more about our capital city. And after that we will be watching the excellent Planet Earth.

That is, if the electricity board can manage to keep the juice flowing!

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Finished One Book and Started Another · Monday December 4, 2006 by Abbie

We finished Mystery Manor this morning. As usual the children let their imaginations run wild and got the wrong end of the stick. Actually, that is a sentence with not just one but two metaphors, something that I have to be careful will, as Ram has a tendency to take everything literally. It is something that I have worked on with him, by reading books about them to him and discussing them as well. I knew I had made a break through the day I said something and he responded with silence for a minute, and then said in a small voice, ‘That is one of those phrases where you don’t mean what you say, isn’t it?’

Anyway, back to the book. The children finally found the true about what had been going on, but there was just one thing that puzzled Oliver, the eldest. He still didn’t understand why Mr Hugh had attacked Bill while he was wearing the red school tie. He knew at the time that it was something to do with communism, but really didn’t understand it.

M.E. Atkinson often uses the lack of knowledge in her characters to inform children about current affairs, and communism was a current affair in 1937. So over the last two pages of the book Oliver explores communism, which allowed us to discuss it, and the changes in the world political situation since then. The dxh arrived then too, and joined in the discussion. Ram noted that back then the colour red represented communism, but now it is the colour of the Labour party! It was an interesting conversation.

Before we started reading in bed tonight we did some spelling. Ram likes to do spelling aloud, but has to be encouraged to do it. I don’t mind encouraging him as I know that he has a great feeling of satisfaction when he gets words right. I don’t let him study them before hand, he has to work it out. I may remind him of a spelling rule or give him clues, but we do it more for him to learn about spelling than for him to pass or fail a test. This time I started making up silly sentences for the words, and not to be outdone he made even longer and sillier ones, all to do with Lego Bionicle of course! After all, they do come to bed with us!

Then when we started the next book by Atkinson. This one is called Chimney Cottage. The first few chapters seem to be about some other children that are in some of her other books, one of whom had polio and was in callipers. Ram wanted to know why she couldn’t walk very well. As we had already put the house to bed as it were, I didn’t fancy getting up and going downstairs to find a book that might have something about polio. Luckily, we have a lovely old glass fronted bookcase in the bedroom that belonged by Ram’s great-grandfather. As we do most of our reading in the bedroom and very little horse play, it seemed to be the safest place to put it!

This bookcase contains some of his books too, including a set of encyclopaedia, so I hopped out of bed and found the relevant book and we read up on polio. And of course that entry lead us to a couple more entries! I love it when we get sidetracked. We seem to learn so much more!

We do seem to do a lot of our learning in bed these days!

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The Simpsons · Tuesday December 5, 2006 by Abbie

We had a day of watching The Simpsons. I think it was because Ram was so tired. Last night after we turned the lights out he said that he didn’t want to read first thing in the morning, but wanted to get up and have breakfast straight away. I agreed and then started to fall asleep.

But I was woken by Ram moaning! I was immediately alert and asked what was wrong. His stomached ached! I grabbed for the old enamelware potty just in case, and asked him where it hurt and if it was a sick hurt. He decided it was more likely a hungry hurt!

He hadn’t been able to communicate with me that he was hungry. All he thought of was that he wanted breakfast first in the morning, rather than just tell me that he was hungry there and then before turning out the lights!

We then went through what he ate that day, and it wasn’t much. When I am not with him he won’t ask for anything to eat, even though he was with his Dad all afternoon while I was out. So I went down and got him some rice cakes. We have always found that they make less mess in bed than crackers!

His tummy did stop hurting but it was some time before he got to sleep.

Because I had a disturbed night I slept later than usual myself. I was woken by Arrow barking at 7.30. I got up and fed her (she is usually fed at 6.30) and then had something to eat myself and got on the computer. But 15 minutes later Ram as awake too!

So we read for a while, and then came downstairs for breakfast. But he was clearly not up to much having got to sleep so late and waking so early, so I didn’t expect much from him today.

He has been very careful about eating more today. I think it is part of the Asperger’s syndrome that means that he can’t always tell when he is hungry. If I offer him food and he is busy with something, then he will refuse it, because he stomach isn’t telling his brain that he is hungry!

We did read an interesting article in the paper that tied in with the discussion on communism from yesterday. It was about Trident and nuclear deterrents. Some times when I ask him what he thinks of something he can say it in him own words, but other days he just can’t find words and make them work for him, so today he didn’t have as much to say.

One of the things that I like with home education is the continuity. Things are not just done once, regurgitated for a test and then forgotten. We can revisit things at any time, and relate them to current affairs and other daily happenings in our lives, to make things more real.

We did manage to watch the programme on Islamic art, and Ram thinks he will make it to the end of the programme on the lost pilots, but that is it he says, he needs to go to bed!

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Home Ed Meeting Day · Wednesday December 6, 2006 by Abbie

Ram was quite excited today, as it was our monthly home ed group meeting. But not so excited that I couldn’t read to him in bed for a while!

This book is giving us a bit of a picture of how home education worked in the 1940s. The three families we have met so far in the book all have home educated children, and have special needs too! In one family there is a girl who had polio and is in irons. She is being educated at home because going to school would be too difficult for her. She has a governess who also teaches another girl from the same street. They are together for company.

I know that people today often say that having a tutor or governess isn’t really home education, but it was for this sort of people that the 1946 Education Act included the words ‘education otherwise than at school’ which allow us to home educate today. And it is also interesting that the governess only ‘teaches’ in the morning! They are free in the afternoons.

The other family that has a child that is home educated has a boy that so far matches the description of Asperger’s! Interestingly, in both this family and the other families, they have other children that go to school. In this family they recognise that school is not right for every child in every situation. He seems to have ocasional lessons with various people, mainly for music.

Ram seems to like reading these old fashioned books where home educated children were part of everyday life.

But we were not in bed for long as we needed to get ready for the Home ed meeting. We had a bit of a festive theme today. We took the materials for making little drums to hang on a tree, and other brought other things for making decorations and cards. We also had mince pies and hot apple juice with spices. The kids all seemed to have a good time. There is nothing structured or organised about it, and the children can do the crafts, play their card games (I think it is called Magic) or run round outside. It was lovely to see so many children of different ages getting on well.

Ram seemed to enjoy it and one other mum actually said he seemed more relaxed this month. But I think he must have held himself together because he fell apart in the car on the way home! He was very angry, and couldn’t tell me why. He started talking about having to find another way to get his extream anger out because there was no one in the car he could kill!

I knew that this was only talk, and he has come along way in finding ways of expressing his anger. Using words is one way, and I know I have done a good job in teaching him to use words as a few years ago he would have been trying to hit me and I would have had to stop the car.

When we got back he carried one of the boxes into the house for me without me asking, but threw it down onto the floor, then turned to me and said in a very angry voice, ‘You didn’t expect me to do it nicely while I am so angry, did you!’

I knew that he was completely overloaded after spending three hours with so many people, but I also had a feeling that it might have to do with low blood sugar levels again, so I got him something to eat straight away. After watching Blue Peter he was ok again. I asked him what he had had to eat at the meeting and it was only a little cupcake!

It can be hard work sometimes being mum and keeping an eye on the calories, and being teacher and keeping an eye on the education! But at least I can tick the socialisation box for the month!

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Christmas Shopping · Thursday December 7, 2006 by Abbie

I think Ram is needing some time out again after Wednesday’s outing to the home ed group. He just wanted to go into what he calls default mode; watching old videos!

But it did give me a chance to get onto the computer on my own. I guess one of the few drawbacks of home education is that you don’t get much of a chance to do the Christmas shopping on your own!

This year I have tried to do as much as possible on the Internet. When Ram was little I didn’t worry too much doing it while he was around, but now he is so good at reading I can’t any more!

He did point out something in a catalogue that he wanted. I asked him if he would like me to read the description to him so as to make sure he knew what it was. ‘No thanks Mum, I have done that already!’

It is at moments like this that I realise how far he has come!

We had really high winds here again today, and the power kept going on and off. We ended up lighting all the wall candles once it was dark. I went though the safety talk again. I have found that he does need to have things told to him over and over just to make sure. But this year he seems to have got it. When the winds died down, and I was in the other room, he went and safely blew all the candles out for me without me having to ask him! I was also able to teach him to safely light a match this evening.

When we got into bed we did our spelling first. I am always amazed at how good he is, especially as he doesn’t get to see the word first.

And it was a good thing that we did the spellings first as not long after we started reading the book the power went off again!

At least I got one thing done today though. I managed to order some little goodies for our stockings without Ram noticing. Lets just hope the postman can deliver them without Ram noticing too!

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I Was Wrong! · Friday December 8, 2006 by Abbie

I was wrong about Ram needing some chill out time yesterday after the home ed meeting on Wednesday. This morning he woke up early with a sore throat! So yesterday he was in default mode because he was coming down with something not because he was stressed out from to much socialisation!

Mind you, he still hasn’t been able to tell me why he was so angry when we left the home ed meeting.

Today again he has been watching a lot of old video tapes. But they weren’t all the usual cartoons. He watched some films that have strong political statements. He watched Animal Farm first. We watched it originally last year, then we read the book, and now he has watched it again. I have just asked him if he learned anything from watching it today, and he said that he learned that it is partly different from the book. The ending is different!

He then watched a very old film of Gulliver’s Travels. We have read that book too. In fact we read the original, which was annotated so that people today would understand the political climate that it was written in. But the film not only visits only three worlds but much of the political parody is lost. Still, I think that it is important that Ram goes back to these things and reinforces what he has previously learned, rather than doing it once and then forgetting it.

We also watched our weekly DVD rental which was called ‘Just Ask for Diamond’. It is based on Anthony Horowitz’s book, The Falcon’s Malteser, the first in the Diamond Brothers series.

There are not many contemporary children’s authors that we really like, but Horowitz is one of them. We started with Alex Rider and then went on to read everything we could find! Again, Ram was able to compare the book with the film. It was nice to see a film that is faithful to the book, but even then Ram’s Aspie mind actually noticed some lines which were incomplete or missing!

Since he was ill today, that is still quite a lot of learning still going on!

I wish it was early to bed for us tonight, as neither of us slept well, but we will have to stay up to watch The Simpsons. I wish they didn’t have it on so late on a Friday. Not because it is past Ram’s bedtime, but because it is past mine!

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Ram Does Christmas Shopping · Saturday December 9, 2006 by Abbie

Ram woke early this morning with a runny nose. But the good news is the sore throat is gone!

He didn’t feel comfortable reading in bed so we got up and had pancakes for breakfast. They were just plain boring Canadian pancakes, not the sourdough buckwheat ones that we made while we were reading Little House in the Prairie!

We then settled into reading our M. E. Atkinson book until Dxh arrived. Then Ram starts getting so excited and bouncing around. I am really glad I didn’t cut out Ram’s dad when he moved out. It is sometimes hard for me, but having the Dxh around like this clearly makes Ram a happy boy, and it does help with the education!

We had a nice family lunch with all sorts of things being discussed, including religion and politics, and maths. I don’t even pretend to understand the maths, but I am glad that Ram and his dad can share this interest.

After lunch it was time for Ram and the Dxh to do a little Internet Christmas shopping. I was banished from the room, while they conspiratorially huddled together. When I did have to enter the room I gave them warning and I could hear Dxh telling Ram how to clear the screen of the computer without losing data, but doing it quickly so that I wouldn’t see what they were doing.

I did assume that they were still shopping, but when I went outside to refill the bird feeders, I could see through the window it wasn’t an Internet page they had up on the screen, but chess! It seems that they were playing a game of chess together!

After Dxh left we had supper and then settled down to watch Robin Hood. I have a feeling that we need to read some books about Robin Hood. Perhaps a non-fiction one about the myths of Robin Hood, like the ones that look at the science of Harry Potter and the science of Christmas. But I haven’t come across one yet. Mind you I haven’t looked very hard!

I think that is one of the most time consuming things about autonomous home education; finding the books and materials to back up the current interests.

We then went onto to watch QI and Ever Wondered About Food which had been recorded from the night before. QI is very adult, and would not be suitable for every 10 year old. But luckily the more adult things pass over his head, and he really likes the things that come under the category of useless information. In fact, QI was one of the subjects of discussion at the lunch table with Dxh!

Ever Wondered was about pasta. That is one of the foods that Ram enjoys and it was interesting to see a history of not only pasta as the Italians made it but of how it came to this country.

We have got through the whole day without any hints as to my Christmas present they bought for me this afternoon. In years gone by Ram hasn’t been able to keep it a secret. Of course, it is possible that they got into the chess game so much that they forgot. I guess I won’t know until Christmas morning!

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