Monday, 25 January 2016

The bad and the good.

I have come to believe that after the bad comes the good.

I am not sure whether or not this is actually a philosophical question (a la Augustine) but for us, when there has been a true sh*t storm, there then comes a precious calm.

During this awkward time of  such rampant and blatant persecution in our country (world?) (whether that be because of your religion, race, disability, sexual preference, choice to home educate etc etc etc) big things are happening.

In the last week I have spoken to three different parents who had just/were about to de-register their children from school.

It is almost as if, by way of their blatant persecution and singling out of the alternative education community (NSPCC report, the saddening, recent (but not current) story about the little boy in Wales, the supposed ' hidden' ulterior motive whereby parents mean to 'radicalise' children, Loose Women), the government have in fact created a tidal wave of people having a closer look at this area.

So, for home education, one of my passions, parents are actually considering the question on a massive scale. This is giving the home education community an unprecedented opportunity to discuss their choice rationally, animatedly and perhaps most importantly, logically (because the success of individualised learning is well known and should be the gold standard for every educational establishment, not just home education), In this article from 2010 in the Guardian newspaper, you can see this quite clearly.

So, yes, this full frontal assault has resulted in an amazing opportunity for everyone. Let's talk about it. Properly. Using evidence and experience and whilst feeling confident in our ability to make the best choice for our family. Let's not fight amongst ourselves.

It is really no one else's business how you and I as parents choose to educate our child/ren. We're all doing our best!

The major point to be taken from these kinds of massive, light-shedding events (specifically the home education events in this instance) is that all choices/options are valid. We can't like them all (some are truly horrifying indeed in the broadest sense of these events) but we have to respect peoples rights to make them all.  It sucks at times, but mostly it is what makes us free. Choice, as they say in 'The Matrix', is the problem.

But, I digress, what inspired me to write this post in the first place, is my current experience with my kids.

This past week has been truly horrendous at times, ('throwing in the towel' kind of horrendous) but, that utter madness has been concluded with exactly the opposite degree of madness.

The level of achievement in my house right now!

The communication, the the life skills, positivity, learning name it. I am so energised by the progress occurring in my house that I am hardly needing to sleep! For the first time in my life I am surviving on about 6 hours...and not feeling tired! Something must be fuelling me and I think it is the children.

Harriet is apparently in training to one day climb Mount Everest! She would surely be 'The World's Climbing Champion' ... in the under 12 months category!!! She is so fast, so sure footed and so determined. I simply stand by her and help her learn how to do it safely. It is heart-stoppingly nerve-racking but it is so worth it! She goes easily and confidently up the stairs now. She can get down from a bed. She attempts to climb up into her high chair and will push things around to climb somewhere she wants to go but can't!! She is also loving a set of little stackable eggs with a duckling in the middle. Watching her figure out how to do it is so fun. She also LOVES being read and sung to. 'Dear Zoo' and any song will do.

Lily has suddenly, and I mean over night, gone from not doing any maths to doing additions of three figure numbers, subtractions of three figure numbers and is beginning to understand the idea of 'times tables' and why they are helpful.

As an aside, I feel that school does this the wrong way around. They try to teach the times tables before children learn for themselves why they are good to learn! It is much easier when the child is motivated by their own experience to explain to them a new concept which they now know, will be helpful to them now, and in the future.

Dominik has yet to 'avoid' a single day of his physiotherapy work. He is still doing parkour. He too has suddenly found the relevant patterns in maths (but still won't work with any odd numbers!!!). He is also trying his hand at his first model kit. Loving it, but finding it challenging for his fine motor skills. Excellent! Oh, and he bought a comic with his own money! Unheard of. He is reading again.

(We realised tonight that we all have our own bookshelves..such a lovely moment.)

Hannon has just simply worked like a trojan on his coding. But, alas, I truly have no idea how well he is doing. I know that he is not nine yet, and that he began learning at the end of October after doing two tutorials with me, but is his progress considered 'good'?

Meh, who cares! Hannon is learning so much, so fast, and with so much enthusiasm that I do not think that the kindest measurement of this is one that means he feels he is in competition with anyone aside from himself! If he is happy with what he is learning, that is good enough for me. He is achieving to his highest possible standard. Brilliant.

He is also still attending Cubs after asking to quit in October! He's slightly wary but knows that I will allow him to stop at the end of any month if he wants to. But that has not happened yet!

He is actively enjoying things now. Partly because the pressure if off to stay and partly because the activities have suddenly become slightly more 'challenging' and it turns out, that he is excelling! Now that the number of 'games' that he doesn't know have decreased the tables have turned.

He has, on two occasions, been the only child to successfully complete both the co-ordinates task (he was also, coincidentally, the only child there who had not 'done them already') and the first aid task! He was STUNNED and so bloody proud. He really stands out among his peers when it comes to his ability to learn new skills (what we focus on most I guess...not what to learn, but how to learn) and the speed with which he can acquire them if he wants to.

He's a hidden, understated little gem. I cannot believe the grace with which he is growing up given that he is enveloped by two such demanding, strenuous siblings. He is my inspiration.

They all are. I just feel so privileged to be on this journey with them all.

To end, I have these motifs in my bedroom. Call me sentimental but they really do help.

Don't let anyone dull your sparkle
Be the change you wish to see in the world
She can do it
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain
When it rains look for rainbows, when it's dark, look for stars

I have more than those but they are the only ones I can read from where I am sitting! :-)

My hope is that you feel inspired by this to consider your own challenges and demands in a slightly different way for a moment or two.

Without the bad, I wouldn't have the good.

Sleep well.

N x

PS - I am tired now but I want to publish, so please excuse any typos. :-)

Thursday, 7 January 2016

And 2016 gets off to a flying start!

Where to begin?

Happy New Year to you all. What a whirlwind this year has been so far. It's like someone opened a door way or something. 'Stuff' (for want of a better word) is just flying into our lives,.

It is breathtaking in its speed.

But first a few thoughts on Christmas this time around.

Aside from one event, it was brilliant. I can honestly say it was all about the things that truly matter. No one was that fussed about presents (although they all love their tablets), it was about spending time together and having fun.

We had very few visitors but the ones there were made the event all the more special. I do wish visitors would have a little more time for everyone when they came though, but at least they care enough to come and see us. I love you all and we appreciate your time,

One small request on behalf of the kids before I move on,. Please try to to show a little interest in what they've been up to! I know its not the same as asking a child who goes to school, but try anyway! I know they bombard you with lots of information and that its mostly about things you've never hear of or things you have no interest in, but, well, ABC's  and mental arithmetic don't count as interesting either really if we're honest. What I am trying to say is that we should simply celebrate enthusiasm and happiness whatever the cause! My four would love to show you what they've been doing. They LOVE what they all do. Please, try to reserve judgement and witness what they are all achieving, even if it isn't something 'mainstream'. I think it is all the more impressive because it isn't! The 'mainstream' is exactly is what most people can learn during the course of their everyday lives. It is the majority, the ;normal', the (dare I say it) mundane. Listen and watch what kids have to show or tell you, whoever they are. Listen even more carefully if they are passionate about it. This is where the true learning experience happens. Especially if they are passionate about. It is important to them. We ask children to pay heed to what is important for us (and society in general I guess) a lot  of the time but sometimes perhaps, we should spend some more time listening to them.

So, yes, where was I...The New Year!

Here's some of what has been going on. Obviously keeping a positive slant on it all. I don't find focussing on the bad bits helpful because they would then over shadow the progress and I don't want that! There have been some tough moments, of course, but what follows could not have happened as it did/does, without them. Every experience is a potential learning experience.

 # Lily!

Lily is pretty much reading fluently, and she is reading words that she doesn't know and they rarely pose a significant problem. She took to the 'hoverboard' like a duck to water. (No, it hasn't caught fire.) She was an amazing hostess at her own Birthday Party. She took to ice-skating like she was born to do it. She is a born 'mover'. Not sure where that will take her but I am sure it will be far. Her innate talent and the ease with which she learns new skills is inspiring. Her vocabulary and maturity also continue to amaze me. For example. we had our 11 year old dog, Tia, put to sleep in December and Lily chose to stay with her until the end (with my mum). Just incredible. The vet tried very hard to guilt me into removing her but I gave Lily the choice and respected her decision. She was amazingly pragmatic throughout. She was a little sad, but, she was also completely accepting and full of love. I am so proud of her. What an amazing human being. She has only spoken positively about Tia since she died and seems to be happy with the desicion she made. (As are Hannon, Dominik and I and we chose to leave.) Love you Lily.

 # Hannon

Hannon it seems is a GAME MAKER. He spends significant periods of time creating and refining various different game ideas. He researches his options. He learns from other people. He experiments with different ideas. He and Lily do 'voice-acting' for their own characters too! He also never. gives. up. His tenacity is awe-inspiring. He is so determined to succeed. It makes me so proud. He tampered a bit with magic over the holidays (and engineering) but has left those behind for the time being. He has also found the time to read at least 12 books since November and it is staring to get expensive!!! But, I obviously cannot complain.. It is simply a running joke.  I even went and bought him his own bookshelves and he is actually using them! Yay Hannon. I love you.

 # Dominik

Dominik has made some massive strides too. He has completed over a month of daily exercises designed to lengthen and strengthen the muscles etc in his lower legs. These can be painful and the demand from me is a daily one so I would never have guessed he would have this much staying power. He is giving this his all. I think a physiotherapist would be able to support him now he knows he can do it. Great progress.  He has also showered twice on the same day that I have asked him to do so! (A miracle for a child with PDA and SPD.) He has also been letting me brush his teeth...not everyday, but more than ever before! He continues to improve his sketching skills (with a new rubber and pencil sharpener) and practices almost daily. He has rediscovered his love of music and all things rhythm based. He seems to be 'pitch perfect'. He can whistle the tune his tablet whistles when he gets a notification and there is no discernible difference. He almost beat me at Just Dance too!!! (Unheard of!!! Along with Mario Kart, Just Dance is about the only other game at which I can do well!) He found something called a Lauchpad and is desperate to try one out. We discussed it and after having talked about the benefits of him having one of these, we actually discovered that he needs (and would prefer) an electric drum kit into which he can programme all the sounds he likes! And, the boon, we don't all have to listen to his creativity. (This will build on all the times we spent playing with Synthesia and a couple of other rhythm/music based visual games (DJ Hero being another)). I cannot begin to imagine what he will create but we are both itching to find out. I also think that the drum kit will have many more benefits...not least of which will be to further strengthen his legs and improve his physical health. His motor skills will also surely take another leap forward as will his proprioceptive skills I should think. This is just brilliant! Alongside his parkour and his rekindled love of creating his own smoothies really bodes well for the future! So proud Dominik, so proud of you. Mwah. Love you.

See, I told you 2016 hit the ground running!

And now for Harriet...well, that would be an essay! She's the best! You'd have to meet her to truly appreciate her awesomeness though. Suffice it to say, she LOVES to climb, point, bite and smile. :-P

And finally, here's my favourite (of favourite ever) picture of our Christmas 2015.

Too. Funny.

And no, Hannon was not like that all the time.

And a dear friend made all the hats for us. Thank you Cara!

Oh, and, the photo was taken by a lovely friend who spent Christmas Day with us. She also brought her beautiful shitzu -yorkie cross. We had such a lovely time.

It was certainly a Christmas that we will remember as being full of smiles and love.

Oh, and we did buy a few family games but by far our favourite is Sushi Go! Lots of fun. Deceptively simple, tactical card game that is hilarious and sneeky (think Uno I guess)!

Happy New Year!

N x