Monday, 24 March 2014

Sunshine, Smiles and Sickness

Last week was interesting!  The first half was governed with the usual run of the mill school run and core subject learning in the home school.  in fact Benedict and I managed to score a "hat trick", three days in a row!  Pip also enjoyed dressing up for a belated book day at school:

The Gruffalo Child.

We also had an after school treat in Sainsbury's and it was a much deserved treat for hard work:

By Thursday Pip was sent home from school with stomach ache and upon arriving home was sick, she pretty much slept through the rest of that day and night.  By Friday she was much improved and it was a home and art day as usual.  In amongst all of this Benedict started with a cold whilst at the same time, experiencing multiple daily hypos ... I've since stopped counting!

On Saturday our dear friend PJ and adopted uncle took myself and Pip to the Wolfhouse Gallery followed by a walk to the Giant's Seat.

 Sitting on Giant's Seat.

 Saturday Skyline.


 Walking Pip's name in the sand.

Blue Skies.

When we arrived home Benedict had his head over a sick bowl and shortly after Pip and I followed suit!  We were changing bed linen throughout the night and although Pip seemed better on Sunday, Benedict and I were totally out of action.  We have managed to be up and about today but have only managed a small amount of toast and a little bit of weak soup.  Oddly enough Pip was sick again just before bed, *sigh*  So we are resting and recuperating and trying to drink little and often, at least we are on the mend.

PS Almost to the day this was us last year!

Monday, 17 March 2014

About Change {Again}

Well, I had a chat with the lady from LEMS and they are refusing to take Benedict!  We are not allowed to put LEMS as a first choice for secondary education and they would only have him for a few weeks before expecting him to return to mainstream school!  I did point out to her that his diabetes is still unstable and that as a result of all that has happened to him, he is now school phobic!  They are not in the least bit interested! 

Basically they want me to place in him mainstream school with all his difficulties, watch him suffer and then when he cannot cope intervene. I am not perfect and there are times when I get cross and frustrated, but it is incredulous that the system once again has let us down, badly.  I know I have a case for writing to our MP or contacting the local newspaper, but I am tired and that seems like one hoop to many.  So we'll keep on plodding along as best we can.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Week One Review

It was a mixed bag of a week.  We didn't hit any of the suggested items apart from our core subjects of English and Maths.  We did however make full use of two glorious days of sunshine:

Tuesday ~ After the weekly food shop we cleaned out the car; Benedict had responsibility for the vacuuming  and I cleaned the windows.  We ate a picnic lunch in the garden and bought new shoes once Pip had finished school.

Wednesday ~ Benedict was with Shein in the morning.  I collected him at midday and this time we ate our sandwiches in the park.  We also played an impromptu game of Star Wars Top Trump Cards, Benedict won!  His knowledge of the Star Wars characters and their impact on the story lines is phenomenal!  As promised we visited Bea and Benedict had fun helping one of her child - minded kids with a jigsaw.  We collected Pip at three and took the long way home through the countryside, it was refreshing to see the countryside looking so lush.  Roland came for tea and Scouts as usual.

By Thursday the fog and cold came creeping in and it has been heating on and extra jumpers ever since!

I came to quite a profound understanding this week and that is I have had enough of home schooling!  It never has sat easy with me, either because I have had concerns about keeping up with a school curriculum; our main points of contact are with school based folk and not the home ed community, or the fact that I actually need periods of time completely on my own in order to function and this constantly having people around is quite wearying.  It is quite an intense relationship home schooling just one child in isolation and over these past two years I have felt suffocated by it all.

With this in mind I have made contact with a local learning centre funded  for young people of secondary school age, who for medical reasons are unable to access full time education.  Sara finished her secondary education at LEMS and the support and teaching staff were excellent.  The lady who normally oversees the service is on long term sick but another person has stepped in as acting coordinator. The centre is near to us so if there are any diabetes issues we are on hand to sort things out and if it is the same as last time, then being at the younger end of the "school", Benedict will only be attending afternoons as the mornings are kept free for those studying GCSE's. We are hoping to make a visit within the next few weeks and by September somebody other than myself will have responsibility for his education.  

I know that him being out of the house on a regular basis will improve his confidence and give him the opportunity to be around other kids of a similar age.  It will also enable him to practise his listening skills and taking instructions from someone other than mum!  So we are really pushing forward now with our core subjects including regular writing practise and spellings.  It has given us both a new focus and a long term goal and that can only be a good thing.

Monday, 10 March 2014

What have we done today?

We have had a mixed day.  I was on the late duty with B and then awake early for a GP appointment, so not the best combo!

B worked on Maths and English first thing, followed by some time on the computer with Minecraft.  Pip read to Dave and played with Lego.  She was off school today as she has been struggling with an unrelenting cough and had spent the weekend very tired and weepy.

We decided to make the best of the sunshine and had a drive to Barton Grange for a soup and roll lunch.  Aunty Judith payed for the treat courtesy of a Barton Grange Christmas Gift Card and it was very much appreciated.  Benedict made tea which was a quorn and vegetable bolognese with pasta twists.  After tea I walked Pip to Rainbows and snapped a beautiful sunset, which I cannot upload right now as I am typing from my phone!

Despite certain family members feeling a little grouchy, we did hit some of our proposed targets, namely the core subjects and the big wide world.  I am hoping for a better nights sleep tonight as we will be up early again tomorrow with the school run and taking Dave to the station; he is on his next round of treatment in Edinburgh.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Zone 00 :: Ourselves and The Learning Zone

This past few weeks I have been working on a permaculture based design for our home school.  Even though I have not formally undertaken a design course some of the principles are fairly easy to understand and apply to everyday living.  There are various design systems but I decided to opt for this one:

S ~ Survey
A ~ Analysis
D ~ Design
I ~ Implementation
M ~ Maintenance

Survey: I think Benedict has some form of dyslexia and as a result struggles with written work, sequencing and remembering instructions.

Him and I are both disillusioned with the current system.  He is not motivated and I lack inspiration and in all honesty we would much rather be doing other things!  Him ~ Lego and Minecraft and Me ~ Knitting and Sewing.

He enjoyed the rabbit trail before half term but when quizzed about what he had learned he couldn't remember a thing!  He can however remember what we ate last year in July at Mrs Miggin's Coffee House on the way to Beadnell!

Benedict responds well to interactive lessons; he has enjoyed the primary history interactive and dig it archaeological games.  He also enjoys autonomy when it comes to choosing the maths topic on Multi-step Maths.

He recognises that he is isolated but the thought of school scares him.  He is quite traumatised from his previous experience of school ( being to afraid to ask the teacher for help and feeling constantly ill due to the diabetes) and he projects this fear into new situations.

Since being tied to the school run for Pip, this has affected our ability to make good use of field trips in other areas outside of our locality.

We spend all of our time stuck in the same four walls.

We have different learning styles:
Benedict is primarily auditory, followed by concrete/kinaesthetic
I am primarily a visual with some kinaesthetic.

Analysis Part One:

Resources ~ We have a wide range of materials within the home:

Books ~ fiction and non fiction
Games ~ educational and those just for fun
Puzzles ~ jigsaws, word searches and quests.
Art and Crafts
Sewing and Knitting Materials.
Music and Story CD's
A well stocked kitchen for cooking and baking.
Garden waiting to be planted and maintained.
Manipulates ~ Lego, Cuisenaire, Montessori, Meccano.

Limiting Factors ~ 

Unpredictable Health:  This often affects our ability to find a workable plan for each day.

Time and Energy: We are following two different rhythms, Pip in school and Benedict at home.  Him and I also have different bio-rhythms; I am a morning person and he is a night owl!

Social Interaction and Isolation: Benedict's contact with others is very limited. 

 We have missed the fortnightly home ed meet and a get together with friends as a result of my ongoing poor health.  Benedict's diabetes is too unpredictable for anyone other than myself or Dave to manage, so leaving him with others outside of the family is not an option.

Benedict spends a lot of time in self made "comfort zones" as a result of this, either with Lego, Harry Potter books and computer games.  He also seems to be stuck in a time warp and whilst his contemporaries have moved forward and are transitioning to secondary school later this year, he seems to be still stuck in primary mode.

I am really worried about Benedict's long term mental health as a result of all the health issues within the family.

Feeling Overwhelmed:  We often feel out of our depth!  Benedict often feels swamped with information and struggles to break a task down into small steps.  The sole responsibility of Benedict's education and ultimately his future rests on my shoulders and I often feel inadequate to the task.

Analysis Part Two:

What functions are required to meet the needs of Benedict and Me?

Positivity ~ things/people/treats to look forward to.
Outside ~ regular time slots outside of the home.
Learning Styles ~ use auditory and practical techniques to reinforce a concept.
Creativity ~ junk models, knitting, sewing,photography,gardening, new skills.

What are the resource leaks?

Unhelpful learning concepts, too much desk work, uninteresting materials/topics and not enough variety.

What are our goals for the remainder of the year?

Benedict ~ to develop greater independence with tasks around the home, assume more responsibility for diabetes care, learn a new skill, nail primary maths and english!

Me ~ sign up for the permaculture  design course on-line and remember to action those activities which are good for my general well being.

Design Criteria:

It has to be sustainable as it needs to work when I am ill.

Instructions/lists need to be visually clear so that B can work independently if required.

Needs to have a core of subjects on a daily basis with other items around the periphery.

Desk work needs to be kept to short, twenty five minutes maximum.

Any desk work needs to be followed by a get up and moving activity.

Regular agreed rewards help with motivation.

Most Importantly, use Benedict's visual board as a planning aid!

Benedict worked on this design last week when Dave was away in Edinburgh.

So with all this in mind I designed a Learning Tree as our visual reminder:

It was interesting putting this design together as initially I had thought of putting the core subject along the bottom, since they would form the focus for the day.  However I realised that like a tree the system needs a healthy root stock and that could only be brought about by caring for both mine and B's general well being.  After all if we are nutritionally depleted like a tree we are unable to make new shoots and flourish!  The leaves are a reminder to spend some time each day nurturing our well being.

You will see that I have taken some of Benedict's visual board ideas and incorporated them onto the tree; history, den building and cooking.  Having a dog is out of the question but we do have an animal sanctuary not far from here so we could offer to walk a dog once a week, this serves several functions at once; he gets chance to be with a dog, we get out of the house, it is a chance to meet new people and they also have a cafe as part of the complex so there'll be a warming pot of tea at the end!

Implementation:  Our proposed learning ideas for next week are as follows.

History:  primary history extension sheets, you tube videos, make an Anglo Saxon tunic, horrible history books, map of Saxon England ~ have any place names remained?

Practical Tasks:  help mum menu plan and budget for an on line shop, continue with kitchen tasks, learn a new skill ~ ironing.

Creativity:  finish junk model space station, make some play dough for Pip, learn to knit a square.

Big Wide World:  library visit with mum, bake a snack to take on a walk.

English:  read aloud,narration and copy work on one day, grammar exercises on the days in between.

Maths:  multi step maths on line and maths around the home.

Faith:  bible stories, stories about the saints and general catechises.

Obviously the core subjects are pretty standard and the other areas listed are just suggestions to get us going, I don't expect us to hit all those activities in the one week but it will be interesting to see what we do actually manage to achieve.  In the past I have been wary about stating our intended learning as it seemed that any plan was doomed to fail, but not this one!  I will evaluate at the end of the week using the what worked/what didn't principle and make adjustments accordingly.

Maintenance:  There needs to be a weekly review for at least four weeks to ascertain how things are working.  I will need to design a user friendly chart that will identify if the design is working.  To help with this task there are several questions to consider:

Is the design helping to achieve the broader educational goals as well as both mine and Benedict's needs?

Are new problems being created?

Is the design realistic and achievable?

Are there any unnecessary costs?

If you actually got to the bottom of this ramble then thank you for your reading x 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Ash Wednesday Words

I was excused teaching duty this morning as Benedict was with Shein.  Dave and I sat with a cup of tea and watched some recorded antics of his side of the family on  New Year's Eve 2010 at Birkrigg Common, Ulverston.  We laughed until we cried!  Dave's Dad forgot to apply the handbrake and the car ended in a ditch and Andy's Chinese Lantern would not inflate, all accompanied to some very funny music; Uncle Bernard had some fun in the editing suite.

After lunch Benedict worked from a short lesson in "Responsibility for Boys."  I first came across the series when Eva blogged about the lessons for girls, which I also bought for Pip.  Today's lesson was about caring for a sibling in particular a younger sister.  Benedict read the commentary and then shared with me his thoughts.  With some encouragement on my part he drew a picture of Pip wearing her rainbow uniform and some of the ways in which he can help Pip during these next six weeks in Lent:

We are beginning our Lentern journey with an extra burden of sickness in the house, not really a surprise!  Since January I have been unwell with predominantly chronic back pain but at the weekend another unwelcome set of symptoms appeared and I am once more back to the GP surgery for investigations.

  I have had pain like this before and the end result was major surgery when Sara was just two, not great!  So my conversation with The Lord these past few days has ran along the lines of " Gee, Lord I can't afford to be this sick, please don't let it be a hospital job, how will Dave manage with the kids?"  I even made Dave promise that he would call Emma in Spain and ask her to come home and help! Mind running on over drive at this point, methinks.

Then I remembered the Gospel passage from last Sunday:

" That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it.  Surely life means more than food and the body more than clothing.  So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I had been wondering what to give up for Lent and also what to add and the answer is right here in the text!  Give up Worrying  and start Trusting.  My dear friend Pen is giving up opinions for Lent, should be an interesting journey! 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Home Economics

Both kids were stars in the kitchen today.  For lunch the dining room was converted into a pop up restaurant and we feasted on an assortment of veggies, hassleback potatoes and Glamorgan sausages courtesy of Benedict:

Glamorgan Sausages are breadcrumbs, grated cheese and leek bound together with two egg yolks and then dipped in beaten egg whites and dusted with flour.  To cook they are fried in very hot oil.

As promised once Pip came home from school, she helped make the pancakes to celebrate Shrove Tuesday.  She stirred and I ladled and cooked and very good they were too!  At Pip's request we had cheese and tomato sandwiches, followed by a piece of fruit and then lemony pancakes and a mug of tea.  Delicious!