Sunday, 9 June 2013

Not far, as it turns out

We only got as far as the back garden today. It's nice playing at home and the boys enjoy the freedom to do whatever they want to do. The only trouble is that when I tell them it's bedtime they have a horrible feeling of having achieved nothing with their day and I am scowled at by three very dirty faces, who all think that it's my fault the day hasn't been better. They're so funny. They've had a ball, playing with their friend across the back, digging, making potions, trading football cards, playing a gigantic game of cars in the dirt and generally being fun and adventurous and creative boys, but because we haven't spent any money or been anywhere, they think the weekend's a failure; whereas I think it's a huge success. 

James is the scowliest. Some days he tells me that he hates me. He says it with a smile, but he really means it. He says it to shock me, but it never does.

They won't be with me next weekend, so I'm glad it was so nice today and yesterday. When we're at home I don't see much of James and Thomas now because they play at Oliver's whenever they can. But Matthew tends to get bored there, and he comes back to help me make tea or just chat to me. Today he chatted to me as he made me some pictures and secret notes, and while he pruned the acers with my craft cutters, and pulled dandelions out of the patio. He's amazing. He's so great at pottering and finding things to do. There's a big brain in that little head, and it's so fascinating watching it develop. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with it. I'm looking forward to seeing what they all do, because I'm sure they will each do very different things. Thomas is outdoorsy. James is ... hmm, I don't know ... James is just good at everything he tries, but he's very interested in music and dancing.  He has good rhythm and a good ear. I think that Thomas will do something creative, but I can't tell what. Something combining creativity and being outside. I said this to him and he looked happy with it and said 'yeah, I know, I'm going to be an outside artist'. Mmm. Well, why not.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Blogging from my phone? What?!

Let's give this a shot then. I have an app, I don't know how well it works, but let's do a little test and find out.

So, as you will know, summer is here. An untidy house just has to wait once summer arrives - it would be a terrible waste of time to spend the day hoovering and folding great piles of washing when the sun's out and it's not too hot for walking. And when you've a spare loaf of bread, you might as well go for a walk along the canal and feed the ducks, really.

And then you might as well go and eat chips on the prom, if you live near a prom. And while you're there you might as well have ice-cream.

And then you might as well just chill out and mess about on the grass and take advantage of the fact that it's not soggy and boggy.

A thoroughly lovely late afternoon and early evening. I wonder where we'll find ourselves tomorrow ...

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Life is always so surprising - in a good way though.

Once again life has changed.  I always enjoy a change as it's like giving the world a good wash, with a delicious new bar of soap, making it all fresh and clean, cleansing the pores and really getting rid of all the dirt.  

This setting hasn't changed.  I still live in the same house, with my little boys.  But it looks different.  It hasn't been decorated or anything.  No, it just looks different because we do different things in it.  The person whose life has changed the least is James, my middle son.  Matthew, the littlest, has started school, so his life is completely new.  And he's thriving (now - it took a little bit of settling in), and is doing exceptionally well at school.  

It's mine and Thomas's lives who have changed beyond recognition (that's a bit of an exaggeration).  Thomas is no longer in school, and is being home educated by me.  Things, academically, haven't been going well for him for the past three years or so.  He's fallen further and further behind the rest of the class.  His reading picked up a little this year, but not enough to make the transition to senior school anything other than extremely difficult.  We discussed it for a long time, and my mind changed back and forth many times.  Finally, last week, we decided to go for it.  

And it's been super.  Thomas has worked hard, and has surprised himself I think.  He loves it.  Mostly I think he loves being able to stay at home with me, which is a bonus.  But he also loves having someone with him to explain everything that he doesn't understand.  The school system doesn't allow for that, so he would just have to muddle along as best he could there, as so many children do.  We tried to do what we could at home, but after school isn't so great a time to concentrate, when all of the brain power has already been used up, energy levels are low, and quite frankly, kids are just sick to death of having to think about maths.  I am able to do this for him now because I am not working (proofreading can be done when Thomas is doing some work that I've set him, or in the evenings).  It means that my things get put on hold for a while, but that's not a problem.  I have to put Thomas first just now, because I'm really the only person who can get him ready for senior school - his teachers at school were doing a useless job of that.  I was getting the impression that his teacher and teaching assistant didn't like him, because he seemed to be getting told off every day simply for being behind and not doing well in tests.  I wouldn't have minded them telling him off for being naughty, but telling a child off for struggling academically is ridiculous - actually, it's cruel, and it's bad teaching.  He was coming home almost every day feeling more and more stupid, telling me that each day was just as bad as the last.  We sorted the bullying problem with the children, but it was starting to feel as though he was being bullied by the teachers.  

Now perhaps you might think that I should have gone into school and demanded that this be sorted out.  Well, we've had dealings with the head teacher (who is retiring at the end of the year, thank goodness! At last!), and the class teachers before, and whenever a parent has any criticism or grievance, the staff close ranks and deny everything.  Parents get absolutely nowhere.  The head never gives an inch.  She's a terrible woman.  I knew that if I went into school my criticisms would be taken badly, and no extra help would be forthcoming for Thomas anyway.  Teachers only work with the children who are at the top of the class, and the useless teaching assistants provide a little help for those who are struggling, and my shouting my mouth off to the head will not change that as long as she's still there.  So I just pulled him out of school, and sent them a letter to inform them of our decision.  

It was mostly Thomas's decision.  He was free at any time to change his mind, and I'm so proud of him because he asked so many questions about it, and looked at it from every angle.  He worried about missing his friends, and he changed his mind a dozen times.  But once he'd decided properly, he was ready to get on with it.  He came to me the night before what turned out to be his last day, and said 'tomorrow is going to be my last day'.  We talked about that for a while and he said that he definitely was ready to pull out of school, but that he wanted to get on with it now that he'd made the decision.  He said that he didn't want to be waiting around for a week, in school but knowing that he was leaving - he knew he would find it nerve-wracking.  So that's what we did.  He went to school the next day, really just to see his friends in class one last time, and to collect his PE kits, and then the next day he was at home.

He's been at home for over a week now, and it's been brilliant.  What we've found is that we have plenty of time.  He has done maths every day without fail.  We've started easy, on Key Stage 1, to give him confidence.  His confidence is shattered when it comes to maths.  He doesn't know his tables, and he doesn't know how to do simple arithmetic, so that's what we're concentrating on for now.  When he becomes very confident with those then we'll move right on to Key Stage 2.  He's done 40 pages of maths this week (that's the maths workbooks we're using).  He's done reading, history, music, a teeny bit of French.  He's done a little bit of socialising, as in visiting family a little bit.  We're just settling into a routine (we have a timetable), but we can do more next week.  He worked hard, but I think he can work harder, so I plan to get through loads more next week.  And he's keen to do that too.  He has enjoyed it, a lot.  It's nice to see him feel pleased with himself.  

He's finding some of it difficult, but that's no problem.  That's what I'm here for.

I have a little latent anger about the teachers.  I just wonder why they go into teaching if it's not to teach children who struggle.  Anyone at all can teach children who find academia easy - I could regurgitate a load of stuff, and feel pleased with myself about the gifted children being able to repeat it back to me.  But the real rewarding challenge about teaching is surely watching children work things out that they've been finding difficult.  That was certainly the best bit for me when I was listening to the Year 1 children read.  (I've had to give that up for the time being, because I can't be in school when Thomas is at home - that's the only very sad thing for me, because I had wanted to still be in Year 1 when Matthew moved into that class, and Matthew was looking forward to having me there.  But Thomas may catch up enough in the next term, so that he can go back into school for Year 6 - we'll see about that.)

One thing that I will have to help Thomas with is separation anxiety!  Seems strange because he's never really suffered from it.  But now that he's back with me 24 hours a day, he's got used to me being there all the time again.  When I dropped him off at Kev's last night he had a cry because he had to leave me. But we'll deal with that.  He's a strong little lad, who's dealt with a lot in the past few years - mostly at school.  Home stuff has always been a breeze for all of them.

Anyway, this is rather a self-indulgent, diary entry of a blog.  Sorry.  I haven't blogged for ages, or written anything at all.  I'd best go and have my bath and then get some scribbling done.