Tag Archive | Home Education

National Adoption Week – School’s out

Oops where did the week go?

I planned to add a couple more posts this week but as always life on ‘Planet Adoption and Home Education’ have taken over the days this week.

In the Hive we have always been very open about discussions about Adoption and the boys’ birth parents and life story narratives, and recently Buzzbee has began working with a wonderful DDP therapist to try and help him begin to unpick all his muddled up thoughts and feelings – he has amazed (and saddened) us all with how much he has taken in and how insightful he is into some of the reasons he felt had responded in the ways he did while at school.

This week Buzzbee has been curious about the repeated Purple #SupportAdoption selfie pictures that have been showing up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. When I explained to him about what they were all representing. His response was “will my old school see it?”. This then opened up a long discussion about what it was like for him at school and how he wished he hadn’t “screwed it all up”.

I wanted to give him the opportunity to express his feels as an adoptee, so I asked Buzzbee if he would like to write something about it for National Adoption Week and we could put it on his page or I could, with his permission, create a #WASO post for him. He liked the idea, however during the week it has taken legs – more accurately it has gone from a slow gentle 1 mile jog and with Waxy’s help it has morphed into a full scale marathon of a Powerpoint project for me to add to this post (my boys have more faith in my technical abilities than I do in myself that is for certain)

Over the week it has been given 8 or 9 different title as he put the slideshow together.  He wanted to originally call it “Look into my eyes” but finally settled on “School’s Out”.

I will leave you with Buzz having the final words.

“I hope people will like it and I don’t make them cry. I just want people to understand that sometimes being adopted is hard. Even when you are loved”  Buzz xxxx

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Return to Paper Mountain

“Transferring Buzz’s statement of education to an EHCP, shouldn’t take much! It should be really straight forward”

“The paperwork work we will need to do, won’t be any more than has been needed for his reviews in the past!”

“Taking over Buzz’s personal SEN budget will give you the flexibility and freedom you need to fund and timetable a weekly plan for him that suits his needs, without having to bankroll it yourself, and all you need to do is keep a record of all spending, mileage, DBS checks and employer insurance details. It will be easy for you!”

I have a feeling the professionals are living on a different planet to myself because: –

Straight forward, they said! – Let me think……… Um. No wait this is an easy one to answer. NO IT IS NOT! 99% of Buzz’s statement is now not relevant and this, along with results of his recent assessments, means that the whole document practically needs rewriting, instead of minor editing.

No extra paperwork, they said! – please see previous comment, and then add an entire week of mind-melting, soul-sapping, time-eating, sleep-depriving hurricane of box files, invoice/receipts, reports, emails, phonecalls, budgets and timetables, squeezed into every spare second of an already full and busy week of Home Education, housework, food shopping, school runs, meetings, letterbox contact letter writing, dog walking – actually Beedog has been a good excuse to take regular breaks………. Oh and of course, not forgetting writing this weeks’ #WASO post.

More flexibility and freedom, they said! – Okay I will give them this…………Hahaha! Who are they kidding? Freedom and flexibility, well yes it will give me the ‘freedom and flexibility to tailor Buzz’s weekly timetable to his needs without financially crippling Bumble and I, but what is it they say? “Be careful what you ask for”, “There is no such thing as a free lunch”.

Some of you will know that we felt forced to deregister Buzz from his primary school, because neither he nor they were coping. We fought to get him an SEN Statement that specifies that he should be placed in a Specialist School. Trouble was – there wasn’t one suitable, and he wasn’t ready in any case. So for the last two years, I have been home educating him.

Now, please don’t think I am being ungrateful for the opportunity to have direct access to funding that can be used to enhance and open doors to future learning opportunities for Buzzbee, with the sensitive support he may need. From the moment the lead SEN worker assigned to Buzz’s case suggested that it may be an option that the SEN panel would consider a viable option for him, as they are currently not in a position to provide him with suitable specialist educational provision, I could see the positives to taking full responsibility for providing him with what he needs to progress not only academically but socially and emotionally.

workinghardHowever, it has come as somewhat a shock, the depth and volume of research and planning that I am currently having to put into creating an acceptable Direct payment budget proposal to present to panel.

  • Complete costing breakdown and proof of payment for any current activity or home ed based learning tools and equipment that we are using to support Buzz with his timetable.
  • Complete financial breakdown of proposals of current and future activities/timetabling and the expenditures that will occur as a result.
  • A breakdown of timescales and frequency for each activity.
  • A detailed description of the activity/subject and how this fits into Buzz’s home ed timetable and how it ties in with his SEN needs – and when I say detailed, I mean detailed!

And, I haven’t even mentioned the long list of amendments/rewrites that are needed in order for Buzz’s statement to transition with moderate ease (fingers, toes and eyes tightly crossed).

While the reality of taking on this challenge is most certainly not straight forward and my mind keeps drifting off into space and questioning what I am doing and whether I am in fact up to the mammoth responsibility this entails, the long and PAINFUL process of dissecting Buzz’s home education experience has also, in a very strange way, been a positive experience and has quelled extended bouts of self-doubt and criticism of myself when it comes to the quality and extent of Buzzbee’s learning experience.

Buzz may still find physically reading and writing stressful, and fight me on a daily basis when presented with activities or exercises that he needs to complete. Yet he is now rarely asking for someone to read dialogues or game instructions when playing on the computer or tablet, and he will often find himself a note book and jot down random words he has seen around or practise spelling words he is familiar with.

I have worried that there is a limited volume of work physically produced to prove his is learning and not sat all day playing games and watching TV (he wishes), but in truth he has been exposed to so much more than I could have possibly expected, both through direct and indirect exposure to educational opportunities.

What Buzzbee lacks in core literacy and numeracy skills, he more than makes up for in physical and verbal demonstrations of the wealth of information and knowledge his has absorbed, and my little caterpillar is slowly breaking out of his chrysalis and morphing into a bright and articulate butterfly before our eyes.

hungrycat

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Home Ed courage

I should be putting the finishing touches to my #WASO100 post but I have had to stop and write this quick post because this morning I was bursting with pride and excitement.

I have had a sore throat and generally been feeling quite washed out for a couple of days, so Bumble left me sleeping this morning when he left for work instead of waking me up.

Bumble thought that Buzzbee was also still asleep so he thought I deserved a lie in but it seems Buzz was not actually asleep and shortly after Bumble left for work, I could hear Buzz moving around and chirping to himself in his room. I assumed he had taken the advantage of my lie in to put on one of his favourite DVDs (Planet Dinosaur) because he had gone quiet or at least I had dozed back off to sleep.

Imagine my joy when I dragged myself out of bed and went over to his room to find Buzzbee sat in bed with his tablet, trying to do one of his science worksheets on the EdPlace website independently.

This is unheard of for him for many reasons but the biggest of these reasons is his fear of reading and getting it wrong. But, here he was sat with his tablet and his new glasses on, trying to sound out words that he wasn’t sure about and although he was cursing and becoming frustrated with himself for not being able to quite understand what the question he was trying to answer was saying, he had managed to read just enough to make a reasonable guess at what the answer should be.

And, much to his surprise he got most of the answers right and I could hear him mumble to himself “beginners luck” – I should add, I remained outside his door, listening to him so not to startle him (OK I thought if I walked into his room, he would stop and try to dismiss the ‘awesomeness’ of what he was really achieving).

Beedog did eventually give my location away and Buzz did rapidly turn the screen off and say “I have only just turned the tablet on. I promise I wasn’t playing Minecraft, daddy said I could watch some YouTube Space clips”, so I said that it was OK I knew what he had been doing and I was so pleased he felt brave enough to practise his reading and do a worksheet without mummy’s help, and nothing more was said about while we had breakfast.

It may have only been one worksheet and but he managed to answer the questions without help reading what was required, and he got most of them right but more importantly he took a massive step, doing it on his own, and I want to celebrate this.

edplace2

Pick a pet pet shop project

For a few weeks now, I have been thinking about writing a post about how we are getting along with home educating Buzzbee, but between creating creative ways of helping him learn, in a way which is going to boost his self-esteem and confidence, and also trying to keep up with the unending housework, attend post adoption and school meetings, be a mother/wife/daughter ………. I have not really had the chance, until this weekend, to really sit down and piece together the work he had done during his most recently completed project on ‘Pets’

I have probably written this before, but very quickly after removing Buzz from mainstream education, I learnt that Buzzbee is not the kind of child who can sit at a desk and work through workbooks or worksheets – I can get him to sit for short periods of time writing or completing maths questions, but if I want results from Buzzbee, I have to be more hands-on with his learning, and using projects to do this is providing positive results and is allowing to cover as many of the National Curriculum subjects as possible.

Working independently or reading and writing is a challenge for Buzzbee and one that he would, given half a chance, avoid, but with a compromise of mummy writing down what he wants to say and then he copies it out in his own handwriting, he really enjoyed designing and writing his own ‘Pet owners guide book’ featuring not only how to care for his favourite four-legged canine, Beedog, and our resident felines, but our neighbours’ Guinea pigs have also made a guest appearance. In the pursuit of trying to encourage his literacy skills, I am finding that I need several tricks up my sleeves, but one discovery I have made is that Buzz finds too many words on one page overwhelming and so I have one very important piece of stationary that has turned a stressful exercise into one of relative fun and therapeutic  benefit – ‘post it’ notes.  I can write a sensible amount on a sheet then stick it to the page I want him to write on and then once he is finished he simply can remove it from the page and do what he wants with it (often this means him trying to toss them into the bin and Beedog intercepting his attempts)

pet owners guide

Buzz’s projects tend to develop a pattern of their own and is always driven from whatever has popped into Buzz’s head that morning – and trust me his curious mind is never short of questions and, as I have said before, no two days are ever the same and often the original plan for the day goes out the window when something else catches Buzz’s attention. One example of this is a day that I had set out earmarking the day as a sneaky history of pets lesson, rapidly turning into a lengthy discussion and research about artists and their painting styles. By the end of the day Buzzbee had become a wacky artist and produced his own ‘Pup – Casso’ and ‘Kitty cat’ pop art canvas masterpieces.

wacky art

Another day it will be obvious from the moment Buzz has woken up that today would be a tricky day and creative thinking would be needed to make sure he felt at the end of the day that he had succeeded in one way or another – he particularly enjoyed trawling through Pinterest researching handmade pet toys and treats and then making them (sadly the dog ate all the treats before I could take a photo but it is safe to say there were no complaints from her either for the treats or her handmade crinkly toy).

pettoy

The original inspiration for Buzz’s ‘pet project’ came from his curiosity about who had pets and how they took care of their own pets. He started off creating a questionnaire and including all the burning questions he had and then with my help he bravely shared his questionnaire on my Facebook page and to his delight received more than 20 responses including the children of The boys behaviour  (Mini and Dollop) , and The puffin diaries (Stig and Tink).  When I say Buzzbee was delighted maybe a better description was that he was amazed and taken aback by the generosity of people he didn’t know, who were prepared not only to take the time to answer his questions but to send him supportive messages along with it.  For a child who is mistrustful of pretty much all adults (Yes, even his dad and I) to suddenly experience and comment on the kindness of people he has never met, is a huge step for him. I cannot describe the feelings that overwhelm you when you hear your mistrustful son saying “Why did so many grownups want to help me by answering my questions? Maybe not ALL adults are as mean as I thought and don’t think I am a naughty little boy”.

Once the responses stopped coming in, Buzzbee and I began collating the information, and putting the answers into tables, which at some point turned into windows on a house and a roof (one window for each question/answer).

petplan

This then opened the door (apologies for the unintentional pun) to expanding his project using first maths and later creative thinking and 3D design with the help of Minecraft.

Buzzbee decided that using the information he had about the different variety of pets that people have owned and how many pets were in each group, he wanted to design his own ‘pet shop’. First we agreed that he needed to work out how much space he wanted to give to each pet and then work out how much space each group of animal’s enclosure would need – he chose a scale of 10 squares for each pet. As he was designing his pet shop, Buzzbee used his research and knowledge of pets to decide where each enclosure had to be – i.e. cats not placed near the birds, or dogs near the cats.

And as a reward for all his hard work (or so he thinks) Buzzbee was given a ‘free day’ and allowed time on Minecraft to make his ‘Pick a pet. Pet shop’ complete with inventive substitutions for a handful of the pets

  • Fish were replaced by Squids
  • The Bearded dragon was replace by a Spider
  • Rabbits have been replaced by Silver fish
  • And can you guess what the Guinea pigs have been replaced with? Yes that is right they are now just Pigs

pickapetpetshop

While some who read this #WASO post will just see a post about Buzzbee’s home education journey, for me (and Bumble) this post is not so much about what he has been learning, but about his journey in gaining confidence in his ability to learn, which is something he lost whilst in main-stream education.

 

 

That Monday feeling

It seemed fitting to give an update about the events of last weeks’ post before writing about this weeks’ #WASO theme ‘A typical school morning’.
Last week I found myself writing a #WASO post about Beeswax’s first week back to school, and the anxiety and angst that he brought with him on his return home on the Friday afternoon, due to a confusion with his timetable and placing him into a vocational activity which was for many reasons, so unsuitable. I am pleased to say that one wonderful woman (curriculum co-ordinator) not only took time out from her own personal time to respond to my email at the weekend, but had by Tuesday morning resolved the situation and placed him into a more appropriate programme.
So this is one mum who was hoping that on his return today, she would have a happier teenager son (OK, well as happy as a raging, hormonal teenage boy can get anyway) – Oh well maybe next week!
It is fair to say that, with one son currently being home educated and the other attending a residential specialist school Monday – Friday, there are very few occasions where I can safely say “this is a typical school morning for us”.
Of course I could bore you with the insane madness of a Monday morning in my pursuit to make sure I have 2 boys who are ready to walk out the front door no later than 8.15am – rounding up a gaggle of geese would be easier and far less stressful. Trust me!
“Mum where the hell are my shoes?” (“By the front door where you last dumped them”)
“Muuuuuummmmm! Beeswax won’t get out of my room. He is being a (bleep bleep bleep)” (“Beeswax stop tormenting your brother and concentrate on getting yourself ready for school”)
(“Beeswax can you please stop messing around with the dog and eat your breakfast”) “Why should I?”
If I am honest there is too much talking and not enough ‘doing’ on a Monday morning – I have learnt over the past couple of years that on a Monday, rather than expecting my pseudo-independent eldest son to get himself sorted out, if I want him to ‘get a wriggle on’ I need to walk him through everything step by step and repeat myself 9, 10, 300 times before it is done – his toddler brain, well and truly takes over on these mornings. I am not even going to go into what Bumble and I have come to describe as ‘Waxy’s Monday morning download’ – in short, in order for Waxy to switch into ‘survival mode’ and become the exceptionally compliant pupil that his school have the privilege of experiencing all week, he must first ‘dump’ all this stress and anxiety onto the household before he reaches the front door of the school building. Chaos and stress doesn’t come close to describing it and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was thankful that I no longer have to endure this EVERY morning with him.

mondaymorning

OK, so let’s move from the routine and structure of getting Waxy off to school on a Monday to the flexibility of home education and ‘a typical school morning’ for Buzzbee.
I think flexibility is the key word here. Buzzbee is a creature of habit in most areas of his life, but now that he is no longer in a school setting and having to manage the stresses of the start of another school day and all the anxiety and fear of failure that this brought, mornings are more relaxed and his is able to gently prepare himself for the day ahead.
Although I have found that allowing the morning to be more self-guided by Buzzbee means that I have a better chance of getting him to engage with school work, there still remains some routine to our mornings:

– Breakfast.
– Washed and dressed.
– Take Beedog for a walk to local fields or woods and sneak in a crafty bit of ‘learning’ without him knowing or have a relaxed chat about what the plan for the day is.
Juice and a snack whilst laughing at mummy grappling with Beedog trying to dry her off or clean her up.

The rest of the morning (days’) home education adventures really depends on Buzz’s frame of mind that day.

I suppose this is why I say that a lot of our day is guided by Buzz. Maybe a better way of describing it would be to say my plans are guided by Buzz’s mood and his threshold of tolerance to making mistakes – some days the volume of work I can get him to do is amazing, but then there are the days where I have to be quite creative with how I get him to engage with learning, or more accurately allowing him to believe he has wormed out of doing any more work that day and instead getting to play his PC game ‘Spore’ (reading practice, designing and programming creatures, planning and strategy, emotional literacy/social interaction between creatures – but he definitely isn’t learning anything 😋) or one of my recent favourites – Geography on the beach.

SandMarks
OK, so while I am reading this post back, it occurs to me that in hindsight, maybe there is no such thing as ‘a typical school morning’ in the Hive – Normal is so overrated sometimes anyway.

Project: The Little Volcano

As some of you will know a little while before the end of Term 2, Bumble and I made the difficult (but definitely the right) decision to remove Buzzbee from his primary school and begin home educating him.

When we deregistered Buzz, I believed I had a moderate understanding of where the gaps were in his learning ability and needs, and I’d like to think I still do.

At some point I will write a post focusing on what these needs are and how his early years experience and lack of understanding by school, has had a dramatic and profound effect on his ability to learn.

Having said this, I am not above taking any opportunity that I can, to use learning activities as ways of helping bridge the self-esteem and emotional gaps.

This week’s #WASO theme is ‘The work of my child/children’ and ties in very nicely with the end of the first part of Buzz’s latest topic – Ferocious Volcanoes and Dinosaurs.  With Buzzbee, I very quickly learnt that it was pointless me trying to get him to sit down to a desk with workbooks and follow the national curriculum guidelines – admittedly at first I was as stubborn as him and we endured several very stressful and unsuccessful mornings locked in a battle of wills.

Buzzbee prefers to be very hands on and visual – maths and science are by far his favourite subjects and his is relatively confident in his own skills in these 2 areas.  Currently his biggest barrier is his reading, which then impacts on everything else, but we have found ways around this.  Buzzbee’s handwriting is actually quite good and his ability to remember and translate factual information is far superior to mine (he is a little sponge), but he lacks the confidence to write his ideas down independently and he tells me what information he wants to add to his project, I write it down for him and then he will sit down and copy it out (although he will try his best to write as little as possible). For now this works for him and allows him to be in a position where he can succeed and feel good about his work.

little volcano

Where self-control for Buzzbee is difficult, at times he can demonstrate an incredible level of self-awareness and on several occasions while discussing/researching volcanoes, he has identified similarities between his reactive responses and the warning signs that a volcano is about to ‘blow’.  Cue mummy moving into reflective dialogue mode: “I’m wondering if there is anything that maybe the little volcano or others around him could do to help him calm down the hot bubbling lava before it starts exploding and spilling out over the sides and burning something or someone?”  Rather than using his usual distraction/shooting down techniques – an outpouring of ideas came flooding out from Buzzbee. Most were, understandably, unachievable, some were absolutely hysterical (put him in a Yoga position, open his mouth and pour in slush puppies until steam comes of his ear or he gets brain freeze), but then there were a couple of gems which, with support, he could use (jumping jacks or squeeze a teddy bear)  – he is a star, and I only wish he could believe that himself.

Buzzbee has several challenges to overcome when it comes to his learning, and there are days when I wonder if I am the right person to help him with this, or if we should have pushed harder while he was at school to get him the assessments he needs so we can understand whether his barriers are down to his anxiety and fear of failure or if (as I suspect) there are other contributing factors holding him back (be that sensory or cognitive), but for now Buzzbee and I will keep trying to do the best we can and we will wait to see what the future holds.

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

A Year On

This week’s #WASO is ‘A Year On’ and I have to be honest my mind is running at 100mph thinking of what to write for this week.  So, rather than sit down and agonise over what to write, this week I am going to simply pick the first five thoughts that came into my head when thinking about the topic and elaborate on them (and hope and pray it doesn’t sound too batty).

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

If someone had told me one year ago that I would have the courage to sign myself up for a 4 days DDP level 1 training course and hold my own in a group of professionals.

I would have said “That isn’t going to happen.”

Guess what? 

One year on – It has happened and I had never felt more comfortable with the course content in my life!

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If anyone had told me one year ago that I would be able to trust Beeswax enough to take Beedog for walks unsupervised

I would have said “Wouldn’t it be lovely, but…”

Guess what? 

Not only can I trust him to walk her without an adult being present, but Beedog now trusts him enough that I now feel confident that if he does let her off her lead, she will come back to him without a problem.

********

If one year ago I had been told that I would have to Home Educate one of my boys and add another job title to my already endless list of Extra-Curricular ‘mummy’ jobs.

I would have said “No way! No how!”

Guess what? 

One year on – I am home Educating Buzzbee because he simply wasn’t coping or learning at school.  Is it easy? No.  Is it worth it? Yes – Buzzbee’s confidence and self-esteem is growing every day and on the days when it is not so good, well, there are always plenty of documentaries on BBC iPlayer or YouTube that Buzzbee and I can snuggle up with and watch (learning and bonding – what more could we ask for?)

edu

If someone had told me that one year on I would be taking my 8 year-old (who becomes very anxious when in poorly lit areas or the dark) out on a very dark and wet early evening to a National Trust location to take photographs of the property all lit up with majestic lighting, and label it under the ‘home education’ banner.

I would have said “I would be insane to even think about it. Buzzbee would be high as a kite before we had even reached the Abbey.  It is not worth the stress it would cause him”

Guess what? 

One year on – Not only did Bumble and I take him (and get very wet) but rather than Buzzbee wanting to leave the moment we arrived. We were the ones having to keep ushering him along because he and his camera were in photography seventh heaven – and I have to admit some of his pictures were great.  So, not only did we successfully achieve doing something that normally we would not be able to, but Buzzbee showed himself that he could find a way to not let his fear hold him back from having a good time.

national trust

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And finally – if anyone had told me a year ago that my boys would FINALLY feel comfortable enough with my parents to allow Bumble and I to go out for a whole evening, without all the usual control tactics and for us to come home and find that the boys have been OK for mum and dad.

I would have said “One day. One Day”

Guess what? 

Last night not only did we manage it and have a lovely time, but – the boys have not woken up in payback mode (although I know I am tempting fate even writing this).

fishtank