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.  


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