Archive | January 2016

Taking the square peg out of the round hole.

I am not known for openly expressing my opinions on Political, Religious or Social discussion/debates. Most family and friends assume this is because I not really interested in current affairs and have nothing I want to contribute to their conversations.

I can without a shadow of a doubt tell you that, I most definitely have an opinion on nearly every ‘soapbox’ conversation I have had the misfortune of having to sit/stand around and listen too – Bumble’s brothers spring immediately to my mind. I love them dearly but OMG they are so vocal about everything and quite frankly on the rare occasion I have tried to join in, they have been completely arrogant and dismissive (just because you are highly educated does not give you the right to talk over someone else and treat them like a lesser person).

This is one reason why I keep my opinions to myself, I don’t need any more ways to have my confidence knocked. However, the main reason I rarely wade into discussions is because, once I have the bit between my teeth, I can become VERY passionate about the topic, and I end up feeling like I have embarrassed myself, or offended someone.

Why am I telling you this, you may be wondering?

Quite simply, over the past couple of weeks I have been slowly bubbling away, listening to the latest home education debate, and being directly and indirectly subjected to the utterly ridiculous outpourings from ignorant people who have no idea what they are talking about, on a topic that they have no real understanding of. In the last 2 days I have gone past silently simmering and have now reached boiling point.

Before Christmas, it was announced (sensationalised) in the media that Nicky Morgan, The Education Secretary, had asked officials to review home schooling amid fears that thousands of children may be having their minds “filled with poison” by radicalised parents, and from my own perspective, it has opened the flood gates to every Tom, Dick & Harry believing they have the right to express their opinion openly about the damaging effect ‘home schooling’ must have on children, and passing judgements on parents who choose this educational route for their child.

At the beginning of our adoption journey with Waxy and Buzzbee, home education was never considered as an option that we would want for our children or ourselves. Both of us were of the opinion that the boys would benefit from the security and structure that a school could provide, and, as the primary carer of two extremely traumatized young boys, in all honesty I felt that the time that the boys would be in school would be my opportunity to relax and regroup, if we had had a particularly difficult evening or morning, and by the time the boys returned from school, I would be able to once again dig down deep into my therapeutic mummy chest, and support and care for my boys as they deserved.

The reality however has been a completely different story. My free time was (and still is to be honest) racing back and forth from schools, for meetings or to fire fight the latest meltdown or drama that had unfolded. When Waxy moved to his specialist school, Bumble and I thought the frequency of my involvement would decrease, but it hasn’t, but I will save that for next week’s WASO post. Buzzbee’s school experience was a whole other experience and an unpleasant experience at that.

WE DID NOT CHOOSE HOME EDCATION for Buzzbee. We were left with NO CHOICE but to deregister Buzzbee, as his school was failing him and his mental health was being dramatically affected by it.

Just in the last few weeks, I have heard comments both directly and indirectly, like:-

  • “How can he be learning anything? You don’t have a teaching qualification. I know how to brush my teeth, but that doesn’t mean I go around telling people that I can do a deep clean treatment or a tooth extraction.”
  • “I bet all he does is sit watching TV and playing on the computer all day and doing nothing.”
  • “Oh, he’s home educated. That must be so lonely for him. How is he supposed to make friends, if he doesn’t go to school?”
  • “If you teach him, how do you prove he is actually learning anything, if he doesn’t have a professional checking his work?”
  • “Oh, you are one of those hemp wearing, earth mothers are you, who are anti-establishment and believe the world is all the classroom your child needs.”
  • “He has special needs and should be in a school where they know what they are doing and he can learn to get on with others and follow the rules of life.”

I have a million and more comments like this, but the pièce de résistance has to be a comment that an adopter had put on Facebook, that had incensed her when she heard it on a radio phone in debate about home education matters.

  • A male caller had phoned in and told the presenter that he believed home education was fundamentally wrong, because children won’t grow up being able to meet the expectations of society, if they’re not exposed to a one size fits all system. (Arrrrrrrrrrggghhhh)
if you train a fish

Image credited to Pinterest

I believe everyone has the right to voice their own opinions, but that does not mean that individual numpties have the right to force their uninvited opinions on others and insist that their opinion is the one everybody should accept.

It may surprise some to know that I can see pros and cons for both sides of the argument, I cannot and will not be the mouth piece for other parents, I can only speak for myself and our experience of home education for Buzzbee.

I have already said Buzzbee originally attended a mainstream primary school and tried his hardest to fit in with norms and expectations of the school community. He couldn’t meet their expectations and school wouldn’t/couldn’t meet ours. They broke him, and I will never forgive myself for leaving him in that situation for as long as we did.

They turned our happy, confident and inquisitive young boy into a child who no longer believed he was good enough or worthy enough to be around. His love for life and curiosity for the world around had disappeared along with his self-esteem. He had spent so much time isolated from his peers and falling apart at the smallest glimmer of expectations being put on him. From Bumble and my perspectives (and most probably Buzzbee’s), we were seeing school staff give up on him and just going through the motions each day and Buzzbee rapidly giving up on himself too.

While professionals and myself were just going around in circles having meetings after meetings, discussing the same issues, but never reaching a conclusion, Buzzbee’s social, emotional, academic wellbeing was disintegrating in front of our eyes. Buzzbee’s academics had not progressed in almost 2 years.

Bumble and I felt we were left with no choice but to remove him from school for a period of time while a suitable school could be identified.

Buzzbee was developing a phobia not only towards learning, but also to socializing and being in public settings in our local community. For me my priority was not to get him caught back up with his peers academically. Before I could help him “catch up” I needed to help him believe in himself again.

From the very beginning I was open to working closely with outside agencies as well as the local Home Education welfare officer to regularly review Buzz’s progress, and I welcomed their input – which usually involved them telling me that they were impressed with how much Buzzbee had actually achieved, despite lacking the most basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Now, before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, I was not passing off work I had done as his. Very quickly I identified Buzzbee’s learning style and focused my attention on creating opportunities for learning and succeeding using this knowledge.

For more than a year I directed my attentions to working only on topics and areas that I knew he could cope with, and for the first few months that meant going really back to basics. As Buzzbee’s self-esteem and confidence in his own abilities grew, and he was learning to trust that it was okay to make mistakes and that I wouldn’t think less of him for it, I gradually began sneaking in skills that would push him a little more out of his comfort zone. Sometimes this worked and sometimes……well, let me just say I am grateful for hot chocolate, and Steve Backshall.

Flexibility is at the heart of Buzzbee’s learning style needs, and without the freedom that home education offers, Buzzbee wouldn’t be where he is now, emotionally or socially, and he wouldn’t have the courage to try things that do not come naturally to him.

When Buzzbee was removed from school, he wouldn’t/couldn’t show adults what he could do, or have the courage to tell staff when he didn’t understand what he needed to do. He couldn’t spell his own name. He would crumble into a thousand pieces at the slightest suggestion of reading even a single word. He was unable to tolerate sitting in assemblies or class performances. His academic levels were no higher than a 1c, despite being in year 3. And he believed he was the most dangerous little boy on the planet.

2 years on, and while there are glaringly obvious difficulties in his abilities to learn the basics (something we had ourselves questioned while he was still in school), we have found solutions to work with or around this. Buzzbee can now ask for help if he doesn’t know how to do something, or is unsure of the words he is trying to read. Mistakes while doing project/school work no longer result in the whole piece of work being turned into confetti, and he can, most days, walk away when he is getting frustrated instead. He has begun to trust his dad and other adults enough to show them what he can do or has learnt (I love seeing his face light up when they congratulate him on his effort). He enjoys celebrating the efforts of his project work and insists on displaying it throughout our lounge. I could list so many more examples of how he is slowly getting there academically, but for myself (and Bumble) the biggest and most important example that I can give you for how Home Education has been the saviour of Buzzbee, has to be that it has given him the space he needed to recover and rebuild his emotional health and reconnect with, not only his peers in our community, but also engage in social and extracurricular activities that involve him needing to, not only learn social etiquette, but also ‘putting himself out there’ and joining in with activities that 2 years before would have been too much for him to cope with.

If you were to have asked me 2 years ago, if I could ever imagine that Buzzbee would not only attend dance lessons or join a theatre group. I would have said “It’ll never happen, and that breaks my heart because I know how much he loves to sing and dance”.

Well, we are 2 years along and not only is Buzz doing both of these, but he is actively involved with them and will confidently show them what he can do, the same goes for the forest school that he attends once a week. When they first met him he was in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’, but with their support and commitment, he has grown in himself and they report that he is a completely different child. He is happy and in my eyes that means he is successful, and I cannot tell you how much that fills me with pride.

Home Education is not the right fit for everyone, but for now it is the perfect fit for Buzzbee, and if you still are in any doubt about the benefits it has had for Buzzbee. Maybe this picture will make you think twice.

Every night I write a silly message on his blackboard. This evening Buzz proudly called me to his bedroom to show me what he had done without any input from anyone else – This is a first for him but I am hoping it won’t be his last.

thats me

 

 

This entry was posted on January 24, 2016. 9 Comments

“Goodnight! Sleep tight”

For as long as I have known Buzz, he has always gone through a short period of time, each year, where has struggled to settle to bed at night. Bumble and I have always felt that this was linked to seasonal light changes – nights getting darker quicker.

In fact, although it took us a couple of years for the penny to drop, Buzzbee has ALWAYS struggled with the transition of light to dark. We have had many tricky car journeys where he has transformed from a calm and relaxed passenger into………. A helium filled Tasmanian Devil!

But I digress. Over the years we have tried everything we can think of to ‘reset’ Buzz’s bedtime habits and get him back into his bedtime routine. Usually we would be talking 3 or 4 weeks of exhausting and loooooong evenings sat at the top of the stairs, returning him to his room and trying to prevent the boys having the opportunity to communicate (I won’t even go into the lengths Waxy used to go to to ensure Buzz was high as a kite so that he didn’t have to get ready for bed).   Bumble and I found these ‘Phases’ stressful and they left us feeling confused and lost for ideas (traditional and unconventional).

While the Bumble and I often despaired about the longevity of Buzz’s seasonal bedtime Olympics, we clung to the knowledge that bedtime WILL return to normal eventually and we would be able to once again have ‘adult time’ evenings.

I suppose you could say, every year we experienced our own bedtime routine ‘groundhog day’.

Over the past 8 months everyday has been “groundhog day” with Buzz and his bedtime struggles. Currently Bumble and I count it as a ‘win’ at bedtime if we manage to settle Buzz to sleep by 10pm.

Buzz fights sleep and he will go to great lengths to drag us into a battle of wills, irrespective of the fact that he will openly tell us he is “knackered”. He was embarking on a path of self-destruction and always felt bad about himself the next morning, but appeared to not be able to help himself each night and the cycle of chaos would begin again.

In the past couple of months, we have found a couple of tricks that help him finally drop off, but they have only been successful if we have first endured his marathon sleep avoidance mania – Bumble and I were confused as to why he still needed to go completely ‘bonkers’ before he would allow us to ‘sausage roll’ (swaddle snuggly) him in his quilt and blanket and if necessary use deep pressure back rubbing until Buzz begins to gently ‘coo’, which is his cue that he has begun to self-sooth.

I don’t know why it had never dawned on us before, but being swaddled makes Buzz feel safe and secure.

So, why couldn’t he allow us to do this from the very beginning of his bedtime routine?

Buzz has always had a fascination for building dens or creating hideaways and occasionally went through spells of sleeping in his pop-up play tent or under a pretty fantastic, blanket construction. But each were always short-lived. However looking back over the last couple of years, the signs have been there all the time.dogbed

  • Buzz sleeps with hundreds of soft toys on his bed and my parents used to joke about the fact there were so many teddies that it was hard to imagine how Buzz could even manage to get into bed let alone sleep in it.
  • Buzz ALWAYS insists on his bed having at least 2 sides against a wall and ALWAYS he has to have his head facing the door.
  • Buzz ALWAYS went to sleep quicker in our bedroom – we have a 4 poster bed with drapes. Although there are other reasons too.

Finally:-

  • When we go camping and he has to sleep in a tent pod and when we sleep at my parent’s caravan, he falls asleep with very little fuss – both pretty compact and contained.

However, while staying at my parent’s house this Christmas, our suspicions were confirmed by Buzzbee while we all ate our Christmas lunch, but we didn’t fully understand the depth of his anxiety until an overnight stay in a premier lodge while visiting Bumble’s family – I could quite easily write an entire post just about this one night, and maybe I will later in the week.

The boys have slept at my parents on numerous occasions and while Buzz has been a little more challenging to settle and is quite vocal in his sleep, not to mention being unbelievably restless all night, he has eventually fallen asleep.

However, this year Buzz took the sleeping arrangements into his own hands and chose to create his own space in the bedroom with the help of the puppies’ playpen* and a large red blanket.bedtime1

* Before I go any further. I feel the need to let readers know that it was Buzzbee’s idea and choice to sleep surrounded by the puppy play pen, and he had full control over whether he stayed inside it or removed it. Our only rule was that he was not allowed to lock himself in the pen.

Settling any child on Christmas eve can be a challenge for any parent, let alone a parent who is trying to settle a child who is experiencing sleep difficulties.   With the support from my parents we kept to the boys’ routine and settled the boys into their beds, fully prepared for Buzzbee’s bedtime games, but after 30 minutes of listening out for sound or signs of movement. We cautiously popped our head around the bedroom door, expecting to hear a little voice excitedly begin chattering to us. Instead, all we could hear was gentle breathing and cooing. BUZZBEE WAS ASLEEP!!!!! And, not only did he fall asleep rapidly and without fussing, but he was sound asleep and relaxed – Buzzbee has always slept with his fists tightly clenched and tightly scrunched up in a ball. The young man snoozing in front of us, was snoozing peacefully with his whole body open wide (my dad joked that he looked like he was ready for a pinup photoshoot).

Buzzbee slept ALL night and there was not a peek from him, something we are not used too because he has always shouted and sworn loudly throughout the night for as long as I can remember, and as I said earlier, he is always thrashing around. In fact, we had 3 blissful, undisturbed night’s sleep

Okay, confession time! Buzzbee’s bed is in our bedroom at my parents and I am an incredibly light sleeper, but I have got used to his mumblings and my sleep being disrupted. So when I couldn’t hear him in the night, I jumped out of bed, panicking something was wrong and wanted to poke him to check he was still alive – My parents found this highly amusing.

Over Christmas lunch, one of my parents (can’t remember which) joked about Buzzbee’s sleeping arrangements and asked out of curiosity why he liked sleeping in the puppy pen.

“I feel safe when I am in it. Nothing and nobody can get at me, that’s why.”

He felt safe. How did I not think of it before?

Fast forward a couple of weeks and several attempts at different ideas for creating a ‘safe sleeping environment’, some of which were almost suitable and certainly helped reduce his bedtime anxiety. However, each of the ideas had one fault- they were not particularly transferable and really we needed something that would be safe and that we could take with us when visiting family or going on holiday.

After several hours of research and long discussions about what we felt we needed from a portable sleep tent, we discovered the ‘Privacy Pop’ which ticked every box not only for Bumble and I, but for Buzzbee too.

And, boy does he love it!popup

 

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out