The end of a chapter.

This week is a strange one. On the one hand we’ve been settling back into regular routines after the festive period. The Christmas tree has gone, the presents have been cleared away, the usual restrictions on screen time are back and we’re eating more mindfully again. Wood School started this week so our week is now back to it’s usual rhythm. However, it’s only going to last for this week.

After living with us for 5 months A will be going back to live with her Mum and brothers on Friday. It’s a happy time as her Mum is well enough for her to go home, and I’m very aware how much she needs to be with her Mum and how difficult it must have been to be apart. On the other side though, we have become a family of three and A has become part of our household and our daily lives. Jessy has had a constant playmate and I’ve had another child to love and take care of every day and her absence will be very much felt. We’re lucky that Wood School made a special allowance for her to go back for this week. At the end of last term her home going plans were only just being finalised and she didn’t have a chance to mark the end of her time at Wood School and say goodbye to her friends there. This week will give her that chance and hopefully make the transition a little smoother. I know A has loved Wood School and appreciated the freedom and fresh air and choice. Now she needs to prepare to return to the stricter confines of mainstream school which may be a little bit of a shock at first! Today was her last Circus skills session which I know she would have loved to continue, but sadly it doesn’t seem that will possible. She will be carrying on with Martial Arts and Scouts though and I’m glad she gets to keep a little of her routine and continue doing some of the activities she has enjoyed here.

I can tell that Jessy is preparing for A going home in his own way. He seems to be withdrawing a little and wanting time to play alone. It’s as if he knows that he needs to remember how to do that again and wants to get in a little practice! I’ve worried that he’s become so used to having a constant playmate that he may no longer enjoy playing alone, but it seems that he is able to go back to it which I’m glad about as I’d hate for him to feel lonely and bored. On Sunday we had a ‘Goodbye Get Together’ for A. She invited her Home Ed friends and we had a party buffet with her favourite foods. The kids spent quite a lot of time hanging out on the sofas in the living room seeming very grown up! They also spent plenty of time sliding down bannisters and jumping on the giant bean bag.

The kids hanging out.

The kids hanging out.

The adults all stayed in the kitchen close to the kettle and the food! I think I enjoyed the afternoon as much as the children did and it was nice to formally mark A leaving with something fun.

The adults hanging out.

The adults hanging out.

We all worked really hard to clear the house up in time for the weekend. As well as the Goodbye party I met my indpendent midwife on Saturday so we had a double excuse to clear up the Christmas chaos. I’ve realised how much clearer my head feels when I have a tidy living room. I’ve felt much calmer and have finally started getting things organised for the baby. The baby has been very cheeky this week. I’ve been able to see it move and it’s been doing some enormous kicks. However, every time the children have waited patiently trying to see or feel it, it doesn’t move! They have sung to it and shouted at it and shone lights and kept their hands on my belly all to no avail! Jessy finally saw it once last night but it’s still playing hide and seek with A! As it’s such a rare event, here is a photo of our tidy living room!:

A tidy living room!!

A tidy living room!!

A helped me out this week too by doing a big pile of washing up. It hurts my back to wash up at the moment and I can only manage a little at a time. A volunteered and at first I was a little nervous as I have very high standards when it comes to washing up! I can honestly say that everything was impeccably clean and I was very impressed and grateful.

Perfect washing up by A.

Perfect washing up by A.

When I picked the kids up from Wood School on Monday, Jessy was very keen to show me something he had created. There were a few children all surrounding a large sand pit where they had been making their own creations using natural materials. Jessy had created Pongoose Land and he talked me through the politics of the land explaining how the rich people were able to do what they liked and had the majority of the land, where as the poor people had one house to share and were forced to stay within certain boundaries. There was an airport, but only rich people were allowed to use the plane. I’ve been reading a book about Nelson Mandela and I talked to Jessy a little about apartheid and what it was like for Black South Africans during that time. It sounded to me as if he was processing that information with the game although I’m pretty sure this is a subconscious process rather than a choice.

Pongoose Land.

Pongoose Land.

Jessy explaining Pongoose Land.

Jessy explaining Pongoose Land.

A was given a lovely quill ink pen for Christmas and the same person bought her some parchment paper, wax seals and stamps so that she can write letters to stay in touch with people. She’s really enjoyed using it and has already written several letters including one to Jessy in the next room which she delivered by owl post using Jessy’s toy owl from Harry Potter Studios! We will certainly miss her creativity! This week marks the end of a chapter in all our lives and a moving on to the next one.

New knowledge and Missed Events.

We’ve enjoyed a few more days in lately. Some of them admittedly have been down to my disorganisation! I’m usually a pretty organised person when it comes to getting to events but in the past week we’ve managed to miss our film festival showing and a planned day out to the Manchester Science Festival. I feel a bit annoyed with myself as they were both important events in our Home Ed calendar. Despite booking the film a month or so ago and having it written on the calendar I only remembered we should have been there several hours after it finished! So we didn’t get to enjoy the ‘Earth’ documentary on the cinema screen. 😦 Today I’d planned for us to go to a ‘Planetary Odyssey’ which is part of the Manchester Science Festival. The excuse for this one is possibly even worse – there was too much house work to do. 😦 We’re going on holiday in a few days and I just can’t bear coming home to enormous mountains of laundry and beds that really need changing. The washing up pile had become so huge that we actually couldn’t eat lunch until I cleared it! So although it’s a bit of a rubbish theme for a Home Ed blog I think the theme of the week has to be disorganisation!! I hope I’m not alone and can find some solidarity with other Home Ed parents out there!

So what did we manage to do? I did remember to take them to Wood School. A is still really happy about being able to go on Thursdays now. This weekend I did an introductory course in NVC (Non Violent Communication). The teachers at Wood School use this form of communication, so the parents with children who attend were invited first to the course. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. The kids went to stay with my very good friend who has looked after Jessy on and off since he was about 4. They had a Halloween show and fireworks display to look forward to. I really enjoyed the two day course. It was taught by Penny Vine. (http://www.pennyvine.com/index.htm) She was wonderfully down to Earth and has a whole hoard of children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren so her experience is vast. I was pleasantly surprised that NVC seems to be a bit more flexible than I’d imagined and really can be used in any situation. Some of it was revisiting old ideas I have learned from parenting books over the years. I’ve felt the need to abandon a lot of my old ideas since realising that Jessy often needs a different approach that is more clear and structured with less complicated language. The course gave me hope that I can mix some of my old ideas with an approach that suits Jessy which felt so relieving and reassuring. I’ve already felt calmer and more thoughtful, although I’m under no illusions that it will turn me into a sudden saint!!

My friend picked me up with the kids and after making a quick stir fry at home we headed to our local park which had a fair and fireworks display. We’ve been lucky as it’s usually on in the first week on November when we’ll be away, but it’s early this year. The kids enjoyed some rides and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hear a single complaint about the fact the rides cost double this time but I gave them the same amount of money so they only got half the rides. A has been afraid of fireworks ever since she can remember but we were pleased to discover that this year she didn’t feel frightened anymore and she happily watched the display.

On the ghost train

On the ghost train

VIP ride!

VIP ride!

This week is half term so there was no Wood School yesterday. The kids were very interested in the cards I brought back from the NVC course. They show feelings and needs, with the idea being that our feelings are linked to a need or needs that are being met or unmet. So for example if you are enjoying time with friends you could find the feeling card for ‘Happy’ and the need card for ‘companionship’. The children’s pack is illustrated and uses simpler words. The teacher suggested that Jessy might find them useful. He struggles a lot to articulate his feelings verbally and even when he does I think it is often inaccurate. Children who find this hard, often find a visual aid useful. He did use the cards to tell me how he was feeling and which need he felt was being met. A was fascinated by them and we worked with them for about an hour. Here are some examples using the cards:

NVC children's cards

NVC children’s cards

A has also continued with her hamster projects. She’s very excited about her plans to build her own cage. We’ve had a few tricky moments with her struggling with the concept of needing to modify designs to suit your own purposes as she became very determined to copy the plan she’d seen to the letter. I think she is beginning to understand that we need to make a few changes (such as adding a lid because we have two cats and we don’t want the hamster to get eaten!) and gradually relaxing into the idea that a project often involves changes along the way. We visited the local pet shop to stock up on supplies and have a little look at the animals. The lady who runs the pet shop gave A some spare bars from bird cages to use in her projects. I’m wondering what she’ll create with them!

Today Jessy helped me to change all the bed covers. Usually I have a very sore back after doing the three beds and my back has got worse recently with being pregnant. He was a really big help which meant I wasn’t in nearly so much pain afterwards. We looked up ‘Barbados’ on the map and A proved she has more geographical knowledge than I do as I didn’t have a clue where to look but she found it using what she already knew.

When I realised we weren’t going to make it out to the Science Festival we decided to carve pumpkins instead. We had a hilarious journey home from the shop yesterday. I told the kids they could choose any pumpkin as long as they could carry it home themselves. A picked a huge one! Jessy picked one a little smaller, but proportional to his size, his was possibly even larger! Luckily they both found it very funny as they struggled and found places to stop and rest and tried not to drop them. They both got the giggles which made it even harder to hold on to them and by the time we got home we were all laughing!

Pumpkin hilarity!

Pumpkin hilarity!

This was the first year when both the kids designed and carved the pumpkins completely themselves. Jessy needed a little help scooping out all the pips and strings. He had great fun trying though and a good sense of humour about how little he managed to get out despite trying hard! A threw herself into the messy business and despite much face pulling seemed to enjoy it!

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I gave a few suggestions on how to create an outline but other than that the designs and carving were done with no help at all. A carved Jiji the cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Jessy carved a skull. We were all very pleased and impressed by the results:

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We’ve put them out on our porch. We’re going away for a week the day after Halloween so I’m terribly sorry but there will be no blog next week as I will be sunning my self on a Barbados beach! Woo hoo!!

Tribes and Trapeze

I have so much more energy this week which is great. The horrid exhaustion has gone along with the permanent nausea and I feel as if I’m nesting. Unfortunately for the kids I think it means I’m even more of a nag about housework than usual! So what have we been uo to this week? I recently bought a box set of the ‘Tribe’ documentary series aired on BBC a few years ago. I really enjoyed it at the time and was reminded of it when Jessy and I looked at pictures of Tribal tattoos. It has a 15 rating which I wouldn’t usually consider letting him watch. However, having seen the series before I felt it would be appropriate as long as I watched them with him to explain anything he didn’t understand. There is a lot of violence in many of the Tribes featured and many people live naked which I believe is the reason for the high rating. It’s a world away from a violent 15 rated film containing nudity though! Both Jessy and A have really enjoyed them. They’ve both been most squeamish about the blood letting and blood drinking in a couple of the episodes.

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On Monday they went to Wood School feeling inspired by the programmes to try making some arrows and fighting sticks like the ones they had seen. I mentioned it to one of their teachers who said she was sure they could facilitate that. A came home with a very impressive bow and arrow she had made, that worked wonderfully. Unfortunately she lost the arrow while playing with it in some bushes before we even got home. Apparently the arrows have to be made from very straight strong sticks which can be hard to find but I’m hopeful she’ll be able to make a replacement next week.

At home the children have done a lot of letter writing. Jessy often writes letters to people he’s close to and has an ongoing letter dialogue with Dennis who we see regularly. His letters are very often Hogwarts inspired, detailing term start dates and who might be enrolling at the school. A decided that she would like a Pen Pal and I felt sure that other Home Ed kids would probably enjoy that too so I put up a message on one of the Home Ed Facebook groups I’m on. We got a reply within less than a minute from the Mum of a girl who is the same age and has many of the same interests. Interestingly, she also goes to school at the moment so they will have that in common too once A goes back. A was so pleased to have a new Pen Pal she wrote a letter before she even knew her name! The wax sealing stamps have been hugely popular this week again and they’ve gone through almost two whole sticks!

Letter for a new Pen Pal.

Letter for a new Pen Pal.

The renewed popularity of the wax stamps has meant that they’ve wanted to turn the gas hob on and off many times a day which has been a good opportunity to give reminders about doing it safely and sensibly. A can be very cautious, but she’s gone from being quite scared and flustered to being able to light the gas ring calmly and confidently. I’m pleased as I think a calm confidence is safer than being flustered and uncertain. We also extended the theme to give A the opportunity to practice striking a match and lighting a candle. Again, she was keen to try but very nervous at first. I let them gain some confidence by burning a few matches over a sink of water to ensure it was safe. I think they would have gone through the box but I wanted to be clear that whilst knowing how to use a match safely for useful purposes is important, they are not to be played with simply for the fun of it.

The crocheted monster game is still going strong and this week they decided to make robot staff for the little world the monsters live in. Since Jessy was very young it has been quite common for him to leave new things untouched on a shelf for up to a year before taking an interest. He was given a robot craft kit for Christmas last year and has shown no interest in it until he suddenly took it down from his bookshelf and built lots. He shared them with A as she had used her kit a while ago and shared hers with other friends. They made some cute and quirky little robots.

Robot staff.

Robot staff.

The Harry Potter theme is still a constant in the background in our house. A has been very excited to finally finish reading ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ and Jessy is steaming ahead towards the end of ‘Order of the Phoenix’. They have watched a couple of the films this week. They developed a habit of watching a film in the mornings when I was so tired out in my first trimester. I relaxed the ‘no screens’ rule in the mornings as I needed the rest and they needed some compensation! We all love films and I don’t really object to them watching a film either. This week they have been inspired to make their own Harry Potter film. Jessy started a video series a while ago based on the book he was writing ‘Jessy McAlister and the Secret Monster’. A offered to help him expand on it. With her experience in theatre from Stagecoach, she helped provide some structure and created a simple script for them to follow. I even got to play myself in the story telling them to get their books ready for Hogwats (Jessy’s imaginary school for little witches and wizards). They were very dedicated and kept persevering even though they had problems with the recording device and had to keep starting again.They had a 10 minute long little film in the end which we all watched.

Today we went to something new – Circus Skills. New activities can often be very difficult for Jessy and we tend to stick to what he knows. However, on this occasion two of his best friends were going and the plan was to go along after they’d both come to our house for a bit. A is often keen to try new things and having her around always seems to help Jessy’s confidence too. I was really pleased that he was happy to go along and join in. We were lucky because the group was going to be cancelled but when our friend said we had 4 children who wanted to come she agreed to put it on. She also put the word out on our Home Ed e-mail list and another 4 friends also turned up. They all had a great time trying juggling and the trapeze.

Jessy's first go on the trapeze.

Jessy’s first go on the trapeze.

A's first go.

A’s first go.

At first they were taught how to do ‘the pike’ and then how to go from a pike into hanging upside down. I could tell this part was a lot more nerve racking. Jessy looked quite anxious and A seemed positively terrified! They both managed it though and everyone clapped for all the kids.

Jessy upside down

Jessy upside down

A upside down.

A upside down.

As for me, I feel like I’ve spent most of the week tidying. I have a friend coming to visit tomorrow with her two daughters. I’ve never actually met her before but we’ve got to know each other over the years, first on a parenting forum and then over the phone. I do like the house to look nice if possible when new people come to visit so it’s been a great excuse to clear some rooms that have been abandoned for a while and get on top of things a bit more. I’m feeling very pregnant considering I’m only 15 weeks! I felt the baby move for the first time when I was in the bath which was very exciting. I’ve decided to start taking ‘bump’ pictures as I already have a big one! I didn’t look anything like this at this stage with Jessy! I have to admit that too much scoffing has definitely added to it, but I think I actually look pregnant too. You can make up your own mind!

15 weeks. Bump!

15 weeks. Bump!

Cubs Camp, Summer Club and Home

Summer holidays have played havoc with my blog writing as one day seems to blur into the next. In some ways I feel as if the holidays are only just beginning as Jessy has been away far more than usual. A couple of weeks ago he headed off to his first Cubs Camp. He was nervous but looking forward to it by the time the day rolled around. I was highly unprepared and Amazon’s express delivery service did well out of me! Jessy prepared by playing camping games, making a tent using the ever versatile sofas and climbing inside his sleeping bag.

Practicing for camp

Practicing for camp

He made a fantastic effort to pack his own bag one morning and I felt sad that I had to unpack it and help him, as fitting it all in was such a tight squeeze! (I realised afterwards that other people just kept the sleeping gear separate!) On Friday afternoon he was packed and ready to go!

Ready for Cubs Camp

Ready for Cubs Camp

I spent a lovely day with my friend Alice and we enjoyed a deliberately grown up evening of cultured entertainment going to see a comedy performance by a duo called Norris and Parker called ‘All Our Friends Are Dead’ which was part of the Manchester Fringe Festival. I even ate some sweets and didn’t have to hide them! I almost had a fit of excitement on realising that we could do something else afterwards rather than just go home early and go to bed! We decided to go to the cinema but the only late film on was ‘The World’s End’ which we both mistakenly believed would be something apocalyptic. In actual fact it turned out to be the most mind numbingly horrendously awfully boring film I have ever had the misfortune to see 20 minutes of. It is appropriately named, as ‘the world’s end’ would surely be preferable to sitting through that utter pile of shite!! It was so bad that we complained and got our money back! That was probably more exciting than just going to the cinema.

Me and my lovely friend Alice

Me and my lovely friend Alice

Whilst enjoying myself I couldn’t stop thinking of Jessy. There was a huge thunder storm that night with lightning streaking across the sky and rain falling in sheets. I kept thinking of my little bean, curled up in a tent, hoping he was dry and finding the storm exciting rather than scary. The next day, I went into town for lunch with Alice, where we discovered that ‘The Thirsty Scholar’ on Oxford Road is a vegan pub and I got to try vegan black pudding and vegan spam for the first time. I’m not vegan but we’d struggled finding somewhere to eat and we were hungry so we stayed there! Alice took me to pick up Jessy where I discovered a soaked through rather shell-shocked looking little boy sitting stiffly on a bench. He was very proud of his bronze medal which he won for his ‘Space Shark from Planet Zargon’ costume.

After one day to rest, Jessy and A were off to Wood School Summer Club! A has always loved the idea of Wood School and the only reason I booked them on was so that they could go together. I wondered what Jessy would make of it seeing as the vast majority of attendees were children who had come just for the summer club and not his usual Wood School friends. I can honestly say that going every day and not having the distraction of his ‘run around’ friends worked well for him. He actually came home with a craft activity on the first day – a book with a cloth cover which he had sewed. At first it was a code book, but later morphed into a Spell Book at which point he decided to rip off the cloth cover as the title was wrong! He made another spell book using an exercise book from Wood School and did a lot of writing in one go filling it in:

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He never tires of whittling wands and came back with a few. Anais made a beautiful wand which she carved a winding pattern into. I have to say I didn’t make the best use of my free time, but I did enjoy the day I browsed round Chorlton charity shops finding little presents to surprise the kids with. I also found a wonderful new outdoor book stall where I found some delightful old books for my collection including an Angela Brazil school story and a collection of entertainments for girls from the 1800s. Many of the games look quite fun and I intend to try them with the children. I was very pleased to find a wooden sodoku set for Anais as she’d been coveting Jessy’s. They’ve both spent a lot of quiet time enjoying those sets. Anais and I managed to complete one together which we were both proud of as it was a first for both of us! Jessy decided to see how difficult it would be to create his own from scratch rather than solving a pre-given puzzle. I thought it would be very difficult but it seemed to be less challenging than solving one.

Busy with sodoku

Busy with sodoku

Notable conversations have included a discussion of racism in older films after watching ‘One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing’. I often remember films from my childhood and we add them to Jessy’s Lovefilm list. Sometimes, however, I’m shocked by the blatant -isms in the films. This one is particularly diabolical, using English actors to play Chinese characters and relying on ridiculous and insulting stereotypes to show they are supposed to be Chinese. They even went as far as sticking very obviously fake eyelids onto one of the actors! Sometimes I struggle to explain things. Jessy loves slapstick humour and anything very ‘obvious’ which means he find things such as people talking in obviously nonsense Chinese words very funny. (There is shockingly a lot of similar humour in ‘Furry Vengeance’ from 2010!) I feel uncomfortable because I want him to recognise the racism, but I can also see that he is mostly laughing because he knows that people speaking Chinese don’t sound that way. I think he laughs because they have got it wrong and it sounds so silly, rather than because he thinks it’s a funny imitation of a Chinese person. I still feel uncomfortable with him laughing at it though.

One morning in a taxi we ended up discussing the Government’s ‘no spare room’ policy and the bad impact it was having on a lot of people. We’ve briefly looked into volcanoes, the egg experiments have been enjoyed AGAIN and we came late to the Olympics and watched the Opening Ceremony on DVD which allowed lots of historical and geographical discussion.

Anais was keen to do some ‘Adventure Time’ crafts, but everything we came across seemed to be rather ambitious and needed lots of materials we didn’t have. Then we found a great site: http://www.paperfoldables.com/ which allows you to print out foldable characters to make. Anais also showed us a great site where you type in your Minecraft username and it provides you with a paper foldable print out of your own Minecraft skin: http://pixelpapercraft.com/print/minecraft-character So Anais made Adventure Time characters and Jessy made his Minecraft skin:

Adventure Time models

Adventure Time models

Jessy's Harry Potter Minecraft model

Jessy’s Harry Potter Minecraft model

Other than that we have enjoyed ‘fun with a box’. First Jessy filled it with broken polystyrene and then enjoyed making the polystyrene fly up in the air and out of the box by bashing a stick hard inside the box. Another day it became a makeshift paddling pool on a hot day as it had already conveniently half filled with rain water.

Making polystyrene bounce

Making polystyrene bounce

Cooling down on a hot day

Cooling down on a hot day

That’s all Folks!

Jumping the first hurdle…

I’m sitting here wondering what to write. My last blog felt very full with activity and emotion. This has been one of those weeks where I don’t feel we’ve done much. On one day Jessy watched the entire series of Madoka Magicka, our favourite anime. At first I felt bad, but when I considered that it’s all in Japanese with English subtitles I figured it was actually very good for both his Japanese and his reading! Afterwards we went on Language Nut together and learned how to sing ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ in Japanese, so I decided that the day was an intensive Japanese studies day! It’s lovely to see how confident Jessy is at sight reading in Japanese, it doesn’t phase him in the slightest. He can’t read the words out loud like I can but he learns to recognise the words as a whole.

Madoka Magicka

Madoka Magicka

Mostly Jessy’s been enjoying a relaxed pace doing his favourite things: reading, drawing, building dens, playing Minecraft, watching films and playing board games. In between he talks incessantly about Harry Potter until I feel as if my brain might melt! . He’s racing through ‘The Worst Witch’ series. The reading level is very easy for him which makes them a nice relaxing read but he also finds them entertaining. I’ve enjoyed watching his competence around the house in small ways. He now confidently cuts fruit, uses the toaster, helps himself to breakfast and simple lunches as well as drinks. He fixed our Hoover-bot which needed the old broken brush removing and a new one screwing in.

After last week I’m very happy to report that Jessy had a really happy last day at Wood School before the summer. They implemented the excellent suggestion of my friend, and Jessy was asked to choose 3 places which he would be happy to use as his special private place that he can go to if he feels the need. The teachers then said which was their preferred choice and luckily it was the same as Jessy’s. We took his wooden sudoku set to Wood School for him to play with in his special place. As it turned out he enjoyed playing with the sudoku but felt very settled all day and didn’t need to use his new place. I think we’re all hoping that just knowing it’s there will help him feel less anxious and therefore less likely to need it too often.

In the absence of any relevant photos of this week please enjoy a random photo of my rather funky kettle!

In the absence of any relevant photos of this week please enjoy a random photo of my rather funky kettle!

I’m going to try and stay positive that by putting our heads together we can find a way for Jessy to keep enjoying Wood School without taking up too much teacher time. After the worries of last week I finally made a decision to go to my GP and discuss my concerns about Jessy. I feel as if the difficulties he has are having an impact on his life, and that more knowledge, and potentially support, can only be a good thing. I like and respect my GP. He never jumps to conclusions, but he listens carefully and has a good balance between being matter-of-fact and caring. He believes I’m on the right track and agreed with me that a lot of Jessy’s difficulties are not what you would expect in a child his age. He’s made us a referral. There will be a couple of months or so to wait. I’m glad to have jumped that hurdle. (not that I actually can jump a hurdle – my legs are too short and stiff!)

It’s never completely plain sailing, there was a disappointing evening when Jessy missed his Martial Arts lesson. As Wood School had finished I hadn’t registered that it was a Monday and didn’t remember until about 4.30 that he had Martial Arts. By the time I reminded him it was too late, it wasn’t in his mental plan for the day and he got very upset when I tried to encourage him to go. His uncle said not to worry and he relaxed a lot after that, but agreed to make a deal to go next week. It was a good reminder to me to actually use the tools that help. We have a large wipe clean weekly wall planner but I need to remember to check it with him each morning so he knows the plans for the day. I made sure to remind him about cubs the evening before and at regular points through the day. Once he knows he’s doing something he is usually happy to do it (unless it’s something new!).

We had planned a beach trip for today, but the rain seems determined to come along whenever we have a beach plan, so we opted for a soft play area instead where Jessy ran around with a couple of his friends and I chatted to a couple of mine. We’ll aim for the beach another day!

Woodschool Wobbles with a side order of Millipedes.

The lovely weather has made me lazy, so it seems a while since I wrote. The highlight of the week I missed out was definitely the Science Fair. It was a free event for children at Manchester University and was a great day out. My only criticism would be that most of the stalls seemed to take the same approach that sugar would lure children to science, to the point that even my sugar-loving son began turning things away because he felt sick!

The first stall we went to had a variety of creepy crawlies to hold: millipedes, cockroaches and stick insects. Jessy loved the millipedes so much he went back to the stall to hold them after every activity! We are now the proud owners of two of our own millipedes. They are low maintenance and they make interesting pets!

Holding a giant African millipede.

Holding a giant African millipede.

Ginny and Cho, our new pet African millipedes.

Ginny and Cho, our new pet African millipedes.

We went on a tour into the microscope labs and learned how an electron microscope works. Jessy, as the youngest attendee was given the privilege of using the microscope too.

Jessy using an electron microscope.

Jessy using an electron microscope.

I was very impressed at Jessy’s drawing of a part of his brain done from memory. He was given a couple of minutes to look at the picture before it was turned over. He was nervous about doing it so they suggested he didn’t look at the paper as it can help memory.

Drawing the brain using your brain!

Drawing the brain using your brain!

Here are a few of the other activities:

DNA - Gummy sweet style!

DNA – Gummy sweet style!

An experiment showing the effects and dangers of blocked arteries.

An experiment showing the effects and dangers of blocked arteries.

Examining pond life through a microscope.

Examining pond life through a microscope.

Holding a real human heart!

Holding a real human heart!

Placing animals in their correct habitats.

Placing animals in their correct habitats.

Painting with maggots!

Painting with maggots!

Non-edible DNA made by Jessy.

Non-edible DNA made by Jessy.

All in all, a great day out.

Here comes the part where I sigh and say, “I wish all our days could have been that good”. Truth be told, we’ve been having some problems. This time with Wood School. Jessy has been going to Wood School for two years, and I’m so glad he has somewhere to go which ties in with my ideas of how I like Jessy to learn and how I want him to be spoken to and treated. I value it immensely. I know Jessy loves going too. However, sometimes he goes and hides in the woods and doesn’t come out for a long time. A couple of times I’ve received a phone call saying they were on the verge of having to call the police. One of those times was this Thursday. The teachers worry, his friends and the other children worry, I worry and it takes up a lot of time and resources. Jessy seems unable to explain why he does it or why he doesn’t come out when he’s called. The teacher responsible for the running of Wood School expressed concern about keeping him safe and questioned whether he will be allowed to attend anymore. I felt so sad and worried too.

Then just a few days later we had a morning where a few very small changes to our morning routine led to Jessy being incredibly out of sorts. By the time we arrived at Wood School he was saying he didn’t want to go and refusing to go in. I was crying. I’d already been critisised several times by a random women at the bus stop while Jessy was walking off and throwing my things around in his upset. It meant I couldn’t concentrate on dealing with him. It feels hurtful to be judged and I was already very anxious after the hiding incident a few days beforehand. I stayed for two hours while the teachers and I racked our brains to think of a way to help him feel ok about staying, while Jessy got increasingly upset and destructive. I decided to just leave, hoping that once the transition was over with he would settle, but he became very angry and I got a call saying I had to come and pick him up. We all felt upset, feeling we’d made the wrong choice. All the staff at Wood School are so thoughtful and caring and I know they were distressed that we couldn’t find a way for Jessy to be happy. Yet again, a lot of teacher time and energy had been spent on Jessy which just isn’t a viable option long term as there are more than 20 other children at the school. For the second time in a few days the question was raised of whether he could continue to go.

I’ve talked to Jessy about this a lot. It’s clear he still wants to go which is a relief. I was a little worried he’d take this as an opportunity to try and be at home more. He would happily stay at home the majority of the time, where as I like to get out an about a bit more. We try to compromise. I had some great insights and suggestions from a good friend. She really seemed to get to the root of why Jessy hides. She thinks that he sometimes has an intense need to be alone, and that need overrides his knowledge of the rules. She said it isn’t that he doesn’t know what he is supposed to do, but it’s as if someone has said ‘the rule is that you have to hold your hand in the fire’. His instinct overrides him obeying because he knows it will be too painful. The problem increases because when he is missing, more and more people come looking and calling for him, meaning he feels less able to come out. When I suggested this to Jessy it seemed clear from his reaction that she had got it right.

Our next strategy, therefore, is to provide Jessy with a private space where he won’t be bothered or spoken to. It will be hidden away but somewhere the teachers can see him if necessary. He loves the idea. His teacher is a little concerned that all the children will want one, but she’s prepared to give it a go. I’m so lucky he has teachers who will take time out of their private lives to talk things through with me and do their best to help him. She was so pleased that he does want to stay. I really hope we can make it work.

As for the other problem, of not wanting to go, I think I have to realise that there will be occasional days where he isn’t able to cope. I’ve thought of a couple of things I could have done differently. Perhaps we could have gone home after the routine became disrupted, give him time to calm down and then start over again. He would have been late, but he may have attended the rest of the day happily. I need to lose my fear of sometimes saying, ‘I can see he can’t cope with this today’ and taking him home. I feel I’m making so many adjustments at the moment. Although I theoretically understand how difficult change is for him, I still get frustrated over the way a small change to routine or a bit of uncertainty can ruin a large part of a day. My mind gets it, but my emotions don’t always follow! I guess I don’t want these things to be so hard for him. I can’t make him a world without change or uncertainty. What I can do, is do my best to help him navigate it.

Mostly Running Around

My last couple of blogs have been a bit ‘bookish’. Don’t get me wrong, I adore books. I adore them so much that all my bookcases were packed double deep (until they went into storage) and I refer to books as ‘my babies’. It’s just that it seems a bit of a misrepresentation. We read everyday as part of our bedtime routine. We’re nearing the end of the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman. This epic story centered around the feisty 12 year old Lyra, and later on her brave and gentle companion Will, spanning many worlds has been part of our lives for a long time and I’ll be sad to see them go. Anyway, as I was saying, this blog isn’t going to be about books, but clearly as I love them so much it will be a little bit about books after all!

The trilogy we’ve been reading.

Despite the epic bedtime sagas, books do not feature very strongly in our educational repertoire. I think this only struck home recently when I was chatting to one of Jessy’s teachers from Wood School. Her children go to school, where as many of the children at Wood School are home educated. Some are flexi-schooled. I’m guessing that the parents have diverse approaches to what they would like their children to gain from Wood School. My approach is that I am happy for him to be in an environment where his autonomy is respected, where I know he will be spoken to with respect and treated with respect by the adults around him. I appreciate the fact that interesting activities are on offer, but I am content for Jessy to choose what he does while he’s there. From all reports, what he mostly likes to do is run around with sticks and play imagination games. Wrestling and play fighting with other boys features too.

So the teacher was interested in our autonomous approach and asked what we got up to. β€œOh lots!” I replied enthusiastically. I decided to go through our week to give her a quick idea:

β€œOn Monday he goes to Wood School where he mostly runs around.

On Tuesday we sometimes go to a Steiner Kindergarten where he loves running around and playing.

On alternate Wednesdays we go to Adventure playground where he… runs around with his friends.

On Thursday he’s at Wood School where he…. er…… runs around …

and every other Friday we go climbing where he CLIMBS!”

Jessy reaching the top of the climbing wall last Friday.

I was so pleased to have a variation on the theme come Friday that I failed to notice that climbing is a bit like running, only upwards. I sighed. There was a slightly uncomfortable silence. I laughed and said β€œAh well, he seems to be learning everything somehow!” The amazing thing is that he really does!

There you have it. In a nutshell. Our Autonomous Education Programme is: Mostly running around!

Jessy also climbs statues. Manchester Piccadilly Gardens.

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